October 16, 2015

****Surprise Prologue Reveal****

Sucker Punched by L.K.Owen


Copyright 2015 L.K. Owen

Six months ago 

I’m standing outside of my best friend’s house for the first time in over a year. I try to take a few steadying breaths. My nerves sky rocket with the worry she may turn me away. I can’t blame her if she does; after all, I let my boyfriend alienate me from her and anyone I held dear.
Lifting my hand, I try to hold it still but fail miserably. My knuckles rap on Beth’s door while my gut twists and my heart races. Her silhouette shows through the glass, and the closer she comes, the more I fight the urge to vomit. Hearing the knob turn, I look down at my feet, shame and exhaustion making it impossible to look her in the eye.
Tremors wrack my body, but how can I be surprised? After everything that happened last night, I can’t continue on like this anymore. My whole body is bruised and battered, but my shaking is due more to the fact I’m about to finally admit, not only to my friend but to myself, what I have been made to endure at the hands of Stephen, the man who I believed loved me.
Some might say I’ve not had a choice, but I did. I could have left him before this. My Nan died a few months ago, but she had made it clear she would have helped me get out. The only reason I can give as to why I’ve stayed is because I loved him. I know I sound pathetic, but right now it’s all I’ve got. A few moments have passed, and there’s been no response, so I glance up.
The shock on her face roots me to my spot. I swallow hard when a gasp leaves her lips once she gets a clear view of my swollen and battered face. Finally, I get the nerve to ask, “I know it’s been a while, but can I come in?” I struggle to fight the tears as my voice cracks with the effort to keep calm. Beth shakes her head as if to clear it.
“Of course, Caitlin,” she says, lifting her hand for me to take it. As soon as my hand touches hers, she pulls me into her safe embrace. I wince but can’t move away as I hear her sniffle. I need this hug as much as I need her right now, so I cling closer for a moment. After a few minutes, we walk into her kitchen, her arms still wrapped tightly around me.
“Let me make us some tea. Take a seat.” She gestures to her modern glass-topped dining table. We remain silent as Beth busies herself making the tea, and I try to gather my thoughts. The silence is deafening; Beth is not someone to hold back her opinion. It’s worrying she’s being so quiet.
Once she places the steaming mug of tea on the table, she takes a seat beside me, again taking my hand. Her voice is steady, and her eyes race across my face as they take in the brutal damage Stephen has done.
“Are you going to tell me what happened?”
I nod but no words come out. Looking down at our joined hands, I know she will help; I know she won’t judge. But, this is still one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Admitting I am weak to my best friend is not going to be easy.
“It’s Stephen,” I whisper these two simple words as my breath hitches. I can’t bear to go into the gruesome details. I mean, how am I supposed to tell my best friend since preschool that I just lay there on the floor while my boyfriend kicked and punched me until I blacked out? How do I admit I allowed that to happen when I’m a trained kickboxer who knows how to defend herself? How can I tell her that when I woke up cold and alone on the floor, I didn’t run out the door? That I picked myself up like I always do and went to bed doing nothing as he climbed on top of me. I smother a gasp at the thought of last night, swallowing several times to settle my stomach that’s ready to revolt.
Beth remains silent, so I look up at her. When she still doesn’t say a word I continue.
“I went out yesterday without his permission. His work colleague saw me and told him. When he came home, he did this,” I say gesturing to my face.
When she realizes the seriousness of the situation, her gentle expression vanishes, fury replacing it, but she doesn’t utter a word. We sit in silence, and I feel awkward, beginning to think I shouldn’t have come.
“Beth, I’m sorry; I shouldn’t be involving you in my problems. This was a mistake.” As I get up to leave, there’s an iron clad grip on my hand that prevents me from moving.
“Don’t you dare leave!” Her voice is as hard as her face, and I can’t help but flinch. She notices my reaction and her face softens once again. “I’m so sorry, but I’m really trying to control myself here. All I want to do right now is kick Stephen in the bloody nuts, then rip them off, and a few other choice things that there’s no point getting into right now.” This declaration makes me smile, and I wrap my arms around her.
I whisper to her softly, “I have missed you so much. I’m so sorry.”
Then I become choked up again.
Beth suddenly pulls back. “What the hell do YOU have to be sorry about?”
Crashing back into the chair, I begin to rub at my eyes then flinch as I accidentally poke a bruise. “So many things,” I mutter. “For letting Stephen dictate what I should do. For his making me pull away from you. For my not standing up for myself, just to name a few,” I say as a humorless laugh escapes me.
“Well, I think you need to stop being so bloody hard on yourself. And as for us not seeing each other, it’s ok. You’re here now. There’s no way you can go back to him. Let’s go get your stuff while he’s at work, and you can stay here; there’s plenty of room.”
I jump, panic spreading through me. “No!” I shout, shaking my head. “I can’t stay here. I have to go back. If he finds out I told anyone, it wouldn’t be good for either of us. I can’t let him hurt you, too.”
“There’s no way in hell I can let you go back to him, not now that I know what he’s been doing all this time. No bloody way, Caitlin.”
“My Nan left me a small inheritance, so I could escape. She made me promise her, and that’s why I’m here.” Beth’s tense expression clears. I feel bad remembering how I promised my Nan I would leave Stephen, but at the time I had no intention of following through with that promise. Last night changed that.
“That’s why I was seen out yesterday. I met with the lawyers. They have been trying to get me to claim the money, and I finally signed the documents.”
“So you were going to leave him?”
I shake my head dejectedly at my own stupidity and naivety. “No, I wasn’t, but now I am. I need your help, Beth, please.” I admit.
“Of course Caitlin, I’d do anything for you. What’s your plan?”
“If I stay here, he will find me. I need to leave to country.”
“What!” she shrieks.
I take her hand. “It’s the only way. I need to get as far away from him as I can, and you have to make the arrangements so he doesn’t find out. I have no other choice but to go back because he can’t suspect anything.” I hope she understands.
“I don’t like it, Caitlin,” she says, as she rapidly shakes her head.
“That being said, I get it, and it goes without question I will help you. Where are you going to move?”
“Well, I’ve always wanted to go to America, but I don’t know where exactly.” I shrug.
“Ok, hold on,” she says as she moves across the room. I watch as she rummages in the cupboard. “Ah ha! I knew I had this world map.” She flicks over the pages finally coming to a stop. “Right here is America. Shut your eyes and pick a spot.”
I scrunch my face up at her ridiculous idea. “Really? This is how you want me to pick where I’m going to live?”
She raises her eyebrows. “Do you have a better idea?”
“Well, I don’t suppose I do.” Closing my eyes I drop my finger onto the page. “There!”
We both look down as Beth exclaims, “Philadelphia it is!”

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