Last summer, I ran into one of the men who sexually assaulted me.
I knew it was a matter of time. We live in the same town. We have mutual friends. The clock was ticking. I was mentally prepared.
It was a Saturday. I’d spent all week writing A Risky Prospect. He hadn’t been far from my mind while I wrote Olivia struggling through her own PTSD. Still, I hadn’t exactly been worried about running into him.
I drove to the store for a pack of cigarettes. As I got out of my car and headed in, he went inside. I thought he looked familiar from behind, but talked myself out of it. I see men who look like him all the time and initially panic, then realize they are someone else. When I got inside, he turned around.
It was him.
We stood 10 or 20 feet apart. He stared at me. I stared back.
I wanted to turn and walk right back out. But I wanted that pack of cigarettes even more—especially since there he stood, right in front of me for the first time in years.
The last time I saw him was at the wake of a mutual friend.
As we stared each other down, I remembered everything: his hands around my throat, the mess on my face, the quiet and numb ride home, how I cut all contact with him as soon as I got out of his car and into the safety of my home.
I also remembered the good things: how he was my first kiss, how we stood there in front of our high school, snow falling around us. How he’d give me his hoodie when I was cold. How he always said the right things, but I no longer believed him.
He stood there in the store, I stood there in the store. He looked like he wanted to say something—just like the night of the wake. Except this time, I didn’t turn and walk away.
He was the one to walk away.
I bought my cigarettes and I drove home.
Even as the flashbacks slammed into me, I was proud of myself. I stood my ground.
It was a huge step forward for me.