It’s the same nightmare every night.
Anna reached for him, only to be greeted by a cool mattress. She listened for the sound of the TV downstairs. He might have fallen asleep again watching reruns of Modern Family.
She tiptoed to the living room to find a blank television screen and a bare couch. Her decorative pillows and knitted blanket were in the same position.
“He’s not coming back,” she said to an audience of vacant furniture.
“You can’t escape me,” Mark said as he grabbed her from behind. She struggled to break free.
That’s when she’d wake up frantic. Barry would hold her, easing her panic, and remind Anna he’d always protect her from her ex-husband. He was gone now so instead she hugged the brown Vermont Teddy Bear he got her for Valentine’s Day and thought about the last time she visited him.
They sat across from each other, with the guard standing close.
“Don’t blame yourself. It was my choice and I would do it all over again, knowing this is where I’d end up.” He said.
“If you’d never met me, you wouldn’t be here.”
“Stop it! What’s done is done. You’re safe now, and that’s all that matters.” He reached for her hand and the guard stepped forward.
“Times up, Edwards.”
“I love you,” he said hugging her. She rested her head on his shoulder and squeezed him back.
“That’s enough,” the guard said.
“I’ll always love you,” she said and kissed him on the cheek. Inside the car, she leaned against the steering wheel and cried.