Megan sat cross-legged on her bed, the math book for her master's program open in her lap, when she heard the gunshot and Freeman's yelp. He had no time to protect or react. Not even the slightest growl. She sprang up from her position and shook uncontrollably, unable to move, knowing he was in the house. Her room door was closed, but not locked. She needed to lock it, but the shakes had a hold of her. Megan knew it was only a matter of time until he found her. And he did, again, for a third time.
As shock surrendered her immobile, she stood staring at her bedroom door waiting in a bundle of nerves. Megan willed her knocking together knees to bend, but there was nothing. Then she saw the doorknob turn. This was it. She was going to die.
He stood there, dressed totally in black, and all Megan could do was look down the barrel of the gun he held straight at her. He did not say a word. She heard his breathing, the same raspy sound she had heard for three years before she finally left him; she thought for good. Now, he was there. Again.
Megan looked up at his eyes finally and he smiled, then laughed, and she saw his finger squeeze the trigger.
Megan shot straight up in her bed. Freeman, startled, stared at her with his ears up. Sweat heavily dripped from her pores and soaked the sheet under her as she glanced at him looking up. The sound of the gun going off in her head reverberated as she sat there still shaking. With the pounding pulsing through her every cell, she put her hands to her face and leaned over and started to cry for the umpteenth time. Freeman stood and walked over and put his head on her knee. Megan patted him on the head because he soothed her. She did not know how much longer she could live her life like this though. It was enough she had to run and hide for real, but she could never run and hide from her nightmares. They consumed her.
"I don't think I can do this anymore. Really, I don't." Megan told Francie, her best friend for the past nine months since she moved to Radiant as they sat and had lunch.
"Yes you can, Megan. You've come this far. You can't give up now."
"Francie, I'm tired. I'm twenty-six and my body feels like it's eighty-three. I walk on egg shells constantly, always looking over my shoulder to make sure he's not following me, and I have a different nightmare every night. I don't know how much more I can take."
"Listen to me Megan. You've made it this far right? You can take it. You're a strong woman. You always have been. Even in the short time I have known you, I can tell that. You were strong enough to walk out on him and you are strong enough to keep going."
"Francie, I'm a frickin' basket case. Outside, I hide it very well. Inside, I'm all knots."
"I know a very good therapist. I'll give you his number."
"No Francie. That won't help. I've already been to several and none help. All they want to do is medicate me and I'll function worse. No, I'll do what I've been doing and medicate myself."
"No offense here Megan," Francie said as she got up from the table and slung her bag over one shoulder to go back to work, "But it still isn't working."
Megan sat there and watched her friend walk away. She took a deep sigh and motioned the waitress for the check. She left the money on the table and got up and walked out to her car.
Megan had no idea that he was standing across the road watching. He leaned up against the light post, cigarette dangling low in his lips, and smiled as she drove off. He knew exactly where she was going. She was going to be so surprised that he was back.
Freeman heard the keys dangle in the door and greeted Megan as she opened it. At this point in her life, he was her real boyfriend. He was the only male that she could depend on to take care of her.
"Hey boy!" Megan said as she leaned down to Freeman and petted his big head. His tail wagged vigorously as he melted into her touch. Freeman may have been a mean looking German Shepherd to some, but to Megan, his heart softened. She was his as he was hers.
"Are you hungry Freemie? I bet you are." Megan looked at him and he understood as he followed her into the kitchen. He watched carefully then the drool started to flow. Megan laughed and just shook her head as she put his bowl down.
While Freeman ate, Megan went to her bedroom and pulled out her nightshirt and flung it across her bed. It may have just been early in the evening, but she was ready to relax. She started the shower so it would be nice and hot while she disrobed. Her clothes fell to the floor beside her bed where she would leave them, at least for the night. Steam billowed out of the shower as she opened the door and stepped inside.
The hot water poured over her and soothed her tired scared muscles. Her long brown hair plastered against her shoulders. She felt the heavy weight of her tresses dangle with the heaviness she was already carrying on them. Like she really needed more. Suddenly, she found herself slinking down to the tiled shower floor where she sat and began to cry as the hot water poured over her. Megan's sobs drowned out the droplets drenching her bareness. She wished for once that something would take away her mental pain.
Then Megan remembered the nine millimeter.
Megan cut the water off and grabbed the towel. She dabbed along her naked body, rustled her hair with it, then hung it back up. Immediately, she went to her closet, forgetting about the nightshirt on her bed, and she saw the case on the shelf. Taking the handle, Megan pulled. She had forgotten just how heavy the nine mil was. When she turned around, Freeman was lying on her bed on top of her nightshirt. She did not care and sat on the edge of her bed, still naked, except for the case in her bare lap.
Megan just stared at it. The last time she had it open she had intended on using it. It would have been best if she had. Somehow, Megan had willed herself not to pull that trigger. Now, as she sat looking at it, she was sorry that she hadn't.
Slowly, Megan slid the latch and lifted the hinged top. The nine mil was just as she left it the last time; shiny and clean after only being touched once. The magazine lay in its spot beside it still loaded. She ran her fingers over the cold metal first, feeling the contours of it. Her fingertips tingled as they ran over its ridges. Then Megan finally pulled the nine millimeter out.
It actually felt good in her hand as she wrapped her fingers around the grip. She inspected it, almost getting hypnotized to its look and feel once again, before taking the clip out and shoving it inside the handle. The click of it locking in made the moment more real. Megan was ready.
She stood and walked over to the full length mirror. Freeman lifted his head and watched her stare at her fully naked body in the reflection. Her eye caught the shininess of the nine mil in her grip as she stood there. Megan was not scared for once. For the first time in a long while, she knew what she had to do.
She turned back around towards her bed. Freeman immediately jumped down from the bed and she rubbed his head as he found his on the floor. Megan did not bother with the nightshirt and left it on the bed as she lifted the covers to get in underneath them. Lying backside down, she placed the nine millimeter upon her stomach. The cold steel made her naked body shiver as the covers closed her into the bed. Now she waited for the moment. She knew when she would be ready.
Freeman's growl was the first thing Megan heard. She opened her crusted over eyes and saw the shadow of Freeman run out the door. It was not a dream this time. It was real. She knew he had found her a fourth time. She could not move yet again. The only thing she managed to move was her hand so it could wrap around the grip of the nine mil now having been warmed by her stomach.
Then she heard Freeman's yelp just like in her dreams, but there was no gunshot. Megan knew it was just a matter of moments until he appeared in the doorway. She just waited with her hand on the trigger. It was finally going to be over soon. Enough of the running; enough of the moving; enough of the walking on the eggshells; it was time to end it once and for all. Megan was ready.
Megan acted asleep. She was still as if she was dead. She watched her room door through the narrow slits of her eyelids. The dim light behind the door would cast his silhouette easily letting her know he was going to enter. Megan tensed when she saw his form emerge. Still, she was ready.
She still did not move even as he climbed up onto her bed and straddled her body with his. She remembered what it was like to be underneath him and it loathed her. His scent was still the same and the stale cigarette odor nauseated her. Megan wished she would just puke her guts out all over him. The weight of his awful body over hers made her want to keep sinking deeper into the bed, but his body would only sink with hers.
Megan felt him lean down to her. She could smell his hot cigarette rot breath as he whispered in her ear, "I know you're wake Megan."
Without looking at him or moving, Megan said, "And I know why you're here."
"You always think you can run from me. How many times do I have to tell you, you can never hide from me. I'll always find you. I always do. I have to admit, the dog was a nice touch though.
"Yeah, Freemie has been the best man I've ever had in my life."
"Aww, honey, that hurts. That really does. Well, I'm back and I'm gonna change that right now!"
And he leaned down to kiss her, but Megan turned her head.
"Maybe you didn't understand me," he said as he leaned up then unbuttoned his pants while still straddling her at the waist. Megan saw his so-called weapon pop out and shivered as she remembered what it was like when he used it. She wished that memory had stayed buried.
He then descended to her level and said, "It'll be clearer after this." He then reached for the covers over her to pull them down in route to the place on her he felt invading made him a man.
"If anyone is going to make it clearer, it's me Tyler," Megan said as she lifted the gun and pointed it into his gut. She knew he felt it when he stopped pulling down the covers just short of exposing her breasts.
"Surprised huh, Tyler? You shouldn't be. You should have known this day would come. You're no longer going to hurt me and you'll never hurt another woman again!"
"You bitch!" Tyler yelled and lifted his fist. He did not have a chance to use it.
The slight muffled sound of the shot filled the room as Tyler fell face first onto Megan. His warm blood soaked through the sheet to her naked body as his heavy lifeless frame covered her. She moved her arm out and dropped the gun on the hardwood floor. It made a resounding thud throughout the room. Megan then reached for her cell sitting on the nightstand and as she slid her finger across the screen, she heard the tapping of Freeman's claws on the floor as well.
She dialed nine-one-one as Freeman jumped on the bed with her. He was shaking violently as Megan said into the receiver, "I just killed my ex. It's finally over."
Freeman laid his head on her chest as she finished that statement. It was as if he knew how to console her.
Megan wrapped her arm around his big head and said, "You're the only male I need Freemie. It's done" and he stopped shaking instantly.
Megan closed her eyes as she held on to Freeman to wait for the authorities. She did not move. She knew she could not. She wanted the officer to see the aftermath as it was and as it happened. All she did was breathe a huge sigh of relief with every breath. Suddenly, her life was already better and she felt the burden lift off her shoulders, even as that burden lied dead on top of her. She was finally going to be able to sleep without dreaming. Without nightmares. Without Tyler.
The smile the deputy saw on Megan's closed eyes face when he entered her room gave away her true feelings. That much was evident. No questions needed to be asked.
Freeman reacted by lifting his head. Megan opened her eyes and saw the deputy standing at the edge of her bed. She looked at him and said, "Tyler can't hurt me anymore, officer."
"No ma'am, he can't," he replied and then proceeded to move Tyler's body enough so Megan could truly be free. He just did not realize how free she actually was.
"Oh excuse me ma'am," he said and turned his head to keep from seeing more of what he should not.
"It's okay officer. Really, it is." Megan said as she stood there in her nakedness not caring. Then she saw herself in the full length mirror; the sticky red stain of Tyler on her upper stomach and below her breasts. She stared at herself for a second. Freeman stood beside her actually looking also.
Megan then turned around to the officer and said, "Truly free. Symbolic, don't you think?"
Trying not to look as he answered, "Yes ma'am. Truly free."
Megan smiled and patted Freeman on the head. It felt good to finally actually have her freedom again. She could not wait to tell Francie. Or anyone who would really listen for that matter. Her freedom finally felt normal.