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    Valkyrie
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
2016 - Winter - Rewind: Pre-2016 Themes Entry

Maelstrom - 1. Maelstrom

*Warning--contains references to abuse*

“…County has been added to list of travel bans. There is no unnecessary travel allowed for the entirety of Western New York. If you are in need of immediate assistance, call the county help line at 1-800-444-3478. The National Weather Service is predicting an additional 36 inches of snowfall over the next 48 hours, so the travel restrictions are not expected to be lifted any time soon. Remember to use space heaters safely and –“

I shut off the radio and grimaced as I looked out the window. All I could see was a wall of horizontal blowing snow. This wasn’t a typical snowstorm, but a full-blown blizzard—and a record-breaking one at that.

I turned off the register and closed up the rest of the shop. With the travel ban in place, I didn’t see any need to keep the gas station open. I was grateful I lived next door; even so, I wasn’t looking forward to the short walk through the driving snow.

I bundled up in my winter gear and braced myself for the onslaught of white fury. I realized getting to my house was going to be more difficult than I thought as I locked the shop’s door and turned toward my house, into the wind. My breath left my body, stolen by the cold, roaring monster swirling around me. I turned and headed in the direction of the small house I rented, buffeted by the intense wind bursts, and plowed my way through knee-deep snowdrifts.

I had walked only about twenty feet when realized that I could see a faint glow by the gas pumps. I hadn’t noticed it when I left the shop. Shit. Did I forget to turn the lights off? I ran through my mental checklist of closing procedures, sure that I had remembered everything.

As I approached the source of the light, a car-shaped lump gradually took shape. There was a car out here? I couldn’t hear any engine noise above that of the storm, but it didn’t appear to be running. Maybe the driver forgot to turn the lights off, although why they would abandon the car here was beyond me—there wasn’t anywhere to go, except for the store. I stopped at the driver’s side door, and wiped away the accumulated snow. There was a man slumped over the steering wheel. I couldn’t feel any vibrations from the car, so it was clear the engine was off. I wondered how long he’d been out here and if he had frozen to death.

I banged on the window and lifted the door handle. The man reacted immediately, sitting bolt upright, and looking at me with an expression of terror on his face. He practically crawled into the passenger seat to get away from me when I opened the door.

“Take it easy, man. Sorry I scared you. What are you doing out here?”

The man’s breaths were coming in heaving gasps. His left eye was bruised and his lip was split. The way he held his arm to his side made me suspect he had either cracked or broken ribs. He was slight of build with wavy brown hair that hung into his eyes. His eyes told me that he’d been through hell. I recognized the look, and it made me want to puke.

“It’s ok. I’m not going to hurt you,” I said softly. “You can’t stay out here, though. It’s not safe.”

“I just need to get some gas and then I’ll be on my way. Can you turn the pumps back on? I need to get going.”

I shook my head. “Sorry. The roads are closed. They’re impassable. There’s a motel down the road, but I don’t think you can make it there.” I glanced in the direction of my house. He couldn’t stay in his car; he’d freeze to death. The poor man looked like he’d been through enough. Ignoring the knot forming in my stomach, I said, “I live right behind the shop. C’mon. You can stay with me.”

He flinched when I held out my hand. He was trembling, and I had a feeling it was due to more than just the cold. I backed away from the door, and he reluctantly followed me, grabbing a tattered backpack from the backseat.

The snowfall was so intense that it was difficult to see him. It didn’t help that he was trying to stay as far away from me as possible. I had to shout so he could hear me above the storm.

“Take my hand so we don’t get separated.” I tried to make my movements as slow and non-threatening as possible. I knew he wasn’t going to like the physical contact.

He looked around before slumping his shoulders and taking my hand. He appeared resigned to his fate. It took five minutes to get to my house—a walk that should have taken all of thirty seconds. I was thankful I left my porch light on. It was like a beacon cutting through the swirling maelstrom, and I zeroed in on it, taking one methodical step at a time.

I let go of his hand when we reached my door, and fumbled with my key, almost dropping it during one heart-stopping moment. The door blew open, hitting the side of the house with a loud bang. My already-terrified companion jumped, and I was afraid he would try and bolt through the intensifying storm—an action that was sure to lead to his death.

I motioned him in ahead of me. He entered warily, keeping an eye on me the entire time. I shut the door and stood looking at my unexpected guest. Snow melted off both of us, falling in clumps onto my floor. The silence of my house was overwhelming after the noise of the storm. We both jumped when a particularly strong gust of wind loudly rattled my windows.

Calling my residence a ‘house’ was being generous. It was little more than a weatherproofed shack with one bedroom, a kitchen, one bathroom, and a small living room. It wasn’t much, but it suited me just fine.

I removed my coat and hat, snow cascading onto the floor as it was dislodged by my movement. “Name’s Ivan.” I hung my coat on a hook next to the door. “I’ll grab some towels for the mess. Make yourself at home. It looks like we’re going to be stuck together for a few days.”

His eyes widened and he looked frantically out the window. My heart broke for the man. It was obvious he was running from something—or someone.

“No one can get through this storm. You’re safe here,” I said softly. I walked into the bathroom and returned with a couple of towels. I laid them over the puddles of snow that had formed where we stood. My guest had removed his coat and stood uncomfortably near the window, peering out anxiously.

He reminded me so much of Kenny that it physically hurt. “You’re welcome to take a shower to warm up, if you’d like. I’m going to start dinner. I hope soup and sandwiches are ok. I figured soup would warm us up pretty good.”

He jumped at the sound of my voice, even though I tried to be as soft as possible. He saw the towels on the ground and immediately went over to them and started mopping up the puddles. “I’m sorry about the mess,” he said quietly, keeping his head down. “It won’t happen again.”

“Hey, you don’t have to do that. I’ll take care of it. Why don’t you go shower and get some dry clothes on? I’ll have dinner ready by the time you’re done.”

He looked at me incredulously. I wondered when the last time was that anyone showed him kindness.

“Don’t you want to get ready first?” he asked.

I shook my head. “I just need to change my jeans. I can do that while you’re cleaning up. The bathroom is at the end of the hall. I set out towels for you.”

He looked at me and nodded briefly before grabbing his backpack and hurrying down the hall. Some of the fear had left his face, but I had a feeling it would take a long time—if ever—before it vanished completely. I went to my bedroom and changed into a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Walking back to the kitchen, I grabbed some ingredients for tomato soup. It wasn’t long before the aroma of the bubbling liquid was making my mouth water. I was assembling the sandwiches when I heard a faint noise behind me. I turned and my houseguest stood in the kitchen doorway, arms crossed, and nervously shifting his feet.

I smiled in what I hoped was a reassuring manner. I knew my looks could be intimidating. I’m a big guy with tattoos covering both arms and multiple piercings in my ears. “Dinner’s almost ready. Why don’t you have a seat? Turn the TV on if you want. I just have basic cable. Nothing fancy.”

“I can help you, if you want. I’m a real good cook.”

“You’re my guest. It’s not necessary.”

He ducked his head and walked into the living room. I suspected he’d be very eager to please me and would do anything I asked. I gripped the edge of the counter with both hands until my knuckles turned white. For the first time in years, I was tempted to take a drink. It was a good thing there wasn’t any in the place. My arms trembled and I took a deep breath, hoping to still my frazzled nerves. Kenny’s face flashed into my mind. Kenny on his knees in the kitchen, wiping up spilled soup. The look of horror on his face when I walked into the room and saw the mess…

I pushed away from the counter, abruptly ending my train of thought. I didn’t want to relive the rest of that memory. It didn’t take me long to cook the grilled cheese sandwiches and put them on a plate. I poured the soup into two bowls and walked into the living room, handing one to my guest and placing one on the coffee table. I then retrieved the plate of sandwiches and sat down in a chair across from the couch. I grabbed a sandwich and dipped it in the soup. It didn’t escape my notice that the slight man across from me waited to eat until after I started.

He ate the soup delicately, eyeing the sandwiches. I had a feeling it had been a while since he’d eaten a decent meal. “Eat as much as you want. There’s plenty, and I can always make more.”

His eyes widened. “You don’t have to make more. Unless you want more, that is.” His face turned red. He avoided looking at me as much as possible. He tentatively took half of a sandwich, shooting me a furtive look. He dipped it into the soup and ate it rapidly, eyeing the plate for more.

“You haven’t told me your name,” I said, motioning toward the plate.

He took another sandwich half. His expression made me wonder if he thought I was going to rescind my offer at any time.

“My name’s Dana.” He snorted. “It’s no wonder I’m gay.” His eyes widened as he looked at me with a horror-stricken expression. The bowl of soup dropped to the floor with a loud clatter, spilling its contents like a blood stain, when he clamped his hand over his mouth. He made a noise similar to what I imagine a strangled cat sounds like. “Oh God…please…I didn’t mean to…” he whispered, staring at the fallen bowl.

I clenched my fists as the blood drained from my face. The soup spread in a red puddle, the viscous fluid reminding me of a pool of a very different liquid a lifetime ago. Kenny’s face flashed in my mind again, wearing an expression identical to Dana’s. My breath came in gasps as I tried to gain control of my emotions.

Dana misread my reaction and cowered against the back of the couch. “I’ll leave. Please, just let me leave. I won’t bother you again.” He took a shaky breath. “Please don’t kill me,” he whispered.

A tear slid down my cheek when I heard those words. Kenny had uttered those same words right before…

I exhaled slowly and unclenched my hands. I held them out, palms up. “Relax. I’m not going to hurt you.” I stood and retrieved one of the towels I had used to clean up the snow drippings. Dana watched with an incredulous expression on his face as I cleaned up the spilled soup, grabbed the bowl, and headed into the kitchen. I refilled the bowl and returned to the living room. Dana was still huddled against the back of the couch, his arms wrapped around his knees, looking at me curiously.

I held out the bowl of soup. “Here. You didn’t get to eat very much.”

He slowly uncurled, grimacing slightly when he straightened up. He had put a lot of pressure on his injured ribs. His hands shook as he took the bowl from me, and held it close to his chest in order to minimize the trembling. We ate in silence. Dana kept shooting me questioning looks. I think he was confused by my behavior. I wondered if he’d ever had a positive reaction to coming out.

“You don’t care that I’m…gay?” he asked quietly, setting his empty bowl down on the coffee table.

I shook my head. “I happen to like the name ‘Dana’. And I’m not a homophobe. If I was, I’d have to hate myself.” The truth was I did hate myself, but not because I was gay.

He looked at me in amazement. “You’re gay?”

I nodded, then turned on the TV to get the latest update on the storm. Dana stared at me, looking away when I met his gaze. The news wasn’t good. The storm was expected to continue for another two days, which meant that cleaning up the roads wouldn’t even start until then. Dana was going to be stuck with me for at least another three or four days.

He looked stricken at the news. “I don’t want to be a burden to you. I want to get out of here as soon as possible.”

“You’re not a burden. It’s nice to have the company.”

“You live here alone?”

I nodded. “It’s been a long time since I’ve lived with anyone.”

“So you’re single?”

My face clouded briefly before I responded. “Yeah. I’m single.”

“You must get lonely,” he said. His body stiffened, and he looked at me nervously. I had a feeling he was imagining what I wanted for repayment for taking him in. The thought made me want to retch.

Dana was adorable, and under other circumstances I would have liked nothing more than the opportunity to have sex with him. I had a feeling he was a real sweetheart if ever given the chance. Lord knows how much Kenny tried to be…

“What the hell are these?”

“Flowers. I thought you might like them. Happy Anniversary, Ivan.”

“You got me flowers for our anniversary? What the hell do you think I am? Some kind of sissy?”

Kenny’s face blanched. “No…of course not. I just wanted to show you how much I love you.”

I snorted in derision. “By getting me flowers? I can think of another way you can show me.” I grabbed him and pulled him close to me, kissing him roughly.

Kenny trembled, but responded and put his arms around my neck. I lifted him up and walked into our bedroom, where I threw him down on the bed. I could see the fear in his eyes when I took the handcuffs out of the nightstand drawer. I knew he didn’t like them, but I didn’t care. “Clothes off…now,” I growled.

Kenny scurried to obey…

I stood abruptly, and walked into the kitchen. I started washing the dishes, trying desperately to push Kenny’s face out of my mind and avoid the memory of slamming into him while he was handcuffed to our bed. A few minutes later, Dana tentatively entered the kitchen, holding his bowl and the empty sandwich plate.

“I can do the dishes if you want. It’s the least I can do.”

I shook my head. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll do them.” I held my hand out and he handed me the dishes before retreating into the living room.

I washed the dishes slowly, taking my time and allowing Dana some space. When I finished, I stood in the kitchen doorway and observed him. He was sitting on the couch, hugging his knees, watching The Big Bang Theory. His face lit up in a smile as he laughed at Sheldon’s antics. I couldn’t help smiling myself when I saw the beauty that simple upturn of his mouth produced. I wanted to kiss that mouth, and tell him that no one would ever hurt him again.

“I’m sorry, baby. I don’t know why I do those things. I love you. It’ll never happen again…”

I wiped my eyes and cleared my throat. Dana’s head snapped around at the noise. I entered the room and sat in my chair. “So you’re a Sheldon fan, huh?” I asked.

“Yeah. I really like Jim Parsons. It’s nice to know that some gay people are accepted for who they are. I really admire him.”

“It’s good to have role models.”

We watched the show in silence, until I noticed that Dana kept yawning and nodding off. I wondered how long he’d been on the run. He was exhausted.

“You can sleep in my bed, if you want. I don’t have a spare room, and it’s more comfortable than the couch.”

His eyes widened in alarm. “I don’t mind the couch. I can sleep pretty much anywhere.”

I realized how my proposition must have sounded. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take the couch. Believe me, your ribs will thank me.”

He shook his head. “I can’t do that to you. This is your house. I’m fine here.”

I smiled. “What kind of host would I be if I didn’t take care of my guest? I insist. You take the bed; I’ll take the couch.”

He looked at me dubiously. I could tell he wasn’t comfortable with the arrangement, but I hoped it would be a step toward making him feel safe and protected. I grabbed some sheets and a blanket out of my closet, and left Dana to get ready for bed.

I made up the couch and watched TV until I finally fell into fitful sleep. I woke at 3:00 am, in desperate need of the bathroom. After relieving myself, I paused at my bedroom door. I could hear soft sobs and whimpers. I placed my hand against the door, but stopped myself from entering. Having me come into his sleeping space would only alarm him, and the last thing I wanted was for Dana to be afraid of me.

I slept in spurts for the rest of the night. In between dreams of Kenny and thoughts of Dana, I managed to get very little restful sleep. I decided to get up early, and showered before looking out the window. The storm had lessened, so it wasn’t the driving blizzard of last night. The snow was still coming down steadily, though. Dana’s car was almost buried from the drifting snow. I could just make out the shape of the roof, only because I knew where to look.

I headed to the kitchen and started a pot of coffee before grabbing eggs, bacon, and sausage. I thought toast would be nice also, so I snatched a loaf of bread from the breadbox. Dana needed some meat on his bones, and I had a feeling he wasn’t going to get many decent meals when the storm was over and the roads were clear. I wondered who he was running from. I hadn’t had violent thoughts for a long time, but I found myself wanting to cause the same damage to whoever had hurt Dana as I did to…

I needed to stop this train of thought. I wasn’t going to go down that path again. I placed the bacon in the hot pan with a sizzle. I normally cooked bacon in the oven, but I wanted plenty of bacon grease to cook the eggs and sausage in.

“That smells really good.”

I turned to see Dana in the kitchen doorway.

“Thanks. How did you sleep?”

He shrugged. “Not too bad. Your bed is really comfortable.” He fiddled with his hands. “I hope you were OK on the couch.”

“I was fine. It’s not the first time I’ve slept there.”

“Can I help?”

“Sure. Why don’t you make the toast? How do you like your eggs?”

He looked at me in confusion. I doubted anyone had ever asked him that question before. He shrugged. “However you like them is fine. I’m not picky.”

“Over easy it is, then.”

Dana made the toast while I fried the eggs. It felt odd to have him here. I’d been on my own for a long time, and didn’t have any friends. Kenny was the only person I ever shared my life with, and he was the one who took care of me. It felt strange to be the caretaker for the first time in my life. I liked the feeling. Even though we didn’t converse much, I could see the look of fear slowly retreat from Dana’s eyes. It never completely left, but I didn’t expect it to. It wasn’t long before we were seated in the living room, enjoying our breakfast.

“Sorry I don’t have a table. I don’t get many visitors.” I didn’t get any visitors, other than my parole officer, but I didn’t want to say that.

“I don’t mind, as long as you don’t,” was his reply.

We spent the day watching movies and making chili and cornbread. We didn’t talk much, but I could see Dana gradually relax in my presence. The only reminders of his past were the bruises on his face and the occasional winces when I made a sudden movement. He didn’t protest the sleeping arrangements that night, and I cooked breakfast again in the morning.

I couldn’t see out of the windows anymore due to the high snow drifts, but the radar on the weather report showed that the snow was still falling steadily. They predicted another twelve inches before the storm would finally pass.

I was really enjoying Dana’s company. It had been a long time since I had enjoyed any sort of positive companionship.

“Why are you so sad?”

The question startled me. I was surprised he asked me something so personal.

He looked at the floor. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”

“It’s OK.” I sighed. “You remind me of someone I knew a long time ago.”

“Kenny?” he asked.

I sat upright and flinched as if he had struck me. “How do you know about Kenny?” I whispered.

He turned bright red and fidgeted. “I don’t…you said his name while you were sleeping last night. You were having a nightmare.”

“You watched me sleep?”

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t being creepy, I promise. I heard you moaning and knew you were having bad dreams. You didn’t wake up, though. I won’t do it again.”

“I don’t mind, Dana. It’s OK. Kenny was…” I didn’t want to tell him about Kenny. I would lose what little trust I had gained. “He was my ex.”

“What happened to him?”

I inhaled and held my breath before letting it out in a long sigh. “I’m not sure I should tell you. I don’t want you to be afraid of me.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You seem like a really great guy.”

I snorted. “I’m not even close to a great guy.”

“Tell me,” he whispered.

“First, tell me who hurt you.”

He grimaced, but looked into my eyes, a trace of fear returning. “Brian. My boyfriend. Well, ex-boyfriend. I had to get away. I thought he was going to kill me this time.”

“Dana…you know you don’t deserve anything he did to you, right?”

He shook his head. “Yeah, I…well…no. I didn’t deserve it.” He paused. “Tell me about Kenny.”

As much as I didn’t want to tell him the truth, it would be unfair to Kenny to deny what happened. I drummed my fingers on the arm of the chair and bounced my leg. “I’m not the man you think I am. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life…and Kenny paid the price.”

Dana was silent, but I could see subtle shifts in his body language. He leaned slightly away from me, and burrowed deeper against the side of the couch.

“Kenny was…my ex-boyfriend. I…didn’t treat him very well. I…” I ran my hand through my hair and closed my eyes. My therapist and my lawyer had both taught me to call a spade a spade. Nothing in court was sugarcoated, so I had to develop a certain comfort level with talking about what I had done. Well, that was the theory anyway. I never did figure out how to get comfortable talking about it. Telling someone who was going through what my ex had to endure was something I had never experienced, but I owed both Dana and Kenny the truth. “I…used to hit him.” I took a deep breath and continued.

“I would get so angry when I was drunk that it was like a switch was flipped inside of me. I took out that anger on Kenny, just like my old man did to me. I didn’t know any different at the time. It took me years of therapy to learn that it was part of the cycle of abuse, and in order to break that cycle, I needed to take responsibility for my actions.”

Dana was looking at me with a mixture of fear and revulsion on his face. It broke my heart. I hadn’t been in a relationship since Kenny—I didn’t deserve to be—and had resigned myself to spending the rest of my life alone. Meeting Dana had awoken feelings in me I thought were long gone.

“What happened to him?”

“We were going through a real rough patch in our relationship. My anger had escalated to the point where I found an excuse to hit him almost every day. I was constantly drunk. I was what my therapist calls a ‘functioning alcoholic’. That means that I was able to hold down a job, despite being wasted most of the time. One day I came home from work and Kenny had spilled our dinner all over the kitchen floor. He was cleaning it up when I walked in on him.

“I had a flashback to when I was a kid, and one of my old man’s girlfriends had done the same thing. He beat the crap out of her before making her use her shirt to clean it up. I saw the whole thing. Seeing Kenny cleaning up that mess brought me right back into the middle of that horrible memory. It sent me into the worst rage I had ever experienced. He begged me to stop hitting him, but it only made me angrier. I wanted to stop, but…” I choked back a sob. “I kept flashing back to my father hitting that woman, and then hitting me. I hated that man, I hated myself for turning into him, and at that moment, I hated Kenny for turning me into my father. The last thing I remember is the look in Kenny’s eyes as he begged me not to kill him.”

“Did…did he die?” Dana asked quietly.

“No. Not then. He recovered physically, although he was left with a permanent limp. He killed himself a year later. He was never able to recover from the mental abuse.” I gripped the arm of the chair tightly, trying to swallow the bile rising from my stomach.

“Why aren’t you in jail?”

“I should be for what I did to him, but the court determined I wasn’t competent to stand trial. I was a real mess after that. I was ordered into rehab and counseling. I spent a few years getting clean and getting my head shrunk. Turns out I’m bi-polar. The alcohol was my way of trying to medicate myself. The abuse was part of a cycle. I was doing what I learned from my old man.” I looked at him evenly. “I know those are just excuses. I deserve to rot in hell for what I did to Kenny. I really did love him…although it’s hard to tell from the way I treated him.”

“Brian tells me he loves me every time after he…” Dana looked down and wiped his eyes. “I don’t know what it says about me that I stayed so long. I believed him when he said he was sorry and wanted to change. I thought he was going to kill me that last time. That’s when I realized he was never going to change, and I had to get out of there before he really did kill me.”

“Dana…please don’t end up like Kenny. You’re a good man. Don’t believe a word that Brian tells you. You are worth something.”

He looked at me doubtfully. “Yeah, right.”

“I mean it. You’re really special, you know that?”

He snorted. “There’s nothing special about me.”

“Yes, there is. I know we’ve just met, but I can already tell that you’re very smart and sweet. You deserve a guy that’ll treat you right.”

He shook his head and stared at the floor. “How smart can I be if I let myself stay with a loser like Brian for so long?”

“Don’t think like that. He’s got your head twisted around. I want you to promise me that you’ll get some counseling when you can.”

“Counseling?”

“It really helped me. I think it will help you, too.”

“I don’t know…”

“Dana, promise me. I couldn’t stand it if you…” I swallowed audibly. “…ended up like Kenny.”

He nodded. “I promise.”

I smiled. “Good.”

 

It was two more days before the roads were re-opened. Dana and I spent one whole day just cooking and watching movies. The next day he shoveled my walkway while I cleared the gas station’s parking lot. He left the minute they announced that the travel ban was lifted. He thanked me for my hospitality and offered to pay me, but I refused. I had placed some cash in his backpack when he was showering the day before; I knew he wouldn’t have accepted it otherwise.

I felt empty after Dana left. I wanted nothing more than for him to stay and let me protect him. I laughed mirthlessly at the irony of that statement. I didn’t deserve Dana, or anybody else for that matter. My actions toward Kenny made sure of that. I wasn’t sure I was allowed to have any kind of life since I had robbed Kenny of his. I hadn’t needed to see my counselor in years, but I wondered if I should make an appointment to talk about Dana. A lot of old wounds had been reopened, and I wasn’t sure how to deal with them. My counselor could tell me how.

Two days after Dana left, I was just about to close up the station when a burly black-haired man entered the store.

“You’re just in time. I was just about to close up. What can I get you?”

“I don’t need to buy anything. I was wondering if you’ve seen this man.” He handed me a photograph of himself with a smaller brown-haired man with a beautiful smile and doe-like eyes.

My expression hardened as I closed my fist around the photo. “Are you Brian?”

He looked surprised at hearing his name. “Yeah. So you have seen him. Do you have any idea where he went? He’s been missing for over a week.”

I was trembling with rage. I grabbed him by the front of his shirt and slammed him against the wall. “Even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you–you piece of shit,” I hissed. I raised my fist, but stopped myself before I hit him. I’d be damned if I let this asshole take me to a place I vowed I’d never go again.

At first he looked alarmed, then when I lowered my arm he smirked and stood up straight. “I wouldn’t believe everything he says.”

I narrowed my eyes as I glared at him. “I won’t be responsible for my actions if you ever hurt him again.”

He laughed. The bastard actually laughed at me. “Is that so? Why? What’s he to you?”

“He’s too special for the likes of you.”

“Special? Yeah he’s special all right.” The sarcasm in his voice made me want to smash my fist into his face. “Don’t tell me he cheated on me with you…” He looked me over, derision clear on his face. “He better not have…”

“It’s none of your damn business. Now get the fuck out of here,” I growled. I shoved him toward the door.

“Well, at least I know I’m on the right path. He can’t be too far ahead of me. That storm allowed me to catch up. Nice chatting with you.” The smug prick smiled at me, then walked out the door.

I smashed my fist into the countertop before proceeding to close up for the night.

*****

“It’s been one year since the blizzard that shut the region down for days, which is in stark contrast to the unseasonable warmth we’ve been experiencing.”

I shut off the radio and locked up the station. I paused at the pump where I had found Dana slumped in his car a year ago. The moonlit sky was vastly different from the howling storm we had endured for so many days. I sighed and walked to my house, opened the door, and hung my coat on the hook next to it.

Dana hadn’t been far from my thoughts all year. I wondered if Brian had ever caught up with him and shuddered at the thought. Maybe I should have pounded the asshole into the dirt. I doubt it would have stopped him, though.

I changed into more comfortable clothes and headed into the kitchen to start dinner. I had bought the ingredients to make tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. My life hadn’t changed much over the past year. I still worked at the gas station, and I still lived alone in my shack of a house. I started seeing my counselor again and told him all about Dana. He told me I was projecting my feelings for Kenny onto Dana, but I thought there was more to it than that. He was also proud of me for not beating the crap out of Brian.

Wherever he was, I hoped that Dana was happy and living the life that Kenny never got to. After I finished cooking dinner, I settled onto the couch and turned on a crappy movie. I was about halfway through my meal, when I was startled by a knock on the door.

I figured it was my parole officer, since he was the only one that ever visited me. I opened the door, and couldn’t stop the smile that spread over my face when I saw the slight form in a black pea coat, his brown hair hidden under a winter cap. He’d gained weight and sported some scruff, but I’d recognize those eyes anywhere.

“Come in, Dana. It’s good to see you,” I said, holding the door open.

He smiled as he entered my house and stood inside the entryway. “I was wondering if you’d still be here.”

“I’m not going anywhere for another year, at least. One of the conditions of my parole.”

He nodded in acknowledgement.

“Can I take your coat? Please tell me you can stay for a while.”

He unbuttoned his coat and removed his hat, stuffing it in the coat’s pocket. “Yeah, I have a little bit of time.”

“Good.” I hung his coat on the hook next to mine, and motioned to the couch. He sat, and I took a seat in the chair across from him. “I’m just finishing dinner. There’s plenty, if you’d like some.”

He looked at the bowl and plate of sandwiches. The corner of his mouth upturned into a smile. His eyes held no trace of fear when they looked into my own. My heart skipped a beat. He was even more beautiful than I remembered.

“Tomato soup and grilled cheese, huh?”

“You remember.”

He nodded. “How could I forget?”

I stood and walked into the kitchen. I returned a minute later with a fresh bowl of soup and handed it to him. I pushed the plate with the sandwiches toward him. He took a half of a sandwich and dipped it into the soup before taking a bite.

“Just as good as I remembered.”

We ate our meal in silence, exchanging glances and soft smiles. Having him here made my house feel like a home. I was dying of curiosity, though. I wanted to know what happened after he left and if Brian had ever caught up to him.

“Brian told me about your encounter. You said I was special.”

I nodded. “You are.” My heart sank. That meant that Brian had caught up with him. I wondered if they were still together, although Dana’s appearance would seem to indicate that they weren’t.

“Thank you, even if you didn’t mean it.”

“Didn’t mean it? Why on earth would you think that? You are special, Dana. Of course I meant it.” I paused. “So he caught up with you, huh?”

He frowned and his expression hardened. “Yeah, he did.”

“Tell me,” I whispered.

Dana’s eyes showed me the pain of remembering the confrontation. “He found me in a motel a couple of states over. Apparently he had traced our credit card. It was stupid of me to use that card. He was beating the crap out of me when the police burst through the door. It was just like in a movie. The people in the next room heard us and had called 911. They saved my life.

“He hurt me pretty badly, Ivan. I spent three days in the hospital before I was released. Brian was arrested and went to jail. He was convicted of attempted murder, so he’ll be there for a long time.”

“I’m so sorry I didn’t protect you. I knew I should have pounded that piece of shit into the pavement!”

“It wouldn’t have stopped him. I think it says a lot about you that you were able to control yourself.”

“I’m not the man I used to be.”

“I was afraid of you, you know,” he said.

I nodded. “I know. You had the same look in your eyes that Kenny used to. It broke my heart. You look different now, though. Healthier. Happier. You look amazing.”

He smiled. “Thanks. I feel so much better. I’ve been in counseling and I still have a long way to go, but I’m making progress.”

A surge of emotion flooded through me. I wished to God that Kenny could have had the same outcome. I wiped the tears away from my eyes. “I’m so proud of you, Dana. And so happy for you, too. You deserve nothing but the best.”

“Thanks. I owe a lot of it to you, you know.”

I raised an eyebrow and snorted. “Me? What the hell did I do?”

“You taught me that it is possible for people to change. You told me about Kenny when you could have lied and hidden your past. For the first time in my life, you made me feel like I was worth something. You gave me the courage to fight back.”

“I did all that?”

He nodded, smiling. “Yeah, you did.”

“Wow. Well, I’m glad.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes, each digesting the conversation along with our dinner. “So what now?” I asked.

He patted the space on the couch next to him, and I rose slowly and sat down where he indicated. I had to work hard to control my breathing from being so close to him.

“I got a new place a few miles from here. I was hoping to get to know you better.” He took my hand in both of his. “I think you’re pretty special, too.”

I blinked away the tears that formed when I heard those words. No one had ever called me special before. “I’d like nothing more,” I whispered.

Do you think Ivan is really reformed? Is it possible for an abuser to change his ways? Does Ivan deserve a second chance after what happened to Kenny? Is Dana foolish for falling for a man with a history of abuse? I'd love to hear your thoughts about this story. Thank you to my amazing team--Lisa and Cole Matthews for their input with this story. You guys are the best! Thanks to everyone for reading. I appreciate the support and hope you enjoyed the story!

Copyright © 2016 Valkyrie; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
2016 - Winter - Rewind: Pre-2016 Themes Entry
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Chapter Comments



Clearly Ivan has changed. The question is has he changed enough? Ivan and Dana have in their favor that they are both getting counseling. They'll have someone to talk through their various issues before things get out of hand. Ivan now knows he is bipolar and recognizes at least some of his triggers, plus he has the negative reinforcement of his treatment of Kenny to remind him of what to avoid.

 

On the other hand, Dana is apparently repeating his pattern of being with abusive partners. It remains to be seen whether Ivan can successfully deal with his issues while in a relationship. But Dana seems less likely now to allow Ivan to abuse him the way that Brian did to him or that Ivan did to Kenny.

 

I think they have a fairly good chance of success. ;-)

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If Ivan stays away from alcohol and they both keep up the councelling, they may have a chance. But if they fail, it would be totally awful for both of them. Yet, the rewards of fixing the broken parts mutually are hard to deny.

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I can only think of how afraid Dana must have been, after Ivan told him what he did to Kenny. There is always a residual risk that they both fall back to their usual pattern, but all in all it's looking good. Around this time of the year I want to think positive.
Thank you for sharing! :)

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On 12/23/2016 08:37 AM, droughtquake said:

Clearly Ivan has changed. The question is has he changed enough? Ivan and Dana have in their favor that they are both getting counseling. They'll have someone to talk through their various issues before things get out of hand. Ivan now knows he is bipolar and recognizes at least some of his triggers, plus he has the negative reinforcement of his treatment of Kenny to remind him of what to avoid.

 

On the other hand, Dana is apparently repeating his pattern of being with abusive partners. It remains to be seen whether Ivan can successfully deal with his issues while in a relationship. But Dana seems less likely now to allow Ivan to abuse him the way that Brian did to him or that Ivan did to Kenny.

 

I think they have a fairly good chance of success. ;-)

I think your review is pretty spot-on. I agree with you about Ivan. I do think he's changed, too. The real test will be when he and Dana have problems in their relationship. Hopefully his counseling and medication will help him deal with any issues in an appropriate manner. I'm optimistic about the future for them. Hopefully that optimism is justified. I love reading your reviews. You always put so much thought into them. Thank you for that. :)

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On 12/23/2016 10:27 AM, Timothy M. said:

If Ivan stays away from alcohol and they both keep up the councelling, they may have a chance. But if they fail, it would be totally awful for both of them. Yet, the rewards of fixing the broken parts mutually are hard to deny.

Thanks for the review, Tim. I agree with you and think they are both motivated enough to continue working through their issues to make the relationship work. Hopefully they will be successful. :)

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On 12/23/2016 11:26 PM, aditus said:

I can only think of how afraid Dana must have been, after Ivan told him what he did to Kenny. There is always a residual risk that they both fall back to their usual pattern, but all in all it's looking good. Around this time of the year I want to think positive.

Thank you for sharing! :)

Thanks for the review. :) I like to think that redemption is possible. Ivan is educated about his issues now and clearly remorseful. Hopefully Dana is enough motivation to keep him on the right track.

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The circle of violence, it is so heart breaking ... Abusive parents are so toxic insofar as they spread the violence through their children ... I feel ill ...

 

BUT at least this story gives us a ray of hope ... rejecting violence and feeling remorse, to working towards forgiving himself, we hope Ivan has a chance for redemption and ultimately happiness ...

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This is the beginning of a great story in my opinion. I'm sad that people hurt others so easily. But Ivan is on the right track I think like Dana said he could have lied about Kenny but he didn't. He genuinely seems remorseful. Briamn got exactly what he deserves and will probably get even more in prison.

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I am a firm believer in second chances -- in most instances. Since Ivan seems to have changed considerably, and he is still going to therapy and taking his meds, things look good. Dana is also in therapy, which is good. I think they have a good chance of making this work, and hopefully when they come to a disagreement, Ivan will have the mental ability to settle it peacefully and without violence, and Dana will have the confidence and courage to stand up to Ivan.

 

I really enjoyed this story, Val! :)

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Valkyrie, loved the story.
Lots of people make mistakes when young. And growing up in a violent situation... is a bad start. Parents are role models and... bad parents can cause bad behaviour.
I loved the story for you wrote it beautifull from the pov of an abusive guy after he realised what he did. Coping with going on ... and giving his abusive behaviour a place.
Yes I think people can change. Bad people can become good and good people can go bad.
---
I liked the story so far. And I can see you writing more from this point on. Would love it. :2thumbs:

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This story was thought provoking.

 

My first reaction to Val's question was, NO! Once a drunk abuser, always a drunk abuser.

 

BUT! That was a knee jerk reaction and I decided to sleep on it.

 

I thought about people I knew where something had happened to chance their attitudes/behavior. I thought about myself and how my attitude/behaviour had changed over the years depending on what happened to me.

 

So, do I think people can change? YES! But, I would wary of someone who has a violent past.

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On 12/24/2016 07:01 AM, hohochan657 said:

The circle of violence, it is so heart breaking ... Abusive parents are so toxic insofar as they spread the violence through their children ... I feel ill ...

 

BUT at least this story gives us a ray of hope ... rejecting violence and feeling remorse, to working towards forgiving himself, we hope Ivan has a chance for redemption and ultimately happiness ...

Thank you for such an insightful review. Ivan was part of a cycle of violence. Now that he's been educated and received therapy and medication, hopefully it will be enough for him to change. I do think that Ivan has a chance and I hope that he and Dana are able to make it work. Thanks again for the review. :)

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On 12/24/2016 11:22 AM, Wesley8890 said:

This is the beginning of a great story in my opinion. I'm sad that people hurt others so easily. But Ivan is on the right track I think like Dana said he could have lied about Kenny but he didn't. He genuinely seems remorseful. Briamn got exactly what he deserves and will probably get even more in prison.

I agree... I think that Ivan is on the right track and genuinely remorseful. Thanks so much for the review. :)

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On 12/25/2016 12:58 PM, Lisa said:

I am a firm believer in second chances -- in most instances. Since Ivan seems to have changed considerably, and he is still going to therapy and taking his meds, things look good. Dana is also in therapy, which is good. I think they have a good chance of making this work, and hopefully when they come to a disagreement, Ivan will have the mental ability to settle it peacefully and without violence, and Dana will have the confidence and courage to stand up to Ivan.

 

I really enjoyed this story, Val! :)

Thanks, Lisa! And thanks for your editing input. :) I agree with you about second chances, although in some cases they aren't warranted. Hence my question... does Ivan deserve a second chance? I think so. He's made an effort to change through therapy and medication and I think he's genuinely regretful as far as his treatment of Kenny. Thanks for the review! :hug:

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On 12/27/2016 09:34 AM, Northern Dutch Guy said:

Valkyrie, loved the story.

Lots of people make mistakes when young. And growing up in a violent situation... is a bad start. Parents are role models and... bad parents can cause bad behaviour.

I loved the story for you wrote it beautifull from the pov of an abusive guy after he realised what he did. Coping with going on ... and giving his abusive behaviour a place.

Yes I think people can change. Bad people can become good and good people can go bad.

---

I liked the story so far. And I can see you writing more from this point on. Would love it. :2thumbs:

Thanks for the great review. :) I meant this to be a thought-provoking piece. It goes to the question of 'nature vs. nurture'. Is Ivan inherently a bad person, or did his upbringing make him that way? In his case, I believe it's the latter. He acted out in the only way he knew how, which was compounded by undiagnosed mental illness. You are so right... 'bad parents can cause bad behavior'. Sorry, but I'm not planning on expanding this one. I have too many other stories in the works right now. Thanks for your review and support. :)

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On 12/28/2016 01:40 AM, Caz Pedroso said:

This story was thought provoking.

 

My first reaction to Val's question was, NO! Once a drunk abuser, always a drunk abuser.

 

BUT! That was a knee jerk reaction and I decided to sleep on it.

 

I thought about people I knew where something had happened to chance their attitudes/behavior. I thought about myself and how my attitude/behaviour had changed over the years depending on what happened to me.

 

So, do I think people can change? YES! But, I would wary of someone who has a violent past.

I'm glad my story made you think so much. I think a lot of people's first reaction is the same as yours... No, drunk abusers aren't worthy of redemption or second chances. But then look deeper into the cause of the problem... in Ivan's case abusive parents and an undiagnosed mental disorder. Some people can learn from their mistakes and overcome addiction and be educated about their mental illness, while others embrace the addiction and use their past and problems as an excuse. I think Ivan has learned and will his best to give Dana the life he deserves. Will he relapse? I sure as hell hope not. Like you said, I would be wary of someone with Ivan's past, too. I don't think there's an easy answer in this case, but I'd like to think they lived HEA. Thanks for the review. :)

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People that abuse are button-pushers for me. Even with counseling, it is an extremely difficult reform. And those that are drawn to abusers have just as difficult a road to healing. Place these two personality types together and the results are often sad beyond words.
It looks like something might happen here, though. Awareness of the problem is the first step. Finding the will to deal with it, the next. If Ivan has changed enough, there may be some hope here. If Dana is honest enough to realize when a situation is edging towards abusive and deals with it...maybe.
Even the abuser-abused cycle has sunny says in it. It's the rainy days where people get hurt. These two might be okay if they not only find the right umbrella, but have the will to open it.

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On 12/28/2016 06:41 AM, Geron Kees said:

People that abuse are button-pushers for me. Even with counseling, it is an extremely difficult reform. And those that are drawn to abusers have just as difficult a road to healing. Place these two personality types together and the results are often sad beyond words.

It looks like something might happen here, though. Awareness of the problem is the first step. Finding the will to deal with it, the next. If Ivan has changed enough, there may be some hope here. If Dana is honest enough to realize when a situation is edging towards abusive and deals with it...maybe.

Even the abuser-abused cycle has sunny says in it. It's the rainy days where people get hurt. These two might be okay if they not only find the right umbrella, but have the will to open it.

Thanks for such a thoughtful review. My aim was to get people thinking and your review shows me that I was successful. I agree with you. On the face, these two getting together may be a disaster, but hopefully they are the exception and not the rule. Thanks for reading. I always enjoy reading your thoughts. :)

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Hmm... Those were some pretty tough questions. If the story had been told from Dana's POV I would probably have said he should get as far away from Ivan as possible. Nor a good combo, those two, really. Both recovering from the past. However, as the story unfolds through Ivan's eyes, it's pretty clear he's come a very long way from dealing with his past. Just that he actually told Dana right away was strong evidence of that. Still, they will both need to be vigilant of any relapse moments on either side. They could both trigger each other in dangerous ways.

 

I hope for the best for them. Perhaps because I do believe people can change. For real.

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On 12/30/2016 03:28 AM, Puppilull said:

Hmm... Those were some pretty tough questions. If the story had been told from Dana's POV I would probably have said he should get as far away from Ivan as possible. Nor a good combo, those two, really. Both recovering from the past. However, as the story unfolds through Ivan's eyes, it's pretty clear he's come a very long way from dealing with his past. Just that he actually told Dana right away was strong evidence of that. Still, they will both need to be vigilant of any relapse moments on either side. They could both trigger each other in dangerous ways.

 

I hope for the best for them. Perhaps because I do believe people can change. For real.

That's a very interesting point. You are right, it would be a completely different story if written from Dana's POV. Funny how it makes the answer to the questions easier. I hadn't planned on writing more about these guys, but all these thought-provoking reviews have me wondering about their future. Not sure I'll actually write more about them, though. I'd like to think their future is optimistic, if a bit guarded. Thanks for the great review. :)

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Abuse happens in all kinds of relationships including those of two men or two women. This story reminds us there are problems like this. Not every relationship is a happy one especially when one has a history of acting out.

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On 12/31/2016 05:49 AM, Cole Matthews said:

Abuse happens in all kinds of relationships including those of two men or two women. This story reminds us there are problems like this. Not every relationship is a happy one especially when one has a history of acting out.

Sadly, that is very true. Thanks for the review and your beta input. :)

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This story made me cry, dammit! It's great.

 

Sigh. As usual, I'm not agreeing with the other commenters. I swear I don't mean to be contrary! I believe people can change. But I don't think these two should be together romantically. For at least another year or two, Dana will look at Ivan and see Brian, and Ivan will look at Dana and see Kenny. Also, the two of them have self-esteem issues that make them vulnerable. I was happy that Dana visited, so that Ivan knew he was ok, but in my opinion, they should try to find happiness in others who aren't as triggering. (I was like, "aw, SHIT" when I read Dana had moved nearby, LOL.) I've been in therapy long enough to know they're starting on VERY shaky ground.

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On 12/31/2016 06:54 PM, Geemeedee said:

This story made me cry, dammit! It's great.

 

Sigh. As usual, I'm not agreeing with the other commenters. I swear I don't mean to be contrary! I believe people can change. But I don't think these two should be together romantically. For at least another year or two, Dana will look at Ivan and see Brian, and Ivan will look at Dana and see Kenny. Also, the two of them have self-esteem issues that make them vulnerable. I was happy that Dana visited, so that Ivan knew he was ok, but in my opinion, they should try to find happiness in others who aren't as triggering. (I was like, "aw, SHIT" when I read Dana had moved nearby, LOL.) I've been in therapy long enough to know they're starting on VERY shaky ground.

Thanks for the review. I'm glad you liked the story, even if it had you facepalming. lol It's ok to be contrary. ;) I love the diverse reactions this story provoked. These two have a long road ahead of them, that's for sure. I'd like to think that they were able to work things out.

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Fantastic piece of writing, Val. Superbly crafted. I had to ruminate on your questions for a little while, though, before constructing a response. Mainly, because it hits too close to home (no pun intended...) but also because it's a very tough subject to discuss, in my opinion. I am hesitant to accept that Dana and Ivan could have a successful relationship, because there would simply be too many triggers, and they couldn't possibly avoid every single trigger forever. Despite the counseling (which is certainly a major help) they would each have to be constantly cognizant of their own actions and words, as well as their reactions to what is being said and done by the other. It would be very challenging to be in a relationship where you're both analyzing it and discussing it with your respective counselors. I don't know, I just see a lot of red flags. Especially with Dana knowing that Ivan was so relentlessly cruel to Kenny that he was driven to suicide. A relationship between them sounds nice in theory - but the risks are high. Forming a friendship first would definitely be the better way to go. Maybe ONLY a friendship would be best. Again, really great story, Val. You are a great writer. Cheers - Mac

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