But before anything could really happen, before I could gather up enough sense to duck and cover behind the metal service table next to the little box of saltine crackers and children’s drawing pages, Kellan sauntered on over, leaning against the wall divider. He looked down at me past his nose and smirked. It wasn’t a charming smirk like Max or Jeremy wore. It was something sick, overly confident. It irritated me just to look at him.

“Hello, my bunny. Did you miss me?” Kellan moved to try and pull me into a tight embrace, looking at me like a long-lost lover. I squirmed out of the way just in time, leaving him to hug nothing but empty air. He clicked his tongue at me. “Don’t be like that, Alice. Come here and say hi.”

“W-what are you d-doing here?” I stammered. “I th-thought you were still in–”

“Jail? Yeah. I got out early for good behavior.”

“N-no, you–” I took a step back, nearly tripped over my own feet. “You can’t be here. L-leave me alone or I’ll call the police.” I looked over to Cookie and Wilma through the service window, praying that they could read my expression and call for help.

Kellan snatched me by the wrist and shook his head, disappointed. “Here we go again, bunny. You were always so emotional. Why don’t you take a second to calm down, hm? No need to overreact.”

Cookie burst out of the kitchen from behind Kellan and grabbed him firmly by the shoulder. “I’m going to need to ask you to leave my waitstaff alone.”

Kellan shrugged Cookie off and pushed him hard, palm smacking the cook right in the center of the chest. Cookie stumbled backward, but managed to keep from falling. Wilma came out right after, wielding a cleaver.

“Get away from her,” she snapped.

Kellan simply chuckled, unimpressed. It was thick and mischievous and dark. The sound echoed in my ears, tainted my mind with all the horrible memories of us together. We lasted three months, but I knew now it should have ended way sooner. I saw all of the red flags, but chose to ignore them. At first, I thought Kellan was just the jealous, overly protective-type. Kind of like Max and Jeremy. Only, Max and Jeremy were genuine sweet and had no ulterior motives except to love me and let me love them.

Kellan was possessive, and I was foolish in the beginning to mistake it for love and adoration. He’d check my messages, saying he’d be hurt if I was talking to any other guys. He’d ask me where I was going whenever I left the apartment. On our sixth date, he asked me to move in with him because he wanted to be around me more. At the time, I was incredibly desperate to save money, so I thought this would have benefited the both of us.

But then he’d start screening my calls, he’d dictate what I had to wear, he’d tell me how to act when we were in public. Kellan would start isolating me from my friends, my family. He began verbally abusing me, somehow always making things my fault. He’d constantly gaslight me whenever I tried to reason with him, telling me I remembered events wrong or that things never happened. It needed to end. I knew I needed to get out the night we had an argument and it wound up with Kellan’s fist through the drywall. If I stayed, there was no telling when his knuckles would hit me instead.

So I ended it. He left in a huff, slamming the door so hard several picture frames on the wall actually rattled right off, breaking when they hit the floor. I thought I was in the clear. I thought I was finally free. But those thoughts quickly evaporated into thin air when I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of the fire alarm going off and the smell of smoke in my nose. It was Kellan’s first arson attempt, so it hadn’t really been thought out well. He was standing outside the building, screaming that if he couldn’t have me, no one could. The police caught him fairly quickly, and the fire department arrived to put out the spot fire. Nobody was harmed, thank goodness, but I knew that just breaking up with him wasn’t going to be enough. I needed to move away, start over fresh.

Now those hopes were shattered. I didn’t know how Kellan managed to track me down. I didn’t want to know. All that mattered was getting away. I wasn’t going to let him take me.

“Alice, come here,” he said coldly. “You’re making a scene. You don’t want your friend here to chop me, do you?”

Wilma looked to me, a fire in her eyes. “I’ll do it,” she swore.

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