By: Francette Phal

* * *

She’d wanted to wait a little longer, save a little more, and finalize her plans, but her homage to the porcelain throne just this morning alone proved that time was no longer on her side, and she needed to act now if she had any chance of pulling this off. The opportunity presented itself the week of his absence; the business trip overseas gave her a small window to act. Bruce had given her the money along with the plane ticket and with the nice little nest egg she’d stashed away, Eden had more than enough to live comfortably for a while. That was all she needed anyway; she could find a job when she settled down. She waited until the very last minute, beneath the veil of darkness when the mansion was dead quiet, Eden snuck out, taking with her only the clothes on her back and the money in her bag. She’d left her wedding ring on his pillow, refusing to take any more than was necessary. She hopped in the green, beat up Camry waiting for her just around the bend.

“Anyone see you?”

Eden shook her head as she tugged the seatbelt across her body and clicked it in place. “I don’t think so.” She hoped not. Everything she’d worked for, the humiliation she’d endured, would’ve all been for nothing if anyone alerted Dominic of her escape. She needed to be at least five steps ahead of him before he found out.

“Man, I would hate leaving all of that behind.” Jenna was looking at the disappearing mansion through the rearview mirror. To her, Eden was being stupid, reckless, leaving all of the material trappings because she couldn’t deal with a little roughness in her marriage. Jenna was a ride or die chick; she was the sort to stand by her man, regardless of what occurred. Hell, she’d been with Asshole Alex since she’d been sixteen, despite the fact he occasionally treated her like a punching bag. Eden had met the pair at the club. Alex had been one of the bouncers and Jenna had been the one to show Eden the ropes. They’d formed a friendship of sorts after that, although with her marriage to Dominic, they hadn’t spoken much. But Jenna was good people. Eden trusted her in spite of her skewed opinion. She’d been instrumental in getting Eden this far, and she’d promised to do anything she could to help her further along. Eden was counting on that. Rifling through her bag she found the ticket that Bruce had booked for her. “Everything you need is in there.”

Jenna hesitantly reached for the ticket. “You sure about this?”

Eden nodded. “I need him to believe that I’m the one who got on that flight. It’ll give me a head start.”

“Damn… Italy.” Eden could hear the blond woman’s grin and was silently glad to have made Jenna happy with this small gesture. “Alex is going to shit bricks.”

“You can’t tell him…”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it. Can’t tell him where the tickets came from. Don’t worry, babe. I’ll come up with something.” She turned to look at Eden, her coffee brown eyes bright with concern. “What are you going to do? Do you know where you’re going?”

Eden reached over to pat Jenna’s thigh reassuringly. “Don’t worry about me; I always land on my feet. It’s better if you don’t know where I’m going, that way if he ever asks you, you won’t have to lie.”

She couldn’t give away her trump card, regardless of how much she trusted Jenna. Dominic had ways of getting to people, making them do things they didn’t want to do. Eden needed to keep Jenna in the dark about her location, not only for her own protection, but for Eden’s peace of mind. This was all happening too quick; she’d given herself a deadline and was a year too early, but she couldn’t turn back now.

Unconsciously her hand settled on her abdomen. She couldn’t feel anything, it was still flat, still unnoticeable, but all the same she knew that life grew there. There was a tiny little creature thriving just beneath the layers of clothes and skin. Her heart thudded against her chest at the thought. She was going to be someone’s mother. She remembered the visit to her OB just two weeks ago. It’d been a regular checkup, nothing unusual, but then a few days later, she’d received a call from Dr. Carlson’s office, asking her to return for a follow-up. She’d been just a day shy of eight weeks, and Eden had gotten sick right then and there from the shocking news. She’d been sent home with prenatal vitamins and lollipop to settle her stomach.

In the days following, she’d contemplated long and hard on whether to tell Dominic of his impending fatherhood, but Eden had already known what his answer would be. That was the main reason why she’d enacted her plan this early. Dominic had never wanted children. He’d told her as much on the day he’d married her and had repeated it often over the last four years of their marriage. He would tell her to get rid of it—in those exact words, in that cold and detached voice that Eden had come to despise—and would arrange for her to have it taken care it. Getting pregnant didn’t fit into his sadistic agenda, because how could he possibly abuse her, humiliate her and parade her around like a prized show bitch when she was growing fat with child? Eden scoffed to herself; pregnancy wasn’t even a thought to Dominic. But it was reality to her now. Fear was a real thing, the idea that she now had someone else to consider, someone that would inevitably rely on her for everything, frightened her like nothing else.