I don't know how this happened. A year ago, he was so sweet, so romantic. Sure, he was a little demanding, but all men are. He's the one who told me to use sex appeal on marks, and now that
I'm older, (only twenty, I know) I know how to use it.
Now my husband accuses me of flirting with my marks. Now, I go in and work a con, and I come home and he does this.
Only last year, he was down on one knee, a kind smile on his face, asking me to marry him. Of course I said yes.
I didn't understand back then. Not like I do now. Chris never wanted to marry me, and it sure as hell doesn't stop him from sleeping around. He wanted to own me. He wanted me to be a possession. Another pretty object that no one else can touch. And he's gone through great lengths to keep me pretty. Not so much right now, with a bruise on my jaw and a small cut on my cheek, but those will heal. They won't leave marks. The wound on my stomach will, and he knows it. Another 'reminder' that I'm his and no one else's, and don't I know it.
The knife mark on my ribs is slow to heal, and it's healing badly because Chris would never take me to the hospital.
I think even prison would be better than this.
I can't run game like this, so Chris is running them solo. I know that in an hour or so, he'll have to wake up to go meet the mark. And I'll be expected to cook him breakfast and stay quiet and happy while he either duct tapes the doors and windows to keep me in, or ties me somewhere to hold me so he knows I won't run. I hope he uses the duct tape today. My wrists are still sore from the last time he tied me up, so tightly that I was bleeding by the time he came home.
And he got angry that I got blood on the white carpet.
And all I can do is remember my mother's words. She started planning for me when I was just a little girl. When I started to grow up and my father paid more attention to me than her. I didn't understand it then, but now I know what my mother saved me from. She used the name Sophie for me, even then. Told me to get used to being 'Sophie Devereaux' instead of using the name I was born with.
And when I was just fourteen, a young girl beginning to turn into a young woman, she sent me away, made me promise never to come back, and never to try to contact her. I don't even know if my mother is still alive. I doubt she is.
They say you'll marry a man like your father. Suddenly I'm nine years old again, watching my parents argue. Well, really, my father is arguing. My mother is cowering and trying to apologize. She would succeed, if she could stop crying long enough to get the words out.
He hits her, hard enough that she cries out and falls, landing on the ground. She doesn't get up. She knows better than that.
I, as a little girl, attempting to appease my father, retrieve the remote control from where I always put it (so that I can find it quickly next time) and set it on the arm of the chair before going to find my father a drink. I bring him one from the kitchen as he sits down and turns the tv on. He barely glances at me as he tells me to get out of his sight, and I scurry off to do my homework, leaving my mother and father. If I was smart, I would have gotten my mother to run away with me, and we could have gone and lived a life happy without him. Instead, I avoid her, even if she's the only source of kindness in my lonely world. I let my mother and father stay in this horrid, loveless marriage. And I vow that my marriage won't be like that.
They say you'll marry a man like your father. I leave the bathroom where I'm expecting the numerous bruises, scrapes, cuts, and worse injuries. Lunch isn't ready and Chris is angry. We argue. Well... he argues, while I cower and try to apologize. I would succeed, if not for these awful tears choking in my throat. He hits me, hard enough that I fall to the ground. I don't get up.
I know better than that.
Finally, he goes to the television and sits down, picking up the remote from where I keep it on the table, where I always place it after finding it once Chris is asleep. And I get up and make him lunch and get him a drink and give it to him. He barely glances at me as he tells me to get out of his sight, and I scurry off to clean blood off of the bathroom floor. This time though, the blood is mine.
If I was smart, I would have from away, gone and lived a happy life without him. But I don't. I stay in this loveless marriage with my husband, and I mourn the fact that I was wrong as a child, because my marriage is just like my parents'.
They say you'll marry a man like your father. They're right.
Eventually, I do run, though it takes me the better part of ten years to get up the courage. Chris is smart, and he's very good, so I liquidate all my funds and deal only in cash, bouncing around Europe in cars with no plates, taking ferries instead of airplanes. Nothing that would allow him to find me. I stay in cheap hotels and hostels, anything that doesn't require my credit card. For three years, I avoid him.
I'm in Prague, and I'm low on money. I rationalize that he's given up on me. That maybe... maybe I can risk one con. And I do.
And for days after stealing the Degas, I don't see a sign of him. And I begin to hope.
I'm sitting at a café, watching the people there, happy and in love, and I mourn that I didn't have that. I mourn the fact that these women have husbands who will love them, treat them with respect. Maybe a few of the women will get divorced, cheated on, but they'll be happier for the rest of their lives than I was with my husband. I look at my left hand. The white line from my wedding ring is no longer visible, and I take it as a good sign.
I look around the area and my heart stops in my throat because I recognize that curly hair, that tall, broad figure. And he's staring at me. He looks the same, but then again, from this distance, I can't see him as well as I'd like to. The only difference is that instead of the dark jeans and t-shirts, now he's wearing a suit that would have had me drooling over him once upon a time. But that was before I knew what he was capable of. I take off running, ducking through the alleyways I've walked hundreds of times, made sure I knew, so that I have an escape if I need one. And I can hear him following me, his breath light and even as his feet pound over and over again into the cobblestones. I don't remember Chris being this fit, and I sure as hell knew that when we were married, he couldn't run.
I process this all while I turn corners, duck the street vendors offering things to the 'pretty lady.' Normally, I have time for these people, to walk among them and admire their wares. Today, I don't.
I lose him eventually, but I don't dare go back to my hotel, for fear that he'll be there.
I go next to Ireland, hiding myself in a small village, taking on a new name, a new identity. I don't forget the old ones, but I don't reuse them. It's too dangerous.
I hide in Ireland for a while, and find out on the news that the Degas I stole was returned to the museum. Confusing, but Chris return the painting and blame me for the theft, get more information on me than I thought he would.
I learn to lift wallets while I'm in Ireland. I go through the country, take every wallet I can get, all the money... by the time I've finished grifting my way through Ireland, my funds are replenished enough that I can move on. I go to Damascus next, risk stealing another painting.
This time, when Chris finds me, he catches me. I can't walk, can hardly move by the time Nathan Ford catches up to me, and suddenly, everything is different.
Nate is as smart as Chris, but there's so much light in his eyes that I feel dizzy. Nate takes me to a hospital, vouching for me that I'm not a thief and sends the police after his own brother. They don't catch him, but Chris is forced to run, and Nate spends days in the hospital, telling me about his life, and asking me about mine. A week passes before I finally tell him a bit of my story, my life since meeting Chris.
And he takes my hand and gives me this intense gaze that brings tears to my eyes.
"I promise you, Sophie, I'm going to bring him down, and I will never let anyone hurt you like that again."
And I believe him.