Promises, Promises
Author:Janice Baker

chapter 1

Izzy



My mind was racing in an endless loop of thoughts. Do I really want this? Is this what I really want to do? Leave HIM? Forever? Yes..? No…? What HE did was unthinkable, but did HE really make me do it? I mean, I let it happen. Although, it was under HIS command.

HIS command – that’s what it comes back to. I was so used to letting HIM control me, my body...my mind…allowing HIM to do things to my body most women would never allow. The control…

Walking faster, I couldn’t stop the tears…uncontrollable. I could feel the black limo following me…or was it my imagination? Was I really free to leave? Or was HE treating me as a child and seeing if I’d come back on my own.

Memories rushed through my mind of being a child and packing my Barbie suitcase with anything I could find (including stuffed animals and several Barbie dolls) so I could “run away” from home at the age of five. I walked out the front door crying, yelling that I’d never be back. Only to go down the street to realize – where was I going? And now, at the age of 24, I was asking myself the same exact question and feeling just like I did at the age of five. Where was I going?

I had no family and I had broken contact with Brad and all my college friends, even my best friend, after I had met HIM. That was two years ago. Had it really been two years now I was under HIS control? HE would never say HE loved me. I understood that from the beginning. HE had told me HE was incapable of love. That was okay with me at the time. What HE offered to a woman just out of college was incredible, I thought at the time. Starting out with expensive clothes, living in HIS penthouse apartment, fancy dinners, cars, travels to Europe on a whim. It was everything a young woman could want.

Except love.

The one thing HE explained in the beginning that HE would never be able to provide. Love. Being 22 and naive…I could make HIM change – love me as I wanted to be loved.

I increased my speed and ducked into a coffee shop. I took a seat in the back so I could see the door. My heart was racing a mile a minute. Panic was setting in. Money. I had a little cash in my bank account that I hadn’t used in what, two years? I wonder how much was in there. I never had to check since I never needed money for anything.

Living? Where would I live? Melanie and I had fought about HIM. Could I contact her again? Would she forgive me? I still had her email address, but I can’t use the internet on my phone since I left it on the counter at his penthouse. I left anything HE had given me except the clothes on my back and my purse containing my ID, debit card and lip gloss. Or was that HIS since HE paid for it?

I was glad I ran into this place. It was an older cafe that had three ancient looking computers lined up against the left wall and as I looked up, I noticed one available. Sitting down in front of it, I typed in Yahoo and logged into my old account. Password. What was it? Oh yes! Huffy – the name of my first pink bike. Riding my bike was the only time I was content and felt free.

I logged in and noticed a gazillion emails. I started to type a new email to my friend, but froze, laughing to myself as to what to write. Hello, how are you? Haven’t seen you for two years, but I’m running away from my crazy lover/companion/controller/Dominate. I need a place to stay. Can I stay with you? What the hell am I going to write? Because that clearly isn’t the best opener!

A nice waitress came over asking what I would like to drink. Coffee. I definitely needed coffee. She seemed to notice I had been crying and she gave me a sweet sympathetic smile. I’m sure I looked a mess.

I turned back to the email and with a deep breath, I decided on the truth – well most of it. I’d leave out the sexual part of it.

Melanie,

I’m so sorry to write to you now after our huge fight two years ago, but I could really use a friend right now. I am leaving him and need a place to stay. I was wondering if I could crash at your place for a little while to clear my head and get back on my feet. I apologize for this being so sudden and, well, weird. I am in a coffee shop writing this as I have nothing else except the clothes on my back.

Isabella

The nice waitress came back with my coffee and another sympathetic smile. I turned back to the computer after pouring in two creams and two sugars. After all, I was no longer with him, so I didn’t need to just have it black because HE was controlling my weight. Taking a sip of my sugary, sweet coffee, I felt exhilarated on my new found freedom. I refreshed my email and my heart skipped a beat when I noticed how quickly she replied.

Oh my God! I have missed you so much these past years and have thought of you so often. I told you he was really a jerk! Lucky for you, our old roommate just got married and moved out. I live with two guys now, so as long as that doesn’t bother you, you are more than welcome! Do you need any money to get here? How can I help you? I cannot wait to see you again after all this time!

Love,

Mel

How could I have just left such a good friend to be with HIM? Tears began to spill down my cheek, remembering our last fight before I left to move in with HIM.

I checked the train schedule and wrote back what time I would arrive and that I should be okay with money.

Lucky for me there was an ATM machine in the back of the coffee shop. I went ahead and paid the waitress with my debit card knowing HE was going to track it. It didn’t matter at this point because a limo kept driving by, so I was pretty sure HE already knew where I was. After deleting the history on the computer and receiving my card back, I went to the ATM to check my balance. Over $10,000? How the heck did I have that much? Hmm, bank, I needed my bank to withdraw as much of that as I could. To start, I withdrew the maximum the ATM would allow so I would have cash on hand as long as I could.

Next, how do I get out of here without the limo spotting me? Hmm, nice sympathetic waitress…I bet she would know.

After explaining that I had a crazy, jealous ex-boyfriend waiting outside, she took me out the back exit and explained that if I turned left, there was an alley on the right that would lead to the train station. My bank was also conveniently located near the train station.

Such crazy cloak and dagger stuff…who would have ever thought I’d have to think like this? I should have known HE would show HIS true colors two years ago, but I was blinded by greed and desire to be “the one” to change HIM.

I ran down the alley and turned the corner; just as the waitress said, there was the train station. I noticed my bank to the right and tried to blend in with the crowd and ran into the bank. I needed as much of that money as I could, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to touch my account ever again.

The person greeting people at the door signed me in and I waited in a chair until the next desk person was available.

I sat there trying to keep my leg from shaking. Each passing second I felt like HE would come bursting through the door and…what? Do what? What would HE do? I didn’t know and hoped not to have to find out.

If I weren’t so nervous, this actually might be a little funny. Running from limos through dark alleys and withdrawing large sums of money…It seemed so silly and a bit ‘cliché’ out of a movie.

Finally, it was my turn after what felt like an hour. I was led over to a desk behind a plexiglass cubicle wall. Mr. Bank Guy sat behind his desk with his hands folded and propped up. A smirk from his round, pink face and balding head made me feel like I was doing something wrong. I explained to him that I needed to withdraw my full amount, but needed it in cash.

Martin Cannon, according to the name plate on his desk, had me fill out several forms with a smarmy smirk on his face the whole time. Finally, he got up and seemed to waddle over to the bank vault.

After a short period of time, he returned with that same smirk on his face. My heart picked up because I couldn’t help but wonder if he called HIM or something. To my relief, Martin Cannon sat down and slid a stack of bills toward me.

$10,000 in cash is a nice little stack; weighs a lot and luckily fit nicely into my purse. Or was it really HIS purse? I asked myself this as I shoved the stack of cash into my purse. Damn it. It keeps dawning on me – nothing is really mine.

I thanked Martin Cannon, stood up quickly with my heart beating out of my chest and left, realizing and hoping that this was the last place HE would know I’d been.

I went straight to the train station and purchased my ticket, in cash, and went right to the platform and onto the train…and to my new life.

*******

The train pulled into the station four hours later and I was relieved to see HE wasn’t there. Rather, with a spark in both our eyes, I found Melanie immediately. She was just as I remembered her – gorgeous as ever with an amazing body, blonde wavy long hair and blue eyes to die for. Melanie always got attention wherever she went and had the bubbly personality to match. Even in a blue Henley shirt, faded jeans and her hair swept up in a ponytail, she was stunning. She pulled me into a huge bear hug and then introduced me to the guy standing next to her, Clark, her…well, now, my new roommate.

Clark looked kind of like Clark Kent, to be quite honest. He was tall with dark hair, but had brown eyes instead of blue, broad strong shoulders – and yes, had the dark rimmed glasses. I half expected him to pull his shirt open and show me his Superman shirt. Instead he gave me a warm hug and a sweet smile, of course after checking me out from head to toe and lingering a bit too long on my chest. He seemed to be looking around nervously and I kept wondering why. Suddenly, it dawned on me that he was probably looking around to make sure a crazy ex-boyfriend wasn’t chasing me down!

“I can’t believe you’re here and that I get to see you again after all these years!” Melanie exclaimed excitedly with a perfect smile (insert sparkle in her teeth just like a TV ad).

“Melanie, I’m so sorry about everything. Thank you so much for writing back to me.” I sighed, hugging her again.

Melanie hooked her arm with mine as we started to walk. “I’ve missed you so much. I don’t care anymore. We have so much to talk about and catch up.” She glanced at Clark with a weird quirk that made me arch my eyebrows. Melanie cleared her throat. “Let’s get going and you can see the townhouse and where you’re living now!” I wondered what that exchange was, but dismissed it quickly in hopes it was something between them and that it wasn’t about me.

As we left the train station, Melanie explained that they didn’t live far and that they have a great townhouse thanks to Flynn’s dad investing in the area early before it became the new trendy place to live. We walked down the tree lined streets with chic shops and restaurants for several blocks.

The townhouse was brick with beautiful colonial type steps leading up to a wide inviting red door. It was just as charming inside. Flynn’s dad must have great taste or hired someone with remarkable decorating skills, because the inside of the townhouse looked like a comfortable bachelor pad out of Better Homes and Gardens. It was decorated in rich crèmes, blues and light green. The living room and kitchen were all open with high ceilings and brick walls exposed. A massive fireplace with a huge TV hung above it created a nice focal point for the room.

“I’ll show you your room upstairs. Lucy left all her furniture since she moved in with Max and he already had furniture. It’s like it was all meant to be, Izzy!” Melanie winked as we climbed the stairs. I smiled so brightly at hearing her nickname for me. “Isabella” is what I had been called most of my life and especially what HE insisted on calling me.

Putting a hand on mine lightly, she softly said, “When you want to talk, I’m here. I’ll let you get some sleep. The bathroom is right down the hall. Flynn has his own bathroom, but Clark and I share. There are some towels in the linen closet in the bathroom, so go ahead and make yourself at home.” And with that, Melanie walked down the hall, but turned again giving me a sad smile. “I missed you so much.”

Tears filled my eyes and I sighed, “I missed you too. I’m so sorry.” She nodded and blinked tears from her eyes before going downstairs.

I took a very hot shower thinking about how close Melanie and I had always been. She was as close to a sister as I would ever get. I met her as my roommate at orientation for college and we hit it off immediately. We did everything together and had most of our classes together.

After graduation, I met HIM at my first ‘real’ job and after only a month, HE absorbed my world. Melanie tried to caution me several times through several fights, but I didn’t want to listen to her. She knew HE was just a pompous asshole trying to control me, but I didn’t listen nor did I want to.

HE promised to take care of me and provide anything I could ever want. I agreed to HIS request to be with HIM and HIM alone, under HIS promise that HE could show me so much more.

I hadn’t heard from her after our last fight, yet here I am in her life again and she just welcomed me with open arms. With the water washing away my tears and shame, I decided I would make up the lost years of friendship and hoped I could be a better friend.

I wrapped myself in the soft towel and realized I only had my dirty clothes to put on. Frustrated, I balled my dirty clothes and held them to my towel wrapped body and went to “my” new bedroom.

The room was average size. A bed, dresser and mirror occupied most of the space. The closet was pretty good size, not that I needed much room with the one pair of jeans, t-shirt and sweatshirt I had, but I guess I could fill it with a couple more things soon. I realized the bed had sheets, a flowery comforter set on it and some clothes were laid out – a long sleeve football jersey and sleep pants. Cozy. And again, I was so thankful for my friend who I hadn’t been much of a friend to.

I put on my borrowed pajamas and climbed into the comfortable new bed and started thinking of my wonderful new life and my renewed friendship with my old best friend.

My mind wandered back to what I left. I began to wonder if HE was out there somewhere looking for me. Was HE upset that I left? Was HE going to come after me? Was I safe here or would HE seek retribution for me leaving? Did HE know the shame I felt and how disgusted I was after that? Of course HE did; I’m sure that’s why HE did it. After crying and tossing around for a little while, I finally fell into a deep sleep.

******

I awoke the next morning hearing voices downstairs and decided I might as well meet Flynn, my other new roommate. As I stood at the top of the stairs, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation.

Clark: She’s gorgeous, but she looks pretty withdrawn. Is she going to be alright?

Melanie: She’ll be fine. She went through some pretty horrible things before college, but she withstood that and had a great scholarship. I still don’t understand why she followed that jerk, but I’ve missed her so much over the years. She was always like the sister I never had. I’m just so glad she emailed me.

Another voice I assumed to be Flynn: Well, if she has some psycho guy coming after her, we need to be careful. What do we know about him? Is he abusive? Is he going to try to kill her or something?

Melanie: I don’t think he would. He has too much riding on the line. He’s rich and very powerful so I don’t think he’d do anything stupid to jeopardize that. I’ll talk to Izzy and find out more when she’s ready to talk. She just looked so tired and worn down, I wanted her to get rest before asking anything.

Voice that I think is Flynn: Well, I trust your judgment Mel. You’ve always talked about her and from the stories you’ve told us about her, she seems like she’ll fit right in.

Clark: She’s hot. I mean, she didn’t look all that put together, but she’s smoking.

Melanie: Hands off. Getting out of a bad relationship, she doesn’t need to get into something else right now.

Clark (laughing): But I’m fuckin’ Superman baby! I’ll save her!”

All were laughing now at what Clark said.

Melanie (still laughing): You’re such a dick wad sometimes! We don’t need you screwing anymore roommates. When you were with Bri, she wanted a relationship…remember, you don’t do relationships! Not to mention she left not too long after.

Clark: Hey, I’m good! I didn’t try anything with Lucy.

Voice Assuming is Flynn: Only because Max would have kicked your ass! Give this one some space, will you?

With that comment, I started walking down the stairs. I might as well meet the voice I assumed to be Flynn. I walked into the kitchen and they were having coffee, gathered around the huge kitchen island. It seemed odd that I hadn’t noticed how large the island was last night.

Melanie and Clark were on stools and another guy was leaning on his forearms upon the island facing my direction. His eyes met mine and I instantly felt at ease. He had dark disheveled, wavy hair and deep brown eyes and a strong jaw line with a little stubble. He was wearing a faded grey t-shirt. His mouth quirked up into a smile showing perfect teeth and his deep brown eyes lit up. Wow…he was pretty easy on the eyes! He glanced at Melanie and with a deep, masculine voice said, “I think our new roommate is up.” Everyone turned to face me. I felt my cheeks heat up and I cleared my throat. “Morning.”

Melanie jumped up and ran to hug me. “How’d you sleep?” She asked cheerfully.

“Great, thanks to you making the bed so inviting. And thank you very much for the PJs.” I pulled at the collar of the jersey gesturing with both hands.

“Well, I knew something comfortable is what you needed. Want some coffee? Still sugar and tons of cream?” She asked as she pulled a mug from the cabinet while a choking noise came from Clark. I blushed thinking of what must have popped into his thoughts.

“Yes, please.” I replied ignoring his sexual insinuation.

“Sweet and creamy, just the way I like it!” Clark joked. Melanie threw a wadded up paper towel at him hoping to shut him up.

“Don’t mind him. He’s just a horny bastard and doesn’t THINK when he speaks!” Melanie chuckled while glaring at Clark.

I grabbed the bar stool next to Melanie’s empty one and sat down. Tall and gorgeous came towards me with his hand extended “Hey, I’m Flynn. Ignore Superman. He likes to tease a lot.” His hand was warm, soft and yet firm, making me feel sort of…safe? I smiled. “Nice to meet you. I’m Isa…Izzy. I’m Izzy.” I didn’t want to use the formal name HE used.

With a quizzical look, Flynn smiled back. “Very nice to meet you, Izzy. I hope you’ll like it here. Melanie has told us so much about you from your college days. It seems like you two had a lot of fun back then. Do you still bartend?” He asked referring to when I bartended at our favorite hangout “Smith’s.” It was a bar full of drunk college kids that seemed more like a huge party every night with dancing and tons of drinks. I made a killing off tips alone.

“I haven’t really worked for the past two years, actually. But I’m sure I remember how to bartend. Do you know of any place that has any openings?” Flynn and Melanie exchanged glances as if he was asking her permission. She shrugged and nodded.

“Well, my best friend owns a great club. It’s a bit upscale, but if you don’t mind that, I’m sure he can get you in there.”

I smiled and nodded, “Great, that would be great. Just let me know his name and number and I’ll call him. I wouldn’t want you to go out of your way or anything.” I wanted to try to get a job on my own without some pull, but thinking more into it, I really didn’t know anyone here and a job with a lot of people around me was really what I needed to get my mind off HIM.

Oh phone…darn it, I need to get a phone so I could call this guy. And clothes and ugh…panties! Laughing out loud to myself, all eyes looked to me.

Melanie asked, “What’s so funny?”

I shrugged and felt slightly embarrassed. “We need a shopping trip. I don’t have anything, not even a phone!”

Clark jumped on that, speculating the necessary underclothes items. “Oh, I bet you need lingerie too! I personally volunteer to help you out with that! I know what girls like.”

I flushed red and Melanie jumped in. “No, thank you, she has had enough men controlling her life and doesn’t need another one jumping in telling her what panties to wear.”

I know she didn’t mean ill, but I was taken aback that she knew that HE did really control everything, even what I wore.

Melanie noticed my surprised look and put her hand on my arm and winked. “We’ll have a girl day and shop ‘til we drop. Just like old times!”

Flynn smiled towards me. “I’ll make a phone call to Z and let him know he has a new bartender.”

I turned to him and shyly replied. “Thanks. I’ll stop in there later to meet him and also just to get an idea of the place.”

He nodded with a warm smile. “Good, well Mel knows where it is.”

We sat and drank our coffee and chatted about where everyone worked. Flynn, I learned, was becoming an architect at his Dad’s firm. He loved it and enjoyed working with his Dad.

Clark, oddly enough, was a bouncer at night at the same club Flynn mentioned and during the day worked at a marketing firm as a graphic designer. He mentioned he loved the club more because he was able to get more girls there than his day job. Great. I couldn’t help but think how many girls I would run into coming out of the bathroom upstairs.

Melanie was selling art for a local shop nearby that specialized in expensive tastes. She had always loved art, but didn’t think it would ever pan out since her parents wanted her to be an accountant, which is what both of us received a degree for.

And here I am, Accounting degree, but haven’t worked at all in the past two years except to push my body to perfection for the sole purpose of HIS use. And how do I explain that to my new (and one old) friends? I didn’t. They didn’t ask and actually skirted the issue – for which I was so very thankful, except for the weird silence that fell on the conversation. Melanie ended the silence by saying it was time to head out for our shopping extravaganza.

We went upstairs to our own bedrooms to change. Good job Izzy, I scolded myself, ball your clothes up so they’re all crumpled. I bet that’s exactly what HE would say. Begrudgingly, I put my crumpled clothes back on and met Melanie outside my door. She laughed. “Reminds me of the old days after a long night of partying and running out for grease to calm our stomachs!” She shook her head and waved her hand for me to follow her. “Come on, I think I have jeans and a shirt you can wear that aren’t so wrinkled!” I followed her and changed into what she gave me. Thankful they fit, a bit loose, but still better than dirty and crumpled clothes.

Our first stop was to buy a new cell phone. One HE couldn’t track. Which brought me back to wonder if HE was even looking for me? Had HE already found someone else?

“Izzy, Izzy…hellooooo??” I heard Melanie sing. “Are you in there? Do you like this one or this one?”

I replied, “You pick, it doesn’t matter to me.”

Melanie sighed. “No, you’re going to pick. This is YOUR choice and your first choice to take back your life. Whatever HE did to you, he no longer controls your choices. It’s time for you to make them yourself.”

Wow. I hadn’t even thought that’s what I had done, but I think she was right. I did just pass off a choice because I never had to make decisions for myself while with HIM. “Umm, I’ll go for the red one. Has some spunk to it and that’s what I need right now.” Melanie smiled excitedly. I chose out a card for minutes and went to purchase my non-traceable phone.

We left the phone store and set on our mission for my new wardrobe. We had so much fun trying on silly clothes and goofing around. I purchased most of the basics and then some additional extravagant items, just for fun.

We sat down for lunch at a nearby restaurant with all of our shopping bags. I stared at the menu to figure out all my options. Usually my lunch was decided for me and it was made to guarantee that my body would not have an ounce of fat on it; that coupled with my daily personal training sessions with Mark.

All of a sudden panic set in. My chest tightened, I felt my breathing increase and tears filled my eyes.

Melanie’s eyes shot up to me and she rushed to my side, shouting to the waitress that we needed ice water. “Breathe, Izzy, deep breath. Close your eyes and think of cute puppies…golden retrievers, ones that are soft and cozy and with a big red bow.” She kept going on about a stupid red bow and something about Christmas morning, but I was trying to focus on breathing to the point I had to laugh about the stupid puppy vision she made me think of.

“Are you okay now? Better? Here, drink this.” The ice water was brought quickly and the waitress gave me a look of sympathy (what is it with me and waitresses feeling sympathy towards me?)

“Thank you,” I softly said to both of them. The waitress went on her way and Melanie gave me a dubious look, not believing that I felt alright.

“Want to talk about it?” She asked softly.

I shrugged and said, “Not much to talk about. I just freaked out I guess.”

“Umm, you freaked out looking at a menu. Are you sure you don’t want to talk?” Melanie asked.

Her look told me I should at least tell her a little bit, but I was still leery of going for the full story. “I, uh, I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to order. That’s all. I haven’t had to do it in a while,” I said sheepishly.

Melanie quirked her eyebrow as she asked, “You what? What do you mean you haven’t had to order? It’s lunch. You didn’t even get to order your own food?”

I took a deep breath and exhaled. “HE…” I started out slowly, “wanted to make sure I was in good shape all the time. So my meals were tailored to make sure of that.” There, I said it. That felt good to get that out. It was almost like a small weight was lifted, but there was still so much more to be told.

Shocked and almost skeptical, Melanie started to speak and her expression changed to determination. “Well, it’s time to take back all of your choices. First the cell phone and now lunch. You have an amazing body and don’t need to worry about that at all. Okay? Give me this one meal and order your heart’s desire.” Then she stopped, looking at me curiously, she asked, “How about the clothes? Why were you able to choose your clothes without a panic?”

I looked around briefly not wanting to meet her eyes. I shrugged and slowly said, “I was remembering what I loved in college and we were having so much fun, I think I just went back in my mind to college days.” I didn’t mention that anything Melanie had picked up looking at thoughtfully, I picked up immediately and purchased after trying it on.

Melanie pulled her eyebrows together in a frown and nodded her head. “Hmph, interesting.”

All I could do was look down. Pathetic, that’s what I am, pathetic. Tears began to fill my eyes. I couldn’t even make a choice on food and for clothes, I had to go back to “good times” and choose items my friend had looked at. What did I do the past two years?

Immediately a hand was on my menu in order to divert my attention back up to Melanie. “Hey, go in between – something light, but still something you would always want to eat. We’ll just take this slow, alright?”

I smiled and nodded. She was right. There was no sense in beating myself up about this. It had only been one day out of HIS control and this was my first step back in getting it back…ME...my control. Looking over the menu, I decided on a turkey sandwich on wheat WITH mayonnaise. There. I could do this.

The waitress came over to take our order. Oddly, I waited for Melanie to order for me, like HE had always done, but then realized that’s not how normal people do things. I looked at the waitress with trepidation and stated, “I’d like the turkey sandwich on wheat with mayo.”

She asked “Okay, with cheese?” My eyes widened and Melanie looked up from her menu, as the waitress waited. Cheese? Do I want cheese?

“YES!” I shouted a bit too loudly. “Yes I want cheese.”

Slowly the waitress asked, as if I were a mental patient, “American or Swiss?” Oh God, are you kidding me?

“Umm, Swiss!” I blurted out.

The waitress then asked slowly again, “Do you want fries with that or fruit?”

I took a deep breath. “Fruit, yes, fruit is what I want with that. No fries. Just fruit.”

The waitress then turned to Melanie with a hopeful eye that she could order with less drama. “And what would you like to order?”

Looking at me, Melanie smiled and said, “I’ll have the same, please.”

After the waitress left (I’m sure she was going back to the others telling them about the mental case at our table), I asked Melanie, “So, we know what I’ve been doing for the past two years. What’s happened with you? What have I missed?”

Melanie took a deep breath and began to tell me that after I left, she flitted from job to job before finally finding her current job at the art gallery. She had moved in with Allen, her boyfriend from college, but they constantly argued. She met Flynn when he came in with his Dad to look at art work to help a client out. They hit it off immediately, slight flirtation, but nothing ever really came of it. I got the feeling she wished there were more, but I didn’t ask. I’m sure I’ll find out more as time goes by. Clark was already his roommate, but offered one of the other bedrooms for her to move in after she and Allen finally broke up. She noted how Clark always tried to sleep with her too, but knew he was just trouble.

I asked about her parents. They had always been so good to me and I loved going to their house for school breaks, especially Christmas. She lowered her head. “They….” she paused and then continued with tears in her eyes, “they, um, they were killed in a car accident.”

“Oh my God!” I was shocked. “When? How? Why didn’t you….” I trailed off, both of us knowing I was going to ask her why she didn’t contact me, but that was obvious. Tears filled my eyes as I had loved them so much. “I’m so, so very sorry Melanie. I’m so sorry.” Whether I was apologizing for them being taken from her or for me not being there…it was both really. How could I have not been there for her for such a horrendous, dark time in her life?

“Umm, it…it was about six months after you left. I received a phone call from my uncle. He told me it happened instantly during a snow storm. They slid off the road and down an embankment. The car was totaled. I…” she stuttered, her eyes brimmed with tears. “I contacted HIM and asked to speak with you. HE said HE would tell you, but I never got a call back. Now I know, seeing how shocked you are, it wasn’t because you didn’t want to talk to me.”

“NO!” I practically shouted. “I would have come to you immediately. I had no idea! I can’t believe HE kept that from me.” HE was even worse than I thought. “I’m so very, very sorry. Please know I would have come to you immediately,” I repeated. And HE knew that. That’s why HE didn’t tell me. Because HE knew I would have left to rush to her side. We were now both orphans, although she has fond memories of her parents, while mine are full of bad ones. I jumped up from my seat to give her a huge, much needed hug.

“I know, I know you would have.” She stated sadly, as she hugged me back and wiped her tears. “I, at least had my aunts and uncles. Something I know you didn’t have when your Mom died.” I sat back down in my seat across from her.

Shaking her head, clearing her throat and wiping her eyes at the same time, she decided to change the subject. “I, um, now I know and realize how controlling HE really was. Do you think HE will come back after you? And… if so, will you go back to him?” She took a deep breath and stated, “I can’t lose you again. You are as close to a sister as I’ll ever have.”

“No.” I affirmed insistently and with determination. “No, you will never lose me again. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you and now that I know HE kept something so important from me, I’ll never go back to HIM. Ever.” I was pretty sure I wasn’t going back to HIM to begin with, but this seemed to seal it. “I’m not sure if HE will even try to come after me.”

“What made you leave?” Melanie asked still wiping her tears.

How do I say this without telling her too much about the life I lead? I looked away and closed my eyes remembering the look on HIS face just a couple days ago. HE seemed almost delighted about what happened. I ran to my room on the other side of the penthouse and locked my door. Disgusted, as well as horrified, I had gotten sick immediately after. I had heard words exchanged and the front door shut. HE had knocked on my door and asked to come in. But I didn’t let HIM in and I said nothing. Wondering what the punishment would be for that, I resolved that nothing could be worse than what HE had done. HE knocked again, this time demanded I open the door, but again, I refrained. HE then told me through the closed door HE would speak to me at dinner the next night. Then, nothing. I had cried the entire night and heard HIM when HE left for work the next morning. That’s when I left. I felt there was nothing more to say. What do I say to Melanie? I want to be honest, but I felt so ashamed.

Melanie broke the silence and must have sensed how hard it was for me to explain. “It’s okay, I get it…you’ll tell me in your own time.” How could she be so forgiving and so patient? I wanted to at least give her some sort of information about why I just emailed her out of the blue after so long.

Starting slowly, “I actually had thought about leaving for a while now. That last night…I…HE…” I stuttered as I searched for the right words. “Umm…HE basically forced my hand that last night.” I started to try to explain more, but Melanie spoke up.

“When you are ready, we can talk more. I understand how hard it must be. I don’t understand how your life has been for the past two years, but when you’re ready to tell me – I’m always here for you.” Melanie then decided to change the subject. “So, shall we go see if we can get you that bartending job?”

I nodded and let out a deep breath. I paid the bill after a small struggle with Melanie, finally convincing her that I haven’t paid for anything in two years. That seemed to quiet her!

We ran home so I could change into my new clothes. I didn’t want to meet a possible new boss in jeans, although Melanie insisted this guy, Z, wouldn’t have a problem with it. I decided on a simple black dress. It probably wasn’t the best choice for a job interview; however, I thought that maybe I’d at least feel good about myself and maybe that would show through.

After a short walk from the townhouse, we stopped in front of a gorgeous flagstone entrance with red painted stucco on each side to complete the building front. There were tons of shops, restaurants and other bars around it, making this part of a really fun night scene. On top, in huge steel letters, was the name “Allure.” Melanie told me that we need to go around to the side entrance where the employees go in.

We pulled on the side door and walked in.