‹ Prequel: Even Lovers Drown
Status: Paused for now

Happily Ever After

Chapter 6

Hands—grubby, greedy hands—roughly roving her body. Touching, grabbing, molesting things they had no right to. She shoved and beat his chest. Desperate attempts to overcome someone so much stronger than her. Tears trickled down her face, her screams fell on deaf ears, she was trapped. No one was going to save her, no one was going to come, no one would even notice. She scratched at his face, clawed down his cheek, a frantic action to defend herself, to derail his quest and give herself enough time to run. He jerked back and rammed his own hand into her cheek, no hesitation. Her face snapped to the side, her screams stopped in her shock, her body froze.

“Stupid bitch,” he mumbled and grabbed her wrists, pinning them above her head with one hand.

The other traveled down her body, under her pretty red dress, the one she wore just to visit her parents earlier that day. He had helped her pick the dress. He said the material looked good on her skin and then he offered to go with her to her parents’ house, to protect her on the walk through the dark alleys of their neighborhood. He was supposed to protect her. She trusted him.

Why was he doing this?

“Stop it,” she cried, trying to jerk from his hold. “Get off, get off.”

She didn’t want this. She never wanted this.

Her struggle and pleas failed to elicit any response from him. No sympathy, no realization that what he was doing was wrong, nothing. Unaffected, he ripped her thin panties, one quick tug of the strings holding the flimsy material together.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. This couldn’t have been happening. This was a joke, just a joke, to make her aware of how vulnerable she was. He’d get off, laugh, and tell her to take self-defense lessons.

He was her friend, her best friend. He couldn’t do this.

His belt buckle clinked in the silence, the sound of a zipper traveling down the tracks, clothing rustling. He hovered over her, prepared to enter. Panic consumed her. Her tears became helpless sobs.

“Stop it,” she chanted, “Stop it, stop it, stop it.”

And then, pain.

Cadeau shot up in her bed, breath bursting in anxious pants, sweat decorating her body. Her eyes darted around the room. Darkness aside from the little nightlight illuminating a small corner and the moonlight filtering through the window. The tempo of her pulse calmed, her breathing evened. The familiar surroundings grounded her and shattered the panic brought on by the nightmare world. She fell back on her mattress, rubbing her sleep-heavy eyes.

She’d never get back to sleep now, not with the life-shattering memory threatening to attack her in her sleep. Almost four years since he ruined her and she still wasn’t okay. She’d confided in her family, had a major breakdown, and stayed in a hospital. So much time, energy, and money and she was still suffering.

At least she could look at her child—their child—without bawling.

Sighing, Cadeau sat up, kicked her feet over the side of the bed, and stood. She grabbed the comforter from the floor, where it had likely been discarded in the midst of her thrashing through the night, and threw the heavy fabric back on the bed. Leaving the comforter in a messy pile atop her mattress, she shuffled from the room into the pitch-black hallway. She didn’t check the clock on the way out, didn’t care enough to check the time and confirm what she already knew. The sun hadn’t begun to rise yet, the moon was still high, it was far too late for her to be awake.

On sluggish feet, she traveled the short distance to the next door, her daughter’s room, marked as such by sparkling stickers spelling out her name. She opened the door and stood in the entrance, staring at her sleeping bundle. Messy blonde hair peeked over the blanket, along with the ear of a teddy bear, and the rest of Jolie and her nighttime companion were wrapped up tight, hidden from the imaginary evils that lurked in her closet and beneath her bed. A smile pulled the corners of Cadeau’s lips.

She loved her daughter. Jolie may have been conceived at the expense of Cadeau’s sanity, and maybe Cadeau couldn’t look at her for months after her birth, but she did love her. She’d always love her.

Quietly, to avoid waking her daughter, Cadeau stepped into the room, letting the door click closed behind her. She tiptoed to the little bed and, carefully, climbed in behind Jolie. She draped a protective arm over her waist, pressed herself against her tiny back, and curled her legs to keep her tucked against her, to shelter her. Jolie didn’t stir.

Holding her daughter close, she wouldn’t have to worry about nightmares returning, wouldn’t lay awake stressing over the future, wouldn’t panic over the unknowns in their life. She’d listen to her daughter’s even breathing, press her cheek to the soft blonde curls decorating her head, and relax knowing she was safe. She was doing something right.

Calm drowned Cadeau. Her eyelids grew heavier, her mind drifted, and sleep took hold. No dreams startled her awake. Nothing disrupted her comforting sleep.

Until a consistent tap on her nose woke her.

She opened her eyes, just enough to see the culprit. Jolie’s concerned face was illuminated by the sun streaming through the window.

When did the sun rise?

“Yes, princess?” Cadeau asked, voice thick with exhaustion.

She tried to prompt her body to rise. Jolie was awake and waiting on her. Early as it may have been, Cadeau needed to get up. To feed her, get them both ready for the day, and sit around on the couch watching Jolie color until she needed to be at work. But she couldn’t seem to find the energy.

“Mommy, when are we goin’ to Granma and Granpa’s?”

Cadeau’s mother and father’s house, where Jolie would stay till she was out of work. She hated having to leave Jolie there. Her parents adored Jolie, they did despite the cause of her birth, and they spoiled her to best of their abilities, but they were too old to be babysitting. Cadeau didn’t want to stress them into an early grave.

“Not until eight, princess.”

Silence. Through barely opened eyes, she watched her daughter stare at the clock on the bedside table, the gears of her mind almost audibly working as she tried to remember the name of the number written in neon. She’d chuckle at her adorable pensive expression if she weren’t so tired.

“That number says nine,” Jolie stated.


Eyes snapping wide open, Cadeau twisted to see the clock, hoping Jolie confused the nine and seven again. The time blared in neon numbers sent a jolt of panic through her. Nine in the morning. She was late.

And her daughter knew her numbers well enough to read a digital clock.

Cadeau scrambled out of the little bed, nearly falling on the floor in the process. Startled by her sudden movements, Jolie jumped and watched her mother with wide eyes. Cadeau didn’t notice her child’s panic at watching her panic, her mind so consumed by things that needed to get done before leaving the house.

She needed to change and brush her teeth and put her hair up and put her makeup on. And Jolie, she needed to get Jolie ready, dress her and get a bag together and feed her. And did she have time for a shower? Where was she supposed to start? What sequence was most efficient? Oh, God, Charlie’s was already open. Her shift already started. She was going to get fired. She couldn’t get fired, she needed this job.

“What are you doin’?” Jolie asked, shattering her thoughts.

Cadeau looked at the tiny face staring up at her, registered the cautious expression lurking in the pretty blue eyes. She was effectively scaring the hell out of her child and she wasn’t even trying. Even better.

An idea popped into Cadeau’s head, a means of getting out in a sufficient time. Aside from cutting out her shower and letting Jolie eat at her parents’ house.

She knelt in front of Jolie, took her hands into hers to reassure her everything was okay. “We’re going to play a game,” she said, in the most excited voice she could muster. Excitement always made Jolie more willing to be cooperative. “It’s called ‘who can get ready fastest?’ You want to?”

“Yeah,” Jolie exclaimed.

“Okay, ready, set, go.”

The words slurred together in her rush to get them out but Jolie heard her. Screeching in excitement, she darted from the room to put together her “necessities” for her day. Most of those things—coloring books, crayons, her battered collection of fairytales, her two Barbie dolls—were still sitting in the living room, where Jolie most frequently used them.

Cadeau followed her daughter’s example. She rushed from the bedroom, into her own room, and headed straight for the cramped closet. Her oversized shirt and boyshorts, the only pieces of clothing making up her nighttime wardrobe, fell in a puddle on the floor. She threw on a lacy bra and panty set, her blue work polo, black slacks, and not-appropriate-for-work black heels. A set of bracelets from the top of her dresser followed, then small hoop earrings to complete her outfit.

Teeth, hair, makeup. Almost done, almost done.

She hurried out of her room, grabbing her purse on the way, and took over the bathroom she and Jolie shared. She brushed her teeth, quickly and probably not for as long as her mother would prefer, and threw her hair in a messy ponytail. She applied her makeup—simple eyeliner, mascara, and a dab of lip-gloss—with a steady hand.

A triumphant call of “I’m done” traveled from the living room.

“Did you get your workbook?” Cadeau returned.


Smiling, Cadeau stepped back to assess her work, twisting her head from side-to-side to check each angle. Cute enough to get her through a day of work. Not that her coworkers cared much.

Though they would worry if she didn’t show up looking like a Barbie doll.

“Done,” Jolie yelled.

“Me, too,” Cadeau called back, leaving the bathroom. “Get in the car, you’re eating breakfast with Grandma and Grandpa.”

She’d call them in the car, forewarn them of the hungry black hole preparing to attack their home. After she called her coworkers to let them know she was running late.
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Thank you to I am Cheese! :3, SpencerG, choliecole, and Bree10.
And thank you to any new subscribers.
I didn't really feel like updating today.
But I knew it had been awhile, so I figured I'd go ahead and do it.
I hope you enjoyed.
X's and O's,
Dakota Ray