I Didn’t Even Know You | Teen Ink

I Didn’t Even Know You

August 3, 2021
By Nhan003, New York, New York
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Nhan003, New York, New York
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Author's note:

This story goes into the many struggles that come with an abusive relationship. This story is also a message to anyone going through an abusive relationship to know you are not alone, and there is help out there. 

My long red hair blows as I stand in the light wind of this Summer night. My arm wraps around my body, and I feel my heart slowly tear in two. 

    “WHY ME!” I belt into the sky, even with no one listening. 

    Reaching into the pocket of my jacket I pull out my phone. Looking at my reflection of the screen I see a completely different person than I would have months ago. How could he do this to me? I walk back inside to my tidy apartment to lay on my bed, wallowing in these complicated feelings. 

    My name is Celeste Watts, and this is my story. It all started when I met Dennis. Dennis was a tall man with short black hair, and the greenest eyes you’ve ever seen. The first time we ever met was at a friends party. He was with friends, but he noticed me immediately. 

    “Hey, what’s your name?” Dennis says. He’s getting closer and closer by the second. 

    “I’m Celeste, what’s yours?” I back up feeling uncomfortable with this man I don’t know approaching me, like a wild animal trying to sneak on its prey. 

    “I’m Dennis, you should let me take you home.” He convinces.  

    I quickly said no. I’m not that dumb to go into some strangers car, plus he looks drunk. He walked away stumbling over himself saying something smart to his friends. I walked back toward my friend who threw the party. 

    “You look annoyed, what’s wrong?” My friend Angela consoles, while she dances to the loud Rihanna music. 

    “Nothing much.” I mumble “That guy Dennis over there was just hitting on me, and he’s drunk off his a**.” 

    “Oh, Celeste.” Angela comforted, “You’re a good looking girl, so of course you will get hit on.” She wasn't wrong, “And look at what you’re wearing! It’s like you’re asking for it.” Now that was wrong. 

    “Yeah, I guess you have a point.” I walked away with my head down. I made it to the bathroom and sat on the filthy floor. A sigh escapes my lips, and I put my head into my knees wishing this night could end.  

    There’s a knock on the door, “Anyone in there?” an unfamiliar voice calls. I walk to the door, but I feel a chill go down my spine like some fight or flight instinct. As I turn the knob I see Dennis through the crack, That wasn’t his voice? I thought. 

    Another person appears as the door opens wider, “Did you tell my buddy, no?” A friend of Dennis quickly said. 

    “Yeah, I did, he can try again when he’s sober.”  I squeeze past them and walk to my car. 

    “Hey!” Dennis calls out running after me, “I just wanted to apologize, drunk or not, I shouldn’t have moved on you so fast, so I hope you’ll give me another chance.” He hands me a folded up piece of paper that reads his number. 

    “Yeah, I’ll think about it.” At the time that seemed like a lie. 

    “Thank you Celeste.” 

    For some reason I got chills, and could feel the little hairs on my arms stand up. He walked away, and I got into my car letting the moment simmer with me for probably too long. I got home, unlocked my door, and sat on the couch thinking about my night. 

    Why? Why was I pulled towards him like a magnet? A force you can’t control, but go to by nature.

    I wake up the next morning feeling like trash. Going out to parties always knocks me out like that. It’s a rainy Sunday, so there’s no point in going out, but I need groceries. As I drive to the grocery store I notice a grey sedan that looks oddly familiar. I lost focus on the car hearing the radio man describe the latest in pop culture news. 

    “Billie Eilish files for restraining order against long time stalker.” The radio man announces. 

    Hmm, good for her.

    I reach the parking lot, open my umbrella, and walk in. I feel that odd sense you get when you just know someone’s looking at you. I jolt my head behind me, but don’t see anything except other miserable shoppers. My head returns to its original placement, but now there’s a man about 5 inches away from my face. 

    “Hey!” I yell, since I thought I’m about to get mugged or something. 

    “Woah, woah woah, it’s Dennis, remember me?  

    “Yeah, but you don’t have to creep up on me like this.” I awkwardly laugh, backing away from him, and putting my shopping cart in between us. “So, what’s up?” 

    “Well, I just saw you here and thought I should say hello. I also thought I could try something again.” Dennis sighs, and starts rambling about how he should have never done what he did last night. “...I just feel horrible, so do you accept my apology?” 

    “Sure, Dennis.” I half say seriously, and the other half wishing he would go away. “Look, I’ll tell you what, I’m picking up a bunch of food, why don’t you come over for dinner.” 

    “I’d love that! Thank you so much Celeste. Really, thank you.” 

    I guess the part of me that was serious really wanted me to give him a second chance, but who knows it could go just fine. I finish my shopping around the same time as Dennis and see him get into a grey sedan. It couldn’t be the same one that I saw earlier, right? No, I’m not even gonna think that for a second more. I checkout after getting something to make pasta, I hope he doesn’t care if I don’t serve him some gourmet steak. It’s 4:00 and I decide to keep my promise and send him my address, “29 Grant Street”. 

    “Thanks, I’ll see you at 6:00, if that’s alright.” Dennis texts back. 

    “Yea, hope you’re okay with pasta LOL.” I joke, trying to make him comfortable with the kind of person I am: Goofy, and maybe even a little compassionate when I want to be. 

    I put on a nice navy blue sweater with a turtleneck. I’m not going to dress like I was at that party, because what if Angela was right? I don’t want to invite some kind of creepy behavior, especially in my own home. I curl my hair, since I don’t feel like dressing too conservative like my Mother. Finally, I wear some orange eye shadow, but not too much, just enough to bring out my eyes- if he even notices them. 

    I should call my Mom. I haven’t talked to her in a bit. 

    “*Ring* *Ring* Hello?” My Mother says in her raspy voice. 

    “Hey Mom, it’s Celeste, just wanted to tell you I have a date tonight, and I-” 

    “YOU HAVE A WHAT?” My Mother yells. 

    “A date?” 

    “Hun, where did you meet the guy? How long have you known him? What does he look like?” 

    “Are you gonna ask for his social security number next?” I mock. 

    “Oh, be quiet. I’m excited for you, just be careful, and one question that’s important to me: Where are you meeting him?” 

    I can’t tell her he’s coming to my house, she would freak. “We’re going to the Diner down the street.” I’m such a bad liar. 

    “Oh, hunny, that’s amazing!” My Mother exclaims. 

    And I guess she’s too excited for me to tell I’m lying. 

    “Alright, I’ll let you go, bye hun.” She hangs up, and I feel bad for lying to her, but sometimes it’s for the best, right? 

    I finish getting the house cleaned, and hear a heavy knock on my door. I wait for a moment to give off that ambiance that I wasn’t pacing back and forth waiting for him. My hand squeezes the door knob, and I open it to see Dennis standing on my stoop, holding flowers. 

    “Aww, you’re so sweet.” 

    “Thank you, I hope you like them.” He walks inside wearing a nice button-up-shirt, and jeans. “You look amazing!” 

    “So do you! Take a seat, and let me get your plate.” I grab his plate as my hand shakes with anxiety, and he grabs it from me confident as could be. 

    “Mmm!” Dennis exclaims, “This is amazing!” 

    “Really? Thanks.” I try to eat the pasta as delicately as I can, so he doesn’t think I’m a slob, but I kind of am. “So, what do you like doing in your spare time?” 

    “I like to play basketball, and I’d say i’m pretty good.” He snarks. 

    “Really, I love basketball!” No I don’t. 

    “You should come to my games some time.” 

    We sit and talk for the rest of the night. We end the night by sitting on the couch watching some stupid football movie. I fell asleep halfway through, so he had to shake me awake. 

    “Celeste? If you’re tired I can go home. 

    “Yeah, it’s been fun, but I need to get sleep.” I feel bad, but he’s also been over for 5 hours. 

    “Yes, it has been great.” Dennis leans in to me, runs his fingers through my hair, and kisses me. “Goodbye Celeste.” Dennis walks out without saying another word. I’m left in shock of what’s just happened, but I lay back down on my couch drowning out the noise of the Tv, and falling asleep. 

    I wake up to a text on my phone that reads, “Hey Celeste. Thanks for having me over last night, I hope we can do something again soon.” I’m ecstatic just thinking about being with him again. I mean how could someone so nice even have a mean bone in their body. I responded typing, “Yeah! Just text me when you wanna hang.” I finally get up after a long sleep noticing I’m still wearing my clothes from the night before, so I get into some sweats and go for a run with some friends. 

    “Hey, Brian!” I call out. 

    “Hey, long time no see, how have you been?” Brian’s a compassionate guy. He’s always been there for me when I need it, and someone I can call family. 

    “Good, I have a lot to tell you about.” 

    “Ooh fun.” Brian laughs. 

    “I met this guy Dennis, he’s really cute, and nice, and he seems like a great guy.” I let out a breath of relief just thinking about it. 

    “Wow, Celeste. When did you meet him?” Brian questions. 

    I can’t tell him only a few days ago. I don’t wanna seem like one of those people. “I met him a month ago.” 

    “Well, I’m happy for you.” 

    “Thanks Brian.” 

    We take our final lap around the park just taking in the scenery. Now it’s time to go home, but hopefully I’ll see Brian soon. As I drive past the same old stores every day I notice something new. A new bakery has replaced one of my favorite stores, so naturally I go in to see if it lives up to my standards. 

              “Welcome!” The baker announces with a strong Italian accent. “Is there anything I can help you with?” 

 “No, nothing for now.” I pace back and forth just trying to figure out what to buy. 

 As I pace around the bakery I feel a buzz in my pocket. The buzz is Dennis texting me to go out to dinner with him. I quickly respond saying yes. He wants me to meet him at some restaurant he has been going to since he’s young. I buy some cupcakes for Dennis and go on my way. 

 As I get ready I don’t dress up as much as the first date, I feel like I made a good enough impression. His car pulls up in front of my house, and he gets out to open the door for me. “Hello, Celeste, you look beautiful.” He gazes into my eyes like no one ever has, making me feel comfort, but at the same time unease. 

“Dennis, can I ask you something?” 

“Anything.” Dennis says confidently. 

“Do you think we’re going to be something, like a serious relationship?” 

“I do.” He stares down the road, like I'm not even there. 

What do I do with that? He just gave me a BS answer. How do I know if he’s lying to me? 

We arrived at the restaurant. It’s a nice building with lights decorated for Spring. It looks really expensive too, good thing he offered to pay. We sit down at a table with a candle, and a nice flower pot right out of someone's grandmother's house. As the night goes on we laugh at all of each other's jokes, and we become closer. Closer as a couple. He pulls out a bracelet from his pocket, and lays it on the table. 

    “Dennis!” I wrap it around my wrists, and smile ear to ear. 

    “No problem.” He smiles back at me. “I hope you like it.” 

    “Of course I do!” I giggle with excitement, and just can’t stop looking at it. 

    “So, since you have never been here before, now is the time people get up to dance.” Dennis offers his hand across the table. 

    “Well, I really have never been much of a dancer, but how can I say no?” 

    As we slow dance in the crowded room of people I feel eyes start to look our way, “Everyone’s looking at us right now.” I whisper. My heart starts to race with anxiety. Why are they staring? what’s going on? 

    “Maybe they’re looking at you.” I know he said it to calm me down, but I think it made me feel worse. 

    “I’m just a girl, nothing crazy.” 

    “Oh, Celeste,” Dennis pushes my hair behind my ear, “You are so much more than that.” We both look into each other’s eyes for what feels like minutes, but must have only been a split second. 

    He leans in to kiss me, and I freeze. “Do you want to get a drink?” 

    “What?” Dennis says in confusion. He’s probably wondering why I just stopped him from making my whole year, but I’m not a PDA kind of gal. “Uhh, sure, if you want to.” 

    God dammit, why did I do that? He thinks I’m a freak doesn’t he? 

    We walk to the bar area and take a seat, and I’m still thinking about how I messed up, seriously What's wrong with me? “So, I remember you play Basketball, right?” 

    “Yeah, I play next Thursday, wanna come?” Dennis seems to have forgotten what just happened, or maybe he doesn’t care. Hopefully it’s the first option, because I want everyone to forget that ever happened. 

    “I would love to.” Would I love to? Why do I keep lying? 

    After a few drinks Dennis starts to slur his words and act more inebriated. “Sir, I have to cut you off.” The bartender clearly looks checked out- you can just tell he doesn’t care about his job right now, and Dennis definitely isn’t helping. 

    “Come on Dennis, let’s go.” I try my best to convince him of leaving but he keeps swatting my hand away. 

    “Nah, we were having fun dude, leave us alone!” Dennis pushes the bartender behind his counter, and everyone gasps including me. 

    “Dennis, what are you doing?” I try to pull him away, but what am I going to do about this? He turns to me and shoves me away, so I get my bag and go. 

    “Where the hell are you going?” Dennis yells after me. 

    “Home.” I can’t even turn around to look at him- I’m so confused. “This is your last chance, get in the car now, or I’m leaving without you.” I turn to him and we give each other a stare that I’ll never forget. The same lights that looked beautiful when we first walked in now look ominous, like they were deceiving me before. 

    “Okay, I’ll come.” He stumbles toward me as I sigh and get into the driver's seat. 

    We drive in silence. All we can hear are the cars passing us by. It feels like the end of something, but we don’t want it to be. I pull up to his house and unlock his door for him, and he tiptoes inside, and falls onto the couch. “Yo? Who’s there?” A man comes from the hallway sounding worried. 

    “I’m, uhh, Dennis’ girlfriend.” It hurt to say that, but also oddly satisfying. 

    “Oh, you just gave me a heart attack, dude.” Why does he look familiar to me? 

    “Do I know you?” 

    “Well, I was at Angela’s house for that party.” Oh, so he’s the guy that stopped me at the bathroom, and he’s Dennis’ roommate. 

    “Okay, I do remember you, well tell Dennis to give me a call when he wakes up.” I walk away to my car and sit there for a moment; just thinking about how much I wish it could have worked, because at the moment it felt like it was over. 

    I take off my bracelet in the car, and take it in the house with me. I place it on my dresser, and just look at it for a moment. “It really is nice, isn’t it.” 

    At 3:00pm the next day I get a call. The phone reads Dennis’ name, so after each buzz of the phone my heart starts beating faster, stronger, louder. After the fourth ring I finally worked up the nerve to answer, “Hello?” My voice trembles in anxiety. I feel like throwing up. I can’t believe I’m putting myself through this. 

    “Hey, it’s Dennis.” We both go quiet for a bit. I think we were both dreading confronting each other. “I just want to say I’m sorry, and I hope we can move past this.” 

    “What are you sorry for?” I try to put up this front that I’m the authority at this moment, but I know I'm not. 

    “For acting like an idiot. We were having a great night, and I just ruined it.” He’s right. “Just give me one more chance, Celeste. I really love you and I-” 

    “Fine.” We both take another pause, since both of us weren’t expecting that to come out of my mouth. “One more chance, that’s it.” 

    “Thank you Celeste, I love you, goodbye.” 

    “Love you too, goodbye.” He seemed sincere, so I wanted to give him the same sense of sincerity back. 

    It’s now Thursday, and Dennis re invited me to his Basketball game, so I showed up to a large building that reads “Sports Arena”. As I walk in it smells like you would think something called Sports Arena smells like: Sweat, bad breath, and maybe even a little blood. I spot Dennis already on the court, face bright red, and full of sweat. He doesn’t notice me on the bleachers until half-time. When he came over he gave me a quick hug, and kiss on the cheek, then ran back to his team. My face full of bliss as to what just happened, but it shouldn’t be. I need to stand my ground and not let him just shake this off. After his team won they went out to a bar- I was invited, but I’m not going to make that same mistake again. As I unlocked my apartment door I let out a sigh. A sigh of disappointment. I’m disappointed in myself, I have no idea where to go from here. Do I really give Dennis a chance? Or should I just throw him to the wind and act like nothing happened? 

    I just wish he was the one, and maybe he is, but I don’t know. 

    It’s Friday, the start of June, and soon Summer. I woke up to a few texts from Dennis that read “Hey Celeste, I just remembered you’ve never been to my house. Except the time I got hammered, so you should come over.” Then he sent his address and a picture of the house, “So I don’t miss it.”. I decided to go just so I can heal the hole in my heart. I never thought I would forgive him that night, but I really would like to try. 

    As I drive to his house the thoughts of him doing something again runs through my head. Once I see him I know those thoughts will be gone, and I’ll just be focused on the him I truly love. “Dennis! I’m here!” I pound on his door trying to get someone's attention to let me in. 

    The door slowly creaked open and his face started to turn the corner. “Oh, hey Celeste.” Who did he think it was? 

    “You should really invest in those Ring Cameras,” I giggle in between my own joke, “I hear they’re good for creeping at people on your doorstep.” 

    “I guess so.” He laughs nervously for some reason which only makes me more anxious. 

    We sit on his sofa just talking about everyday things, and cracking stupid jokes. As we lay down watching T.V a text comes across from Brian that says, “Hey! It’s been a bit since we’ve seen each other, so if you want to hang sometime this weekend text me.” and his contact name is “My favorite person in the world.” which definitely doesn't help my case. 

    “Who texted you?” Dennis crawls from his space on the couch to mine. 

    “No one.” We both laugh as he comes toward me, but as he gets closer I can tell he’s not laughing anymore- he really wants to know who texted me. 

    “Just, give it to me!” He grabs my hand, pulling it back and forth to loosen my grip. “Your favorite person in the world, huh?” 

    “No, I promise it’s not like that.” I try to grab my phone back, but he just slaps my hand away. 

    “Friends do not talk to each other like that, Celeste.” His eyes are wide open and staring directly into mine. “He is trying to take you- take you from me!” 

    My eyes start to tear, is he right? Maybe Brian is just jealous. “Are-are you sure?” My mind starts racing of all the times I’ve argued or had disagreements with Brian; just thinking of all the possibilities of Brian hating, or in the slightest disliking me. 

    “Celeste, I promise.” He wraps his arms around me and leans his head against mine as my tears fall on the sofa. 

    He helps me draft a text to Brian that says, “Hey Brian. Guess what, I know you’ve been trying to steal me away from Dennis. I can’t believe you would do something like that to me. We have known each other since High School, and you just stab me in the back like I’m nothing. Goodbye Brian.” 

    “Good job.” Dennis pats me on the back, “I’m proud of you.” 

    “Thanks.” I’m still crying from the amount of guilt and betrayal I feel. I made the right decision. I just know I did. 

    I leave at 6:00, since I don’t know how much longer I can be in the company of anyone without breaking down. I drive home listening to all the basic songs to make you cry: All I Ask, I’ll never love again, well maybe these are just songs I cry to. I go home and I just feel the need to call my mom. I need to tell her everything, like how Brian is a backstabber, and I think I need to tell her the truth about Dennis. 

    “Hey, what’s up hun?” I usually don’t call her unannounced like this, so I think she knew something was wrong. 

    “Well, it’s just one of those days, ya know?” she’s going to kill me when I tell her this, but I have to. “I think I’ve been lying to you, and I just need to tell you the truth.” 

    “Celeste, I’ll love you no matter what.” She has always been good at reassuring me everything will be fine. 

    I feel a lump in my throat, and start to regret calling. Will she still love me? She won’t. She won’t love me anymore. What am I going to do! “Mom?” I say with tears streaming down my face. 

    “Celeste, what is going on.” She puts on a stern tone, which she probably needed to or I would never tell her. 

    “I only met Dennis a month ago, and I just don’t know about him, and I think Brian was trying to steal me from him, and-” 

    “Woah, woah woah.” My mom stops me and starts to take deep breaths. “Celeste, you need to think about this for a second. Why are you stressing about someone you met a month ago?” 

    I can’t tell her what he’s done to me and just really everyone. “I just don’t want to mess it up with him, that’s all.” 

    “Okay, no it’s not.” We sit in silence hoping each other makes the next move. “I know when something is wrong with my daughter, and this is one of those times.” 

    I take a deep breath, put my head down, and place my hand on my head. “I love you Mom, talk to you later.” I hang up on her which makes me feel terrible, but I just couldn’t do it- not to her. 

    I fall asleep even though it’s only 6:30 I can’t take this day any longer. When I wake up I feel refreshed, and ready to take on the day. Although I feel prepared for the day I see a text I received from Brian late last night. It reads, “What? I have no clue what you’re talking about. This guy Dennis sounds like he’s not good for you. I’ll still be here for you, so don’t forget that.” How am I supposed to trust that? How am I supposed to trust anything now? I text Dennis telling him I can’t talk today, I just want to take a me day. I go shop for clothes, since that’s a pretty tame activity. I make it to my favorite small boutique in town, and buy jeans, and a jacket. I still stay in the store just to browse and waste the day away as much as I can. After I’ve made too many laps around the store that people are starting to stare, I walk to a coffee shop I have never been to, but heard great things about. 

    “Hey, welcome to Coffee Craze, what can I do for you?” The barista looks like the typical guy that would work at one of these places: Long hair, a shirt from a band no one’s ever heard of, and lots of tattoos. 

    “Not really sure, what do you like?” I strike up a conversation because I do need some human interaction today. 

    “Well, I just get iced coffee, ‘cause ya know.” We both laugh for too long. I’m sure the two other women on line are screaming at me in their heads. 

    “I think you’ve convinced me, I’ll have a medium iced coffee.” He makes my coffee and as a larger line starts to form we can’t continue our conversation. “Umm, before I leave, what’s your name?” 

    “Oh, Alan. What’s yours? 

    “Nice to meet you Alan, mines Celeste.” I walk out the door with a smile on my face, and take a sip of my coffee. I should come here more often. 

    I make my way home, but take a detour to a trail by my house. I’m definitely not dressed for the occasion, but I just need it. I walk to the trail and get on my way. The soft wind blows against my face as I close my eyes, and start to relax after these difficult past few days. I arrived at the trail at 1:00pm, but I stayed until 4:00pm. I just needed to appreciate the world around me. Before I go back to my car I sit on the peak of a tall hill covered with grass. What the hell am I doing? I finally rise up from my seat, take a deep breath, and stretch my arms out as far as they go. On my way home I reflect on my day, just thinking of all the things I did to keep myself busy, and how happy it made me. For tonight I’m just staying in. Not going anywhere, not talking to anyone, just be alone. It’s 5:30pm so I decide to make myself some ramen, and just go to bed. 

    “Woah, what time is it?” I look out my window and the sun is shining. I check my alarm clock and the time reads 8:30am. “What? How did I sleep so long?” I check my phone and I have a few missed texts from Dennis, so I decide to get my day started, because what else am I really getting up for?

    “Hey do you wanna hang today?” One text from Dennis says, “Celeste? I’m gonna spam your phone if you don’t answer me.” Then he spammed me with a bunch of texts saying random, nonsensical things. 

    “Yeah, I’ll come by today.” I got a break for a day, but now I have to go back to being with him. I just feel like that’s all I do. I get dressed, but not into anything special, just a sweater and leggings. I hope we’ve been together long enough that he doesn’t care. 

    I get to his place at 2:00 in the afternoon, so we have the whole day to do whatever. “Come in!” Dennis yells through the kitchen. 

    “Hey.” I threw myself onto his couch just wishing I was at home in bed. 

    Dennis gives me a weird stare, “Ya know what, I don’t think I have ever seen you without makeup, have I?” 

    “Well, what do you think?” I question for his approval. 

    He looks up at the ceiling thinking for a moment, “I mean is any girl pretty without makeup?” He starts to laugh hysterically, “Look at the Kardashians! How much money did they spend on surgeries to get there?” 

    I don’t find it funny- not in the slightest. “Yeah, I mean we’re all just pigs that have no idea what to do with themselves!” I start to go hysterical, but not the way Dennis is. I’m laughing out of disbelief, and crying out of anger, fear; and most of all disappointment in myself. How could I do this to myself? 

    “What did I do?” He genuinely sounds confused which is a bad thing. If he doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong, I’m out of here.

    “Dennis, I’m going.” I get up to walk out of his house, and plan to never come back. 

    As I’m already halfway through the doorway he maneuvers himself in front of me. “Please, Celeste, don’t go.” I try to squeeze past him, but he just keeps blocking the doorway. “I love you. I need you.” 

    “Are you crazy?” I push him back with all my strength, and he yelps as he hits the wall. I make a run for it while he is in a state of shock. I’m still catching my breath as I make it to my car, but I turned back to see him one last time. He stood in the screen door just giving me a smile and waving. I get out of there as fast as I can, but I contemplate calling 911, I have enough proof, but what if I get in trouble for hurting him too? 

    “I’m sorry, but what’s today's date just so I can write it in my notes?” I sit in the uncomfortable seat of the courtroom. 

    “Today is August 15, 2021.” Judge Hopkins answers, “So, about 2 months after the incident you are filing a restraining order about?” 

    “That’s right.” Dennis and I haven’t been in the same room in so long I almost forgot how threatening his presence is. 

    “Well, Ms. Watts your restraining order is fairly simple: No texts, calls, or showing up at places you are.” Judge Hopkins is a strict Judge, but he has compassion, so I’m lucky he likes me. 

    “That’s all I want.” I plead. 

    “Okay, Ms. Watts I approve this restraining order.” Judge Hopkins gives me a wink of congratulations. 

    I light up with joy. I can’t imagine what Dennis is thinking right now, but it can’t be anything good. The courtroom gets dismissed and I didn’t even look at Dennis one time. It’s a good feeling to finally have a sense of justice, but I didn’t press charges. I got a therapist after what happened 2 months ago, and we’ve talked out all the options. Speaking of therapy I have an appointment later today. 

    “Hi, Celeste.” I walk into Laura, my therapist's room with a big smile on my face. “I’m guessing it went well?” 

    “It was amazing.” I sit down and just start venting. “I felt so good to be finally done, ya know?” 

    “Yes, it’s so freeing to be out of something like that.” Laura always takes the words right out of my mouth when I don’t know how to word it. “So, we’ve talked about this before, but just because you got this restraining order doesn’t mean it’s the end all be all.” 

    She’s right, and I think that’s the part that hurts the most. “When?” I start to choke up just thinking about when this nightmare will end. “I just want to be done!” 

    “I know, Celeste. I know.” Laura pats my back, and starts to tell me everything will be alright, but when will it really? 

    I have a better time talking with my Mom now. She knows the whole situation with Dennis- I have my therapist to thank for that. We talk every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If I don’t keep that schedule my Mom will come to the house and check on me. I always stay on schedule though, she has only had to come to my house once. I also got diagnosed with anxiety and depression which explains a lot. Laura thinks the depression was always there, but Dennis just pushed it out. Laura wants me to start medication for my depression, since it always comes in random waves, but I want medication to be a last resort. The biggest struggle that I face now is the fear of seeing Dennis. I’ve talked with my therapist about what I do if I see him at the store or something like that, and she just tells me to stay calm, but if I need to, she tells me to leave wherever it is I am. 

Every time I need to go to the store I bring pepper spray. I’m terrified of being confronted by him, and if I have to I’ll use it. Right now is one of those times, I need to go to the store. Months ago I wouldn’t dream of saying I’m scared to go to the store, but now how could I not be afraid. I stand in my doorway, thinking about all my options. I should just make my Mom go. But I’ll never learn that way. My hands start to shake aggressively. Am I having a panic attack? My breaths get shorter, my heart starts banging inside my chest, I start to get light headed. What is wrong with me? I need to go. I get up to go to my car, but I can’t. My whole body feels weak, and I’m panting like an animal. Okay, I can’t. I definitely can’t. I sit against the wall as I sob, I hate this. 

    “So, tell me more about what happened?” Laura asks me. 

    “I was just planning to go to the store, and I don’t know, I think I had a panic attack.” I put my head down in shame, because how could I fall this hard? “I hate who I am. This woman that I am is everything I hate.” 

    “But that isn’t you.” Laura comforts, “It's the you Dennis made for his pleasure.” 

    “I know!” I stand up from the couch and start yelling. “This is me! I shouldn’t have been so stupid to let him do this to me!” How is this who I am? What am I doing? 

    Laura doesn’t move a muscle that whole time. “I get it. I completely get it, but we need to work through this, and we will get through this.” 

    She’s right. She’s always right. That’s the hardest part of therapy: Accepting your wrong sometimes. Our session was over, but I didn’t want it to be. I could talk about this for hours- just one isn’t enough. I leave the office in the rain. I’m not sure what’s the rain and what’s my tears anymore. I shield my face with my hood, and I get in my car to go enjoy my favorite things. I just need to make myself happy. Something better than any other medicine is happiness- at least to me. I go to coffee craze, the one place that has made me feel safe these past few months. 

    “Hey Alan!” I call out. 

    “Celeste!” Alan smiles widely at me, “What’s up?” 

    “Oh, ya know, just coming in to say hey.” Coffee Craze has been my comfort throughout these times. I always go here when I just need something positive in life.

    “Are you doing the regular?” 

    “Yep, just an iced coffee.” I wait in the shop for my coffee to be made. The squeaks of peoples shoes slowly start to bug me. Stay calm, just stay calm. “Thanks, Alan, and I was wondering, do you want to hang out soon?” 

    “Yes of course!” Alan's face lights up with joy. “I’ll text you later, Okay?” 

    “Okay!” I take a sip of my coffee and reflect back on my first time coming, and my first time meeting Alan. With those feelings comes the feelings of Dennis. I feel anger, guilt, sadness, and fear. Next I want to see my Mom. I haven’t seen her in person for a couple weeks. 

    “Why are you here, hun?” My Mom answers the door with a towel wrapped around her head, a T-shirt and some jean shorts. 

    “No reason, I just wanted to say hi.” I walk in and sit at the kitchen table I grew up at. All the memories of me and my Mom sitting at this table solving puzzles and playing board games flood back. My Mom had it hard. She was left by my Father when she found out she was pregnant. I guess he wasn’t ready to take care of me, and we were better off that way. “I’m really sorry our relationship had to take a break when I was, ya know.” 

    “Celeste,” She walks behind me to rub my back, “None of it is your fault. I promise.” Just like Laura, my Mom is always right. It wasn’t my fault, but I just need something to ease the pain. Something like closure. How can I get closure from the man who I have a restraining order against? 

    I stand up and give my Mom a hug. “I love you, Mom” I kiss her on the forehead for some comfort. 

    She kisses my head back. “I love you too, Celeste.” She looks me in the eyes and says, “I’m here for you, Okay?” 

    “I know.” My eyes start to tear. “It’s just so hard, Mom. It’s just so hard.” I put my head into her shoulder and let my tears soak into her shirt. 

    “Celeste, none of this is your fault.” I feel her tears start to fall onto me. I feel horrible for her. She deserves none of this, and neither do I. 

    After my Mom consoled me for a while, I headed home. As I drive home I think how lucky I am to have her. She loves me so much, and for so long I shut her out. I just feel guilty for how I treated everyone, but I know Dennis made me like this. Now I just have to relearn being myself. It won’t be an easy task, but I know my Mom and Laura will get me through it. I get home, make myself dinner, and put on the T.V.. 

    “Breaking News: Car up in flames due to a drunk driver.” A news reporter announces. 

    That's horrible! I sit up in my seat paying close attention to every word the news reporter says. 

    “...One person unfortunately died in the accident.” I shake my head in disbelief. How could someone drink and drive. That’s so stupid. “The man is now being identified as Dennis-” I squirm to get the remote and turn my T.V. off. 

    “No, no, no, this is not happening.” My whole body starts to shake, and everything around me starts getting blurry. I lay on the couch bawling my eyes out, “What is happening?! I am going to go to sleep, and when I wake up none of this will be real.” I curl into a ball, hyperventilating, and just hoping this nightmare of life would stop. I wake up in the middle of the night with the feeling of a tear running down my face. I leave my apartment building to go for a walk. I stop to sit on a bench and rest my head on my hand. My long red hair blows as I stand in the light wind of this Summer night. My arm wraps around my body, and I feel my heart slowly tear in two. 

    “WHY ME!” I belt into the sky, even with no one listening. 

    Reaching into the pocket of my jacket I pull out my phone. Looking at my reflection of the screen I see a completely different person than I would have months ago. How could he do this to me? I walk back inside to my tidy apartment to lay on my bed, wallowing in these complicated feelings. 

    “I hate you! I hate you, so much.” I’m so angry. I never want to think of him again, but how can I not? I just wanted closure, and now that he’s gone… How can I get it? Am I going to have to go without closure? I try to fall asleep again, I don’t want to be thinking about any of this anymore. 

    I wake up in the afternoon, and make a last minute appointment with Laura. “So, how do you feel about the news?” 

    “I don’t know.” I sigh. “There just has to be a reason behind it. There needs to be.” 

    “What do you mean?” Laura gives me a stare like she’s never before.

    “I mean, why was he the way he was?” 

    “Celeste, he was a sociopath.” My eyes start to fill with tears, and Laura’s head nods. “He didn’t feel bad about what he did, he didn’t care about other people.” 

    “There had to be something human there, right?” I beg her to tell me he wasn’t just evil, but I know deep down she’s right. 

    “Celeste, don’t let this feeling take you down. You are so much stronger than you think, and you will get through this. You just have to let go.” I sit there taking in everything she’s telling me even though I don’t want to. I wish he had some redeeming qualities, but he just doesn’t. 

    I walk out of her office feeling a darkness consume my mind. Laura said I might feel depressed, and that it’s normal. I’m just sick of not being happy. I haven’t been really happy in months. I get home and start to clean, so maybe having a clean house will make me feel better. I get to my room and start to clean off my dresser. I notice behind everything else is the bracelet Dennis gave me. I start to tear up, but I don’t cry. I’m going to keep my composure this time. I’m not going to let myself get worked up. I pick up the bracelet and go to throw it out, but I don’t. It's not that I don’t want to get rid of it- because I do. I just can’t. I put it in my pocket, because when I’m done cleaning I want to go see Alan, and see if this thing’s even real. I don’t feel any better after cleaning. I guess the place looks a bit nicer. I get into my car, take the bracelet out of my jacket, and put it in my car's cup holder. I head to Coffee Craze to see Alan, and just check in, since he never texted me about hanging out. 

    “Hey Celeste.” The manager calls out.

    “Is Alan working today?” I look around the shop and can’t see him anywhere. 

    “No, he uhh.” The manager hesitates. “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but since you two were close, so his Mother passed away a couple days ago.” 

    “Oh my god.” My hand goes to my face. “Is he alright?” 

    “He’s actually at her funeral today.” 

    “Do you know where?” I ask. 

    “The cemetery on Smith avenue.” 

    “Thank you!” I speed to my car hoping I make it in time to see him. I can’t imagine how he’s feeling right now, but I know it would never compare to how I feel about Dennis dying. 

    I get to the cemetery seeing him stand alone at his Mothers gravestone. Just his posture gives away how he must be feeling. I step out of my car and take my time walking over to him. What am I supposed to say? “Alan?” 

    He turns to look at me, and it just isn’t the Alan I know. He’s usually an energetic, happy-go-lucky kind of person, but definitely not today. He looks like he’s been crying for days, and he looks tired. Not tired like he wants to go to sleep- it’s the kind of tired where you’ve had enough of what life has thrown at you. “Hi, what are you doing here?” he turns back around, and won’t break eye contact with the gravestone. 

    “I came to check on a friend.” 

    “Well, thanks.” He puts his head down and sighs. “I’m gonna be here a while, so you can go.” 

    “I think I’m gonna stay.” He turns to look at me, and he cracks a little smile. “I know when you lose someone, all you want is someone to lean on, and I can be that if you want.” 

    “You’re right.” His voice starts to get choked up. “I just want her back.” He starts to cry the hardest I’ve ever seen anyone cry.

    I go over to him and rub his back. “Alan, I’m here for you, okay?” 

    He grabs my hand, and pulls me in close. “I love you.” 

    I wrap my arms around him. “I love you too.” This is the first time in a while those words felt meaningful. We stood at his Mothers gravestone for another hour as he told me about his Mom the whole time. “She sounded like an amazing woman.” 

    “She was. She really was.” We walk to our cars together, and we bid each other goodbye. 

    I feel at peace knowing I made him feel just a tad bit better. I didn’t even think of Dennis the whole time I was talking to him, and that’s the longest time I haven’t thought about Dennis in a while. I look down in my car's cup holder seeing the bracelet. I honestly forgot I had put it there, but I’m glad I did. I look on the news to see if there’s anything that says where Dennis’ funeral is being held. I find it on the local news, and make my way over there. I get out of my car and walk to where there’s a big crowd of people. I stand under a tree and wait for everyone to leave before I go over. I head over after it's just me and him. 

    “Hey Dennis.” I kneel down to his gravestone. “I wanted to return this.” I pull out the bracelet from my pocket, and place it with all the other stuff family and friends left. My tears drop onto the dirt, and that’s my cue to go. “I’m not going to cry for you anymore, Dennis. So on that note, goodbye.” 

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