“Only an abuser can make the decision to stop abusing.”
The first days of adjustment in our home passed without other bloodbaths. Aside from that night after the family dinner, Aaron and I were trying to avoid each other, as much as possible. Besides, it wasn’t like I got a serious injury that needed special treatment.
A week later, everyone in the house seemed to care only about what they had to do, their chores, thoughts and problems. It seemed like we were in a “back to reality” program, which was great, at least for me. Anna and dad were at the university every day, Eugene was also back to business and he was either coming home or he was staying at Cleo’s, and Aaron was desperately searching for his perfect “dream house”.
As a result, when I was at home studying, there was no one else there to distract me. Studying was the only reason I would stay at home. Well, that and sleeping. Otherwise, I was either with Jim, Mandy and Effie, or at work. I was feeling grateful for my luck and my dad’s network. Because of that, I was working in one of the finest and largest financial companies in the city. And that job was my salvation, since I was sometimes staying at the office until very late.
That didn’t happen on that Monday though. My boss asked me to leave earlier. I had finished my work for the day, plus I was getting my three weeks paid holiday on Monday.
As a result, I left from the office around half past five and went to meet Mandy and Jim for dinner. The two of them had already gone to “Dragon’s Fire”, the Chinese restaurant downtown, and they were waiting for me.
I arrived at the restaurant fifteen minutes later. There were barely any people left in the city. “Dragon’s Fire” was a modern restaurant in red, black and golden shades. It was a narrow, two-storey long building. I managed easily to find my friends, as it was only them sitting at the bar of the restaurant. In front of them, there were plenty of Chinese dishes, which included spring rolls, sweet-and-sour pork, fried rice with vegetables and noodles with shrimps. They were drinking baijiu, so when I reached the bar I asked the barman to bring me a glass, too.
“Hey guys. Who’s going to eat all that?” I asked and sat next to Jim.
“We didn’t know what you wanted to eat so we ordered a variety of flavours,” Jim said.
“Oh, so you did this for me! You think that I don’t know you?” I asked him.
“Typical Jim. If he doesn’t taste everything there is on the menu, he won’t feel satisfied,” Mandy replied, like this was the most natural thing on earth.
“Girls… This body needs protein to be maintained!” he replied.
“Fine, but just so you know, you’ve gained some weight,” Mandy told him.
“I’m gaining mass, Blondie! Not everyone can be fit like George,” he answered.
“Now that you mentioned it, what’s going on with you two love birds?” I asked Mandy, out of pure curiosity. Apart from some details that Jim had learned from George, Mandy seemed very secretive about that issue.
“Everything is great. But I’m not allowing myself to feel excited,” she simply said.
“I told you Jimmy! Blondie is, as always, grounded and down-to-earth,” I said in triumph.
“Yeah right! That’s why she’s at the bar every single night. Because she’s so down-to-earth,” he replied.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“What I want to say Brownie is that if she was grounded and practical, she wouldn’t be after him all the time. You should see her how she’s looking at him when he changes tracks. It’s not like he’s David Guetta,” Jim told me.
“And is it a bad thing that I want to go for drinks and socialize?” Mandy asked, but she started blushing.
“Of course it’s not! It’s just unusual for you to do it,” I replied, staring angrily at Jim. “Since you’ve fallen in love with him, why don’t you tell him?” I went on.
“Because she’s afraid that George will leave and hide in a cave or something,” Jim butted in. In the meantime, he hadn’t stopped eating from each and every plate.
“You’re being ridiculous. Mandy isn’t a fool! She knows how to protect herself,” I said.
“Leda, I know George better than you do! And I’ll prove that tonight!” Jim told us.
“Meaning?” Mandy asked.
“Let’s go to the bar tonight, all three of us. I’ll show you that he only wants to have fun,” he replied.
“Deal!” Mandy said. “Leda, are you coming?” she asked.
“Can I refuse?” I asked rhetorically.
“No you can’t. Is it ok to pick you up at ten?” Jim asked me.
“I’ll take my car. You can pick up Mandy. But, please, try not to fight,” I said, referring to both of them.
“I can’t promise you that,” Jim replied, raising his hands in the air.
“Enough,” Mandy said fiercely. He realized that he had gone too far, so he focused on his noodles.
As a result, we finished our dinner in absolute silence, till the moment Jim started tickling Mandy again and she forgave him. She didn’t forget to remind him, though, that he could be so irritating at times. But we still loved him. And sometimes we loved to hate him. That’s what friends are for!
I had returned home at half past eight, after a great dinner with my two best friends. While I was parking my car, I noticed that most of the lights inside the house were turned on. Even the one in the attic. So I hurried to get inside and pass unnoticed, in order to avoid an awkward meeting.
As I was entering the hall, I heard voices from the living room and moved silently there. It was just my dad and Anna.
“Hi guys,” I said.
“Hello Leda,” Anna replied.
“So, how was work today?” my father asked me. That man could be such a workaholic sometimes. He was making me wonder if work was the only thing he was thinking of.
“It was good. I finished earlier so afterwards I went for dinner with Mandy and Jim,” I answered.
“Very nice. You need some fun every once in a while, dear. And some rest, too,” Anna said.
“Yes, but not now. I’ll just take a quick shower and I’ll leave again,” I replied. “I’m going for drinks with Jim and Mandy,” I went on before they could ask.
As I was going to the staircase, I heard my dad saying “be careful”. Like it was possible for something out of the ordinary to happen while I was with my friends.
I went upstairs to my bedroom. I only stood outside my door for a few seconds and tried to listen what was going on in the attic. I heard Aaron talking on the phone, saying that something was very interesting but the neighborhood wasn’t appropriate enough. I assumed that he was talking about a possible house and sighed once I realized that his latest search hadn’t paid off either.
I couldn’t avoid him for much longer, at least if I didn’t want to worry our parents. The few times we were in the same room, we were almost polite to each other and that seemed to make my father and Anna feel quite pleased. Besides, I hadn’t forgotten his assistance that night. Although I hadn’t yet figured out why he had helped me.
As I was thinking about all that stuff, I had already entered my room and now I was moving towards the bathroom. There was nothing better than a cool, relaxing shower after a long day. I let the water fall on me and take away all my worries away. I could stay for hours in there but the time was flying and I couldn’t possibly leave Jim and Mandy alone tonight. So, I hurried back into my bedroom to get ready.
Lately, the nights in the city were hot. Too hot to be bearable. A short, white dress was the best solution for that heat. I got my hair up in a ponytail and did my make-up quickly. It was nine o’clock already.
I got my keys, purse and cell phone and went downstairs, only to find my dad and Anna right where I had left them; discussing and enjoying a glass of white wine. I said goodbye and got out in the house yard, moving towards the car.
I had left the gate open, since I knew I wouldn’t stay long at home. And at that moment, I saw a silhouette right next to the gate. The silhouette of a man that was, until now, hidden in the dark.
Tall and brawny, as he always was, with his features barely visible. Black hair and black eyes. Those eyes that had the power to make me stand speechless and confused. I couldn’t figure out what was right and what was wrong when looking inside them.
Even those last few months when I had realized that this relationship should come to an end, I still couldn’t help it. I hadn’t even thought what I would do if I saw him again. Because I hadn’t believed that he would indeed come back.
It was like he had read my thoughts and slowly but silently approached me.
“I told you I would come back. Let’s see if what you told me is true,” Michael said, holding me in his arms and making the distance between us seem inconsiderable.
© Victoria Moschou. All Rights Reserved 2016-2017.