CHAPTER ONE
ESCAPE
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY
Today I am thankful for massive highway traffic jams. I never thought I’d ever
embrace gridlock, but it’s the only thing that is making me feel like I can blend in and
hide amidst the sea of cars in order to make a clean getaway. It seems impossible he could
actually find me in this mad rush, but I still can’t stop eyeballing every car that approaches
me to see if I am being followed. I can’t stop thinking about what could happen if what
I left behind caught up with me.
If only I could go a little faster, but I have no control over the speed, the wheel,
or what lies ahead. I’m sitting in the backseat of my own car with my parents at the wheel,
surrounded by whatever bits and pieces of my life I could fit into my SUV at a moment’s
notice. Did I forget to grab my flatiron? What about my vacuum? Ultimately, none of
those things matter because what’s most important is that I left behind one thing, Tyler.
How did I end up marrying a guy like him anyway? I’d like to say I’m a rather intelligent
person, at least academically speaking. But the truth is something I can no longer ignore
because when it comes to love, I am an absolute idiot. I need something to put a stop to
the nightmare that’s on heavy rotation in my head perhaps a drink, pill, or even a
bullet. As depressing as that sounds, it’s only because I’m desperate for a solution.
Unfortunately, the only distraction I have at the moment is my mother.
BACKSEAT DRIVER
“Ella,” my mom shouts from the front seat, “it’s quite an interesting little
coincidence.”
I guess I’m supposed to acknowledge her upcoming anecdote, but I figure she
wouldn’t hear my muffled response from the backseat filled with all of my crap.
“We’re driving a Ford Escape. Funny, huh?”
I didn’t think it was funny. Nothing seems funny to me from where I am sitting.
When she turns around to make sure I’m still in the car and didn’t hurl myself out the
door miles back, she knocks my hair dryer loose from the top of the mountain of
belongings that represent my life. It drops onto the floor, scaring my dog, Rage. I hug
him and apologize for the disturbance, for the ride, for everything.
“And that tow hitch we put on the car yesterday will really be useful,” she goes
on. “We should’ve done that for you years ago. Maybe you should leave the U-Haul
attached to the back too. With your track record of failed relationships, it’s a gift that’ll
keep on giving.”
“Didn’t they used to say that about herpes?” my dad inquires.
“I think it was genital warts,” Mom answers.
“Seriously, enough with the STDs,” I interject. “I can’t take the jokes right now.”
Usually, a little dark comedy is the way our family deals with most uncomfortable
situations, but I’m just not ready for that kind of humor. I need at least another hundred
miles between my husband and me. Right now, all I’m able to think of is getting back to
LA.
In fact, the very car in which we are driving was purchased out of an attempt to
poke fun at my once perpetual single lifestyle. My parents gave up on me getting married
years ago, so they graciously handed over the money they were saving for my future
wedding to help pay for a new car. When I drove off the lot, with a smile on my face and
inhaled the blissful new car smell, my mom squashed my happy moment by asking if this
was the kind of car spinsters drive these days. “You have your very own hagmobile,” she
joked. Hilarious? Not entirely. Because it was kind of true. At the age of thirty-three, I
may have proved her wrong by getting married way past what she perceived to be my
“prime,” but now I wonder which is worse . . . being a spinster or a divorcee?
The whole marriage was a bad idea in the first place, but desperation causes a
woman to do such horrible things. I barely made it through the organ screeching “Here
Comes the Bride” without pivoting halfway down the aisle and sprinting out the chapel
door. You would think that would have been a glaring sign not to go through with it, but
I forged ahead anyway with a bouquet in my hand and hope in my heart. Sadly, that hope
was only strong enough to last through the wedding reception. The day didn’t end like I
anticipated with a playful run past elated relatives as I dodged the rice being thrown my
way for good luck. Instead, I was dodging my new marriage.
Those who don’t know what life was like with my husband Tyler may wonder
why I didn’t stick it out a little longer and push through the pain. But, this wasn’t like a
marathon where you just keep going and put one foot in front of the other until you
reach your goal. In this case, it was becoming obvious that if I stayed in the race, I may
not have lived to see the finish line. After what I discovered about Tyler and the secrets
he kept, there was no way I could stay with him a day longer. So while I must now claim
the title of Runaway Bride, I am more filled with thanks than regret.
“Are you doing alright back there?” Dad asks.
“Oh yeah, amazing.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll be back safe and sound in Los Angeles before you know
it.”
One glance at the speedometer shows it might take a little longer than that. To
make matters worse, with each turn of the car all my belongings shift ever so slightly
closer and closer to where I sit. As hangers block my view and my rarely used rollerblades
slide toward my head, my mom plays deejay. Her music choice is Rod Stewart who will
now be the soundtrack to my abdication from the bonds of marriage and back to the
land of the lost. The muted sounds of songs like “Have I Told You Lately that I Love
You” play through the piles of pillows, sheets, and carefully wrapped computer
equipment. Rage sits in his doggie carrier on my lap looking rather content. He is also
relieved we’re leaving our former home with the man who terrified us on a daily basis.
As he looks up at me with his wrinkled little face and adorable underbite, I realize I’m
lucky that out of something so terrifying came this furry bundle of love. I always thought
having a dog would be too much of a responsibility. After getting Rage, I realize how
wrong I was because taking out the garbage is a responsibility, going to the dentist is a
responsibility, and replacing the roll of toilet paper when it’s empty is . . . well, it’s just
the right thing to do. Adopting my dog Rage was one of the best decisions I ever made
because unconditional love is always there for me in the form of a four-legged buddy. It
was the one on two legs that had it all wrong.
Another swift turn of the car and my wall of possessions inches closer to the
tiny space I carved out for myself in the backseat. It’s my little capsule of transpo torture.
Rage sighs and looks up at me as if to give me reassurance that everything will be better
soon. I grab a bunch of clothes that are serving as a headrest and bury my head to hide
from the reality of what my life has become. What happened to me that I would spend a
lifetime searching for someone special and end up choosing someone who was a special
kind of insane?
I could spend my life looking for the answer to that question, but since my entire
life is currently in this car, perhaps the answer is right here. Scraps and artifacts of
relationships past are everywhere I look, and since I’m trapped, it would serve me best
to use this time to figure out how my path to finding love got so sidetracked. In fact,
every time one of my relationships ended my mom would tell me, “Well, at least you
learned something.” I guess I did, but you would think I would’ve taken all that
knowledge and put it to good use.
And then like a sign from above . . . bang! A milk crate filled with useless items
slides from the back to the front, spilling its contents onto the floor. I have an unusual
aversion to milk crates so while I wondered how it got into my car, it would be safe say
it was the working of my mother. She must’ve slyly snuck it in my car while helping me
pack.
My incredibly misplaced hostility toward the milk crate evolved over the years as
I discovered it is the symbol of an unstable bachelor. It is his TV stand, CD holder,
footrest, and stool. Stack them, flip them, line them up, and a man has all the furniture
he needs. The milk crate is the multiuse object no man in his first apartment can do
without. Although the mere sight of one makes me want to gag, this one did currently
come in handy to hold the picture frames, alarm clock, and for some reason a ceramic
frog. I would never buy something like that. This milk crate contained items my mom
was clearly trying to pass off on me without my knowledge and while that fact was
annoying, I want to think that perhaps it also has a greater purpose. It starts to stir-up
memories of one of my ex-boyfriends, referred to amongst my friends as NAP. He loved
the milk crate and it always kind of made me cringe a bit when he pulled it out to use as
a table so we could eat while we watched shows about nature and animals humping or
eating each other. He wasn’t so bad, but back then I couldn’t imagine life with him, yet I
went full speed ahead with Tyler. Where did I go wrong?
(EXCERPTS FROM
.)
CHAPTER fourteen
I do?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
It became no use begging him to stop because I realized even though I was trying
to scream no sounds were coming out of my mouth as Tyler was choking me with both
hands. He squeezed harder and harder and kept having his way with me. I was paralyzed
with pain and fear as he [CONTENT CENSORED] me with a violent rage that tore through my soul.
As I sobbed beneath him, I began to wonder if I would make it out of this night alive.
Eventually, Tyler finished with an angry grunt and released my neck from his
grasp. He slowly backed off and went to the bathroom to clean up all the while mumbling
to himself. Were they words of regret or victory? Either way, I took the chance to escape
and ran into the living room. Naked and trembling, there was nowhere to go so I wrapped
a blanket around my head, held my knees to my cheeks, and wept quietly on the couch
so Tyler would not want to punish me any more.
Suddenly, I could see the outline of Tyler’s shadow through the blanket as he
stood in front of me with his hands on his hips. What would he do next? How would he
make sure I never brought up the subject again? He didn’t have to. I could hardly
remember how it all started. He stared at me for a while and then threw a T-shirt and
shorts in my direction. Then, he went back to bed alone. I sat under the blanket listening
to the sound of my breath finally get slower and calmer before I climbed out to get the
clothes he threw at me. I tried to quickly get dressed and then returned to hiding under
the blanket. Rage whined on the couch below my feet so I whispered to him and opened
up a small space under the cover beside me. He licked my face in the shadows of our
temporary safe space and I held him until we both calmed down.
“What are we going to do?” I asked Rage.
He had no answers. Neither did I. I was never one for shame, but this was
something I couldn’t imagine telling anyone. Who would believe this when they knew
nothing of Tyler’s violent behavior in the first place? I regretted not letting anyone know
the fear I was living in while under his roof. But, I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself
for hiding the reality of my life with Tyler. All anyone knew was I finally found my
‘happily ever after’ and they were excited to see me begin my new life.
Before long, the sound of snoring came from the bedroom, which meant Tyler
was finally asleep and I was safe for the moment. I sat panicked and awake wondering
just how I could go through with this wedding after what happened but it felt as if it
were too late. People were already flying in from other states, money was spent, and my
parents would never live down the embarrassment of their daughter, the loser, who failed
again at finding love but succeeded in becoming the talk of her hometown with her
questionable antics. Taking everything into consideration, I didn’t think I had any other
options aside from just going through with the wedding and figuring everything out later.
Defeated, I pulled the cover over Rage and me and held on tightly until morning.