Sounding sheepish, Lia said, “I’m sorry for asking so many questions and interrupting you. I’m just trying to get a clear picture in my mind of how everything was back then.”
“I know, baby, and it actually makes it easier for me to take a break while I fill in the blanks for you. It’s been so long that some of the memories are a bit fuzzy. Anyway, Cassie was going off the rails faster than I could put her back on them. I’m not proud of it, but I began losing patience with her. The fights were so absurd that after trying to just ignore them for five months, I was hanging on by a thread. I started staying away from the apartment more thinking it would help. It seemed like my very presence infuriated her so I was afraid I was jeopardizing her health by upsetting her. Well, apparently that only made her paranoia worse. The fights got uglier. Things might have calmed by the time we went to bed, but I would wake up in the middle of the night to find her hitting, scratching, and biting me. It got to where I was afraid to go to sleep for fear of what she would do to herself or me.”
As I drop my head back onto the sofa, already mentally drained, Lia rubs my chest and then cups my face. “Luc, I can’t even imagine what you must have gone through. I’m so sorry.” Just hearing those words from her slays me. This girl lived through years of physical and sexual abuse and she feels sorry for me. She isn’t just saying a bunch of meaningless words of comfort, either; I can hear the anguish in her voice. I fucking love her so much at this moment. I’d travel through hell repeatedly to find her on the other side. I pull her closer and then lie down full length, taking her with me. Only when my body curls protectively around hers do I continue.
“The last day we were together started off unusually—quiet. I would later think of it as the calm before the storm. Cassie woke up in a good mood, which was rare, and she talked almost non-stop about the baby. She seemed excited for the first time about the future and I thought that maybe whatever hormonal hell she’d been caught in was starting to lessen. I left for school and promised to bring home the hamburger she craved for dinner. I spent the day feeling lighter than I had in months. Finally, she was showing me a little bit of hope that she could be better. I came home that afternoon with our food and as soon as I shut the door behind me, all hell broke loose. I barely managed to avoid the glass that came flying at my head before another one was on the way. She was screaming at the top of her lungs about how I had ruined her life by getting her pregnant and was now fucking around on her. Then she was saying crazy shit about her telling everyone I’d raped her and that she would ruin me.”
Lia turns in my arms until she is facing me. She burrows closer, offering me comfort as my body trembles. “I love you. I’m here.” She repeats it several more times until I calm. “Do you need another drink?” she asks as she makes to get up and fix it.
“No, baby, please stay,” I plead, needing to feel her in my arms. She settles back and I pick up my story, now needing to get it out and over with. “As I was saying, she was worse than ever that afternoon and evening. When she threatened to tell everyone I’d raped her, I just snapped. I couldn’t take it anymore. I told her that we were over and to do her worst because I was finished. I remember opening the door to leave and hearing her laughter. I thought that action just proved it right there. Instead of crying, she’s laughing like a loon. I ran into a couple of people from one of my classes as I was going to my car and they invited me to their fraternity party. Being wasted for a few hours sounded perfect to me so I took off with them. I helped them pick up some beer kegs and get everything ready. By the time the party was underway, I was already drunk. I followed up the beer and liquor by smoking a joint before hunting somewhere to crash. I was wandering around upstairs when some girl grabbed me and pulled me into one of the rooms. She said stuff about how she’d always wanted to be with me and she began undressing. There’s no excuse, but after nothing but insults from Cassie, this girl was telling me everything my ego needed to hear.” I pause, hating to admit what had happened next. I could probably gloss over it and hope Lia would let it go, but what would be the point in telling my story if I were not completely honest with the woman I love?
“You can tell me, Luc,” she whispers reassuringly against my chest.
“I slept with her. I have no idea who she was or even what she looked like, but I had sex with her that night.” Lia’s only reaction to my admission is the slight stiffening of her body. Maybe she had hoped at the last minute I hadn’t gone through with it, but now she knows better. I’d screwed around on my pregnant fiancée. “Somehow, I made it back home later on. I remember Cassie being asleep on the sofa, which wasn’t unusual. She often did that when she was angry with me, which was most of the time by that point. I went to the bedroom and passed out. I woke to find Cassie on top of me. She had turned the light on, and I was struggling to see through the sudden glare. She was asking me if this was how I fucked that girl. I remember wondering how she could possibly know what I’d done. I told her I was sorry and she just looked down at me and laughed. The sound scared the hell out of me. Then before I could process what was happening, she got right in my face and said, ‘Don’t ever forget that you made me do this. This is all your fault.’ She kept chanting that over and over, ‘All your fault. All your fault.’”
Lia wrenched from my arms suddenly, jumping to her feet. She looks deathly pale. “Dear God, Luc, what did she do?” She raised a hand to rub her neck as if feeling the knife that penetrated my own. I wish my answer could be that obvious. Cassie tried to kill me, but I lived. Maybe Lia would even believe I deserved it after cheating on Cassie. A violent, but fitting type of justice. What I wouldn’t give to be the only victim that night.