My Second Life.
A long year after I left my private hell, Tyler had been beside me throughout my recovery. We had built a life together, and over time his love had revived me in a way I had never believed could be possible. After our first night together in that small bed and breakfast, I had come to depend on him just to feel safe.
We had moved on from there the next day and rented our own place in a small village. I got a job on the local farm, it wasn't like my old job where we kept animals in a petting corner for the kids to come and see them. This was a fully functioning farm, and it was challenging and rewarding.
We saved furiously, never spending more than we needed to live, so that after six months we could afford to put a deposit on our own house. Tyler worked at a law firm, and earned a decent wage and we moved into our own two bedroomed house full of hope.
The first six months of our relationship must have been hard on him, I was always looking over my shoulder, frightened of what I would find around the next corner. Gradually though, I started settle down. I was safe here and, by the time we had actually moved into our house I no longer expected to find Stuart behind every door.
I held on to my job at the farm, and although at first I was scared to talk to anyone; always expecting to be punished for whispered words in the stables, my confidence grew as I became sure nothing would happen if I made friends. The other staff there were wary of me at first too. I don't blame them, I appeared every inch the abused woman, underweight and covered from head to toe in bruises old and new.
After a few months though, my weight was back on track, and my injuries had faded. Now when I look in the mirror I see myself again, my figure is back to normal and I don't need to cover myself in make-up to cover the evidence of my abusive husband. The only thing I couldn't get rid of, was a haunted look in my eyes. It was a frequent reminder of my horrific past.
I eventually made myself a circle of friends from work, and I enjoyed my freedom with them every weekend. We went out each Friday night, to the local bar letting off steam after a week of long hard work. Tyler encouraged me to go out and enjoy myself, knowing I needed to be independent and not relying on his presence all the time for my security.
Life was good and I began to enjoy myself again. Ten months after my escape, I contacted a lawyer, and arranged for divorce papers to be sent to Stuart. I no longer wished to be tied to him after everything he had put me through. The lady I spoke to assured me that he would never be given my new address, and would only contact me via her, for my safety.
Even so, After I sent the papers, I began to see him everywhere again. I would see him out of the corner of my eye, following me to work. I would see him in a crowd of people in the bar, watching me. I would see him sitting in a car outside my house, even though I knew he couldn't possibly know where I was.
Tyler did his best to comfort me, but I no longer wanted to go outside alone. I didn't want to go to work and Elsie from the farm had to collect me each day. All at once, I felt like I was back there. Unable to escape my own fears, I'd spend my whole weekend locked in my house as if it was the only way I could be safe.
My lawyer heard about my trouble, presumably from Tyler, and worked hard to reassure me that Stuart was still at home, answering calls and receiving mail. I didn't believe her and still I remained locked away and trembling.
After a month, Tyler tried to comfort me.
'Penny, he isn't here. He can't hurt you.'
'You're wrong. I can feel it, he's come for me. I knew he would eventually. We have to run, Tyler we have to leave!' I was distraught, only wishing I was away from here.
'No Penny, this is our home. I will not let you run away every time it gets hard. He doesn't know where you are. It's OK, I'm here.'
'Tyler, you don't understand. He doesn't care about you, He is going to kill me! I should never have left him. I promised I would stand by him.' I was almost hysterical, and Tyler seemed to decide to leave it be.
He knew I would come out of this sooner or later, it wasn't the first time I had grown paranoid and afraid of my past catching up with me. I stayed hidden away in our bedroom whispering repeatedly:
'I promise to care for you with love and friendship. To support you through the good times and through the troubled times. To respect and cherish you and to be faithful always. These promises I make for the rest of my life.'
Eventually, through Tyler's patience and care, I stopped looking over my shoulder again. I guessed I would always have a part of me that was afraid, or that felt guilty for walking away from my marriage; but Tyler understood and patiently explained and held me until it was over.
Things went back to normal again, with me being just a little more aware of my surroundings. I counted my blessings everyday, I had new friends, and a lover who was gentle and considerate. He didn't even mind that so much of my time was spent thinking about another man, he knew I couldn't help it.
Almost exactly one year to the day of my escape, I had almost totally forgotten about my previous fear. I was making dinner for me and Tyler when a knock at the door had me walking through the hallway. Usually I wouldn't answer the door on my own, but I was having a good day.
The door swung open and there, on my 'safe' doorstep, stood Stuart. He looked smug and satisfied with himself as he towered over me in the doorway.
'Hello Penny. Can I come in?'