“That was the day everything changed. It’s what led me here.” I tore away at the edges of the napkin twisted in my hands. “It hasn’t been easy. It’s one of the hardest things I have been through, but I made it.”
“You have,” Dr. Perkins agreed with a smile. “The steps you’ve taken to heal have been remarkable. You went through a tremendous amount of pain and anguish for years and came out on top.”
“It has been two very long years, but you helped me face everything. You helped me understand it was not my fault.” It wasn’t easy after the night I was attacked. I went through a long stage of depression and then anger. My nights were filled with nightmares and fear of being alone.
“How are things at Karen’s?” Dr. Perkins’ question brought a smile to my face.
“Great,” I said without hesitation. “Karen has been such an amazing part of the last two years. Without her, Casey, and even Carter and Dylan, I’m not sure I would have come this far. They’ve been there for me every step of the way.”
My mind drifted back to the morning of the attack…
I slowly opened my eyes, looking around an unfamiliar room. I was in a home I did not recognize. The sun was bright and it shone through the large living room. I was wrapped securely in a big, warm blanket as a small fire crackled in the fireplace just across the room.
I could hear people talking in another room to my right, just before an officer came through the door. He stopped a few feet away and kept his distance as he offered me a gentle smile. “It’s good to see you awake,” he said.
He approached slowly and knelt down next to me. Without warning, a sense of fear ran through me. I knew he wouldn’t hurt me, but the memories from earlier that morning came rushing back. I began shaking uncontrollably, and he quickly inched back, allowing more room between us. “I won’t hurt you. No one is going to hurt you,” he assured me in a gentle tone. “Can you tell me your name? Is there someone I can call? Can you tell me what happened?”
All I could manage to say were two words— “Karen Andrews.” She was, at this point, the only adult I wanted and trusted.
I sat up, wrapping the blanket tighter around me as I stared at the two people watching from the doorway where the cop had entered. I assumed they were the same two people I had seen coming out of the barn only hours ago.
The cop stepped away and dialed his phone, leaving space for the older woman to approach. “Honey, can I get you anything, maybe some water?” she asked in a soothing voice.
“Yes, please,” I whispered as I pulled the blanket in toward my chest. “Thank you.” My eyes filled with unshed tears, but I began to blink rapidly to hold them back. She turned and quickly headed toward the kitchen.
I turned toward the fire, staring at the flames. I could still feel the man’s hands on my body and smell his stale breath in my face as he kissed my neck. My stomach began to turn as I remembered the things he said to me, the plans he had for me.
I looked back as the woman returned, carrying a small glass of ice water. She carefully placed it in my hands, smiling kindly before exiting the room once again.
I felt lost and broken. I spent so much time hiding, and now everyone would know. People would look at me differently, treat me differently. The idea of it all made me feel nauseated.
“Payton! Oh my god, what happened?” Karen’s voice came out of nowhere. I hadn’t realized I was lost in my own thoughts. My mind must have wandered off in the time it took for the police to locate her.
My hands began to tremble as she stepped into the living room and rushed in my direction. And then I saw him—Dylan had come too.
Karen took a seat at my side and wrapped her arm around my shoulders protectively, but I couldn’t stop looking at Dylan. He walked toward me and knelt in front of me as he reached out and took one of my hands in his. “It was John, wasn’t it,” he whispered, “who left the bruises?”
I could only nod my head in response before Dylan wrapped his arms around me and held me close. It was then that I let go and stopped fighting the tears I spent years hiding. I sobbed heavily against Dylan’s chest as I gripped his shirt tight in my hand. The last thing I wanted was for him to let go.
“Payton?” Dr. Perkins said my name to gain my attention.
I looked up and shrugged. “Sorry. I was just remembering that day. Thinking about when Karen showed up.”
“And Dylan?” she added with a smile.
“Yeah, and Dylan,” I confirmed. Once again I looked down at my hands, still nervously picking away at the napkin I held. “How are things going with Dylan?” she asked, and my stomach tensed.
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