Ada: Episode 8

“I enjoyed tonight.” Shane said as he stood in the foyer just inside the door to her townhome. They had spent the evening together eating Chinese take-out and watching Titanic, one of Ada’s all-time favorite movies.

Ada smiled. “I enjoyed it, too. This was very nice.” She struggled to contain her giddiness as Shane leaned in to kiss her. His lips were warm but rough and she momentarily lost herself in the kiss. He pulled her into him and she could feel the solid muscles of his arms around her, this big hands on her back. Desire pulsed through her amplifying her heart beat, but she knew that she had to take it slow.

He pulled away but kept his arms wrapped around her shoulders. He looked into her eyes and smiled. The warmth of his smile and his piercing blue eyes almost melted her resolve.

“Are you sure I can’t stay?” he asked. Ada hesitated for just a moment, and he sensed the possibility, an opening. “Just tonight. To see how it goes.”

Ada wavered but then snapped into the present. The words wouldn’t come out of her mouth and then: “Let’s…let’s take it slow…okay.”

Disappointment clearly registered on his face, and Ada thought she could see darts fly from his eyes, but he mustered a smile. He looked away for the briefest moment as if to gather himself, to stem the tide of annoyance. “Okay. Whatever you want. I want you to be comfortable.”

She subconsciously sighed in relief although his words and his visible emotions, however slight, were in conflict. “Thank you,” she said before she stepped into him and kissed him softly on the lips again.

The kiss seemed to relax him, but Ada noticed a tenseness in his body. It had become more rigid than it had been when he first leaned in to kiss her. She tried to process the signal in her mind, but his swoon-inducing attention distracted her.

“I’ll meet you for lunch tomorrow?”

“Yes. At the Cantina in downtown.”

“I can’t wait.”

Ada smiled. She loved his enthusiasm. “Me neither.”

“Good night.”

“Good night.”

Unspoken words hung in the air between them before Shane turned and opened the door. Ada watched him walk away and disappear into the haze of the night before she closed and locked her front door.

She let out a long audible breath and smiled to herself. The date, their first since went back to him, had gone remarkably well. He was, once again, the prince charming she had met over a year ago. He listened to her and was genuinely interested in how her day had gone and what she had to say. Gone was the bravado about his latest work conquest and the stern rebuke for things he had no interest in. She thought he had truly learned his lesson in their separation.

Despite his about face, she was glad she had decided to move back into her townhouse. She needed her own space to sort through her feelings and ensure that this was the right relationship for her. Living with him was too much pressure. She had been lucky that she had not sold her townhome as Shane had advised when she had moved in with him.

She walked into her living room, which was sparsely lit by the lone lamp on the end table. Her reflection in the windows that looked out onto her small backyard reminded her to lower the blinds, which she did, but she left them partially open so that the morning light would flood her living room. She loved how bright it was in the morning. The glow made her feel alive, and she longed for that comforting moment. She needed it.

She sat down on her couch and lay back on a soft pillow before she remembered that she had promised to call Jenny after her date ended. She grabbed her cell phone from the coffee table and danced her thumb across the screen to select Jenny’s number. The phone rang once or twice before Jenny answered.

“Hi Jen!” Ada said. Her voice was bubbly yet confident.

“How’d it go?”

“Wonderful. He was an absolute prince.”

“Really?”

“Don’t be so skeptical. He was.”

Jenny sighed as if she were irritated at the prospect of being wrong, but her voice conveyed that she doubted that was the case.

“Ada, I want you to be happy. I really do, but I just don’t believe he’s the guy. I don’t care what he does on one date on one night. Eventually, he’s going to relapse to who he really is.”

Ada shook her head with the phone still on her ear. “Jen, you have to give him a chance. I think he has truly realized that he has a problem and that he needs help. We even talked about seeing a counselor tonight.”

“He agreed to it?”

“No, we talked about it as one of the options to get us back on track.”

Jenny retained her position of disbelief but humored her friend as she recounted the details of the date. She had run out of advice to give to Ada. She had advised against getting back with Shane, and Ada had done it anyway. At least Ada moved back to her place rather than to Shane’s. That was one victory she could claim in this tug-of-war with her friend.

“What do you think?” Ada asked. Expectation poured from her voice.

“I think you should be very careful.”

Ada whined into the phone.

“I’m sorry, Ada, but I’m still very worried. This one night doesn’t change everything. It can’t. Give it time. Please.”

“I will. It’s not like I’m moving back in with him anytime soon.”

“Did he say anything about that?”

“He started to, but I put the kibosh on it quickly. He knows I’m staying here for the foreseeable future.”

“Good.”

Jenny seemed placated and they moved on to other topics of interest between them. Before Ada knew it almost an hour had passed. She frequently lost herself in conversations with her best friend.

“Well, I should get going.”

“Thanks for calling. I’m glad it went well.”

“Thanks, Jen. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

Ada clicked off her cell phone and walked over to her kitchen counter to put it on its charger. Suddenly, some motion in her peripheral vision distracted her. She peered through the blinds into her backyard, but there was nothing to be seen. She opened the blinds wider to get a better view, but the reflected light from the small lamp obscured a clear view of the yard.

Her hands trembled a little as her eyes had certainly seen some movement just a moment ago. The hairs on her neck stood on end and her mouth suddenly went dry. She turned off the lamp to get a full view of her yard in the darkness. She swallowed hard as she scanned the tiny lot. Nothing.

A sudden knock at the front door startled her so much that she struck the lamp and pushed it off the table. The bulb crashed into the floor and shattered into a thousand pieces. She screamed. Another knock. This one was harder and more urgent.

On shaky legs, Ada walked, really wobbled, to her front door and squinted into the peep hole. Shane stood outside her door his brows arched in concern. Or was it anger? Ada struggled to unlatch the chain and flip open the deadbolt.

“Shane? What are you doing here? You scared me.”

“What were you doing?”

“What do you mean?”

“I heard you scream.”

“Your knock caught me off guard. I didn’t expect anyone here at this time of night.”

“What did you do after I left?”

“What?”

“After I left an hour ago. What did you do?”

“Nothing. I’ve been here the whole time.” Ada was puzzled by his question. He seemed bothered, irate even.

“So you did nothing? No TV? No phone calls?”

Ada’s defenses went up. She felt like she was being interrogated, and for a moment she glimpsed the past when Shane had been so controlling that she felt like she couldn’t breathe. She resented that feeling.

“I was just relaxing on the couch reading a book before bed, Shane, if you must know. Why are you doing this?” She was unfazed by her own lie, but she refused to acquiesce to Shane’s overbearing nature.

“If this is going to work, I have to trust you. This isn’t just about me. It’s about us.”

“I know that.”

Shane looked at her intently as if he were waiting on her to confess something. “I’ll keep working at this, Ada, but I have to trust you.”

“Okay.” Ada looked frightened, but she tried to repose herself in a confident way as she stood before him.

Finally, his stare relented and his face softened just a little bit. “Good night, Ada.”

“Good night.”

Ada quickly shut and locked the door in the dimly lit hallway. She saw the lamp leaning into the floor and rushed back to clean it up, but before she grabbed the dust pan and broom from her pantry, she closed all of the blinds tightly peering into the backyard ever so briefly as she did so.

Ada: Episode 7

Ada looked at her phone and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. Before she could even click the “ignore” button, Jenny waved her hand over the phone and covered the screen. “Don’t answer it,” she said.

“I’m not.”

“You looked like you wanted to.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“You did. You should change your number.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Why not?”

“Everyone I know has that number. It’s been my number since college.”

“You can always email everyone you want to have the number and let them know you changed it.”

“No.” Ada shook her head as if Jenny were her mom asking her to eat her least favorite vegetable. Ada looked wistful, and for a moment Jenny felt bad for chastising her best friend.

“Ada, I’m sorry. I just don’t want to see you get hurt again.” Jenny looked up at the scar on Ada’s forehead. It had healed after several weeks, but a subtle line reminded her of the violence her friend had experienced. “He’s crazy, and he’ll never change. You should have gone to the police.”

Ada shook her head fervently. “No. We were drunk and things just got out of control. It was my fault for antagonizing him…”

“It was never ‘your fault,’ Ada! Why would you even think that? Why are you apologizing for that asshole?” Jenny’s anger flushed her face. Her eyes darted at Ada as if she too wanted to strike her.

Ada moved her lips as if to say something, but no words came out. Her eyes wavered and she withdrew into the overwhelming emotion. Tears began to stream down her cheeks. “I don’t know…,” she choked on her tears and her voice cracked as she inhaled.

Jenny instantly felt bad for raising her voice with Ada. She sighed as if comforting a small child and stepped into to hug Ada as a few tears began to trickle down her cheeks. Jenny remained quiet letting her friend get it out.

It had been like this for the past two weeks since Ada had finally garnered the courage to move out of Shane’s house. She still had her townhome in the city, but she had moved in with Jenny for the time being. She feared being alone at the moment, but she mostly needed Jenny’s companionship and understanding. Despite all of the horrible things Shane had done to her, leaving him was difficult. His pleas and promises to change didn’t make it any easier. She really wanted to believe him.

“I don’t know,” Ada started, “I just feel like that he was my last chance at love. I know that sounds weird, but there were a lot of good things about him.”

“Why would this be your last chance? You’re thirty, not sixty. I guess I don’t see the good things. He treated you like shit. Yeah, he has money and you lived like a queen, but is it worth your dignity?”

“It was more than money, Jenny. He was passionate and he had a vulnerable side.”

“He was a drunk abuser and that trumps everything else.”

“You don’t understand.”

“You’re right. I don’t. This guy wanted to control you completely. When you didn’t do what he told you, he beat the shit out of you and almost killed you. I could never understand why you’d even consider taking him back no matter what he promised you.”

Ada became visibly frustrated with her friend. She flicked the screen on her phone and pulled up her voicemail. “Listen to the voicemail he left me a couple of days ago,” she said holding the phone out to Jenny.

“No, I don’t need to. I bet I can guess what he said.”

“No, you can’t. You don’t really know him.”

Jenny sighed. “I’ll bet the gist of his message is that he loves you, he’s sorry, and that he’ll never do it again. He probably threw in some sob story about his upbringing and how he can’t control his emotions about you.”

Ada looked defiant. “He had a good upbringing.”

Jenny smirked. She stared at her friend who still held the phone out to her. “I’m not listening to that damn message.”

“I think he’s learned his lesson.”

“Seriously? How many times has he hit you other than the incident at the hotel?”

“That was the only time things got out of control. Every other time we were both fighting very physically. I hit him, too.”

“He outweighs you by at least a hundred pounds. I don’t think he needs to hit you to defend himself.”

“That’s not the point. We’re both passionate people.”

Jenny’s frustration with her friend grew. She could feel the momentum shifting toward forgiveness, forgetting, and she wanted to scream at Ada with all her might to make her realize the error of her ways. She had comforted Ada every day since she had moved in with her and had actively worked to build her confidence to walk away from that monster, and now, she seemed to be sliding into old habits, old ways of thinking.

“Ada, please, listen to yourself. Think about what you’re saying.”

“I am thinking.”

“No, you’re not. You’re putting yourself in grave danger.”

“He really loves me. I’m all he thinks about. He said he’s not the same without me, and that he regrets the day he struck me. He’s very sorry. He says I’ve taught him a valuable lesson and that he’ll make it up to me.” Ada waved the phone before her as if to tease Jenny with the proof in her hand.

“You’ve talked to him?”

“No, that’s what he says in this message.” Ada gestured with the phone toward Jenny, but Jenny waved it off again.

“I don’t think you can believe what he says.”

“I should call him and give him the chance to talk to me.”

“No. You’ll regret it.”

“How do you know that? You haven’t heard how remorseful he sounds in this message. It sounds like he’s been crying.”

“Good! That asshole needs to cry a whole lot of tears to make amends to you. Even then I don’t think it’s enough.”

“I need to give him a chance.”

“No, you don’t,” Jenny retorted. Her frustration boiled over. “Why did you move in with me? Why did you drag me into this if all you’re going to do is go running back to him because he leaves you some weepy message on your phone? Why, Ada?”

Ada peered at Jenny with a sulky expression and absently set her phone on her thigh. She knotted her hands together. “I just thought we needed some time apart to make it clear how we felt about each other.” Her voice was shaky and fraught with emotion.

“So this was some kind of love experiment?” Jenny was on a roll and barely acknowledged her friend’s fragile state. “The guy almost kills you and you want some time apart to determine how you feel about each other. This makes absolutely no sense, Ada. None whatsoever.”

Jenny looked at her with disgust. She wore her annoyance on her face. Her voice seethed with it. She stood up from the table next to Ada.

“Ada, you know I love you. I will do anything to help you, but I’m not going to sit by and let you run back to Shane like some lost puppy. I’m afraid that if you go back to him, you wont make it out again. He’s going to kill you next time.”

“Don’t be melodramatic, Jenny. Shane doesn’t have it in him to kill someone. He’s not some mercenary or thug.”

Jenny started to say something but clamped her mouth shut. She leaned down and hugged Ada. “I’ve said my part, Ada. That’s all I can say.”

She pulled away from Ada and walked away down the hall toward her bedroom. Ada watched her leave, and after she disappeared behind the door of her bedroom, Ada grabbed the phone resting on her thigh and clutched it in her left hand. She stared at the screen for a moment and flicked it open with her thumb. The voicemail hung at the top of her screen. She flipped to the recent calls screen and stared at the list of numbers. All of them were from Shane.

Her finger hovered for a moment over his most recent call. She looked down the hall for any signs of Jenny. Then, she pressed the number. She held the phone to her ear and listened to the rings until Shane answered.

Ada: Episode 6

Ada leaned into the locked bathroom door as if her slight body weight would reinforce the two inches of solid wood that stood between her and Shane. He pounded on the door relentlessly thumping the thick door like a jackhammer on the sidewalk down below their hotel room.

“Open the fucking door, Ada!” he screamed after he had beaten on the door for what seemed like minutes. He held his fist in the other hand to ease the pain the wood had caused.

“Not until you calm down!” she yelled through tears and tremors that rocked her rigid frame. She wiped the tears from her reddened face with the back of her free hand and fingered the screen of her cell phone with the other frantically searching for Jenny’s number.

In that instant, she regretted cutting Jenny out of her life. She scrolled through the history on her phone and had scrolled two months back before she found Jenny’s number. It was a Sunday back in May the last time she had talked to Jenny. Actually, Jenny had called her wondering why she hadn’t called or dropped by to see her. Ada had made an excuse about being busy at work and traveling with Shane to dismiss her concerns. She had promised to get back in touch with Jenny once her life settled down a bit, but she hadn’t called her again. She couldn’t.

She had abided by Shane’s wishes if only to keep the peace between them. She had to give their relationship a chance. She was sure Jenny would understand, just as she would had their roles been reversed, but now, she needed Jenny more than ever.

“Ada, if you don’t open that door, I’m going to kick the fucking thing in and when I get in there, you’ll regret it! I fucking promise you that! Now, open the goddamn door!”

Ada’s trembling thumb hovered over Jenny’s number for the briefest of moments before she pressed it so hard she thought her phone’s screen would cave. She put the phone to her ear and tried to hold it steady so that she could hear, but the beating on the door and her shaky hand made it difficult. The phone rang once and twice. Ada’s spirit collapsed when it rang a third and fourth time before Jenny’s voicemail came on.

She cried a little harder when she heard Jenny’s voice. She should have listened to her best friend. She should have left Shane when she had the chance. Why did she let this crazy man stay in her life?

She clicked the screen to end the call and the phone slipped from her hand hitting the tile floor with a sickening crack that reverberated at her feet. She could barely see the silvery rectangle through the tears that poured from her eyes, but as she bent down to retrieve it, her worst fears were confirmed. The screen had fractured in a hundred places. She poked it to see if it responded to touch, but it just blinked at her, unresponsive.

Ada froze in that short moment before Shane burst through the door as if she knew what was going to happen and was trying to steel herself for it. She stood up and faced the door just as it cracked open from the force of a violent kick revealing an enraged madman who intended to do her harm. He closed the gap between them at a frightening pace and clamped her shoulders tightly in his big hands. His grip sent shockwaves of pain through her arms. Tears muddled her vision, but her body flagged as if slackening her muscles would help her absorb the blows.

“I told you to open the goddamn door! You will do as I tell you! Do you understand?” Spittle flew from his mouth. His eyes were dark and ominous as his lips flared around his scissor-like teeth. He bore no resemblance to the handsome man she had fallen for that night they first met. First appearances are rarely true deep-down and that irony flailed her at that very moment.

Ada wavered. Shane’s grip was the only thing that kept her upright. She was too stunned to respond, but she did wonder how her little comment had gotten so out of control.

Shane took her lack of response to be another act of defiance. He whipsawed his right arm back and brought it forward with a fierce speed and force that knocked Ada off her feet and into the toilet behind her. Her head clunked on the shiny porcelain and bright red blood splattered on its white surface. Her head lingered on the toilet for just a moment before her body fell haplessly to the floor next to it.

Shane huffed in anger as he stared at her motionless on the floor. He didn’t seem the least concerned for her, but he shook his hand at it ached from the impact with her jaw.

“Stupid bitch!” He shook his hand once or twice to ward off the pain and then walked out of the bathroom. He flung himself on the bed and resumed watching TV.

He waited for her to get up, but she showed no sign of movement. “Get up! You’re fine! Stop being a baby!” He muted the TV after a moment and peered into the bathroom from the bed. “Ada!”

The damage to the bathroom door distracted him, and he wondered how he’d explain it to the hotel. He’d have to pay extra to keep it quiet, and that irritated him more. He’d lost his temper more than once in expensive hotels and it had always cost him dearly.

After a moment of further silence, his chest no longer heaved and his heart didn’t feel like it was trying to escape from his rib cage. More minutes passed and his anger evaporated. The realization of what he’d done hit him, not in a sense of concern but of regret for letting Ada rile him as she had done. The woman just wouldn’t learn.

Without a word, he stomped into the bathroom to check on her. “Ada,” he said more kindly. Still no response. He put his finger on her neck and then touched her back with his palm. She had a pulse and was breathing. Even though he was still irritated, he felt relieved. He rolled her over on her back and her head thumped on the floor. He flinched. A small pool of blood had formed on the floor and her jaw seemed displaced. He could see the bruise forming, and her eyes had heavy bags under them. This fight wasn’t going to be easy to disguise like the others they’d had. These marks were obvious to even the most oblivious observers.

Shane tried to bring Ada to, but she didn’t respond. Finally, he bent down and picked her up and carried her to their bed. He propped her up on some pillows and went back to the bathroom to get a warm, wet towel to address the bleeding. As he stepped onto the tile floor, he kicked something with his foot, and it spun across the floor coming to a stop at the base of the sink. He bent down to retrieve the slippery object and realized it was Ada’s phone. He flipped it over and glanced at the cracked screen. When he saw Jenny’s number beneath the spider web of glass, he became angry again and slammed the phone into the wastebasket near the sink. The glass shattered and the aluminum ricocheted in the bin mocking his anger.

He grabbed a wash cloth from the edge of the sink and crumpled it in his fist as he held it under the warming water. He’d talk to her about it later, but now, he had to address her injury. She remained unconscious when he returned to her side. He shook his head and sat down next to her with the wash cloth in hand. He roughly washed the gash on her forehead and mumbled to himself with an anger that still seethed beneath his new-found concern. The celebration of a year since they had met had not gone well.

Ada: Episode 5

The three of them sat around the modular couch that filled most of Shane’s living room. Jenny sat close to Ada despite the vast sitting space that surrounded them, while Shane spread himself out in the center of the soft leather cushions. A large-screen TV recessed into the only solid wall around them. The rest of the walls were clear, floor-to-ceiling glass that overlooked the city below. Shane’s house was amazing. It clung to the top of the hill above the city like some cartoonish abode barely attached to the earth that supported it. The winding road leading to the gates of his estate, and anyone who saw it would call it an estate, not just a home, offered breath-taking views of the city on a clear day even when Shane revved the engine of his car and gunned it through each hair-pin turn.

When they had first met, Shane had bragged endlessly about the private equity work he did, but Ada neither understood it nor really listened. Men she met in bars routinely boasted about their work to her, but she’d grown immune to it. She thought it was just their way of trying to entice her interest in them. Little did they know that the money or careers seldom made them attractive in her eyes. Not that she was prone to ignore it. It just wasn’t a primary factor for her.

The first time Shane took her to his house she spent half the time with her mouth agape. From the long private drive up the side of the hill above the city to the expansive steppe gardens that flowed down the hill from his patio, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It was like an episode of Cribs had sprung to life around her. Every room seemed as big as her tiny townhome in the city with its fenced, postage-stamp-sized backyard. She loved her townhome and felt immense pride in the fact that she’d bought it herself, but it felt so small and insignificant in the shadow of Shane’s hillside mansion.

Likewise, Jenny, who is effusive on a bad day, was rendered speechless as Ada gave her a tour of her new home. Ada had only lived there for a couple of weeks and she still got turned around in the cavernous and numerous hallways, but she managed to give Jenny a whirlwind tour that ended with them sitting on the couch near Shane praising his home with superlatives as they sipped expensive wine from crystal glasses. He pretended to be engrossed in the TV, but he silently listened to Ada’s praises and almost burst with pride as he was prone to do.

In a moment of giddiness, Shane proposed a toast to “our lives together” as he looked into Ada’s eyes. She smiled and Jenny giggled as the glasses clinked. All three of them leaned back into the leather cushions sipping their drinks. The voluptuous red wine relieved them of any tension they felt. Ada had been worried about how Jenny would handle meeting Shane so up close and personal. She had argued against moving in with him and had questioned the very basis of their relationship. Not that Shane had known any of this, but Ada was afraid that he could sense the disdain that Jenny held for him. She looked for any outward signs from Jenny as they all talked, but she could see none, and Shane seemed his outwardly, gregarious self, a persona he commonly assumed in the presence of guests or clients.

For a brief moment, Jenny lapsed into memories of Shane’s many faces including the one she had seen only emerge sporadically, the angry, controlling man who was too quick to impose upon her physically. She visibly flinched in her repose on the couch. She looked at Shane and then Jenny to see if either noticed. Neither did. Shane had been on his best behavior since she had agreed to move in with him. She was satisfied that he had simply lost control of his emotions earlier. Now, if she could just get Jenny to believe it.

She hadn’t seen much of Jenny in the past two weeks. Part of it was Jenny’s dissatisfaction with her decision to move in with Shane. She had protested heartily, and when she had lost the argument on grounds purely emotional, she had disappeared into the crowd around Ada’s life. It wasn’t that she refused to talk to Ada. She simply didn’t make the effort that she normally made, and since Ada was absorbed in preparations for her move, the two had barely spoken by the time they sat next to each other on the long couch in Shane’s spacious living room.

Shane excused himself to retrieve another bottle of wine from his wine cellar in the basement. Jenny moved closer to Ada on the couch as she watched him leave.

“How has it been living here with him?” she asked coyly.

“Great! I love it!”

“Seriously. Has he shown any signs of aggression?”

“Jenny, he just lost his temper. He knows he was wrong. He’s been nothing but the kindest man to me since I moved in.”

“You haven’t fought once?” Jenny seemed doubtful.

“Not once.” Ada shook her head affirmatively.

“A leopard doesn’t change his spots, Ada.”

“Spare me the clichés. Why can’t you just be happy for me?”

Before Jenny could answer, Shane popped back into the room with a couple of fresh wine bottles. She gave Ada a hurt look but said nothing. She turned away to eye the interloper who walked behind the bar on the edge of the living room.

“What are you ladies talking about?” Shane asked. He seemed in good humor.

“Just catching up,” Ada responded quickly. He detected a slight squeak to her voice, but he didn’t mention it. Instead, he popped the cork on an expensive red wine that he had been holding for just the right moment. The tannins rushed to his nostrils and he breathed them in. He refilled his glass, took the bottle to the couch, and refilled the others’ as well.

The afternoon passed quickly. The blur of conversation became ever more incorrigible with each sip of wine. By the time Jenny stood up to meet the Uber that had just arrived at the gate, she danced like a weak sapling in a slight wind. She leaned in to kiss Ada goodbye and barely landed the kiss on her cheek. Ada laughed and steadied Jenny with her hand.

Shane bid Jenny farewell without moving from his spot on the couch. He didn’t seem drunk in the very least, but he was too comfortable to move for Ada’s awkward friend. Ada followed Jenny to the door to wait for the car to pull up at the top of the drive. At first they said nothing to each other, and then Jenny wavered. She put her arm around Ada to steady herself. Ada giggled.

“How many glasses did you have?” Ada asked.

“Just a couple.”

“Are you going to be okay?”

“Oh…I’m fine. I’m just a little woozy. I think I need a nap.”

Ada giggled again. The car rounded the loop in the drive and stopped at the bottom of the steps near the front porch. Ada helped Jenny maneuver the steps and get in the car.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Ada asked again.

Jenny smiled as she plunked down into the back seat somewhat wobbly. “I’m fine…,” she said as she looked up to Ada, “…remember what I said.”

“What?”

“About the leopard.”

Ada sighed but retained the smile on her face. “You’re drunk, Jenny. Go home and get some rest.” Ada leaned down and hugged her friend before she shut the door and watched the car pull away down the winding drive. She steadied herself and walked back into the house.

Shane still sat in the same spot she had left him. Without a word, she lay down near where she and Jenny had just spent most of the afternoon. She closed her eyes for a moment before Shane broke the silence.

“I don’t like your friend.”

Ada opened her eyes and frowned to the ceiling. “Jenny?”

“Who else?”

“Why?”

“Because she’s a nosy, know-it-all.”

“How can you possibly make that judgment? You barely know her.”

“I’m a great judge of character. That’s how I make my living.”

Ada rolled her head to the side to look directly at Shane. He looked angry, discontent, and his disposition worried her. She’d seen that look before. She started to argue but thought better of it. They were both under the influence of the wine. She decided to remain silent and hope that once the wine wore off he’d come to his senses, but the implicit threat electrified the air between them. She returned her gaze to the ceiling and breathed in heavily.

“I don’t want you hanging out with her anymore.”

“Why?”

“She’ll try to come between us. She’s jealous of how happy you are. I could see it her eyes. I know women like her. They’re never happy when their friends are happy.”

“Jenny’s not like that.”

“You’re blind to her.”

A silence hung between them. Ada peered through the gauze of the wine. Shane seemed to mumble something else, but she couldn’t understand it. She felt confused.

“Did you hear me?” Shane asked impatiently.

“What?” Ada responded somewhat irritated by her inability to comprehend her surroundings. The wine made her dizzy.

She heard Shane get up from the couch. She blinked and he was there in front of her standing seemingly high above her looking down at her with an ugly scowl on his face.

“I forbid you from seeing her again. Do you understand me?”

In that moment it seemed inconceivable that Ada had heard him correctly, but the look on his face and his stance above her frightened her. The wine had sapped all her cognitive abilities. She just wanted to sleep and make that angry version of him go away.

“Okay,” she whimpered. She shut her eyes and turned away from him. He stood there for a few seconds, fists clinched, and waited for further argument. He stared at her disdainfully. Once he was satisfied that she understood him, he placed his wine glass on the bar and left the room.

Ada fell asleep unsure if she had dreamed the encounter or if it had actually happened. Her mind struggled to discern the difference. She hoped sleep would make it all better.