The Courage To Feel Safe

Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
She tells me I can calm down, that he’s not here to hurt me anymore. I wake her in the middle of the night, but she’s there, wrapping her arms around me from behind. She never complains that it’s three in the morning, she never groans that I should just forget him. She tells me I escaped him. She tells me it’s okay to to be scared, but not necessary anymore.
She sits up, lays my head in her lap, strokes my head while I shake, until the tremors are barely there anymore. She presses a soft kiss to my temple, then leans back and sighs. She’s not exasperated, she’s sad for me. I close my eyes, wishing I could be stronger, wishing I could put on a brave face in the dark hours of the night when I wake with a pounding heart after another dream of him shouting at me, him hitting me, me shrinking under the onslaught, him looming over me and telling me I’m worthless, I’m nothing, I’m a burden on him-
I physically jerk away from that train of thought, reminding myself it’s over. My shoulders ache from holding myself so tightly, and I try to loosen my muscles, but my fear overrides my efforts. She’s still holding me, still telling me that I’m safe, that I’m so brave, that she loves me so much. I try to respond to her efforts. I try to relax, to drift off again. I really do try. But something keeps me wide awake, scared, restless. I’m still afraid of him, and if he came back I’d be gone. If I’m not vigilant, if I sleep too long, if I get distracted, he could sneak up behind me at any moment. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to relax.