Originally published April 11, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge
“Why don’t you ever answer my calls?” Whitmore turned to shut the door.
He must have beat the door down, Jessica thought, noticing that it was now completely off the bottom and middle hinges.
Whitmore drove his shoulder into the door. The wood creaked, and the edge of the door knocked against the jamb, refusing to close.
Jessica took that moment to back away into the kitchen. She yanked open the first drawer on the end of the counter fumbling through it for anything she could make into a weapon, all while keeping her eyes on Whitmore. She didn’t think she would be forced to defend herself against him, but she also didn’t know what he was capable of anymore. The fact that he thought it was alright to break into her home because she ignored a few phone calls frightened her.
The door finally clicked into place. Whitmore returned his attention to Jessica, approaching her behind the counter. She enclosed her hand around the handle of the first object she could feel: egg beaters. They would have to do for now. She slammed the drawer shut and quickly put the egg beaters behind her back just as Whitmore stepped around the counter.
“I want to explain myself,” he said, “the reason why I’m so protective of you.” He sighed, and bowing his head, continued. “I worry when you don’t pick up the phone. When Layla didn’t pick up, it was because she was cheating.”
“But I’m not Layla, Whitmore.” Jessica tightened her grip around the egg beaters. She looked toward the door. How secure was it? Could she easily escape if Whitmore were to lunge after her?
“I need you to understand what happened between us.”
“She cheated and broke your heart.” Jessica shrugged her shoulders. Whitmore never let her forget it. The memory of Layla was always inserting itself in the middle of their relationship, making him paranoid, jealous.
“She did more than just cheat.” Whitmore turned and leaned his back against the refrigerator door. He crossed his arms over his chest and looked up to the ceiling. “When I found out, I didn’t break up with her right away. I still loved her. I wanted to make us work. I wanted her to see that we could work. I thought—” He shook his head as if embarrassed by what he was about to say. “I thought if I could make her the mother of my child, she would open her eyes and realize we were meant for each other.”
Jessica dropped the egg beaters onto the floor behind her. She bent over to retrieve them, but Whitmore was already there. He tossed them into the sink and took her by the hands, holding them underneath his chin.
“After a few months, I noticed that she still wasn’t showing. I asked her if we should go to the doctor, and she said, with no emotion, no change in facial expression—-” He closed his eyes as tears fell from the corners. He used her fingers to wipe them away. “She said she got an abortion . . . and that it was over. I could’ve died.” He turned around and leaned over the sink, curling his back and sobbing down the drain. “I wanted to die,” he continued. “I had a bottle of vodka, half a bottle of sleeping pills. I closed myself up. I had every intention of never waking up that next day.” He sniffed and wiped his nose. “But I did wake up.” He lifted his head. “And I got out of the house. And that night I went to a poetry reading and met Heaven’s Angel.” He turned around and grabbed Jessica by the hips, pulling her into him. “I met you.”
Jessica pushed him off of her. “So you’re saying I’m just a rebound?” She scooted to the other side of the counter, putting distance between them.
“No, not at all.” Whitmore followed her and again put his arms around her. “I’m saying you saved me. I was in a dark place with Layla, but with you, you smiled and I saw nothing but light.” He brought his hand to her face and leaned down to kiss her lips. “That’s why I want to make us work.” He dropped his hand to her stomach. “Our family too.”
Suddenly, it all clicked. His obsession with Layla. How he refused to wear a condom the night of their anniversary. How he pounced on her the next morning, unrelenting until he released his seed inside of her. Layla had ruined him, made him calculating. Because of her, Whitmore would never give a woman a legitimate reason to leave. He would cry about the one who had broken him, and trap her, either using guilt or motherhood.
Jessica wanted to run. She heard the sound of gushing water spilling over the tub and remembered she left the water running. She raced for the bathroom and slipped on the tiled floor covered in a layer of sudsy water, falling hard on her hip.
“Careful! The baby!” Whitmore dropped down beside her and cradled her in his arms as if she were a bruised child. He kissed her neck, rubbing her stomach in circular motion. “Shhh.”
“Stop it!” Jessica swatted his hand away. “I’m not pregnant.” She reached over the tub, turned the knob and pulled up the plug in the floor to let the water drain. She scrambled to her feet and took three towels from the rack, tossing them onto the floor and using her feet to wipe up the water.
“What do you mean you’re not pregnant? Are you on your period?” Whitmore stood up, patted his soaked pants with his hands as if that would easily dry them.
“No.” Jessica concentrated on getting all the water, not wanting to make eye contact with him.
“So you’re late.”
Jessica paused. Was he keeping up with her cycle? There was no way for her to tell if the morning-after pill had worked. Her period wasn’t due for another three days, and it was naturally a few days late. It could easily be a week before she would know for sure. However, she couldn’t tell Whitmore that. She had a feeling plan B carried the same weight as plan A, and if Whitmore were to learn that his angel from Heaven was no different from Layla, he would descend back into that dark place. This, Jessica realized, was how he would force her to stay. The guilt that if she left him, rid herself of his seed, his blood would be on her hands.
“I need to think.” She collected the damp towels off the floor.
She didn’t answer. She carried the towels back to the living room. She pulled the door open. It shook as if were about to fall on top of her. She prayed that it would to end the nightmare she couldn’t seem to wake up from.
“You’re kicking me out? I don’t understand. What have I done?” Whitmore asked, following behind her.
“Whitmore, please! I just need time to myself.”
“You’ve had all day.”
Jessica scratched her forehead in frustration until it started to burn. “Do I need to call someone?” she asked. She wanted to rip the door off the last hinge and beat him with it. The rage built inside of her. She hated him, and she hated herself for letting things get this far.
“Fine, I’ll leave.” He moved to kiss her, and she turned her head, only letting him peck her cheek. “I’ll do anything for you, Jessica,” he whispered in her ear. “I love you.” He waited for her respond, but she only pressed her forehead into the door and pointed for him to go.
Once he was outside, she slammed the door, kicking it in and turning the deadbolt. She threw the towels down and screamed until her voice went hoarse. “Why!” she whined, wanting to cry. A jingle came from the couch. She dug between the arm and the cushion until she retrieved her phone. She didn’t recognize the number, but she answered anyway.
“Hey, you. Are you busy tonight?”
“Yes!” she shouted.
“Oh, OK. Well, how about tom—”
“No, I mean yes, yes. Whatever you want to do. Yes.” Jessica said.
“Ahh, great,” Bruce said. “How about nine?”