Della

“You shouldn’t have told him that,” I said without turning around and looking at Tripp. I shrugged his hand off my shoulder and walked over to the window. Woods had been so tormented. I could see the indecision on his face. I wanted him to choose me. But what would he be choosing? I wasn’t a choice for anyone.

“He’s engaged. He has no right coming in here and playing with your emotions like that. I saw the pain in your eyes. Whatever happened between the two of you is still there and he isn’t letting it go. That’s not fair to you.”

Maybe it wasn’t fair. But it wasn’t fair to him either. His choice had been made for him. He was unhappy and I hated that. I wanted to leave knowing he was happy.

“He’s my friend,” I replied. That was the only truth to all of this.

Tripp let out a heavy sigh. “Yeah, he’s my friend too…. Or he was. I think he’s considering murdering me the first chance he gets. But he could leave this behind. He could have chosen you.”

“I’m not a choice,” I replied.

My words were followed by silence. I stood there looking out over the ocean. I could feel Tripp’s gaze still on me. He was thinking about my words. I wouldn’t explain them. He’d understand them soon enough.

“Not everyone sees you the way you do. Sometimes our imperfections are what makes us special.”

I didn’t reply. Because he was right that was the case with many people. However, not with me. It wasn’t my imperfections that I was worried about. It was the terror that twisted everything in my life and that kept me apart from everyone else.

Instead of saying anything more the door softly closed behind me. He was leaving me alone. Good. I wanted to be alone.

“Do you know why I sent you here?” Tripp’s voice startled me and I spun around. He was sitting on the edge of the bed. He hadn’t left.

I shook my head. I had no idea why he’d sent me. We’d barely known each other.

“Because you looked as lost as I felt. I had been watching you for weeks. You’re hard not to watch.” A crooked smile tugged at his lips. “And you didn’t seem to know where you belonged. Neither do I. Since I left this world behind I’m just been drifting. I’m tired of being alone. I saw a kindred spirit in you and I sent you here to keep you until I had the guts to come back and face this place.” He paused and ran a hand through his hair. “I planned on spending time with you and getting to know you better. But this isn’t exactly something I was prepared for. Woods.” He shook his head. “You had to go and get mixed up with Woods. Of all people. Someone just as screwed up as I once was. Problem is he isn’t going to run. He wants this shit for life our parents forced on us. He is becoming a motherfucking puppet. You can do better than that Della.”

I swallowed the nervous knot lodged in my throat. I wasn’t sure what all Tripp planned on saying but I didn’t want to hear anymore. He was right. Woods wasn’t someone I needed to waste my time wanting. But forgetting him and moving on was easier said than done.

“Tonight I just need to go to sleep. I don’t have my sights set on Woods if that’s what you’re thinking. We had sex. That’s all there is between us.”

Tripp stood up. “I’m sorry about tonight.”

I was too. I was sorry about a lot of things. “It’s okay. I’m just tired.”

Trip nodded once then left the room.

I sank down on the bed and covered my face with my hands. I was more lost now than I had been three weeks ago.

“Were you outside, Della? How could you? What do I have to do to get it through your head that you can’t go outside? It’s dangerous out there.” The shrill screech of my mother’s voice was nothing like the searing pain from the leather belt that she slashed across my legs. I knew not to cry out in pain. She’d only get angrier. Sneaking out of the house always sent her into a tailspin.My knees buckled as the tender skin behind my knees tore open from the continuous hit of the leather.“Diseases. There are diseases out there that you could bring into this house. You’re not only being reckless you’re being selfish,” she yelled and I was thankful that it muffled the sound of my cries. I wasn’t able to hold back anymore. The pain was too much. Sometimes I wondered why I even came back after I snuck out. Why didn’t I run? Keep running until I was free of this. Of her.But I couldn’t. She needed me. I would never be free. I couldn’t leave her. She was my mother. She was all I had.“Do you think of me? NO! Do you think of your brother? NO! This upsets him, you leaving the house. How could you?” She yelled as another slash sliced open the backs of my legs. I would start wishing I was the child that was dead when the beatings were this bad. The pain was too much.The scene changed and my mother was no longer looming over me with her crazed, fearful face as she beat me. Instead there was no life in her eyes as she lay in a pool of blood. I started to scream.“Shhhh, Della, it’s okay. I’ve got you. Shhhh.” The voice was far away but I heard it. The images of my mother’s death slowly faded as I focused more on the voice. The sobs were mine. I recognized them.“That’s it. You’re okay. I’m here,” the voice said gently.I opened my eyes and as they came into focus. I realized the voice was Tripp’s. The fear on his face said enough. He was holding me in his arms as he rocked me back and forth saying soothing words. He hadn’t been prepared for what he’d just seen. I could see the questions in his eyes.“I’m sorry,” I managed to croak out. My throat was raw from the screaming. It always was when I woke up like this. Braden had been the first person ever to experience this with me. My psychologist had said it was a night terror. That my trauma was being expressed while I was asleep and my guard was down. Unfortunately, nothing I’d done had helped this. When I slept, my mother always came. Then the memories came with her.“Hush,” he said, putting his finger over my mouth and shaking his head. “Don’t. I can’t deal with you apologizing right now.”I didn’t say anything more. I moved out of his lap and back over to the side of the bed I slept on. Tripp didn’t move. He stayed where he was.“Do you do that often?” he finally asked.“Yes,” I replied. Because it happened most nights. But normally I woke up on my own once the images of that night when I’d found my mother came back to me.“And you deal with that alone, every night?” he asked.I nodded.“Fuck,” he whispered and stood up. “Della why are you alone? You shouldn’t be alone! How the hell have you managed this long?” He rubbed the palms over his eyes and then ran his hands over his hair in a frustrated gesture. “That was intense. Do you even know how scary that shit is? God, Della, you can’t stay alone.”I pulled the covers up to my chin and leaned against the back of the bed. This was where Tripp realized traveling with me was much more than he had bargained for. I knew this already and it had only been a matter of time.“I’m fine. Someone being with me doesn’t make the dreams go away. I have them anyway. I’ll leave in the morning.”Tripp shook his head and walked over to sit down in front of me. “You aren’t going anywhere in the morning. Whatever is running through your head you’re wrong. This isn’t a deal breaker for me Della. I just wasn’t prepared for it.”I wasn’t sure I believed him but I nodded anyway.“In the morning I’m taking you golfing. Then we’re going to have lunch together. It’s time the two of us got to know each other better.”