Author Note: Hey guys, thank you all so much for the reviews. Sorry it's been forever since I've updated. Life happened, but I rediscovered this story on my computer and thought it would be fun to continue it. I hope you enjoy it! And I promise to update more regularly this time around :)
Damn. Lisa Reisert mentally cursed as she felt that familiar feeling overtake her. That sickening, sinking feeling twisted and turned her stomach. Was it embarrassment, guilt, shame? Lisa had no idea, nor did she attempt to identify its root. That sort of thinking was reserved for therapists, and after the handful of sessions she had been forced to endure at the 'suggestion' of Charles Keefe, Lisa had had her fill. No more therapy for me.
Lisa knew therapy was beneficial. On some level, it helped to answer her questions, and address the traumatic nightmares that still plagued her. However it also opened her eyes to an unpleasant truth: that the events in the parking lot and aboard that red eye flight had scarred her. Lisa hated to admit it. And while she knew that talking was ultimately helpful, Lisa found herself avoiding sessions. It was a difficult task, to willingly face such issues head on, week after week. Besides, Lisa's work schedule barely afforded her time for therapy. The Lux Atlantic applauded her crisis-intervention skills during the red eye debacle, and had promoted her to manager. The promotion was financially excellent, but it came with new waves of stress and responsibility. The requests and criticisms came fast and furious, and as a senior manager, Lisa was expected to take all of this noise with a smile.
"You have difficulty expressing your emotions."
The therapist's words rang in her hears and a sarcastic smile suddenly played on her lips. She didn't need therapy to tell her that. Her job ensured she had difficulty expressing her emotions. As a matter of fact, her job encouraged such repression. Smile, be cheerful, and remember the customer is always right. Wasn't this the mantra that her employers encouraged? People-pleaser 24/7. Lisa's mind flickered back to her conversataion with Jackson aboard that red eye flight, before he revealed his true colors.
He had seemed so nice. He was the considerate man who stood up to the rude customer she was trying to console. The man who had invited her for drinks and "guessed" her order. She had found his game silly, but a cute effort.
What a cute stalker. Lisa sneered. You know how to pick them, Leese. She still felt angry at herself for believing his act. She had fallen right in when he humored her with anecdotes and questions. Her heart had fluttered with excitement when he helped her through her flight anxiety. He seemed so caring, so kind, and strong willed. She had felt attracted to him. It was the first time since the parking lot incident that she had felt attracted to a man. And then in an instant he changed. The sweetness, the consideration, all an act to disguise his malevolent intentions. All an act to facilitate using her for his purposes. Men using me. I guess I should be used to that by now.
"You show possible signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Lisa."
Lisa grimaced as her therapist's words echoed in her ears. That label. Right now, she hated labels, hated talking. She hated that red eye flight, and she hated that "parking lot incident". Incident. She called it an incident. She could never call it what it was.
Her therapist scolded her for not "accepting" the truth by refusing to adopt the true label for what had happened.
Those four little letters created a word she despised.
She reluctantly confided to a few friends, and their reactions ensured she would never dare to speak about it again. Her friends turned into different people. Were they concerned? Afraid? Or did they just not know how to handle it?
Lisa didn't know, and she had convinced herself she didn't care. Deep down though, Lisa still felt hurt by their fickleness. She hated them, and their behavior. How they all treated her so differently. She was no longer included in fun activities, her emotional state deemed far too delicate to partake in such normalcy.
No, she was no longer Lisa Reisert to them. She was the rape victim. That's all her 'friends' saw after the news broke. Behind the barrage of smiles, encouragement, and friendly facades, she knew it. And they knew it.
Can I really blame them?
Lisa sighed. She supposed she couldn't blame them for their reactions. They were young, fun, full of life, and Lisa was apparently a black cloud. She couldn't fix that. No matter how hard she tried to blend back in and force a smile, her friends would always see her as a representation of their worst fear.
Their reactions were out of Lisa's control. So she moved on, stopped talking, clammed up, and threw herself headfirst into her work. Her experience with her friends had taught her a valuable lesson at least, one that was very useful in her profession.
People do not know how to react to bad news.
His reaction was so different. Lisa berated herself for allowing her thoughts to drift to back to Jackson, to that night. But she could never erase his reaction from her mind's eye. No matter how hard she tried to fog those memories of that red eye flight, burying them deep within a pool of guest accommodations and company events, they lingered. He lingered.
He had seen through her façade, her lie. He had seen what shamed her most, but also what shaped her. And he seemed angry. Not at her, or the rape, or the label, but at her decision to hide it. He was angry that she hid her scar, hid herself. He was angry that she allowed someone else to exude that much power over her. It was the first time anyone had held a mirror to her life, and then slammed her into it. Literally and figuratively.
She could feel white hot pain in her back as she thought back to his abuse with a scowl.
His abuse. The mental and physical waterwheel of hell he had forced her to endure. Breaking her down, while he sat back cool and collected, admonishing her for crying as if it were childlike and inappropriate.
Never mind that he was forcing her to aid in murder. That bastard.
He made her angry that night. Anger was an emotion Lisa rarely accessed. She had felt angry after her rape, but had buried it beneath layers of melancholy. But this time something inside of her broke. As Jackson attempted to break her down mentally and physically, smirking at each of her struggles, Lisa's anger consumed her wholly. And although she would never admit it to anyone, Lisa enjoyed stabbing him in the neck. Her only disappointment was that it didn't kill him. That she didn't kill him.
It was a grim truth, and Lisa tried to shake it from her head as she stared at the pedestrian who had triggered her mental avalanche. Her therapist had warned her that post-traumatic stress caused flashbacks like these, which could be triggered by anything related to the trauma. As the pedestrian walked past her headlights, Lisa caught a glimpse of his floppy brown hair. Of course. She thought angrily. Apparently anything resembling Jackson was enough to drive her crazy now.
Lisa sighed. She knew frustration did not help matters, but on nights like tonight, when all of her issues seemed to congregate before her wild mind's eye, she couldn't help but feel overwhelmed. Lisa forced herself to inhale deeply and focused on silencing her self-censure as she pulled into her driveway. She had put herself through enough mental anguish today. Now was her time to relax.
Lisa opened her car door. She let her feet dangle momentarily before hopping onto the ground. Her legs tingled uncomfortably as she crossed over to the passenger's side to remove a bag of groceries.
"Hey Cynthia!" Lisa called out as she fumbled the groceries in her arms with the keys in her hand. She used her hips to shove open the door and stepped into her condo. She stuck the key ring in her mouth and kicked the door shut behind her. Lisa was grateful Cynthia had planned tonight. Lisa knew she had been working too hard, but it was difficult to take a break.
Cynthia, like a good friend, had twisted her arm into taking tonight off. After working late and experiencing another flashback, Lisa was glad she heeded Cynthia's advice. She had shaken away most of her anxiety and was ready to lose herself in a bad movie with a good friend. "Cyn!" Lisa called again and walked into the living room. "Cyn-!" She quickly lowered her voice as her eyes fell upon the redhead.
Cynthia was lying face down on the couch with a throw blanket over her. Her face was obscured by a large pillow but she looked like she was sleeping peacefully, despite Lisa's noise. Lisa smiled softly and felt a pang of regret.
"I guess I made her wait too long." She muttered. She was relieved at least, that she didn't wake her up. Lisa tip-toed past the redhead and made her way into the dark kitchen. She clutched the groceries to her chest and used one hand to fumble across the tiled wall for the light switch. It was built into the wall above her stove, inconveniently far from the doorway.
As Lisa stretched her arm toward the elusive switch, she felt the groceries begin to slip from her grip. She gasped as another set of hands caught the bag before she could react. She slammed her fingers against the switch and her body went rigid as Jackson Rippner's face was suddenly illuminated.
"Need a hand, Leese?"