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The proposition, p.12
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       The Proposition, p.12

           Jessica Schlafer
 

  Chapter 11

  I heard the phone ringing in my sleep, sure it was part of my dream. I felt Nick’s warm arms wrapped around me.

  “Nick,” I said softly.

  “Hmm?”

  “Your phone.”

  “Huh?”

  “Your phone is ringing.”

  “Oh, shit,” Nick rolled over and grabbed his phone. “Yeah?” Pause. “What?” Pause. “You’re kidding.” Pause. “No, I got it.” Pause. “It’s fine.” Pause. “Right.” Long pause. “Okay. Thanks.” I heard him set the phone down.

  “What happened?”

  “Merritt left last night.”

  “What?!”

  “Yep, he flew out last night. I’ll have to rent a car to get us back to Portland. “

  “What the hell?”

  “I don’t know. What a bunch of…Abby, what happened to your arm?”

  “I don’t know, why?”

 

  “It’s bruised. What the fuck?”

  I felt Nick softly stroke the back of my arm.

  “Merritt pinched me last night, after you won the bed, he got pissed and pulled me away and pinched me. I told him he was hurting me and he said ‘You don’t know what pain is.’”

  “Why didn’t you tell me?” He said softly, but I could feel rage behind it.

  “I don’t know, I honestly didn’t think about it until just now.”

  “Abby, that looks like it hurts.”

  “It does a little, but I’m okay.”

  “Jesus Christ,” he leaned back over and picked up his phone. He took a picture and I could hear him texting. Seconds later his phone rang, “Yeah.” Pause. “It’s Abby’s arm, Merritt grabbed her at the party.” Pause. “I was doing what you told me.” Long pause, I could hear Paul’s voice, yelling on the other line. “What the fuck do you want me to do? I couldn’t be on top of her every second.” Long pause. “We need to take care of this.” Pause. “I don’t know.” He put his hand over the phone. “Did he do anything else?”

  “He just threatened me.”

  “She said he was hurting her and he said ‘you don’t know what pain is,’” he said back into the phone. Pause. “Yeah, I think that’s a viable threat.” Pause. “Why the fuck did he leave early?” Long pause. “I’m gonna rent a car and we’ll be home in a few hours. Neither one of us had anything here, so we’ll have to stop to get new clothes, too.” Pause. “Right. Later then.” He ended the call.

  “I’m gonna take a shower,” I said, getting out of bed.

 

  Nick took a deep breath when he saw me in my bra and panties again, I saw him shift the way he was sitting on the bed.

  I have an effect on him!

  “Abby, if anyone who works for Merritt does anything like that again, you need to tell me immediately.”

  “I will.”

  I showered and put my dress back on. I stashed my panties in my purse, not thrilled about putting dirty clothes back on. I couldn’t wash my hair because I had nothing to comb or brush it with. I felt like I was doing the walk of shame.

  Nick showered after I did and put his shirt and pants back on, carrying his jacket and tie. He looked so sexy. I didn’t mind looking like I was doing the walk of shame with him.

  We checked out of the room and had the concierge call a taxi to take us to the airport to rent a car. After getting a car to drive for the day, Nick found a strip mall with a Target and we went inside to buy new clothes to wear home.

  I couldn’t help but laugh as we walked through the store, turning heads everywhere we walked. I found a pair of black pants and a pink tank top. Nick found some jeans and a tee shirt, just as I expected.

  “Got everything?” he asked.

  “Um, no,” I said, suddenly embarrassed.

  “What else?”

  “I’ll grab it and meet you up front.”

 

  “It’s okay, I’ll walk with you.”

  “Okay.”

  I wandered all over the store, I picked up tooth paste, a tooth brush, hair ties, a brush, deodorant, bottled water, lotion, and whatever else I could think of.

  “Jesus, Abby, do you have everything?”

  “Nick, I need underwear.”

  Nick turned white and gulped. “What?”

  “I wasn’t going to put dirty underwear back on.”

  “You, you’re not wearing any panties right now?”

  Oh my!

  “No, they’re in my purse.” Nick gulped again. “I was trying to be discreet but you wouldn’t leave me alone. Come on, let’s go get me some more undies.”

  He followed me to the women’s underwear section where I picked out the laciest, sexiest pink thong I could find. Again, I saw Nick gulp.

  “What?” I asked, innocently. “I got skinny pants, can’t have panty lines showing.”

  “Are you done now?”

  “Yepper, I am now finished.”

  At the checkout, I tried to pay for the things we bought, with Nick insisting he pay. I ducked into the bathroom and quickly changed, brushed my teeth, put on deodorant, and tried to tame my wild bed-head.

  Apparently Nick had the same idea because when I came out, he was waiting for me in his new clothes.

  “I feel so much better now,” I said. “Can we go home, please?”

  “It’s like a three hour drive,” he said. “Let’s get breakfast first.”

  It was only around nine a.m., so we went to a drive thru and got some disgusting breakfast for the road. I ate my greasy breakfast and helped Nick eat his.

  “Um, can you stop somewhere,” I asked. “I have to use the bathroom.”

  “Sure, I saw a sign for a rest stop up ahead.”

  Ten minutes later, Nick parked and I ran in to use the facilities. I was back in the car and we were back on the road.

  We had been driving for about an hour when Nick asked “Would you mind going on a little detour for a few hours?”

  “Um, where?”

  “I thought it would be cool to go to Mount St. Helen’s and check it out.”

  “I’m wearing heels, Nick.”

  “We’ll get you some different shoes, we don’t have to do any hiking, anyway. It’s just a short trip, for fun.”

  “Haven’t you been there before?”

  “Yeah, I used to go every year for school. That was a long time ago, though. Do you wanna go or not?”

  “Okay, yeah, let’s go!”

  “Watch for somewhere to get some shoes. Why didn’t you get any in Target?”

  “I didn’t think I’d be hiking today.”

  About 20 minutes later we found a shoe store where I bought new sneakers and socks. We were going to look pretty foolish trying to hike. Well, I was. I was wearing skinny, black dress pants and a hot pink tank top. My hair was gigantic, still not fully tamed from the night before. I was carrying a black Prada hand bag that contained my panties, lipstick, and my cell phone. Nick, on the other hand, blended so nicely. Maybe that’s why he’s Paul’s partner? I’ll never figure out that dynamic.

  Nick exited the highway and we drove for a long time, through windy mountain roads, and came to the first observation point. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs, anyway. The view was amazing! What devastation that mountain had caused! Nick held my hand as we wandered around the small parking area. We each took a lot of pictures before we got back into the car to continue the drive.

  Again, we made a stop. This time was at a small grocery store. Nick said he was hungry and that we should get some supplies before we get too far up the mountain.

  “I’m sure there’s a picnic area,” he said.

  “That would be nice,” I said.

  Luckily, there was a deli that had delicious looking salads and sandwiches. We also stocked up on cookies, candy, snacks, soda, and water.

  Again, Nick insisted on paying for everything, including the full tank of gas t
hat we purchased from the gas station next door.

  “Nick, you don’t need to pay for everything,” I said.

  “Abby, would you let me be the man?”

  “Excuse me?”

  “It’s my job to take care of you.”

  “Oh, God! I’m not even gonna dignify that with a response,” I laughed.

  “Puh-lease,” he said. I playfully slapped his arm “What was that? Did a fly just land on me?’

  “Oh, just drive,” I said.

  “See? My point exactly. Women can’t drive.”

  “No, this woman can’t drive.” I saw a deer in the road ahead. “Nick!”

  “I see it, don’t worry.”

  We slowed and the deer ran away. We continued our climb to the top, finally coming to a stop at the main observation station. We ate our lunch and did some exploring. Lots of pictures were taken. The drive down the mountain took a lot less time than the drive up.

  “Thank you for that, Nick.”

  “You’re welcome. I had fun.”

  “Me too. It’s been a long time since I was able to do something like that.”

  “Yeah! I used to love doing stuff like that, going on little day trip adventures.”

  “Oh yeah,” I said. “When I was in New York, we used to get on the train and get off at a different stop and explore the area. We didn’t always stay where we got off,” I laughed.

  “Yeah, my parents used to take us on car trips like once a month where we’d pick a destination and just drive there. I’ve been all over Washington, Oregon, and into Northern California.”

  “I’ve never been to California. In fact, I’d never been to Washington until last night.”

  “I love Washington,” he said. “I even love the rain.”

  “Well, I hate snow. Maybe I should move to Miami, or something.”

  Nick laughed. “You’d hate the heat.”

  “Ughh, you’re right. I’ll have to summer in Alaska and winter in Florida.”

  “There’s an idea!”

  “I’m gonna start saving my money, there’s my retirement plan!”

  The sun was setting and I could tell we were getting closer to Portland.

  “I don’t want to go back,” I said. “I don’t want today to end.”

  “Me neither,” Nick said. Just then, his phone rang, “Yeah?” Pause. “We’re getting back in now.” Pause.

  My phone rang, my mother was calling. “Hi, Mommy!”

  “Hi, sweetheart. How’s Oregon?”

  “It’s nice. You won’t believe the things I’ve done since I’ve been here, Mom.”

  “Oh, yeah? Like what?”

  “Well, I drove a car…”

  “Wait, you drove a car?”

  “Well, I mean, it was only like 100 yards, but I still drove.”

  “I don’t know any other 28 year olds who can’t drive, Abby.” Mom laughed. I missed her like crazy after just hearing her laugh. “What else have you done?”

  “I flew in a helicopter. I went to a formal fund raiser dinner and Paul got me this dress, Mom, it’s to die for!”

  “You’ll have to send me a picture. Where did you fly to in a helicopter?”

  “Seattle.”

  “Wow, did you go to Jimi Hendrix’s grave?”

  “No, Mom, we didn’t have time for that.”

  “That’s too bad.”

  Once a hippie, always a hippie.

  “I went to Mount St. Helen’s and saw the volcano. Oh, and when I got here, the airline lost my luggage and I STILL don’t have it back.”

  “Have you called them?”

  “No,” I admitted. “I’ll call them tomorrow, I guess.”

  “Make sure you call them, they may have found it and didn’t call you.”

  “I will, Mom.”

  “How is your trip otherwise? Are you still staying in that hotel?”

  “Oh, no, I didn’t tell you what happened there.”

  I told her about the water disaster and got another lecture when I told her that I hadn’t been reimbursed yet.

  “I’ll call them tomorrow. Then they’ll probably give me a check that I’ll have no way of cashing.”

 

  “Maybe Paul will help you cash it through his bank account.”

  “Okay, Mom. How’s New York?”

  “Oh, Abby, New York misses you.”

  “I’m sure Boston does, too.”

  “You know you don’t have to go back to Boston.”

  “I know,” I said, feeling sadness creep into my voice.

  My parents and I were close, even through their divorce. They knew I was struggling in Boston and both made it clear that they wanted me to come home to New York, and I was welcome to live with either of them until I got on my feet. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it yet.

  “Okay, Abby, I just wanted to check in. I hadn’t heard from you in a while and I missed your voice.”

  “I miss you, too. Tell everyone I said ‘hi’ and I’ll email you some pictures tonight.”

  “I can’t wait. Don’t be such a stranger next time.”

  “I’m sorry, I’ll call more.”

  “I love you, Abby.”

  “I love you, too, Mom.”

  We disconnected the call and I turned toward the window, hoping Nick hadn’t heard too much and didn’t ask me anything.

  I was wrong.

  “Are you okay?”

  “My parents are worried about me. They know how bad it was in Boston and they’re really hoping that being out here helps.”

  “Is it helping?”

  “In some ways, I suppose. I’m not locked in my apartment.”

  “How isn’t it helping?”

  “Well, I feel like I’m in danger every day. I also feel like I’m being held prisoner, sometimes.”

  “When you’re at Paul’s house?”

  “Exactly!” I said. “Usually he leaves and I’m at the house and I can’t go anywhere.”

  “I knew you felt like that,” he said. “Please, if you’re there and you want to go somewhere, call me or text me.”

  “I don’t want to bother you all the time. I work for you, remember.”

  “Abby, come on.”

  “And, apparently, I can have one of the guards take me out when I want to go somewhere, too. I wasn’t aware of that.”

  “Yeah. They won’t be happy about it, but that’s what they’re paid for.”

  I noticed that we were in Paul’s neighborhood. “Speaking of Paul, do we have to go back?”

  “No, I’ll text him and tell him you’re staying with me. He wants you to practice driving tomorrow.”

  “Ahhhhhh,” I pretend screamed. “We should go to church and pray, then.”

  “You’ll be fine,” Nick laughed.

  He made a quick U-turn and drove us back onto the main roads. I finally realized we were driving to the mall.

  “What are we doing here?”

  “Getting you something to wear tomorrow. You probably don’t want two pairs of panties in your purse, do you?”

 
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