Ben shook me awake before the sun had begun to rise. He was fully dressed and set my clothes to the side. I yawned and stretched out my sore joints before changing my clothes. I was moving too slow for Ben, and he started pulling my arms through the sleeves of my shirt. He tossed the duffel bag over his shoulder before I had the chance to brush my hair. I tried to tie it back into a ponytail, but the short ends kept escaping the elastic.
He made me sit in the car as he returned the motel key. It was dark outside, and these stupid sunglasses made me feel like I was floating in a black hole. When Ben got into the car, he turned on his classic rock radio station and pulled out onto the street. We were silent, except for Ben humming along to the song. I rested my head against the window.
Light crept into my abyss of darkness. I lifted my head to see Ben was pulling into a gas station. The lights above were bright and allowed me to actually see.
“Stay in the car and rest,” Ben said. “This will only take a minute.”
I nodded and crossed my arms over my chest. I sunk into the seat and watched Ben walk into the gas station. I reached forward and changed his radio station until I could find a news station. The two hosts were talking about a severe thunderstorm that was supposed to happen in a few nights.
“Switching the topic,” the female host said. “Have you heard the new details coming out of this Benjamin and Diana story?”
“No,” the male host said. “Did they finally figure out where they are?”
“No, not yet. Remember the other victim that they found restrained to a bed? Colin Summerson? It was just released by the police that the autopsy of his body showed that his eyes were replaced with the eyes of a cat.”
My breath got caught in my throat. They knew about the experiments now. If I threw off my sunglasses, Ben would not be able to excuse them away as contacts.
I squinted to see that Ben was still inside the gas station. He was leaning against the counter and was deep in conversation with the woman working behind the counter. She kept giggling and tossing a piece of her blonde hair over her shoulder.
Another set of lights caught my attention. I turned to see a truck pulling into the gas station. A man with a beer belly and a thick beard climbed out of the truck. He stuck his credit card into the machine and was filling up his truck with gas. I looked back to see that Ben was still talking to the girl behind the counter.
My hands shook as I reached for the handle. I opened the car door slowly. I did not want to go too fast and draw Ben’s attention, but I also did not want to move too slow and miss my opportunity.
My eyes stayed locked on Ben as I walked toward the man. If Ben wondered why I was out I was going to lie and tell him that I need to go to the washroom. I took a few steps to the side, and the man looked up at me. His bushy eyebrows furrowed together as his eyes scanned me up and down. I looked over at my shoulder to see Ben had yet to notice that I got out of the car.
“Please,” I said. My voice was hushed. I knew a glass door separated Ben and I, but the paranoia took over my mind. “Please, you need to help me.”
I looked back at Ben. He had eased up off of the counter, but he was still talking to the girl.
“What’s wrong?” the man said.
“I need you to call the cops,” I said, but I did not take my eyes off of Ben. “I’m Diana Slater.”
“The kidnapped girl?” he asked.
Ben rolled his head to the side. His smile dropped when he saw me out of the car. He left the woman mid-conversation. I started walking forward so that I could keep my fake story. The door flew open as Ben stormed out of the station.
“What are you doing, Emily?” Ben threw another fake name at me.
“I just had to go to the bathroom,” I said. “You didn’t let me go before we left the hotel.”
“Were you talking to him?”
“No, I wasn’t! I promise I just had to go to the washroom.”
Ben grabbed my arm and jerked me toward him. His fingers were curled deep into the soft flesh of my arm. I gritted my teeth to stop myself from crying out in pain.
“Let go of her!” the man said. “There’s never an excuse to grab a girl like that.”
“Don’t tell me what the fuck to do,” Ben snapped.
“Let her go,” the man said.
Ben’s jaw was clenched. He narrowed his eyes before letting go of my arm. He shoved his hand into the pocket of his leather jacket. I saw a flash of metal as Ben flicked the blade out from his pocket knife. The man saw this too.
He reached for Ben, but Ben jumped out of the way. Ben’s arm swung out. The man tried to duck, but Ben buried the blade deep into the man’s neck. The man’s cries gargled as his throat filled with blood. His knees gave out and collapsed to the side. The handle of Ben’s knife was protruding from his neck.
I ran to the man. I got down on my knees. The man’s face had gone pale. His hands were around the wound. I covered his own hands with mine. The blood ran up from between his fingers and was coating mine. I pressed down on his hands to stop the bleeding. He let out a noise that sounded like he was crying out for help under water.
This is it, I thought.
Ben just murdered someone in public. There’s probably security footage of his brutal act. I looked over to see the girl that Ben had been chatting up had her cellphone at her ear. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. When she saw me look at her, she kneeled down behind the counter. She must have thought I was going to barge in there to get rid of any witnesses.
The sunglasses were slipping down my nose. I shook my head so that they flew off. A warm liquid seeped through the denim of my jeans. I looked down to see that I was kneeling in a pool of this man’s blood.
A hand grabbed my shoulder and pulled me up onto my feet.
“Come on, Di,” he said. “We need to go.”
“He needs help!” I screamed as I fought to get out of his hold.
“Look at him!” Ben shouted. “He’s already dead.”
I looked over at the man. His large belly was no longer rising with each breath.
Ben jerked me forward. He opened the door to the man’s truck and shoved me in. I slid to the side as he followed me. He had the keys in the ignition and us out of the gas station before I could even put on my seatbelt. I was thrown around as Ben made multiple sharp turns. My fingers didn’t even have time to fumble with my shaking hands to put on the seatbelt before Ben was racing down a series of country roads. We flew over each bump. I had my hand against the window to brace myself for every bump.
“Why did you do that?” he asked.
“Me?” I turned to face him. “You were the one who just killed someone!”
Ben slammed on the brake and I was thrown forward into the dashboard. He grabbed my shoulders and pushed me against the passenger side door. His teeth were gritted. My heart was pounding in my chest. His fingers digging into my shoulders provided me an odd sense of comfort. If his hands were on me then they were not reaching for the gun.
“I had to do that. You made me do that,” he said. “He wouldn’t have had to die if you were not talking to him.”
“I wasn’t talking to him!”
“Stop lying to me, Diana. I love you and I have no clue why you’re trying to leave me. Don’t you love me?”
“Of course I do,” I lied.
“Do you? Because you just screwed everything up. We were almost at Muskoka and you fucked it up.”
My hand slid along the side of the door as he was talking. My fingers found the door handle. I gasped as I opened the door and tipped backward. Pain shot up my neck as I fell onto the gravel road. I scurried into the tall grass on the edge of the road. The lights from the truck were the only thing I could see.
Ben jumped out of the truck. He pulled the gun out of his waistband. I stayed buried between the grass and the darkness. I curled into a ball. The rocks from the gravel had slipped into my shirt and were tearing into my skin.
“Diana, why are you acting like this?” he asked. “Just tell me what is wrong. I don’t want this to be how things go between us.”
I looked around at the empty field of untamed grass surrounding us. I had nowhere to run. I was a fast runner, but I couldn’t outrun a bullet. I let out a shaky breath as I tried to get up on my knees. I kept my back arched so that I was still below the grass. Ben cut through the grass. His gun was pointed straight out. He was heading right to me.
I had not come this far to be killed.
I held my hands out in front of myself as I eased up from the ground. Ben stopped when he saw me getting up. His gun was still out and pointed at me. His jaw was clenched and his chest was heaving.
I took a step toward him with my hands held out. He did not move as I got closer. I expected him to put the gun down as I got closer.
He did not.
I bit down my lip as I reached out to the barrel of the gun. I pushed the gun away. I was thinking I would have to fight against resistance, but he let me move the gun. It was pointed away from me now, and the pressure in my chest eased slightly. I got on my toes and wrapped my arms around his neck. My fingers weaved their way into his hair.
“I’m sorry,” I said, my voice barely coming out above a whisper. “I’m so sorry for the way I have been acting. You just know that I have been missing my family and that I really want to be with them again.”
Ben let out a deep breath and the tension ease from his body. He leaned forward and rested his forehead against mine.
“Maybe we will be able to visit them when this all dies down, okay?” he said.
“I love you,” I said.
I leaned forward and kissed him. His arms went around my waist, but the awkward weight of the gun was still pressed into my back.
We were standing in a field alone, but I knew the cops would find us at any moment. I had to keep him in one spot for as long as I could so that they could find us. I deepened the kiss, and his arms tightened around me. We stayed like that for over a minute. When he would start to ease up on the kiss, I would curl my fingers tighter into his hair to pull him back in. He pulled us apart, and I tried to lean back in for another kiss. Ben rolled his head to the side to deny me access to his lips.
“Di, we need to get going,” he said.
“Come on,” I said. “I love you so much.”
Ben chuckled, and then pushed me further away from him.
“We’ll have to save that for later,” he said.
He tucked the gun back into the waistband of his jeans. He laced his fingers through mine and turned so that we could walk back to the truck. The road was still pitch black, and no sign of sirens near us. I knew I had to stall him further.
We started walking towards the truck. I tried to slow my steps to buy more time, but Ben was pulling me along. I let out a scream as I fell to the ground. My action shocked Ben, and he let go of my hand. I clutched my ankle, and let out another fake cry. Ben lowered himself next to me so that he was sitting on his heels.
“What happened?” he asked.
“I must have tripped on a rock,” I said. “I really hurt my ankle.”
Ben’s hands went over my ankle. I pretended to hiss in pain and wiggle around under his touch.
“It’s not broken,” he said. “It’s probably just sprained.”
“It hurts so much,” I said. “I don’t think I can walk on it.”
Ben ran his fingers through his hair before looking around. He must also be wondering how close the cops are to us.
“We have to get going,” he said as he wrapped his arms around me. He tried to lift me off of the ground, but I wiggled around in his grip and cried out to try and stop him. He grunted as he managed to get me up off of the ground. He walked over to the truck with me in his arms. He set me down in the passenger seat. He kissed my cheek before climbing in on the other side.
We drove away in the darkness. Only our headlights lit the way. The blue and red flashing lights signaling help were nowhere to be seen.