• Bre'A Belle

Chapter 27: Panic Room

I was as giddy as a schoolgirl on the day of Rachel’s baby shower. I was a bit uncomfortable riding all the way to Mercer County in the winter time with a seat belt strapped underneath my belly. Yet again, I was shocked by the fact that I was getting bigger and bigger each day. At this point, I probably had my own gravitational pull and I was not happy about it. My back was killing me and I hardly ever slept because of having to pee all night long. Whoever it was said that pregnancy was beautiful needed their face smacked.

I complained all the way there, but Danny just sat quietly with his eyes fixed on the road and held my hand. The ride to Bluefield from Welch was no joke in the winter time. You had two big ass mountains to drive up that were usually covered in ice and if you didn’t have some good ass snow tires, then there was no way in hell that you would make it. I was terrified, but Danny assured me that he was skilled when it came to driving in the snow. Plus, Rachel was like my sister and she would never forgive me if I missed out on one of her big days.

“Keep your cool and I promise you, I’ll buy you a strawberry lemonade from Sunny Days,” he said when we finally made it into Bluefield. My eyes lit up and I was practically bouncing in my seat. Fauna seemed to be excited too because the closer we got to the mall, the more she jumped around inside me. “Thank you baby!” I nearly shouted, grinning from ear to ear. “You

know I have to spoil my girls,” he said happily. “Especially Mommy,” he added with a wink. Our sex life had gotten better as well.

Pregnancy was the equivalent to getting mowed down by a coal truck. In the beginning you were sick all of the time and you’d never be in the mood for sex, second trimester you were a cry baby and never in the mood for sex until the very end when you started to get as big as a house, and the third trimester was extremely risky because sex could actually send you into labor. “Were you okay last night?” he asked. It took me a minute to get what he was referring to. A slow smile spread across my face and he placed his hand on my knee and squeezed it.

We were almost there and I was growing even more anxious. There was also this strange feeling in the bottom of my stomach that was telling me that everything might not happen the way I would like for them to go but I ignored it and stared out the window at the small snowflakes swirling through the air. The trees were frozen and bare, extending up toward the sky as if they were trying to reach for their leaves. They looked as if they wanted so badly to have them back, to have everything together again once the Spring rolled around again, only to have it all fall apart all over again. They wouldn’t look so sad and depressing if they were fully covered by their leaves. It was like their leaves could have been the happiness that they needed in order to thrive. I felt like I was slowly regaining my leaves. Once Fauna was born, I would have everything and my only hope was that things didn’t fall apart and that my happiness wouldn’t leave me again. It had only been six months since I had quit drinking, four months since I quit smoking, and seven since me and Danny had gotten together and at this point I honestly couldn’t remember a time where I was stuck

beating myself up for what happened to my first baby.

Dr. Carter swore that the miscarriage hadn’t been my fault at all and that I hadn’t done anything that could have potentially caused it to happen. I just couldn’t let it go through. I wanted to be so careful with this pregnancy. I would have held her in for a full year if I could. I just couldn’t imagine not having her inside my body where I could protect her and make sure that she couldn’t be harmed by anyone.

Before my thoughts got too heavy with emotional, we were parking at the mall, somewhere close to the party room where Rachel’s shower was being held. “Are you ready for this?” Danny asked with a smile. I nodded my head and put on a fake smile. Hopefully he couldn’t tell that there was something bothering me. There was and then there wasn’t. Still, I put on an expression that

said, “Even if I don’t look okay, I am.” I had never really been to anyone’s baby shower besides maybe one or two when I was little, but those weren’t for friends, only older family members that I never even saw except for once or twice a year.

Danny held my hand as we strolled through Mercer Mall. The smell of Chik-fil-A floated through their and wrapped around my nose. My mouth started to water instantly. It seemed like an eternity since the last time I ate there. “Don’t even think about it. You mom paid for Subway sandwiches when you and Rachel have been bugging the shit out of us about it for the past month. You’re eating Subway.” I folded my arms across my belly and pouted. I was so hungry that I would have had room for both.

When I waddled all the way to the party room, I was hit with just as much pink as there was in Flora’s nursery. An arch of pink balloons lined the doorway when we walked inside. Pink balloons were scattered all across the floor and the tables were neatly decorated with glass dishes with pink plastic diamonds sitting inside them. The diaper cake that was covered in Minnie Mouse

accessories for the baby sat in the corner and across from it sat the large four tier pink cake with “Flora” in large three-dimensional letters sticking out from the top of it. Mom had definitely gone above and beyond. She was swooning over the fact that there would be two girls joining our family. She would have two little girls to spoil and dress in large poofy dresses. I knew she would have a field day with just that alone.

Rachel sat in the corner, bags under her eyes, and nodding off. Poor thing. Pregnancy was kicking her ass even after an easy first trimester. She looked beautiful in her pink jeans and white blouse with her front bangs trimmed neatly and her jet black, bone straight hair falling over her shoulders. I had to chuckle because I didn’t think that she would make it much longer. “Hey, I’m going to

go find Reggie. Go sit with your girl. I love you,” he said as he kissed my forehead before leaving. I waddled over to Rachel, but Jamie and Melanie beat me over there.

“Dayum! Where did all of that belly come from?” Melanie asked jokingly. “I have no idea. It

all hit me at once,” I said laughing when I finally approached Rachel. “It gets worse,” she said, sounding as exhausted as she looked. I laughed and held my belly to keep it from shaking like I was Santa Claus. It felt good to catch up with the three of them since we hadn’t been in school for so long because of all of the snow days. “Has anyone heard from Candace?” I finally asked, wanting so badly to avoid the question. I felt empty in a way because me and Candace had always talked about being there for each other when the time came for us to have children. I groaned, regretting that I even asked the question.

The bad feeling in my stomach grew stronger and began to eat away at me when Reggie and Danny returned and began hovering over both Rachel and I. “Speak of the motherfucking devil,” Reggie whispered. Danny moved closer to me and stood over me with one

hand tightly gripping my shoulder.

I looked up and my eyes landed on the door of the party room and emerging through the arch of pink balloons, Candace stepped inside nervously. My heart fell into my ass and I just knew that I was about to throw up. She looked like a scared child as she tipped inside, clutching a small pink box with a large white bow in her hands. She looked skinnier and her hair that she usually kept in

a short bob had gotten longer. With Candace being skinnier, I knew that it wasn’t a good sign. Her eyes looked sunken in and empty and that’s what scared me the most. It wasn’t like she had let herself go, but she looked lost and Candace always had this composure about herself that had completely left the building.

“There’s your girl,” Mom said as she whisked by all of us with a plate of cupcakes that she had been carrying around to entertain all of the guests until the shower got started. I kept wondering if Candace was going to come in and try to talk to us. She could have at least given a half way decent excuse every time she went missing. At one point in time we were like sisters and there was still a small part left that did make us care about her. But, as expected, she placed the tiny gift on the table with the rest of the gifts and then darted out of the room. All I could do was shake my head. For the first time in her life, she was finally ashamed of her problem and it was about damn time because the rest of us felt ashamed of it a long time ago.





The baby shower went on with everyone laughing and enjoying themselves. I still couldn’t stop thinking about Candace. Danny could sense it. I know he could and tonight would either end with us having a huge fight or me crying my eyes out in his arms. I dreaded both of those results. I tried to stay positive as I sat on his lap while Rachel opened her presents. Seeing all of the tiny little

dresses and skirts and jumpsuits for the baby made me even more excited to deliver my own. It would almost be like having your own little baby doll to dress up, except this baby actually cried and pooped and needed to be fed every other hour and you couldn’t just sit it down when you got bored with it.

Danny held me tight and rested his hand on my belly. A loud growl erupted from where his hand was sitting. “Damn! You just ate,” he said with a chuckle. I giggled. “That was your daughter. I do believe you promised us a strawberry lemonade,” I replied to him. He stroked his hand over my belly and smiled. “Alright. What kind of boyfriend would I be if I didn’t keep my promises,” he said laughing as he lifted me from his lap to stand up. “What about helping everyone clean up and load

up the gifts?” I asked. I looked around to notice that everyone were packing up their things and making plates to take home.

Reggie and Derek were loading up the gifts to be taken out to the car. “I’m sure if they need help, you won’t be able to do much. You can’t and aren’t going to be carrying a heavy ass box that somebody that’s not pregnant can carry.” Who was I to argue when he was about to spoil me?

I could see how dark it was getting outside as well as the thick chunks of snow falling from the sky. The mall closed at nine and I knew that it was getting pretty close, we maybe had an hour and a half to get my lemonade. Danny held my hand tightly as he walked and I waddled past all of the stores. I could remember coming here a few days before Christmas to try and find him something

when he swore that he didn’t want or need anything. After hearing so much about his mother, I didn’t have the heart to just not get him something for Christmas. He had gotten me a small necklace that held a pink baby carriage charm. Needless to say, I cried when I opened the gift. I just wished that we could have held onto Christmas a little while longer. He asked me if there was anything else that I wanted and I told him nothing but to be able to curl up in bed with him and watch movies all day while the snow fell outside. He gave me that and more. The whole day he stuffed me with cookies and hot chocolate. Maybe that was how I packed on such a belly.

I had even suggested that if he wanted to, we could take a trip to see his family after the snow cleared up. I had overheard him and Ryan talking about it, but when I finally mentioned it, he gave me the cold shoulder. I knew that it was a no. Lately, Danny had been having nightmares. Not just normal nightmares that just shake you up a little bit and you can go back to sleep right away. He

was having hardcore, tossing and turning nightmares. Usually I ended up holding him until he stopped shaking. It worried me endlessly and most of the time I was scared to death. Even though he told me not to let it bother me, I couldn’t help it. If I didn’t love him, I would have listened.





“You two have a nice night,” the cashier said as he handed me the Styrofoam cup containing the pure heaven that I had been waiting for. “You too,” I replied happily. I looked around at all of the stores closing up for the night. “I’m gonna run to the bathroom for a second, Babe. Sit down and drink your lemonade. You’ve been on your feet almost the whole day.” He was exaggerating. For the majority of the baby shower I spent most of my time sitting next to Rachel. I didn’t argue with him though. I took a seat at one of the tiny red tables with my mind fixated on the cup I was holding.

Today had been a pretty great day to say the least. We did see Candace, but she didn’t try to start any commotion or burden us with her addiction like she had been doing for the last four years. Since the baby shower was done and over with, Rachel and Reggie would be awaiting the arrival of their beautiful baby girl and then I would be next. I was scared out of my mind. Not about the labor process or the pain. I was worried about what kind of parent that I would be. For a vast majority of my life I had never seen what it was like to have a decent family. I was an only child caught between a set of parents that cared about each other in front of everyone and hated each other behind closed doors, often treating each other like strangers instead of husband and wife. But, I had Danny. Someone who knew how to love me through the good times and the bad. He was there waiting for the time to be right and never gave up even after I passed him up.

Just as the thought of him crossed my mind, I felt a set of fingers running through my hair. I took a deep breath, growing more and more relaxed. “We should get to a hotel. Your baby girl is kicking me to death,” I said whimsically.

Whoever it was that wasn’t Danny chuckled.

That chuckle alone sent a chill down my spine that caused my insides to tighten up and my throat to get dry.“Sydney Gayle,” the person behind me said. I shot up from where I was sitting and was confronted by my past. I never thought that I was going to have to face him again, but here I was.

Dean stood only inches away from me and it made my skin crawl. Just seeing that disgusting look on his face made me nauseous and lightheaded and I just knew that the room was about to start spinning. “Don’t fucking touch me you piece of shit,” I spat at him as I distanced myself from him as quickly as possible. He looked like a skeleton. His eyes were sunken in and darkened with bags under them. His clothes barely fit on his small frame. The whites of his eyes was blood shot and glazed over. It was as if I was staring death in the face.

“I see what it is now. I should have seen it all along. You’ll sleep around and keep someone else’s baby but you’ll get rid of someone’s that you spent two years of your life with.” How in the hell could he sit here and pretend that everything with us had been fine when in reality, I went through hell and back. My life was all kinds of fucked up because of him. “No, you can’t blame any of

that on me and I won’t let you,” I said through clenched teeth. This was my moment to be brave for once in my life. It was my moment to be more than just the girl that took blow after blow and went home to just drink away all of the pain. My mind kept lingering on how my pregnancy initially got back to him back in September.

“It was a miscarriage. A simple miscarriage that had nothing to do with anything that I did. Let it go. You didn’t care back then, so I don’t see why you care now.” Good. I was doing more than just staring at him blankly, waiting for the verbal abuse like I used to do when I felt like I was trapped inside a shell. “But you’ll sleep with Danny. A total stranger. You’ve known me for the best years of your life and now you want to start over with a stranger.” He stared at my stomach with pure hate in his eyes and my heart sank deeper and deeper inside my body. I couldn’t handle this feeling. I felt like I was going to explode inside.

Instead of reaching the point of wanting to cry, I only felt white hot anger growing inside of me. My heart was racing and my palms were growing sweatier and sweatier. “Goodbye,” I got the strength to say. I turned on my heels in a hurry to find Danny so that this moment would be over. Before I could make it more than a few feet away from him, I felt his clammy hand wrap around my arm and pull me back. “Don’t tell me goodbye! This is not over!” he yelled pulling me to his body where he was now grabbing both of my arms as tight as he could. My stomach was turning and tightening. “Dean, let me go!” I tried to scream without sounding helpless.

He would have fed off of my fear if I would have let him see that I was afraid. I didn’t know what he probably would have done. “All I ever tried to do was love you, bitch! You just made it too fucking hard!” From where he was holding me, I could smell the stench of alcohol on his breath and from the corner of my eye, I could see dried blood on his arm. I never would have thought that he would be the type to shoot up. I knew he did pills from time to time even when we were together, but never shooting up. Drugs never failed to turn someone into a complete stranger. You never knew what they were capable of doing or saying when they were high and tweaking.

In an instant, his hand was around my neck and the dreaded feeling of approaching death came back to visit me once more. Both of his hands were tightening their grip around my neck and I was gasping for air, fighting hard to not panic. This wasn’t new to me. It was sad that I had gotten used to being abused. I always fought back in the past, but this was the very first time that I ever felt like a victim. He was willing to kill me because of something that neither of us had any control over. When we were together, we would fight, break up, stop talking for a few days, and we'd make up just in time for the weekend. We'd stroll into football games and parties covered in bruises from beating the shit out of each other.

Suddenly, I was back to where I had been a year ago. Nothing was different, I hadn’t decided to get my life together and put down the drinks and cigarettes. It was like my life flipped completely and I was back at square one all over again. Maybe he had been just as fucked up about the situation and how things happened as I was, but it was done and over with and there was nothing that we could have done to bring that baby back. I knew I couldn’t do anything that wouldn't have caused harm to Fauna, but she and I were both going to be in trouble if he continued to choke me. If I didn’t do anything, in a few minutes my body would go limp from lack of oxygen and I would be right back to waking up the next day from blacking out with the night before being a complete blur.

Before I could act on anything that crossed my mind, he released me and pushed me to the floor and Danny was at my side, trying to keep me sitting down while I coughed and gasped, trying catch my breath. I wanted so badly to jump to my feet and knock his teeth in. He had the upper hand the entire time and he knew that I was vulnerable. He was in deep shit with Danny and the rest of the guys and I didn't want him to be on my ass too for not being careful.

“Baby, are you alright?” he asked hastily. All I could see through my blurry eyes were two figured beating Dean to the ground with a swarm of security guards trying to pull them all apart. Black spots danced around my surroundings as I tried to regulate my breathing. Smell the roses and blow out the candles, I said to myself. It could have only been Reggie and Derek since they were probably still here from the baby shower. “I’m fine,” I said as I grabbed his arms, trying to get on my feet. As far as I could tell, I was fine. I knew how to get myself together after nearly having my windpipe crushed. I tried to get into an upright position when a sharp pain shot through my pelvis, causing me to scream and double over. My hands started to tremble and I grew more and more afraid of what was about to happen. “Danny. Get my mom," I said slowly. I couldn't let my paranoia creep up on me. “Syd, your mom is already gone home. We’re going to get you to the hospital as soon as possible,” he said trying to calm me.

The pain didn't subside like I wanted it too. Another dull ache shot through my pelvis, causing sweat to form on my forehead. Another pain stabbed my lower back and then in the front of my belly. I couldn't keep it together. I started to expect the worse. It was happening. Just like the trees losing their leaves, their happiness, I was losing my happiness. Another pain shot through my body and brought me down on my knees. My chest was getting tighter and tighter and I was struggling to

breathe. I was losing her. I was losing my only daughter. “I’m losing her Danny,” I told him frantically as we trekked through the snow to get to the car. “She’s going to be alright. I called Dr. Carter and you’re probably just having contractions.” I wanted to crush his face because something in the back of my mind screamed that he wasn't even sure if something bad was going to happen. The little voice that always warned me when a rain cloud was about to loom over my head for a while kept telling me that he was lying just to make me feel better. Just like always, I was reminded that nothing good lasts forever and everyone lies.

The entire car ride to the hospital caused an endless possibility of scenarios and what ifs to run through my mind. What if I would have gotten up and left before he had the chance to even get close to me? How could I have been so stupid to let him get to me like that? I should have been

more careful. I should have protected myself so I would have ended up getting choked half to death. One of these days, he was going to meet his match and get a bullet put in his ass. I told myself a long time ago that the last time would be the last time and this time I actually meant it.

The contractions got worse and worse the whole ride there, but thankfully they weren’t regular. I had read somewhere that if they got to where they were a minute apart, you were in full blown labor and I definitely didn’t need that. Miss Fauna had three more months in the oven to cook before she would be ready for the world. The real question was: was I ready to bring her into this world? Living in the area that we did meant that we would be living around a slew of people who had a drug problem and drugs made people do some pretty crazy shit.

Crazy shit like choke a pregnant lady.

With every single thought that ran through my mind, I found myself squeezing Danny’s hand to relieve some of the pain from the contractions. It was like having your uterus and cervix being stepped on from the inside and they couldn’t compare to period cramps. I could tell that he was worried and upset, but he was trying to keep his composure and avoid making me even more upset.

“You’ll be fine baby. Just focus on keeping our little girl in for a little while longer,” he said, reassuring me that it wasn’t time and trying to convince me that this was just a false alarm. But this was too intense to be a false alarm. I had seen Danny fight before, long before I had ever imagined any of this happening and he had a temper from hell. I knew there would be more trouble soon to come as soon as I got out of the hospital.

When we actually got there, Danny had made sure to call ahead for them to have a wheelchair ready so I wouldn’t have to walk any more than I needed to. It was already late and that meant that the clinics were closed. Very few people sat in the waiting room and immediately, I was placed on the OB floor. Bre wouldn’t be here to hold my hand and reassure me that everything was

alright. I wasn’t very familiar with the other nurses that worked on the floor. I had remembered a few of them from parties at Reggie’s house before they decided to get their shit together and go to RN school.

Apparently, Danny knew a couple of them. When they saw him step into the room, I swear their eyes could have fallen out of their heads. He eyed me as they were talking, giving me a sign that

now was not the time for me to be petty out of jealousy considering what had just happened a few hours ago.

An older RN named Jude stepped in just as one of the other nurses had left the room after getting me hooked up on the monitor. “So, the little gal is trying to meet everyone already,” she said jokingly. I smiled at the fact that she was trying to lighten the mood. Of course she already knew that I had been assaulted. She had checked my cervix earlier and we were relieved to find out that

it hadn’t changed and they were just going to give me a shot to stop my contractions. I was worried that at some point in time they would try to get the police involved in order for me to press charges, but Danny and I both agreed that we didn’t want to. It would just be a waste of time because I figured that he'd get out of it because of who he knew.

“She’s still too small, so that shot we gave you earlier will help keep her in. You may experience some tachycardia and some tremors, but it will all subside. We’re going to keep you overnight so Dr. Carter can come in and check on you first thing in the morning. All you need to do for the rest of the night is relax and Dad, for the rest of the night all you need to do is give lots and lots of back rubs,” she said with a smile before leaving us. I groaned at the thought of laying in this bed for the rest of the night. The mattress was as hard as a rock and my back was already killing me. The blankets made it feel like the room was on fire and I was drenched in sweat. There was no way that I was going to be able to get comfortable enough to fall asleep, but Danny wasn't going to let me talk him into leaving.

I curled up on the side of the bed, obviously exhausted and extended my hand out to Danny for him to hold. As scary as it was tonight, I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the night with anyone else in the hospital except for him. I could see the look in his eyes and I didn’t like it one bit. His eyebrows were scrunched together and he wore a scowl. I was busy trying to find the right words to say to him. I was scared, but it wasn't because of Dean. I remembered how angry he was when his mom came to town and how that encounter left me wondering what he was actually capable of. Even though Dean deserved it, I didn't want Danny to do anything stupid that could jeopardize our future.

“Promise me you’ll let this go,” I said, sticking my pinky finger out for him to wrap his around it. He ignored my comment, raising one of his eyebrows. “This isn’t something for me to just ‘let go’. You could have went into preterm labor and what if the baby suffered from lack of oxygen?” he asked. He was right. He had probable cause to beat the shit out of him. I was just as scared as he was, but if I let it consume me, then the rest of this pregnancy was going to be rocky. “All you need to focus on it resting and school. You have a baby and graduation to worry about and I’m not letting you give up on either one of those.”

I loved that he was so determined to protect me. Danny didn’t get jealous when I talked about my

past. He was set on the fact that anything that happened before we got together was in the past. He also pushed me when it came to school. He wouldn’t let me give up. Graduating was not a negotiation and I believe this was one of the reasons why he had won my parents’ hearts.

There was no arguing with him. I would just have to focus on getting well again so I could see Dr. Carter and discuss going over to getting home-schooled for the rest of the year. I couldn’t handle getting stressed out from school and from having the baby and risk ending up back in here again before it was time for me to deliver. There was no stopping Danny though. Whatever he had planned for what he was going to do to Dean would be kept hidden from me. I knew right away that the altercation at the mall wasn't the end of it. He wouldn’t want me to worry, but I would anyway and that alone scared the living shit out of me. At one point in time I never thought that Danny would be the type to commit a murder, but after seeing this look on his face once more, I thought otherwise.

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