Ben had cleaned my wrists and wrapped them in gauze. He laced his fingers through mine and pulled me into the living room. I sat on the couch. I grabbed the quilt off of the back of the couch and wrapped it around myself. I was only wearing the shirt Ben had given me to fall asleep in.
Ben grabbed one of the bags off of the kitchen counter. He sat across from me and pulled something out of the bag. I saw the black fabric of a sweater in his hands.
“I stopped at this thrift store in town and got us some clothes,” he said. “I found something I thought you would really enjoy.”
He held out the sweater and turned it around so that I could see the back. The number sixteen was embroidered in white on the back.
Sixteen was this weird number Ben had an obsession with. He asked for room sixteen at every hotel we stopped at. I raised an eyebrow. He had a smile plastered across his face.
“Do you like it?”
“Sixteen?” I asked.
“Yeah, is it not your favourite number?”
Ben chuckled at the confusion that was written all over my face.
“It’s my favourite number?” I asked.
“Yeah, it was the number on your jersey,” he said.
The confusion on my face was wiped clean as my jaw hung open. My heart dropped into my stomach.
The last time I had worn my jersey was when I was at practice. It seemed like forever ago. I had taken it off and shoved it in my backpack before putting on my sweater. After that, I put on my headphones and walked home.
There was no way for Ben to know that was my jersey number. We did not meet each other until after my surgery. I was wearing a hospital gown.
My hand grasped my chest as I let out a shaky breath.
“You kidnapped me,” I said. “Oliver told me that he had someone who kidnapped his patients. He never told me that it was you.”
“If I didn’t do it, we would have never been together,” he said.
I jumped off of the couch. I stepped away from him and my knees shook. I was surprised that Ben was still sitting on the couch. I expected him to be trying to hold me and calm me down.
“You’re the reason I lost my eyes,” I said. “You’re the reason that I lost my family.”
“I am your family, Diana,” he said. “I love you.”
I wanted to scream that I hated him. I bit on my lip to stop myself from screaming those words that I would regret. I could not allow myself to lose my temper. Ben would have the gun out in seconds.
“Why are you crying?” he asked.
I slipped one hand out from underneath the blanket and wiped the tears off of my cheeks. Ben leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.
“Why did you do this?” I asked. “This is all your fault.”
“Diana, don’t start with this.” His voice was steady and coated in a threatening tone. “Come here.”
He held out his hand and gestured for me to come over to him. My feet stayed planted on the cold floor. Ben shook his head.
“Di, please listen to me before I do something I’ll regret,” he said.
I knew what he meant, and I did not want a bullet in my skull. I forced my feet to lift off of the floor. I only made a few wobbly steps toward Ben before he got up. He scooped me in his arms and sat me on his lap. My fingers curled into the quilt wrapped around me. I jumped when one of his warm hands touched the bare skin of my flesh. He chuckled before kissing me.
“I’ve screwed up,” he said. His face was so close to mine that I could feel his warm breath against my face. “I know I’ve screwed up. My life was a mess long before I killed Gabi.”
Ben’s hand slipped off of my thigh. He tucked the quilt tighter around me. My fists were still balled up in the blanket. I had to restrain myself from punching him in the jaw as I listened to him ramble about how he was a victim in his life.
“I was one of Bethany’s first experiments,” he said. “Well, one of her first experiments that went well. She was getting more and more scared that the cops would be able to track the missing person cases back to her. She had already claimed that I died in a car accident, so I seemed like the perfect fit. When Oliver started with his experiments, she volunteered me to him.”
“How many people have you kidnapped?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. The laid-back tone to his gesture caused my stomach to twist into a knot.
“I’m not really sure,” he said. “I think you were the twelfth for Oliver. I can’t really remember how many for Bethany.”
“Why did you take me?” I asked. “Why did you specifically choose me?”
“I was scouting around a few universities and colleges in and around the Maritimes. I had probably been there for a week or two,” he said. “I stayed on the bleachers once and watched you girls practicing. I noticed you always stayed later than the rest.”
“So that is why you decided to take me?”
“Do you remember that night Oliver had put that feeding tube in you?”
I knit my brows together at the change in topic.
“Not really,” I said. That night only came to me in bits and pieces because of the sedation Oliver had given me. I just remember Ben crawling into bed with my semi-conscious body.
“I always thought my life was going to be restricted to Bethany, Oliver, and their failed experiments,” he said. “And then I saw you. It all changed for me when I saw you. You were just so beautiful and I felt such a connection.”
“You could have talked to me,” I said. “That’s what people normally do.”
Ben laughed. He leaned down and rested his cheek against the top of my head. His skin was warm, and the sweat was soaking through patches on his shirt.
“It was hard to believe you would want to be anywhere near me, especially after these experiments,” he said. “I regretted it so much. I was terrified that you were going to die, like all of Oliver’s previous experiments. You survived though. That’s how I knew that you and I were supposed to be together. That’s how I knew something good was finally going to come to me in this world.”
“What about Alexis?” I asked.
Ben’s body went rigid. I had not brought up the girl’s name since the Caribbean. Ben had convinced me that it was something Candace made up to stir up drama. It was one of the many stupid things that I believed.
“I had kidnapped Alexis,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about her at first. She was just some girl who stayed late at the library often. She was nice, but she could not handle any of this.”
“So she did kill herself then?” I asked.
“Not exactly. I lied to her and gave her the wrong pills. I staged it so it looked like a suicide. I knew that she wanted to die. She always told me that she would rather be dead than to live like this.”
Ben had handed me my pills every morning, and I took them without questioning him. He could have poisoned both of us without me knowing.
I uncurled my fingers out of a fist, and let it fall to the side. It hit Ben’s abdomen and he cried out in pain. I sat up straighter and slid myself off of Ben’s lap. He cradled his side with his hands.
“There’s a drug store in town,” he said. His face was still contorted in pain. “They will have what we need, but we’re going to need to rob it.”
“We?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “I was going to leave you home so that you wouldn’t get hurt, but I now know that you are going to hurt yourself more here.”
He lifted his chin and gestured out to my bandaged wrists. I held them to my chest and nodded my head.
At least he was letting me back into town again.