“I said marry me, please. I love you, Erica, and I don’t want to waste another minute without you by my side as my wife.”
“Jared, are you sure this is what you want? I am a mess right now, and I need you in my life. But marriage?” she questions, and my face stays neutral.
“I have never been so sure about anything in my life, babe. You are my light in this world of darkness. Together we can do anything.” His confession sends my stomach into a fluttering mess.
“I want to marry you, Jared, I do but I need to finish college first. Then we will go from there.” My voice is timid, and I’m afraid that he may think I don’t love him enough. But then he gives me a soft smile and pecks me on the cheek.
“You’re worth the wait, beautiful,” he murmurs in my ear and I feel his body ease into mine and all is okay again.
When we arrive at Jared’s place I feel a weight being lifted off me. Knowing we can start fresh is a beautiful feeling. I am strong enough to get over what happened with that man. Shannon has called numerous times, but I’m not ready to talk yet. What happened with her was similar, and I know we should talk, but I’m just not ready. It could have been much worse if Tony hadn’t shown up.
It was terrifying; you feel useless and like your body is not yours in that moment, even though you chose not to give it up freely. The feeling of complete demoralization takes over and you are left with an endless amount of ‘what-ifs’.
After everything I’ve been through, I can only hope that my life will get better. There is only so much more I can take. I just want to finish school and marry the man of my dreams.
As I unpack my things Jared is in the kitchen, fixing us something to eat.
“You hungry?” He gestures to the sandwiches he made.
“I am, and I could get used to this.” I laugh, and he gives me his signature grin.
“If I’m going to stay here the least I can do is start pitching in.” He gives me a look that says no fucking way.
“We have already discussed this, baby. You don’t pay for shit when you’re with me. I make enough money and then some for us to live. You are my woman, and I will take care of what’s mine.” This isn’t the first time he’s said this, but I have to at least offer.
“I would feel better if you would let me contribute more. You and your friends are always giving me rides. The least I can do is help out with food.”
“End of discussion, and the reason we take you everywhere is because your car is not safe, baby. I want someone with you at all times. It’s better like this for now.” I roll my eyes. “Erica, I will spank you red if you roll your eyes again.” Just the thought of him spanking me sends my body on overdrive.
“You promise?” I give him a shy smile and he smacks my ass. I yelp and he hovers over me, placing a gentle kiss on my lips.
“This is the way it’s supposed to be, baby. Me and you together always.” He is so demanding, but I love it and I love him.
We eat in comfortable silence. When we’re finished I grab our plates and make my way over to the sink. I’m smiling one second and then the next thing I know a flashback of that man's hands all over me pops up in my head. I drop the plates in thesink. The loud clattering noise must alert Jared, because he is at my side in an instant.
My hands are shaking and I’m trembling all over as he whispers soothing words into my ear.
Tears cascade down my face as the memory of my mother’s body flashes before my eyes, Shannon underneath Jayden as he tries to take what he never should have taken, and then the feel of his breath as it meets my cheek.
“I just need a minute,” I mumble, and break out of his hold and run into the bathroom. He lets me go without a fuss, knowing me all too well and that I need to be alone.
My head is now resting on my knees as I sit on the cold bathroom floor.
I practice some breathing exercises to get me through this moment and it seems to be working.
“Babe? You okay?” Jared calls from behind the door.
“Yeah, I’m just going to take a shower,” I say to him, and I can tell all he wants is to be with me but I can’t right now. The memory is too vivid and feels so real that I just need some space. I just hope I can eventually forgive myself for bringing these horrible people into our lives.
A week has passed and I am back to school and doing my best to keep my grades up. Shannon confronted me a couple of days after coming home from the hospital and pleaded with me to talk about what happened. Thinking about it makes it worse, so I’m trying to keep myself busy.
She seems happy with Sean, even though she does mention Grady here and there. I can tell she feels a little something forhim, too. Grady checks in on her frequently and I can see the feelings brewing. I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I just want her to be happy.
On another note, rumors have spread like wild fire throughout campus about my attack. I have been receiving glances of uncertainty and looks of pity, kind of like Shannon did. Only I never knew the extent of her situation because she always seemed okay with it. It’s like she’s accepting the fact that it happened and moving on with such grace and composure. I envy her that.
At one point I openly glare at a group of girls whispering and pointing. What the fuck is wrong with these people? Don’t they have better things to do?