I always knew he’d find me eventually. I just didn’t know it would be like this.
A small part of me, a teeny-tiny voice in the back of my mind hoped he would.
It would mean he had never stopped looking for me.
Never given up.
But in reality, finding me was an accident.
Perhaps it was luck. My luck running out that is.
When a person decides to go missing. Unless something nefarious happens to them, they want to stay that way.
I won’t go into the details of how I managed it. It’s a story for another time.
I can provide the trope-like highlights though, young love leading to control issues ending in abuse.
What I didn’t expect when the bell chimed on the door that day was coming face-to-face with him.
Neither of us had expected it really. The beautiful woman on his arm, a shinier version of me, completely unaware.
Yet it was recognizable, in her body language, this look lurking in the depths of her eyes. A look only someone who has survived the same tsunami could recognize. She was at the beginning of his transformation. The wave was just starting to build. So far off shore, it deceived the viewer.
One thing I should confess is that even after what he put me through, in my escape plan, I made sure he had a rock solid alibi. I couldn’t just ‘Gone Girl’ him.
A great question. One I still can’t answer.
His eyes narrowed in a way I hadn’t seen before. Not the telltale darkness lurking. Not even in one of those looks that could be shrugged off with a ‘I must have one of those faces.’
It was instant recognition.
A game of chicken – hatched.
I imagined the books surrounding us whispering with a flutter of their pages.
His eyes never left mine. Mine his.
She drifted away from his embrace towards a stack of popular fiction in a cart beside the door.
Why were they in here?
In a used bookstore? In a small mountain town in the middle of nowhere?
Nothing surrounding this location might bring the likes of him here.
The bell above the door chimed again, a sound I had coveted up until its previous ring.
“Pardon me!” Came the chipper voice which could never instill fear in me.
It snapped the band between us, broke our eye contact. I couldn’t tell you who blinked first.
But it was only for a moment.
He was forced to make a move. A sidestep towards her. Possessively.
A hand between her shoulder blades. Her reaction, a slight tension overtaking her.
A “Hello,” whispered against my cheek with a slight peck.
And I flinched. It was slight but noticed by two sets of eyes.
One with a hint of satisfaction.
The other, I couldn’t see but knew held a completely opposing emotion.
“You okay, babe?”
A nod dropped from my chin.
Before I could answer, still unaware, she moved with a book to the counter. A sweet smile gracing her cheeks. He followed.
“Hello,” she placed the book on the counter.
My throat closed off on a hysterical laugh as I finally snapped my eyes away to view its cover: Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle.
The counter spun before my eyes, my arms shooting out in an effort to steady me.
“Are you alright?” Her voice chimed in.
“Babe?” Strong hands steadied me, guiding me backwards, away from the counter to my usual chair.
“I just need a moment.” My eyes pinched tightly.
“I can ring you up.” Came from the hands who would never hold me too tight. Hands that only knew how to love.
In the ensuing transaction I learned that their car had broken down on their way through the mountains. That they were forced to stay in the tiny B&B on the edge of the town. How “quaint” our town was. A real hidden gem.
“Have a great day.” Alerted me as the treacherous chime rang out.
But on its return, the door paused mid squeak and her voice called back, “I hope she will be alright.”
As she threw away the statement on the ring of the now closed door, the hysterical laugh within me could not be quelled. It ripped up my throat nearly knocking my shuttered teeth.
I thought the very same thing. I hope she will be alright.
The eyes of someone I loved lowered to cross my vision. Unknowing. Wary.
Fingertips imprinted on my wrists.
What could I say?
It was like a twisted version of a Choose Your Own Adventure book where you thought you had made it to the end, only to be brought back to an even more horrifying beginning. A new story unfolding. A new way to die.
What could I do?
Reader, what would you do?