“I’ll stay here with you,” I say gently, “if you need me to stay. I can sleep here on the sofa.”
“No.” He shakes his head subtly and finally moves his arm so that my hand will fall away from it. “I’ll be fine. I just needed someone else to remove the bodies.”
“I understand,” I relent, though I know that Fredrik is anything but fine.
“Maybe you should go—”
His head jerks around to the side and finally he looks right at me; the tortured look in his eyes puts me on edge. “I said no.”
But after a few seconds, I push away the part of me that wants to give in to what he says and I say what I really feel:
“I know you loved her. Both sides of her—I know. And I know that you feel like you’ll never be able to live with yourself for how it all ended, or that you’ll always be alone because you think there is no one else out there like her. I know.”
I stop, expecting him to have already cut in and told me to shut up and leave, but still, he offers no words of his own and I don’t know how to feel about that. Relieved that he’s listening to me? Concerned that he isn’t? Worried about what’s going on inside his head that’s so all-consuming that I have to be surprised he hasn’t spoken against me either way?
When still he shows no signs of rebuttal, I go on:
“This may sound insane—actually, I know it’s going to sound insane—but I felt that way when I killed Javier.”
Nothing but silence.
“After being with Javier for so long, it didn’t matter that he raped me or kept me prisoner, because he was all I knew. I brainwashed myself into believing that only he would ever love me, that only Javier would ever want anything to do with me. And when I killed him, I felt like I killed the other half of me. If it wasn’t for Victor—”
“One day, Victor Faust will be the death of you, Izabel,” he cuts in and I’m stunned by his words. He looks over, locking his eyes on mine. “If you want to help me, you can by keeping that in the back of your mind. One way or another, you’re going to die because of him, because you love him.”
I want to argue, to fight back and tell him that he’s wrong, but I know he’s hurting and I can’t make this about me. I won’t.
He looks away.
“Tell Victor that I’ll accept any sentence he feels fits my offensives.”
“Please just go,” he says looking down at the floor. “I give you my word—I’ll be fine. I don’t want you worrying about me, least of all.”
“Please, Izabel!” he snaps.
I stand up and look at him for a moment before taking my coat up from the cushion.
I don’t even bother putting it on as I begin to walk away.
Stopping at the den entrance with my back to him, I say evenly, “I’m going to help you. Just like I did with Kelly Bennings. For as long as it takes.”
Once again, he says nothing, and with a heavy heart I leave the house and step out onto the porch just as the cleaners are making yet another trip outside from the backyard. But all three of us stop mid-stride down the sidewalk when a vociferous crash, like glass breaking, fills the night air coming from inside Fredrik’s house. And then more glass. And the sound of furniture crashing against the walls.
I feel the cleaners’ eyes on me, but I can’t tear mine away from the house where Fredrik is feeling the worst pain he’s ever felt, just on the other side of those walls.
Every last bit of furniture, I destroy, flinging chairs and shattering tables against the walls as if rejecting its right to exist if Cassia can’t exist. If Seraphina can’t exist. Anything that gets in my way, I move it with violent, resentful force.
I scream at the top of my lungs before grabbing the last standing chair and hurling it through the den and into the television screen. The glass shatters and what’s left of the frame falls over onto the floor sending pieces of glass scattered across the hardwood.
I follow suit, unable to maintain my footing, and fall against the floor on my bottom in the center of the room, surrounded by destruction—destruction of objects, but also the destruction of what was left of a man. Sitting helplessly with my legs bent at the knees, I do the only thing fate will allow me to do in this moment—I cry into the palms of my hands, letting the pain do with me whatever it wants. The same way I did when I was just a boy, after I had been beaten and raped and broken. Only this time, the pain I feel inside is a hundred times more unbearable.
Blackness. All I see is blackness though my eyes are wide open as I look downward at the floor. And in that f**king blackness I can still see her face. Her light brown eyes and plump lips. Her soft, creamy skin and near perfect complexion. Long blonde hair. Short black hair. And I know that she will haunt my soul for the rest of my days, however many of them there are left to suffer.
And I know I deserve it.
Without another thought, I jump up from the floor and rush into the kitchen, flinging open the cabinet underneath the sink. On my hands and knees, I shove the top half of my body through the opening, furiously swiping away bottles of cleaner and other various supplies. When I don’t find what I’m looking for, I jump to my feet again and do the same to all the cabinets, tossing out boxes of food onto the kitchen floor. Finally, in the cabinet above the microwave I find a bottle of lighter fluid and I storm toward the hallway with it clutched in my hand, but tripping over debris on my way and falling. My back hits the wall as my hands hit the floor to brace for the impact, but as soon as I’m in control of my body again, I pick the bottle of lighter fluid up from beside me and hurl myself down the hallway. Swinging open the basement door, I fly down the steps taking them three at a time and almost falling again, but I make it to the bottom of the stairs unscathed.
I spray the lighter fluid everywhere, starting with Cassia’s bed and when the bottle is empty I toss it on the floor and just stare at it without moving until my legs become numb beneath me. I look at the chain stretched across the floor and then at the corner of the room where I often found Cassia sitting when I came home.
Sobs roll through my body and I’m unable to stop them.
Tearing my eyes away from all that is left of her, I look around the room for anything I can use to set the fluid aflame, and when I find nothing I’m up the stairs and back down here again so fast it feels like I never moved from this spot.