Robert twisted about uncomfortably in his chair, feeling that his left butt cheek had gone numb. The numbness was beginning to work its cursedness down into his leg. He could feel the dreaded pins and needles sensation assaulting his lower extremities upon shifting his weight. The relentless stabbing, jabbing, throbbing feeling overcame all of his senses.

Fighting to hold back a pained grunt, he pursed his lips, clenching his teeth. Then, finally, settling into a more comfortable position, trying to ignore the pain pulsating up and down the thoroughfare of pain receptors at the ends of his nerves.

He nestled into his newfound position of comfort. Well, as comfortable as one can be sitting in a metal chair for the better part of the last hour. His eyes involuntarily glanced over the speaker’s left shoulder to a clock on the wall. It was nearing 8pm, and the meeting was almost over to his relief. Part of him couldn’t wait to leave, while the other part of his mind—the sober, better part kept him in his chair, knowing that he needed this.

That better part had been kicked into gear by the visitations of his deceased son, Roland. They, he, had been urging Robert to do something with his life. Something other than being the guilt rattled drunkard he’d degenerated into over the last year. His son’s words still echoing from the first visit, ‘you are meant for more.’

But was he truly meant for more in this world? Something other than drinking himself into a stupor every day to escape from his loss? And if so, what? His mind rattled these thoughts around in his head. Which had finally driven him here—Alcoholics Anonymous.

It had taken him several weeks to overcome his fears. Eventually doing so after being aided by the apparitions of his son guiding him to help people in need that he’d come into contact with. Which made him feel good about himself again. Like he was needed. Leading him to finally admit to himself, at least, that he had a drinking problem. Coming to the conclusion that he needed help, too. Managing to drag himself to the AA meeting that he’d been stalking for several weeks. Hoping, wishing that just by attending the meeting, it would somehow magically dissolve his problems.

Only, now that he was attending the meetings. So far, three a week for the last several weeks. He had begun to feel like an outsider listening to everyone’s shares. They would talk about what was going on in their lives. How whatever was happening would make them want to drink, and so forth.

Meeting after meeting, he would take a seat in the back of the room after grabbing a cup of coffee and whatever snack had been brought. Then watch person after person as they marched up to the podium set up at the front of the room and share their experiences with the group. Time after time, Robert would just sit and listen. Never going to the forefront to share his story.

These people, after all, were strangers. How could they know how he was feeling. They couldn’t. The only thing he’d been able to gather from the meetings was that one, a lot of people seemed to drink too much, and two, life seemed to give people reasons to drink. But, heck, how could anyone be sober in this life with the stories he’d heard so far.

One guy drank because his father did, and he passed down that learned trait to his son, starting him drinking at fourteen years old. Another was a soldier who had some form of PTSD. A woman had shared that she began drinking during an abusive relationship where she would use it to cope with her terrible husband. Finally, one person said they started drinking in college to fit in and never stopped until it was too late. His drinking had become such a problem that he wound up losing everything.

Share after share Robert just sat there waiting for someone to have a story like his. How does one cope with losing their wife and child in a car accident? His entire world was gone in a flash. Unfortunately, no one so far had been able to tell him how to.

The man at the podium finished his share, Robert not being able to recall a word he’d said. Too lost in his own thoughts when the moderator retook the floor.

“Sir, in the back,” Robert looked around like he’d just been caught by the teacher passing a note. “You in the red shirt,” the man was pointing directly at him. Damn. “I’ve seen you here now for a couple of weeks. Would you like to share this week?” He asked.

Being put on the spot was not something Robert liked. He never really had decided if he would ever share, just wanting to listen. Now that he had, and had been left feeling like an outsider. He didn’t want to share his story. It wasn’t for anyone else to hear.

But, here he was being put on the spot. All eyes turned on him, his palms became clammy, his heart thudded away in his chest. He could feel his eyes grow in surprise, pointing to himself as to say ‘who me,’ knowing full well he was the intended target of the man’s pointed finger.

Seconds slowed to minutes, like the weight of the world had been placed on his shoulders. He knew there was no way he would share tonight, but the sudden turn of events had caused a momentary lapse in his brain synopsis. The delay between locating the word ‘no’ in his memory bank and transferring it to his lips became unbearable as everyone awaited his response.

He moved his lips, but nothing audible came out. Then, pausing, he gulped, finding his voice. “Um, no, sorry, not tonight,” he said, extracting words from the vibrations of air through his voicebox.

“Ok, maybe next week.” The moderator said nonchalantly like it was nothing, no big deal if he said yes or no. Then his alarm went off.

With that, Robert let out a sigh of relief. The meeting was over. Grabbing his jacket off the back of the chair, he made a beeline for the door, desperately wanting to make a quick escape; his face reddened from feeling embarrassed. His feet carried him at a brisk pace. Exiting the classroom as fast as possible, as sometimes the moderator would stop people and talk to them for a bit. He was already unsure if he should even be at these meetings, and now, after having just been singled out, he wanted nothing more than to be at home.

Hitting the door, not bothering to hold it open for anyone potentially following him, he didn’t even look behind him to check. His shoes squeaking against the linoleum floor as he turned and headed for the front door of the building. He could see it in sight, just a few more paces ahead. Robert began to speed up, hearing the door to the AA meeting room creak open behind him.

Now almost in a jog, he glanced over his shoulder, seeing a small group of people trickle out into the hall—no one thankfully after him. Turning back around seeing the flash of wood in his vision.

Smack

“Ouch,” Robert spat, letting out a pained yelp clutching his hands to his nose. Not paying attention to where he was headed, Robert had veered off his path in his haste to leave. When he looked back, he had inadvertently drifted inside the yellow-painted caution line in the hallway. Running smack into an opening door. “Son of a mother-“ realizing where he was, he stopped, censoring himself as he staggered around. His nose was on fire; tears welled in his eyes as he gingerly felt around the cartilage of his nose. Nothing broken. But the blow still stung.

“Oh my god, I am so sorry,” came a genuine-sounding apology from the other side of the barrier. Robert spun to find a familiar face, albeit one wearing a mortified look. It was Mandy, the paramedic who’d treated Robert twice already in the last few months while on his guided missions. “Mr. Pikeman, is that you. Oh my god, again, I am so sorry.” She reiterated reaching out to help him. Robert pulled back as he twisted away from the woman, swiping at his watery eyes, brushing aside the tears. “Oh gosh, I hope I didn’t break it. Here let me see,” she pleaded.

“No,” Robert said, spinning about straightening up, bowing his back. “I am fine; nothing’s broken,” he rasped, hiding the pain.

“Can I still see, please, remember I am an EMT,” she said, thrusting her hands onto her hips. Her apologetic tone had vanished, replaced with a sterner, more demanding one.

A tone Robert had heard before, so he knew there was no arguing against it. The EMT had used the same tone his wife Rebecca would incorporate during her night rotations in the ER. Anytime she needed or wanted an unruly patient to do anything, that was how she spoke to them. And in later years, when she needed him to do anything. And it worked nearly every time.

Relenting, knowing resistance would be futile, he dropped his hands. “Fine,” he said with a roll of his eyes.

Mandy, happy that Robert had obliged, reached up, cupping his head in her hands. “This will only take a moment.” Using her thumbs to feel around his nose, evaluating her patient.

Robert tensed the second she put her hands on him. It had been a long time since he’d been touched like that by a person. And an even longer time since he was touched by someone other than his wife. Her cold hands eased the burning sensation in his face as she gently explored his nose with her fingertips, inspecting it for damage. A wave of comfort flowed over him as he peered down over the bridge of his nose, briefly locking eyes with the woman as he succumbed to her touch.

Staring into her crystal blue eyes as his head lolled in her hands. Lost in the woman’s gaze as she stared up at him. They were the same kind, gentle, caring ones that his loving wife would peer upon him with. A sudden feeling of uneasiness swept over him like a wave of hot magma. They didn’t belong to Rebecca; they were that of another woman.

“Yup, everything looks ok. Nothing broken. I’ll have to swing the door harder next time,” she said with a smile, playfully winking at him.

Robert quickly withdrew like he’d seen a ghost, haunted by a shuddering sensation that he’d just betrayed the memory of his wife. Feeling as if he’d just committed some type of unforgivable sin, allowing another woman to lay hands on him.

“Just like I said,” Robert snapped, pulling further away from her embrace, attempting to go around her.

Side steeping, blocking his path. “Hey, how about I make this up to you and buy you a cup of coffee, and you can tell me about saving that mother and daughter a few months back.” She asked.

Still reeling from his thoughts of betrayal, Robert made an abrupt swim maneuver, sliding past. “Um, yeah, sorry, can’t. I’ve sort of got a prior engagement. Big plans,” he added, retreating down the hall. If going home and eating a TV dinner alone was his idea of big plans, well, then, he certainly had some big ones. Continuing his trek towards the front door, rubbing his still stinging nose.

“Well, then maybe another time,” she shouted after him, waving bye as Robert raced out into the parking lot.

****

The following Monday, Robert sat on his couch, eyes affixed to the clock above his entertainment center. His gaze set on the second’s hand as it bore down on the twelve. Reaching it. The minute hand rolled over with a thunderous tick in the deafening silence, followed by the resuming of the second’s hand racing back around for another assault on time. 

If he wanted to attend another AA meeting, he would have to leave soon to make it. He had all but forgotten about his embarrassing call-out at the previous gathering on Friday.

Instead, he spent the entirety of the weekend tormenting himself over his interaction with Mandy. The feeling of betraying the memory of Rebecca perforated his every thought. How could he have allowed another woman to touch him? This made his stomach curl. How could he betray Rebecca like that?

A car passed by outside, its headlights flooding the darkened living room, casting a reflection off of an empty alcohol bottle. The shimmer danced around the room, settling onto a picture of his once-happy family before vanishing.

“Fuck it, I am going,” Robert said, leaping from the couch, assuming it was some type of sign. He plucked his keys from the table and headed out.

Once at the meeting, it went just like all the others he’d attended before. There were a few newcomers. One even decided to share; a divorced mother of two who lost custody of her kids due to her drinking. Another sad story, but all Robert could think about was that her kids were still alive.

Mercifully the meeting came to an end. Like every other time, Robert had no intention to stay and mingle. In the quiet hallway, he solemnly headed home, this time head up, though. He wasn’t about to run into another door, the thought spurring him to walk on the other side, far away from the yellow stripe. Thankfully, because a door swooshed open, right where he would’ve been walking had he not been paying extra attention this time. A small crowd filtered out, blocking his path to the exit.

With a grunted sigh of annoyance, he began to pick his way through the gathering. “Excuse me, excuse me,” moving through as quickly and politely as possible, finally fighting his way outside and into the parking lot.

“Mr. Pikeman.”

Robert, by now, knew the voice very well. That damned EMT again. Another sigh slouching his shoulders as he turned to face the blonde-haired paramedic, avoiding making eye contact. He didn’t want to look into her eyes again, fearing it would remind him of his wife. “It’s Robert, please, if we’re going to keep meeting like this,” he said, trying to hold back his vexation. It was almost like she was stalking him at this point.

“Well, then Robert, it’s nice to finally make your acquaintance properly,” Mandy said with a grin, holding out her hand to shake Robert’s playfully.

“Likewise,” he responded, deciding to go along. Reaching to accept the handshake, he noticed several bruises on her wrist that appeared to run further up her arm, but it was hard to tell due to the long-sleeved shirt she was wearing. Which Robert found was awkward given the heatwave the city had been experiencing.

Mandy noticed that Robert had clocked the bruises too. Quickly shaking hands, pulling hers back, sliding her sleeve down further to cover them. “So, we meet again.” She said, drawing the attention off her arm.

“It appears so.” Robert couldn’t have made himself sound anymore like he wanted to be somewhere else. Still trying to not make eye contact.

“So, what brings you here these evenings. Classes or something. They have this really great wine and art class on Saturdays.”

“Yeah, something like. I am not a very good drawer or painter.”

“Yeah, me neither. Even my stick figures come out looking like I drew them during an earthquake.” Laughing at her own joke. Robert noticed that she had a cutesy snort at the end. “Well, anyway, I still owe you that coffee for hitting you with the door last week. So if you didn’t already have any big plans again tonight?”

“Um…” once, again, he didn’t have any plans, but he still couldn’t bring himself to accept her offer. That same feeling as before, the sense of betrayal, jumped to the forefront of his mind. “yeah, actually, I’ve got an early shift tomorrow, and you didn’t hit me. I ran into the door.” Mandy’s face fell flat for the first time. Every time their paths crossed, she seemed to have an effervescent, bright personality. “Maybe another time,” he added, softening the blow.

The woman perked up, her smile returning. “Ok, maybe next time. Have a good night Mr.- Robert.” Correcting herself.

“You too,” Robert said, walking away.

Robert got into his truck, driving off. He couldn’t help but feel like an asshole. He hadn’t been very nice to Mandy during any of their interactions. Something about her reminded him too much of his ex-wife. All the way down to her eyes and her consistently upbeat personality.

He could tell that she had been trying to flirt with him. But it was too soon, he reasoned with himself. He would be betraying the memory of his wife.

****

He attended the next few AA meetings just as he had previously over the next two weeks. At the end of each session, he half expected to ‘run into’ the paramedic. But she was nowhere to be found. The room that she appeared from during their first two encounters was still full. People would spill out into the hallway just as before, but she wasn’t there. Robert actually began to wonder what had happened to her. He wanted to apologize for being a dick as well.

Finally, a week later, leaving another AA meeting, he spotted the blonde. “Mandy,” he called, tapping her on the shoulder. She turned. “Oh my god.” Robert gasped. The entire left side of her face was black a blue. “What happened?”

Quickly covering the bruises with her hair, shying and angling away from Robert. “Oh, you know occupational hazard.” She answered. “Drug addicts always think we have to give them stuff.” Dismissing the injuries ruefully, drawing back from his touch.

“You got attacked by a drug addict?” Robert questioned, unable to believe the story.
     “Yeah, happens from time to time. They’ll fake an overdose just to get into our rig to steal morphine. Sometimes they get violent.”

He could tell something was off. Her typically vibrant and brilliant personality seemed to be sapped, gone. Replaced with a  more somber downtrodden demeanor. “Hey,” Robert said. “I wanted to apologize for the last time. I think I kind of came off as a dick.”

A brief smile appeared on her bruised face as she painfully pursed her lips to one side grinning. Then, her lightheartedness began to shine back through. “Well, actually,” she started. Then her eyes went wide with fear; the smirk washed away in an instant of recognition. “Actually, no, you weren’t.” She said, rushed. “You’re awesome and amazing, but I’ve got to go. Sorry.”

Hurridly brushing past Robert, she headed straight for the door. Thrown off, he twisted to watch as she left. A man in a light grey denim jacket was waiting for her at the door. Snatching her by the wrist, he forcibly led the EMT out of the building and into the night. Robert had seen these signs before. In his wife. He knew what was going on. The man in the jacket was obviously abusing Mandy.

He rushed past the gathered group of usual minglers and into the parking lot. There he found nothing. He was too late. They were gone. All he could do was stare at the car’s red demon-like taillights as the vehicle drove away, leaving Robert staring off into the night after them.

“Shit,” he spat, angry at himself. Thinking back to all of their encounters, how could he have not seen it before. Each time he saw the woman, she had some sort of bruise or mark on her. Now it was too late; he would most likely never see her again. Her abuser knew that she was talking to another man. He would never allow her to go back there again.

Robert turned to head to his truck. “Oh, shit,” he shrieked, jerking back, slipping from the top step, stumbling backward, falling onto his ass. Looking up, “Rebecca,” unable to believe his own eyes. He knew his wife was dead. Picking himself up, but here she was appearing to him just as his son had done before. “Oh my god, Rebecca.” Wanting nothing more than to hug her, but deep down, he knew she wasn’t actually there.

“Robert, my dearest Robert.” She spoke with the soft angelic voice she carried in life.

“Baby, I am so sorry, so, so very sorry. I love you. I’ll always love you until we meet again. I’ve promised to never take another woman. I’ll never betray you like that.” He stammered, worried that was why she was there, like a ghost haunting him.

“I know that you loved our son and me. But we’re both gone now. I want, no, I need, for you to be happy again, my love. And know that you can never betray me. I know you, Robert, better than you do. You are too good of a person, of a man for that. I know what we had during our time was special, and I want you to have that again. I had you all to myself for eleven years. But now, it’s time for you to share your gifts of kindness, love, and righteousness with the world. They need you more than you know. There are people that you can help now.” Rebecca’s apparition nodded towards the recently departed car. “And you know what you have to do.” Robert fought back his tears, reaching out to his wife. His hand landed on her soft, smooth skin. She wasn’t a ghostly apparition. She felt real, real as the day he last laid hands on her. “Go, my love. Fulfill your purpose,” she said, snuggling Robert’s hand. “Until we met again. I will always love you.”

Then, a bright light filled the night, and she was gone. Robert’s love disappeared, his hand falling by his side. No longer able to hold the tears back. The invisible dam broke; he began to sob. But Rebecca was right. He did know how to help Mandy. Wiping his water-soaked eyes, he walked back to his car, knowing what he had to do. “I love you, Rebecca.” He said, gazing up at the night sky just as the crowd from inside made its way out.

****

Robert waited patiently outside a firehouse sitting in his truck, thinking, waiting for Mandy to appear. It had been a few days since he saw, well, he didn’t know exactly what to call what he saw. The night Rebecca appeared to him, it wasn’t as a ghost. Not that he was an expert in such matters, but typically one isn’t able to touch a spirit from his limited understanding. However, she wasn’t alive either. Maybe an angel, he figured. Impossible, right? He no longer believed such things. So what was she then? A figment of his imagination? He had been thinking about her a lot in the days leading up.

Whatever she was, the message had been the same that his vision of Roland had told him. He had a greater purpose in life. What could they have meant by that, though? A flash appeared in his rearview mirror as the door to the firehouse swung open, and he spotted Mandy exiting. Her blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail swooshing side to side as she walked. He would have to come back to what Rebecca and Roland meant later.

Jumping out of the truck, he slowly approached. His hands were sweaty, his heart raced, legs wobbly as he walked. Having no idea how this would go. He had easily managed to track down what fire station the woman worked at, and after a few inquires, one of the firefighters told him when she would be there. He was hoping that this act wouldn’t come off stalkerish.

“Mandy, hey,” Robert said, announcing himself.

The woman spun, face drawing back in fear as she reached into her bag. Robert leaped back, expecting a face full of pepper spray. “Oh my god, Robert.” The terrified woman exasperated, pulling an empty hand from the bag to his relief—her expression easing at recognizing the man standing before her.

“I am sorry to frighten you,” Robert said apologetically.

“No, no, it’s ok. I am just a little jittery today, that’s all—an odd shift,” she said, shaking her head, eyes scanning the parking lot. “But, what are you doing here?”

“Well,” pausing for a moment. Robert hadn’t exactly thought this through all the way. He couldn’t very well come out a say why he was there. “Um…well, I didn’t get to finish apologizing the other night for coming off like a dick. So I figured I’d track you down and ambush you outside of work to finish. Only now realizing how dickish this is.” He said with a smile.

His lousy attempt at humor put the woman at ease. Her effervescent personality reared as she smiled back. “Yeah, this is actually kind of stalkerish.”

“You mean, kind of like after treating a person as a patient a couple of times, only then to ‘randomly’ show up at a place they frequent smacking them with a door.” Robert countered playfully.

“Hey, you walked into that door, if I recall by your own admission.” She protested.

“I guess. However, I remember you offering to buy me a cup of coffee to make up for it. Although, now that I think about it, I may owe you that cup of coffee, being that I just scared the bejeebers out of you.”

“First off,” Mandy said, feigning offense pointing her finger, “I wasn’t scared.” Robert nodded sarcastically. “Secondly, if you wanted to buy me coffee, all you needed to do was ask. So, are you asking?”

“Yes, I am,” Robert responded. Then, seeing the look on the woman’s still partially bruised face as she crossed her arms over her chest, tapping her foot. He got the idea. “Oh, Mandy would like to get a cup of coffee with me?” He finally asked.

“No.” She responded.

“Um…”

Letting the denial linger for a moment, Mandy watched as Robert awkwardly stared back at her, confused.

Not knowing exactly what to do at this point. The only thing he did know was that she needed help, and he needed to find a way to do that. If not for him or her, then for Rebecca as she clearly meant for him to help her. “Um…ok.” He turned to walk away.

“Ok, fine,” she blurted. “You should’ve seen the look on your face,” she added with a smile. “I would like to get some coffee with you. Maybe then you can finally tell me about this hero complex you have.”

“I don’t have a-” stopping, Robert thought about the events of the last few months. He didn’t have a hero complex, but he may have just figured out what Rebecca and Roland meant about a greater purpose. Helping others.

“There’s a coffee shop across the street,” Mandy said, breaking Robert’s train of thought. “Come on.”

The pair walked across the street and ordered their respective drinks before grabbing a table. Robert was more at ease during the conversation. He had even managed to look into her eyes for the first time without seeing Rebecca. Like a burden had been lifted from his shoulders. Before, all he could think about while talking to Mandy was how he was betraying his wife’s memory. Now, he felt like he was honoring her memory.

“So, why do you go to the community center?” Mandy asked.

Robert thought for a moment. He didn’t want to reveal that he was attending AA meetings there, but if he confessed to something personal, that might get her to open up as well. “I uh,” taking a deep breath, realizing he’d never said out loud what he was about to say ever before. “I uh, attend AA meetings there. Though, I don’t think I’ll continue. I don’t feel it’s for me. I don’t exactly think I belong there.”

“Do you have a drinking problem?” She asked, not bothered by the confession.

“Kind of, I think. But, I mean, I haven’t drank in weeks now, so. And I drank for an entirely different reason than anyone there.”

Waiting for the woman to pass judgment on him. Instead, she reached across the table and grasped his hand. “I can tell you from personal experience you may need to find out what is causing you to drink. I did, and now I’ve been sober for two years.”

“Wait, you’ve been to AA before,” Robert asked, surprised. He had never expected that.

“Yup,” she said, “that was until I discovered the reason I drank; it was to forget and coup.”

Robert’s eyes lit up upon hearing this. That was precisely the reason he drank; that was what he’d been waiting to hear. “That’s why I drink, drank. See,” looking away for a second, thinking about his lost family for the first time during their conversation. “I lost my wife and child in a car accident a little over a year ago. So, I started drinking because I just wanted to numb the pain of their loss.”

“That’s how it started for me, too,” Mandy confessed. “Then, I discovered another type of meeting. Grievers Anonymous. That’s why I go to the community center. I think that’s where you may need to be.” She said. “It’s a meeting for people who have lost someone.”

“Who’d you lose?” Robert asked. “No, wait, you don’t need to answer that. I am sorry, getting a little personal over coffee here.”

“No, it’s ok. We need to talk about these things. It helps. Or so my sponsor would say.” She answered. “I um…I had a miscarriage a few years ago,” choking up, but she continued. “It was right after my boyfriend kicked the crap out of me, again.” Subconsciously trying to hide the bruise on her face for the first time.

“Was that the guy that dragged you out the other night?” Robert asked. His assumption had been correct. Mandy was indeed being abused. It was all the telltale signs his wife had shown when he first met her too.

“Yeah,” she admitted despondently. “Afterwards, I started drinking pretty heavily. We would fight all the time. Things got pretty bad. To the point, the asshole would beat me pretty regularly. Finally, I called the cops, and he got arrested. He’s been in jail for the last year. But a few months ago, he got out. Then he started coming around trying to rekindle things. And well,” turning her head, showing the bruise. Robert felt a fury rise up in him. How could any man do such horrible things? “I don’t know what to do.” She confessed. “I’ve moved on, but he can’t seem to let me go. He won’t leave me alone. I even have a restraining order against him.” She started to cry.

Robert took her hands in his. “I am so sorry to hear about what you’ve been through with this asshole, Mandy. I’ve dealt with people like him before. A lot in my time as a security officer and with my late wife. When we first met, she was in an abusive relationship too. After that, I started noticing the bruises and such every night.”

“How’d you fix that?” She asked through watery eyes.

“I beat the shit out of him,” Robert answered with a crooked smile handing Mandy a tissue. “I told him if I ever saw him again or if he ever touched her again, I’d kill him.

“Did it work?”

“Yup, never saw him again. From what we heard, he packed up and left town. Men like that are just overgrown bullies. Once someone stands up to them. They tuck their tails and run.

“Well, I can’t ask you to beat him up,” Mandy said, her upbeat personality semi-returning. “Can I?” A small smile.

“No, but there may be another way.” The wheels in Robert’s mind were turning. “You said you have a restraining order against him?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Great, does he know that there is a restraining order against him?”

“Yeah, they served it to him a few weeks ago. In fact, that’s where this came from.” Showing her face again.

“I can work with this then,” Robert said, pulling out his cell phone. “Would you be willing to tell the cops what happened to you?”

“Of course, but wouldn’t it be my word against his at this point. I was too afraid to call when he did this. He said if I called the police on him again, he’d sneak in and kill me.”

“Yeah, but there are cameras at the community center where he grabbed you. That violates the restraining and would put him away.”

Mandy’s eyes went wide with excitement. “Oh, you’re right. Wait, so who are calling?”

“Someone I helped a while back,” Robert said with a grin. “A police detective that had some family issues I helped him sort out. Detective Reese.” Robert said, upon the officer picking up his phone. “I have a favor I need to ask. Are you at the station? Great, we’ll be there in about thirty minutes. Ok, come on.” Robert said, getting up helping Mandy out of her chair, tossing a twenty on the table. “We’re going to get you out of this cycle.” She smiled at him with a huge grin as they walked out to his truck. “What?” Robert asked upon seeing her gloating expression.

“I was right. You do have a hero complex. I mean, we don’t even really know each other, and here you are saving me.”

“I am not saving. I am helping you. It’s what good people do.”

“And heroes.” She added with a laugh.

“Maybe,” Robert said, shaking his head, glancing in his rearview mirror seeing his wife in the backseat nodding happily. It wasn’t a hero complex that he had. No, there was more to this than even he knew. People needed him. Just as Rebecca had said. And Roland before that. He had a purpose.

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