Instantly I go cold, my hands shaking uncontrollably. No.
This can’t be happening.
I had been absent-mindedly going through the mail, waiting for Maxwell to give me a run down of his newest list of demands. And there it was. An envelope from Stateville Correctional Center with his shaky block letters on the front.
Blindly I reach behind me, trying to find my chair before my legs give out entirely. My peripheral vision starts to fade and I fear I’m going to hyperventilate or pass out. Maybe both.
My fingers connect with the arm of my chair finally and I fall in to it, leaning forward until my forehead is resting on my knees and focus on breathing. Just breathing.
When I slowly sit up I see Maxwell standing in front of me, his expression a mixture of concerned and annoyed.
“Ilyssa, babe, are you pregnant?”
Despite my current state I know the expression on my face is fierce and pissed based on his immediate reaction. “No, I am not pregnant you ass,” I hiss through clenched teeth. He raises his hands in surrender and grabs me a bottle of water from the mini fridge.
“Drink this.” He opens the cap and holds it out to me as an offering.
It takes me another moment to pull myself together enough to accept it.
I nod and take in another shuddery breath before exhaling loudly. “Better.”
“What the hell just happened?” And that’s the tender loving care I get from Maxwell. He is an ass. But a brilliant and talented ass and self aware enough he pays me incredibly well to put up with him. I gesture helplessly to the pile of mail on the desk in front of me. He reaches out and shuffles things around until he finds it.
Picking it up with two fingers, as if the envelope itself will attack. “Is this what I think it is?” he asks.
“If you think it’s a letter from my step-father who is currently in jail for assault after trying to kill me, then yes. It’s what you think it is.”
“Fuck.” He grimaces, still holding it gingerly away from him. “What do you want to do with it? Burn it?”
My first instinct is to call Ethan but he’s made it clear he wants nothing more to do with me. Besides, we’ve caused him enough trouble over the years. I’m lucky his sister still loves me.
I can call the officer in charge of my case. The restraining order should still be in place. He’s not supposed to be writing me. He’s not supposed to know where I am, but clearly that was a ridiculous and self-delusional assurance I gave myself.
“I can’t burn it until I report it to the authorities.”
“Unfortunate. It’s…” he flails widely, “it’s messing up the whole ambiance. I mean, you can practically feel hostile vibes radiating from the thing.”
I shrug, starting to feel more in control of my body again. “That’s Ron.”
“Do you want to open it?” I can tell from his expression he’s horrified by the idea.
On this I agree with him. “No. Definitely not.”
Maybe later. Maybe with Teagan.
Although if I confide in my best friend, she’ll want to tell her brother. She’ll want to tell Ethan. She won’t of course, not if I make her promise not to. But I hate putting her in that situation.
She’s told so many lies for me.
Maxwell opens the center drawer of my desk and lays it delicately inside then uses his hip to close it again. “There. Out of sight.”
I wish. I wish it was that easy to stop the memories now or the impact they’ll have.
Ron never liked to be ignored.
I know right then I’ll tell Teagan. Because I’m not strong enough to do this alone.
Meet Teagan and find out a little more of Ilyssa’s backstory here.