We had just gotten back from Paris and were celebrating our three-month anniversary. His phone kept buzzing, but he put it aside, claiming it was work and that it could wait. We stood in silence in the kitchen, washing up the last of the dishes when he simultaneously moved closer to me and pushed me up against the counter with a kiss. His lips were rough, as if we hadn’t spent the whole week in Paris. I pulled away,, “Are you okay, Raj?” He pulled my hand over his heat, shushing me loudly, “Baby, I just wanna kisssss.” I smelled the alcohol on his breath and knew he had drunk more than his share of the fancy wine we got in Paris. I pulled him towards the bedroom, “Raj, you’re drunk. Let’s get you to bed.” He stomped his foot like an angry toddler, “No, Lauryn, I want to kiss you, and hold you, and make love to youuuuuu.” He jerked his arm roughly out of my grasp, and wandered down the hall. I didn’t want to leave him to his own devices, so I chose to follow him. He meandered into his office and sat down roughly in his leather chair. I climber into his lap, before kissing him on the lips, “Better?” I asked teasingly, only to have his angry eyes silence my giggles. I laid my head on his chest until I felt his breathing deepen, and he started to snore softly. Grabbing the throw blanket from his couch, I made sure he was nice and comfy before going to bed.
He climbed into bed a little after 3 that morning, not saying a word or making an attempt to cuddle me. I rolled over to look at him and found him doing the same. I gave a soft smile, “Babe? I think I’m going to go see my mom tomorrow.” He grunted his disapproval but shifted closer, “Why?” I shrugged, “I haven’t heard from her and I just want to make sure she’s okay. She’s prone to falling down the stairs when left alone.” He kissed me softly, “You’re so sweet. I’ll have my driver take you over there first thing in the morning.” I smiled before falling back to sleep in his arms.
Morning came before either of us was ready, and I climbed into the car, my head full of doubts. I pictured it to be this happy reunion, or I’d find her dead on the stairs. I hid the tremor in my hands as I kissed Raj goodbye, promising to tell him all about it at dinner. It took a half an hour to pull up to the little shack I once called home. I let the driver know he was welcome to come in, but he wanted to stay in the car. I knocked on the door quietly at first, but then I rang the bell. When I heard no answer, I pushed the door open. My mother lay on the couch, snoring the day away as reruns of her telenovela played on the tv. I sighed and began to clen up the house. She had beer bottles everywhere, and dishes piled high. When she finally began to stir, I sat down on the other end of the couch and waited for her to notice me, “Lauryn? What the hell? Who let you in?” Her words stung, but I bit my lip and said, “I let myself in, Ma. I wanted to make sure you were okay.” She snorted, “Si, pero no gracias a ti…” I let her continue to berate me in Spanish until she calmed down, “I thought you left for good.” I shrugged “I did, but I was worried about you, and even though I don’t live here any more, I thought we could still have a relationship.” I handed her a card, “Here, Ma, this has my new address and number on it. Call me if you need anything, si?” She nodded quietly, and I stood up and gave her a stiff hug, before walking out the door.
I didn’t hear from her until two weeks later, when she called me, “Hello?”
“Lauryn, it’s me.”
“Ma? Is everything okay?”
“Si, si, I wanted to see if you were free to have dinner at the new Italian bistro tonight?”
I inwardly groaned, tonight Raj had a huge Christmas dinner with his company, but I didn’t want to push my mom away, so I heard myself agree, “Sure, Ma, is 6 okay?”
I wandered aimlessly through the house until Raj came home. His footsteps pounded up the walkway, and from the way he door slammed behind him, I knew he’d had a bad day. I stood in the kitchen, waiting for him to find me. He kissed me roughly on the cheek before pouring himself a tall glass of whiskey. I stood behind him and rubbed his shoulders, “Long day, baby?” He grunted and emptied the glass as quick as he’d filled it, “My partner backed out of this huge investment deal we agreed on months ago. He thinks it’ll be too risky.” I nodded slowly, “What can you do?” He groaned, “Well, I have to scramble and find someone willing to invest with me, or I lose the best deal I’ve had in years.” He pounded his fist on the counter, “It’s so damn frustrating!” I pulled him close to me, “I wish I could do something to help, baby.” He sighed loudly, “Well at least we have that dinner tonight. I might be able to talk to some of the other partners and see if I can pique their interests.” I shifted uncomfortably and pulled away, “About that, Raj, I can’t go…tonight.” He chuckled loudly, “That’s a good one, doll, you’ve been all of two places in the three months you’ve been here.” I stood my ground, “I’m serious, Raj, my mom called and wants to meet me for dinner.” His hand moved so fast I felt it before I saw it. My head snapped back and my ears rang. Raj had a fury in his eyes that I’d never seen before. I cradled my cheek in my hand as Raj continued to yell at me, “You ungrateful leech! I took you in! I gave you food! You would be a skank on the street if it weren’t for me. I let you live here for free, not asking for anything in return, and the one night I need you, you have plans? I don’t think so.” He grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to the phone, “You call your mom and tell her something came up, okay?” I whimpered until he shook me like a rag-doll, “Okay..baby…okay…I’ll call her and cancel.” I dialed her number shakily, but reached her voicemail, “Hey Ma, something…came up tonight. I won’t be able to make it…maybe we could do breakfast this weekend or something.”
Miguel had calmed down some by the time I hung up the phone. He held me close, and I tried not to stiffen up. His voice whispered in my ear, “Honey, I’m so sorry. I should never have hit you. You just made me so mad.” I let the tears flow freely now, “I’m sorry, baby, I’ll check with you before I make plans. It won’t happen again.” He kissed me softly, “I’m sorry, baby. Forgive me?” I smiled through my tears, “Forever and always, Raj.” He smiled and clapped his hands, “Let me show you the new dress, I got for you to wear tonight.” Any tension leftover from our fight was erased by his child-like excitement as he raced out of the room.
I admired my new dress in front of the mirror, trying not to notice the bruise forming on my face. Raj stood behind me, and caressed my neck. He pulled me close and kissed me softly. We stayed there for a while, until it was time to go. He led me to the limo. I stared out the window the entire time, wondering when exactly my fairy tale had turned into such a harsh reality.