Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 8

Peyton peeked at her phone through her fingers. She sat at her kitchen island, debating on whether to call Rusty or not. She had been sitting in that exact position since she had come in from feeding the horses. Her coffee had long since grown cold as she contemplated on what to even say. He needed the truth if they were really going to move forward with things. She didn't know how to tell him, though. How did you go about confessing something so personal and tragic?

Last night had been wonderful and she was so happy he was back home, even if he was only gone a week. She wasn’t going to fight her feelings for him anymore. That had already been decided, but that didn’t make her any less scared. It didn’t make her any less cautious.

Things had almost crossed the line. She was shocked at how willing she'd been. Sitting here this morning, it was easy to say it wouldn't happen again. At least, not until she was sure she was ready. When she was around him, though, she felt intoxicated. Every time he kissed her, she couldn't think straight. Most importantly, she felt safe with him. He seemed to instinctively always know what to do or say. He was affectionate and made her feel wanted, but never went too far with it. He never made her feel cheap or like a prize to be won.

Which brought her back to square one. She had to tell him about Brodie. If she wanted to keep this incredible man in her life then she needed to let him see her baggage. Her scars. He had a right to know what he was up against. If he chose to stay, that would be beyond perfect, and if he chose to leave? Just the thought crushed her. She would cross that bridge if she came to it.

Peyton took a sip of her coffee and grimaced. Cold coffee was disgusting. She slid off her stool and poured the liquid down the sink before filling herself up another cup. She rested one hip on the counter next to the pot and took a small drink. With her other arm wrapped around her waist, she eyed the phone for the hundredth time that morning.

She needed to talk to Sylvia. She would know what to do. Men and hair were her expertise.

Deciding this was her best bet, she took the few steps back to the island and her phone. Picking it up, she punched Sylvia's name.

The phone rang four times before Sylvia's sleepy voice filled the line. "'Ello?"

"Has hell frozen over? What is Sylvia Mendez still doing in the bed?" Peyton asked, incredulously.

"I'm just, uh, tired?" Sylvia's answer sounded more like a question.

Peyton narrowed her eyes at her friend's odd behavior. Deciding to let it pass for the time being, she started to speak when a male's voice sounded in the background. Her eyes widened in surprise. "Sylvia! You swore it was a one time thing!" she hissed, keeping her voice low just in case he was close.

Sylvia's laughter sounded stilted. "Yea, about that-" The man spoke again, causing Sylvia to trail off. His voice sounded strangely familiar, but she knew she hadn't met Kris before. "I, uh, took an impromptu trip out of town."

Where would she have went without tell- "You're with Mark?!" Peyton roared, the voice and her being out of town piecing together. "I thought he had met the one! Why didn't you tell me? Since when do you travel three states away to sleep with a guy? You said he wasn't even that good in bed!"

"You said what!" Mark shouted, sounding like he was lying right next to her now.

"Yea, but, but, remember what I said next? About always complaining about being sore from too much sex? Remember?" Sylvia shrieked, trying to defend herself. Peyton only felt a slight bit bad for getting her friend in trouble. "I've got to go, chica. I'll call you later!"

Peyton huffed and dropped her phone back onto the counter. She couldn't believe she had kept this from her! Especially after the way she had acted about him the other night. She hadn't even gotten around to asking her for advice either!

Peyton blew out a breath and picked up her phone again, determined not to chicken out this time. She just needed to jump in and get it over with. She was just getting ready to hit send when it lit up and started vibrating. Her heart pounded when she saw Rusty’s name pop up on it. She wasn't ready for this.

“Hello?” she answered tentatively.

“Hey, Peyton. How are you?” His voice rumbled over the line.

There was something about it that always gave her goose bumps. It was deep and sexy, but also held a hint of tenderness. She wondered what it would sound like in the mornings, before he got good and woke up. Or when he was making love.

Realizing he was waiting for an answer, she cleared her throat. “I’m good," she lied, grimacing. "What about you?”

“Not bad. I have the next couple of days off, so I'm looking forward to that." His answer sounded forced, the whole conversation sounding too chit chatty.

Peyton hoped he would be spending those days with her, but he was probably mad at her about last night. She hadn’t meant to be so rude to him when she left, but she had panicked. She decided that she really wanted to explain things to him.

“Could you come over? I really need to talk to you.” The words came rushing out before she could rethink things. It was the right thing to do.

“Peyton,” he sighed. “If you’re just going to end things again then I don’t see the point of coming over. You can do it just as easily on the phone.”

“No, Rusty!" she practically shouted. She took a moment to calm herself before finishing, "I don’t want to end things again. I need to talk to you about something important." Her voice sounded almost normal. She wondered if he could hear the nervous squeak in it.

He paused a moment before agreeing, “Okay, let me take a quick shower and then I’ll be over.”


Peyton was sitting on the front porch when Rusty pulled up the driveway. He was dressed casually in a t-shirt and pair of khaki shorts. His tennis shoes kicked up dust as he meandered to her, hands stuffed deep into his pockets. His sports sunglasses covered his eyes, but she knew they twinkled underneath the dark lenses.

Jimbo, who had been laying at her feet, started to rise to sniff the visitor before realizing who it was. Rusty bent down to scratch the old dog behind the ear, which was good enough greeting for him. He laid his head back down to continue his midday nap.

Rusty took the rocking chair closest to where she sat in the porch swing. Not sure as to whether she should be relieved he gave her some space or disappointed that he didn’t want to sit next to her, Peyton looked out across the front yard and the hills beyond it. They sat quietly for a few minutes. She knew he was waiting for her to start talking. When she looked over at him, he seemed fine with just sitting and rocking.

She blew out a trembling breath before starting, “His name was Brodie." She paused, coughing to try to mask the nervous tremor in her voice. "I met him a year ago, while rescuing an injured horse. He was handsome, with his blonde curly hair and deep blue eyes. He had dimples in both cheeks and loved horses almost as much as I did. He helped me get the horse into my trailer and somehow we made plans to meet up. It wasn’t a date, just a lunch one day.” Rusty had slid his sunglasses to the top of his head and was listening intently to what she had to say. “That lunch turned into a date later on that week and then a few more until gradually, we were seeing each other on a regular basis. He was a charming man that said all the right things. Before I knew it, I was in love.”

The look on Rusty’s face showed what he thought about her being in love with someone else. If this wasn’t such a serious topic then she would have teased him about being jealous. This wasn’t the right time to make jokes or cut up.

She fiddled with her fingers, not wanting to meet Rusty's instense grey eyes any longer. “Things were good at first. He was exactly the type of boyfriend I had always dreamed of. He told me he loved me everyday and he bought me nice things. We went out on the weekends and I eventually moved in with him. Not here,” she inserted after seeing the way Rusty’s eyes flickered to the house. “I moved into his house on the other side of town. Everyone thought we was the perfect couple and all my friends adored him, except my best friend, Sylvia. She always talked about how she had a bad feeling about him, but of course I just brushed it off.”

“What did your parents think about him?” Rusty interrupted her before she could go on. “I’m sorry, go ahead and finish.”

A small smile tugged at her mouth. He was always so polite.

“I finally had my fairytale come true. I had a handsome man that was crazy about me. I couldn’t have asked for more," she continued, shrugging. She started wringing her hands. "And then his temper started showing. Boy, did he have a temper."

"At first, I thought it was no big deal. I mean, who doesn’t get mad about stuff every now and then? But it got worse. He was getting mad about the tiniest things, like his underwear not being folded the right way or there being breadcrumbs on the kitchen counter. He started getting mad when we would go out somewhere and another man looked at me. He blamed it on me, like I wanted them to look at me.”

She paused at this point, not really wanting to continue but knowing she had to. The next parts would be the hardest for her to tell, but she had a feeling that they would be even harder for him to hear. Rusty sat patiently, waiting for her to continue her story. She appreciated that about him, but she figured it was probably part of his job. Still, she had a feeling he would be the same man even if he had never joined the Army.

“I’m not going to like the next part, am I?” His voice startled her. Her eyes met his and she saw him searching her face, looking for the answer. He must have found the answer because he turned his eyes back to the landscape before them.

“The first time he hit me was four months into our relationship. I had been living with him for two. I was fixing dinner one night and tripped and spilled his plate all over him. Before I could even say anything, he had smacked me across the face. I didn’t know what to do or say. I had never been hit before, not by a man. Not like that.” Rusty’s jaw was tensed, but he didn’t say anything nor look at her. His gaze stayed fixed on the horizon. “He seemed almost as stunned as I felt and he left without saying a word. He didn’t come back until the middle of the night and he apologized for it. He sounded genuine so I forgave him, thinking it would never happen again. I was wrong. At first it was every now and then, but then it turned into almost every day.”

“Why didn’t you leave? You should’ve known it wasn’t right. He wasn’t supposed to treat you that way.” His voice was soft as he spoke. Like he was trying to control it.

“I often ask myself that to this very day. I look back and see how stupid I was for staying. If I had known what would come then I would’ve left after he hit me the first time, but I had no idea. I loved him. He was my first everything.” Peyton looked down at her lap after admitting that. “So I stayed and tried to make him happy. The smacking around turned into beatings and often I was too sore to even get out of the bed, but I did, knowing another one would come if I didn’t. He was always sorry afterwards and I always forgave him. I didn’t think it could get any worse.”

“How could it? The only thing worse would be- No! Peyton!” Rusty’s voice was filled with horror. She closed her eyes, not wanting to see his expression.

“Yes,” she whispered. “He raped me. Not once, but over and over again. He seemed to get off on my weakness. It was horrible, but even then I didn’t leave him. Oh I considered it, on more than one occasion, but where would I go? He knew where I lived, where my friends lived. He would’ve came after me. So, I let him keep doing those things to me. Over and over and over.”

Tears were sliding down her cheeks now. The memories were coming back to her. It was as if a flood gate was opened. They came one after the other. She could almost feel his hand against her cheek or his hot breath on her neck. The burn of the ropes tied around her wrists and ankles.

She couldn’t look at Rusty. She didn’t want to see the disgust on his face. Who was she kidding? What made her think that he would want to be with her after hearing all this? He was too good of a man. He didn’t deserve a woman with these kinds of issues. A woman that still suffered from nightmares and still saw a therapist on occasion.

“Peyton?” She jumped at the nearness of his voice. She hadn’t even heard him get up. He was kneeled down in front of her, his fingers catching the tears that were now racing down her face. “Don’t cry. It’s okay.”

“No, i-it’s not. I’ve never- told anyone- before. Not even- Sylvia,” she hiccuped out. His eyes were clouded with emotion.

She didn't want his sympathy!

Not being able to bear another minute of him looking at her that way, she pushed his hands away and ran past him. Shame overwhelmed her at telling him her deepest secret. Her deepest pain. What was she thinking, trusting him like that? He was still a stranger to her. There was no need for her to go blabbing about her past. She couldn’t even tell her best friend, for goodness sakes!

She ran until she came to the fence behind the barn and climbed over it. Her knees hit the ground first and she stumbled to her feet. She ran on, her lungs protesting, not being used to this sort of physical labor.

Finally, when she wasn’t able to take another step, she collapsed underneath a giant oak tree. She closed her eyes and tried to catch her breath. A cool breeze blew her hair around her face. Tears continued to make paths down her cheeks as she laid her head back against the trunk.

She cried for the past and the things that had been done to her. She cried for the present and all the pain caused by those memories resurfacing. And lastly, she cried for the future and all that she had lost this day.