Learning to Love

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Memories

At work I fought to go through motions, smiling and nodding at Travis as he randomly asked or spoke about stupid things.

“Nice weather today, huh?” He asked, flipping his beach boy blond hair.

I forced a smile nodding again. Fighting off annoyance I quickly looked away.

“What are you doing after work?” He asked, ignoring the fact I had my back to him.

I shrugged.

“You want to hang out?” He asked.

I would have felt bad when I shook my head no, if not for his cocky arrogant tone of voice.

“Ok, you’re busy. Another time then.” He said and I could hear him walk a few steps away.

I sighed loudly.

“Someone pop a tire over here?” A warm humor filled voice caught my attention.

I turned to see Adrian waiting by the counter. I was suddenly nervous. Was he mad I hadn’t answered my phone all weekend? I had no doubt he was, I had ignored his text.

“H-how long have you been there?” I asked, shifting my weight awkwardly.

“Long enough to be thoroughly amused.” He chuckled and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.

“What can I say? Some guys can’t take a hint.” I said, still annoyed.

Adrian winced slightly, “Is that why you haven’t responded to my text yet? Should I take a hint?”

“No!” The word left my mouth before I could think twice and I bit my lip hard.

He grinned arrogantly, cocking one eyebrow. Every hint of uncertainty was replaced with cockiness. I felt blood rush into my cheek and wished I could just disappear.

“I-I mean, it was just a long weekend I was… busy.” I silently pleaded that he not ask more questions.

“Fair enough,” He paused looking over my shoulder before saying a little more loudly, “Sweetheart.”

“I thought we were past that.” I groaned quietly.

He chuckled looking back at me, “We are. I’m sorry.”

I tried to smile back, but even I knew it was weak. It was hard to keep up this act, and I was already exhausted.

“Hey,” Adrian frowned, “Are you okay?”

I shrugged, not meeting his eyes. I was sure if I did, he would somehow know everything. I couldn’t tell him, but there was a part of me that desperately wanted to. Even if it was only because I wanted to feel like I had him on my side.

I couldn’t though, I couldn’t tell him anything that would lead back to Aaliyah. I wasn’t ready to involve her in this. I didn’t want him to walk away, but even worse would be if he stuck around for a while then left. He would hurt her. I couldn’t let anyone hurt her.

“Like I said, long weekend.” I forced another smile.

He frowned, not believing me but nodded. “I’m here if you want to talk.”

“Thank you.” I felt myself blushing slightly.

I handed him his usual and he winked before walking away. He paused by the door and called back over his shoulder, “Text me back Jess.”

I nodded and he smiled before walking away.

“I don’t like that guy. He gives me weird vibes.” Travis huffed walking up next to me.

I looked at him skeptically. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. I rolled my eyes and turned to walk away, but he grabbed my arm, stopping me. I could feel my heart racing and had to remind myself that I was in a crowded cafe. Safe.

“Why won’t you talk to me? You talk to him.” I jerked my arm away, glaring at him before walking away.

If I were perfectly honest, I knew the answer to that question was that Adrian listened. Not only that but he genuinely seemed to care what I said. As little as I did speak, I knew I was being heard and hopefully understood.

For five long years nobody had heard me, so I had given up on talking. I could, I just chose not to. It had been pointless. Even two years later I only really talked to people I knew would listen. It was amazing, and sad, how few people in the world actually cared enough to listen.

Travis continued to bug me, the remainder of my shift so I went to my boss and let her know what was going on. She promised to have a word with him and told me to come back if he didn’t stop.

Adrian:

‘Hey Jessica I had fun this morning. I would love to take you out again soon.’

I read the text for the fifth time that night, trying to decide how to respond. Finally I sighed and started typing.

Jessica:

‘I had fun too, and I would like that but my schedule tends to be a little hit or miss.’

I waited staring at the phone as the little typing decoy popped up. I felt so stupid about how excited I was, and nervous.

Adrian:

‘That’s okay. I can be flexible. How about dinner Friday?’

Jessica:

‘I’ll let you know.’

I set the phone down and laid back on my bed with a sigh. I still couldn’t decide whether this relationship was a good thing, but I was sick of letting that fear hold me back. Adrian was a good guy and he wouldn’t hurt me. At least I hoped not, but I didn’t trust him nearly enough to get Aaliyah involved.

~~~Dream~~~

Charlie’s ghostly white hand grabbed a fist full of my hair. He ripped me up off the floor and I couldn’t help the scream of pain. Even with this being a regular event I still couldn’t help but give him what he wanted. He liked it when I screamed in pain, liked it when the pain he inflicted was obvious.

This time I tripped and spilled water on the floor while his friends were here. I had embarrassed him which was one of the major sins in this house of horrors I was forced to live in.

“I-I’m So s-sorry!” I stuttered trying to pull away.

“Shut up you good for nothing whore! I don’t want to hear another word from you!” He shouted as he let go of my hair using his left hand to grab me by the throat. He shoved me back, pinning me against the wall.

I clawed at his hand desperately. I wondered if he would continue to cut off my air supply till I blacked out. He had done it several times before when I had spoken out of turn.

“Did I tell you to talk bitch?” He hissed glaring at me.

His black eyes seemed much like black holes, his light brown hair was gelled and spiked to perfection. He worked hard to look attractive to his prey. It probably would have worked better if he was thirty years older than his intended prey, including myself.

I shook my head the best I could.

He let go and I dropped to my hands and knees at his feet.

He chuckled, “There you go back where you belong.”

He kicked me in the stomach and I screamed in pain again. I tried to crawl away but he stepped on my leg.

“I’m not done with you yet princess.” His grin was as malicious and cold as his voice and my heart raced.

No, I couldn’t do this again. I watched in horror as he undid his pants and slid his shirt over his head. I stood and tried to run but he had his fingers in my hair again.

“No! Please, I’m sorry!” I screamed in panic.

“Come now, play nice princess.”

~~~End Dream~~~

“No!” I screamed as I sat bolt up right in my bed.

“Jess it’s okay, it’s just me.” Andrew soothes his hands resting on my shoulders. “It’s over, Jess. He can’t hurt you anymore.”

The comfort and determination in his voice broke me and suddenly I was sobbing. He pulled me tightly into his chest running a hand over my hair gently.

“You’re okay.” He soothed, rocking me as if I were a child.

We sat like that for a couple minutes before I finally collected myself enough to pull away.

“I’m sorry.” I sniffled, pulling my legs close to my chest. “I thought I was past this.”

“Between dad and that jerk at work you have had a hard couple of days. It’s only expected that some memories would reamerge.” He sighed, looking sadly down at his hands.

I watched him knowing he was once again blaming himself for what happened all those years ago.

“Stop that.” I muttered and he sighed again. “You know you were just a kid too, it wasn’t your fault.”

He shook his hand and said nothing. I understood the message loud and clear though. We had fought this fight several times before, it was the middle of the night, and we both had work in the morning.

“Goodnight Jess, I love you.” He said instead of arguing.

“Night Drew.”

He stood and walked away. As soon as he left the same panic from the nightmare came crawling back. I laid down, curled into a ball and pulled the blankets up around my neck.

“He’s in prison now, you’re safe. Safe, safe, safe...” I muttered, hugging myself tighter.

I stayed in that position, eyes wide open until morning light. I was exhausted but Aaliyah needed to be changed and fed.

I groaned as I slowly loosened my stiff muscles. Eventually I rolled out of bed. Time to start another day.

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