Wallace pulled away from Aimee taking in her tear-stained face. His lips flattened into a thin straight line as he gripped her chin. “I told you never to come to the hospital again,” he hissed in her ear. Grabbing her arm he marched her out of the hospital lobby. Once they were outside he squeezed both of her arms until she cried out in pain. “You saw him again didn’t you?” He shaking her until she replied.
“No I only saw him from a distance. I didn’t talk him,” she uttered hastily as he raised his hand. “It won’t happen again I promise,” she added flinching from his touch.
“Why were you crying?” He shouted at her as he forced her into the car.
“Because .. because his brother saw me and told me to leave Gene alone,” she bit her lip in the vain hope it would prevent the sobs from spilling out. She never meant to cause Gene so much pain.
“So the brother knows your here?” he punched the steering wheel. Aimee jumped and visibly trembled when Wallace turned to glare at her. Swearing he threw the car into gear and drove from the hospital parking lot leaving Aimee to ponder what was going to happen next.
The next morning Wallace drove her to her parents house. She moved slowly hissing in pain as Wallace put his arm around her as they walked from the car to the front door. She bit into her bottom lip to keep from crying out from the pain. She felt faint as her father hugged her followed by her mother. She made her slow and careful way to the couch, gingerly she lowered herself into a seated position. She was vaguely aware of her mother watching her. “Did you hurt yourself Aimee?”
Over hearing the question Wallace answered for her “she exercised too strenuously yesterday.” Turning towards Aimee smiling sweetly “honey I did tell you, you were working out far too much and that you’d regret it. But she’s determined to look her best in her wedding dress.” He leaned over and kissed her, patting her head as he straightened up. Her mother smiled accepting the explanation. She changed the subject to discussing the wedding.
A couple of hours later Aimee stood up to go and change for supper. She was surprised when her mother followed her into her room she shared with Wallace while they stayed. As her mother helped her change she frowned as she noticed the raw red welts and bruises covering most of her back. “Aimee what happened?”
Aimee turned towards her mother and stared blankly through her “too much exercise mother,” her voice harsh and ragged.
Staring at her daughter’s bruised back she blinked back tears “Wallace did that, didn’t he?” she asked in a small tearful voice.
“What makes you ask that? That would make him a monster,” Aimee retorted throwing back her mother’s hurtful words. She brought her hand up to her mouth to hold back the sobs.
Her mother turned away stopping briefly at the door mumbling “I’m sorry.”
After that Aimee avoided being left alone with her mother opting to endure the overbearing presence of Wallace and her father. Occasionally she would catch a worried glance from her mother that she chose to ignore. “Why so sad Aimee?” her father asked “I miss that brilliant smile of yours.”
Shrugging Aimee replied “there’s not much to smile about.”
“Oh I think there is” her father looked meaningfully at Wallace who was mixing drinks for them.
“Yes you would think that Wallace was smile worthy,” she commented. “I’m nothing more than payment for services rendered. His parents bought me when they contributed money to your overseas venture.” She knew she was skating on thin ice speaking so openly in front of Wallace but she simply didn’t care. She caught Wallace staring at her and saw the anger sizzling behind his calm facade. She knew she was going to pay for what she said but she was past caring what that might be.
Feeling restless Gene went for a run. Upon coming back to the house an older woman was standing on the porch. Approaching her he asked “can I help you?”
Startled the woman jumped “I’m sorry,” she muttered. Turning to look at Gene she said “I’m looking for Gene Bennett. Does he live here?”
“You’re in luck I’m Gene Bennett,” he replied “would you like to come in?”
She nodded following him inside “would you like something to drink? I have water, coffee, tea or pop.”
“Water would be fine,” she watched him move around the kitchen. She was curious as to the type of man he was. She had never been interested in who he was just that his past was checkered at best.
There was a commotion as two blond girls tumbled over each other yelling “daddy, daddy.” Gene lifted them up into his arms and snuggled each of them “luv’s daddy,” they giggled in his embrace. He put them down as he brought her the water. The girls trailed behind him their brown eyes full of curiosity. She leaned down addressing them “hi I’m Amelia.” One of the girls smiled at her “I’m Jazzy and this is Stephy.” The girls giggled “you’re pretty.”
“Thank you. I think your pretty too.”
Gene stooped down with the girls “daddy needs to talk to this lady, so can you play in your room for a little while.” They nodded waving their hands at Amelia as they went to their room.
“They’re adorable,” she said to Gene with a smile.
“Yes they are,” he agreed. Gene stared at her for a moment before asking “why are you here?”
“Do you know who I am?” she asked. Gene nodded “I should have expected that you would. Aimee did try to tell me you were intelligent.” Taking a deep breath she continued almost talking to herself. “I had to see for myself. Aimee tried to tell us but we wouldn’t listen. My husband called your house a shack. It’s small but comfortable.” Tears formed in her eyes “I’m sorry seeing you with your little girls has made me realize how much I missed by not being there for Aimee.” Turning tear filled eyes to Gene “I’ve made a horrible mistake.”
Gene remained silent unsure what he should say. He had so many thing he wanted to say to this woman. So many things he had rehearsed if he ever had the opportunity but now face to face with her he couldn’t bring himself to lay into her. She didn’t appear to the be the ogre he had imagined she was.
Wiping her eyes she looked up at Gene “you must think we’re terrible parents.”
Gene nodded “I don’t understand why, if you loved your daughter as you claim why you could never accept her for who she is. Why wasn’t she good enough? Why did you have to try to change her?”
“You’re right we should have accepted her the way she was. All she ever wanted was our approval and we used that desire against her.” Shaking her head in dismay “now that she has it all I want is to have my little girl back.” Wiping at a tear “my husband had a business deal with Wallace’s parents. We thought it was a bonus when Wallace took an interest in our Aimee. Wallace is good-looking, has money, a surgeon in Hidden Springs. Everything we could have hoped for in a husband for our daughter.”
“Everything I’m not,” Gene said trying to keep the bitterness from his voice.
“Yes or so we thought,” she smiled at him “I’m sorry Gene we must seem to you like snobs only looking at how much a person’s worth. We should have looked deeper at the person inside and we might have seen what Aimee saw in you.”
Growing tired with the conversation Gene asked “what does all of this have to do with me? I saw Aimee in Hidden Springs with her fiance. She’s moved on. Why tell me all of this?”
Sighing she looked down “I want you to save my daughter.”
Shocked Gene sat there thinking he had heard her wrong “I’m sorry what? Save her from what? I don’t understand?”
“She tried to tell me but I wouldn’t listen but …. but ….” she started to cry “I saw the bruises and I knew. Wallace hits her and we let him. I heard him and I begged my husband to do something. He won’t, not as long as he needs their money for his business dealings. He’d rather pretend he’s deaf and blind to our daughter’s pain. I can’t. I have to do something,” grabbing Gene’s hand “please help me. I’m begging you. Help my daughter.”
Taking in large gulps of air Gene kept imagining the pain and suffering Aimee was in. The fear and helplessness, he couldn’t turn his back on her. Despite the pain she had put him through he couldn’t let her suffer, not if there was something he could do to help. Nodding he asked “are they still at your house?”
“Yes I can take you there in my care,” she jumped to her feet anxious to be on their way.
“Michael are you ok watching the girls?” Gene asked knowing his brother had been listening to everything.
Michael nodded his head “be careful Gene.”
“I will,” Gene assured him.
Pulling up outside the house Gene sighed wondering what he was supposed to do. Go in cave man style and drag his woman out by the hair or swoop in like superman and carry her out. Shaking his head he knew whatever he did he had to get Aimee out of that house and away from Wallace.
Aimee stared across the table at Wallace dreading being left alone with him. Her parents had left early for the office. Why did they have to go on a Saturday? But that was par for the course, it had been that way ever since she could remember. She knew that parents believed Wallace was the perfect man. Who cared that he beat her? They had to of heard her cries regardless of her efforts to muffle them.
She was never going to have a hope of having a normal life if she didn’t do something to save herself. She either had to accept this life of misery with Wallace and make per parents happy. That was the option she was following and she wrinkled her nose at it. Why should she care whether they were happy? They so obviously could care less about her happiness. She had tried all her life to gain their love and approval only to be rewarded with silence. She turned to video games that her parents bought her feeding her growing obsession with them. Did she really want to be famous for game commentary? Was it just her desperate attempt to belong somewhere? She wasn’t entirely sure anymore. In a lot of ways being forced to face life without an escape route helped her realize that she wasn’t a whole person. How could she expect Gene or anyone else to love her when she didn’t know who she was?
Looking at Wallace she knew she couldn’t live like this anymore. Leaving her with only one option, stand up for herself. She couldn’t expect anyone else to come to her rescue. Wallace walked around the table stopping to kiss the top of her head. Aimee closed her eyes. Breathing deeply she spoke “Wallace I want you to leave.” Taking the ring from her finger she laid it on the table. “I can’t marry you.”
His hands landed heavily on her shoulders, squeezing as he said “you will.” His voice low and vibrating with anger.
Shaking her head “no I won’t. I’m tired of being your punching bag. I may not be worth much but I’m worth more than this.”
“You stupid silly girl. Your worth as much as I say you do.” He back-handed her sending her crashing to the floor. “I’ll make sure your worth nothing to anyone.” He lifted his foot viciously kicking her.
She rolled on her side crying as pain seared through her. She couldn’t breath as she tried to crawl away from his merciless kicks. She laid helpless on the dining room floor while Wallace delivered kick after kick. She jerked away as she felt him kneel beside her. She opened her eyes as he inspected her injuries. “Have you reconsidered?” he held the ring out to her waiting for her to lift her hand so he could slip the ring on her finger.
“No,” she choked out as his hands tightened around her throat. As she slipped from consciousness she heard her angel, her hero.
“Let her go,” Gene demanded as he rushed into the dining room finding Wallace choking the life out of Aimee.
Releasing Aimee from his grasp Wallace stood to face Gene. “So I finally get to meet Aimee’s knight. Do you really think you’re man enough to save the princess?”
Gene warily looked at the dark-haired man standing across the table from him. You’re such a big man who the only person you can beat up is a defenseless girl.”
Wallace’s eye narrowed to slits as his fists hit the table. “Listen to me you worthless alcoholic little pip squeak. No one and I mean no one talks to me like that.”
“Just because they don’t say it to your face doesn’t mean it’s not true,” Gene retorted as he edged around the table to check on Aimee.
“Get away from her,” Wallace demanded “I won’t have your filth touching what’s mine.”
“Tough,” Gene said kneeling beside her checking for a pulse. That moment of distraction was enough for Wallace to hurl himself at Gene. They both went crashing onto the floor.
Amelia ran to her daughter. “Aimee” she cried frightened by her sickly grey pallor. Fishing in her purse she pulled out her phone. “I need an ambulance at 105 Oceanside Drive. My daughter has been badly beaten. Yes I need the police.” She tossed the phone aside as she tried to awaken her daughter.
The sounds coming from the kitchen worried Amelia as she waited for the police to arrive. She looked up as her husband came bursting into the room. “What’s going on in here?” he demanded.
Amelia looked up at her husband of 25 years and said “Wallace just beat our daughter and Gene is defending her. Something we should have done and didn’t.” She looked at him in disgust.
He took a step towards the kitchen as the room was filled with police and paramedics. The police quickly broke up the fight. They led the two combatants out “Which one of these is responsible for beating up your daughter?”
Wallace looked haughtily at Arnold as he turned towards the cops “this miscreant broke into our home and threatened my fiance. He attacked her. I had no choice but to defend myself and her by attacking him.”
Gene opened his mouth to deny the charges when Aimee’s father spoke up “yes quite right this man,” he pointed at Gene “broke into my home and attacked by daughter.”
The police moved quick in arresting Gene and slapping handcuffs around his wrists. They were starting to lead him out when Amelia blocked their path “no stop you’ve got the wrong man. Gene didn’t do anything to my daughter.” She turned pleading eyes towards her husband hoping he would do the right thing. He turned away refusing to look at her. “My husband wasn’t even here to see what happened. You can check with his office that he was there. I asked Gene to come her to help get Aimee away from Wallace. He’s been beating her and we let it happen.” She shook her head “well no more. For once in my life I’m putting my foot down and doing what’s best for my daughter.”
“Shut up you stupid woman,” her husband shouted at her “I need their money to fund that business venture….”
“Oh and that gives Wallace the right to beat our daughter? No, no more. My daughter deserves better than that better than us.” She turned to the police officers holding Gene “let him go. He was only trying to help. Wallace attacked him and my daughter.”
Gene looked up as the officers stood aside to discuss what they should do. He made eye contact with Wallace who smiled back at him. Gene caught the glint of light on the knife Wallace had in his hand as he threw it. Without thought or hesitation he threw himself in front of Amelia. He felt the blade embed deep in his back. Grunting he landed heavily on top of Amelia who struggled out from underneath him. There was shouting all around him as he felt hands lift him as others helped Amelia up. His last thought was regret that he wasn’t going to see his little girls grow up.