She did not intend to be back in this town. Eighteen months in the hospital convinced her of two things: she wanted to live and she wanted a clean start somewhere else-anywhere else. But circumstances trumped her psych ward bullet points.

Moving in with her Aunt and Uncle was a compromise: she got away from her toxic parents and brother, plus she could waitress at their crappy diner while she figured her next steps. Tiffany knew she’d need a decent bankroll to get out and she could make good money if she pulled a double shift whenever possible.

Free time, what little she had, was spent doing CBT exercises to calm her anxiety, chased with lots of fierce masturbation. She wasn’t ready to even think about a relationship and she couldn’t wank in the hospital with her roommate eighteen inches away and techs checking their room every half hour. Priorities, she said. I’ve got to make a list and stick to a routine. This was her routine.

She couldn’t talk to a professional anymore. Only one in the whole town and that asshole required insurance which her parents had dropped. No discounts or payment plans, so she was on her own in recovery. Her Aunt was a sympathetic woman, but she could only express that with her brand of respectful hospitality. She wasn’t a talker and seemed equally puzzled and disapproving of Tiffany’s mental health struggles.

Despite all of these difficulties, she was optimistic about her chances for the first time she could remember. She’d been in a black hole for so many years, she just assumed there was no way to break free and potentially find some joy in this world. She was ready.

© 2021 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

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