Little Miss Priss ain’t so tough now is she?
My house, my rules, isn’t that what you used to say? My house, my rules, huh- well you in my house now. All these years you been looking down on me and my family. Giving us the scraps while you got all the glory. Well, that changes today. Southern Fried Honeybee is dead, you hear me! It ain’t never coming back and neither are you. And this time no one’s stopping me.
Romeo thought he was on your level but he wasn’t, was he. He thought he was going to be your right hand man, but he’s gone now. I made sure of that. And Cyndi, she thought she was a mini you, but I took her out too. Now I just have you to deal with you.
Charlie’s head was still swimming but she’d heard every word. Even still she couldn’t believe that she’d been so blind. Charlie looked to Sue, who was standing over her, but the woman remained completely still in spite of Stan’s ranting.
Sue stared blankly as if in a trance. She had one good eye; the other eye was completely swollen shut. The good one was on the doorway- the only exit out of the room. In the doorway stood a very disheveled Stan with a gun in his hands.
“She didn’t believe me. She didn’t trust me, she never did. I thought it would change, but you. You, Charlie was always there in her ear. You know she couldn’t do anything, couldn’t even think without asking what Charlie wanted to do. It was Charlie this and Charlie that, but never anything about our family. Our family was supposed to come first,” Stan yelled slamming a fist into the wall leaving a dent. Charlie noticed for the first time there were several dents in the walls. She was sure many were old. She looked to Sue again and couldn’t believe how much she’d missed. Sue hadn’t moved once; too petrified to move.
“Stan, you have to let us go,” Charlie said. “I know it was all a misunderstanding. I know you didn’t mean to hurt anyone.” Stan laughed maniacally. It was an obscene laugh of a man that was on the verge of insanity or fully enveloped. For the first time Charlie saw Sue flinch as the sounds coming from Stan’s throat grew louder.
“Stop it, stop it, stop it!” Sue screamed but it only seemed to make Stan laugh louder. It didn’t stop until the phone in his hand began ringing. Charlie had forgotten about her phone, but her ringtone was unmistakable. It was Bad to The Bone.
“Well, lookee here,” Stan said reading the name of the caller on the phone then to Charlie. “Your new beau, huh? Is this that guy I saw at your house? You mean he’s still running around. Well, maybe not running,” he said laughing again. “Not after I gave him a little tap. Just a little love tap though.”
“You bastard,” Charlie said, regretting it when Stan ran the few steps towards her. He was on top of her before she could scream.
“You what?” Stan said. “You what? What did you call me?” His hands were around her throat squeezing. Even if she wanted to say something Charlie couldn’t. She tried to fight him, to pull his fingers away, but there was no moving them. Then just as quickly they were gone.
Charlie gasped for air as she struggled to get from underneath the large man, but there was no moving him. He held her hands down with one hand. It was futile, but she still tried to kick, to buck him off as he screamed above her.
“Get over here! Sue don’t make me come get you. I’ll snap her neck. I will, better believe I will.” His other hand held the gun pointed at Sue. “Don’t make me shoot you.”
Charlie, wanted to yell for Sue to run to go get help, but she wasn’t able to get enough air in to do so.
“Get over here,” Stan said. “Now!”
“Don’t hurt her, please,” Sue sobbed. “I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll stop the divorce, just please let her go.”
“Let her go? Oh, we’re past that now. This is our only ticket out, babe. You still don’t get it? I did this for us. All of this was for us. And then she had to go and ruin it by getting your mind all twisted. We were supposed to be a team, remember?”
“Not like this Stan,” Sue said. “You’ve hurt people. You hurt my friends.”
“Friends? Damn your friends,” Stan roared. “We’re family. It’s you, me and the girls. That’s what matters. Remember?” Sue shook her head, but Stan refused to give up. “Yes, it’s you and me.”
“Stan,” Charlie started.
“Shut up,” Stan said. He pulled himself off the floor and then forced Charlie to stand. Holding onto Charlie’s wrist he pulled her behind him while he flicked the gun towards the door for Sue to walk down the stairs. The three of them made their way to the first floor.
Charlie looked frantically for anything she could grab to get away, to stun Stan long enough for the both of them to run, but she never had the chance. The apartment was too small, even if she did get loose, it wouldn’t take anything for Stan to fire off several rounds before she could even open the front door. She was stuck and she couldn’t help but imagine how poor Sue had felt for the past few months. Stan had clearly lost his mind, but she was determined to get both her and Sue out of there alive.
“Stan, if you let me go, I promise I will tell them it was all a misunderstanding. We can get you help.”
“Help? You want to help me now? Where was that help all those years you were living in that fancy house and we were crammed in this tiny little apartment. You were no help at all then. Or the help when Sue was doing all that work to get your dream off the ground and you paid her pennies for her sacrifice.” Charlie looked towards Sue. As crazy as he obviously was, Charlie couldn’t help but wonder if Sue felt the same as her husband. All she saw on Sue’s face was terrified fear before going completely blank, she knew then all she needed to know.
“Damn,” Stan said when Charlie’s phone rang again. He looked at the screen. This guy doesn’t give up does he?” Then he dropped the phone to the ground and shot it once until it stopped ringing. “Now, that’s better.”
“I understand why you hurt Cyndi and killed Romeo,” Charlie said trying to keep Stan talking. “But why Trace. Why’d you go after him? He has nothing to do with the Honeybee.”
“No?” Stan said. “Maybe not. But the goal was never the Honeybee. The goal was you. I wanted you as miserable as you’ve made us all these years. If it wasn’t for you, we would have left this place a long time ago and never looked back. Instead I was stuck here playing housewife. You know what the neighbors say about me? How they look at me? I can’t find work here, and she wouldn’t leave,” Stan bellowed pointing the gun in Sue’s direction. “All because of you. So now you’re going to get some payback.” Stan got quiet. The sound of sirens were getting closer. Hope sprung in Charlie’s chest, but just as quick it evaporated when she saw Stan move towards her with a determined look on his face.
“No, Stan, you don’t have to do this. Stan!” Charlie screamed but he was on her his hands once again around her neck. She fought with all her might breaking free once, twice before he had her in a stranglehold she knew she would not be able to free herself from. He was just too strong for her. Charlie could feel her body as it stopped obeying her command to fight as the oxygen left her. She refused to give up, but as the squeeze grew tighter and tighter she had no choice, then there was darkness.
“Charlie, Charlie, get up Charlie,” Sue cried. “Wake up! Please!”
She heard her own gasps first as she fought to breathe. For the second time that day Charlie opened her eyes to see Sue staring down at her but this time she held what looked like a very heavy cast iron skillet. Confused, she looked for Stan, but it didn’t take long for her to see his lifeless body lying next to her.
“Sue? What did you do?”
“I handled it,” Sue said stunned.
“Yes, you did,” Charlie said still trying to catch her breath.
A second later the front door burst open as several policemen ran in with guns drawn. They had Stan handcuffed and ready for transport within minutes. Both Sue and Charlie were taken to the hospital, where Trace was waiting frantically for her.
“Thank God, you’re okay,” Trace said hugging her as tightly as he could with his one good arm. “So I’ve got a matching pair now, one good leg and one good arm.”
“Only you would make a joke at a time like this,” Charlie said at his bedside.
“What I’m a do, cry?”
“No, I guess not,” Charlie said. “You know what that makes you now?”
“Just as southern fried as the rest of us,” Charlie smiled at him. She wanted to kiss him, but between his and her injuries they had a hard time doing anything that required much movement.
“Believe me, this is just temporary,” Trace said. “Once they let me out of this bed. Once I can feel my fingers and toes again, I’m coming for you girl.”
“I bet you are,” Charlie laughed at him. It felt good and it was even better once she was able to see and speak to Cyndi. As soon as they cleared her, she’d raced to Cyndi’s room to see her friend. She was obviously weak, but she was alive and awake. That was all that mattered. It would be a long recovery but Charlie knew if it was possible Cyndi would be back as soon as she could. And Charlie was determined to make sure the Honeybee would be there ready for her.
Sue was another story, but Charlie knew better than to push. She’d tried to make sure Sue knew there were no hard feelings. What her husband had done was all on him. Stan had terrorized their family all on his own. However, poor Sue could not forgive herself regardless of how much Charlie and Cyndi were ready and willing to do so.
Charlie hoped one day she’d find a way to come back to them, but she also knew that Sue and her girls had a lot to contend with as they recovered from the abuse Stan had put them all through. So, she let her go, but Charlie was even more determined to make sure Stan didn’t win. As soon as she was able to, Charlie vowed to have Southern Fried Honeybee up and running again no matter the cost.