Holding her hand over the phone’s receiver, she spoke to herself in painful desperation.

“Non posso farlo!”

It was at that moment that a idea came to Shelby, a flicker of hope in the back of her mind. Yesterday she had discovered something fantastic, yet slightly terrifying. After placing her cellphone on speaker, she could hear all of the ambient noise from Gabriel’s location. During the brief telephone conversation, someone had been whispering to her boyfriend, apparently giving him information or instructions of some kind. Shelby hesitated, struggling between feeling terribly small and being so very close to igniting another spark within her beautiful mind. Something a very close friend had once said to her echoed within the confines of that hidden secret place that Gabriel would never catch a glimpse of. At a very young age, and during their first date, the young man had told Shelby.

“Shelby…you are stunning in every way possible.”

Not yet eighteen years of age, Shelby had not been able to translate her date’s cryptic words, and simply brushed them off as attempted flirtation. The friendship blossomed, and years later she asked him what he had been referring to, and the young man answered without hesitation.

“Shelby you are beautiful in every way. For me though…you are spiritually stunning first.”

She shrugged off the memory flash and looked at the cellphone in her hand. For the very first time in her life, the thing in her hand did not look like a phone, but some kind of dark and menacing creation, intent only on causing as much pain and tragedy as possible; not unlike the man on the other end of the call.

“Babe I’m gonna put you on speaker while I’m cleaning up the bedroom…is that okay,” she said.

“Surrrrre Shelby…like you’re gonna clean something,” Gabriel responded.

Light-headed and dizzy, Shelby cringed as the blood drained from her head.

Gabriel continued, not caring or bothering to pause even for a second to listen for a response, “You know my mom plans to come over this weekend…you need to clean the house Shelby…to…day.”

Shelby trembled with fear, and her palms began to perspire. She could smell her own body odor from under her shirt, but forced this new revelation out of her mind, at least for now.

“Okay, Gabe I will…I promise I’ll start right now,” she said.

With the phone on speaker and the volume turned up, Shelby placed her ear to the speaker, straining to hear something; anything besides her cruel boyfriend. She searched desperately for the necessary words, a question or phrase that would trigger a revealing.

Finally she said, “Gabe do you need me to pick up anything from the store for this weekend?”

“Fuck really,” Gabriel answered.

She could hear her boyfriend inhale deeply, as if he was about to explode.

“Shelby…what did I just tell you,” Gabriel answered.

“Clean the house,” she responded timidly.

Shelby was on the edge of beginning to cry once more when she heard the man whispering. A surge of adrenaline hit her bloodstream like a super charger, and she almost dropped the sweaty cellphone. The man’s voice; easily discerned as not being her boyfriend’s, whispered quietly but deliberately to Gabriel in the background.

“Tell her about the dogs…the dogs…make…sure…she goes downstairs,” the stranger said.

A brief silence. And then the stranger whispered once more, “Tell her now!”

Gabriel spoke next; his loud voice scared Shelby and once again she nearly dropped the phone. Her entire body was shaking, and sweat dripped from her nose to the hardwood floor.

“Shelby,” he said.

Then a pause.

Gabriel finished his sentence, “Shelby I put the dogs downstairs last night. There’s a hole in the run and they got out.”

Another Short pause.

“Make sure you check on them,” he said.

Gabriel had amped up his voice for the words, “make sure you check on them.” Shelby heard the other man’s voice once again, an ugly gruel voice like something from her last nightmare. Something about the man’s voice seemed very familiar, making her think that she either knew him or had met the man at least once before.

The quiet stranger spoke again, “She’s going with you tomorrow night…don’t forget…say it.”

Shelby’s heart raced, pounding like a drum within her chest. Her head felt incredibly heavy and sluggish from what seemed like hours of crying.

“Shelby…are you listening,” Gabriel said.

Gabriel’s voice seemed terribly loud and demanding, similar to what she expected a drill sergeant must sound like during Basic Training.

Shelby responded, “Ye…yes.”

She could hardly speak, terrified that her boyfriend would discover her revelation. Thoughts of what he might do to her flashed through her mind, and for a moment she considered turning the speaker off. Sweat was running down the inside of her nightshirt, and her thoughts of fear were once more replaced with thoughts of body odor.

“Tomorrow night we’re going to my mom and dads for dinner Shelby…Are you listening,” Gabriel added.

“Yes,” Shelby said.

“Do…not…forget what I said…and,” Gabriel added.

“Okay,” she said.

As she spoke the one word, Shelby’s thought processes connected to those of her boyfriend’s, something that had not happened since before her pill addiction. Before Gabriel could finish speaking she glanced up from the bed through the bathroom door, and directly at the medicine cabinet.

“Take your pills Shelby,” he said.


The cell phone screen flashed.


Not only was Shelby not surprised that Gabriel had ended the call without waiting for her response, but she was relieved that he had chosen to be his consistent disrespectful self. His level of complete disregard towards her did not have boundaries or limits, and she no longer cared.

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