Dree studied her reflection in the mirror. Her cheeks were sunken in and she had dark circles around her eyes. She turned her head from side to side and casually smeared a droplet of blood dripping from her mouth across her chin.
“Wow. You look dead.”
She spun in her chair and grinned.
“Sick! You blackened your teeth!” Riley fully came into her room and plopped down on her bed.
“Does it look like I eat brains for breakfast?” She laughed while reaching for her wig.
“Totally. What do you think about my costume?”
She crunched up a dead leaf in her hand and rubbed it into her raggedy wig. “Love it. It really looks like some big zombie dude grabbed you by the head and ripped it off your shoulders. You need more blood though. Hang on.” She tucked her hair into her wig cap, bent forward, tugged the wig on and then sat back up, her long, black hair curling around her shoulders. “Wigs are so freakin’ hot.” She adjusted it more comfortably then reached for her fake blood. She got up and moved toward him. She began to smear blood around the corners of his mouth and ran a finger down his chin and neck.
“I wish they weren’t going to be there,” he whispered staring her straight in the eyes.
She shrugged. “Yeah. Me too. We would have more fun if they weren’t there, but whatever. We’re going to have fun regardless of the shit they pull tonight.” She backed away and smiled. “Perfect. You look like a headless person now. Bravo.”
He got up to look at himself in the mirror. “Yeah. Good job.” He turned to face her, his face falling serious. “You’re driving us, right?”
“That’s the plan short stuff.” She paused while putting her theatrical makeup away. “Did something happen again?” She turned to look over her shoulder at him.
“Not really. Just the same shit. This bruise here?” He pointed to his temple. “That’s not makeup.”
She narrowed her eyes and slammed the last of her makeup in her backup. “He’s such an asshole.”
“I’m so glad you’re living here, Dree. I don’t know how I would …” he trailed off. Dree reached out and ruffled his hair. “Don’t sweat it, short stuff. We’re a team. You’re not getting rid of me. Besides, this is the first time in months I’ve had a roof over my head and a real bed to sleep in. Why would I give that up?”
He smiled and nodded. “Okay. Let’s go have some fun.”
“Agreed. Come on.” She grabbed her purse and they exited the bedroom.
“Wow. You guys look great!” Mandy paused stirring the punch she planned on taking to the party and apprised them both. “Definitely scary looking.”
Dree bowed and Riley howled in mock pain.
“Pretty sure you guys will win the costume contest.”
Dree shrugged and tried to hide her pleased smile. “I don’t know, you’re looking pretty great yourself. Bride of Frankenstein?”
Mandy laughed. “Yeah. Let’s go with that. I think that’s my official costume but I’m not sure I actually carried it off. But I thought, what the hell, if Richard could go as Frankenstein then it seemed like a no brainer to go as his bride.”
“Oh. Is Dick coming?” Dree gave Riley the side eye. She hadn’t really anticipated Dick coming, she was hoping he would think a Halloween party was beneath him but whatever, they would just avoid him.
“Yeah. He decided to go at the last minute.” Many shrugged. “Seems weird, really. He has never seemed interested in going in year’s past.”
Dree sighed. He was going because she was going to be there. She never should have told him she was thinking of going. She silently berated herself for her stupidity.
“Okay. I guess we’ll see you there,” Dree said. She motioned for Riley to follow her.
“Oh. You guys are driving? I thought we could all go together.” Mandy looked wounded.
“Nah. That’s okay, Mandy. We may not want to stay as late as you guys so I’ll drive me and Riley. Did you want us to take anything?” She looked out over the spread on the kitchen table. It was covered with wrapped candy apples.
“Oh actually, yes.” Mandy glanced over shoulder and pulled out a carboard box. She began putting the apples into the box. “If you could take these, that would be great. This cider isn’t quite ready so …” she trailed off and Dree helped her load the apples.
Dree could sense Riley stiffening beside her. Dick had entered the room.
“Hey. What’s going on?” He moved to stand next to Dree. He reeked of pot and beer. Someone had started the party early.
“Just loading up the apples, Richard,” said Mandy. “Dree is driving them over. We’ll meet up with them later.”
“Nope. I’m driving all of us,” said Dick.
Riley practically threw the last apple into the box as Dree hugged it close to her chest and pulled it off the table. She completely ignored Dick.
“Let’s go Riley.”
Dick moved to block her. “I said I would drive us.”
Dree stared at his chest. She could feel the anger bubbling up inside her. She moved to sidestep Dick only for him to step back in front of her. She stood for long seconds before lifting to meet his eyes. She didn’t even bother hiding her disgust. He smirked down at her.
“Move, Dick.” She emphasized his name to imply that he was acting like a dick, too. He reached out as if to take the box from her.
“I can put this in the car,” said Dick, a challenging light in his eyes. Riley cowered back, his eyes volleying back and forth between them with fear.
“Oh my gosh!” Mandy yelled while moving toward the stove. Her cider was beginning to bubble over. Her cry of alarm was enough to distract Dick long enough for Dree to pull free of his grasp and slide past him.
“Hey!” Dick called after them.
“Let them go, Richard,” said Mandy. “We’ll catch up. No big deal,” she placated him.
Dree didn’t stick around to hear anymore. She kicked open the door and hurried down the front steps, Riley close on her heels.
“God, I hate him,” Dree muttered between clenched teeth.
“Yeah,” Riley said and opened the back door of her Chevy Malibu so Dree could shove the box of apples into the back seat.
“He’s not that bad,” said Riley. “He doesn’t hit me as often as my last foster family.”
Dree sighed and buckled her seat belt. “I don’t even know where to start with that statement.” She started the car and backed out of the driveway. She saw the front door open and accelerated. She slammed on her brakes when she heard a car horn, uncomfortably close, honk at her. The car continued to blast it’s horn as it maneuvered around her.
“Jesus!” Riley shouted, putting out both hands to catch himself before hitting the dashboard.
Dree gritted her teeth and stared at Dick. He was illuminated by the porch light and she could see his knowing smirk even from her distance.
“Riley. We’re not moving until you buckle up.”
“Damn Dree. You nearly killed us.” He reached around and snapped the belt into place.
“Yeah, sorry dude. I wasn’t expecting Dick to open the door. I thought he might come running after us.”
Riley studied her for long moments, but kept silent.
Dree forced herself to take deep, calming breaths. He was not going to hurt her again. She was ready for him if he tried. She had been working out at Jimbo’s Gym for several months and she had never felt stronger. She was also noticing muscles that hadn’t been there before. She also taught herself to use a punching bag. If she wasn’t at school or working, you could find her at the gym. In fact, she kept most of her clothes at the gym, the only thing she had at Mandy and Dick’s house were PJ’s and a toothbrush. Though she appreciated having a roof over her head and a comfy bed, she didn’t feel comfortable living with them. After the incident, she insisted on them putting a lock on her door. She had had to convince Mandy that one was necessary without telling her that her asshole husband was the reason she needed one.
She spent many long hours at the gym obsessively working out after the attack, trying to sweat the memory of him touching her out of her body. Jimbo watched her work herself into utter exhaustion before approaching her late one night.
“What’s up, kid?”
She had stopped punching the bag, putting a hand out to stop it’s forward momentum before reaching over to grab a towel and wipe the sweat from her face. “Nothing. Just blowing off some steam.”
“You have a lot of steam.”
She shrugged and moved to step past him and make her way to the locker room.
“I’ve worked with enough damaged people to recognize the signs.”
Dree froze in place. Her heart began to pound and she focused on breathing evenly. How would he know? She hadn’t told a soul. In fact, she worked extra hard to appear as normal as she could. Or at least, as normal as she thought people expected. She turned to face him.
“I’m fine, Jimbo.”
“Sure kid. I don’t believe you, but okay. Tell you what,” he reached for the disinfectant and began spraying down the punching bag. “Let’s get you into some kickboxing classes.”
“Kickboxing?” She tilted her head. She had seen several girls in the ring learning kickboxing but she had never thought she had the coordination to try it.
“I think you would be a natural. And if you need to defend yourself, there’s really no better way.” He paused cleaning the bag and gave her a knowing look.
He knew. She didn’t know how he knew, but he did. In some ways, she felt relieved that he knew but they didn’t have to talk about it. She smirked and nodded her head once in agreement. Jimbo had made sure she got into a class and came to check on her from time-to-time. That was four months ago. She wasn’t nearly as good as most of the people in her class but Jimbo had been right – she felt stronger and more prepared to defend herself, if she needed to.
She hoped she never had to.