Bliss – Chapter Three

“I was just leaving, don’t worry,” I said miserably.

“I really wish you wouldn’t, honey,” she said with feeling. A sad smile came to her face. “I’m actually glad you’re here. I wanted to speak to you.”

“If it’s about the other day, I’m sorry—”

“Please, come in.”

I shook my head.

She closed the door behind her, came down to meet me at the fence. Her blue eyes were soft, with crow’s feet etched into the corners.

“I know it must be hard for you to be here,” she started. “Someone who’s been through your ordeal would have every right to stay away.”

“Do you know—” I started, but she cut me off.

“Everything. And believe me, I wanted to run as far away from him as I could get. I certainly didn’t think I’d ever marry a man like that.”

I frowned, shook my head at her. “You knew before you married him? Before you had kids with him?”

She nodded and sighed. “When I met him, he was broken, had attempted to take his life three times. Walked into the church in our old city one day, begging someone to help him. I just so happened to be there. We started out as friends, and he confessed everything to me. It sickened me; I thought I’d finally found the one person that couldn’t be saved.” She laughed. “But I was wrong about him.”

I had to bite my tongue. I’d already acted like a complete asshole in front of this woman, and frightened her children. I wanted to tell her she was like one of those insane women who went looking for pen pals on death row! But I held back.

She must have read the disdain on my face, because she said, “I know it sounds impossible to believe, but he hasn’t been the man you remember for almost two decades.”

“He’s still the same person,” I said sharply. That one I wouldn’t let slide.

“On the outside, yes, but…” She sighed again. “Can I tell you something, Dakota?”

I shrugged nonchalantly.

“He has nightmares, a lot. And he wakes up in a cold sweat, weeping. He relives every terrible thing he did to you and your brother, over and over. It’s been like that since we got married.”

“Well that makes two of us then,” I said, unable to keep the ire out of my voice. “Are you really asking me to feel sorry for him?”

“No, no, never!” she said hurriedly. “I would never ask that of you. I’m under no illusions; I know you and Dove are the victims in all of this. I told you so you know that he hasn’t just been enjoying his life; he carries that burden of who he was around with him everywhere he goes.”

Well that was something, at least. He would never know what it felt like to be that helpless child on the receiving end of his fists, but if he really had changed, become a better man, as so many had claimed, then the memory would forever haunt him. If he really had changed…

“I don’t think people can change,” I said, shaking my head in defiance.

“Will you let me show you something?”

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