Things only got worse from there.
A few weeks more into the relationship, once Sarah had recovered from her surgery, she asked to move into Sam's apartment. She almost demanded it. Still, nothing odd there. The odd part was that she wanted him to get rid of all of his possession, all of his furniture, even all of his personal items and mementos. She didn't tell him to put it into storage. She didn't tell him to sell it, or to give it away. She told him to throw it all out. She hinted that he should burn it. She didn't want any little bit of his former belongings to stay in the apartment, despite it being his place and the fact he still paid all of the rent. She then proceeded to fill the apartment with only her things. By the end, it was as if Sam had moved in with her, and not in an even slightly accommodating way.
Inexplicably, Sam continued to stay in the relationship. And things continued to go downhill for Sam, in terms of Sarah's requests and demands. And, forget about sex. Sex had stopped after the first, before the surgery. And it hadn't come close to reappearing. Sam was with Sarah every minute of the day when he wasn't working or sleeping, but he felt completely alone.
Over the next year, Sarah asked Sam to get rid of his car, a muscle car, which he'd had since he was a teenager and which he loved. She made him buy a Cooper Mini, which he hated and which barely fit his long body. She made him give away his cat. She tried to force him to take it to the pound, but in a rare moment of resistance he refused and gave it to someone at his job. He couldn't give it to his family or a friend, because Sarah had long since prevented him from seeing his family or keeping any of his friends. She made him buy a parrot, a pet he had never ever considered having as a pet. It talked all of the time and completely annoyed him. Sam's teeth, which he and his dentist thought were perfectly fine, she said were ugly. She made him change to her dentist and get veneers on all of his front teeth, which cost Sam a fortune and which he felt looked too white and too big. By the end of the year, the only activity Sarah would allow Sam was watching television at home with her. He had no life outside of home or work.
Try as hard as he could, Sam could not figure out the hold that Sarah had on him. Something about her personality was like an attractive parasite. She calmly took him apart and seemed to replace all of the pieces of him until he didn't know himself. Only a small kernel of his brain questioned why she was doing this to him, why she was taking his all and leaving him with nothing of himself. When, in a last gasp of desperation and resistance, Sam had begun to think of running away or killing himself, Sarah dropped the final bomb on him.
Her old boyfriend, Roy, had shown up in the middle of the night, on the run from the police. He'd killed someone in another town over an argument about money and was looking for a place to hide out. Although Sam, lucid for a scared moment, wanted to call 911, Sarah seemed perfectly okay with abetting Roy in his escape. More than okay with hiding him, Sarah had another thought in mind. She asked Sam to make the ultimate sacrifice for her, and for her Roy, for whom she obviously felt passion, far and above anything she remotely felt for Sam. She told Sam flatly that she wanted him to take the rap for Roy.
As Sam looked at her, his jaw hung open in disbelief, Sarah elaborated that Roy would give Sam the gun used in the murder, so Sam's fingerprints would replace Roy's. Roy would tell Sam all of the details of the crime, so that Sam could go to the police and make a convincing confession.
Sam finally snapped. "Are you completely out of your mind, Sarah?!"
Sarah didn't even blink at this outburst. Utterly unwavering, she said, "No, Sam. You can do this. You've done everything else I've asked of you."
Sam was speechless. She was right. It was as if Sarah had spent the last year preparing Sam for this moment, for this outlandish request, and yet he had no sense that she had planned on the present circumstances. Even though it finally broke through to Sam that everything Sarah had asked of him in the last year was totally unfair, ridiculous and outrageous, he had done it all. He had never refused her. So why would he refuse her now. In some twisted way, all sane evidence and gut instinct to the contrary, he felt that she was somehow justified in asking for this final thing. During the whole year, she somehow had seemed, through it all, not manipulative or deceitful but completely sincere and guileless. She believed she was asking something perfectly reasonable and she made Sam feel it was reasonable, though it could unjustly claim his freedom and probably his life.
Three months later, Sam sat in a criminal courtroom. He had confessed to the murder, giving the police all of the details Roy had provided him and signing a statement. The judge, after a short deliberation, was about to likely sentence him either to life in prison or death. Sam wasn't surprised that he felt no fear or anger. He had resigned himself to his fate, the inevitability of this last surrender to Sarah. He looked over at her as she sat in the back of the courtroom. She smiled and gave him a thumbs up. It was the most emotion he had ever seen her express. Roy sat next to her, holding her hand and also giving the thumbs up with his free hand.
Sam's last thought, just before he was sentenced, was, "I wonder what she's going to ask him to do?"
Gregory Liffick a special education teacher by day, and a poet, artist, and musician by night.
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