“I’m fine! I don’t want any of your help!” Julie knocked over a glass of wine on the coffee table as she sprung to her feet, nostrils flared.
“Julie, we care about you. We’re just concerned,” her sister, Heather, implored, extending an arm that Julie quickly shrugged away.
“Let us help.” Her brother, Tate, stood next to the front door, trying to block her path. His eyes searched hers for the sister he once knew. She looked away, pushing past him.
“Please don’t contact me again. Just. Leave. Me. ALONE!”
When she got home, he was waiting. The guy everyone warned her about.
“Where were you?” He approached her in a slow, deliberate way that made her shiver.
“My family…they…they…called me…” She backed away, farther and farther until she was pressed against the wall.
“You really expect me to believe that you were with your family this entire time?” He never raised his voice, but each word filled Julie with an urgent, desperate terror.
She couldn’t respond with words. She nodded frantically, swiping at the tears racing down her cheeks. He was standing right in front of her now, so close that she could see the drops of perspiration forming at his temples. She focused on his eyes, searching them for the man she loved, as his hands closed around her throat. His shoulders released as she slid to the floor.
He left her there, in the peace of her dark, quiet apartment. The phone never rang. She had no visitors. She’d been left alone.