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Copyright © 2017 by Deborah Cole

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Contents:



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11



Chapter 1





“I never want to see you again, Jake. Get the hell out of my place and my life!”

“Come on, Crissy! Things will get better with us, I promise.”

“Yes, Jake. Things will get better. As soon as you get the hell out of here and I don’t have to see you or think of you ever again!”

“I’ll leave, Crissy, but I know we’ll work it out. We just need to take some time off. You’ll see.”

The door slammed shut behind Jake and I saw it as a painful chapter of my life ending. I fell to the floor in the middle of the living room weeping, completely drained. I had been manipulated, abused, and treated like shit for the better part of a year and a half and now it was over.

No more calling me, emailing me, texting me, or communicating with me in any way – ever.

The illness was gone, but I knew it would take a while for the symptoms to subside. That’s just how I am. When I fall for somebody, it’s all the way in so coming back up and starting over is going to be difficult.

I’ll take some time to get better and live again. Whoever wrote that love hurts is a genius. I’ll be smarter, much smarter about who I get involved with.

Never again!



Six months later …



“Large Caramel Macchiato,” the woman’s voice called from across the counter.

Like a robot obeying a command, I instinctively prepared the drink. The same way I did almost every day for the past six months.

There was an extra spark in me today though as it was the first really nice day of spring after a dreadful New England winter. College Hill was teeming with students after a long winter’s hibernation.

This spring and summer would be different for me, I promised myself. I was finally on my own after wasting a year and a half of my life with Jake. As hard as it was cutting the cord with him, I knew that it was the right thing to do and that it happened about a year too late.

Never again!

I spun toward the tall, blonde woman and asked, “Did you say you wanted whipped cream on your Macchiato?”

“No whipped cream, thanks.”

When my shift was over at 4:30 PM, I left with an iced coffee and walked up College Hill to Benefit Street. Providence College had just won the national championship in Men’s Hockey a few days earlier and there were remnants of the celebration still scattered in Kennedy Plaza.

Black and white streamers blew in the brisk wind and a faded sign from last night’s rain was hanging gingerly on the old Hospital Trust building’s façade.

I joined about a dozen other people enjoying the late sun below the outstretched arm of the magnificent Roger Williams’ statue in Prospect Terrace Park. I thought it ironic that Roger Williams, the purveyor of religious freedom was standing over me as I had considered my own freedom from persecution at the hands of Jake. My thoughts were sprinkled intermittently with remembrances of our time together.

The warm sun shining on my exposed skin reminded me of his gentle caresses and how we would spoon together in front of the fire after a passionate love-making session. Unfortunately, those tender moments were trumped by his dangerous obsession with me.

The more I thought about his controlling, even stifling jealousy, the more uncomfortable I felt. Suddenly, the warm sun was no longer comforting and beads of sweat spilled down my face. My nerves danced and my breath was heavy.

No! He’s gone and he’s never coming back.

My therapist would say, “You’re on a new journey, Crissy. You took a fresh and safer path to your destiny. There’s no need to revisit the road that you’ve already travelled.”

I really liked working with Dr. Sarah. She was a strong woman and she helped me to forget him. Each day, I feel more like my old self. Happy, strong – alive.



Chapter 2



Taking the job at Starbuck’s was great for me. At first, it was difficult and I was upfront with my manager about the situation I was in, but she was extremely supportive. In the first four months, I became an excellent barista and I didn’t have much direct contact with the customers.

As I became emotionally stronger, I interacted more when customers engaged with me.

On a slow Tuesday, as I was wiping down the oven before my shift ended, I noticed a handsome man enter the café alone. He was wearing a finely tailored suit that appeared to be custom made as it fit perfectly over his perfect body.

He was about six feet tall with light brown hair and beautiful blue eyes. He also had a strong jaw-line that accented the features of his face. His appearance was a stark contrast to Jake’s five-foot-six inch, overweight frame and disheveled appearance.

I stared at him as he sauntered to the counter.

Tim was at the counter as the attractive stranger ordered, “I’d like a double espresso to go, please.”

I know people often say that others look familiar to them, but there was something eerily familiar about this man in the suit. My head bobbed up and then down every few seconds between my cleaning and following his movements.

Tim handed the man his espresso and he walked toward the door to leave. I went to the back of the house, but something told me to glance his way one last time. I expected to see the back of this superbly dressed man as he was leaving Starbuck’s.

I almost tripped when I noticed he had stopped and he was looking at ME! Our eyes locked and my astonishment did nothing to change the curious glance he was giving me. A warm, tingling sensation came over me.

He curled his lips up to smile at me, bowed his head and raised his cup of espresso in a toasting manner. I grinned as my inertia continued to pull me through the swinging door to the back room.

I felt a little light headed as I steadied myself and regained my composure.

As I walked home to my one bedroom apartment on Weybosset Street, I couldn’t get the picture of the handsome stranger out of my mind. Then the anxiety that I’d fought so hard to displace found its way into my head.

Why did he look familiar? Did I know him? Why did his gaze make me glow? Would I ever see him again?…

My friend Tara who works at Café Dolce Vita had brought me an order of eggplant parmesan for dinner. She was running late for a hot date, so she sent me a text that read:

Hey, lemon top - eggplant from CDV at your door.

I know she likes my short, blonde hair, so I laugh whenever she calls me “lemon top.”

I was glad she didn’t stop in to join me because she would have noticed that something was wrong – or just different with me. She was my rock when I ended things with Jake, but I needed to be alone tonight.

I picked up the still-warm food and got ready to eat it out of the tin container, but first I decided to crack open the last bottle of Sakonnet Vineyard Cabernet that I had. The seaside climate made for a dark, rich wine that reminded me of some wines Jake and I had in northern France last year.

Tonight, the wine was the only friend I would need. It calmed my anxieties and prepared me for what would have been a restless night of sleep. As my head hit the pillow at around midnight, I imagined the warmness of Jake and me spooning.

My jaw clenched tight.

Never again!



Chapter 3



As the sun rose slowly over the Providence River and gradually peeked in through my window, I noticed the empty wine bottle on the nightstand.

I remembered the other reason that I enjoyed the Sakonnet wines so much. For some reason, they rarely left me with a hangover and this morning was no different.

The empty glass that I had filled over and over again last night laid on the bed next to me where Jake used to sleep. “No more wine, no more Jake,” I said with a smirk.

After my usual morning routine of straightening up the apartment, I took a quick shower, got dressed, and drank a protein shake before heading to work. The clock struck 9:00 AM as my shift officially started. Even though this shift was somewhat longer than when I opened at 6:00 AM, I liked it better because I take my time in the morning and stop for breakfast if I want to.

The day was unusually busy with a steady stream of coffee-starved customers craving their caffeine fix. I take my last break at about 4:00 PM when I work the late morning shift, and today I sat out front by the window to take advantage of the sunlight that peered through.

I was catching up on emails and Facebook on my phone when I heard a familiar voice at the counter ordering a double espresso. I saw the back of the handsome stranger dressed in what I guessed was a perfectly fitting Brioni suit.

My heart beat quickened and my breath became shallow.

Could it be him? It had to be him! PLEASE be him!

I ran my hands through my hair and shook the short locks to freshen them as my left hand mopped at my face with a napkin to dry a day’s worth of coffee shop glow.

The handsome stranger turned and headed toward me. My attention quickly went to my phone on the table as the sound of the footsteps coming toward me became louder. It seemed like everything was happening in slow motion.

He stopped in front of the table I was sitting at.

“Nice to see you.”

I lifted my head and our eyes met.

I wanted to appear composed so without expression I said, “Excuse me?”

His icy blue eyes lit up the room; lit up my soul.

“I said it’s nice to see you again. I take it you don’t remember me?”

I would never forget you.

“I’m sorry. Have we met before?”

“I didn’t think you remembered,” he said with a gorgeous smile. “Maybe this will remind you.” He took off his suit jacket and proceeded to unbutton his shirt!

God let me help!

I was hoping that he would take his shirt completely off for me to admire his physique, but he just unfastened the top three buttons. He pulled the shirt down at the neckline and across his left shoulder exposing a three inch scar.

“Do you remember this?” he asked. “You used to work at Kent County Hospital. I came in about a year and a half ago with a large gash on my shoulder that required stitches.”

That’s right before Jake convinced me to quit. How the hell did this guy remember me and worse yet, how the hell did I EVER forget him!

“Yes, I was an ER nurse for a while, but that was a long time ago. How did you recognize me?”

Come on, say something sweet.

“I remembered how well you handled yourself that night and how attentive you were to me.”

As my heart was melting inside of my chest, I remembered him.

“You didn’t want the Novocain! Of course! We had to give you the DPH because you thought you were allergic to the Novocain,” I said with pride as if I had just solved a puzzle.

“So, how did you go from treating people in an ER to treating people to espressos?”

“That’s a long and not very exciting story,” I said. “You were pretty beat up that night, from what I remember. I’m sure that’s why I didn’t recognize you.”

He stood there and smiled. His beautiful blue eyes warmed my entire being.

“No, I wasn’t at my best,” he chuckled.

“What happened?”

“Let’s just say it’s a long and not very exciting story,” he said to me with a grin.

Mister, you could speak to me in a foreign language for hours and it would be exciting, invigorating, and much more.

“Anyway, it was nice seeing you, he said.”

“Will I see you again?” I blurted out like a thirteen year old school-girl.

Fuck! Did I just say that?

With an amused grin, he said, “I’m sorry?”

“I meant, it was nice seeing you, too,” I said as my face undoubtedly turned fifty shades of amber.

“I stop in often so as long as you still work here, I’m sure we’ll see each other again.”

“Ok. Hey, what’s your name?” I asked with a little more sophistication and an ‘I don’t really care, but tell me anyway’ attitude.

“My name’s Douglas. It’s nice to meet you formally, Cristina.”

How the hell did he know my name?

“Wow! You are good. You remembered my name, too,” I said, impressed.

Douglas smiled and said, “The nametag on your apron says Cristina, so unless you borrowed it from someone else, I was pretty confident that’s your name.

“Oh, of course,” I said as my hand reached for my name tag. “But my friends call me Crissy or Cris.”

“See you again, Cristina.”

As he walked away, I took a deep breath and exhaled audibly.

I thought about and analyzed our brief conversation.

When I told him my friends call me Crissy, he called me Cristina. What the fuck was that? Does that mean he doesn’t want to be my friend?

As I gathered my things to leave work, I sang to myself. I thanked my lucky stars that I had my music to listen to and sing with when things were bad with Jake. I knew I had to let him go and singing was a way for me to keep thoughts of him – of us, out of my mind.

When I climbed into bed and under the covers that night, I thought about how much I wanted to see Douglas again. Another song came into my head and I laughed: “Baby Come Back” by a ‘70s band called Player. Hearing that song in my head made me curious about Douglas.

Who is he and did fate bring us together again?

I couldn’t wait to see him again.

I had an odd sense that he would play a significant part in the story of my life.

But how?



Chapter 4



I woke up the next morning thinking about my new found friend. I couldn’t wait to get to work now expecting, no praying, that Douglas would stop in for an espresso.

I was interacting more with my co-workers and customers. My manager Stacy noticed and commented.

“I didn’t know you before you started working here, but if this is how you were all of the time, you must have been a lot of fun to be around.”

She’s so God damn right. What the hell was I doing wallowing in misery for so long?

Never Again!

Douglas didn’t come in and it was still a great day! When I got home, I made vegetable pad thai using fresh ingredients. I can’t remember the last time I cooked like that for myself.

No wine needed to help me fall asleep tonight.

I got under the covers, rolled over onto my left side, and fell asleep. I awoke soon after though, as I was having a strange dream that I was spooning with Douglas and I felt the warmth of his body enveloping me.

Suddenly, the warmth turned into constriction and a hand firmly covered my mouth.

Holy shit! This is fucking real! What the fuck is going on?

The intruder shushed me like a parent trying to calm their crying baby.

“It’s alright, Crissy,” the voice mumbled. “It’s just me. I just want to talk.”

IT’s JUST HIM! Fuckin’, Jake, that bastard! I finally had him out of my life and now he’s back to terrorize me!

I thought of my options.

Act calm, agree to talk, and then kick him as hard as I can in the balls and run out of my apartment screaming? Agree to talk and hope he leaves? Scream as soon as he took his hand away from my mouth?

I watch a lot of crime shows on TV and it seemed that being as cool as possible was the right thing to do.

I’ll agree to anything he wants to get him the fuck out of here.

He never carried a gun before that I knew of, but he had the strength to kill me with his bare hands. I smelled alcohol on his disgusting breath, so I had to be cautious.

As I calmed myself and I stopped squirming, his grip loosened. I let my tense body go limp. If I stopped struggling and lay still, I was sure he’d let me up.

His speech was slurred from the alcohol.

“I just want to talk, Crissy and then I’ll leave. If I did this any other way, you wouldn’t have talked to me. I’m going to let you up, but don’t scream! If you do, I’ll have to cover your face with a pillow. Shake your head ‘yes’ if you agree,” he said.

I shook my head up and down as it was still pinned to the pillow and the asshole’s hand was covering my mouth.

I wanted to open my mouth wide and bite his fingers with all of my strength to give him a permanent reminder of his stupidity.

He slowly removed his hand from the outside of my mouth and my first instinct was to tell him what I thought of what he was doing. I wasn’t sure how he’d react, but I couldn’t let him dominate me.

I realized that as soon as his hand left my mouth and I was able to get up, I had to try to take control.

My heart beat faster as adrenaline rushed through my veins and my breathing grew long and sharp. I went from being extremely frightened to being angry!

Sure, I was still scared, but if this was my ‘fight or flight’ moment, I was going to fight. Jake wasn’t used to me pushing back so I thought that would surprise him and allow me to take charge of the situation.

Fuck, I hope it works…

“Jake, you’re an idiot! Did you really think this was the best way to get me to talk to you?”

He put both of his hands up and said for the third time, “I just want to talk.”

“We have nothing to talk about.”

“I miss you, Crissy. I can’t stop thinking about you.”

“Listen to me, Jake. I’m tired, I’m angry, and you’re drunk. I want you to get the hell out of here.”

“But you said we could talk?”

“We just did, Jake!” I yelled as I pushed him toward the door.

He repeated my name a few times as he trudged toward the door.

“Crissy, I need you.”

It was obvious that whatever he drank, smoked, or popped had taken full effect. I didn’t bother to respond, I just kept us moving until he was in front of the door.

I thought of bull rushing him toward the door and lowering his head at the last second to knock him on his ass – or worse. Fortunately, I was still thinking clearly and I just guided him out the door and locked it after him. I let out a huge sigh as fell back into the closed door and ran my hand through my hair.

Now, what?

I wanted desperately to take a shower.

Should I call the police? How did he get in? Has he been stalking me?

On and on the questions poured into my head like a bathtub filling with water.

I needed a drink.

It was past 2:00 AM and I was shaken to my core.

What the fuck just happened?

I checked the windows and the door to see if there was any evidence of him breaking in, but I didn’t find any.

Crissy, you idiot! You never asked him for his key to the apartment!

I’ll have the locks changed tomorrow and maybe an inexpensive alarm installed.

If Jake showed me how much he cared while we were together, maybe he’d be on the bed with me still, instead of having to hide under it.

Just as things were getting better for me, he comes back into my life. I should have guessed that his obsessive behavior would lead to something like this.

I sat on the bed with my drink and looked at my hand holding the glass of wine. The merlot gently swished around from all angles. I was shaking.

I wanted to call Tara and tell her what had happened, but it was past 3:00 AM. I knew she wouldn’t mind, but I sent her a text so that when she woke up she’d get back to me.

I got up from the bed and turned on the TV as I knew I wouldn’t be going back to sleep.

As I was channel surfing, I thought of how much resolve it must take to have to work during a third shift. Most of the people who worked it would have been half way through their shift. They’d come home just as the rest of us were waking up.

I put my empty glass on the nightstand and I watched an infomercial. These ads are laughable, except to the desperate souls who buy into them. They seem to prey upon the things that most people want in life: health and fitness, happiness, and money.

If it were only as easy as spending $19.99 to buy those things, I would get happiness for Jake to try to insure that he’d go away and stay away.

Hell, I’d buy them for myself, but life’s just not that easy.



Chapter 5



At a few minutes past 5:00 AM, the sun began to rise. I was tired and vulnerable. I still couldn’t believe what had happened to me, but I had to go to work because I feared sliding into a depression.

I called Tara before I went to work and told her what happened. I explained it to her as calmly and without emotion as I could.

She was bullshit.

“That fuckin’ asshole! Who the fuck does he think he is! Did you file a restraining order?”

“No.” I began to explain myself, but Tara interjected, “Why the hell not? Didn’t the cops advise you to file one?”

This wasn’t going to go over well.

“I didn’t call the police because if he…”

“Are you insane, girl? You have to call them! If you don’t, then I will! I don’t want no psycho, jilted lover shit happening in my building with my friend.”

“Ok, I will,” I said to calm her down. “I need to get ready for work, but thanks for listening.”

“You need to call them NOW!”

“I promise, right now.”

I didn’t call the police. I struggled with that decision, but I didn’t think Jake would contact me again. I can’t be sure of course, but I just don’t want to deal with it now. Besides, the locksmith put new locks on the door and I bought pepper spray for all of the rooms in my apartment.

Nobody at work seemed to sense that anything was wrong with me. I guess I didn’t show any ill effects of what had happened. I was on edge, though. No sleep and a few cups of dark roast didn’t help.

I hardly thought about Douglas until he walked in at about the time my shift was ending.

Tim was working the register so I told him that I wanted to serve Douglas. He went to the back of the house and I took his place at the counter.


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