The rest of the evening went smoothly besides the fact that we were slightly understaffed but we managed to make it work. I also discovered that Andy left me a generous tip of $20. As much as I could use it, I knew another co-worker of mine, Emily, had a family of three that she worked to feed while paying to school. I was aware that she struggled to keep food in her kids bellies so I decided to give it to her instead when she came in an hour after I got back from my lunch break. Time passed by quickly and soon it was 8:00 pm and time to close. Once we finished closing up the shop, Chelsea and I began our daily walks back to her apartment. It was quiet for a few minutes before we began talking.
“Ally, don’t let Meghan get to you. She’s upset because she’s spent years trying to get Andrew to see her like he saw you within the first 5 minutes of meeting you.” I looked at her confused. “He’s obviously interested in you and that’s frustrating to Meghan since there’s no denying it.” If she was right and I do begin to trust him and somehow have feelings for him, I couldn’t possibly do that to Meghan...she had a huge crush on this guy so I couldn’t possibly pursue anything with him. She’s my friend.
“Look, I know you have a complicated past. One that was bad enough for you to pick up everything you had and leave- I do too.” I looked at her in shock, as I wondered yet again if she had been abused at one point too. “While a lot of people out there,...while a lot of men out there aren’t that great, there are a few who aren’t so bad either. I may not have grown up with Andrew, but in the two years I’ve been here, I’ve come to know that he is a really good guy. He always puts others first and himself last and does so without complaint. His success depends on the success of others and while he can be demanding sometimes, he truly means well from the bottom of his heart. So if there is a chance, a slither of a chance, that Andrew can help you heal yourself, then give him a shot okay?” I pondered over what she said for a moment. Besides my history, the only thing stopping me from potentially giving him a chance was Meghan.
“Honey, Meghan isn’t as good as you think.” She whispered.
“What do you mean?” She sighed and came to a stop, as we made it outside of her apartment.
“Would you like to come inside? It’s kind of a long story...” I hesitated for a moment, before nodding. I’ve never been inside her apartment and while I did trust Chelsea to not hurt me physically, I couldn’t help but be slightly anxious. She glanced at me before turning towards the entrance. “You’re safe here, Ally. I promise you that.” How does she always seem to know what I’m thinking?
I followed her through the gates and into the building. Overall the building looked decent. The walls were a deep reddish-brown with cream colored tiles on the floor. There were a few couches and chairs lining the lobby with a reception desk. It was quiet as we stepped into the elevator and made our way to the fourth floor. As we made it to her apartment, 423, I couldn’t help but feel so out of place. She had four walls and a door with a lock to hold all of her possessions while everything I had was in this worn out bag.
“Would you like some tea, Ally? Or something else to drink?”
“I’ll have whatever you will be having,” I said, not really knowing what I wanted. She nodded before taking off her jacket and sitting down her purse and heading to what I assumed is her kitchen. I wasn’t sure if I should sit or not, so I just stood there awkwardly and looked around. Her apartment was very nice for the amount of money we made at the cafe. In the middle of the brown hardwood floor was a plush cream colored carpet that was surrounded by a couch and a chair. In the middle, was a wooden table that held two candles and a book. In front of the table was a flat screen tv that rested on top of a cabinet containing DVDs, remotes, and a DVD player. There was a hallway that I assumed lead to the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen.
She came back a few minutes later and sat down, patting the spot next to her on the couch. I walked over and sat down making sure to keep a little distance between us. Being in a new and foreign place made me antsy.
“The kettle is on now so the water should be ready soon.” She replied. I simply nodded in response, not saying anything.
“I guess I won’t beat around the bush and just get to it...” She mumbled to herself, “While Meghan can be sweet and kind, she has an evil streak that only shows when she doesn’t get her way. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but trust me hon when I tell you it is. Meghan has a unique way of breaking down and manipulating people in order to get what she wants. The people who don’t give in at first end up missing before they come back only to leave on their own resulting in Meghan getting whatever it is she wanted in the first place. I know it seems like a bunch of gossiping tales, but I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. She doesn’t aim to break people apart physically, it’s the mental aspect that she aims for. Meghan has no interest in throwing sticks and stones when she knows it’s the words that can hurt. She breaks you if you aren’t already and exposes your brokenness.” I was silent for a moment as I listened to what she said.
Before today, I would have never believed a word Chelsea said. However, after I saw how she acted so coldly towards me after Andy came in made me think there could be some truth in what Chelsea was saying.
“How are you so sure?” I asked her. Is this something that she’s heard from people around town? Then again she said she’s seen it but seen what exactly?
“Like I said, I’ve seen it with my own two eyes.” I looked at her patiently, prompting her to continue. “I...I’ve experienced it. When I first came here and got a job at Mo’s Cafe, I guess a lot of people took a liking to me very quickly. I suppose Meghan felt like she was being pushed aside or somethin’....anyways, before I ended up here I was in an abusive relationship.” That would explain why she seemed to understand me so well. “I rather not go into details, but just know it was bad enough for me to pick up the little life I had, run and never look back...even if it meant being a single mom.” Wait, Chelsea doesn’t have any kids...unless she has been hiding them somewhere. “Somehow, Meghan found out about my past and she brought back to the present...She found my ex-boyfriend and told him where I was. I was getting the worst beating of my life when Walter came and stopped him... Unfortunately, he was too late...I lost my baby. When I came to the cafe a few days later Meghan was there telling everyone about how I was broken and in an abusive relationship and lost my baby. She didn’t do it because she was concerned for me or cared. She exposed my dark history- the history I left behind where it should be, in the past- and made me seem like some weak girl who couldn’t defend myself or my baby. I hate being seen as weak...” She took a deep breath as she closed her eyes, trying to hold back tears. I’ve never seen Chelsea like this; I couldn’t help but reach out and place my hand over hers. She gave me a small smile before continuing.
“Anyways, I’ve never forgiven her for that. She’d made my worst nightmare become a reality just because she was feeling a little attention deprived...I tried to hear what she had to say, I truly did. She insisted that she thought he was my current long-distance boyfriend who was trying to surprise me with a lovely visit” Chelsea rolled her eyes.
“What made you think that wasn’t the truth?” I asked curious. I mean it is possible that he could’ve lied to Meghan when he found out she knew who Chelsea was and where she is.
“There was no way he could’ve known where I was! I fled over 2,000 miles from that evil lousy excuse of a man! Ally, I paid off people to not say a word, I took back roads, trains, buses- I covered up my tracks that best that I could being sure I took off all the money I could off of his cards so that I could have enough cash to get me to where I am today...that man wasn’t smart enough to track me down and find where I am...not on his own. Since I took all of his money, he couldn’t have hired someone professional to track me down either so it only leaves one option.” I couldn’t resist giving Chelsea a hug to show my support for her.
“I’m sorry that happened to you, Chelsea. I really am...I can’t even imagine the strength and courage you’ve had to have to do that.” She hugged me back for a moment before I pulled away. “How come you’ve never mentioned this before?” Chelsea has yet to lie to me, so I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. Besides, if there is one thing I’ve learned since running away from home it’s trusting my gut and my gut tells me that Chelsea is telling the truth. Now, seeing as this is true, why didn’t she warn me before I became close to Meghan?
“I try not to push how I feel about certain things or people on others...I didn’t want to be that person who told you not to be friends with someone just ‘cause they did something hurtful towards me. I know you have history, Ally. One similar to mine I’m suspecting...” The color quickly drained out of my face. I’d rather leave what happened to me in the past...unless it was necessary I didn’t want to talk about it. What if Meghan found out about my past? About me being homeless? She wouldn’t tell everyone, would she? “We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. But know that I am always here to talk. Heck, if you just want me to shut up and sip tea with you while you rant and I listen I’d be more than happy to do that too okay, suga’?” Her response almost brought tears to my eyes. She is by far the closest I’ve ever had to a friend and while I’d never wish someone to be abused, I’m glad she can understand where I’m coming from.
“Thank you, Chelsea,” I said truly grateful for her friendship with me. It was at this moment the kettle started whistling and Chelsea stood up to make our drinks.
I began to ponder over our conversation. If Meghan actually saw me as some threat, which she shouldn’t but if she did, then what would she be willing to do to me? What lengths would she be willing to go? I’d like to think that any person with an ounce of goodness in them wouldn’t go as far to find my abusive parents and bring them to the place I am, a place that’s quickly becoming my safe haven just to win at some game that I don’t even want to play. Perhaps I should try and talk to her tomorrow and explain everything. Maybe then she’d understand and won’t do anything irrational...but if everything Chelsea said was true, did I really want to keep this person as my friend? Where I have to be on eggshells around her constantly in fear that she’d bring my own nightmare to a reality?
My thoughts began to drift towards Andrew. The easiest option would be to stay away from him but there were two problems with this solution: a part of me didn’t want to stay away from him and the obvious being we don’t even have a relationship of any kind besides waitress and customer. Not to mention, I didn’t want to drop every potential male friend just because Meghan thinks I may be interested in them. Andrew is the first guy I’ve allowed to close to me, physically, outside of the cafe, which tells me that a small part of me believes that while I don’t trust him, he is trustworthy. He could be my first male friend since the abuse started and if I’m being honest I didn’t want to lose that potential friendship because of another one. I didn’t want to live in fear forever and while I know it’ll take time to be as close to normal as I can get, I wanted to take steps to living a ‘normal’ life starting now. Am I willing to give up Andrew to avoid upsetting Meghan?