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   *tick, tick, tick, tick* The sound of the rain hitting the window mimicked the second hand of a clock as I laid staring at the ceiling fan. Sure, I'd stopped shaking and sobbing about an hour ago, but I was no where near close to sleep and not confident it'd come tonight.

   I tried to remember a time where I was more embarrassed. Maybe the first night they weened me off the sedatives in the hospital and the nurse had to wipe my ass for me because I was so off balance from being medicated. That was low, but at least that was her job and she didn't make it more awkward than it had to be. It wasn't Jason's job to watch me turn into a basket case. The worst part about it was; He hadn't done anything wrong. Yet I still left him standing there with worry written all over his face and was now worrying if that was the last thing I'd ever see in him.

   I can't do this anymore tonight. Tugging my hair straight upwards on my pillow I growled in frustration. I was picking myself apart. Sleep. Need to sleep. I forced my eyes closed and started counting down to myself. 100, 99, 98, 97,96... It was no use. I'd stepped into a time warp and for the first time in years, I thought of the night of my attack. Not just how I've learned to live past the trauma, but every painful detail.

   Three and a half years ago, there was a short period of time that I would have told you nothing could hurt more than losing the love of my life. He didn't die, but the man I knew was long gone. Clayton and I had been together for nearly four years. I could see myself marrying him at one point because that just seemed natural at the time. Then he started choosing gambling over me. Sure, I didn't exactly hang with the best crowd. I was a factory worker and I lived the rugged blue-collar life to the extreme. It was where I met Clayton, but as we grew older, I always saw us getting away from that life. Eventually reality set in, and the money ran dry.

   It was a stormy Oklahoma night. The kind that might make folks from another state run for cover. I'd spent a half hour confronting him in the car about his debts; About his lack of self-control; About how unhappy it made me to see him like that. Clayton snapped. He drove to the nearest convenient store and grabbed his pistol from the glove box and stormed in through the doors before I could even register what was happening. In a panic I ran from the car to a neighboring gas station and called the police. As much as it hurt me, I wasn't about to go down for his bad behaviors. My parents raised me better and I was too old for that shit already. Clayton was arrested on the spot, and I was left trying to pick up the pieces of what was our life.

   The day I was due to turn over the keys to our apartment, his two brothers had come by to offer what they called "help with my furniture" as a peace offering. Man was I naïve. I should have known better, but I didn't. Before long I was restrained in the back of a moving truck. The exhaustion I felt trying to fight the two larger men off was unlike anything I'd ever felt as the smaller of the two, Harold, moved near.

   "Ever heard the saying snitches get stitches?" Harold's awful breath was right up under my nose as he tugged my shirt from my torso and ran the sharp blade in his hand through it until my skin was exposed.

   I tried to scream, but Terrence behind me closed his bear-claw-like hand over my mouth.

   "You know, because of your big fucking mouth, our lives are never going to be the same." Harold lit a cigarette and drew near with knife in hand. "When I'm through with you, you won't be the same either."

   Never had I heard such haunting words. He started around my navel, cutting a line down to my hip bone that made me squirm in agony and gave the cut a jagged edge.

   "I told my brother not to get involved with a pretty little fag like you. You ain't got no spleen. Or do ya?" Harold kicked me in the rib, instantly breaking two. "Did I find it? No?" He knelt down and swiped the knife over the rising bruise from his boot.  

   It was that moment that I started to lose consciousness. The sight of my blood and the adrenaline induced by fear was too much for my heart to take and I slumped forward.

   "O no, no, no. You stay with me!" Harold screamed, putting his cigarette out under my earlobe.

   For the next...however many minutes I kept fading out and coming back to more pain; More of my blood spilling out as Harold and Terrence laughed and snickered. "You're gonna look like a monster, boy. No one's gonna want you now." That was the last thing I remember hearing as he sliced my nipple and the doors flung open.

   I don't even know who my savior was that day, but someone had thought it suspicious when two large men drug a smaller man into the back of a truck and didn't come back out. The two brothers ran for the hills but were apprehended two days later after prison guards had discovered a written discussion from Claytons visit detailing plans for the whole thing.

   In a week I'd lost my boyfriend, my home, and almost my life. Part of me was angry when I woke up in that hospital bed in more pain than I'd ever felt. A nurse rushed in and pumped painkiller and more sedatives in my IV, and for the brief moments I was awake, explained that I had been attacked and had emergency surgery to repair a hole in my lung, but I was going to make it.

   It took weeks for me to regain my memory. It took months to get past what those memories were doing to me. The scars though, they never fully healed, and never would. Until tonight, I thought I had at least healed inside enough to let them be seen. A wave of tears came back and I didn't have enough energy left to fight them. I rolled over, and for the first time since I was a toddler, cried myself to sleep. 

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