Ben drove home without any music. His gaze jumped around the entire ride, and he kept checking over his shoulder. He did not slow down, and we were thrown around the car as he drove over the rough terrain.
The headlights were the only thing lighting up the dark forest. I was praying that I would see a series of red and blue lights flashing behind us, but it never happened.
The bottle was tucked in my sleeve. My knuckles ached because of how tight I was holding the end of the sleeve. I didn’t want the bottle to bounce out and roll away from me because of Ben’s chaotic driving.
When we pulled up to the cabin, Ben grabbed the duffel bag from the backseat. I hurried out and followed him into the cabin. He dropped the duffel bag on the couch and ripped off his scarf. I watched him as he peeled the layers of clothes off of his sweaty skin. He unravel the soiled gauze off of his torso.
I gasped when I saw his patch of scales. The skin was bright red and swollen. It was leaking thick yellow pus that had spread to cover a chunk of his pale skin. Ben looked up when he heard me. He unzipped the bag and started sorting through the bottles that he had stolen.
“Get me a glass of water,” he said. “And a warm towel.”
I pulled off my sunglasses and hat before I went into the kitchen and poured him a glass of water. I set the glass down on the coffee table. Ben sat down and swallowed two of the pills from one bottle. I went into the bathroom and grabbed one of the towels. I ran it under warm water before ringing it out. I slipped the bottle out from my sleeve and tucked it in one of the bathroom cupboards behind a collection of shampoo bottles.
Ben was leaning against the couch with his eyes closed. His one eye peered open when I sat down beside him. I handed him the towel, and he washed the pus off of his scales and skin. He gritted his teeth every time he touched his inflamed skin.
“I still think you should go see a doctor,” I said.
Ben rolled his eyes before going back into the duffel bag. He pulled out a tube of cream. I took it out of his hands to see that it was another antibiotic.
“You know using too many antibiotics is dangerous,” I said.
“I’m aware,” Ben said. “But we’re kind of in a desperate situation.”
I let out a deep breath before getting up off of the couch. I washed my hands and grabbed the last roll of gauze.
Ben had finished cleaning his scales when I sat next to him again. I squeezed some of the cream onto my finger, and I ran it across his abdomen. He cried out in pain. He grabbed my wrist and pulled my hand away.
“Be careful,” he said.
“You’re the one who wanted me to put this cream on,” I said.
“Yeah, but you don’t have to be so rough.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Rough? I am barely touching it.”
Ben let go of my wrist. I let my finger graze across his skin. The cream was cold, but I could still feel the heat radiating off his skin. I wiped the mixture of the remaining cream and leftover bits of dried pus on the towel. He leaned forward and I wrapped the gauze around his body.
When it was all finished, he leaned back against the cushions on the couch. He combed his sweaty strands of hair back, and off of his forehead.
“How long do you think it will take to work?” I asked.
“I should feel better in a couple of days,” he said. “Alexis had an infection once. It cleared up the next day, but it wasn’t as bad and she had IV antibiotics.”
Hearing Alexis’ name made my stomach twist. Her family probably never discovered what had actually happened to her. They must believe she died in a fake car accident claim they used to hide her kidnapping. All she probably wanted to do was see them like I want to see Mom and Marcy, but never got to. When I get out of this, I would make sure they know what happened to their daughter.
“What was Alexis’ last name?” I asked.
Ben didn’t open his eyes, but he furrowed his brows together.
“Why?” he asked.
“A girl went missing at my high school a couple of years ago,” I lied. “Her name was also Alexis. I was just curious if it was the same girl.”
“Buckingham,” he said. “It wouldn’t be the same girl. She was from England and was backpacking along the west coast.”
I brought my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around my legs. I watched as Ben’s breath slowed down to a rhythmic pace. My mind was focused on the bottle of pills I had stolen. I had to figure out a way to get them into Ben.
I couldn’t pretend they were his antibiotics. They were of different colour and sizes. Also, two pills wouldn’t be enough to cause him to overdose. I would have to crush a bunch of them into a powder, and then hide it in his food. He normally stayed in the kitchen with me when I was making lunch and dinner. I couldn’t mix it into his food without him noticing. I would have to convince him to stay on the couch and read a novel while I was cooking.
Ben stirred in his sleep. He rolled his head from side to side and mumbled something. His eyes flew open, and he gasped for breath. He dug the heel of his palm into his eyes.
“Let’s get to bed,” he said. He did not wait for my response before grabbing my hand and pulling me off the couch. I stayed behind him as we walked into the bedroom.
Ben spent the night having one arm around my waist. I lied awake with my mind thinking of ways to poison him.
Ben let me take a shower before him. I had yet to figure out how I was going to put the pills in his food. The only thing I knew for sure was that the pills were going to have to be crushed down into a powder.
When I got out of the shower, I pulled out the bottle of hydromorphone. I set a piece of tissue down on the counter and pulled out six of the pills. I pushed down on one with my finger, and I knew I would need something strong to break down the pills.
I opened the cupboards and looked through the random assortment of things Bethany had collected. There was a heavy bottle of mouthwash that had not yet been opened. I placed it on top of the pills, and pushed it down and twisted. I lifted the bottle to see the pills had not yet been broken. I looked at the bottom of the bottle to see it was concave in the middle. I put the edge of the bottom on two of the pills.
The two pills were crumbling as I twisted the bottle from side to side. A smile spread across my lips as I watch the pills break.
The bottle slipped and banged on the counter. I cursed under my breath and began to crush the other pills on the tissue. The bottle slipped a few more times.
Ben knocked on the bathroom door, and my heart pounded in my chest. I almost pushed the pills off the counter out of panic.
“Diana, are you okay?” he asked.
He must have heard the banging.
“Yeah,” I said. “I will be out in a minute.”
I listened to his footsteps as they walked away from the bathroom door. I crushed the last couple of pills. I folded the tissue up so that the powder would not fall out. I hid it in the cupboard behind all of the shampoo bottles with the bottle of medication.
Ben was in the kitchen when I left the bathroom. He was slathering a thick layer of peanut butter onto a piece of toast.
“How are you feeling?” I asked.
“Better,” he said. “I should be back to normal soon.”
I put two slices of bread into the toaster. Ben watched me as he ate. He was smirking at me as I went around the kitchen.
“What are you staring at?” I asked.
“You, obviously,” he said. “I’m just so happy I have you. I’m so happy that we got away from Bethany and Oliver together. This is everything I could ever hope for.”
I let my lips twitch into a smile. I couldn’t let him see me shiver as his words caused my heart to sink deep into my stomach.
“Maybe one day we can even go see your family,” he said. “Once this all settles down. I’m not promising anything, but it could happen one day.”
“Thank you,” I said.
Ben placed his plate down in the sink. He tucked my wet strand of hair behind my ear and kissed my cheek. My toast popped up out of the toaster, and Ben wandered over to the couch. I spread the butter on my toast and ate it at the counter.
Ben took two more of the antibiotics. He then pulled out a novel. He put his feet up on the coffee table and leaned back as he read.
I washed our dishes in silence as Ben was reading. I dried my hands on the dishtowel and was about to go sit next to him.
“Di, could you make me a coffee,” Ben asked, not looking up from his book.
I’m glad he didn’t see me because he did not see how my jaw hung open and my eyes grew wide.
This was my solution.
I could put the powder in Ben’s coffee. He was so focused on his book that he would not see me slip it in. The hot liquid would dissolve the powder. Coffee has such a strong flavour too that it would mask the taste of the medication.
“Yeah, for sure,” I said.
I plugged in the kettle and pulled out the can of instant coffee mix that was in the cupboard. I poured some into the mug and shovelled in an extra spoonful to make sure to hide the taste.
I had to fight with my feet to not take off sprinting to the bathroom. I closed the bathroom door behind me and grabbed the tissue of powder. I folded it one extra time and slipped it up the sleeve of my cardigan. I ran a brush through my tangled hair so that Ben thought I went to the bathroom to freshen up.
His eyes were still locked on the book when I went back into the kitchen. I slid the tissue out of my sleeve and unfolded it. I poured the light green powder into the mug. I mixed it in with the coffee powder. The kettle whistled and I poured the hot water into the mug.
“What do you take in your coffee?” I asked.
“Just sugar,” he said.
I added a spoonful of sugar and mixed the coffee. I was afraid that small white flecks of the medication would float to the top, but it didn’t. It looked like a regular cup of coffee.
I didn’t know my hands were shaking until I lifted the cup and the coffee sloshed from side to side. I took a deep breath and set the cup down in front of Ben.