Chapter 19 - Dependence
“Why is it, as soon as I reduce my hours at work – everyone feels the need to use up more of my time?” I asked Anna, as I entered my office and placed my empty mug and laptop onto my desk.
She had her head resting on her fist as she sat, curled up in the armchair in the corner of my room and was scrolling through some very non-work-related content on her phone, “It’s because you’re a billionaire’s wife now, everyone wants to be your friend,” she said, locking her phone and looking up at me.
“I don’t need more friends, you’re enough work for me,” I grinned.
She smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes, “Are you okay Al?” she asked, her gaze unwavering.
“Yeah, why do you ask?” I replied, as I took of my blazer and hung it on the back of my chair.
“So, everything with you and Nate is fine?”
“Yeah, better than ever, why?”
“You’ve just kept cutting at your hours and you don’t seem to be as happy to be at work anymore, so people talk.”
I smiled and sat down, “I’m fine Anna, it’s just, it’s a different dynamic.”
“You mean, your rich husband buys you everything you need, and you don’t want to socialize with us lower classes now?” she asked, a mischievous twinkle returning to her eyes.
“Ah yes, you called me out,” I said, throwing my hands up in defense and rolling my eyes.
“What’s wrong Al,” she repeated, her voice holding a certain authority now, a desperation, a worry, laced with concern. “Tell me, please.”
I looked at her, her eyes seemed to sparkle and glisten as they tried to bore into me, as they ate away at me. Maybe she was right, maybe I should talk to someone, and baby steps.
“Close the door,” I said, straightening up my desk and plugging my laptop into charge.
She jumped out of the armchair and closed the door, before quickly sitting back down, her posture now straightened and her hands laced in her lap, her gaze fixing itself back on me.
I let my gaze wander across my desk, each thing right where I left it, everything neatly placed in it’s spot, it’s home. I wasn’t sure when my leg had started to bounce slightly, nor when my hands had started to twist the paper into my hands, forming a thin icicle like shape.
“I was raped.”
I heard Anna’s heart skip a beat and the colour drained from her face, and she opened and closed her mouth a couple times, before pressing her lips firmly together and her knuckles whitening as she gripped at her own hands.
“Not long after Nate and I started dating, we went away for a work trip, well, it was Nate’s trip,” I shrugged, the lies dancing nicely with the truth. “He just took me along for the company and we stayed in this lovely villa, very romantic, perfect, beautiful, it should have been perfect.”
“Don’t tell me it was Nate,” she said, her voice cracking and the horror lacing in her brows and face.
“No, no,” I said quickly. “But it was a work acquaintance of his, from overseas. When we were at the bar, he drugged both of our drinks-” I paused and looked at her growing horror in her face. “They tried to overdose Nate and kill him, and they took me, leaving him for dead.”
“Al-” she said softly, her nails now digging into her skin.
“Obviously, Nate didn’t OD, and he tracked me down, before they were able to get me out of the country. But, not before he,” I stopped and took a breath, I wasn’t sure when I had stopped, but lungs were now deprived of the air they so desperately needed. “He’s in prison now, Nate had everything brushed under the rug. He didn’t want me to have to relive it, he didn’t want me to be publicly shunned in such an away,” I said softly.
“That’s why you suddenly didn’t come back to work,” she said, her teeth grinding together as her jaw clenched.
“Have you seen someone? Did you go to a doctor? Are you okay?” She said, drowning me the list of questions that followed.
“I’m fine,” I said, but we both knew those words were lies.
“You can’t be fine,” Anna said, getting up and pulling me towards her and embracing me, her human scent was plain, but there was a comforting to it – like clean washing or a warm blanket.
“Nate said I should see someone, that I should talk to someone,” I admitted as she pressed my head into her body and tried to fuse my breaks back together.
“I think Nate is right,” she said softly.
My phone buzzed on my desk and I reached for it, only for Anna to pull me back and sit me down on the other arm chair, “what aren’t you telling me,” she said, “I know there is still something, there is something that’s making you not want to be here, something sucking the life and motivation from you,” she stopped, looking at me with such intensity.
“You don’t have to tell me, but I’m here for you, always.”
I sighed, “I see him, like a ghost, like he’s lingering over my shoulder, waiting around the corner, lurking in the dark. When I’m with Nate, it’s fine, everything is bliss. But when I’m here, when he’s away, when I’m alone…” I ran my hands through my hair.
A week was too long, my wolf now prowled anxiously under my skin day and night, waiting for the smallest sound, a single thing out of place, and I knew that she would gain control, she would shift. I knew that she would protect us if I couldn’t. And without Nate, I wasn’t sure I would, I could protect myself.
Without him making sure I wouldn’t fall, I felt like glass, balancing on the edge of the bench. The smallest breeze, the smallest bump, or a sidewards glance - would make me fall and shatter.