© Informed Consent
Part One- Will
No girl had ever come close. If he wanted to be cliched about it, she was "the one that got away". Quite literally. He'd been clumsy and full of youthful arrogance back then and he'd paid the price ever since. He'd lost count of how many girls he'd had since her. Hundreds. Some consensually, some not. Some he raped whilst they were off their pretty heads ; drugs and alcohol saved him a lot of time and effort. Some even chased him. But none ever made him forget her. Her.
"Elizabeth", he whispered, closing his eyes and succumbing to the memories.
It had been pouring with rain the first time he'd spotted her. She'd been running in her high heels to the shelter of her car. By chance he'd been parked next to her. As he approached his vehicle he'd watched her frantically search through her oversized handbag for her car keys. The rain was saturating her, causing her strawberry blond hair to curl at the ends. He couldn't resist grinning to himself as she let out a wail of frustration, kicking her hubcap and turning her face up to the skies, pouting miserably. He'd held his umbrella over her protectively whilst she continued searching. She had been so grateful; given him a wave and a jaunty toot as she drove away.
He'd dedicated months to stalking her; to perfecting her daily routine. It didn't take him long to realise she always ran late and left her house in a hurry. She spent a lot of time searching for items in her stupidly oversized handbags. He learnt that she played badminton three nights a week, could secretly play the piano and listened to Radio 2 whilst washing up after dinner every night. He watched as her freckles grew more obvious as summer blossomed.
Everyday he spied on her he wanted her more. She became an obsession.
He filled his scrapbook with pictures of her and jotted down trivial details; her birthday, her address, her shoe size, her favourite sandwich fillings. Everyday he was left breathless by her natural beauty, her daft little habits. The only time he felt anything other than burning desire was when she was desperately looking through her bag for her mobile, keys or lipstick. It irritated him that she never learnt from her mistake.
She had been the eleventh girl he'd raped. He remembered that night vividly. Her face froze in fear as he grabbed her in the hallway. Her eyes had homed in on his ski mask, so out of place for a summer evening. She had been different to the other girls. Not once did she scream for help or claw at him. At no point did she beg him to stop or ask that fucking pathetic question "what do you want from me?!" No she had trembled with fear, scrunched her eyes closed and taken it.
Occasionally she had whispered, "it's not really happening, it's not really happening", as tears silently traveled down her cheeks. She'd flinched everytime he offered a gesture of tenderness; a stroke to the cheek, or a kiss to her forehead. When he had finished she opened her eyes, focusing on the ceiling. Her sorrowful expression was glazed with shock and disbelief.
But she had tricked him.
As he bent down to brush his lips against hers she'd ripped his mask off.
He'd panicked. Grabbed her shoulders and smacked her head against the floor hard. Then again. And again. Then she was unconscious. He turned to run but something stopped him. He stood looking down at her limp body for seconds, minutes, maybe hours. She was so beautiful, so delicate, so fragile. He wanted more. He raped her again, taking his time and savouring the touch of her body against his. He inhaled the scent of the coconut shampoo, ran his fingertips over her scattering of freckles, kissed his way up her thighs and nuzzled into her neck.
Then he'd spotted her handbag. He'd grabbed it and emptied the contents over the floor. Then he'd belted her around the face. There wasn't a sound from her. He thought back to everytime she'd lost something and punished her for it. He split her lip, punched her ribs, kneed her between the legs then grabbed the bag, chucking it in the kitchen dustbin on his way out.
But he couldn't move on. Night after night he tossed and turned, fighting the desire to return to her house. Eventually he went looking for her again. The changes in her were obvious. She looked drawn, tired, timid. She walked around with her head bowed, hiding her face behind her hair. But still she was painfully beautiful. Even more so than before.
He watched her get new locks fitted. He watched as her friends offered awkward comfort. He watched her get a security alarm fitted.
He knew she only survived three counseling sessions. He knew she cried herself to sleep each night. He knew she swapped badminton for self defence classes.
And he celebrated the fact she replaced all her oversized handbags with smaller, more sensible alternatives. Then, one day he let himself get distracted. He had followed another girl home and had got infatuated. When he realised how much he missed Elizabeth it had been to late. Her rented house was empty and she had moved away.
He'd spent the last five years trying to find her...
Part Two- Elizabeth
Today was going to be perfect. Today was the first day of the rest of my life. Today was the day I thought would never happen. Today I was marrying the man I loved.
I stood in front of the mirror and gasped at my reflection. I was unrecognizable. Daniel had insisted that I brought the dress of my dreams; a strapless, A-line gown with sweetheart neckline and corset closure. The skirt softly flowing into billowing waves that rippled gracefully as I walked. I had chosen ivory. White was... well it wasn't an option.
It was almost seven years to the day. I wandered over to the window and gazed at the spreading lawn that led down to the lake. I had given numerous statements, suffered invasive medical procedures, tried counseling, therapy. Nothing had worked. Nothing had helped the authorities catch you. Were you still out there? Did you still rape and abuse unsuspecting woman?
I shivered despite the warm temperature. You changed me that day and I had become a stranger to myself. The first couple of years were the worst. I kept expecting you to find me, to attack me again. I was convinced you were stalking me, even after I moved. You had made me flee my family, my friends. I couldn't bare looking at their sympathetic, pitying expressions. I didn't feel safe in my own home. You made me give up everything I had worked so hard for. And yet...
"Stop it Beth, not today. Not today". I whispered to myself.
Yes. I was Beth now. No longer a strawberry blond, but a light blond. Slimmer too. Anxiety had turned out to be a wonderful diet. And in a couple of hours I would cease to be Elizabeth Grayson but become Beth Edrich. A fresh start, a new beginning.
It had taken me a while to tell Daniel about my past. I was scared it would push him away or worse, make him pity me too. But it only made us stronger. He would wake me from my nightmares, stroke my hair and whisper soothing words in my ear. He made me feel safe, secure, looked after. And yet... And yet... no one had ever made me feel as wanted as you had.
I felt the blood drain from my face and gripped the curtains. How many times had I tried to reject this fact? How many times had it made me feel sick with myself? But I couldn't deny it... you had made me feel so desired, so needed, so treasured. The way you had cupped my cheek, nuzzled against the nape of my neck, brushed your lips so softly against mine. And then I ruined it... I tore off your disguise. I had so needed to see you, to try and connect with you. I can remember your face so vividly despite trying to forget it for the last seven years.
A knock at the door.
"Just a minute please", I called out shakily.
No more. I would not let you stay inside my head anymore.
I turned from the window, took a deep breath and composed myself. Tomorrow Daniel and I were traveling back to Seattle and leaving England behind for ever. Daniel... my dear Daniel. I smiled. I had met him in Starbucks. Where else does one meet someone in Seattle? It had been a whirlwind romance but I knew instantly he was the one. He was the first man I trusted after you raped me. The first man whose touch I didn't flinch at. The first man who made me feel safe again.
Another knock and my mother, sisters and old school friends come flooding inside the hotel room. There are tears, embraces , proud smiles and kind compliments. I had missed them all so much but they understood why I had moved. We rang each other constantly and they had flown out several times to stay at Daniel's apartment. But today... it felt more final somehow.
Time to get married.
Time to start over.
Part Three- Daniel
Somehow I got through the day. I couldn't deny how beautiful Beth looked. In fact beautiful was an insult. She looked more at peace with herself than I'd ever seen her look before. She squeezed my hand during the ceremony and wiped away her happy tears with dignity. The perfect wedding for the almost perfect woman.
Only she wasn't perfect was she. She was damaged goods.
How had I got myself in this situation?
By the end of tomorrow my debt would be repaid and I would be free to get on with my life, unburdened. And it was all thanks to Beth. Sweet, delicate, unsuspecting Beth.
I shuddered and rested my head in my hands. There was no two ways about it- this was going to be the hardest thing I had ever done.
The day passed in a whirl. The wedding breakfast, the speeches, the first dance...
I closed my eyes and drifted back to our first dance. I'd chosen the song and murmured the words in her ear as we'd spun round the dance floor, "she only reveals what she wants you to see, she hides like a child but she's always a woman to me".
And tonight I would make love to her one last time.
I remembered your words...
"Remember Daniel...you can enjoy her but don't fall in love with her. She's mine."
I hadn't meant to go against your advice.
I look over to Beth and the words repeat over in my mind, "She can kill with a smile, she can wound with her eyes, she can ruin your faith with her casual lies, and she only reveals what she wants you to see, she hides like a child but she's always a woman to me". So true I thought, so true. I had lost count of the number of times I'd caught her crying into her pillow whilst she thought I was asleep. Whenever I asked if she was ok she would laugh nervously and kiss my shoulder. "Of course sweetheart, my eyes just watering". It hurt that she lied to me. Me! The one who knew better than anyone why she was crying, why she needed comforting.
It was because of you.
I clench my fist and exhale. I hated you. I hated you so much.
You weren't going to have to deal with the aftermath of our carefully constructed plan. You weren't going to have to report your wife as a missing person. People were going to suspect me, whisper about me, be scared of me for the rest of my life. I was going to have to convince the police I had nothing to do with her disappearance. Convince her friends and family. All so you could...
I growl at the thought.
All so you can repeatedly damage her.
I know you believed you loved her. And maybe you did... but... you would ruin her. Break her down piece by piece. Hadn't she been through enough already? If only I could go back in time. I would have borrowed money from a shark loan, stolen it from a bank, robbed it from our parents to have avoided this. But no, I'd gone to you. And now I was suffering for it. All of this caused by a stupid, reckless gambling addiction.
You had tracked her down to Seattle. It had taken you a while hadn't it? Almost drove you mad in the process. You had refused to hire a private investigator to search for her. You had your pride. Instead my debt had given you the perfect opportunity to involve me in your twisted scheme. You settled my debts, moved me away from Las Vegas and helped me to settle in Seattle. Then you pointed her out to me. You had a theory that she would open up to me. After all we did look alike, you and I. It was risky, but it worked.
"Remember Daniel...you can enjoy her but don't fall in love with her. She's mine."
But I did love her, I loved her so much. I had tried so hard to give her one perfect day.
And now, here we were.
Tomorrow I'd hand Beth and my heart over to you.
And we would be… even.
Part Four- Will
"Happy Anniversary Mrs Edrich". I whisper.
You yawn and stretch, lifting you head from the pillow and smiling up at me with those big green eyes. I sit on the side of the bed tracing my hand up your side, admiring the angry bruises scattered across your torso. My hand moves up to your neck, brushing your strawberry blond hair back and revealing the deliciously purple bite marks.
"Are you sore?" I ask.
It had been a memorable night. I had finally forced my whole fist inside you as you cried and writhed on the bed in agony. Then I'd made you beg me to fuck your arse. Call it an anniversary present, I'd chuckled. After much whining and whimpering you had complied- knowing I'd have done it anyway.
"A little", you wince.
I smile and climb between your legs, spreading your cunt lips and inspecting your swollen and bruised clit. I slap it gently and you yelp. God I love the noises you make. There's never been a night like that first one. You've never taken anything silently since. I reach down and kiss your full lips, swinging my fist back and punching you hard between the legs. You scream into my mouth and whisper, "again... please".
"Why do I hurt you baby?" I whisper in your ear?
"Because you love me", you whisper back.
"Good girl". I punch you again, then ram my cock inside you. I'm brutal, cruel. I pinch your sensitive nipples and wrap my hands around your delicate throat.
Still so fragile, so breakable.
Afterwards I spoon you as you weep in my arms.
I reflect on the last year. Everything had gone to plan. You had arrived back in Seattle with Daniel. I'd been waiting for you at his apartment.
"Beth... you know my brother who couldn't make it to the wedding?" Daniel had asked.
"Yes, when will I meet this elusive brother of yours?" You'd giggled.
Then I had walked into the room. You had started towards me, spreading your arms wide ready to embrace your brother in law. Then you had stopped, frozen to the spot. I pictured your face; realisation, confusion, fear, repulsion, distress.
Then you'd fainted.
Daniel had picked you up tenderly and carried you out to my car. Carefully, I had placed you on the back seat, cuffed your hands behind your back and tied your ankles together. I'd forced that very same ski mask over your head, back to front, encasing you in darkness.
I'd shut the door and turned to shake my brother's hand. Poor Daniel. He had done the one thing I'd told him not to do. He'd fallen in love with you. He twisted away from me, wiping away angry tears before storming back inside his apartment. He didn't look back.
A month later he hung himself. I'd never told you.
There had been a short, to the point suicide note. It simple read, "To the One that got away, the only girl I have ever loved. The only girl I couldn't have. I am so sorry."
The police presumed it was a confession.
I was surprised by the lack of guilt I had felt. I had warned him... you were mine.
The first few months were hard. You were conflicted. You begged me to take you back to Daniel. You fought back against me, you swore at me, you hurt me with your words. You screamed at me, accused me of ruining your life. At one point you pleaded with me to kill you.
But I kept working at it. I remembered the years I'd spent looking for you; how I had felt when I realised I had lost you.
"I'll never loose you again", I had promised you, "never". Then I had cradled you in my arms.
A year on and my search had been worth it. I had made you grow out your light blond dye. After the first few months you had started eating properly again. Slowly you were returning to your original beauty. As you adapted to having no responsibilities other than pleasing me your demeanor changed. You moved more fluidly, the hollows of your cheeks filled out, you looked younger and lost your haunted appearance. You would flush with pride when I complimented you. You started to take note of my likes and dislikes. You craved my gentle touch after I had used you like a worthless slut.
And today... today I had brought you something. Something very special. I take you small hands and help you out of the bed. I position you on your knees by the window and tell you to close your eyes.
"Pull your hair back Elizabeth", I instruct.
You do. I brush my fingertips against your neck, trailing them over your throat. You moan and lower your lips, kissing my knuckles.
"It's taken so long Elizabeth, taken so many poor girls, girls that don't even compare to you."
I fleetingly think of Daniel. My own personal sacrifice.
"But I love you. I love the way you wrinkle your nose when I switch the lamp on in the morning. I love the way your back arches when you kneel. I love how you sing in the shower, how you skip when you're happy, how you blush when I call you my whore. I love that you no longer flinch at my touch. But most of all... I love that you never forgot me Elizabeth; that you didn't want to forget me." I pull the thin steel collar from the velvet encased box.
"You're no longer Elizabeth Grayson. No longer Beth Edrich. Who are you?" I ask. "I'm Elizabeth Edrich and I'm yours". You answer.
I place the collar around your neck and lock it securely. Then I move round in front of you, pull you to me and kiss you.
"Elizabeth Edrich... the one that got away." I smile.
"But you brought me back and made me yours," you whisper, "and now I'll never leave again".
Well, get out the Crayolas and colour me Tickled Pink.