Chapter 11: Crossfire


Present day Los Angeles, California…

            It was a bright and beautiful Sunday morning. The temperature was a perfect seventy-six. The birds were chirping, sun was shining, and the flowers smelled great. It was the beginning to a seemingly perfect day.
            Scarlette had made herself a fresh pot of coffee and grabbed a day old croissant out of the basket on her kitchen counter. She walked to the breakfast bar and sat down on a barstool. Picking at the croissant, taking small nibbles as she waited for the coffee to brew, debating if she should scramble some eggs and fry up some bacon. Maybe some pancakes too. Ooh, pancakes sounded delicious, with butter. Groaning with delight she hopped off the barstool and began to gather ingredients.
            Humming to herself and she went through the refrigerator, she felt a warm hand on her shoulder which caused her to almost scream and drop the eggs she had.
            “Holy crap!” She gasped.
            He had grabbed the eggs before they toppled to the floor. “Forget about me?” He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead.
            “Yeah, kinda.” She smiled. “What? Afraid of my morning breath?” She grinned at him.
            He leaned back forward and kissed her on the lips. After a minute they broke away. “I know women don’t have morning breath.” Grinning, he went to the stove placing the eggs carefully down so they didn’t roll off. He began going through the cupboards. “Where are your pans?”
            “David, you don’t…” He cut her off before Scarlette could finish.
            “Hush. I want to cook for you.”
            “Alright, fine. But if you burn breakfast you’re taking me out for breakfast then.” She went back to her barstool. “Pans are under the stove, in the drawer. Spatulas are on the drawer to your left, dishes are two cabinets to your right.”
            He mocked offense by placing a hand over his chest. “You don’t think I can cook?”
            She shrugged with a smirk as she broke apart what was left of the croissant.
            He turned back around and turned on the stove. “Challenge accepted.” He bent down opened the drawer and pulled out two pans, a small and medium. Then retrieved a spatula from the drawer.
            She giggled.
            “Oh, by the way, I used your toothbrush. Hope you don’t mind.”
            Scarlette froze, staring at his back, too disgusted to say anything.
            He turned back to her smiling then burst out laughing. “Oh my god, you look like you just ate a worm. I’m kidding, babe, kidding.” He went over to her and kissed her. “Finger & toothpaste, I swear.” He kissed her again.
            “I swear, I would have broken up with you right here, right now. That’s so gross.” She mocked heaving.
            He laughed and went back to the stove. “What’s so bad about sharing a toothbrush? You have no problem sharing each other’s saliva.” He winked back at her.
            “Eww, that’s different. Toothbrushes harbor food debris  and tarter and god knows what else.” She scrunched up her face. “That’s like eating my vomit or sharing underwear or something.”
            “Well, when you put it like that…” He tried to hide a grin.
            It was comfortably silent for a few minutes. Scarlette brushed the crumbs of her stale croissant into her hands, walked over to the trash that was hidden in a cabinet and tossed it in there. “I know we haven’t been seeing each other very long but I just wanted to say thanks for waiting...”
            He was placing some bacon on a plate with paper towels. “Hmm? What waiting?” He quickly glanced back at her as he placed uncooked bacon in the pan. “Can you mix the pancakes together for me please?”
            “Sure.” She grabbed some more eggs and milk from the refrigerator then a mixing bowl and measuring cup from a cabinet. Slowly began to measure everything and place it in the bowl. “I meant waiting to have sex.” She could feel her cheeks get warm. Yes, let’s talk about sex and the lack of it over breakfast, you numbskull. She thought to herself.
            “Oh. That.” He waited a few beats before continuing. “Sex is nice, but it’s not everything. It’s not something I want this relationship to be solely built on. I mean, I love sex, I’m a guy. Of course I love sex. But does that mean it’s everything? No. I’ll be ready for it when you are.”
            She smiled to herself. “Thank you. It won’t be all in vain. I promise.”
            “I know.” He smiled over his shoulder.
            Silence drifted over them again. She thought about a few things for a moment. “Don’t you wonder why?”
            “No. You have your reasons and if you want to share them, you will. If you don’t that’s okay too. It’s none of my business. You’re getting divorced and you’re probably stressed enough about that and what moronic thing or things he’ll do.” He turned to her. “I know I was stressed as hell and sex was the last thing on my mind when I was going through a divorce.” He walked over to where Scarlette was mixing the pancake mix and leaned his lower back on the edge of the counter. “It’s no big deal.” He smiled. “Yet.”
            She gave him a slow smile. “You’re right. I have my reasons.” She scraped some of the pancake mix off the inside of the bowl. “There’s the divorce that plays a role and another…”
            David stiffened a little.
            “I’m just afraid of how you’ll react.” She looked at him. “Oh, no. My vagina is clean. I can even go get a test done and show you the paperwork and everything. It’s nothing like that.” She tapped the spoon on the edge of the bowl repeatedly. “Of which, I would like some paperwork from you. Not right now, but in the near future.” She looked him dead in the eye.
            He stared right back into hers. “Not a problem. I was going to bring that up with you, if you didn’t, at some point anyways.” He shrugged.
            She nodded and handed him the bowl. “We’ll have ‘the talk’ at some point. Don’t worry.”
            He nodded and went back to the stove. “Like I said babe, whenever you’re ready. I’m in no rush.”
            She took in a breath and thought that maybe now would be a good time to talk to him about Rob. “Well, I guess I should mention something else.”
            David was placing the last of the bacon on a plate and turned off the stove. “Yeah?” He turned to her with a plate and pan in hand.
            He took in a loud breath and sighed. “Okay. What of him?”
            “He might not be so keen on us hanging out, dating, whatever we’re doing.” She tried to make eye contact but couldn’t bring herself to hold it for long. So she just stared down at the counter top.
            David crossed his arms over his chest. “So you’re saying he might get jealous.”
            Scarlette nodded. “There are something, that have happened between him and I. Some really bad things. Things I should have left him for a while ago and that he probably signs that he is capable of bad things.” She looked up to see David raising an eyebrow and staring at her. “At least, that’s what I’ve been thinking…” She put the temple of her head in the palm of her hand. “I hope I’m really wrong & over thinking thing of him. Over estimating him.”
            David shook his head and turned to get plates. “Well,” He began to serve them both. “It couldn’t be that bad, if what has happened now has made you leave him.” He went to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of orange juice.
            “Cupboard next to the fridge.” Telling David where the glasses where. “No, it should have been why I left him. I should have left him months ago. I damaged a lot of relationships because of it.” She just couldn’t bring herself to say it, still unable to completely fathom what had happened. Even looking at the pictures of herself made her feel like she was looking at someone else, not herself. It felt like another life time, someone else she knew. Not her. It felt too surreal to have happened to be in that moment, to talk to officers, doctors, examiners, district attorneys, friends, family, over and over about it. An out of body experience, that’s all it felt like.
            She looked back up at David remembering where she was.
            “Are you okay?” David froze in a position because he was leaning over the sink to hand her a plate of food. He searched her face for something.
            She put one finger up and hopped off the barstool. She walked back into her office and opened a drawer in one of the mahogany filing cabinets. She knew exactly where it was, which manila folder it was hiding in. She stared at it for a moment before reaching to it. She grabbed it, flipped through it. It was all there, even at a glance she knew it was all there. Police reports, doctors examination, photos, copies of copies of everything about the case. She walked back out of the office and made her way to the kitchen again.
David had placed himself on a barstool next to hers at an angle. Sitting at an angle, he watched her make her way back to the barstool, eying the folder in her hand. “What’s that?”
“Eat first, then we’ll get into it.”

About an hour later, the food was eaten and the kitchen was clean. Another pot of coffee was brewing. Scarlette had realized in their silent but delicious breakfast, that this was something that could break everything. She had mentally prepared herself, but only that could do so much.
They sat on the barstools again, in silence. David patiently waited for Scarlette to begin, to open the folder. Hopefully, he had mentally prepared himself as well.
“This…” Scarlette began slowly. “This is probably something I should have gone over a long time ago.” She motioned to the folder that was laying on the countertop. “It’s a lot, a lot of…” She tried to search for the right word or words. “Information, I suppose, a lot to take in. I, myself, have a hard time understanding it still. Or accepting it, maybe is a better way of putting it.” She took in a deep breath. “I am willing to accept whatever you decide. If you want to stay or go because this is probably the worst way I can tell you.” She pushed the folder in front of him. “It’s a bit graphic.” She winced.
David nodded, taking in a deep breath himself. He slowly opened the folder. The top page was the police report. It took a few minutes for him to read it, or maybe he kept re-reading it. He turned the page, it was a stack of photos, he began to grit his teeth as he flipped through each photo carefully, studying each one briefly.
Scarlette looked away as he looked at the photos, she quietly got up from the barstool and padded over to the coffee maker, pouring herself a cup of coffee and him a glass of water from the fridge. She placed the water in front of him and mixed up her coffee the way she usually did with creamer and sugar. She leaned against the cold counter and watched him from across as she sipped soundlessly.
He went over each picture at least twice. Carefully read each report and statement. Flipping back and forth, scanning everything again. Maybe to make sure he was seeing everything clearly. Maybe to compare and contrast to see if it was real.
After a while, Scarlette was more than half way through the twelve cup pot of coffee. She had just returned from her room, she had gone to use the bathroom but decided to at least change into some jeans and The Killers tee shirt. She was putting her hair up into a ponytail as she came to the kitchen. She paused for  a brief moment when she saw him close the folder, pushed it away and stared straight ahead. She quietly and slowly sat next to him, facing him, waiting for him to speak first.
He stared forward for a while long before glancing at her. Taking the glass in his hand and drank about half of the water. He took in a deep breath and exhaled it again.
Scarlette noticed he was slightly shaking by the way the water rippled in the glass. She scooted a bit back in her chair and sat up straighter as she eyed him, trying to read his body language. Still, she sat quietly and waited.
“This wasn’t that long ago.” He still didn’t look at her.
“No.” She shook her head.
“Why wasn’t this everywhere?”
She licked her lips as she looked down at the floor but never faltered in her posture. “We did a lot of overtime covering it up.” Her voice sounded hollow to her.
Finally David turned his head to her. “He should have gone to prison for this.” He voice was steady and even, even though he was having a hard time controlling it.
“A year and community service. He wouldn’t even serve a year in jail anyways.” She looked up at David. “We both know that.”
He shook his head and went back to staring at the cabinets or wall or whatever it was he was staring off into. “Why?”
“Why what?”
“Why show me this now? I mean, I know but you could have gone on pretending nothing like this happened.”
She tilted her head to the left. “To show you what kind of person he can really be.”
“Do you really think he’ll…”
She cut him off. “I’ve taken self-defense classes and I still continue to as a precaution.” She swallowed. “I wouldn’t underestimate him.”
David stood which startled Scarlette. “I’m going to go get dressed.” He turned away from her without giving her so much a glance.
Once he walked out of the room, let out the breath she was holding and ran her hands over her face. “Whoops!” Turning to the counter and rested her head in her palms. Going over things in her head, deciding it was the best thing. She can’t hold it in as much as she and everyone tried to hide it. It always made things worse, it never helped. Rob probably sat there thinking she’ll always try to hide things to protect herself, he could hold anything over her head. To avoid media confrontation or any kind of confrontation. Her mind was running a million miles a minute. She needed to make her first step to standing up for herself clear. The shame she carried wasn’t because of what he did, it was because of what she hid behind.
She went back to her office and put the file back, when she came out David was putting his glass in the sink. “I’m going to go.”
Oh, I see. “Okay.” She said nonchalantly, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning against the door frame, keeping her eyes on him.
He couldn’t keep eye contact on her. “I’ll call you later.” He walked by her.
“I’m sure.” She looked down at her nails.
He stopped and turned to her. “I need time to think.”
She narrowed her eyes on him. “We both know you have.”
“Just get out. Don’t look back.” She nudged her head towards the door. “I’ll be fine. I’ve been,” She paused, the words caught in her throat for a moment. “beaten,” Wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. “I’ve been married to someone that is clearly lost, so this isn’t the worst thing to have happened to me.” She held his eye contact. “I’d rather have told you now than later down the road when things really could have been messy. Sorry to have dropped a proverbial bomb on you, but it is what it is. It’s a part of me as much I hate it. Things are just not meant to be between us. Thanks for the good times though.” She shrugged.
David shook his head. “I just need to get my head in the right space. Don’t end this all so quickly.”
She looked at him and shook her head. “You are where you are. Nothing is going to change that. That’s fine. If can’t accept this part of my history, I don’t know what to tell you. I thought you would have handled it better, a lot better.” She walked over to the front door and opened it. “I think it’s time you go.” She looked at him.
David stopped in front of her at the door. He looked like he wanted to say something, but sighed instead and walked out the door.
Scarlette didn’t wait for him to even get down the steps before she shut and locked the door behind him. She leaned her back against the door and let a few silent tears roll down her cheeks. Not the way she was hoping for but it was for the best. Maybe it wasn’t the best time, maybe she could have done it in a better way, but what was done was done and there was no looking back now. This is why she didn’t want to date. She didn’t blame David at all. She blamed Rob and herself. But how else was she going to do it. “Hi, my name is Scarlette and my husband beat me, wanna see the pictures???” She grunted and pushed herself away from the door, glumly walking to the living room. Next time, no file, just talking. If she could manage. She let herself collapse on the plush of rich peacock blue sofa and just laid there a moment.
Her phone started to ring on the kitchen counter. She just let it go to voicemail, not wanting to move. Just wanting to slowly process everything that just happened in the past two hours, figure out where to go from there. Her phone rang two more times, she just stared off into space. At least she knew one thing for sure. She was going to push forward and never go back to Rob.