“We don’t have to go out for drinks tonight, if you don’t feel up to it,” Ben asked as he finished summarizing the plans for the night. 

“It’s okay,” Annette said waving him off, “seriously. It was a vulgar attempt to wield his imagined power over me while simultaneously trying to make me feel inconsequential.” The two years of twice a week therapy had proved helpful. She probably should have gone sooner, preventing her from ever having met Evan, but Annette did not entertain whatifs. She had dealt with that part of her life and was now living in the present. She threw on a modest pair of heels, and walked back out into Ben’s living room. Giving herself a twirl, “how do I look?” 

“Gorgeous,” Ben said, “like you spent hours getting dolled up.” 

“Hours, seconds, it’s all the same to me,” Annette laughed. 

“It’s all about the moments,” Ben said pulling her into a hug. Kissing the top of her head, “we still have another hour before we have to go anywhere.”

“Ohh,” Annette said wrapping her arms around Ben’s waist, “I think we can find a few things to do.” 

“We have so many exciting options,” Annette’s mom squealed into the phone. “We can bake, go for a walk, check out the library, and maybe even grab lunch if you’re hungry. I had a late breakfast over here.” 

“Yes mom,” Annette laughed, “so many options. Don’t forget I have to tell you a joke when I get there.” 

“I love jokes, is it about someone I know,” Mary asked. 

“They’re a client,” Annette said. 

“Ohh, I can’t wait. Did you make sure to–” 

“Yes mom,” Annette rolled her eyes at her mother. Aside from the fact that she had known her mother since birth, working with her had added another layer of depth to their relationship. “I’ll see you in five minutes. I’m right around the corner.” 

Annette disconnected the phone. True to her word she had pulled into her mother’s driveway five minutes later. Walking into her mother’s home Annette felt a change in the air. It wasn’t because of the air conditioner. It was something else. A denseness. 

Annett hadn’t spoken to her mother in years. Not since everything had happened. Could three or four years really had passed since then? Annette couldn’t keep track of anything let alone time. Things were changing. She had been numb for months, if not longer. Somehow her coworker had gotten her to come out with her and her friends. Probably because it was an open bar. No one knew that Annette was still fucking Evan. She had just begun to feel as though she didn’t particularly want to be. She was tired of being drunk and used. There were Sunday nights while throwing up in the toilet Annette felt like a marionette – except her whole body was the asshole being manipulated by a large omnipresent hand. 

Evan had begun yelling at her. Making it up to her. Occasionally shoving her. Giving her massages that ended in oral pleasures and sex how he knew she liked it best. A night of drinks on him. Yelling at her. Making it up. Shoving her. Agreeing with him didn’t get her anywhere and following instructions was getting harder. He was setting her up for failure. Even she could begin to see she couldn’t win for losing. 

Her closest coworker, the closest person she had to a real friend had dragged her out for drinks. She had met people. She had met interesting people who did more than stumble through life. She had met Ben. And Rico. And Deena. And Janet. And others. People who invited her out the next weekend. 

Evan hadn’t liked that. Evan had called her that evening, but her phone had died. When she oozed out of a cab and stumbled her way upstairs to her apartment he was there waiting for her. “Unlock the door.” He yelled. He screamed. He called her names. He backhanded her knocking her off of her chair. She had agreed to everything from that moment forward. More so than before. “Whore.” 

“I am.” 

“Scab. Slob. Cunt. Waste. Disgusting.” 

“I am. I am. Iamiamiam.” 

He had decided that she could beg for forgiveness tomorrow. Right now he wanted other things. “Shower. Lay down. Not on the bed. On the floor. Lay on your stomach. Clean yourself up. Call me in the morning.” 

She counted his steps as he walked away and walked out the front door. She hadn’t moved until the screen door closed and a car started in the distance. Getting up, Annette plugged her phone in. While she waited for it to come on, she went to the bathroom and wiped off her back with a towel. Before returning to her phone, Annette walked into the kitchen and threw the bright yellow towel, one of her favorites, in the garbage. 

Annette called her mom as soon as her phone would let her. 

“Mom?” 

“Hello?” 

“Mom, I need you.” 

“Annette?”

Mary cleared her throat. 

“Yes, mom, my boyfriend, he hit me–” 

The line went dead.

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