When it comes to relationships, I think it’s difficult to pinpoint where things went wrong. Take Devin and I for example – one would say failing out of college is where I went wrong. Others might propose that Devin threatening to kill my family if I didn’t stay with him would be where he went wrong. No one really knows one way or the other. All anyone knows is that, somewhere along the line, things stop going right.
When I try to remember all the things that led me to be in Minella’s Diner, it all gets so hazy. Everything happened so fast – one minute the Dean of Financial Aid is telling me my scholarship is being revoked for my failure to attend class, the next my father is picking me up from school. I can see myself in my room being scolded by my mother asking me how she is going to explain this to everyone. I can hear my father telling me I was never to see “this boyfriend” again. I remember Devin calling to tell me that we were meant to be and that everyone was trying to tear us apart and I needed to come back to him. I can still see myself sprinting down Elderberry Road into the night, never looking back…
It had been a year and Devin and I were still together. I have told my parents to fuck off and ran away in the middle of the night to be with him.
I was lying in bed, waiting for Devin to come home from his friend’s house. He had been in and out all day – I’d decided not to be mad about it since it was everyone’s first day back at the school I no longer attended and he was anxious to catch up with friends.
Incapable of sleep, I rose to wash my face – perhaps an Ambien supplement would be found in the mirror. When I consulted my phone for a time check upon my return, I noticed my beloved had left me a voicemail, “Where are you, Lauren? Go fucking kill yourself, all right?”
Oh how the mighty had fallen…I knew how much it pained Devin that we had to resolve to campus housing instead of our own apartment. I knew how embarrassing it was that I couldn’t hustle enough coke for him and Camden to make ends meet. This was my fault. It was always my fault.
I called back, begging his pardon and explained I had gone to the bathroom and I would be right down. When I got to the door, I saw it had begun to pour outside and automatically assumed the blame, “I’ve been waiting for two fucking hours. What the fuck Lauren?!”
I pleaded with him as he dragged me up the stairs, “Please Devin don’t. It was an accident – I swear!”
He threw me on the bed and tore my shorts off to reveal the tallies he used in order to document my insubordination – some still red. I knew not to struggle at this point. He reached into his pocket and as the butterfly wings began to flutter I could see a familiar sparkle in his eye.
I screamed as the blade pierced my thigh but no sound was heard as he clenched my throat tight, “You never learn, do you?” he asked finally letting go of my neck.
Like so many nights before, I turned on my side, beginning the silent movie “Tears for Exhaustion”.
“Why do you make me hurt you, Lauren?” he asked, caressing my cheek. I remembered a time much simpler and yet so long ago – when that caress was followed by his lips on my neck and his arms around my waist. When all we did was dream and make love…
I could smell the beer on his breath as his breathing became heavier and heavier – it was now or never.
I replaced my body with a pillow as he rolled over. I reached under the bed to get my blue weekend bag that had already been packed with my essentials for weeks – $300 I had hidden from Camden along with my license Devin had taken to ensure he would be able to find my family.
As I pulled the bag over my shoulder, Devin immediately seized my hair and told me not to be stupid and to get back in bed where I belonged.
“Get back in bed, Lauren.” he demanded.
“No.” I whispered.
“What?” he asked, running his fingers through my hair.
“No.” I repeated.
“That’s what I thought.” His grip tightened around my hair as he introduced my face to the cinderblock wall.
I felt blood invading my eye but was too preoccupied attempting to fight him off. Devin, however, was twice my size. One of his favorite things to do when I’d come home with an overstock of Camden’s product was to twist my arm, reciting all the different areas at which he could break it…and tonight was no different. He pinned me to the desk and screamed, “Is this what you want?! You really want to leave me after all we’ve been through?!”
I didn’t answer. I knew better.
“Where are you going to go, Lauren? Let me help you understand something – you’re unloveable. You think someone is going to love you like I have?!”
He slapped me across the face, demanding an answer. “WHO LAUREN?! Are you going to be someone else’s chinky-eyed push girl?”
He threw me on the floor, took off his belt and bound my hands behind my back. Using my hair as a rope, the tossed me back onto the table and took what he felt I owed him after sixteen months, two weeks and four days. The harder I struggled, the more I called for help, the harder he pushed and so I resolved to being yet another silent victim.
His hands gripped my thighs – tearing open old wounds and I felt blood run down my legs as rivers flowed from my eyes.
“Now,” he grunted, “now you will never fucking forget.” He put his lips to my ear, the knife to my cheek and whispered, “and whoever he is, Lauren…he’ll know I was here first.”
Devin kissed my cheek as he dragged that knife all along the inside of my thigh and I screamed louder than a victim on NCIS.
To this day, I don’t know where the residents of the dorm were that night but I imagine it was more important than coming to my rescue.
Devin tossed me aside after he finished, leaving me some time to slip out of the belt and put on my jeans. He was always quicker than I was though and snatched a tie to bind me yet again. He took me by the hair and dragged me along the floor into the hallway – without a shirt and without a bra.
My spine beat against each step harder and harder, the rug burning every inch of my exposed back hotter and hotter. As we crossed the threshold , the rain hit me hard – as though Mother Nature herself were also against me.
Devin made me stand up as we walked side by side to his Explorer, “Devin stop it! Stop this! Can’t you see you’re hurting me?!”
“We’re going to do this together, Lauren. All I ever did was take care of you and you show me no respect. You can go find someone else to take care of you like you always wanted.”
I wanted to look into his eyes and tell him that all I wanted was for him to love me but I couldn’t get the words out. Maybe it was because I was tired of screaming…maybe it was because I didn’t believe them anymore.
He opened the back door of his Explorer and tossed me in, slamming the door shut. I heard the key turn in the ignition as we whipped backwards and made off into the night.
Not five minutes after we had gotten on the road did Devin brake. We remained idle for a moment before I heard the passenger side open and close. “Dev, what the fuck is going on?!”
“Camden! CAMDEN HELP ME!” I screamed. “CAMDEN PLEASE HELP ME!” I was full on sobbing now.
Camden and Devin both got out of the car. As Camden opened the trunk he fell backward and said, “Jesus Christ Dev, what the fuck did you do?”
“You don’t understand man…” Devin panted, beginning to pace.
“Camden,” I begged, “Camden please help me.”
Camden then took his shoes off and shoved a sock into my mouth, tying it in place with a shoelace before closing the door.
“Devin,” he said as they came back into the car, “I ain’t about to kill this girl.”
“She needs to be taught a lesson!” he screamed, “She wants to fucking leave me, bro.” He was sobbing now. I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for him or sorry for what was about to happen to me, “I love her! I’ve given her everything. And now she wants to give it to some other guy…I can’t…”
“Fucking Chris Devin how much shit have you taken tonight?!” Camden screamed. “If you kill her we are fucked! WE ARE FUCKED!”
In later years, my shrink told me it was the fear that made me pass out and not wake until Devin and Camden carried me out of the trunk on a random Pennsylvania backroad…six miles from school.
Devin went to kick me when Camden stopped him. Camden looked into my eyes and said, “This is the end sweets. It’s been a good ride but your services are no longer required. So, if I ever see you again…I’ll fucking kill you.” he slipped a dollar into my pocket and said, “Thanks for the good times.”
Devin lifted my head and wrapped me in his arms, “It doesn’t matter where you go, Lauren – you belong to me. I fucking own you. I left my mark and every man will know you’re mine. No one will ever love you because I…I am the only one who loves you.”
He kissed me on the forehead and let me go. I could feel my blood hot against the pavement as my skin tore apart.
As he and Camden walked away, leaving me there for dead or worse, Devin lost his sandal in a puddle. It was then that I saw him for the first time that night – chestnut-brown hair complimented with natural blonde highlights, pale skin – no wonder he used to be a model.
He abandoned the sandal and started the car as a new fear overtook me. The brake lights forced temporary blindness as I used my remaining senses to roll into the bushes…but they never came back.
I laid there for what felt like forever. Truth be told, I was sure they were going to come back for me…not to bring me home, but to ensure my silence.
I pulled my hands over my feet and undid the shoelace and gasped for air. I quickly undid the tie around my wrists which took a considerable amount of time thanks to Devin’s military school training.
I rose to my bare feet, using the rain to wash the night off me and did the only thing I could do…I put one foot in front of the other and I proceeded to walk.
The streets of Pennsylvania are darker than dark at night. I used the twin yellow lines and laid my pain down on that asphalt and walked six miles in the pouring rain with no shirt and no shoes until I saw the light of Radnor Train Station.
A kindly African fellow gave me his shirt and four-quarters in exchange for the dollar Camden had been so kind to provide for me as I called the only person I knew would answer.
I was sitting in a booth at Minella’s off of Lancaster Avenue, eating one of their famous mozzarella sticks when my dad asked me a question that many other people would ask me later on, “Well, Lauren, was it worth it?”
I thought long and hard and without a doubt in my mind said, “I don’t know, dad…I just don’t know.”
And with that, my father paid the check…and I finally made my way home.