Step Seven: Try to Escape
A week later, I meet up with Enzo to make plans.
We are careful about it. In fact, when I have friends over from the PTA, I make a show of snapping at him that he’s ruining my geraniums, just to ward off any potential gossip. I’m almost certain Andy put a tracking device somewhere in my car, so I can’t drive to his house. Instead, I drive to a fast-food restaurant, park in the lot, and hop into his vehicle before anyone can see. I leave my phone behind.
I’m not taking any chances.
Enzo has a small basement apartment that he rents, but it has a private entrance. He leads me to his tiny kitchenette with a round circular table and rickety chairs, and the chair groans threateningly as I sit down. I feel self-conscious about how much nicer our house is than his living quarters, but then again, I don’t think he’s the kind of person who would care about stuff like that.
Enzo goes over to his fridge. He pulls out a beer and holds it up. “You want?”
I start to say no, but I change my mind. “Yes, please.”
He returns to the table with two beer bottles. He uses a bottle opener on his keychain to pop them both open and then he slides one of them across the table to me. I rest my
fingers on the bottle, feeling the cold condensation under my hand.
“Thank you,” I say.
He shrugs. “Is not great beer.” “I don’t mean for the beer.”
He cracks his knuckles. As the muscles in his arms flex, it’s hard not to be aware of how incredibly sexy this man is. If the women in my neighborhood knew I was in his apartment, they would all be incredibly jealous. They would assume he was ripping my clothes off as we speak and getting ready to ravish me—they would probably be angry that he picked me out of all the other women on the block who are more attractive than I am. Enzo could do so much better. They have no clue. It’s so far off from the truth, it’s almost funny. But not really.
“I had a feeling,” he says. “Your husband—I could tell he is bad guy.”
I take a long swig from the beer bottle. “I didn’t even know you spoke English.”
Enzo laughs. He’s been working in my yard for two years now, and this is the first time I’ve heard him laugh. “It is easier to pretend I don’t understand. Otherwise, the housewives do not ever leave me alone. You get me?”
Despite everything, I laugh too. He’s right about that. “You’re from Italy originally?”
“So…” I swish my beer around in the bottle. “What brought you here?”
His shoulders sag. “It is not a good story.” “And mine is?”
He looks down at his own beer bottle. “My sister Antonia’s husband—he was like yours. A bad guy. A rich, powerful bad guy, who made himself feel better by slapping her around. I tell her, leave… but she would not. Then one day, he pushed her down the stairs and she never woke up at the hospital.” He grabs the sleeve of his T-shirt and pulls
it up to reveal the tattoo I have seen of the heart with the name Antonia inscribed in it. “Now this is how I remember her.”
“Oh.” I clasp a hand over my mouth. “I’m so sorry.”
His Adam’s apple bobs. “There is no justice for men like him. No jail. No punishment for murdering my sister. So I decided to punish him. Myself.”
I remember the dark look in his eyes when I told him what Andy did to me. I will kill him. “Did you…?”
“No.” He cracks his knuckles again—the sound echoes through the tiny apartment. “I did not go that far. And I regret this. Because after that, my life was worth nothing. Niente. I had to take everything I had and use it to get out.” He takes a drink from his beer bottle. “If I ever go back, I will be killed before I leave the airport.”
I don’t know what to say. “Was it hard for you to leave?” “Will it be hard for you to leave here?”
I think about it for a moment and shake my head. I want to leave. I want to put as many miles as I can between me and Andrew Winchester. If that means going to Siberia, I’ll do it.
“You will need passports for you and Cecelia.” He ticks it off on his fingers. “A driver’s license. Birth certificates. Enough cash to keep you going until you can find work. And two plane tickets.”
My heart speeds up. “So I need money…”
“I have some saved up I can give you,” he says. “Enzo, I couldn’t possibly—”
He waves off my protest. “It is not enough though. You will need more. Can you get it?”
I’ll have to find a way.
A few days later, I drive Cecelia to school like I do almost every day. She’s got her yellow hair in flawless twin braids behind her head and she’s wearing one of her pale frilly dresses that make her stand out among her classmates. I’m scared other kids make fun of her because of those dresses, and she can’t play in them like she wants to. But if she doesn’t wear them, Andy punishes me for it.
Cece taps her fingers on the glass pane of the back window absently as I turn onto the street for the Windsor Academy. She never gives me a hard time about going to school, but I don’t think she enjoys it. I wish she had more friends. I put her in so many activities to distract her and help her meet people, but it doesn’t help.
But it doesn’t matter anymore. Soon everything will change.
When I get to the school drop-off area, Cece lingers in the back of the car, her blond eyebrows knitted together. “You’re picking me up, right? Not Dad?”
Andy is the only father she’s ever known. And she doesn’t know what he does to me, but she knows that sometimes when she does something he doesn’t like, I disappear for days at a time. And when I do, he’s the one who picks her up. It scares her. She won’t say the words out loud, but she hates him.
“I’ll pick you up,” I say.
Her small face relaxes. I want to blurt out the words out loud: Don’t worry, honey. We will be out of here soon. And he won’t be able to hurt us ever again. But I can’t yet. I can’t take that chance. Not until the day I pick her up and we go straight to the airport.
After Cecelia gets out of the car, I turn around and drive home. I have one week left here. One week before I pack a bag, then make the ninety-minute drive to where my safe-deposit box is waiting with my new passport, my new driver’s license, and a big wad of cash. I’ll purchase the
tickets at the airport using cash, because the last time I bought a ticket in advance, Andy was waiting for me at the gate. Enzo has helped me plan this in a way to minimize the chances of Andy figuring out what I’m doing. So far, he’s still in the dark.
Or so I believe until I walk into my living room. To find Andy sitting at the dining table. Waiting for me.
“Andy,” I gasp. “Um, hi.” “Hello, Nina.”
That’s when I see the three piles laid out in front of him.
The passport, the driver’s license, and the stack of cash.
“So what were you planning to do with this…” He looks down and reads off the name on the driver’s license. “Tracy Eaton.”
I feel like I’m choking. My legs tremble beneath me and I have to hold onto the wall to keep from collapsing. “How did you get that?”
Andy rises from his seat. “Haven’t you figured out yet that you can’t keep any secrets from me?”
I take a step back. “Andy…”
“Nina,” he says. “It’s time to go upstairs.”
No. I’m not going. I’m not breaking my promise to my daughter that I would pick her up today. I’m not allowing myself to be locked up there for days when I thought I would be on my way to freedom soon. I won’t. I can’t do this anymore.
Before Andy can come any closer, I dash out the front door and back into my car. I speed out of the driveway so fast I nearly bash into the gate on the way out.
I have no idea where I’m going. Part of me wants to go straight to Cecelia’s school and grab her. Then just start driving until I hit the Canadian border. But it’s going to be hard to evade him without that passport or driver’s license. I’m sure he’s calling the police right now and feeding them a story about how his crazy wife is having a relapse.
There’s only one positive in this situation. He only found one of the two safety deposit boxes. The two separate boxes were Enzo’s idea. He found the one with the passport and the driver’s license. But there’s still a second stack of cash he doesn’t know about.
I keep driving until I get to Enzo’s neighborhood. I park two blocks away from his apartment and then I walk the rest of the way. He’s just climbing into his truck when I sprint over to him. “Enzo!”
He jerks his head up at the sound of my voice. His face drops when he sees the look on mine. “What happened?”
“He found one of the safe deposit boxes.” I pause to catch my breath. “It… it’s over. I can’t leave.”
My face crumbles. Before I started talking to Enzo, I had accepted that this would be my life. At least until Cecelia turned eighteen. But now I don’t think I can do it. I can’t live like this. I can’t.
“What am I going to do?” I whimper.
He holds out his arms and I fall into them. We should be more careful. Somebody could see us. What if Andy thought I was having an affair with Enzo?
We are not having an affair, by the way. Not even a little bit. He thinks of me like Antonia—his sister he couldn’t save. He hasn’t touched me in a way that is anything other than brotherly. It’s the absolute last thing either of us is thinking about. Right now, all I can think of is the future I thought I might have had being flushed down the toilet. Another decade living with that monster.
“What am I going to do?” I say again.
“Is simple,” he says. “We go to plan B.”
I lift my tear-streaked face. “What’s Plan B?” “I kill the bastard.”
I shiver because I can see in his dark eyes that he means it. “Enzo…”
“I will do it.” He pulls away from me and his jaw is rigid. “He deserves to die. This is not right. I’ll do for you what I should have done for Antonia.”
“And we both go to jail?” “You won’t go to jail.”
I smack him in the arm. “I’m not okay with you going to jail either.”
“So then what do you suggest?”
And then the idea hits me. It’s so beautifully simple. And even though I hate Andy, I know him very well. This will work.