My heart is beating out of my chest, my hands clammy, my back soaking wet. I sit up straight, and I try to catch my breath, the images still flashing before my eyes. I feel a hand upon mine, and I flinch, but when I realise it's only my husband, I flash him a small smile.
"Are you okay? Did you have a nightmare?" he asks, a worried look on his face. I shake my head, and he gives my hand a little squeeze. I look down at it, at the ring on my finger, and I can't help but flash him another smile.
"Are you scared?"
"No, I'm not scared."
"You know he can't hurt you anymore, right? He isn't allowed to come anywhere near you. If he does…"
"I know." I interrupt my husband, and I give him a kiss. He wraps his arms around me, and pulls me closer. The scent of his after-shave, still lingering after a long day, now mixed with sweat… It's a scent I would recognise anywhere. I close my eyes, and take a deep breath, as I cuddle up to him.
"You're safe now."
Two weeks ago.
I keep seeing images of everything that has happened over the last few months flashing before my eyes, and all I want to do is turn around and run away. But I know I can't. So I take a deep breath, and enter the large beige, depressing building. People's lives are changed here every day, and the second I step inside, my legs become heavier. The air feels thicker, and I feel like I can't breathe. But I know that what is about to come is important, and I have to be here for it.
"You!" I hear, and I turn around. I recognise the man, and I want to turn and leave, but before my legs allow me to move, he is already standing in front of me.
"You have to change your statement. My son, he…" The man begins, and another man comes up to him and wants to grab his arm, but he pulls away, the tears running down his face. "He made a mistake, but please… This will ruin his life."
"And he ruined mine," I spit out. The words seem to hit the man like a slap in the face, and for just a second, I want to apologise. But I have nothing to apologise for. "Your son made me so scared, that I haven't left my house for months. He…"
"I know," the man interrupts me, sounding fragile, heartbroken. "But please…"
"No, I need him to stay the hell away from me," I say. I feel a hand on my back, and jump up. But when I see my husband, I let out a sigh of relief.
"I'm so sorry I'm late. I got held up in traffic. Is everything okay here?" he asks, a worried look on his face. He looks at the man, who still has tears running down his face.
"Yes," I quickly say, feeling sorry for the man. None of this is his fault, and he doesn't deserve my husband getting angry with him. So I grab my husband's hand, and lead him away from the man.
"Are you okay?" he asks, and I nod, even though I am not. I am nervous, and I think I might be sick. But he puts his hand on the side of my face, and flashes a supportive look. "Let's go and make sure that this son of a bitch can never hurt you again, yeah?"
Two months ago.
It's long after midnight, but I can't sleep. My telephone keeps buzzing, the sound driving me mad. My husband is fast asleep, and I know I shouldn't wake him up, seeing as he has to go to work in only a few hours. But I don't think I can keep this from him any longer. He has to know what's going on. So I whisper his name, and I watch him wake from his sleep.
"There's something I have to tell you," I admit. "I should have told you months ago, but…"
"It's okay, just tell me," he says, now fully awake. He sits up, and takes my hand in his. I can feel his eyes on me, but I can't face him. So I keep looking down at our hands, as I tell him what is wrong.
I tell him how, when he was away for work a few months ago, I met a man at the supermarket. We only laughed and chatted for a few minutes after I had dropped my basket, and he had helped me pick up my groceries. Afterwards, I had left, and I hadn't thought about the meeting. Not until the next day, when the man had shown up at our house. I had seen him through the window, and I had recognised him, but seeing as I didn't know him, not really, I hadn't let him in. But he had hung around for hours. The next day he was back, and that is when I had gotten truly scared. But I figured he would leave, and give up, so I chose to ignore it and keep it to myself. But within days, the man started calling me on my phone, even though I had never given him my phone number. I hadn't even asked his name. I did not know this man, but he would not leave me alone. Sometimes I answered, to tell him to leave me alone, but he ignored me, even when I threatened to call the police on him. And now, even after months, he still won't give up.
"I still see him hanging around the house sometimes," I admit, after telling my husband, and I can see the worried look on his face. But I can also see the anger. He looks over to my phone, and leans over and grabs it.
"I'll call the son of a bitch, I'll make sure…"
"Don't. You'll make it worse. What if he's genuinely crazy? What if he'll hurt you?" I ask. My husband sighs, and puts the phone down. "When I pick up the phone, he keeps saying these things… they don't even make sense. It's as though he thinks I'm someone else, but when I tell him…," I ramble, the panic building up in my voice. "He won't leave me alone!"
"I wish you'd have told me sooner, then I would have protected you. I could have helped you. Is this why you've been stuck in the house for the last few months?" he asks, and I nod, looking down at my hands again. "We'll go to the police in the morning, and we'll make sure that he can't come anywhere near you anymore. I'm going to make sure you're safe."
Two months and a week ago.
My phone has been buzzing all day, but I haven't picked it up once. I can't. Not when my husband is at home. But I can see him looking over to me whenever the thing goes off. I can see the questioning looks that he is shooting me, but I try to ignore them. I pretend to not see it. But I know we can't go on like this any longer. If we do, I might end up losing him. I can't let that happen. No matter what.
Four months ago.
"Please leave me alone," I beg, as I pick up the phone. I had tried to ignore the phone calls all morning, but they are driving me mad. And just an hour ago, the man I had met a few months ago, had been banging on my door again.
"Leave you alone?" he yells at me through the phone. "You know what you did, you sick…"
"I don't even know you. Please… I will call the police," I try, but I know it won't work. It hasn't worked before, so why would it work now?
"You're not going to call the police. If you do, they will find out exactly what you did."
"I did nothing. I don't know you. You must have mistaken me for someone else," I say, as I feel tears stinging in my eyes. Because what the hell am I supposed to do? He simply will not leave me alone. It's been months since we met, months since he started harassing me.
"You keep telling yourself that," he says. "But I'm not leaving you alone until you give me back what you took from me." He hangs up the phone, and I can feel the tears rolling down my face. What if this is never going to end? What if he will never leave me alone?
Six months and a week ago.
"Thank you," I laugh, as the man puts his jacket back on. He flashes a big smile, and shakes his head. "For this week."
"Oh, believe me, the pleasure was all mine," he laughs. He grabs his necklace from the bedside table, and puts it back on, and I can't stop looking at him. My husband, he is handsome, and sweet, he makes me feel safe. But this man… he is different. He feels dangerous. He looks dangerous. Perhaps that is what made him end up in my bed.
"My ring, it's missing," he says, and I lean over to look at the bedside table. It is empty, but then I already knew that. "I must have dropped it."
"I'll give you a call if I find it," I say, when I realise that he wants to kneel down to look under the bed.
"Sure, I ehm…"
"Bye," I say, and within seconds, I have managed to get him out of the house. I breathe a sigh of relief, and go back into the bedroom. I sit down on the bed, and close my eyes, the vivid images flashing so brightly before my eyes… they are of him. Of the days we have spent together. His touch gentle, but firm. His eyes, full of passion, of fire. His kisses, his fuck… And knowing that I now have these memories with me for the rest of my life… It was worth it.
Six months ago.
"Let me help you with that."
"Thanks." I flash a smile, as a man kneels down to help me pick up my groceries, which are spilled out all over the floor after I've dropped my basket.
"No problem. "I'm David," he says, and he sticks out his hand, as we get back up. I introduce myself, and shake his hand. "Nice to meet you."
"This might be an odd question, David. But ehm… would you like to go out for a coffee?"
"Are you scared?"
"No, I'm not scared."
I never was.