By: Christina Bencin
“Here ya are, miss– two cheeseburgers and a triple order of fries. That’ll be $12.50,” the hamburger flipper said, motioning his red, meaty fingers at me. Smiling politely, I flipped him off before bursting into a sprint.
“Get back here, punk!” he screamed, veins jumping out of his sweat stained forehead like snakes begging to be let out. He squeezed through the shack’s door, spritzing the ground with grease. At that point, I was far past the shack. We both knew there was no hope in him catching me. He surrendered to the loss, thrusting his fists in the air.
“No good teenager! Karma will hit you one day! I know it will…” and then he fell to the ground. Heat stroke.
I stood there, hollering with laughter and ridiculing his monologue. I maliciously tossed a container of fries to the ground and stomped on them until they were fully smashed, and strutted to Jack’s black Cadillac Escalade. Hooting like idiots, we sped away.
For her seventeenth birthday, I took Doe out to a vast land of rolling grass grain fields. We laid a plaid blanket in the field of straw and brought out a crocheted blanket for us to lie under, since the sweltering sun was setting into a cool evening. We stared up at the blood orange streaked sky in silence, enjoying each other’s presence as we munched on fries and burgers and drank lukewarm Cokes.
Feeling as though it was the right time, I went down on one knee and with a hopeful smile said, “Doe, will you marry me?”
Silence. She was going to say no. It wouldn’t take this long for a yes. She was probably thinking of polite ways to turn me down.
“Doe?” I whispered. She sighed.
“Jack…” Doe started. “You know I love you so, so much, but we’re seventeen, we can’t do this…”
“Yes we can, Doe!” I interrupted. “We are legally old enough to elope, we are almost adults, we can find some odd jobs here and there and… and we’ll make it one day. Come on, you don’t really want to stay back there in that shitshow of a town–”
“We can’t just run away from our lives.” Doe interrupted assertively. “And stop calling me Doe.” she said, her steely voice cutting the thick air.
She didn’t even want to try. That’s what broke my three-size-too-large heart.
The morning after Jack’s proposal, I woke up in the passenger seat of his car in a gas station parking lot.
“Hey sleepy head, it’s about time you’re up!” Jack said with a wicked smile on his face.
“Where are we, Jack?” I demanded, trying to look firm and angry on the outside, even though on the inside I felt uneasy and vulnerable.
“Relax. I’m taking you to a nice hotel since you obviously did not want that diamond ring birthday gift yesterday.” He laughed, tossing his head back so I couldn’t see the pain in his eyes.
Jack kept smiling as he pulled the car out of the gas station. It scared me, his crazed smile, it really did.
Around midnight, we arrived in a run down town in the middle of nowhere. Jack stopped the car in front of a small, musty motel that looked to me as if it had had a few murders in the past decade. My heart started racing as he grabbed my arm and pulled me into the lobby to get a room. I so badly wanted to run away but my feet seemed to be rooted in the ground, only becoming uprooted when Jack dragged me to our room.
Jack went to sleep right away, giving me plenty of time in which I could’ve stolen his car keys and taken off in the car. But I didn’t.
While in the general store the next day, in the corner of my eye, I saw her leading on a handsome young man with a delicate, intriguing flick of the wrist. He grinned and started to head over when she frantically waved her hands, as if to encourage him. That’s when I couldn’t control myself. The anger with her, the frustration that the proposal had ruined everything, her new boredom with me… it got to me. She needed to be put in her place.
“So you reject me and now you’re checking out men in this small dump? What the hell is wrong with you?” I asked through gritted teeth.
She looked taken back. “Jack,” she quipped. “I would never do that. I’m not like that and you know it. I– ”
He didn’t care. He tugged me out of the store and into the motel room, where he beat me. The boy I loved so much who would never harm me in any way beat me. His fist pummelled toward my cheek and I instantly fell to the ground, the tender meat of my cheek immediately swelling up. I was utterly scared that I would provoke more of his anger so I stifled my shouts with my fist.
Jack beat me more that day, as if he was hungry for the warm blood that trickled down my back or the stinging tears that rolled down my hot cheeks. I couldn’t fight back. I was paralyzed with a profound fear of him.
I prayed for mercy, wishing I was unconscious, dead even, to escape this perpetual terror and unbearable, indescribable pain.
After what seemed like hours and hours of torture, Jack heaved me against the wall and knocked my head. My prayers had been granted– I was unconscious, safe from remembering, free from enduring anything he did next.
After she was knocked out cold, I snapped out of my insane episode of rage. I placed her on my lap and I cried over her luscious blonde curls stained with webs of scarlet. I clutched the blood soaked fabric of her dress and caressed her bruise covered shins, realizing the damage I had done. I cried for her and me, for the loss of our love, for my heinous act against my true love, for her unimaginable pain.
I knew I had to get her to the hospital. But I also knew that by bringing her in this condition would be the end of me– even if I made up a story, the truth would eventually be leaked and I would be behind bars.
I instantly drove her to the hospital.
Oh the things we do for love.
I woke up with my head wrapped in bandages, my limp body inside a floral hospital gown. Looking out the window, I saw a police officer escort Jack to a police car. Jack turned and locked his cold, thorny eyes in mine before the police forced him into the back.
One day near the end of my sentence, I was alerted that I had a guest waiting at the phone booth.
It was Doe.
“Why did you do it, Jack?” I whispered in a raspy voice. I was still scared of him at the time. I only came to get closure, to get some sort of understanding why my boyfriend, my best friend, would suddenly turn on me.
He took a deep breath and looked at the ground. ———————————————————————————————————————
“Do you know why I used to call you Doe?” I asked slowly. This was a miracle last chance to talk to her, to get things straight. I had to get it right.
She shook her head.
“Well, it’s because you’re gentle and social and innocent and intuitive, just like a real doe. I always admired these qualities in you and that’s why I asked you to marry me, despite us being seventeen. But also like a doe, you tend to run away from your problems and so I thought you would run away from me after the failed proposal and when I saw you look at that man, well… I just thought I would lose you and that made me really scared.”
“So that’s why you nearly beat me to death?”
“I wanted to keep– uh, I handled it the wrong way. I-I should’ve communicated, listened to you, but–”
“But you were too angry because I let you down by rejecting you.”
“I was never going to ditch you after the proposal, Jack. I waved at the man for help because I was scared of the guy you became after you kidnapped me. You persuaded yourself that I was someone I’m not and will never be because you are paranoid beyond repair. And you’re paranoid because you only want to keep me for yourself, even though I am not yours to keep.”
Doe’s voice was steadily rising.
But suddenly, it dropped. “We never were equals, were we? I was the doe to your sadistic wolf, the victim you feasted off of in order to survive.”
His mouth opened, as if to refute the truth, but before he could answer, I let the phone drop to the table.