Ben’s skin was slick with sweat. He was warm, and the locks of his hair had stuck to his forehead. He was tired and dragged me into the bedroom with him. I was lying on my back, and Ben’s head was on my chest and his arm around me. My sweat was prickling at the back of my neck from the heat radiating off his body.
Ben had peeled off his shirt before crawling into bed. The gauze was still wrapped around his abdomen. I could only imagine how awful his infection must look. He was exhibiting the symptoms of infection that I had read in the textbook that Oliver gave me in the Caribbean.
I tried to wiggle my way out of the bed. Ben would moan and tighten his grip on me. I had managed to get out of the bed once, but the door creaked so loud that Ben soon jumped out of bed.
He knew exactly what I was trying to do.
When he finally woke up for good, it was dark outside. He watched me as I warmed a can of soup on the stove. He had yet to put a shirt back on. My eyes glanced down at his stomach. A mixture of blood and pus was soaking through the gauze.
“We’re going in an hour,” Ben said.
I realized that I was staring and the heat rushed to my cheeks. I poured us each a bowl of soup and brought them over to the dining table. The wood was scratched and it was missing one of the chairs.
“This is Bethany’s cabin?” I asked.
“Yeah, it is,” Ben said.
“It doesn’t seem like it would be luxurious enough for her.” I ran my finger along with one of the large gouges on the tabletop.
“She bought it with a boyfriend years and years ago,” he said. “She was rarely here. She only came when she wanted to get away from the city, but that wasn’t often.”
I nodded my head and stirred the spoon in the soup. Ben was bringing me into the town. He wanted me to be his partner in crime, but I could ruin his plan. I could run and get help.
I know how that ends. I know it will turn into innocent people being killed, such as the man at the gas station. I could not let the thought of escaping leave my mind though. I had to get out of here, and I had to get out of here alive too.
“No one comes out here?” I asked.
“No.” His lips lifted into a smile. “It’s pretty secluded out here. Don’t worry about anyone finding us.”
Ben had finished his soup and pushed his bowl to the middle of the table. He looked into my bowl to see that it was full.
“You need to eat,” he said.
“I’m not hungry,” I said.
“Di, you know you have to eat.”
I dropped my spoon in the bowl. I intertwined my fingers underneath the table. Ben let out a deep breath. He combed his sweaty strands of hair off of his forehead. He stood and grabbed my bowl.
“Get up,” he said. He placed my bowl in the fridge and held out his hand. He curled his fingers in and out, to motion for me to come forward. He grabbed my arm and pulled me into the bedroom.
Ben pulled a pair of dark jeans and a hoodie out of the duffle bag. He wrapped a scarf around his neck to hide his scales. He gave me a pair of dark yoga pants and a sweater. Ben tucked the gun into the waistband of his jeans. He pulled something out of his pocket and placed it in my hand. I looked down at the cold object in my hand to see that it was a pocketknife.
“Stay behind me the whole time we’re in the pharmacy,” he said. “This is just in case something happens, but I promise I will keep an eye on you.”
“I can stay here,” I said. “If you’re really worried, I can stay here and I’ll be safe.”
Ben shook his head.
“I want you with me all the time,” he said.
I swallowed past the lump that was forming in my throat. Ben searched through the closet and passed me a baseball cap and his pair of sunglasses. The cap covered most of my short hair. Ben found a dark toque pthat he stuck on his head. He emptied the contents of the duffel bag onto the bed.
“Okay,” he said throwing the bag over his shoulder. “Let’s get going.”
He threw his free arm over my shoulders and guided me out to the car. The images of me running and bolting into the forest flooded my mind. It was quickly followed by the image of my back being riddled with bullets. Ben’s fingers curled tighter into my shoulder like he knew exactly what I was thinking.
“Don’t try anything stupid,” Ben whispered into my ear. “I wouldn’t want anyone to be getting hurt because you were scared.”
I let out a shaky breath as I nodded. Ben kissed my cheek before opening the passenger side door to the car. I slipped in and fastened the seatbelt. Ben got into the driver’s seat and did the same.
He pulled out of the driveway and down the gravel road. The headlights were the only light brightening up the pitch-black forest. Ben placed his hand on my leg. His fingers drummed on my thigh as he hummed along to his music.
My fingers fiddled with each other as we drove. We were driving in silence for almost an hour before Ben pulled into a little town. A few shops lined the street, but most had their lights turned off. A building with Samuel’s Pharmacy painted in large letters across the window was one of the only places still lit. Ben pulled the car up to the side of the street in front of the pharmacy. Ben pulled the duffel bag out from the backseat.
“Don’t say anything and don’t take off your glasses,” Ben told me. “If everyone does what I say I promise that no one will get hurt.”
He cut me off by smashing his lips against mine. He got out of the car, and I followed him. I stayed a step behind Ben as he walked into the pharmacy. There was an older woman with a broom sweeping the floor. An older man with thinning white hair was standing behind the counter counting a couple of bills. They both looked at us when the two little bells clanged together when we opened the door.
The lady gave us a smile and pushed her thick glasses up the bridge of her nose.
“Hello,” she said. “What can we help you with? We’re closing in a few minutes.”
“We were looking for some antibiotics,” Ben said. He reached behind me and grabbed my hand. He pulled me forward so that I was by his side. “My fiancee has picked up a nasty bug. I’m really concerned that it is pneumonia.”
“Have you been to a doctor?” the man said. “We do require a prescription.”
“I was really hoping you’d do it out without one,” Ben said. “I’m willing to pay.”
My breathing hitched, and Ben held my hand tighter. He never told me his plan. I assumed he would just barge in and start yelling. This calm and cool demeanor was not what I was expecting.
“I need a prescription, son,” the old man said.
“Please, just do us this favour,” Ben said. “We can’t go to the doctor.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t.”
“That’s a shame. I didn’t want it to have to be this way.”
Ben pulled out the gun, and the man’s eyes widened. The woman behind us let out a shriek. I took a glance over my shoulder to see her hands were covering her mouth.
“Please, just take the money,” the man said pushing the cash he was counting toward us. “Please, just don’t hurt my wife or me. We have kids and grandkids.”
“I don’t want your money,” Ben said. “All I want are some antibiotics.”
Ben let go of my hand and I stayed right behind him. The man held his hands up and backed so that he was resting against the counter. The woman was crying and clutching at her chest. My hand was hovering over the pocketknife in my sweater. I could flick the blade out and plunge it into Ben’s chest, but I wasn’t smooth enough to do that. He would see me fumbling with the knife and then shoot these two innocent people.
Ben turned his back to start rifling through the shelves of medication. He tossed a few into his bag. The man’s eyes jumped between Ben and me.
Help, I tried to mouth to the man.
He raised an eyebrow, confused by my motion. I looked back over at Ben to see that he was still reading the label on a few of the bottles. I brought my fingers to my glasses. I wanted to rip them off, but I knew Ben would kill us all for that. I slid the glasses a bit down my nose. I tried to hide the motion like I was scratching just above my eyebrow. I was not sure for certain if the man saw my eyes, but his jaw did drop. Ben looked back at me and I pushed the glasses back.
“Any luck?” I asked.
“I found a few things, but I am looking for more,” he said.
Tears were streaming down the woman’s face. Her eyes were bright red and she continued to shake her head as she mumbled a prayer. I turned on my heels, unable to witness her fear any longer.
My eyes scanned along the labels. My eyes jumped back to a name that I recognized.
The small green pills sat inside the yellow-tinted bottle. I had seen this in part of that textbook. It was an opioid medication used for pain. The chapter it was in had many warnings about how powerful the medication was and how it could stop someone from breathing.
That is how I was getting out of this. I could crush them up and somehow get them into Ben’s system. If I convinced him that I was tired and wanted to go to sleep, Ben would come to bed with me. He would be lying in the bedroom as he slowly stopped breathing.
I looked over at Ben to see him shoving a row of medication into the bag. I grabbed one of the bottles of hydromorphone and slipped it up the sleeve of my sweater. I spun around when I heard the zip of Ben doing up the duffel bag.
“I’m so sorry for ruining your night folks,” Ben said. “We’ll leave you alone now.”
He grabbed my elbow and yanked me out of the store. My feet stumbled to try and keep up with his pace. My fingers stayed curled around the sleeve of my sweater, trapping the medication with me.
Ben threw the duffel bag into the backseat before speeding out into the dark and onto the unpaved roads. The car bounced as Ben flew down the roads without caution. I turned my arm in toward my body to hide the bump that the bottle caused in my sleeve.
My lips curled into a smile. I may have actually done it. I may have finally outsmarted Ben.
He noticed my smile and put his hand back onto my knee.
“We’re going to be okay now,” Ben said.
“I know,” I said. “This is all going to work out.”