Pulled (Page 75)

Author: A.L. Jackson

I whispered, “You should have told me, all of it.” I looked up, meeting Mom’s bleary eyes. “You shouldn’t have shouldered that alone all these years.”

“I know that now, and that’s why I’m here. I wish I could take it all back, but I can’t. all I can do now is ask for forgiveness.”

I studied the granite counter as I mourned for the time I’d lost with my mother. My voice was weak when I spoke. “It hurts so much to know that you went through all of that.” I swal owed. “That Dad hurt you that way.” Finally, I looked up and found her weary face.

“Mom, I told you yesterday I thought I’d already forgiven you, and I know now I have. I’m just sorry we lost so many years.” She smiled a watery smile, relieved we’d come to terms. She reached out and grasped my hand. “Melanie, don’t you see that what Nicholas has done to you is no different than what Steve did to me?” She squeezed my hand. “You have to get out of this house.” I tensed as I realized the paral els of our lives, how I’d unassumingly put myself in the same position she had been. I nodded, knowing she was right. I had to get out of here, though I knew I couldn’t hide my fear with the thought of actually doing it.

Chapter 24

I was done.

Her concern was clearly for me, but my safety was the least of my concerns.

I released the blind, all owing it to fal back into place, cutting off the stream of natural sunlight from my office once he had driven away. It was the third time I’d seen him, twice in front of my office and once outside my apartment building the day I moved to the new house, just sitting, watching, waiting. He wasn’t even trying to hide himself. It seemed that just as Melanie had been trying to send him a message, he was sending me one in return.

After what had happened on Thanksgiving,

everything had changed. I’d only seen Melanie four times in the past three weeks, only in those rare moments when we were certain Nicholas was busy, relying on Shane to let us know when it was safe to steal away for a little bit of time.

Melanie insisted that she continue to stay in his house. As hard as she tried to convince me otherwise, I knew it wasn’t about the plan anymore. She was scared.

I’d promised to give her the time she needed, but not if giving her that time put her in danger. The whole thing had backfired, and I wasn’t about to stand by while she was forced back into that hopeless life.

Never in a million years would I have thought Peggy would become my ally through all of this. I’d not even known what to say when she’d called and explained everything to me, apologizing for what she’d done. Melanie had freely forgiven her, as if I would ever expect anything less from her. I wanted to have the capacity to do the same, but I still couldn’t get over how Peggy had let it go on for so many years. She knew we still loved each other and had seen what Melanie had become, but she’d never done a thing.

Her intentions were never cruel, though, and she wanted Melanie out of that house almost as much as I did.

In fact, she had begged me to get Melanie out of there, so I pushed back the resentment I held for her and asked for her help to do it. I knew that as long as Melanie faced Nicholas’s scrutiny on a daily basis, she would never be able to see how effective he had been at keeping her just where he wanted her.

I needed Melanie to step back and see that if she stayed on this path, she would never be free and nothing would ever change. Nicholas still had the control, and he always would until she finally walked away. I decided to take her away and make sure she never went back. I looked over the tickets that arrived this morning, one for her and one for me. These two tickets would all ow us almost two weeks of sanctuary. I would spend that time getting Melanie to accept why I could never all ow her to go near Nicholas again.

Another ticket had been delivered directly to Nicholas’s house. Peggy had called him directly and told him she’d purchased a ticket for Melanie to come to their house for Christmas, convincing him Melanie would be spending time between Christmas and New Year’s with them. She insisted Melanie had to be there because Melanie’s little sister, Sarah, would be home from col ege. I didn’t believe Nicholas would care anything about that, but he’d surprisingly relented. Maybe he liked the idea of her being farther away from me.

I sighed in relief when my phone vibrated against my desk. It was our new routine. I would wait for Melanie to cal me so there was no chance that my cal s would occur when Nicholas was around.

My heart sped up just in anticipation of hearing her voice. “Hey, baby.”

“Hi.” I could feel her smile, could picture her curled up on her bed as she squeezed the phone to her ear. “Is it Wednesday yet?”

I chuckled, warmed at her eagerness, never agreeing with a sentiment more. December twenty-third could not come fast enough.

“Two days, baby, and then you’re all mine. Are you all set?”

“Um, I think so. Do I need to pack anything special?”

“Just pack warm, okay?”

“Hmm, I need to dress warm, huh? I guess

Hawaii’s out, then? Should I even try to guess where we’re going?”


She giggled, sighing through the phone. “I can’t wait. I miss you.” Her voice softened, tinged with a hint of sadness.

I knew she hated what she was putting herself through. She just felt trapped. I wanted to tel her it was all about to end, but I didn’t want her to know my intentions until she was safely with me. “I miss you so much, baby. It’s only two days away.”

“I know…these next two days are going to be very long.”

We both fel silent, hating the distance.

“I love you, Daniel.”

“I love you more than anything. Now go pack some sweaters. You know, it’s supposed to be freezing in Dal as this Christmas.”

She laughed. “Right.”

“I’ll see you at eight on Wednesday, okay?”

“Okay. Love you.” She was obviously as reluctant as I was to hang up the phone.

“Love you. Bye, Mel.”


I sighed and set my phone down, running my hands through my hair and sinking back into my chair. I would have lost it before now if I already didn’t know how close we were to the end of this mess. My phone vibrated again, and Vanessa’s number flashed across the screen again. I dutifully rejected her call. Apparently, I couldn’t be clear enough for that stupid bitch. I’d thought that after she had seen me with Melanie, she’d accept that she had no chance with me and she would be deterred. I had even become hopeful when she hadn’t called for most of November. Somewhere around Thanksgiving, she’d decided to give it another go. It seemed that the closer she got to her due date, the more needy she became. With just five weeks left, I was sure it was only going to get worse. I choked on a sip of coffee, realizing just how close that actually was. In five weeks, I would be a father.