Finding The Way Back To Me She struggled to remember how the fight had started. She and Ryan and some friends had been watching a movie and she commented on how cute the lead actor was. “Cuter than me?” Ryan asked. Lizzy jumped into damage-control mode and attempted to diffuse the situation. “Of course not,” she replied.
“Then why did you say he was cute?” Ryan continued on the attack. “I meant in a different sort of way,” Lizzy explained, her voice breaking with each word. She felt all eyes were on them. It was a scene her friends had seen many times, yet they never spoke up, afraid to interfere. Maybe it was because of all the times she had defended him. “He’s different when we’re alone,” she’d say.
“He doesn’t really mean it.” The party quickly broke up and Lizzy said a silent prayer that he would calm down by the time they reached the car and had to be alone. The ride home seemed to take hours. She sat as close to the door as she could, foolishly believing that she was out of his reach. Maybe physically for the moment, Lizzy thought, but mentally and emotionally Ryan had an incredibly tight grip. When they pulled up to her house, Ryan turned to her. “Don’t you ever make me look stupid like that again,” he scolded her. He stared straight into her eyes, almost through her, she thought.
“I didn’t mean to,” she said defensively. “I was just having fun.” “So you find it fun to embarrass me by drooling over other guys. How do you think that makes me look? Like I’m not good enough for you. Is that what you think?” Lizzy shook her head no. “Well, I’ll tell you what,” he continued.
“I’m the best thing that ever happened to you, and you’ll never find anyone else that will put up with you the way I do.” There it was again. He had told her that so many times, she wondered if it was true. She closed her eyes and could feel her heart pounding in her chest. He grabbed her and pushed her into the car door. “Are you listening?” he screamed.
Like an animal warding off its prey, she threw her arm forward. “Just get out of my face,” he ordered her. Lizzy headed up the walkway to the house. Her head was pounding. She hoped her parents weren’t still awake.
They had always raised her to be strong and self-confident. She was sure they would be ashamed if they saw her now. These kinds of things don’t happen to strong people. I guess I’m just not strong enough, she thought. When Ryan called in the morning he acted as if nothing happened.
He said she had made a big deal out of nothing. There it was again, she thought. It’s my fault again. Her emotions during their conversation kept changing. She wanted things to be all right, but she was furious.
This isn’t the first he’s done this to me, she thought, will it be the last? She heard her parents downstairs. They had warned her that there were things about Ryan that bothered them. She was starting to understand their point, but how could she ever admit they were right? Ryan was rambling on about how she should work harder to see things from his perspective. He told her that he would pick her up from work that night and they would have a nice time together. Just the two of them-alone. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he told her.
She felt the fear welling up inside of her. “I’ll see you tonight. I love you,” he replied. He says he loves me. If he didn’t he wouldn’t say it, right? She was tired of thinking.
What she thought and what she felt never went together. Love is supposed to be easy-you just fall into it. This seems too hard. Lizzy sat on her bed, brushing her long, blonde sun-kissed hair. She stared deeply into her antique mirror that had been a gift from her late Aunt Iris.
Is this my life? she thought, Am I the kind of girl who lets someone do this to her? She crawled into bed, dreading going to work. What would she tell people? She struggled to remember the last time that she had to say something to people, which unfortunately wasn’t very long ago. She decided to wing it if anyone noticed. As Lizzy clocked in at Dunkin’ Donuts, she saw Jason watching her. I bet he wouldn’t treat me the way Ryan does, she thought. But then she never thought that Ryan would act this way. Lizzy had been watching Jason at work.
He was funny, cute and always seemed to treat the girls he dated so well. She and Jason spent a lot of time talking at work and had become close friends. But Lizzy kept their friendship quiet out of fear of what Ryan would think- and do. “What happened to your arm, Lizzy?” Jason asked sincerely. “The automatic garage door closed before I could get out of the way. Any other questions you’d like to ask, officer?” “Sorry for asking,” he said.
“I was just concerned, that’s all.” He turned to walk away and suddenly stopped. “Oh and by the way, automatic doors won’t close if someone or something’s in the way. But really, nice try.” Lizzy could feel the blood rushing to her face. It was the first time anyone had actually called her bluff. The rest of her shift seemed to last an eternity.
When it was finally time to leave, she headed toward the break room. A few of her coworkers asked her to go grab a bite with them, instead of the usual doughnut feast, but Lizzy politely declined. “Maybe next time,” she told them, knowing all too well that there wouldn’t be a next time. Ryan didn’t like it all when she went out without him, especially when he doesn’t know about it. Suddenly, Ryan appeared at the entrance and walked toward her with his hands behind his back.
He pulled them out from behind and in his hands was a gorgeous bouquet of red roses. “These are for you,” he said as he kissed her cheek. “We’re going to have a wonderful evening together.” Lizzy clocked out and walked out towards the parking lot, her hand clasped together with Ryan’s. On the way out they passed Jason. His brow was furrowed and he looked concerned. She had wanted to explain-“It was just an accident.
He didn’t mean it. He just has a bad temper and sometimes I egg it on.”- but she couldn’t. She simply put her head down and kept walking toward the car. Lizzy looked out the window and saw Jason watching her. He just stood there and watched them drive away.
More than anything at that moment she wished she was going with Jason instead of Ryan. “Who was that guy?” Ryan asked. “Oh, Jason? Just some guy I work with.” “Do you think he’s cute?” Please don’t start, she thought. “No,” she lied. “Good,” Ryan said as he pulled out of the parking lot. “Now we can get on with our wonderful evening.” And it was a wonderful evening. Ryan prepared a candlelight picnic dinner.
This is the Ryan I fell in love with, Lizzy thought. But how long till he disappears again? How long until he gives me another bruise? When Ryan dropped her off that night, Lizzy knew. She knew that enough was enough, and that she couldn’t, and wouldn’t wait around for the “nice and perfect” Ryan to come back from the one whom abused her. Lizzy could say the words now, He abused me. But she stopped suddenly.
She noticed an unfamiliar car parked a short distance from her house. Not thinking of Ryan anymore, she quickly said, “I love you” and watched Ryan drive away. As she walked up the walkway to her house, the headlights on the parked car flashed on and off. She instinctively started walking faster, but stopped when she heard the familiar voice. “Hey Lizzy, wait up a second.” Lizzy’s pulse quickened.
She knew the voice and hoped that Ryan wouldn’t drive by again for any reason-sometimes he did that, just make sure she went straight to bed. “What are you doing here, Jason?” she asked. ” I was just worried about you. You seemed really upset at work today,” he said. “I know that it’s really none of my business what happened to your arm, but I thought you might want to talk.” His saying that made Lizzy realize that she did want to tell someone-she needed to tell someone. “It’s all right. It’s about time someone called my bluff.” Lizzy took a deep breath, hoping it would bolster her courage.
She started talking, and it was if as though someone had opened the flood gates. There was no taking it back now. Two years of mental, physical and emotional abuse spilled out into the fall night air. She told Jason how she lost her friends, distanced herself from her family and, worst of all, lost herself. She looked at Jason for a reaction. “I’m sorry,” he said simply.
“You deserve better.” They sat there for a long time in silence. Finally, he reached over and gave her a warm hug. It felt as if she was being re-energized. Suddenly, she knew what she had to do. She began to feel like her old self again.
“I’ll tell you what,” Jason told her. “When you find you again and you’re ready, I’ll be your first date-deal?” He extended his hand as if to seal the agreement. She grabbed his hand firmly and shook it. “Deal,” she replied. “Nice grip,” he told her. “That’s how strong people shake hands,” she told him.
“My dad taught me that. He says a good firm handshake is like a window to someone’s soul. It shows confidence and self-esteem.” She tightened her grip, knowing that things would be all right. Maybe when the time came, she would take Jason up on his offer, but for now, she wasn’t ready for Prince Charming. She had to fix things herself.