It was another long boring day stuck in the car together. I tried to switch the radio station every once in a while to try and find a station playing a news channel. Ben would reach over and change the channel. After doing this a few times, Ben switched it to a CD and glared at me. I sunk into the seat and crossed my arms over my chest.
Ben kept his hand on the top of the steering wheel as we drove down the highway. His hand would often drift over to the infected patch of skin. His fingers would graze over his shirt before he would put his hand back onto the steering wheel.
At lunch, he pulled through a drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant. He bought us a couple of burgers and paid with cash. I crossed my legs and dug into the bag as Ben pulled away from the restaurant. Ben grabbed one of the burgers. I pulled out the salty fries and ate them one at a time.
“Where did you get all of that money?” I asked.
“Bethany,” he said. “She was a fan of drinking wine and leaving her bank cards lying around. I’ve been withdrawing money out of her account for a while now.”
“Is that how you got the gun too?”
Mentioning the gun made my voice waver. I have never talked to Ben about the gun. My eyes always caught glimpses of it poking out from his waistband. It was always on my mind. It was the only reason I wasn’t running out of the car. It was the only reason that I wasn’t screaming for help any time we were in public. I was going to see my mom and Marcy again, and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I was full of bullets.
“Bethany doesn’t just have a gun lying around the house,” he said. “I got it right after we got back from the Caribbean.”
“I thought Bethany would have had you locked in the house after us embarrassing them at the dinner,” I said.
“That didn’t last long.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I was able to persuade her to let me back outside.”
“What? Did you sleep with her again?” I scoffed.
Ben whipped his head to the side for a minute and narrowed his eyes at me.
“What’s with this attitude?” he asked. “I’m just trying to take care of both of us. Do you not want that?”
Ben’s grip tightened on the steering wheel and his knuckles were turning white. I could imagine him jerking the wheel to the side and crashing the car into another car or a tree and killing both of us.
“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “It’s just that you haven’t really been telling me anything.”
“You need to trust me,” he said.
I rolled my eyes and continued to eat the fries out of the bottom of the bag. We drove for the rest of the day in silence. Ben found another small motel. He had his usual charismatic personality and charmed the woman working behind the desk. He threw the bag over his shoulder and kept his arm around me as we walked to our room. I’ve grown used to the odd pungent smell that seemed to be in all of these rooms.
Ben stretched his arms over his head before pulling clothes out of his suitcase. He held his hand out toward me.
“Come on,” he said. “We’re going to take a shower.”
“Yeah, sweetheart.” He grabbed my hand and yanked me closer to him. He slid his other arm around my waist. “The last few days have been so crazy and we haven’t been able to spend any time together.”
“I just don’t think -”
The smirk across his lips switched into a scowl. I swallowed past a lump that was forming in my throat.
“Di, what’s wrong?” he asked. “You’ve been acting odd all day. Do you not want to be with me?”
My mind was screaming out the word no. I bit down on my bottom lip to stop the word from slipping out.
“I’ve been doing all of this for us because I love you,” Ben said. “I don’t understand why you don’t -”
“Ben,” I cut him off and grabbed his face in my hands. His scowl softened, but my heart was still pounding in my chest. If I didn’t do this, he would put a bullet in both of our skulls. “Ben, I just didn’t want to because I was tired. I’m sorry.”
I did not realize how tight his grip was on me until his fingers loosened from my waist.
“Okay,” he said. “Let’s go.”
I gave my head a slight nod before Ben pulled me over to the bathroom. I had to keep reminding myself that Ben and I had already spent a night together. That was before I realized how delusional he was.
Ben reached in and turned on the shower and let the water warm. I stayed pressed against the bathroom door. He pulled his shirt over his head, and my eyes went right to the one patch of scales on his side. The red patch he was poking at last night had become darker and looked more aggressive.
“It looks bad,” I said.
Ben glanced down at it. He traced his finger around it and I watched his face wince.
“I’ll worry about it when we get to the cabin,” he said. I opened my mouth to say something but he held out his hand. “Di, don’t worry about it right now.”
Ben grabbed the hem of my dress and pulled it up over my head. My arms instinctively crossed over my chest. Ben chuckled and grabbed my wrists and pulled my arms away from myself. He pulled me toward his chest and pressed his lips against my neck. I squeezed my eyes shut and balled my hands up into a fist as I fought off the urge to push him away.
I stood still as Ben removed both of our clothes. He pulled me under the warm stream of water. His hands ran over my body. I closed my eyes and thought of the end goal. I imagined lying in my childhood bed at my Mom’s home. I imagined how next week Marcy and I would be making chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. I needed this to happen, and it would only happen if I kept Ben happy.
When Ben turned off the water. I jumped out of the shower and wrapped myself in a towel. I hurried out of the bathroom and went over to the bed. I dug through the duffel bag for clothes. I had left my glasses in the bathroom, so I had to squint. I managed to pull out a pair of sweats and a T-shirt. I put both of them on before Ben came out of the bathroom running a towel over his hair.
I turned my glance from him and saw the remote to the television sitting on top of the dresser.
“Can you please get my glasses out of the bathroom?” I asked.
“Yeah. of course,” Ben said.
He turned and I snatched the remote. I flipped through the channels until I found the news channel. They were reporting a story on a robbery that occurred in a city that I had never heard of before. I shifted my weight from foot to foot as I waited for the story to change.
“Here’s your -” I looked over my shoulder to see Ben walking back into the room. “What are you doing?”
“I’m just curious,” I said. I took my glasses from him and sat on the edge of the bed. I slipped them on and I could actually see the words on the screen now. “I want to know if they know anything new.”
The mattress dipped as Ben sat down beside me. I clutched the remote in my hands. He threw his arm over my shoulders and pulled me closer to him and kissed my temple.
“I just don’t want you getting upset,” he said. “We’ll be in Muskoka tomorrow and we don’t have to worry about any of this anymore.”
“Tomorrow?” I asked. “We’re going to stop travelling?”
“Yeah. We’ll finally be able to rest.”
I was counting on someone spotting us out in public and recognizing us. I was expecting someone to recognize the car. It must have been Bethany’s unless he stole it or switched the license plates. I thought we would be caught, and I could describe to the cops how delusional Ben was acting.
Soon, it was going to be just Ben and me. It would be the two of us stuck in a cabin. He’d probably do everything in his power to prevent me from ever leaving the cabin.
Maybe being in the cabin would be a positive thing. I could find a way to escape and I could run for help. He wouldn’t be able to keep his eyes on me for every second of the day. If I am building up enough trust with him he may even leave me alone.
The news story switched to Ben and me. Our pictures were posted beside each other on the screen. It was the same graduation photo they used before. Ben’s photo was almost unrecognizable. He was a tall gangly teenager with a toque over his short hair.
“Benjamin Beltran is wanted for the brutal murder of both his mother, Judith Beltran, and his sister, Gabrielle Beltran,” the news anchor said. “Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact the police.”
Ben ripped the remote out of my hands and turned off the television.
“Enough of that,” he said.
He got off the bed and searched through the duffel bag. We both took our medication. I crawled back into the bed. Ben turned off the light, and then his arms pulled me tight against his chest.
I struggled to fall asleep as my mind raced with thoughts of my mom and Marcy.