Authors: Miranda Joyce
THE DEVIL’S BARGAIN
COPYRIGHT MIRANDA JOYCE 2014
Kit was smiling to herself and humming as she gathered her scattered clothes and shoved them haphazardly into her backpack. My mood was considerably darker.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this again.”
“Meg, I don’t need a lecture right now. You’ve always hated Charlie and you want me to hate him too.”
“You’re damn right I want you to hate him. He broke your arm and used your face as a punching bag.” I knew I was practically screaming but I couldn’t stop the words from flowing. This was my little sister, my partner in crime and here she was blithely jumping back into the arms of her abusive boyfriend. My rage and fear were overwhelming.
“You know, you are so cynical. You really don’t believe that good people can make mistakes and that they can change. Charlie has changed. He’s quit drinking and he promised we’re going down to Cena Springs in the summer just like we had always planned. A romantic weekend for just the two of us.”
“You said the same thing last time.”
Kit heaved a deep sigh and walked out of the room. I could hear her packing in the bathroom. We had been through this song and dance so many times that the lines were practically scripted. Every few months after a particularly bad argument she would come running to me. I would bandage her wounds and dry her tears while she adamantly proclaimed that they were “really, really over this time.” Then in a few days Charlie would show up again. Usually with flowers or chocolates and promises to change.
I wished—not for the first time—that there was some magical combination of words I could say that would finally break the hold he had on her. Instead, I was left with the same hollow, useless feeling I had felt so many times before.
“Don’t be like that.” I looked up and saw her standing in the doorway with her backpack already slung over one shoulder. “I know you’re trying to look out for me and I appreciate it. You’re the best big sister a girl could ever have. I just have to do this. I don’t expect you to understand but I know it’s going to be different this time.”
I just held her in my arms until the rumbling sputter of Charlie’s old mustang sounded outside my door. As soon as she heard it, Kit starting squirming, eager to get away.
“Wait, just one second.” Outside, Charlie honked the horn knowing he wasn’t welcome at my door. I took Kit’s face in my hands, the way I had when we were little girls and mom and dad were fighting again. “You know I’ll always love you, Kitty, and I’m always here for you. Whenever and whatever you need just call.”
The horn blared again impatiently. Kit’s eyes darted to the door and I could sense the tension in her. She was scared he was going to be pissed off. I had to let her go. Reluctantly, I let my hands fall back down to my sides.
“I know, Meg. Love you too.” And with a final wave she disappeared out the front door. Into his clutches again.
When the sounds of the mustang faded away down the street I picked up the phone and texted my best friend Beth.
“At ten in the morning?”
“I’m in need.”
“On my way.”
Ten minutes later I heard the front door open and Beth came in with several shopping bags. She had been my best friend since we met in Mrs. Kendall’s class in middle school. A beautiful leggy brunette, I had been intimidated by her at first, but Beth was something special. She was pragmatic, comforting and loyal with a vicious sense of humor and a penchant for getting into trouble. She was everything a girl could ask for in a best friend.
“I didn’t know if you really wanted margaritas this early so I brought the stuff for Bloody Mary’s too. Normally I’m more of a mimosa girl but if you’re in need we’re going to need something stronger than champagne.”
She bustled right into my kitchen and started pulling large bottles of liquor out of her bags. Beth was a veteran of the Meg/Kit/Charlie wars and knew exactly what to do. A few minutes later we were relaxing on the couch while the taste of spicy tomato juice and the burn of vodka coated my tongue.
“You are a miracle worker.”
“I know. Is there a patron saint for binge drinkers? If not I’m applying for the position.” She turned to me and her eyes bored into me. “So do you want to tell me what happened or should I just wait until you’ve had two more and you blurt it out drunkenly?”
“Kit went back to him.” I could feel hot tears welling up behind my eyes. I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry about this anymore but those promises are easier made than kept.
“Oh honey, I’m so sorry. But you can’t be surprised.”
“No, I know. I just wish I could chain her up in the basement and keep her safe.”
“Or we could bury his body in the basement.”
“I like that idea even better.” We clinked glasses and I finally let the tears fall.
The next few days passed in a blur. I threw myself into work and filled my mind with spreadsheets and budgets so I didn’t have to think about the fear gnawing away in my belly.
Why hadn’t Kit called?
Usually in the love sick haze of their reconciliation she would decide that she was going to repair my relationship with Charlie. I would get several phone calls a day about nice things he had done or said or times he had asked how I was doing. It was as if she thought she could talk him up enough to me and I would forgive or forget all the bruises.
Now the silence was deafening.
Has she finally decided I’m never going to like him? Did they go to the springs like they planned? Where are you Kit?
“Earth to Meg. Come in Meg.”
“Sorry Beth, I was thinking about something else.”
“You were worrying about Kit.”
There was no point in denying it, Beth could read me like a book. Worrying about Kit was practically my second job these days.
“She still hasn’t called. I checked all the hospitals and she hasn’t been admitted. I drive by their place every day but he’s always home so I can’t go knock on the door and demand to see her.”
“That asshole would call the cops. Probably smack her around to punish you for showing up too.”
“I don’t know what to do.”
“The only thing to do is watch this movie with me and turn off your mind for a few hours. Worrying isn’t going to help Kit any and it’s turning you into a wreck. I didn’t want to say it earlier but you do realize you only put make up on one eye this morning right?”
“No!” I ran to the bathroom and she was right. One eye was carefully lined and mascaraed the other was bare. I couldn’t help erupting into giggles. Back in the living room I could hear Beth’s raucous laughter.
“Don’t laugh, this is horrible. I went to work like this!” I managed to choke out through my laughs.
“Oh my God, Mr. Nelson must have been like ‘Crazy kids these days with their rap music and weird fashion, now they’re only doing half their makeup.’” Beth could do a perfect impression of my prissy, stuffed-shirt boss.
Having a good long laugh finally eased some of the tension that had been growing in me ever since I watched Kit walk out the front door. For the next few hours I felt, if not free from my burden, that it had at least been lightened a little. Unfortunately, that all came crashing down around me while Beth was in the kitchen microwaving some popcorn.
The tinny notes of “Sister Christian” sounded from my cell. Kit’s ring tone.
I thought quickly sliding the screen unlocked.
“Kit! Where have you been? I’ve been calling you for the last week!”
Instead of Kit’s usual light hearted babbling there was silence on the other end of the line.
“Kitty, what is it? Are you ok?”
“I can’t talk to you anymore.” When she finally spoke her voice was hushed and husky as if she had been crying. Her words sent a chill of terror through my heart.
“Meg, I love you and I always will but you’ll never accept my relationship. I can’t talk to you for a while. Charlie and I need time to work on us. Just know that I’m happy.”
“He’s making you say this. He’s there right now, isn’t he?”
The phone was still pressed to my ear when the blare of the dial tone started up. Beth stood in the doorway with her mouth hanging open. Wordlessly I dropped the phone and reached out to her. She held me while I cried hot bitter tears. My sister, my best friend, was gone. She wanted nothing to do with me anymore.
Finally, the storm of emotion passed and I laid curled up on the couch feeling hollow and numb.
“This has gone too far.” Beth’s voice was soft more as if she was speaking to herself than to me. “We have to do something.”
“What can we do? I can’t make her want to see me.”
“She does want to see you. Don’t let self-pity blind you. He’s isolating her so he can get total control over her life. Things are going to get very bad for her very fast.”
Back when we were in middle school Beth’s mother had remarried an abusive lout. For the next three years, Beth had watched their interactions from a front row seat she never wanted. If she said things were going to get bad I believed her.
Half-baked plans raced through my mind. We had to get Kit out and fast but she wasn’t ready to come yet. Could we force her? Lure Charlie away and snatch her up? Hold some sort of intervention.
When I looked over at Beth she was shaking her head from side to side. “I know exactly what you’re thinking and it’s not going to work. If we take Kit she’s going to hate us and that’s the last thing she needs. She needs to know she can always come to us. I do have another idea but…” She trailed off and gave me a searching look. “How far are you willing to go?”
Normally such a melodramatic phrase would be a joke between us but there was no denying the seriousness of Beth’s tone. I took a moment and searched my heart but the only thing I could see was Kit’s face. The laughing, smiling face of her when she was a young girl and her face the last time she had come to my house: red and raw from crying, blue bruises rising on her cheeks.
“I’ll go as far as it takes.”
Beth nodded as if that was decided. “I have to make some phone calls. Are you going to be ok tonight?”
“Yes, but what’s going on? What are you thinking?”
“It’s just an idea right now. I don’t want to get your hopes up. I’ll call you tomorrow. Promise.”
That night I tossed and turned seeing Kit every time I closed my eyes. I heard Beth’s question over and over. “How far are you willing to go?” My heart was heavy with dread both for Kit and myself.
I awoke the next morning feeling sore and muddled. I moved through my morning as if I was sleepwalking, getting halfway through a report before realizing I had no memory of what I had just read.
The phone finally rang while I was picking through my lunch.
“Hey, it’s me.” Beth’s voice was excited.
“I need you to come out with me tonight.”
“Do you remember my good for nothing brother, Bobby? He has some friends that might be able to help us. We’re going to meet them at a bar outside of town. Wear something sexy. Like really sexy, kind of trampy.”
“Beth, what are you talking about?”
“I can’t go into it right now. I’ll pick you up at nine.”
“Kind of trampy? What does that even mean?” It was eight forty five and Beth would be here any minute. I was sitting hopelessly in front of my closet still wearing the beige pantsuit I had worn to work.
I didn’t exactly have a wide variety of clothes to choose from. Five days a week I worked in a conservative office. Even when I went bar hopping with Beth I was more of a t-shirt and jeans girl. Miniskirts weren’t even a part of my vocabulary. I finally settled on a pair of jeans that were a little on the tight side and a blue t-shirt with a scoop neck.
To make up for my lack of trampy clothing I piled on the eyes makeup and fluffed my hair to maximum volume. During my final application of Aqua Net I heard the front door open. Beth walked in to my room carrying two paper bags and gave me a long appraising look.
“I knew this was going to happen. I told you trampy!”
“I don’t own anything trampy.”
“Fear not, I brought options.” With a little flourish she poured out the contents of the paper bags and my bed spread was awash in leather and lace. I pulled out one tight black leather dress and held it against my body watching the fabric mold around my curves.
“Do you have a second job as a dominatrix I don’t know about?”
“We can’t all rock the beige pantsuits. Try it on.”
I slipped out of my jeans and t-shirt and pulled the dress over my head feeling the unfamiliar weight and coolness of leather against my bare skin. It made me shiver. When I looked at Beth she waggled her eyebrows ridiculously.
“Hot. Very trampy.”
“Are you ready to tell me what this is all about now?”
“Ok, so Bobby…”
“Your good for nothing brother.”
“My good for nothing brother is a prospect with The Diablos, the biker gang that hangs out at The Rat’s Hole bar on County Line Road. I told him about Kit and he arranged a meeting with the president of the club. I thought if we looked a little sexy he might be more…inclined…to help us out.”