Vicious Love (Barrington Heights #1), page 11
Christine was lying on the bed, exhausted, when I left.
“I hardly ever see you drink, Jennet. Are you okay?” Barry asked me as I sat at the kitchen table drinking my third martini. He looked at me with his soft, genuine eyes.
I wanted to respond, but I couldn’t. Guilt had control of me, and if I opened my mouth, I was afraid that I might tell Barry that I’d kissed him. That I’d kissed Christopher. So, instead, I kept silent.
“Jennet, please talk to me. If there’s something wrong, I want to fix it.” He kept persisting, and I kept silent, but now, I also had to push back the urge to cry.
I’d betrayed my fiancé, the man I loved, for a student. A boy, not even nineteen! Sooner or later, I would have to respond. Otherwise, things would only get worse and Barry might get suspicious. I needed something to redirect him. I needed a question that could set him up, not me. It was time to ask about the safe and, more importantly, the book.
“Barry…” I hesitated for a second, trying to find the right words. “I found a safe.”
His eyes grew wide, and I could tell that he was trying to figure out how I knew about it. “What safe?” he lied, trying to play dumb.
“The one behind the painting. Behind Thee Irregularity.” I put my now finished martini down and stood up to meet him, trying to get to eye level. “Barry?” This time, he didn’t respond. “Barry?” I asked again.
His face was white and his eyes looked cold; he was silent for a while. “How do you know about that?” Barry’s tone had completely changed. It sounded forceful, which was so unlike Barry.
“Why are you hiding it from me?” I matched my tone with his, making sure that he knew that I was angry.
However, this didn’t help. Barry didn’t divert back to his normal self. Instead, his gaze remained stone cold, his face expressionless.
Without responding, he walked past me and went upstairs. I followed him as he ascended the staircase without even looking back at me. Once at the top of the stairs, Barry took a right to our room and immediately went to the painting, Thee Irregularity. Without even the slightest hesitation, he lifted up the painting, revealing the hidden safe. Barry opened the safe—the contents the same as I’d left them. Barry didn’t look through the money, he didn’t check his gun, and he didn’t look for his key. Barry went straight for the black book, put it in his suit pocket, and closed the safe. He turned and walked past me, once again without a word. I could feel my heart racing as I tried to figure out what was happening and how, or if, it even affected anything. There was one thing I knew: I was still thinking about Christopher.
While lost in thought, I heard the garage door opening and Barry’s car starting. I ran downstairs after him, trying to figure out where he was going and what was going on. By the time I was downstairs, he was already gone, speeding away in his BMW. I managed to catch a glimpse of his car through the foyer window, unable to see Barry in the front seat. Unable to see his expression as he drove away, and unable to tell if he was coming back. The thought of losing Barry frightened me, made me tremble. However, the longer I thought about it, the less it scared me. While I truly did love Barry, something had always been off. Some barrier between us that I couldn’t scale. A wall disconnecting us.
I returned to my seat, staring at my empty martini glass. Another was poured into my glass a second later as I finished off the mixer. Martinis were a little too strong for me, but my drink of choice still was a Martini Milano. Two ounces of gin, one teaspoon of Campari, one half ounce of dry vermouth, and one half ounce of dry white wine. I think it was the lime twist that got me. Two normally intoxicated me. Three knocked me out. I was expecting a fourth to kill me.
With a shaking hand, I raised the glass to my lips. The alcohol burned through my throat but soothed my nerves. As I took the feeling in, my eyes began to rest. My heart started to melodically beat. My legs became heavy, and I slunk deep into my seat. Without fighting, my eyes closed. I woke to the sound of the garage closing and Barry coming through the door.
He walked into the foyer, crossed into the kitchen, and stopped. Barry just stared at me, a mix of anger, frustration, love, and heartache in his eyes, not even hidden. I looked back at him and nothing happened. He stood there in silence, and I sat in the dark.
Barry shook his head, walked towards me, and kissed me on the forehead. We didn’t hold hands, and we didn’t walk upstairs together. Barry went first, and I stayed alone. Left alone to my thoughts, to my betrayal. The thought of cheating, kissing Christopher, burned into my head. I decided that what I had done was a mistake, an awful thing. Guilt swept over me and I couldn’t even deny what I had done. The clock read midnight, and I felt like I could go upstairs.
Trying to stand up was hell. My knees were weak, my legs too heavy. I had to push myself up by my arms off the table and hold on to every piece of furniture I could get my hands on. The room was spinning as I slowly made my way across the house. I nearly fell a couple of times in the foyer, where there was very few things to hold on to, but I finally made it to the stairs. Never before had those stairs looked so long and ominous. Even without the help of three—or maybe four—very strong martinis, this would be a difficult night. My guilt mixed with the booze had created an emotional grenade whose pin has been pulled, and I was pretty sure a grenade couldn’t climb stairs. Of course they couldn’t—they’re grenades.
I realized I’d begun to debate with myself over whether or not grenades could climb stairs. Pull yourself together here—another thought that echoed through my throbbing mind. My thoughts returned to the staircase looming over me. One hand went to the handrail—“Appropriately named,” I noted to myself as my foot, not my leg, slammed into the bottom stair. Down I went and everything happened in slow motion.
I woke up an hour later, still on the stairs. My vision was back to normal, and my balance was beginning to return. Climbing the stairs became easier, and I managed to make it up the stairs and into my bed. Once I was under the covers I turned to talk to Barry, but he wasn’t there. Slowly, my eyes began to close, and my vision slowly faded away.
The rest of the week was a blur and rather uneventful. Barry and I talked things out and seemed to get back on track, or at least what was normal for us. But something still didn’t feel right. He’d explained that the safe had come with the house so he took advantage of it being there, but he didn’t want to discuss the contents which perplexed me. I noticed him being more impatient, as if something big were happening. Nervous, almost. But Barry was always nervous about something, so I didn’t worry too much about it. What I did worry about, however, was that Christopher wasn’t in class all week, and after our kiss, I’d been hoping to… I didn’t know exactly what I’d been hoping to do, but I felt like I had to do something. He was my student, for goodness’ sake; I could get fired for what we had done! My entire career could be over! Everything I’d worked so hard to achieve, all the effort put in to show my parents that I could make a life for myself without their help, and my life with Barry could end.
The thought of the consequences frightened me, but not as much as it should have. Even though what we had done was moronic and dangerous, I couldn’t help but feel excited, intrigued. Even exhilarated. All of this danger from a simple kiss—God, it was far from simple, made me feel different. It made me feel new. And when Christopher had kissed me, my entire had body shut down. When he’d leaned in close to whisper in my ear, everything had gone black and my cheeks had flushed ruby red. Christopher had been all—and was all—I could think about. He ruled over my mind with an iron fist as a dictator of my thoughts.
The worst part was that I wasn’t even fighting it. I was letting him control me, and I was sure he wasn’t even trying. I felt so weak, so vulnerable. It was a frightening thought but an exhilarating reality. All of my worries seemed to be washed away by that one kiss. Now, as Friday was ending, all of my worries began to return to me. Christopher was an eighteen-y
The house was cold, but not in temperature. There was a lack of trust in the air. It almost seemed as if the house were in on the secret Barry was hiding from me. Helping him and confusing me to the point of exasperation. As I huddled in my bed, the sheets and blankets pulled all the way up to my chin, I couldn’t help but to think about my current situation: I was all alone. Barry wasn’t home, but it wasn’t just in that sense. I was all alone in more than just a physical realm—also a mental and emotional one.
It was becoming clear that Barry didn’t understand me, even though he loved me. Furthermore, it was becoming more evident that my fiancé didn’t interest me in the way he used to. I wasn’t sure who’d changed—him or me. But I did know that I was slowly slipping away from him and he wasn’t trying to stop it. In fact, I believed that he’d been trying to push me away. But Barry would never do something like that. He was the good guy. The nice guy. The guy who would sacrifice himself for me simply because of love. Now, I didn’t know who he was.
Barry was keeping things from me—a lot of things at that. My entire outlook on my fiancé had been dramatically changing along with his actions towards me. But what I didn’t know and needed to figure out was why. Why was he doing these things? Why was he changing? Why was he keeping something from me? And what was he keeping from me? Everything became flipped in my mind, and life became evermore confusing. Thoughts of betrayal and Spanish soap operas flooded my thoughts, and the characters were me, Barry, and Christopher.
Christopher. The name pierced my soul and relaxed my body. Christopher. Now what did Christopher want? What were his intentions? He was bold enough to kiss his teacher, which was flattering, but why had he done it? Had it been out of love? Did he love me? The thought of Chris loving me filled my stomach with butterflies and sent my heart racing. This wasn’t how I should be reacting though. As I kept on repeatedly reminding myself: He’s a student. I shouldn’t—I can’t—have these feelings for him. However, no matter how hard I tried to keep those questions out of my head, to repel all feelings, I couldn’t win. He had entered my being and now was a part of my mind. And now, I feared that I might love him. One kiss might have created an avalanche of emotion that cascaded through my head, creating chaos and commotion.
Another thought occurred to me: What if he doesn’t love me and is just trying to sleep with a teacher? He’d never said that he loved me. He’d never said anything about feelings whatsoever. Now that I thought about it, sleeping with a teacher must be the ultimate bragging right for any teenage boy. I could just imagine what he was saying now to all of his friends: “Hey, guys. I totally made out with my teacher. I’m so awesome.” That sent shivers down my spine, but not the good type. Now, I felt betrayed and embarrassed. And as I kept on convincing myself that Christopher didn’t have feelings for me, that he just wanted to use me, my body became numb. I felt betrayed. I’d kissed this person, and I had developed feelings for him, but all he wanted to do was use me for his own amusement. The bastard. How could he have done this to me? Barry and I might have been having a difficult time connecting, but I always thought he was a good guy and didn’t want to just use me.
As I lay in bed, allowing my thoughts to control my feelings and my perspective, everything became clear and muddled all at the same time. What became clear were my feelings for Barry. I loved him, but now that we’d moved in together and had been trying to get to know each other more than before, I couldn’t help but feel distant. We weren’t connecting like we used to, and now I was doubting if we had ever truly connected at all. Barry had been there for me when I’d finally walked away from the control of my parents, so was that why I loved him? All because he’d happened to be a friend when I’d needed one and then asked me out?
The part that was supposed to be clearer soon became muddled up as well, joining with my feelings for Chris. I didn’t know him, yet I felt like I was falling for him. He had this…control over me without saying a word, without using an action, without doing anything. We’d kissed once, but I could see myself truly falling in love, and it was frightening. But my feelings for Chris could be unilateral. Chris could be—and I was continuously convincing myself of this—using me. So I couldn’t tell if what I was feeling was true, and I couldn’t tell if he felt the same way as I did. And what made this situation worse was that I couldn’t just ask. He was my student, and if anyone caught on to what had happened or what I was feeling, I could get in serious trouble. This was a worst-possible situation. On one hand, I had the man I was supposed to marry, Barry. He loved me, but we just didn’t have the connection I’d believed we had when he’d asked me to marry him. Then, on the other hand, I had Christopher. My insanely hot student who made me feel vulnerable, but he could be using me. I was freaking out.
Without noticing it, I had pulled out my laptop and had logged on to it. Soon, my fingers were dashing across the keyboard and writing down my thoughts and my passions onto a Word document. It’d been a long time since I’d last written in a diary or even a short story about my feelings. Tonight, I felt different about this, and I concocted some amount of reasoning into my actions. At this point, I couldn’t understand my own feelings. However, if I created a fictional character who closely resembled myself and wrote them into existence with very similar circumstances, then maybe, just maybe, I might be able to clear everything up in my head. I might be able to resolve this issue and regain control of myself.
As the night was coming to a close, and I thought my story ended, Barry never came to bed. I had no clue where he was or what he was feeling. To make matters worse, as I stared aimlessly at my computer, I realized that my story wasn’t really complete. I’d just made my characters avoid the major confrontation necessary to create a resolution. There wasn’t a clash, a climax, or anything of that sort. I’d left my story without an ending, and I began to realize that I truly did not have control of this situation. The character I’d created to be myself fell in love with both men and couldn’t decide whom she should love solely.
“It’s quite simple,” I said as I paced around the room while looking at him. “Just tell me who Barry is and what he does and all of this will be over.” Now, I was leaning over him, staring right into his eyes. He didn’t reply. “Very well. I guess we’ll continue.”
I motioned to Boone, and he hit him again. Then again. And again. His blood was seeping from his mouth, yet he didn’t talk. He hadn’t said a single word throughout this three-hour interrogation. I checked my watch, which read one a.m., and told Boone to stop.
“I’ll give you one more chance,” I hissed. “Tell me what I want to know and this will all be over.”
“Go fuck yourself,” he responded with a bloody smile.
My phone began to ring just when he finished, and his stupid face got all smug. He clearly didn’t know who I was. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have responded that way about a phone call. He must have believed that I was just some low-level guy getting a call from his boss, but he couldn’t have been further off.
“Did you do it?” I asked, and his face went blank as if he finally understood the situation he was in. “Do you have Mr. Tyler’s family?”
All the blood in Mr. Tyler’s face went missing and he became quite pale. “No,” he whispered. “Please leave them alone.”
I put my index finger to my lips and told him to be quite. “Oh, that’s unfortunate,” I responded to Drake, who was on the other end of the phone call.
“What’s unfortunate?” Mr. Tyler asked. “Please tell me you didn’t hurt them!” he yelled, and I had Boone hit him again to make him shut up.
“Okay. Send me a picture of the daughter so Mr. Tyler here knows we’re not fucking around.” I hung up the phone and deviously smiled at Mr. Tyler, who was not taking this whole family thing well.
He was fig
“Now, I’ll ask you again. But this time, every time you don’t answer, she loses a finger. And then her toes, and if there’s nothing left, I’ll have my guy slit her throat. So, if you please.”
“Barry…” he mumbled.
“I’m sorry. I can’t hear you.”
“Barry runs the books for the Nugent operation,” he responded with tears running down his face.
“Was that so hard?” I teased. “Oh, yeah, and Mr. Tyler.” He looked up. “That was Photoshopped. Your daughter has all of her fingers and is safe in bed. I would never hurt an innocent person.”
He looked relieved, and some color came back to his face.
“But,” I continued, “you are not an innocent person.” With that, Boone stepped to his side and put a Glock to the side of his head. “Save a seat in hell for me.”
“Wait!” he screamed, and I motioned for Boone to back off.
“What could you possibly say to stop me from killing you?” I asked.
“There’s another player,” he said. “Someone backing Mrs. Nugent and funding her operations.” His breathing quickened. “He’s the one who put the hit out on you, not Nugent.”
Another player? This couldn’t be good, and for some reason, I believed him. There was no way Mrs. Nugent could launch her operations without a backer. She didn’t have enough money, and I knew there had to be someone else.
“Who?” I asked—rather politely if I do say so myself.