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Redemption Prologue

Worthless. Stupid. Pathetic. 

If ugly words are thrown at you often enough, they eventually become your truth. It’s a complicated, gradual process carved by years of cruelty. The shift is so diminutive in your everyday life; you don’t see the gulch forming until the damage has already been done. At the first fissure, you’re second-guessing your own thoughts. Then, as the gap widens, you start questioning your values, no matter how deeply rooted they may be. Over time, little pieces of your soul are chipped away day by day until your self-worth is so diminished, it’s living on the opposite end of the canyon. You hardly recognize the person staring back at you in the mirror. The only thing you know for sure is how ashamed you are of what you’ve become. 

 

I know this because I speak from experience. 

 

For almost twelve years, I’d been meticulously conditioned. Molded by a master manipulator. Barely a woman when Sebastian and I met, I was drawn to him. Curious because he was so sophisticated and drastically different from everything I had ever known. I was flattered by his obvious interest. Surely, a man that successful and attractive could’ve had any woman he desired. Yet, he chose me—a simple girl from a small southern town, eleven years his junior and hopelessly in over her head. This worldly man wore expensive suits with an impeccable smile as he made pretty promises to mend my broken heart. Alone in a new city and so very desperate to ease my sorrow, I was the perfect little lamb to a vicious wolf. 

A freshman in college at the time, I was young and naïve enough to believe the fairy tale. To take his name as my own less than nine months after we met. If only I had the strength to admit the truth on our wedding day. That the man I was about to marry would never have my heart because someone else already owned it. Maybe things would be different. Maybe I would’ve walked away and never known what a monster Sebastian would become. Maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t be so battered and bruised. 

Sebastian had broken me down throughout our marriage, time and time again until all I knew was what he wanted me to know. All I was, was a pretty face on the arm of a powerful man. Here in Manhattan, I’m surrounded by millions of people, but I wouldn’t consider any of them a friend. I’ve alienated every person that ever mattered to me because my husband convinced me I needed no one but him. And as the controlling, abusive side of him came to the surface, I maintained that distance because I didn’t want my loved ones to witness my humiliation. 

In hindsight, I know that it was all part of his carefully orchestrated plan. Because of him, I have no confidant. Because of him, I have no Plan B. Because of him, I have no escape. 

I am his prisoner in a Park Avenue penthouse. 

 

The doctors say I’m lucky—this could’ve been much worse, but luck is the last word I’d use in this situation. As I glance at my reflection in the little mirror above the sink, I survey the evidence of Sebastian’s brutality. I’m a living Picasso, all lopsided features and controlled chaos. Half my face is badly disfigured, while the other half barely has a scratch. Reddish-purple marks mottle my skin, significantly darker around my jawline and the bump on my temple. My lips are split and puffy, with dried blood crusted at the corner. My left arm is resting in a sling, cradling my recently dislocated shoulder, and my right eye is nearly swollen shut from the forceful blow of my husband’s angry, drunken fists. I wince as I swallow, carefully prodding the ring of bruises around my neck. 

 

I’m not such a great trophy wife at the moment, am I? 

 

I would laugh at the irony of my condition if I didn’t think the movement would hurt so much. Sebastian’s typically more controlled, worried I couldn’t do my best impression of a Stepford wife during one of his many business functions. Usually, he prefers to work through his rage by slamming his dick inside of me instead of using his fists. I honestly can’t decide which is worse. I can’t remember the last time I desired sex, let alone enjoyed it during the act. It became a tool I used to pacify the monster because, according to him, a wife’s sworn duty is to please her husband whenever and whichever way he sees fit. Lord knows I’ve heard him say it enough times over the years. 

 

I gingerly return to the bed, careful not to tug at the IV in my hand as I lower myself to the lumpy mattress. As I lie here listening to the buzz of the emergency room, I can’t help but think about who I was before moving to New York. A cheerleader with a perennially sunny disposition. The prom queen who stood proudly beside her adoring king. A young woman with her whole life ahead of her, a smile so bright, it could light up the darkest of nights. Someone who dreamed big, laughed freely, loved wholeheartedly, and believed in happily ever afters. 

 

That was who Sebastian Winters married. That was who he destroyed. That girl, Presley James, died many years ago. 

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