Pretty is as pretty does was something her mother used to tell her when she was just a little girl. This is what Abigail Curtis is thinking when the knock at the window startles her. Starting her car she presses the power button lowering the window. Her neighbor stood staring down at her. “Is everything alright Abby?” The young woman dressed in the latest athletic wear asks running in place. “Yeah Kathy, I . . . I Um,” Abby stutters not knowing what to say.
“Well just wanted to make sure,” Kathy continues. “I was warming up for a run and saw you sitting in your car .”
“No, I’m fine thanks,” Abby assures her.
“Okay then” Kathy waves as she runs towards the running track.
Abby sits gazing at the apartment building where she and Kevin live. Watching the sun fall behind the building makes her realize she has been sitting for over a half an hour or so. Kevin will be waiting might even be angry and she didn’t want to talk to him. Drama is the word easily used to describe their life together lately. The saying her mother left her with made her anxious. What happened to her isn’t pretty leaving an unpretty sensation wrap around her. Taking a deep breath thinking Kevin must never find out, she musters up all her courage because avoiding him is not going to save her.
In their apartment, Kevin is on the couch in their living room nervously watching the apartment door. Sun has met evening falling away to darkness. The lights in the common area must have come on causing a streak of light to beam across the living room from a small opening in the curtain. Again he has no idea where she is, again she didn’t answer her cell, and again he had a terrible suspicion deep down inside the very part of him that loves her, she is cheating. What do you do when everything is all falling apart? That is a question he is not ready to face. So sitting listening to the silence, a shadow on the couch, letting his mind wander, he tries to find the answers to sooth a questioning heart. As of lately, she is mysterious, at times evasive. Abby has changed. What seemed like the truth about what is going on between them just seemed to be smacking him into reality. The only answer is to confront her, but does he have the courage? Did he really want the truth?
Kevin stares harder at the door as if willing it to open. A glance up at the clock loudly ticking the minutes, then hours to what seems like forever, he questions why what should take an hour is taking so long. It isn’t how long ago Abby was supposed to be home but more about why she didn’t answer her cell phone.
When they met he instantly sensed she is the one. The immediate thought was this is kismet. I have found my soul mate. From that day on the plan to propose went into motion. However, lately though, things had changed between them. He can’t put his finger on when it happened but he can only say around him she is different. The tone of her voice when she talks to him, or the way she touches him and mostly won’t touch him. It is just the way she makes him feel when they are alone together. As though he irritates her and gets on her nerves. The love seems lost somewhere. “What happened?” he whispers out loud. Suddenly is startled by the door.
“Hey Kev, I’m sorry I’m late. I got caught up talking to my brother. We went and got something to eat and well” While kicking her shoes off near the door she goes on. “You know how he likes to talk and he started talking about Emily.” Her voice trails off as she leaves the room to go into their bedroom.
“Abby, why did you turn your cell off? I tried calling you for hours” he asks following her into their room.”
Oh that, well I simply turned it off.” Her answer is blunt, without explanation.
“Why?” this cavalier attitude is beginning to irritate him.
“I didn’t want to be bothered while I was driving. You know I can’t talk and drive. I forgot to turn my phone back on. Why do you think?” He gets the impression she is trying to provoke him into a confrontation but he isn’t buying. Not a thing he can say right now will have an emotional effect on her. With jaw-dropping speechlessness he stands in the hallway between their bedroom and the bathroom, watching her grab her robe and pajamas squeeze past him and go into the bathroom shutting the door in his face.
Abby stands in the shower waiting to hear the door to their apartment shut. It is twenty minutes later when she comes out of the bathroom in her robe, towel drying her hair. The apartment is quiet, he is gone. Things had gotten out of control. She didn’t understand what was going on with her. Sometimes she seemed lost somewhere inside herself. Feeling trapped by circumstances leaving her powerless. The sad part in no way can she alter what is ahead.
Things began to change between them several months earlier. Kevin was getting on her nerves, always talking about marriage and family. Life was becoming too predictable. Love can smother a person sometimes. Right now space to breathe was all she wanted. So when her brother Mark invited her to a Halloween party at his office she jumped at the night out. Actually, he invited both Kevin and her but Kevin had to work which actually didn’t bother her. The party would give her an opportunity to breathe.
Her old high school cheerleading uniforms seem perfect for such an occasion. Squeezing into the uniform was a whole other story, leaving her with second thoughts about going. After much consideration, she figures, “What the hell wouldn’t be many familiar faces anyway.” Her brother of course and his girlfriend but other than that she would not be familiar to anyone else. It is why she is comfortable going. How nice only to be Abby Curtis. Not someone looking for a lifelong relationship. The mere idea of permanence terrifies her. Possibly the concept of commitment scared her. The need to experience something, actually anything, as long as it didn’t have anything to do with marriage, kids or ever was all she wanted.
A late arrival was not unusual for her. “Where have you been and where is Kevin?” Mark glanced around. She gives her brother a peck on the cheek and asks “Were you waiting for me and Kevin. Well, Kevin had to work again...” Noticing her costume, “Hey, isn’t that your old uniform from high school?” She pouts looking down at her costume. “I didn’t have anything else to wear” trying to defend her decision to wear the uniform. “Likely story,” Mark quips. “I hope I look alright.” Another quick look down at herself makes her feel uneasy. “Trust me in that outfit you look fine” “Would you hold on to my car keys, I didn’t bring a purse and I don’t want to lose them?” “Sure” stuffing them in his pocket. Someone in a Batman costume struts toward them. “Hey Mark, who’s the cheerleader? You are going to introduce us?” Batman smiled. An uneasiness emanated from this stranger yet his eyes were friendly almost inviting. Might be their deep blue color that reminded her of a summer evening sky caught her off guard.
“Allen, be nice this is my sister Abby,” Mark advised. “Abby this is Allen,” Turning back leaning toward Allen, he whispered, “She is already in a relationship” sternly followed with “you are too old for her anyway!” “Why would you say that?” Allen asks whispering back under his breath. “We are both grown adults and don’t you think Abby is old enough to make her own decisions, what do you think Abby?“”I think my brother is a pain in the ass.” Looking right at him, “and I wish he would stop.” “Mark” A young women dressed as a Pirate called to him. “I gotta go, Ellen wants me.” He patted Allen on the back, “Behave, you understand?” he cautions his friend before leaving.
“Well, that was interesting,” Allen commented almost to himself. “Yeah, he is always interesting. Don’t pay attention to Mark, I don’t.” They both laughed. “So are you here by yourself?” Allen asked Abby as they both walked into the party. “Yea, I guess you can say I am here by myself. How about you, where is your date? I can’t imagine someone as obnoxious as you alone,” teasing. “Hey, Hey that’s not nice, true, -- but not nice.” “So old man should I sense a threat? Are you trying to rob the cradle?” “I’m not old. I’m twenty-seven. At least I don’t think that’s old.” “Well, now I can relax. I guess you have to excuse my brother he thinks he is protecting me.” “I guess he does, anyway, would you like me to procure some refreshments? A bar is in the other room.” “Sure, surprise me.” She was glad to move on to another subject Allen brought her back a drink and talked with her for a while. Something about him attracted her to him but yet she also was uncomfortable around him at the same time. The familiar way he touched her a lot, on the arm, the back; put his arm around her shoulder. Excusing herself to find the restroom was an easy escape. He might get the hint.
The .COM office was not big and almost everyone at the party was part of the office in some way. Wives, girlfriends, and her but no outsiders. Since the office was not well-known to her asking someone dressed as Count Dracula was a great help in locating the restrooms. How unfortunate he appeared to be the only individual not drunk “What lushes,” she whispered to herself overwhelm and flushed.
In the restroom, she patted the back of her neck with a cool wet paper towel and wondered if coming without Kevin was a mistake. There was no mistake about how she needed him and how hard she was resisting him. All her life she had needed someone and now all she needed is to depend on herself. The reflection in the mirror was a new improved Abby. The question was did she honestly want this change.
The restroom door swung open. A cheerful “Hi!” came from a young girl dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. “Nice costume.” Abby complimented with raised eyebrows. The dress was extremely short accented with thigh-high net stockings and spiked heels. Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ did not look like her.
“I like your costume too probably because I always wanted to be a cheerleader but never made the squad,” The girl giggled. I am not sure if this girl is drunk or a ditz Abby thought trying not to laugh out loud. “Honestly not what everyone thinks; trust me I was a cheerleader in high school. No big deal. You didn’t miss much.” The girl disappeared into one of the stalls and Abby left.
After mingling for about an hour she decided to leave. There is a chance Kevin is home and they might at least spend some of the evening together. After tonight, how nice to cozy up on the couch with him and watch a movie. As she headed toward the door Allen approached her. “Hey, I got you drink.”
“No thanks,” she begged off. “I’m tired, I’m going home.”
“Come on Abby, have one last drink with me. We may never meet up again.” He pointed at a small leather couch in the waiting area. Abby reluctantly agrees following him. They sit down. The attraction to her was extremely strong. A little conversation with an attractive woman for once would make his evening worth being at this lame party.
He hands her the drink and she sits it down on the table in front of them. Out of nowhere, comes a cowboy, trips falling onto her. Allen pushes him off.
“Hey pay attention to what you’re doing.”
“Sorry man.” While picking himself up he almost knocks Abby’s drink over. Before it falls over spilling on the table he catches it setting it back onto the table. He stands up, straightening himself out while again he apologizes, “Again sorry man” The young man hurries away. “What a jerk!” Seething with anger Abby picks up her drink and gulps a mouthful.
“I was hoping you might actually savor the drink I had specially made for you. So to ask you what you thought would be fruitless?”
“Well” embarrassed she takes a sip this time, “I do kind of like the taste, Mmm sweet.” She licked her lips. Did she realize how so damn sexy she was he was thinking as he watched her? “I thought you would like something sweet.” She began to feel too relaxed, not at all herself. “So what do you want to talk about?” Abby asks unusually woozy.
“I’ll tell you what, first you tell me something about you, then I will tell you something about me” She believed he was playing games with her, but she did not want to talk, in fact, she was too tired to talk. “No!.. no. I think I want to go home,” with a slight slur in her speech. Rising to stand up she almost lost her balance and fell.
“Boy, I guess that drink was a little too strong for you. I’m sorry. I mean I wanted to something you would enjoy not make you sick. Maybe you should go home. I can drive you. You shouldn’t drive yourself.” He sounds genuinely concerned.
“NO!” Abby didn’t realize she was sweating. Clearing her throat and desperately trying to calm herself, “I mean no it is OK. I will stay here and leave with my brother.”
“Hey Mark,” Allen calls, “Come over here will you.”
Mark walks over to them. “What’s up?” He asks.
“The drink I had you make made her sick. I don’t understand” Allen explains.
“Yeah, she doesn’t drink much. How many drinks have you had Abby?” She can’t answer.
“Why don’t I take her home! I don’t want her to drive. I am partly responsible for this.”
“Allen, take her to my house its closer and I’ll take care of her. Kevin’s going to kill me for letting her drink too much. . . . You’re familiar with where I live right?"
“Here are my house keys. I’ll be home in about an hour. Oh and almost forgot” digging into his pocket and pulling out another set of keys. “Here are Abby’s car keys, hit the alarm button and you will probably find her car. Handing Allen both sets of keys he shakes his head at Abby.
“Mark, I, I, I only had one drink.” She tries to say it out loud but everything comes out in a slurred whisper. Mark walks away.
“Come on little cheerleader let’s take you home.” Outside he hit the alarm button on her keys. Her car wasn’t too far from the office. Helping her to her car Allen gently placed her on the passenger seat buckling her in. When they got to Mark’s apartment he left her in the car to open the front door. He struggled to take her out of the car carrying her most of the way. She was dead weight although she appeared conscience she didn’t move much. “Are you alright he ask her several times?” Her behavior was worrying him. Abby tried but couldn’t answer him, she was numb.
Once inside he carried her to the first bedroom he found hoping this was the guest room. “I’m going to put you to bed,” gently laying her down then covering her with the blanket folded at the foot of the bed. A smile crossed his lips watching her sleeping. She had a fascinating innocence. Maybe it was how she didn’t understand the appealing quality of innocence so ingrained in her personality. Now he has to figure out why she got sick from the drink he gave her. As a detective with local law enforcement, being suspicious of everything is par for the job. Why, though, would she be so sick? Her own brother made the drink. Maybe she was taking some type of medication. Medications shouldn’t be mix with certain alcohol, but she didn’t say anything. Regardless, he figured he would stay around until Mark got home. Then talk to him about this. His car is still parked near Marks office. Luckily Mark’s apartment isn’t far from his office so if Mark would give him a ride back it would be better than walking around in his costume...
Allen was starving so after rummaging through the kitchen all he found was a bottle of flat coke and a bag of potato chips. It would have to do. Making himself comfortable on the living room couch he decides to entertain himself with a little TV till Mark gets home. After watching the last half an hour of reruns of The Office, he checks on Abby, who was still sound asleep. He hears Mark at the door so he shuts the bedroom and goes to meet him. “Hey before you are too comfortable how about taking me back to my car,”
Allen asks. “You still here?”
“I drove her here in her car remember. I left mine at the party; I don’t want to walk around like this.”
“Yeah, I understand it. Give me a minute.”
“I let her sleep in the first bedroom I hope that was your guest bedroom. I wasn’t sure.” Mark goes in to check on Abby first before driving Allen back to his car.
On the ride back to his car Allen brings up his concerns. “I am worried about your sister. The way she got, well, wasn’t right. I mean.”
“Nah, she had too much to drink. I told you she doesn’t drink much.” Mark tries to reassure him.
“Well if she was my sister I would check into why she got so disoriented. I didn’t like how she sick she was.” While being strongly concerned about Abby’s behavior he didn’t try to push the subject. They pull up to his car. “Well, here you go, buddy. Thanks for taking care of Abby.” Allen gets out shutting the door, leans against the car to talk to Mark through the open passenger window. “I would still have that checked out.” “I will, you don’t have to worry.” Allen steps away from the car, so Mark can pull out. Allen and Mark were more like weekend buddies. They would see each other at the club and sometimes play racquetball. Once in a while, Mark would invite him over to play cards. Many times he is invited to things because he is a detective and people like saying they know him.
Dreams sometimes seem real but this more than seems, it felt real. It wasn’t her room or bed. The cologne wasn’t Kevin’s nor was the touch of the body that was on top of her. Maybe she was dreaming, her senses told her its real but yet nothing. The warm breath on her neck was real and so were the hands that searched every part of her body. Sex, was this sex? Abby had an out of body lifeless experience. Only the pressure on top of her was she aware of. Nothing was stopping him not even protesting because her body and her mind were disconnected. Confusion jumbled her brain, eventually passing out again.
Opening one eye caused extreme pain inside her head. Was this morning? Still night? Whose bed is this? When they say a splitting headache she is sure now they mean your head splits in half. That kind of a headache is the only reason for the horrendous pain shooting around in her head as if trying to escape. “Abby” the whispering voice sounded familiar or did it. The voice settled near the bed. “Hey lush time to wake up. Do you have to work today?”
A forced moan “HUH” her voice muttered, “Mark is that you?”
“Of course it’s me who do you think?” She was awake now still not moving and definitely not opening her eyes. A sick feeling kept rising up from her stomach she was desperately trying to push back down. The bed moved she moaned. Movement of any kind was torture. Mark sat next to her on the bed, “So do you work today?” She wasn’t sure what would be worse shaking her head no or saying no. Either way she was going to be in some kind of pain. Finally, she whispers, “I’m up and no I don’t work. I have to go home. Kevin’s going to kill me!” She tried to sit up but her head spun, she jumped up and ran to the bathroom no longer able to hold down what she had fought from coming up. “Oh, I can tell this is going to be a wonderful day for you.” Mark laughed. The sounds of her up heaving made him shake his head at her misfortune. He decided to make himself some coffee and her some tea.
She staggered into the kitchen. “Sit down Abby before you fall down. You look like death warmed over.” Mark pulled out a chair and helped her into it. “Mark,” she said in a hoarse voice. “Something’s wrong.”
“Yea you drank too much.” He answered back annoyed at her.
“Honest Mark,” stopping to catch her breath, “I only had two drinks all night. Allen brought me a drink right before I got sick. I think someone put something in my drink.”
“Abby you watch too much TV. It was my office party who would do something like that. I made the drink remember.” What was she trying to say he thought irritated by the implication of her comments?
“I realize you made my drink, must have happened after you made the drink. I have never experienced anything like this before.” Again a wave of nausea hit her and she ran to the bathroom.
“You have a hangover! If you’re going to drink all night then you are going to be sick the next day.” Mark hollered after her.
As she lay next to the commode in his bathroom she realized that if he didn’t believe someone spiked her drink with something then he definitely wouldn’t believe what happened while she was unconscious. Could it have been a dream! She began doubting herself, how would anyone else believe her? What was she looking for anyway? Sympathy? Anger? Protection? Did she expect that from anyone?
The wet washcloth gave a cool relief to her face. Slowly lifting herself up off the cold tile floor Abby decided to go home the best she is able. A knock on the bathroom door, “Hey, Abby I’m going to the gym. Lock up when you leave.” “I will,” she whispered as loudly as her throbbing head allowed. She waited to hear the front door close. The task of fixing the bed was almost more than bearable, almost causing her to faint. That is when she noticed how a spot stood out on the green sheets. If they were white or tan she might not have noticed. Mark’s guest room was only used by family so the sheets were clean.
The night before was not a figment of her imagination. It was such a violating assault. More than that not being in control left her damaged. Yet there was no way leaving the sheets like that would prove to Mark what happened. Especially since Allen was in the apartment with her? Such a dirty feeling! The only control left to her is not to leave any signs of the deed done to her so she threw the sheets in the wash then took a shower scrubbing until she almost rubbed her skin off. Since she had none of her own clothes to change into she grabbed some sweats out of Mark’s closet and wrote a note telling him she took his clothes. When the sheets were done drying she quickly remade the bed while trying desperately not to throw up again or pass out from the headache. Finding her keys on the kitchen table she locked the apartment door and left.
It was a beautiful fall day. The sun was bright almost blinding; leaves were swirling about blowing everywhere, crunching under her feet as she walked to her car. The crisp autumn air felt good against her skin. Normally she didn’t mind the fall smells of dirt and burning leaves. Today was different. Everything made her sick. Abby gingerly climbed into her car. Her head was still throbbing and aching and her stomach hadn’t settled down quite yet. In general, she felt like she had the flu and all she wanted to do was put on her jammies and go to bed.
The apartment was empty when she got home. There was an empty cereal bowl on the counter and a coffee cup in their bedroom on the dresser. “He probably went to the gym,” she thought. Not even taking the time or energy to change clothes she got into bed and fell fast asleep.
Kevin walked into the apartment around eleven. A quiet stillness filled the apartment. He saw her car out front so he figured she was home. At least her car was home. After tossing his keys in the bowl on the table by the door he went into the bedroom. Abby was curled up in bed like a little kid breathing steady, sleeping soundly. The talk with her brother didn’t make him feel any better. They had talked the night before when Kevin called to find out where Abby was. This morning was a whole different talk explaining to him what had happened the night before and asking him to go easy on her because she was really sick. Looking at her acknowledged he loved her yet he also realized she was driving him crazy.
There was a time that marriage was very much a possibility. They lived together long enough yet something was keeping him from totally committing himself to her. Many opportunities existed when he could have made a plan to purchase a ring and ask her to marry him but nothing seemed to come together. Not the right ring, not the right time. It was more than finding the right ring or the right moment. He wasn’t sure about them either. Moments like this made him lose his mind. What was going on with her? Recently Abby has become so distant. He sat on their bed looking down at her. Staring at her face he thought of how beautiful she was. He wondered if she realized how much he loved her. It was no secret that she did not want to get married. To her, marriage was too risky. There was no such thing as loving someone until death do you part. Marriage was a big mess and someone always gets hurt. They discussed getting married many times along with having children, which was another pet peeve of hers.
As Kevin sat next to her on the bed wanting to understand her. Wanting to just hold her he figured they were close to over. Suddenly Abby sat up. When she jumped she became dizzy, grabbing her head moaning “Whoo, I don’t feel so well,” By then she realized it was Kevin.
“What made you jump like that? Lay back down before you make yourself sick.” He commanded. She gingerly laid back down whispering “I didn’t know who was here, I got scared.” that frightened little girl made him smile.
“How do you feel?” trying to be gentle but still had a twinge of anger.
“Not so good, I really think I’m going to be sick.”
“Well, it would probably make you feel better. I’m here if you need me.” He got up heading out of their room. “I’ll make you some tea to settle your stomach.” “That almost sounds nice,” she answered feebly. The sound of her getting up and rushing to the bathroom worried him because she wasn’t a big drinker but he him smile anyway because if she did drink too much she got what she deserved.
Abby spent most of her day in the bathroom throwing up. In fact, she was sick for three days. She wondered if the flu bug got her until she talked to her friend Megan Wall at work. They did telemarketing for a cell phone company. After she explained what had happened and how she was sick for the past three days the girl shook her head. “Sounds as if you were slipped that rape drug... A friend of mine at college had that happen at a Frat party. She quit school and I have not seen her since! But she thought more than one guy attacked her. She was sick a few days too. Of course, she didn’t want to tell anyone like the cops or campus police she was too ashamed.”
“I know how that feels. I told my brother that I thought someone slipped something into my drink and he thought I was imagining things. Like he said who would do that? I felt stupid so I didn’t say any more to him about that night. There is no way I’m telling Kevin. He always warned me about going out by myself. I thought I would be safe because my brother was at the party. Ha... That was a joke.”
“So what are you going to do now?”
“There is nothing much I can do. How could I find out who did it? The only person I could think of is my brothers’ friend Allen. He took me to my brother’s house when I started feeling drunk; he is the one that gave me the drink.”
“Sounds guilty to me, or at least someone to wonder about.”
“Should I talk to him, what do you think? Or should I get on with my life and forget that it ever happened?” Abby asked.
“Well, the question is can you just forget? I don’t think I could forget something like that happening to me. You should do something even if it is just going to a rape center for counseling.”
“Yea, you’re probably right. I have to think about it for a while. Everything scares me anymore. You’re the first person I talked to about the, r--r--ra, I can’t even say the word” Tears flooded her eyes and down her cheeks.
“Why don’t you take a break and go to the restroom. I’ll cover if someone comes back.”
That was the beginning of the secrets that Abby kept from Kevin. Several times She snuck out to see Allen. She needed to know if he was the one and as much as he scared her she figured he wouldn’t do anything while she was not drugged. She talked to him on her computer at work and she called him from her cell. He asked her about the night that she was raped. He even asked her if drinking ever did that to her before. She told him no. Allen didn’t like the impression he was getting about the whole incident. But he didn’t want to upset Abby with his suspicions so he decided to check into it himself and not tell her anything about what he was suspected. Abby didn’t need to know he was a detective. He wishes he would have found a way to test her for what he believed was the rape drug Rohypnol. Unfortunately, it was too late for that though.
She realized Allen didn’t do it and she started enjoying his conversation and at times his company. They met a couple of times nothing happened though. The experience of the rape still left her uneasy about being intimate with anyone. She and Kevin’s sex life had dwindled down to her on the computer and him eventually falling asleep. She knew it wouldn’t take long for him to doze off so she would play on her computer to pass the time. Several nights she was talking to Allen while Kevin lay on the couch. He had become a friend and she needed one, eventually though they stopped talking.
That is how they got to this point. Kevin was catching her in little lies about what she was doing and where she had been. She surmised Kevin would eventually find out. He is not stupid just in love. Abby is still desperately in love with Kevin too, but something inside her changed and there is no turning back. In her mind, he deserved so much better. She felt dirty and tainted. This may hurt him but in the long run, he will thank her for getting out of his life. What’s that saying she thought, Yeah “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” Hopefully, this will make both her and Kevin stronger.
She didn’t tell him that when she told him she had decided to move out and into her own apartment. They were both getting ready for work. Kevin had to go in early that day so they were both jostling around in the bathroom. “I need my own place where I can be independent. I have relied on people my whole life I want a chance to prove I can do it on my own.” She tried to convince him and in a way herself too.
“This is really about us?” He sneered loudly.
“Kevin Daniel Madison” she only used his full name when he exasperated her. “Quit yelling I’m right here.”
He is beginning to make her mad. Why couldn’t he see she needed to be by herself? “In the past months, you have done some strange things. I never know where you’re at, you tell me you are going to be one place and you are somewhere else. You lie to me all the time anymore. What the hell is going on with you? You can tell me if there is someone else.” He snapped red-faced.
“Yea right look at you and you say I could tell you if there is someone else. No there is no one else.”
“So then you just don’t love me anymore?” He is hurt and angry. The anger shot out at her from his eyes. Like daggers stabbing her. She never saw that expression on his face before or felt such pain.
This is the hardest thing she had ever done but she no longer can pretend that she fits into this circle of his life. She has always been a square peg. “Don’t love you?” He demanded to know and she is going to tell him about her love for him.
“You are the only person in my life that I loved. Look at me. My family is no family to me, you are my family.”
“Then why do you need to get away from me?” He seemed to be broken as he sat down on the couch in their living room and leaning over he covered his face with his hands.
“It is not you, it is me, don’t you understand, IT IS ME.” She pleaded. “I’m the one with the problem. You knew about me from the start, what made you think I could change? I can’t live up to your expectations. I’m not that person and I will never be that person. I will always feel like I’m disappointing you.” She paused trying to find something to say to convince him. “We will still see each other it will just be different.” She could tell she did not comfort him with her words.
“You’re right you won’t change. You don’t want to. You like what you are.” There is disgust in his voice. It hurt her and she isn’t one to back down from a fight. She knew he needed to hurt her but she isn’t ready for it at all. He is always considerate of what he said to her.
“What does that mean?”
“You’re asking me.” He retorted. “Look at you. Don’t you think you changed? Look where you came from. You are not that person anymore. You never were. You just can’t see that can you. It is as if you don’t think you are good enough to deserve anything better in your life. It seems like every time things get good you go back to what you were. What are you afraid of?” He grabbed her by the arm and she pulled away shrugging him off.
“I’m not afraid of anything.” She turned and walked toward the window. She stood staring out the window not wanting to look into his eyes. She thought he would see her heart at that moment. She had to toughen up fast. Taking a deep breath she turned around. “OK, maybe I am afraid ... but that doesn’t change anything. You know and I know I need to find some things out on my own. I do love you, Kevin. I don’t think anyone will ever mean as much to me as you do. I’m not giving you up I’m just letting go a little.” She honestly sounded sincere. He looked into her eyes and saw there more, but she is always very private. He only knew what she would tell him. She never confided in him about intimate things about their relationship. It is as though she put up with him and suffered on her own. He wanted honesty and he had to admit this is the first time she is trying to be as honest as she knew how to be.
“I may not be here when you figured all this out.” He threatened. She looked up at him for a moment. He is so beautiful she thought wanting to take everything back but knowing it’s too late. She looked down at the floor then answered feebly “I know I just need to do this. Maybe someday you will understand. Maybe someday I will be able to explain everything. But for now, this is how it has to be.” It is not at all the way he wanted it to be but she seemed to be calling the shots.
It took her almost a month to move out. Sometimes he had the feeling she didn’t want to leave other times he felt as though she couldn’t wait to get away from him. Some days her mood is upbeat and almost bearable to be around and other days she is miserable and intolerable. The day she finally left he is not home.
When he walked in the door that evening a stillness and quiet enveloped the apartment. It no longer had seemed like home. Now just empty and he knows it will be this way for a long time. It is late, about eleven; he throws his keys in the bowel on the small table by the door. He takes his jacket off and carelessly tosses it on the couch. Kevin loosens his tie and sits down on his lazy boy turns the TV on with the remote. He flicks through the channels a couple of times before realizing he didn’t even see what is on. He feels as if he is in a trance. A sense of emptiness covers him. There seems to be a void where his heart is and now there is this emptiness within him. He can’t cry, can’t feel anger, just nothingness. Kevin goes to bed for the first time in his life without noticing he didn’t eat. All he wants to do is take something for his headache and go to sleep. Maybe it is really his heart that ached but who could really tell he just hurt and wants the pain to stop.
Life without Abby is different. There were always things to remind him of her. He called her a couple of times but she always acted distracted and uninterested. He didn’t know what to do. Should he fight to get her back? Should he let go and move on? If he let her go without any fight and she still loved him would that make her think he really didn’t care anymore? Everything is answered when he sees her with a tall blond guy at a club they frequented. He pays his tab at the bar and walks out. That is the night he decided it’s time to move on.
Work had kept him extremely busy. He is an auditor for a large advertising company and there is an opening that would mean a lot of travel. What better way to get over things than to get away even if it is work? He spent a lot of time in Hotel rooms. He is always catching planes and it left him little time to think.
Abby did what she had to do. There is no doubt in her mind. Not even now while she lay in a hospital bed attached to monitors that would not only keep her in check but her baby as well. The sun brightly fills up the small birthing room. Everything around her is white, a cold white causing a chill to cross over her. Now though, thinking back to him and how she is truly aching to touch his face, see his smile, listen to one of his oh so boring jokes that she hated, but he would die laughing over. “Abby” she is startled back by the nurse. “How are we doing? Are the contractions getting any worse?” The nurse gently inquires. Abby squirms with the onset of another contraction, taking in a deep breath. “I’m having another one now.” She whispers through the pain. “I can see that,” the nurse replies with an interested smile as she studies the monitor. “Just breathe through your nose; you remember how you were taught.” Abby breathes in and blows out in short breaths until the pain subsides. “That is very good,” the nurse says patting her hand.” “You are doing fine, it won’t be long now.”
The nurse leaves her for a while. Abby lay alone in her room with no one to comfort her; no one to share this moment with and it is all her doing. Another contraction starts, this time the doctor checks her and tells the nurse she is ready... The pain itself is indescribable. She had never felt anything like it, but giving birth is amazing. When it is all over there is quite a stir. The doctor announces “it’s a boy!” which brings Abby to tears and just as quickly he tells the nurse to send for a pediatrician. The baby is having difficulty breathing. She holds him for a moment then they whisk him away. The doctor tells her not to worry; they would have him checked by a specialist.
How could this be happening? She thinks back to how she got to this point. Yes, she did walk out on him. She had to. She is no good at relationships. It is like a job every day. He is probably the most perfect man in the world. He made her feel beautiful and worth something but that isn’t enough. She is so afraid he would see her for what she is, worthless... Abigail Renee Curtis is only interested in one thing, herself. She realizes it and she understands eventually he would find out. It isn’t the way she wanted to be. It is as if she has no choice, she is not going to let anyone hurt her again.
From the beginning, she had to fend for herself. Her father died when she was two. He was in a car accident on his way to the grocery store. Her mother would tell her the story over and over again as if she couldn’t stop living the nightmare of that terrible day. When she was seven her mother remarried a man named Joe Curtis. He adopted Abby and had her name changed. Her mother didn’t seem to mind changing her name it was like starting new without the emotional baggage of her dead husband. Several years later her mother had a stroke. From then on her mother just was not the same. Her mind was slow and it was hard to understand what she was trying to say. Eventually, Joe left and took Abby with him. He filed for custody and won, he was also able to get child support from her mother’s disability checks.
He used Abby and she knew it. Her checks came in monthly whether he went to work or not. Not that she saw any of the money. Her clothes were hand-me-downs from whomever he could get them. She always felt like she was tagging along. When he remarried everything in her life became even more confusing for her, she didn’t know who she was. How do you tell your friends he’s not my dad, she is not my mother. So she just didn’t make friends but spent her time at home after school in her room by herself. Sure she could have pretended that they were her parents but for some reason, she thought for sure her friends would know that they weren’t. They never acted like parents so why take the chance of having to explain something unexplainable.
Abby lay in the quite of the hospital hoping to hear something, anything about her son. That sounds so strange “her son”. She whispers it aloud several times “my Son. . . MY son.” Then she wonders what Kevin would think. A son... His son... How sure is she that it is his? The question did come to mind but she pushed it aside not wanting to remember why it might not be. He would make a perfect father. It just can’t be that way. He can never find out. The sun is going down and she is exhausted, slowly she drifted off to sleep.
Abby fell asleep in the early evening of November third. The sun had gone down and her room is barely lit by the light in the hall. The door is ajar: In her sleep, she can faintly hear the going on of a normal evening at the hospital. She is not disturbed until late in the night when the nurse brings her new son to her to feed. She is startled awake. “Here is your precious little baby Mrs. Curtis.” The nurse says as she carefully hands the baby to Abby. “You can just call me Abby,” she smiles as she cautiously holds her baby for the first time. “Is he Okay?” She asks concerned. “He is fine. He just had a lot of mucus that was interfering with his breathing. We took care of it.” She reassures her. “Call me if you need anything. The button is on the bed.” the nurse points to it. “My name is Cheryl” Abby smiles nodding, the nurse leaves her alone with her precious baby. He is so beautiful she thought as she looked down at him. Dark hair covers his little head and his eyes look as though they may be blue. That could change she thought. His hands were so small. She loves to hold them, such teeny little fingers. Abby undid the blanket and carefully checked out her new son. He is not very long about nineteen inches. In all the excitement she couldn’t remember what they told her when she delivered so she isn’t sure of his weight. She picks up his bottle the nurse placed on the tray. Abby decided long ago not to breastfeed. She knows nothing of those kinds of things and she certainly didn’t have anyone to help her now, so bottle-feeding seems just fine. He is a very enthusiastic eater. She burps him a few times and when he is done feeding she changes his diaper for the first time. A changing table is in the room equipped with all the necessities she needs to care for him while they are in the hospital.
Both Abby and her baby fall asleep exhausted. The nurse comes in and gently lifts him off her and places him in the bassinet next to her bed. He wakes again around three in the morning and she realizes this will be her life from now on. She will never be alone again. Abby did feed him again in the early morning and wonders what name she will give him. She needs to make a decision before they leave the hospital of course. She has two days and no ideas.
Abby woke up to the sun shining on her face. She had that sense of being lost and couldn’t remember where she is or what time it is. She bolted up in bed and looked around and then lay back down and realized it is just a dream. The hospital, the baby, all of it is nothing more than a dream. The kind that you could swear is real. So real, that she felt as if she had lost something precious. She could see the baby’s face and feel him in her arms. The feeling is truly unbelievable. It couldn’t have been a dream, the nurse, the doctor everything. She must have been so blown away by everything she took and drank that a whole episode of life is created in her mind as a dream. She can’t explain the dream. It is too real. And as usual, she is deceiving Kevin again. For a long time after the rape, she feared she was pregnant. Maybe now she wished she had been, but to Kevin.
A year has passed since their breakup and she is still dreaming about a man she left and now about a baby that never existed. “What the hell am I doing”? She says aloud. “I left him, why can’t I let him go?” She starts to cry. She didn’t want to feel anymore. How could she make everything stop? Abby lay there for quite a while until she realizes that she didn’t know what time it is and frankly she didn’t know what day it is. The partying began the week before and continued through the weekend leaving her mind kind of fuzzy. Abby goes into the bathroom and checks her watch that lay on a small table next to the sink. It is supposed to add some flavor to her tasteless bathroom. Decorating is not her forte. Nothing can help it now. She hasn’t picked up anything in that room in a week and that is just touching the surface. It is Monday morning she has to be at work by eleven. What if she just didn’t show up, what would they do she mused? But then again she remembers very well what they would do down the medical center where she works. Her ass would be on its way out. That is exactly how the office manager put it just last week before her vacation. Her exact words were “one more screw up, missed days, or late arrival, your ass is out of here.” Abby thought she was a little menopausal that day but, hey, her word is written in stone in that office. She jumps into the shower throws on her “office outfit” as she calls it and runs out the door. If she is lucky she will get there in time. She lives only a few blocks away and that is close enough for her junker car to travel without breaking down or falling apart.
Her car wasn’t always junk. In fact, it was an adequately nice used car. Kevin helped her pick it out. She had never owned a car before. Then after she broke up with Kevin she met a guy. He made her feel good. They started doing drugs together. Something she thought she would never do. Anyway, she let him drive her car a couple times. She dumped him after he wrecked it and refused to pay to get it fixed. He is such a loser, and then she remembers her dream and Kevin, which brings her back to where her life is now. It is a mess. Today she needs to make a decision. It is a day of reckoning.