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This unedited portion of the book contains instances of domestic abuse and explicit language.
Reader discretion is advised.
Six months ago.
My husband Enzo and I had been living and breathing the same air for two years. At the inception of our whirlwind relationship, he was everything to me. He was handsome, tatted, and always said the perfect words at the ideal time. The silver-tongued devil could charm the skin off a snake and the birds from the trees. He was six years my senior and as sweet as apple pie. When we were dating, he called me in the mornings when he woke up and every night before he went to bed. His over-the-top romantic gestures, like having bouquets of long-stem roses delivered to my job just because or surprise weekend trips on his motorcycle, made me feel like royalty. From the moment we met, I knew I wanted to be his wife, and when he popped the question six months into our relationship, I said yes without hesitation.
Eighteen months into our marriage, everything changed. He started hanging out with a different set of friends, doing drugs, and staying out late, only to make up excuses the following day about where he’d been. It was only when he’d come home zooted on coke at three o’clock in the morning that he’d want to vent and tell me about the females he dated before me only wanting him for his money and what his family had, but whenever I would inquire more, he’d shut down or get angry. I never pressed the topic because everyone has secrets, and he clearly wanted to keep his buried. I knew his parents weren’t around, and he never looked back when he left his hometown to move to Chicago.
On cocaine, Enzo went from loving and devoted to domineering and aggressive within seconds. Our once happy home soon turned into a house of terror, living under the same roof as him. I blamed the drugs at first and urged him to quit and get help, but his habit only worsened. Between his temper tantrums and mood changes, I always walked on eggshells, afraid of what he would say or do if I didn’t. Then one night, he snapped, revealing the monster he’d always been, but I’d just been too naive to notice.
I was asleep on the couch when he pulled me to the floor by my ankles and dragged me by my hair down the hallway to our bedroom. I kicked and screamed as he tossed me on the bed like a rag doll, climbed on top of me, and placed his large hands around my throat. My eyes bugged as I tried to gasp for air.
“Did you take it?”
“E-Enzo, p-please,” I whispered, words a mere push of air as he continued to choke me.
“Answer me, bitch! Did you take it?”
My emotions were at an all-time high. I knew he had to be in another one of his coke-induced rages. I shot my gaze up to him, studying his cold, soulless eyes as he tried to strangle me to death. I scratched and clawed at his arms, using what strength I had left to try and pry his fingers from around my throat. If I could just scream, someone would save me, I thought. Moments before I drew in what I knew would be my last breath, I shot him the most fearless look one could give a person. I refused to die with terror in my eyes at the hands of a coward like Enzo. That’s when he unexpectedly let go and fell backward off me, panting like a dog in heat. “Man, fuck!” he yelled before punching a cereal bowl-sized hole in the wall next to my side of the bed. “Look what you made me fuckin’ do!”
I shot up, gasping for as much air as possible before screaming. Enzo turned his back, and I could feel the adrenaline bursting through my veins. My eyes landed on his gun on the nightstand. The moment I put it in my hand, I knew exactly what I was going to do. It was a muscle reaction with zero thought. There was too little time to think of another alternative than the one that had presented itself. My fingertip squeezed the trigger, and I heard a click. I pulled again and again, and I listened to the shots. Enzo’s two-hundred-pound, muscular body hit the ground with a loud thud. I turned around so fast I almost fell over. There was a burning sensation on the soles of my feet as I ran from the bedroom, down the hall, and through the living room. I grabbed my keys and raced to my car as fast as I could.
“Come on, come on,” I whimpered, frantically turning the key in the ignition.
All I could hear was the underlying kick drum of my heartbeat as the tires screeched and I pulled away.
The minute I got to a safe space, fear erupted from my body in the form of vomit. Not only had I shot my husband, but I had left him for dead. I couldn’t go to jail. Pretty girls like me didn’t do well in places like that. Because I was too afraid to deal with the consequences of my actions, I ran and never looked back. I left behind everything I’d brought to the relationship: pots and pans, dishes, towels, everything. With no I.D., purse, or money, I stayed one night on a friend’s couch before she gave me a few hundred dollars, took me to the bus station, and got me a ticket to some small city called Potomac Falls. She said she had a friend of a friend who did the hiring at a diner there. She promised the pay wasn’t much, but it was something to get me out of my problematic situation.
Potomac Falls would be my reset button on life and a chance to start fresh. I could lay low and pretend to be whoever I wanted. I lifted a pair of scissors from the convenience store across the street from the bus station and cut off all my hair in the bathroom. I figured I’d get someone to fix it up and make it look good when I got some real money. I stepped on that Potomac Falls-bound bus, excited to go to a place without traps or triggers. During the twenty-six-hour-long bus ride, I blocked Enzo, deleted my profiles on all social media sites, tossed my sim card, and changed my email address. It was time to set up my new life under a new identity. I was no longer Indigo Reid. I was Neema Ellison.
Coming Monday, June 12