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Author's note: This is a simple piece that was inspired by the story of a friend of mine. Although her situation was not this extreme there are many out there who can relate with this. Many of them don's share it with anyone. I just want to open peoples eyes to what truly goes on behind closed doors.
“Cristina, I found you. No more running.” Awakening in a cold sweat, I jump up and checked and double-checked all the doors and windows. They were all locked just as I had left them. It was just a dream. I’m safe. My thoughts were racing but I shakily reminded myself that I’m safe; another dream, more vivid than before, but a dream. He hadn’t found me, yet. On nights like this I never got any sleep. I just sit in bed listening for sounds, any sounds that meant he was back. New houses had always scared me; this one was no exception. You would think after 6 years of constantly moving and hiding I would get used to it. The first time I had moved was the summer of 2004, now it was the winter of 2010. So many years on the run; days had turned into months and then years until it had already been 6 years. This time I had been placed in New York City. The city was intriguing but I was still scared; as scared as the first time I relocated. Moving so often I had never gotten attached to anyone especially men. There was not a need too, all men ever do is control and break. Break hearts, lives, and dreams, even hopes. I started my job that morning. Lisa got me a job at a little coffee shop on a corner. Lisa was my protector. She was assigned to me by the government to protect me from him and was the only person I trusted.
After settling in to my new temporary home, I began to enjoy my surroundings. I had grown up and lived in a small town my whole life, which is until this nightmare had started. The sights and smells of the big city were new and exciting. Since I didn’t plan on making friends I just spent my free time wandering the streets, drinking in my surroundings while I could. The hot dogs in New York were amazing and the shops are endless. I loved it here. The cold winters were vastly different from home but I loved them as well. I had been in New York for about 2 and half months when I first met Brad. He came into the café one morning talking on his Bluetooth and typing something into his fancy phone. Once he had gotten his coffee, he sat down at the table in the corner and began reading the newspaper. Hundreds of customers came through every day but Brad was the first one I had ever seen wearing an expensive business suit. Most of our customers were young couples and college students. Brad stuck out. Not just because of his clothes but his looks. He was cute. He had the classic brown hair with blue eyes look and was tall and muscular towering above my lean 5’3 frame. And there was something else; he was one of those. You know the kind, the guy who is gorgeous and knows it. Those guys always used their looks to flirt with every girl in a hundred foot radius. Every girl falls for him at first sight, playing into his games. Well, I had too many walls around my heart so he had no chance with me. He threw me that I-know-you-love-me look and I shot it down with a cold, sterile hello. He was confused, not knowing how to react; it was his first time to be rejected. After he left I laughed as I pictured that confused, puzzled look he had.
Three days later he came back to the café. We went through the same routine except this time he didn’t look confused; he asked me a question.
“I am sorry I seem to have offended you in some way. I am Brad and you are…?”
“Well Cristina, please accept my sincerest apologies. I think that we could get a better start sometime over dinner.” He flashed me his million-dollar smile expecting me to blubber out yes and shout for joy.
“No thank you. Have a good day.” While I walked back to my station he quickly got up and left. If he thinks he can just win me over with that cheesy line he had another thing coming. Thank goodness I would be out of here in about 2 months. It had become a routine. I was safe for about 6 months before he found me and I had to relocate again. Before New York I had been in LA, before that Seattle and before Seattle, Branson. “Cris, you’ve a delivery back here. Come sign for it,” My boss yelled from the back. Wandering what it could be I made my way back. John, my boss, handed me a box of red roses and then walked back to the front. Opening it I picked up the card tucked in the bottom.
“ My dearest Cristina, I cannot wait until our near appointment. You can’t run forever. By the way, I love your apartment; the view from your bedroom is breathtaking. Forever yours, D.”
Dropping the box of roses I began to shake. My hands were sweating and my head pounding. No…how had he found me so fast? Maybe it was some sick joke. But it couldn’t be. It was too specific. With my heart racing and head pounding I called Lisa. Near hysteria, with barely comprehendible words I explained what had happened. I slid down the wall and sat on the floor. Pushing up my sleeves I saw the scars that haunted me. They brought back a flood of memories. Looking at the wide long scar on my forearm my mind went back to that dark summer day. He had been drunk and angry as always. This time the knife had made contact with my flesh. That was the first of many trips to the ER. I tried to run away but he caught me and instead of beating me he beat my mother, forcing me to watch, to the point of unconsciousness. He taught me a lesson that day, he was in charge and there was no way out. The police came almost monthly but my dad always had an excuse like she fell down the stairs or she hit her head on the cabinet. My mother and I were too scared to hint of anything different then what he told them. What he said reigned supreme, under the threat of torture.
“Cristina, you need to get up. We need to talk.” Lisa had arrived in the middle of my flashback. “Cris, my boss called me and said that this is it. We are going to catch him but that also means we are not moving. We have to stay here and wait for him to screw up. It’s our last chance.” I knew she was right. I was ready to stand up to the evil he possessed. He wasn’t going to ruin my life and keep me in fear.
“ Okay. Whatever it takes to show him as the monster he really is.” Even as I reassured her, fear was coursing through my veins, already sapping my strength. We set out our plans and went to my apartment to put in extra security measures. Lisa agreed to stay with me along with two other bodyguards and two police cars out front. We agreed that I would continue going to work everyday as long as I always had 2 bodyguards with me. He didn’t send anything else and life went back to a twisted normal.
Brad came everyday trying to understand why I refused his moves every time. After about the 3rd visit he realized his usual charming pick-up lines weren’t going to work on me. He began to just simply engage me in small talk about the weather. Sometimes he would even venture into dangerous water and mention that I looked good or pretty, but after my rolled eyes he rarely ventured there again. I didn’t want to admit it or allow it, but truth is that I was beginning to look forward to his visits nearly every day. I began to see a different side that most people never knew existed; the sweet sensitive side. We began to have deeper more meaningful conversations, if you could even call them that. They were more like him trying to figure me out and me trying to keep him from figuring me out. After 2 months I finally gave in and agreed to meet him for dinner at a little restaurant down the street. Surprisingly, I enjoyed myself. I was relaxed, even forgetting what was going on and not even checking my surroundings routinely every minute as I normally did. We laughed and shared stories from comical past experiences. We agreed to meet back there the next week on Friday at the same time. These dinners became regular. We would meet at the same place on the same day and time every week. He would order the steak and I would order the salad then we would order a dessert then he would pay and we would leave. He would walk me home and the cycle would begin again. I would spend the week worrying over the what ifs and then the night would finally be here and I would head off to meet Brad. I began looking forward to these dinners; they were a haven from the slowly crumbling safety of my own life. Slowly I began to reveal little bits of my past.
“So tell me you story, Cristina. Where are you from?”
“Well I grew up in a small town called Norman. I have had a pretty boring life; no funny or interesting stories to tell.” I forced a smile. He couldn’t know. Not now. Biting my lip I began to slip back into my jittery nervous shell I had become so familiar with.
“ Oh, That town sounds familiar…Wait is that the town where that man had murdered his wife and daughter? I remember that being all over the news years ago. The man’s name was Joe or Joseph or something like that. Did they ever find enough evidence to convict him?”
“No, they never did. It was a sad story; I heard stuff around town but never knew really what happened.” I quickly turned away as tears threatened to break through. Brad could feel the tension grow so he just let the conversation go.
“ Well, it is getting late. I need to take you home.” We walked in silence all the way to my apartment. I almost started to ask him something but I didn’t. Breathe and just ask him.
“Brad next week, lets meet here at my apartment. You could meet Lisa. And it would be cheaper. Besides I want to actually cook for you.”
“Sure Cris, sounds good.” I caught my breath as he looked down at me with those hauntingly blue eyes. His cologne mixed with the crisp fresh air as his hand brushed hair out of my face. All tension melted as he lifted my chin and kissed me. Emotions that I had blocked for years came rushing back, my walls melting away. I was falling in love. It was all so much that I began to cry. He held me until the sobs had subsided.
“Goodnight.” I shyly whispered as I walked in the door.
“Sleep tight and see you Friday.” Brad knew something was tearing at my heart but didn’t want to push it. I wasn’t going to give him time to get up the courage so I shut the door quickly as he walked down the ice-covered walkway.
The week flew by with little incident. Finally, Friday arrived and my nerves began to get the better of me. Hey Cris, It’s all gonna work out. Get control girl. Nothings going to happen. The minute he walked into my apartment I began to feel at ease. Tonight was going to be a good night. I introduced Brad to Lisa and my two bodyguards. He seemed to get along with them, and over dinner he entranced with one of his classic comic stories of him as a child.
“ So, now understand I was only five years old but I knew what I wanted. I wanted a Porsche and I got one. Yep, that’s right a five year old got a Porsche. You all are probably thinking that I was such a spoiled brat, but here’s the catcher. This was no ordinary Porsche, oh no, it was the authentic SpinBrush 2000 Porsche. That’s right I got a Porsche toothbrush.” The table burst out with laughter as Brad remembered that Christmas morning. We moved to the living room to relax and watch a movie. We turned on the TV to the news while we waited for Lisa to join us.
“Breaking News… Many of you remember the horrible double homicide that shook the little town of Norman almost 7 years ago. The father, Joseph had brutally stabbed and murdered his wife of 20 years. His daughter was never found so the police assumed that she had been murdered or injured and moved to a hiding place. Her body was never found. Almost seven years later the police in Norman have received an anonymous tip that the daughter, allegedly murdered along with her mother, is still alive. Since the police never found her body so the case was never closed. The police now have evidence to believe that the daughter is alive and well living up north now….” The newsman droned on about the details of the case but I quickly turned off the TV. Lisa had walked in during the newscast and her eyes were glazed with fear when I turned to her voice.
“I need to go clear up some things with the guards. I won’t be gone long.” She hurried outside to the police car that was sitting in my driveway. Brad took the chance to ask me what had been bothering him all night. We were finally alone and in a gentle voice Brad risked walking on fire to ask what he’d wondered.
“Cris, I hope this isn’t too personal but I’ve noticed you tense up every time that that murder is mentioned. Is there something I should know? I mean you have people guarding you and this apartment is reinforced with security measures that the average person doesn’t need. What aren’t you telling me?”
He caught me off guard. I had never told anyone…I wanted to tell him but my brain told me no. I was at war between my heart and my logic. I didn’t want to scare him away but then…he would have to know eventually. Now is as good a time as any. Taking in a shaky breath I began to tell my story… or at least part of it.
“ Brad, I don’t know… I have never gotten this close to anyone before. Especially men. But you need to know.”
“There’s a man who has been stalking me for 6 years.. I have been running this whole time. He was the one that had killed his wife and abused his daughter. He’s a monster. Everything you see is to protect me from him because he…..well…..he found me here but to put him behind bars we have to stay and lure him out. This is our last chance to get him for good.”
“Oh, That night at the restaurant when I brought him up you tensed up. It makes sense.”
“Well, sort of.” I felt bad only telling half the story but he didn’t need to know it all now.
“When I think back to all those times you tensed up or froze I understand. You can’t help it he has scarred you so deep….” His voice trailed off.
“Brad, you couldn’t have done anything about it. It’s all going to end soon. Don’t worry.” He wrapped his arms around me as if it would protect me from the world. And for the moment it was good enough.
“ You know, you are the first person I have ever truly opened up with. I have never truly cared about any other girl, honestly it was all for looks; to be popular. And now I think I have fallen in love.” He spoke tenderly as he looked me in the eyes. I could get used to this. The night held so much promise.
“ Cristina I need to talk to you.” The look on Lisa’s face as she walked in told me that something was wrong.
“ Cris, he was spotted two houses down. He is coming in tonight. With or without Brad.” I froze. I knew this moment would come but not now. I ran to the living room.
“Brad you need to go. Please, I am sorry I’ll explain later.”
“He’s here isn’t he?” he said gravely. “ I’m staying. No matter what I am here for you; to the end. And don’t try to change my mind.”
He was stubborn and I knew that he was going to stay so I briefly explained to him our plan. He followed me into my bedroom and hid in the closet in wait. The idea was to make it look like I was home alone. He would break in and do something. Before he touched me Lisa would jump out with the gun and cuff him. But first I had to get a confession out of him about what he had done.
“ Brad. Wait I don’t think you should be in here.” I hissed through the darkness. But it was to late I hear the front door squeak open. My heart jumped and my palms began sweating. This was it. Now or never. I could hear his footsteps coming down the hall to my room. My adrenaline was rushing through my veins like a gust of icy wind. Alert and prepared, I did something I hadn’t done in years; I prayed.
“Cristina, finally we are alone. Baby, I have been waiting for the moment I could finish this.” His throaty laugh sent chills all the way to my feet.
“Why?” I cried. “Why did you do it?”
“Now Crissy, is that the way to greet your daddy? Really, sweetheart? I have put so much trouble to find you and you aren’t even grateful. I taught you to be grateful. Don’t you remember?”
“No, you didn’t, you just chased me with knives and pans. You terrorized me. You did things to me no human should have to experience. Just like you beat mom. You stabbed her over and over so I ran; I ran and never looked back. You’re a monster.”
“Your mother did it to herself. Besides, she deserved to die.” The way he nonchalantly chatted about why he had killed her sent terror to my core. In his mind, my mom wasn’t human she was just another failure that had to be taken care of.”
“No, you deserve to die. The things I saw and went through in that house for 16 years was enough to send most people crashing over the edge. But not me. I would never give you the pleasure of destroying me.” I was irate and indignant the fear gone. I wasn’t scared of him anymore.
“Why you ungrateful little…….” He ran at me with his knife but I was ready. I jumped to the side as he came crashing through. He leered and jumped at me again. This time I felt pain sear through my thigh. I screamed but Lisa didn’t come.
“Oh and did I mention I gave your friends a little knock on the head. She probably won’t even remember her name when she wakes up.” His voice was filled to delight at my discovery that I was alone. Fear regained its place in my heart as I realized I was at the mercy of the man I had run from for 6 years.
“Don’t move. You will regret it.”I had completely forgotten that Brad had been in the closet. I turned around and saw him standing with my gun trained on my dad. That’s where I had put it. I knew it was somewhere. I had hidden my gun so that I could use it if I had needed to but I couldn’t remember where. I had hidden in the closet and Brad had found it. God had answered my prayers.
“Who are you?” My dad’s bewildered tone shocked me. I had never once in my entire life ever seen my dad scared. But now he was terrified. The tables had been turned. Now he was the one being threatened.
“Cris? You okay?” Lisa stumbled into the room along with the bodyguards.
“ I’m fine. God sent me an angel.” I turned and looked at Brad. He smiled and nodded at Lisa. She took the hint and cuffed him. My dad. Joseph. The man that had almost ruined my life. The man that had beat me since I had turned 8 years old. He had always beat mom, but never me until the day I screamed at him to stop hurting my mom. He had killed my mom and nearly killed me, and almost got away with it. Now we had the truth on tape. I sighed and sat down. Finally it was over; the nightmare was over for good. No more running or hiding. Now I could begin to really build a home and build relationships.
“Cris, it was you.” Brad turned to me. “The girl that you told me about was you. You went through unspeakable horrors. The man that was hunting you was your dad. That daughter that disappeared was you. I am so sorry.” His shock resounded through his voice. I didn’t realize I had been shaking until he took me into his arms. I cried. I cried out all the emotions I had denied myself over the years. I had never shed a single tear through any of it but now I just let it all flow free. I realized that not all men were like my dad. That I could trust people and most importantly, that I could trust Brad