The first, “Please, please don’t look in the fucking trunk,” followed quickly by “God, this could all be fucking over if they would just look in the fucking trunk.”
The second thought didn’t last long. There would be cuffs on the spot, no questions asked. It would kill his mother when she found out. Literally kill her. Dead. And his father? Just another fuck-up in a long list of fuck-ups, starting early when Derek didn’t make it into peewee football.
“Wuss,” his dad said.
“He’s just a delicate boy,” his mom had pleaded.
“He’s a fuckin’ wuss,” said his dad dismissively. He lifted a finger off the remote and wagged it at his mom. “You made him that way.”
“God made him the way he is. If God is perfect than so is Derek.”
“Then God is a wuss.”
That was straw that broke the camel’s back and next turned round and spat in its eye as far as Derek’s parents were concerned. But it was just the beginning of Derek’s failures in his father’s eyes. He figured out early that he’d be better off just learning to live with utter humiliation. Suck it up, like his dad told him to.
So, nothing new there.
But a few things had changed since then.
Derek had finally found someone he was willing to suck it up for.
He lived in mortal fear of disappointing Zooey. His full blown, worst nightmare come true would be her finding him substandard or inadequate. He’d been through a break-up with one woman he loved with all his heart and it almost killed him. He wouldn’t survive it again.
As he sat behind the wheel of the ancient Buick, he looked in the rearview mirror. The state trooper was doing the check on his license plate. Derek knew he had all of a minute to get himself together. No matter what, he had to keep his cool. Running a hand threw his hair, he sighed deeply then shuddered.
He repeated his mantra to himself under his breath, trying to gain control.
But the image of what was in that trunk shot into his mind and he couldn’t shake it.
If the trooper headed for the trunk, Derek knew he was done. He may as well just eat a bullet from the guy’s service pistol right there on the road out of Brixton.
After so long, to have it all blow up in his face because of a traffic stop was ridiculous. Stupid! And so fucking typical. He wasn’t speeding. He was being so careful not to go too fast. What the hell went wrong?
Derek began to say his mantra again and didn’t stop until the knock on the window.
2 months earlier
Breaking up was hard to do. What a crock of shit, thought Derek. Breaking up is the first stage of a complete fucking nervous breakdown followed by years of bitterness and a lifetime of commitment phobia. After a few beers Gavin got to hear all about. Again.
“First, first there’s that actual moment when you realize the whole relationship is fucked. That’s bad enough. Four years of your life down the fucking drain.”
Derek slammed another empty bottle of Bud on the bar and signaled for another round.
“Then that teary screamfest when she tells you. Tell her it’s your fault, Gav. Never, ever, tell her it’s her fault. Cause you’ll get your ears screamed off and she’ll beat the shit out of you. Look, I’ve still got the bruises.” Derek started untucking his shirt when Gavin quickly grabbed it and pulled it back down. He looked nervously around him but it was Friday and everyone was too drunk to care about Derek’s latest tirade.
“But the worst part of the whole thing, the absolute worst part? Trying to get your stuff out of the apartment. The apartment with both your names on the lease that is full of all the shit you bought together. All of that shit is suddenly hers. She’s keeping the fucking Silver Surfer poster, Gav! Stan Lee signed that poster! She doesn’t even know who the fuck the Silver Surfer is!”
“Derek, this was, like, a week ago that you broke up with her.”
“What, you think I’m going to get over something like that in a week? No, this a lifetime’s worth of hurt she’s given me.” Derek shook his head sorrowfully and necked his beer to the last drop while the next was delivered. Then he turned, mouth open, to further exorcise his Holly demons to Gavin. His pal. His confessor. His best friend. But Gavin was otherwise engaged with a leggy blonde smiling at him over sips from her wine cooler.
“Um, excuse, me. Uh, hello?”
Gavin and the blonde slowly turned to look at Derek.
“I was having an important conversation with my friend.”
“Nope, we’re done.” Gavin said when the girl frowned. He picked up his jacket and steered the blonde to a table in the back.
“Derek, she dumped you.”
“For another guy.”
“I know. But…”
“You want her back?”
“Good. A step in the right direction.”
“Just deal with it, Derek. Fuck. It’s been a whole fucking week!”
Derek stared, mouth agape, at Gavin’s retreating back. Then he swung back to his beer.
“Just get over it,” Derek mimicked. “Right. She threw me out on the streets! She hit me! She kept the dog, for Chrissake! I’m the one that brought that fucking dog home from the pound!”
Buzzed and in full misery wallow, Derek put a twenty on the bar to pay his tab. He looked up at the flashing television screen as he zipped up his jacket. An ad for eConnections played silently to an oblivious crowd. Couple after couple on the screen stood against a bulging red heart background as they held hands, nuzzling, happy. Derek felt sad and old, suddenly.
“Don’t want to stay alive, when you’re twenty-five.”
He turned to go and saw the same ad on the television on the front wall. Standing stock still, Derek was hit by sudden inspiration and, rarer still, a small patter of hope. Those nobodies on the screen found someone. Surely he could.
“Fucking dog never liked me, anyway.”
Derek headed home, humming happily, as he mentally wrote a description of himself.
After wading through Lady Seeks Knight in Shining Armor, Horny Mom and Marriage Needed to Access Trust Fund, Derek found a match.
She’d sounded great, no, perfect, in the description:
And Under that Star I was Born
But I’m no Juliet looking for a Romeo and I don’t suffer from Othello syndrome. I’m just a literate girl with gallows humor looking for a boy to swing at the end of my rope. No drugs, no kids, no kidding. You don’t have to be serious to be taken seriously.
Her photo depicted a pretty but not too beautiful girl with a gleam in her eyes that spoke volumes. Derek was more than ready to listen. Coming out of a four year relationship that had ended with his fiancée leaving him for the dog groomer and taking the dog had left him shattered and hopeless. He wasn’t ready for anything serious. But, God, he needed to be taken seriously. Their first date, after a series of gently probing and sarcastic emails, was sublime.
Gavin had sent him off like a preening, gay Dad.
“Don’t wear that shirt. Fuck, Derek, you look like you shop at St. Vincent’s. Well, I know you do, but you don’t have to look like you do. Here let me put this in your hair. It’s gel. I swear to God you won’t look like Cameron Diaz. You should be so lucky. Have you got condoms? It could happen. How can you not be ready? You’re a guy!”
Derek and Zooey walked into the coffee shop at the same time, literally bumping into each other. With quiet apologies, they separated then looked back at the other with mutually raised eyebrows.
“Derek. I’m Zooey. Great to finally meet you.” She held out her hand. Derek took it, and received a firm handshake. “Let’s sit at a booth. I like to stretch out.”
Docilely, Derek followed behind as Zooey cut through the crowd like an icebreaker in the Arctic Ocean. Zooey chose their booth. Zooey ordered their coffee (fair trade!). Zooey decided they should go to dinner (Thai!). Then Zooey decided to take him home. She had her own condoms, thanks anyway.
When Derek woke the next morning, Zooey was in the shower and he was sore as hell. They’d had sex on every flat surface in the place with Zooey directing, posing and pulling him until he begged her for release. He smiled and sighed contentedly.
Easing himself out of bed, he yawned and stretched then followed a beautiful coffee smell. As he walked past the mirrored closet doors, he paused, brows furrowed. Turning his back to the mirrors he could see that he had bruises and a couple of long scratches on his back. Looking down, he saw more bruises on his chest and arms.
“Hmmmpf.” Derek primped a bit, rubbed his hand over a handprint on his thigh, shrugged, then headed for the kitchen, whistling the whole way. No mantras need apply.
When Zooey got out of the shower she sauntered into the kitchen and, without a word, pushed him down into a kitchen chair.
“Good morning!” Derek grinned then extended his lips for a kiss.
Zooey grabbed his coffee, put it on the table and sat facing him on his lap. Derek was pleased.
“I see. Well…”
Smiling, she grabbed him and started where she’d left off the night before.
By that afternoon, Derek would have willingly picked up tampons from the store then shaved his head, held up a day care and eaten a cat turd if she’d asked him to. He was in love.
Within a few weeks, Derek and Zooey had settled into a routine that featured her sex driven ideas quickly followed by his capitulation. When Gavin asked to meet the woman that had healed Derek’s crushed and beer-soaked heart, Derek was excited. Then worried.
What if she saw something in Gavin that she didn’t see in him? Gavin wasn’t a bad looking guy. He had a nice car, a good job. What if Zooey went for him? No. They would never meet. Derek would make sure of that. He came up with a series of deferments, each more ridiculous than the last, until Gavin, annoyed and hurt, stopped asking. Their friendship became strained but Derek was too sated by Zooey to notice.
Zooey never asked about Gavin. Or anyone else in his life, for that matter. She never asked about his favorite color, his middle name or what he wanted to be when he grew up. She took over his life and became a cult with him as the only brainwashed follower. Derek was too sated by Zooey to notice.
But the most docile of sheep have their breaking point. And it is one of life’s chuckling ironies that the sheep are always too far gone to be able to do anything but bleat as they wait for the axe to fall.
The latest idea for a sex-escapade bordered on the impossible and was the most frightening thing Derek had ever been asked to do. It never occurred to him to say no.
That is why, a week later, he found himself waiting in the underground parking lot of Zooey’s building. When he heard the distinctive rattle of her engine approach, he pulled a hood down over his head. It was a bad time to realize he’d done a shit job of cutting the eyeholes but the plan had to move forward.
As the car sputtered to a stop, Derek crept from behind the pillar. Walking softly and carrying a big length of rope, he approached. Zooey stood, pulling her work out gear from the trunk. Just as they had practiced, Derek grabbed her from behind and held her fast to him. She uttered an inarticulate and angry noise before he got a chance to put the duct tape over her mouth. Then he placed a hood similar to his own over her head and wrestled her into the trunk. Tying the ropes tightly, but not too tightly, around her wrists, he couldn’t help but worry that he was hurting her.
“I’m sorry, Zooey, if it hurts.”
An irate ‘mmmmm’ sounded came from the trunk before he slammed the lid down. Sliding behind the wheel, he quickly hot-wired the car and took off. Just before he hit the street, he remembered to take the hood off.
He was well out of town when he saw the lights in the rearview mirror. He slipped the hood under the seat and freaked out.
The knock on the window, anticipated as it was, made Derek jump. He rolled down the window and looked up at the khaki clad state trooper staring down at him in the last light of the day.
Upon request, Derek duly handed over his license and waited for an agonizing ten minutes for the trooper to return.
“Would you step out of the car, sir?”
“What did I do wrong?”
“Just step out of the car.”
Derek unbuckled his seat belt and got out of the car.
“Would you please walk to the side of the road, sir?”
“OK,” nervous and unsure, Derek walked, staring back every few steps to see where the trooper was. He was watching Derek very closely and waited until Derek reached the shoulder to follow him.
“Sir, did you know that you where driving only twenty miles and hour?”
“That’s twenty-five miles under the limit. Have you had any alcoholic beverages or taken any illegal drugs today?”
“I don’t even like to take aspirin.”
“Let me take a look at your eyes, sir.”
The trooper came closer and took a close look at Derek’s eyes and sniffed the air when Derek exhaled.
“Are you on any kind of medication?”
“Is there any particular reason you were driving so slow?”
“I didn’t know I was. I guess I’ve got a lot on my mind.” Derek’s eyes went to the trunk and back. The trooper’s eyes followed.
As the trooper turned toward the Buick a pick-up came speeding down the road, clipping the trooper’s car as it sped off.
“He hit your car!”
“No shit, Sherlock!”
The trooper radioed in this latest affront to the law and pointed a finger at Derek,
“You’re damn lucky he came along, fella!”
With the choice between the dim-witted Derek and the asshole that violated his vehicle, the trooper jumped into his car and took off, lights and siren on full blast. The wheels kicked up a cloud of dust that had barely settled before the coughing Derek was once again behind the wheel.
Heading for the empty lot Zooey had told him about, he kept his eyes glued to the speedometer, barely looking up to see where he was going. He spoke his mantra in a frantic voice.
The lot was a welcome site. Derek drove along the dirt road to a mostly collapsed barn. When he got out of the car, he bent over and gagged. He wasn’t made for this kind of stress. He waited until he had himself mostly under control again then went back and opened the trunk.
Zooey was wriggling and making more angry ‘mmmmmm’ noises.
He was about to heft her out of the trunk, but decided to check on her first.
He grabbed the hood and pulled it off.
It wasn’t Zooey.
“Ohmigod!” Hands to his mouth, Derek could feel the bile rise in his throat.
He grabbed the corner of the duct tape and ripped it off.
“Jesus fucking Christ!”
The woman who was not Zooey sat up, spitting and swearing. She glared at Derek as Derek stood, mouth open, hands unconsciously pulling at the hair on his head.
She glared, then spat.
“What are you waiting for?”
“What the fuck are you waiting for?”
“Hello? Kidnapper? Rapist? What are you waiting for?”
“I don’t understand.”
“No shit, Sherlock!”
“But, I…” He walked to the trunk and stared down at the sputtering woman. “Why aren’t you screaming?”
“Oh, you need me to scream? Anything to get the ball rolling.” And she began to scream.
“No, no. Stop!” Derek bent down, put a hand over her mouth, holding her gently to him with the other hand. “Please, please, don’t scream.”
He pulled away from her to see her scowling.
“Zooey told me you could do this. She promised me you could handle this.”
“You know Zooey?”
She stared at him for a second, then rolled her eyes.
“I’m her sister. Zudi? See any family resemblance?”
And looking closely, Derek did.
“She didn’t tell me you were this stupid,” Zudi huffed. “But she was right about one thing.”
“What was that?”
“You are a babe.”
With that, Zudi wrapped her legs around him and pulled him into the trunk. He landed heavily on top of her and had just enough time to notice the lid of the trunk coming down before it did, latching into place.
Zudi withdrew her tongue from his mouth.
“What the Hell are we going to do now?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean, you don’t know?”
“But, you’re a guy!”
Derek said nothing.
Zudi rolled out from under from him and with her hands still tied together began pounding on the trunk and yelling for help.
Derek lay tucked tightly behind her, muttering his mantra.