Work the next day seemed to drag on. The clouds had set in and the sky was about to open up in rain at any second. The sky seemed to be as emotional as she felt. Ready to unleash, to wash away the dirt, pent up energy begging to detonate but unable to complete the task.
The previous night was awful. Once the dreams started, they rarely ended. Each time she shut her eyes, the dreams picked up where they left off. Sleep was something her body needed physically, but she was too emotionally afraid to step back into that hell to relax into slumber. Her eyes burned, her arms felt heavy, her mind was foggy. Instead of her normally perky manner behind the reception desk, she was apprehensive. One man came in wearing khakis, which reminded her of the Monster. One gentleman had particularly clean hands, and that reminded her of the dream. One man had an address from her home state, and her mind raced back to the horror she was trying to escape.
Adding to the restlessness was the throbbing in her body was the searing pain in her ankle. It was still incredibly tender this morning, but a few Tylenol throughout the night had improved things. She wished she had an ice pack or a heating pad to follow Tucker’s orders, but she didn’t. And walking across a big box store to find those things in her physical state didn’t seem worth the hassle.
She thought she had covered the bruise on her face well enough with makeup, but her coworker noticed and she had to come up with some story about bumps in the night. She did not like distorting the truth, but she wasn’t exactly mentally prepared for the whole truth yet, either.
She hobbled around the office and was thankful that her job was primarily a desk job. Her coworkers praised her efficient rearrangement of the furniture earlier in the week, and they had encouraged someone who mattered to let her do the new reception area as well. Early the next week the new building would be complete, and she would head over there to give it the finishing touches. Create easy traffic flow, draw eyes to intricate designs to pass the time in the waiting room, bring in colors to warm the place up and give it some character. That gave her three days to finish healing up so she could get around the new building without calling attention to herself. She could do it.
She checked the clock, just a few hours left to go. The reception area was quiet for the time being, and she shifted her gaze through the wide windows surrounding the entrance. Lovers passed on the sidewalk, holding hands, business men walked briskly past with cell phones to their ears, traffic came to a still as the stop light must have turned red, and then filed out of the intersection in an orderly fashion when it must have turned green. Pickup trucks, SUVs, and small cars. And then a small car she knew too well. A small, grey sedan with its paint freshly washed. A moment of panic surged through her before she recognized the driver as the checkout lady at the grocery store. A lady, one she knew. Not the Monster. Not the Monster, she repeated to herself.
When the rain started to spatter against the glass of the window, she was thrown back to the last time she had to move. She was sitting behind a desk at a different temp agency, her eyes scanning the traffic, when she noticed not only the Monster’s grey sedan, but the Monster behind the wheel. She had snuck back to her vehicle as quickly as she could and slipped up to her apartment. It was a small apartment over the top of a shop in an even smaller city a couple states over. She was luckily able to grab everything she needed – her blanket from her grandmother, her suitcase, toiletries, and she even had room to shove in a few food items before making her way back to the street. She checked cautiously for the grey sedan, loaded her vehicle with her few things, and took off, only looking back to watch for the Monster. She made it two full states over to Missouri before she finally felt safe enough to stop. She had slept in her vehicle the two nights previous and was perfectly fine doing so once more before finding an apartment she could afford in Warrensburg. After finding a new temp agency and a job she was excited to do, she settled in, even though she knew it wouldn’t be for long until she was found. Again. And she would need to move. Again.
“Ann, Ann!” said Layla, cheerfully trying to break her from her thoughts. “Earth to Ann” she said again, and Ann returned with a smile. Layla was a young gal, teenager still, but she had a heart of gold and had helped acclimate Ann to her new surroundings, giving advice on where to shop, find the greatest deals and the best food. Ann knew that she would never be able to afford any of the places Layla suggested, but watching the young gal’s eyes brighten up as she spoke kept Ann’s attention. And brought a little joy to the days.
Ann thought back to her office on the east coast. She had started her business at about Layla’s age, still young and wide eyed. She decorated her parents’ cabin, which lead to a reference for a neighboring cabin needing an update, which lead to an endless array of opportunities. By her early twenties, Ann had broken a million dollars and her business was still booming. She had offers to decorate homes and corporate offices across the world, and she loved the opportunity to get out and see it.
When she started running from the Monster she tried to keep up with her business. She would attempt to meet new clients and discuss dreams, but the Monster always intervened and shut down the offers. She finally gave in and hired an executive officer to manage her business while she was away, and that was by far the most painful thing to have ever happened in her life. Laying her dreams, her future, her love into someone else’s hands and hoping they would pursue it with as much gusto as she had had torn her apart inside.
She knew she had trained up a few bright designers before she had left that were bound to make a name for themselves. If she could keep them loyal to her company with their talents, the business would continue to grow. But if she wasn’t there to encourage them, she wasn’t sure they would stay. And that thought worried her.
The Monster had taken so much from her. He had taken away her innocent perception of the world. It was now tainted with real life knowledge that there were sick people out there, willing to do just about anything to get what they want. And when that sicko wanted her, he was willing to go to any lengths to make her his. And she would never comply. She would never allow him to touch her, no matter how painful the punishment that would ensue would be. She would never be his, and she knew that with a certainty that crept through her veins, into her soul. She could be happy anywhere on earth, as long as it wasn’t in that evil man’s presence. He had taken her ability to chase her dreams, but he would never take her body. Not as long as she was living.