I cant believe your car quit out here, I laugh, swinging our entwined hands between us as we walk down the gravel road.
Ugh, I know, he groans. I laugh.
Dont sweat it, Dare, I say, moving closer, into his side. He lets go of my hand to wrap his arm around my shoulders and hold me tight against him. Its not your fault. And at least we have a good excuse for getting home late.
He laughs and kisses my temple. True, true. But I have a bad feeling. Like somethings gonna happen, Sammy.
I smile up at him. Sure its not just the weather, old man?
He rolls his eyes skyward but grins. No, its not my bones telling me about the snow storm sneaking up on us. I
I dont know what it is. I just
Oh, psh, youre just horny.
Sammy, he warns, giving me a stern look that I find oddly hilarious.
Im joking! We exchange a smile and a quick kiss, continuing our cold walk under the silver clouds and sparkling stars.
We look at each other as a distant rumble reaches our ears.
A car? Maybe they can help us. Or at least let us use a phone.
Maybe, Daryn replies. I cant believe you forgot your cell phone.
Hey! I protest. Youre the one who forgot to charge his phone!
He laughs. Alright, alright, truce, truce! He kisses my temple again, and we keep walking, smiles on our faces. Love in our hearts.
The rumble grows louder, and Daryn grows tense. He lets go of me, telling me to get in the ditch. Shaking my head, I move off the gravel road and into the grass.
Soon, lights bounce onto his tall frame as a truck roars up the road. He raises a hand, but it doesnt slow.
Dary! I shout, taking a step forward. At the last second, he jumps back out of the way, stumbling into the grass.
Crazy-- The screech of brakes and grind of gravel overrides his next words. Dust floats up around the truck and in its red taillights as it sits there for a few seconds and Daryn straightens, putting his body between it and me.
Gears grind, and suddenly its shooting backwards, then sliding to a halt again. A window rolls down, Daryn gropes for and then grips my hand, a puff of smoky air rolling out to us.
What-Whatareyou d-doing out here, thish time o n-night, a man sticks his head out the window and slurs, hiccupping in between.
Our car broke down, Daryn replies. I can tell hes biting back what he really wants to say. We need to use a cell phone. I squeeze his fingers reassuringly.
The drunks eyes bob past Daryn to me. I see them widen and focus, and pick up a twinkle that sends a chill down my spine. Daryn shifts to block me more from their view. Im thankful, and I squeeze his fingers again.
Do you have a cell phone we can use? he reiterates with infinite patience.
The man slurs a response and pulls his head in to converse with the driver. I can feel Daryn growing more tense by the second, and when the engine cuts, he steps backwards, forcing me back too.
The doors of the truck open and three men get out, none of them sober, but all of them grinning to each other and menacing closer.
Dary? I whisper, not wanting to accept that these men planned to hurt us.
We just need to use a cell phone, Daryn says again, taking another step back, shielding me.
They spread out like wolves after sheep, one on either side, one in front. I jump slightly as my back hits the wood fence.
Cornered, just like sheep.
We dont want any trouble! Daryn says loudly, protecting me with his body as the men move closer and closer.
We didnt ashk if you did, d-did we? one slurs, making the others laugh. Fear curls like a boa in my guts, icing over my veins.
Dary, I whisper. I dont want him to get hurt.
Leave us-- Daryn starts, but one lunges. The drunk meets Daryns fist, but another jumps on him, and the third grabs my arm. I lose contact with Daryn and shriek as the drunk yanks me toward him. I kick at him, miss my target, and hit his shin. He howls, releasing me to clasp his leg and hop around. It would be comedic if the situation wasnt so serious.
Sam! Daryn yells, his rage lending him strength. I watch him throw off the two men, wanting to help but knowing there was nothing I could do. He lands a kick to ones groin, dropping him in a heartbeat. I yell his name as he tries to reach me.
The other man grabs him around the waist, taking him down even as arms wrap around me from behind. I scream and Daryn roars my name, fighting like a beast.
I got the bi-bitcsh! Hot, smelly breath hits me in the face, making my stomach turn. Fumbling paws grope everything they can as I struggle, gritting my teeth and praying for help. No matter what I do, how wildly I kick my legs, Im not strong enough, not agile enough to break free. Fear and adrenaline drive me to fight harder than Ive ever fought, but its no use.
Daryn! I scream as I hear knuckles crunch bone. I pray to God its not Daryns bone.
God doesnt hear me.
Suddenly, the fight is less fierce, and in the darkness, I see Daryn fall to the ground. One of the men falls on him, the one he kicked in the balls, and starts beating him, hitting him over and over without mercy of any kind.
Tears stream down my face and my voice grows hoarse from screaming.
Hes gettin what he deserves, little shlut, the one holding me hisses in my ear. It heats the rage in me and I stomp my foot down as hard as I can, right onto his instep. He howls and releases me again. I stumble forward, vision blurred by tears. I push the other man out of my way and drop to my knees beside Daryn.
His face is covered in blood, already swelling and unrecognizable. Oh my God! I choke, putting my shaking hands on the sides of his face.
Grab her! someone slurs, but my attention is focused on Daryn. He coughs, blood bubbling out of his mouth. I can see his front teeth are loose, and nausea makes me cringe.
S-Sam, he gurgles.
Shh! Shh, baby, itll be okay, itll be okay! I blubber, though I know it wont.
I s-sorry, so-so sorry, he says, trying to see me through the blood in his eyes.
Grab her! one shouts again.
I love you, Sam--Im sorry--
I love you, too! I cry as heavy hands pull me away. No! I scream, not that it makes a difference.
Make him watcsh! one of them suggests as the other throws me to the ground.
He holds me down and rips at my clothes. My hands work hard to keep everything in place, but somehow, he still manages tear open my jacket and shirt, and rip down my jeans.
Daryn had believed in abstinence, in tender, true love. All I know of my first time is the pain, pain pain pain, over and over, ripping me apart as I bite clear through my lip and fill my mouth with salty, coppery blood. My nails dont seem to affect my attacker, and God seems to ignore my prayers.
Worse than the pain is the fear, the fear for Daryn, the regret that I was being ruined before we could get married and share a special moment of love and learning.
I try not to cry out, I dont want to give them the satisfaction of it, or make it any worse for Daryn. But I cant stop the tears.
It seems like an eternity before all three of them are done with me. They laugh and make a mockery of my abuse.
I lay only a few feet from where they dropped Daryn after making him watch, and he croaks my name, reaching out for me. I struggle to wiggle closer, to take his hand. I ignore the pain screaming through my body and drag myself close enough to grip his fingers.
They laugh at us, laugh and mock and spit, drinking and smoking all the while.
Daryn meets my eyes and whispers, Im so sorry, Sam. Im sorry I couldnt protect you--
No, no, baby. Its not your fault, you did protect me, as best you could--
It wasnt enough, and Im sorry. I love you, Sam. I love you, till death do us part and beyond. He coughs, choking on his own blood. Forever and always, Sam, I love you. Remember that. Nothing can keep me from you.
My heart burns, bursting with love even as it breaks, shattering into a thousand pieces; each piece screams for my love, for vengence and justice.
Daryn squeezes my fingers, and then lets go. He lurches up in one swift, ungraceful move and jumps the closest one, digging his keys into the mans skin even as he knees him in the groin as hard as he can.
It turns into a full-blown brawl again, with Daryn fighting like a demon, but its an unfair fight. Three against one, Daryn is overpowered. One of the men pulls his arm back and behind him; it cracks sickeningly and Daryn lets out an animal growl.
A sob chokes its way out of my chest. The one hed kneed so hard pulls out a knife; my eyes widen and I scream Daryns name.
Blood splatters across my face. Shock freezes me.
The other two jump back, letting Daryns body crumple lifelessly. They turn into a bunch of cackling chickens, alarmed, unsure of what to do now. They argue amongst themselves, and end up running back to their truck and roaring away.
Im not crying anymore. Im numb, caught between disbelief and utter heartbreak. I roll over and crawl toward Daryns body, ignoring the screaming pain of my own body. This cant be happening, this is a nightmare, this isnt real, I find myself thinking.
But the sticky red liquid splashed across my face and soaking into the ground says otherwise.
My hand finds Daryns and grips it tight. Its already cool and growing colder. And yet, I feel his fingers twitch against mine, trying to squeeze, but not quite succeeding.
And then he is completely still. His fingers lose all strength, and Im denying it out loud, over and over.
No, no, no, no, no--
My eyes refocused, blurred by fresh tears, and I looked up at his face again. He was paler than hed ever been, and gaunt-looking. His eyes were dull and black, guarded, haunted, but it was him.
It was Daryn.