Mondays are for Excerpts

20 Oct

HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt

“Abuse resides next door. A countless number of women among us are physically, verbally, and emotionally abused. I was one of them. A year ago to the day, I almost died at the hands of the man I planned to spend my life with. I thought I knew him inside and out. I was wrong.

“One day he came to my apartment, hit me, and raped me. My body healed, in time, but my soul and heart bled for months. I lost my identity. I wanted to die and stop the pain, stop the nightmares, stop the voices in my head, the voices that told me I deserved it, that I looked for it, because I’d done nothing to stop him.” Tessa took a few short breaths, forcing herself not to cry. She saw shocked faces and heard murmurs around the room, but she needed to say it out loud for everyone to hear.

She sniffled and, looking at her audience, she continued, “For months I’ve been an empty body, with nothing to give, nothing to hold onto. My life wasn’t mine anymore. And then, one day, my dear friend Dina told me about this shelter for women in need and I have this desperate desire to do something for them. But I can’t do it alone. I need your help. There are so many ways you can help. Don’t be a bystander. Thank you for coming, thank you for your generous donations. Let’s make this a memorable event. Hopefully many more will follow.”

From the corner of her eyes, Tessa saw someone standing and applauding. It was her favorite actor, who surprised her by accepting her invitation. Others followed his example and the room exploded with applause. Out of nowhere, Victor appeared next to her, handing her a bouquet of white roses. He gave her a heartfelt hug, and helped her walk down the few steps off the stage.

“I can’t believe you never told me,” Cristian whispered in her hair, holding her tight. “We need to talk about it.”

Tessa laughed and cried at the same time. “I have no idea how I got the courage to walk out there and tell my story in front of those strangers, but my therapist was right. It feels darn good! And I don’t want to talk about it anymore. It’s over,” she said, between sobs mixed with laughter. “I have my life back, I have my life back,” she kept saying against her brother’s shoulder. She felt safe in his arms, an embrace she’d become accustomed to and looked forward to in the years to come.

She felt a light tap on her shoulder. Cristian let go of her and when she turned around, she saw Adrian. He pinched the tip of his nose and shuffled on his feet.

“Father,” she exclaimed, hugged him briefly and then realized what she just called him. Embarrassed, she said, “Sorry, Adrian, my emotions are running wild tonight.”

Adrian kissed her hand, patted her cheek and said, “No need to apologize. I don’t hear it enough.” He looked at Cristian, who scratched the back of his head, then pulled at his hair, spiking it.

Tessa knew her brother enough by now to recognize the signs of nervousness. She elbowed him, “This son of yours and brother of mine has done an incredible job helping me put this event together. I’d like to thank him by having dinner at my place and I’d like to invite you as well.”

Adrian pretended not to see Cristian’s frown and said, “Pepin would make a fuss over my eating anything but his food, but I’d be more than happy to join you.”

“Great, I’ll call with details. If you’ll excuse me, I have to say hi to someone.” She kissed Adrian’s cheek, then Cristian’s and left them. She’d get hell from her brother later, no doubt about it.

HH for web

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