Dirty Past

By: Emma Hart

Ella



South Carolina is seriously lacking in skyscrapers.

The Deep South—right now, it’s all rolling green fields, cowboy boots, and barbecue. A million miles away from the bustling streets of Upper Manhattan that I’ve lived in my whole life. The numerous state parks, the lakes, the mountains—they’re all alien to me.

And they’re all, thankfully, so much more charming than endless summers in the Hamptons.

I tap my fingers against the steering wheel and glance at the clock on the dashboard. The Hamptons—the place I should be right now.

Preparing for my wedding in four days.

Yep. I’m that girl. The runaway bride, the jilter, the disappearing act.

I fully expect panic to be ensuing at my parents’ sprawling house as they wake and realize I’m no longer there. Knowing my mother, she’ll be having some kind of miniature breakdown, ensuring all eyes are on her, while my father paces and angrily shouts into the phone for someone to find me.

He’ll call all of the NYPD, demanding they pull their heads out of their asses and utilize every resource they have at their fingertips. My mother will continue to hyperventilate and be seen to by a flurry of people, namely the people whose family I was supposed to marry into.

And he—Matthew Hamilton, my darling betrothed, my perfect dream—my utter bastard of a fiancé. He’ll have his mask in place, every traumatized word falling from his lips a lie. His anger will be barely contained by the necessity for his pretense.

I shift in the seat and wince. My back is stiff from one break in nine hours of driving—through the night, no less.

No. I grit my teeth. The pain isn’t from driving, although it probably hasn’t helped. I won’t make excuses anymore. In around ten days, when the bruising has gone, I’ll no longer have anything to hide. I won’t have to spin endlessly in front of the mirror to see if my outfit covers every discolored blemish on my skin.

My phone lights up from its place on the passenger seat. Damn. I could swear I turned it over.

His name flashes on the screen, and I grit my teeth even harder. The call clicks over to voicemail. I quickly reach over and flip the phone so its screen-down. I don’t need the distraction of the calls.

I don’t need the fear that every message he leaves tells me he’s coming after me.

I don’t need the fear that he knows where I am.

So I keep driving. Just drive, drive, drive. Don’t look back.

I made the right choice. I know I did. I wasn’t born to be a punching bag. I won’t be the wife that cowers in the corner before her husband arrives home from work. I won’t be the woman afraid she left a speck of dust on the mantel or undercooked the potatoes just slightly.

I refuse to be afraid to breathe for fear it’d be too loud.

I tighten my hold on the steering wheel and make the turn into downtown Charleston. The saddest thing about this is I didn’t jab my finger randomly on a map and set my GPS to the destination. I planned this. I’ve known for three days I would be here, and that’s the only reason I was able to get through the last time Matthew was allowed to touch me.

The only thing that makes the bruises that cover my lower back and snake around to my stomach bearable is the fact he’ll never get to do it again.

The early-morning rush provides a welcome noise to silence the voice inside my mind. It’s not New York, but it’s enough. It’s comfort and safety in an unfamiliar place. Comfort and safety I’m glad for.

I follow the GPS’s directions to the Viscount Hotel on the Charleston seafront. I must be crazy—truly crazy.

Twelve hours ago I was a Harvard graduate preparing to enter a job at a prestigious New York law firm. I summered in the Hamptons, delighting my parents with my abilities to entertain others. I was about to get married to millionaire Matthew Hamilton, heir to Hamilton Enterprises, in the wedding of the summer.

Now I’m a Harvard graduate about to join the team of America’s favorite rock band as their personal assistant.

I might not be able to hide from my family or now-ex-fiancé, but I can keep running. Joining Dirty B. on the final leg of their countrywide tour is definitely the best way to do that, even if I did have to have “two hair appointments,” “a manicure,” “a pedicure,” and “two pre-wedding facials to ward off a spot break out” in the last three weeks to apply for, phone interview, and subsequently talk to their current assistant to get this job. It was almost worth the mini-beating for spending so much money on myself.

I pull into the Viscount’s parking lot and kill the engine. My eyes are burning with exhaustion, and the only thing I want to do right now is meet some girl named Sofie and go to my room to sleep for hours.

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