Rated R for adult themes and for language as always lol The Return The light humming of the air conditioner stopped when she reached out and switched it off. A welcome silence came over the small Manhattan apartment as Lilah held an ice pack to her newly bruised eye. Walking into the kitchen, the cold tile beneath her feet caused her to shiver while the little bits of frost on the icepack soothed the stinging sensation that consumed the delicate skin around her right eye. As she leaned her back against the kitchen sink, she folded in her lower lip and immediately the bitter metallic taste of blood filled her mouth. She hissed in pain as she touched her fingertips to her mouth and found blood trickled from the gash on her lower lip. To stop the bleeding, she ran a washcloth under cold water and pressed it against the gash as she made her way to the bedroom. Earlier, her boyfriend Wade had discovered that she hadn't spent last night at home studying. Ignoring her books, Lilah had gone to a local coffee house with a few friends to just catch up and have some laughs. She never knew that one night of freedom could be so painful. Unconvinced of this story, Wade made a point of showing Lilah the consequences of lying and the outcome was her presently injured state. This wasn't the first time that he had pummeled her for some inane reason and she was sure if things were to continue, it wouldn’t be the last. For two people that were supposed to be in love, their relationship was a remarkable cycle of physical and verbal abuse coming directly from Wade. Last month, she had threatened to leave him, so he groveled at her feet telling her that he would change, and without hesitation she took him back. He bent down on his knees in front of Lilah as he rested his head against her flat stomach. She could feel his warm tears streaming down on her bare abdomen as he wept. “I know, I lost control. But please, just don’t leave, please?” He sobbed as he hugged her thighs. “I’ll change, I promise,” he looked up at her pleadingly with his dark brown eyes. She placed a hand on his short black tousled hair as she wiped away a tear with the other. She ignored her instincts and whispered, “Ok… I’ll stay.” And as naive as this may sound, she somewhat believed that his abuse was like a drug addiction, that this was just a relapse and that he’d eventually see what he was doing to her. She quickly pushed that thought out of her head as she began packing her suitcase. Thinking of her family, she realized that this affected more people than just her and Wade. Her mother would call frequently asking her to come home for a visit, but Wade forbids her from doing such a thing, unless he was there to watch over her. Guilt always overcame Lilah as she would lie to her and say that she was too busy with work to visit or that something had come up and that she just didn’t have the time. Her family was always so supportive of her, and it killed her to hide the truth from them. She remembered one of the many times her mother had called her. From the fire escape she watched Wade park his car in front of the apartment building as she held her mobile phone. Suddenly, it began vibrating as he walked towards the entrance of the lobby. The caller ID read, “Mom.” She pressed the talk button and used her false cheery voice that she had perfected ever since she got involved with Wade. “Hi Mom,” she said. “Hey Sweetie,” her mother (Trudy) replied. “How are you?” “I’m good,” she lied. “How’s everyone?” “They’re doing well. I haven’t spoken to you in awhile and I just wanted to know if you were all right. It sounds like you are.” A smile touched her lips. “Yeah, I’m doing just fine. Is that all?” She choked back her tears and fought off the urge to confess to beloved mother her true feelings. “No, everyone misses you, I miss you. Why don’t you come home, for a visit?” She paused for a moment before answering; Wade had just entered that apartment. It pained Lilah to hear the hopefulness in her mother’s voice. “I would, but I’m just so swamped with work, sorry.” “Don’t be, I understand completely.” She heard Wade approaching her from behind. “Well it was nice talking to you. I’ll call you later, bye Mom.” “Bye Honey.” “Who were you talking to?” Wade asked in a firm voice. “My mom,” she replied as she handed him the mobile phone to prove that she wasn’t lying. His eyes searched the phone’s screen and then his gaze met with hers. “We’re going out tonight, get dressed.” “But I have to work.” He glared at her and tightly gripped her arm as he pulled her into the apartment. “Just do it.” “Ok, I have to call in sick,” she said as she yanked her arm away from him. “Good,” he said before entering the bathroom. She rubbed her arm as she walked into the kitchen and took an icepack out of the freezer. How she longed to be home again, surrounded by everyone she loved. Her younger brothers Michael and Kevin, her parents, and her surrogate little sister Aubrey (Kevin’s longtime childhood friend). She kept them in mind as she packed up her brushes, paint palettes and canvas; she had to do an art show in three weeks and needed to have ten paintings done by then. The long midnight locks that cascaded around her face made Lilah realize that she hadn't showered yet that day. Feeling grubby, she quickly changed out of her red tank top and matching pajama pants and went to take a long, hot shower. As the aroma of her melon scented body wash reached her nose, she sighed in pure ecstasy as steam from the hot water covered the bathroom mirror. She changed into a fresh pair of khakis with a white scoop neck t-shirt that hugged her slender body and without looking back, she fled the apartment. At the age of twenty-three, Lilah felt like a lost child running to her mother for guidance and protection from a horrible monster, a monster that she loved and called her boyfriend.