“I got offered a job here in the city. It’s a big raise and a promotion. They’ve been after me for a while.” I’ve turned down Pure Lush four times over the past two years. Which is crazy. It was a phenomenal offer. But when they called me the other day, it was like fate was stepping in. It was perfect timing.
I still feel bad about not giving my old job two weeks’ notice, but I had to get out of Boston as fast as I could.
“Oh, honey. I’m so happy you’re back.” My mom sniffles into the phone.
“We’ll see if you think that when you come back from vacation. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to find a place in the city.”
“No rush,” she says hurriedly. I know she’d let me stay forever if I wanted.
“It’ll be easier for work if I live in the city. But I promise now that I’m back home we’ll spend a lot more time together,” I tell her, feeling a little guilty.
My mom lives at home alone. She’s a nurse and keeps busy, but I know the feeling of living alone, too. The solitude gets old at times.
Right now she’s off on a cruise in Alaska and won’t be back for a few weeks, which I’m thankful for. I can’t let her see me right now.
“You don’t know how happy that makes me, honey.” I feel guilt at her words.
Mom and I used to be so close when I was growing up. It was always the two of us. I know they say your mom shouldn’t be your best friend, but it wasn’t like I was some wild child.
If it hadn’t been for my mom when I was a kid, I wouldn’t have had any friends at all and would have lived inside one of the books I kept my face in most of the time. She’s always been so supportive of me, even when I wanted to leave high school early. She knew I had to go, and she made sure that I could.
“I love you, Mom. Go have fun,” I say in the happiest voice I can muster.
“I love you, too, honey,” she says, and we say our goodbyes.
I set my phone down on my childhood bed. Nothing has changed. Everything is how it was when I was in high school. I walk over to the mirror over my dresser and look at my lip. There’s a small crack in it, but some of the swelling has gone down. I lift up my shirt and look at the bruise on my ribs. They hurt way more than my lip, but a kick is a whole lot more punishing than a backhand to the face.
A tear slips free, and I wipe it away as fast as I can. I turn from the mirror and drop my shirt. I’m sick of crying. Sick of still being scared that Jason might come after me. He has to know I’m gone by now.
I did everything to cut off contact. I deleted old email accounts, left the city and even changed my phone number. But I know if he really wants to find me, he will. All he has to do is pull my employee file. I know I have my mom’s info as my in-case-of-emergency. I just can’t recall if I volunteered her address, too. I think it was only her phone number, and she didn’t say anything about getting a weird call. I would think she’d mention something like that.
Thinking about Jason makes a chill run up my spine and the need for a shower coat my skin. Heading toward the bathroom, I peel my clothes off and turn the water on as hot as I can stand it.
I’ve only ever dated once in my life. Well, I’m not even sure you can call it dating. Henry—my heart aches at the thought of him. It’s been ten years and my heart still does a funny flutter when I think of him.
He hurt me in a different way than Jason did, though, not that I ever dated Jason. But the hurt Jason left on my body will fade.
I grab the soap and wash my body, being careful over my ribs and trying to avoid looking at the discoloration while I do it.
I’m still not sure exactly what happened with Jason. It was like a switch just flipped. He was the owner of the company, and I thought we were friends. That the attention he gave me, the raises and promotions were because he respected my work. I thought he wanted to hear what I had to say and that he valued my opinions.
Over time, his touches began to linger. Lunch meetings turned into dinner meetings, and the talk went from work to personal. He started pushing wine on me, then stronger drinks. What I thought was two people becoming friends was something much more sinister.