Based off real events.
She first met Steven in their sophomore year of high school. They had just been kids back then. Both of them were members of the track team, and ended up bumping into each other and hanging out at one of the meets. Ellie went to a different school then he did, so it would've been so simple to have just kept him as a sort of distant acquaintance, who she only saw from time to time... If only she had known back then what the future had in store for her.
The pair started dating the following year, as juniors. It almost seemed ideal that they didn’t go to the same high school - it meant they got two of everything! Two homecoming dances to spend together, two proms, two different teams to root for during football season. Hell, what did it matter that they couldn’t spend a lousy six minutes of passing time together in between classes when they got more of everything else? And they felt as though they saw so little of each other that whenever they did manage to make time for a date, they made absolutely certain that not a single moment of it went to waste. The couple was never bored, and cherished every second they got to spend together. They rarely even disagreed, so fighting? Out of the question. Everything seemed so perfect.
Ellie first found out about the cheating right before their one year anniversary. It hadn’t just been one night, one moment of weakness, or even just one girl. It had been multiple times, with more than one person; there were three girls, that she knew of. There were probably more. When Steven had confessed it to her, it had sent Ellie’s walls crashing down around her, and she spent the night sobbing in her younger sister’s - Anna, who was only one year in age apart from her - arms, telling her everything. She still thought back to that night all the time, how she had lay there crying, asking repeatedly, “Please, no. Why is this happening? It can’t be true; it just can’t,” as her sister held her helplessly, trying as hard as she could to comfort her.
That’s when she should have ended it, but she didn’t. She’d forgiven him, foolishly, and less than a mere two months had passed between him delivering her the news, and him convincing her to get back together with him. After all, he was sorry. It would never happen again. But most importantly, he loved her. He loved her more than anything in the world.
They finished out the remainder of their senior year together on shaky terms, but had a summer of romance ahead of them to look forward to. Ellie’s parents no longer thought Steven was the sweet, respectable guy they’d first met, and had practically banned her from being as much as friends with him. So she kept their rekindled relationship a secret from everyone.
The closest she got to slipping up with running into her sister’s best friend at the movies. The friend had texted Anna right away saying something along the lines of “you’ll never guess who I just saw!” and Ellie had returned home that night to her cross-armed sister giving her a disapproving stare, as if waiting to hear an explanation. But Ellie didn’t provide one. What did it matter whether or not Anna approved? She had never even been in a real relationship once throughout the entire course of her life. Ellie certainly did not need her permission to be with the person who she wanted to be with. And so she carried on meeting up with Steven in secret, making up excuses about work or hanging out with other friends. And that's how she spent her whole summer. Young, careless, and in love.
Then her big break came. She had received a $20,000 scholarship to her dream college in New York. Ellie had been over the moon about it! Only one male and one female applicant were selected to receiving this award from the incoming freshman class every year. And she’d won. Steven, however, had not been so over the moon about it. He still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his future, so he was spending his first year outside of high school at home, working for his dad. And as insane as his arguments were, he discouraged Ellie left and right, over and over again, telling her their relationship and their future together should be more important to her than some dumb school. Unfortunately, no matter how ridiculous he sounded, when September rolled around, Ellie was not in New York, but instead still at home, attending a community college less than ten minutes away.
At Thanksgiving, Ellie found out that Steven had been cheating on her again, making her feel so small and worthless, she didn’t know what to do. She’d changed around her whole life to try and make this relationship work, had listened to him tell her over and over again that nothing in the world would ever be as important as their future life together, and she’d been betrayed. Again.
The following semester, she was enrolled in and living on campus at Eastern Michigan. This time, she kept her relationship with Steven broken off, but couldn’t bring herself to cut him out of her life entirely. She still considered him a good friend, and eventually was back to texting and calling him every single day, like nothing had ever changed.
When she came home for the summer, she’d made the mistake of having friends. More specifically, having guy friends. It wasn’t anything unusual, even as a kid Ellie had naturally gotten along better with the boys in her class than the girls. This particular group of guys was nothing new either; she had been friends with them for years. But spending her free time with them triggered a side in Steven she’d never seen. It wasn’t just jealousy or desperation, it was worse. Much worse.
The calls started almost right away. Steven would talk on the phone with her for hours, completely broken down and pleading for her to get back together with him. At this point - although the tears and crying were new, and seemed so foreign and strange to hear coming from Steven - Ellie had grown to know better, and refused to get back together with him. But that didn’t put an end to it. The next time he called, he threatened to kill himself, saying that without her, his life had no meaning, and he was better off dead. She begged him stop it, telling him that his life still had value and there were still so many people who loved and cared about him. But he wouldn’t have any of it; he’d become a total stranger to her now. Ellie stayed on the phone with him for hours at a time, trying to get him to see reason. And yet she refused to get back together with him. She’d learned her lesson and could no longer trust him, and had gotten her heart broken by him enough times. She hoped that he would eventually get over her and move on, seeing that life could be so much more than their previous relationship had been, and that's what she told him as well. But it only got worse.
In the fall, she continued her education at Eastern. She had high hopes that the fresh beginning of a new semester would help her forget about her depressing summer break, and tried to put all her energy towards keeping her 4.0 GPA. That was when the visits started. Steven had become obsessed. He memorized her class schedule and would wait for Ellie outside of the rooms. When he’d see her come out into the hallway, he would walk right up to her and start yelling in her face, sometimes going as far as grabbing her by the arms and slapping her repeatedly. Eventually, some teachers or campus security would come along and pull them apart, but Ellie never once pressed charges. She was too scared that if she did, and he came back, he’d only be angrier.
After the shock of seeing him waiting for her in the hallway for the first time, she soon adjusted to the thought that in any given class, while she was trying to focus on the lecture, he might be sitting there, waiting for her, on the other side of the doors. It was far from easy, but she was strong enough to handle that. He was hurting. It was probably her fault anyways, right? But it didn’t end there. No, not even close.
It had been only a few weeks away from the close of the second semester, when Ellie woke up in the middle of the night, struggling for air. She opened her eyes to see Steven above her, on her bed, hands tightly locked around her throat. Her roommate was gone for the night, and he’d broken in and started strangling her. By some miracle of God, a neighbor in an apartment room nearby had heard a commotion and called the cops. They’d come in and pulled Steven off her, as she began to wheeze and gag, blinking the black spots and tears out of her vision, while still trying to wrap her mind around what had just happened. Even when she'd calmed down and come around to her senses, she still refused to press charges.
The worst part was that she held it all in. She finished the school year with a 3.7 and got really down on herself about it. When she came back home, she continued getting messages from Steven. Each one saying that he was going to kill himself, and that if he was going to end it all, he was taking her down with him. He knew where she lived. He knew where she slept every night, next to a huge double window that faced their front yard. She finally caved in and told Anna everything. Her sister couldn’t comprehend it either, saying it sounded like something that you see in the movies, not something that happened in real life - in their life.
Then, just two months ago, a different kind of phone call came through. Steven told Ellie he was tired of fighting, and that this would be the last she heard from him. Once again, Ellie still pleaded that he wouldn’t do anything rash, but he hung up. It didn’t take long for the news to get back to her: Steven had gotten completely drunk, got behind the wheel in the middle of the night, and went flying around a looped, 25 mph exit on the highway, going over 80. He’d gone off road and totaled his car in the woods. By some miracle, he'd survived. The hospital held him for as long as they could, but once he was free to leave, he did so. And he was back to his regular motive, of going after Ellie.
That’s when Anna convinced her to finally tell their parents. It took some calming down, but eventually they helped set up plans for her to stay with family in Canada and Ohio for the summer, as well as various friends all over the city. The goal was to keep her moving, never in one place for too long. She had tried so hard to not let him consume her life, but that’s what it had become now. Everything she did, she did to avoid him. She once again felt so small. So helpless, and powerless.
Which brings us to tonight, back in her childhood bed once again. But no place felt like home, nowhere seemed secure. She thought back to the summer they’d once spent together. It was like they had been in a world of their own; so carefree and in love. Now, she supposed, they still were in their own little world, one where she's always running, but no matter where she goes, or what she's doing, or who she is with, he'll always find her. Eventually.
She tried to think back even further, to a summer before him, but that seemed like the stuff of fairy tales. There was no time before him. Not anymore. He was the figure who lurked into her dreams in the middle of the night, turning them into nightmares. He was the driver in a car following her that seemed to suspiciously switch lanes at the same exact moment she did. He was the stranger walking too closely behind her in a store. He was everywhere, he had won - he had consumed every part of her life. She couldn’t imagine ever truly escaping him.
A tear snuck it’s way out from below her eyelids, as she halfhearted tried once more to feel safe in her own bed.
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