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The only woman I deserved was in prison. Gone.
I was alone and trying to make something of myself.
The worst part about Chelsea being in jail was that I should’ve been in there too. Guilt ate at me.
Fifty pushups weren’t going to be enough today.
Chelsea was convicted of arson, vandalism, theft, and intent to do bodily harm. All the things I’d helped her do, and I ran hard and fast to get away – from Chelsea, the memories, the trap of being around familiar things
Every day I ran, even leg day. Even on rest day. I lifted six days out of the week and rested my muscles one day, but I used running for my punishment. The pain and exhaustion helped me sleep.
Because I needed to sleep. Chelsea ruled my nightmares with an iron fist. Even with hundreds of miles between us, I couldn’t escape the monsters in my mind.
In my heart.
I loved her. So hard. How could this be possible? How could I abandon her like that? How could she hurt me the ways that she did?
Twenty-five pull-ups would help burn her from my flesh.
For a little while anyway.
Grunting, I pushed harder with my chest dumbbell flies. Sweat rolled off my skin like butter melting in a pan. Too bad memories and thoughts of Chelsea didn’t burn away. I could handle that loss.
Drugs weren’t an option because I did those with Chelsea. I couldn’t face family or friends drugged up or depressed. They were all so happy I was away from Chelsea.
So I moved. Thank goodness for Mom and Dad backing me financially and helping me buy a business.
I found solace in working out. Lifting weights and pushing myself past the breaking point.
The weights were the craziest, yet most masculine thing I could come up with after Chelsea relegated me to less than a man, less than masculine. She took away my sense of self.
Bench pressing more than my weight, my muscles straining, my soul aching, was a sure-fire way to eradicate her from my life.
Chelsea had torn me, ripped apart my strengths and left me bare, vulnerable. I needed my control back over something, anything. Lifting weights and running were things I could control.
Maybe someday, I’d learn to love myself again.
The sweat off my skin wasn’t because of anger or fear, but simply because I worked my muscles to the breaking point.
That wasn’t all. The sweat was part fear. Fear that Chelsea would find me.
If I could push myself hard enough, she disappeared from my mind. Working out burned her away for a few minutes.
And I sought those moments every day.
Every. Damn. Day.
“Are you going to use the bar?” The girl’s soft red hair had highlights of blonde strewn throughout. Her friendly smile didn’t threaten me or offer anything as she framed the question with absolute politeness. She’d been there before, in fact, she’d become a regular a few weeks back. I’d noticed her, but had kept my distance.
No reason to spread my pain around like chalk dust in the air.
I wiped at my forehead with the small towel I’d packed in my gym bag. My wraps covered my scars more than protected me from calluses and weak wrists. Huffing shallowly after my strenuous squatting set, I shook my head. “No, I’m done. Need help removing the plates?” My lifts weren’t light. I pushed until I could barely move afterward. Plus, I really encouraged customer service in the gym, which was easier to teach, if I set the example.
She shook her head, the length of her ponytail brushing across the collar of her workout tank. “No, I’m good, thanks.” She flashed that smile again, sweet with a hint of sass.
But it’d only been six months since my escape from life with Chelsea. I wasn’t interested. Couldn’t be bothered with the extra pain another relationship promised.
Yet… I wouldn’t lie, something about her promised to be fresh.
Chelsea had never been fresh. She’d always been bitchy. And so damn beautiful with her green eyes and dark as sin hair.
Looking away from the blue eyes of the girl in front of me, I didn’t carry the conversation further, just turned my attention back to my bag.
I’d been at the weights all morning. I’d have to go to my apartment sooner or later.
Work wouldn’t do itself. Unfortunately.
The Chelsea-free moment had been brief, hard to hold onto.
Ripping the half-gloves off my hands, I thrust their damp black material into the side pocket of my dark blue bag.
The strawberry-blonde may or may not have said something as I walked away.
But I didn’t care.
Chelsea’s eyes haunted me.
I couldn’t get away.