***Warning! This chapter describes sexual violence******
Ben pulled up in front of Rachel’s house. Marty grabbed Ben’s arm before he got out of the car.
“You have got to calm down, man. You go in there all upset, with Rachel’s past, you’ll scare the hell out of her and mess things up. Just chill.”
Ben knew his partner was right. Rhett was the sort of man who would say something like that to get a rise out of him, but he was also the sort of man who would be forceful with Rachel. He thought back to that morning with Laura and her talk of Rachel having an affair.
“Look if you go knocking on the door after midnight you are going to wake her whole house.”
“I just have to know she is okay. She would never sleep with him willingly.”
Ben walked away from the car. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door. The house stayed dark. He knocked again, and waited, still no answer. He had given her a key to his house, but they had meant to get him a key for hers and had not got around to it yet. He walked back off the porch. He picked up a small pebble out of the neighbors’ yard. He threw it at her bedroom window — still nothing.
“Ben, come on, she’s probably asleep,” Marty said.
“I just need to know she’s okay,” Ben said as he went back for another rock.
Marty flipped the lights on top of the car and let the siren loop twice. Rachel’s light turned on. Ben felt a wave of relief that she got up and came to the window. She opened and looked down at Ben standing on the sidewalk in front of the house and Marty hanging out of the car with the door open.
“Ben, what’s wrong? Are you drunk?” She asked, confused at the sight in front of her house.
“Are you okay?” Ben asked.
Ben felt like an idiot. Rachel shut the window, and they watched the hall light come on, that could be seen through the front door. The porch light switched on, and Rachel opened the door. She stepped out onto the porch, her robe wrapped around her. Ben walked up to her and pulled her close to him so he could see her more closely.
“Are you okay?” He asked.
“Yes, I was asleep. What the hell is going on?”
“You two good,” Marty asked.
Rachel looked around Ben and waved.
“We’re good,” Ben said.
“See you in the morning. I’ll come by and get you. I am taking your car home.”
“Okay,” Ben said, still not looking at Marty.
He looked at Rachel’s face over for any signs of injury. He looked deeply into her eyes and knew that Laura had to have had her facts wrong; there was no way Rachel could be capable of the things she had said. Rachel still couldn’t have sex with the lights on, that did not sound like a person capable of wild sex. Marty pulled away, leaving Rachel and Ben on the porch.
“What is going on, Ben? You are scaring me.”
“I ran into Rhett tonight. I thought he had hurt you.”
“Honey, he isn’t supposed to be anywhere near the boys or me. I would have called the police if I had seen him. You are really shaken up. What did he say to you?”
“It doesn’t matter, as long as you are okay. You didn’t see him tonight, did you?”
“Of course not. I took Evan to Karate and went to the grocery store. Come upstairs; you look exhausted.”
“I am. But we had a break in the case tonight; some woman beat the hell out of the guy that keeps attacking all of these women. We are going to get this monster, his days as a free man are numbered.”
“Ben that is excellent! That is good news. I am glad he got some of what he deserves. Is the woman okay?”
“Yes, she’s tough.”
“I am glad she is okay. Come to bed, honey.”
“I should run home real quick, feed the cat. Oh, shit Marty has my keys, they’re in the ignition.”
“I fed the cat, when I didn’t see your car by ten, I went over and fed him. I hope that is okay? I used the key you made me. Man, you are tired. Come upstairs.”
Rachel ran her hand across Ben’s cheek, feeling the stubble that had grown on his chin and pulled his lips down to hers. Her tongue brushed his lightly. He pulled her in close and held her tightly. He usually didn’t; he did not want to scare her. He had to hold her; it was the only way for him to register that she was okay. She pulled away gently and grabbed him by the hand, leading him into the house an upstairs to bed.
Ben walked in the bedroom and found himself looking for signs that sex had happened there earlier. He hated that Rhett’s words were still reverberating in his head. The mental image of Rhett and Rachel together earlier in the night made his stomach churn. Ben kicked off his shoes and sat on the bed as he emptied his pockets onto the nightstand. Rachel walked out of the bedroom. Ben undressed and locked his gun, in the small gun safe he had bought since he had started staying over. He did not want a repeat of the gun debacle with Luke ever again.
Ben laid down on the bed and rolled into the pillow as he took a deep breath, trying to smell any trace of cologne. He hated himself for it. The sheets smelled like Rachel’s soft citrus scent. He closed his eyes and woke a few minutes later to Rachel gently shaking him awake.
“Hey sleepy, I made you a quick snack. I didn’t know if you would have stopped for dinner tonight. You don’t have to eat it if you are too tired.”
Ben opened his eyes to see a sandwich and a glass of milk on the nightstand. He smiled as he reached out for her to pull her close to the bed. His hand hooked around the back of her legs. He knew she didn’t like to be touched there, but in his half-asleep state, it did not register. Rachel instantly went rigid as she pushed Ben away. Her reaction jogged his conscious; he let go immediately. He sat up. She had not had that strong of a response in a long time to his touch.
“Rachel, I am sorry, I wasn’t awake.”
“It’s okay; I am okay.” She said out loud, but her face showed fear.
Ben stood up, and Rachel took a step back, away from him.
“Honey, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. “
He could see tears welling in her eyes.
“Rachel, please don’t cry. Honey, I’m sorry.”
“I know I’m fine… Just ignore it. Let’s go to bed; it’s late.”
She walked around the bed, deliberately away from Ben’s reach and climbed in still wearing her robe. She leaned up and switched off the lamp on her side of the bed. He wanted to know the story, he was trying to be patient, but he knew there was something that Rachel had not told him. Between sex with the lights off, and the things with her legs, he had never seen her fully naked in the light. He wanted to ask, but he also wanted to be respectful. He climbed into bed and took a bite of the sandwich, to not hurt her feelings. He took three big gulps from the milk, set the glass down, and switched off the light. He knew she was more likely to talk in the dark. He moved closer to her in the bed, but she had laid facing away from him. She did not like to be held from behind. She would lay on her back if they snuggled up together. He put his hand on her arm lightly.
“Honey, please rollover, please talk to me.”
She stayed quiet.
She rolled over onto her back. Ben reached up and caressed the side of her face; he could feel her cheeks were wet with tears. He leaned in and kissed her softly.
“Honey, I am really sorry.”
“Please stop apologizing. I know you didn’t mean to.”
“Look you don’t owe me any explanations, but there is a reason why you don’t like to be touched there. Can I ask why? Regardless of your answer, I will always respect your wishes. Whatever happened won’t make me love you any less.”
“Ben, I can’t. I’m sorry. I just, I just can’t say it out loud. I’m not ready.”
He knew to back off, he had helped enough victims of sexual assault to know when to back off but he really wanted to know, he loved Rachel.
“I would like to know someday when you are comfortable to tell me why you react that way when I touch you there. When you are ready honey, I will be there to listen, whether it is tomorrow or fifty years from now, on your timetable, not mine.”
He leaned down to kiss her again. She looped her arms around his neck.
“Ben, I love you. You are such a good man. I am sorry I have all of this baggage.”
“I love you too. I am sorry you had to go through whatever it is you went through. I want to spend the rest of my life, loving away your hurts.”
She kissed him again. He laid back on his back, and she rolled over and laid her head on his shoulder. Ben closed his eyes and fell asleep in no time.
“Ben, Ben, are you awake?”
Ben opened his eyes; the room was still dark. He reached over for Rachel and felt her waist. She was propped up on one elbow facing him.
“Hmmm?” Ben said half-awake.
Rachel laid her head on his chest. Ben began to stroke her soft, brown hair as he woke completely.
“What’s wrong honey?” He asked.
“You are right; you deserve to know. I am just not sure if I can talk about all of it.”
“I am willing to listen to whatever you want to tell me.”
She looked up at him.
“I think I can tell you some of it, but I may need a little scotch to get the courage.”
“Okay, do you have any?”
“Yes, downstairs in the cabinet in the dining room next to the wine rack. I’ll go get some.”
“No you wait, I will go.”
Ben got up and crept downstairs. He grabbed the bottle and two rocks glasses next to the bottle. He brought it all back upstairs and switched on the light. They both winced at their eyes, adjusting to the change. Ben poured them each a moderately sized pour and handed Rachel’s to her. Her cheeks were already tear-stained. Ben sat down on the bed softly and leaned back.
Rachel took a deep breath and then a generous sip of the scotch.
“Becky doesn’t know any of this; I don’t want anyone to know. I’ve never said anything because I don’t want the boys to know either. I couldn’t handle them knowing.”
She looked up at him, needing unspoken consent that he wouldn’t share her deepest secret. Ben nodded. She took another large sip. And rested the glass in the palm of her hand.
“A while back you had asked about Rhett and I in the bedroom. He was not..” She stopped and took another sip of the scotch. “He wasn’t always a violent man; he used to be tender and sweet. At first, it started with more adventurous sex, after he got his job working for his first real firm. He said it took the stress level down. I had just had Tommy and the fact that he still found me attractive felt good.” She sipped from the glass again. “Looking back, it was pretty tame stuff, but it felt adventurous to me at the time. I went along with all of it, and it seemed that soon, what was doing it for him, wasn’t anymore. The sex got rougher. Around that time, I started to suspect that he was on drugs, some sort of pills. He’d get real riled up and aggressive out of nowhere.
I got pregnant with Evan, and I thought things would tone down a bit.” Her voice cracked as a tear rolled down her cheek.
“It got so rough; I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I told Rhett that we had to tone it down while I was pregnant. He started telling me that if I couldn’t give him what he wanted, he’d go elsewhere. I wanted my marriage to work. He told me how good of a wife I was to him, and how it eased his tensions.”
Rachel wiped her nose with the sleeve of her robe.
“Soon, it didn’t matter if I was a participant willing or not. I was so afraid Evan was going to get hurt while I was carrying him, that I went along. It was less dangerous to fight him off than it was to give in. The first time he hit me was over an argument about sex. I was holding Tommy and pregnant with Evan the first time he hit me. For the next week after that, he was the man I fell in love with. He was amazing. I thought we had turned a corner.”
Tears streamed down her face. Ben scooted closer to her.
“After Evan was born, he didn’t even wait the six weeks I was supposed to wait. I knew then that I wanted out. From there, things spiraled out of control. He brought a friend from work.”
Rachel tipped the last of the scotch back. The tears streamed down her face.
“I was against it; I didn’t want any part of it. He was just supposed to watch Rhett and I. The first night it happened Rhett took me out to a nice dinner. We had a lot to drink, too much. I didn’t know what he had planned. That night when we got home, his friend didn’t want to watch, he wanted to participate, and Rhett was going to watch. All I could think was how is my husband okay with this, I wasn’t… I don’t remember a whole lot of that night; I get bits and pieces that come to the surface but, I can’t put them together. I know I tried to fight, but I didn’t succeed.” She took a deep breath. “That is why I don’t like to be touched from behind in any way. The next day Rhett went out and bought me my van as a gift. He told me I was the world’s best wife. That it was the sexiest thing he had ever seen and how amazing I was as his wife. He told me that it made him love me more, that I would give him that gift. I felt so dirty, so used.”
“Rachel, whoever this man was, he belongs in prison right next to Rhett.”
She shook her head, “Ben, I can’t. I can’t re-live it all again. I know you are right. I have had a lot of therapy to work past all of this. No one knows I have been seeing a therapist for almost six years now. I couldn’t tell Becky; I couldn’t tell anyone. You and my therapist are the only two people on earth who know, other than Rhett and his friend.”
“Rachel, you can’t let them get away with this. Rhett is a violent man, and his friend, is a rapist, they’re both rapists.”
“I know, but I can’t, Ben. I’m not strong enough.”
“You have me; I will be your strength.”
“Ben, please, no.”
“Honey, I am not going to push you. I know it took a lot to tell me tonight. Just think about it okay?”
“Ben, I think about it every day of my life.”
“No, I know you do, I mean think about prosecuting those assholes.”
“I told you because I want to move past it, I want to let you hold me without panicking. I don’t want you to think that I am cold to you or that I don’t love you.”
“I would never think that. Come here.”
Ben pulled her in close to him. They leaned back against the headboard, and Rachel laid her head on his shoulder. Ben wrapped his arm around her and stroked the side of her face with his other hand. She cried quietly as they laid there, watching the sun come up.
“I need to start to get ready and wake the boys.”
“Honey don’t go to work today; you are in no condition to teach today. I will take the day off too; we will spend it together, okay?”
“Routines are important to me.”
“I know they are but, have you slept at all? Emotionally, you are drained.”
“What about the boys?”
“I’ll take them to school this morning. Call in and say you need a personal day?”
Grace Frazier says
Jacqueline, There is the distinct impression here that Ben’s police background can be as much an obstacle in his relationship with Rachel as hers with Rhett. Having experience with someone who looks for evidence where there isn’t any is a flag in this reader that this couple cannot last long. She’s under enough stress, as she indicated in her recounting her experiences. If she were to find out Ben is treating her home as a potential crime scene, her stress would go through the roof. He wants her to trust him, yet he doesn’t trust her.
A point made in Chapter One could still be in play here: ‘Sure there had been women in the past, but none that had pulled him away from his true love, his work.’ If he describes his work as ‘his true love’, there isn’t much hope for any woman who enters his life.
At this point, the dark aspects of the story markedly outweigh the love story. I am grateful for the Thursday installment’s coming up, as this chapter was one I prefer not to mull over for an entire week.