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Anacortes, WA

December 6th, 2018

It was her day off thankfully, and Clinton had left the apartment not long after he’d finished wailing on her. She’d still been conscious by the time he was done, but a big part of her had wished she hadn’t been. He’d only hit her once in the face, but that didn’t mean the rest of them hadn’t hurt. Clinton was smart enough to hit her where it wouldn’t show most times, and the bruise he’d left on her jaw was pretty easy to cover up with makeup, at least for as long as she needed it.

This was the longest walk she’d made in some time, even if it was just to the corner gas station a short ways from her home. Linus was back at the apartment under strict orders not to leave, or to answer the door unless it was her. She’d left it locked and told him how to arm the code, so she felt somewhat safe about leaving him alone at that moment. But she knew Clinton too well, he’d be back and he’d be ready to make it up to her somehow, either through a long and impassioned speech or by taking her to the bedroom and showing her how tender he could really be.

The thought of that just repulsed her now, and to be honest she wasn’t too resigned to what she was about to do. But before she knew it Maple was stomping her feet on the mat outside the convenience store to rid them of any clinging snow and ice particles. Thankfully as she raised her eyes she could see that Todd was there, and he wasn’t too busy at the moment, or it didn’t seem that way. She knew the guy at the register well enough to know that his name was Ernie, but that was about it. As Todd looked up and saw her Maple could see in his eyes that he was expecting trouble.

She could admit that look was her fault, but only to herself for now.

“I saw Clinton again last night, but he just called me a fag and kept walking,” Todd said, holding up both hands in surrender.

Maple sighed, wincing as the ache in her jaw flared just a bit. Todd didn’t notice this as he’d gone back to checking the shelves or whatever else he was doing. What she didn’t notice was how close he was getting until he was only a few paces away. She almost recoiled, but quelled that instinct quickly as she could see that he was holding something between the thumb and index finger of his right hand.

It was her ring.

“Where did you get that?” she asked, her voice sounding a bit too forceful in that moment. Todd didn’t seem to mind, shrugging as he answered her.

“It was buried in the snow out there. Linus said Clinton took it and dropped it out of his pocket somehow. That’s why he was looking around outside when I found him.”

Right at that moment it was all Maple could do not to cry, but as she calmly accepted the ring from Todd she inhaled, sucking up more than just a lungful of air as she felt her pride diminish just a bit upon looking at Todd. He was already turning to go back to work when she reached out, stopping him gently as he looked back at her. Now he saw the difference in her eyes, and even noticed the faint bruising on her jaw. Before he could say anything though she stopped him by saying, “Is there somewhere we could talk?”

(to be concluded)

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