Two thousand ninety days since the nightmare began

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Two thousand ninety days since the nightmare began.

Nine hundred and sixty-five days since Connie Elizabeth came home, which was
a year ago to her, she thought. It was a Monday, and it was raining again.

“You sure have good timing,” her mother said. “I don’t think they care if it
turns into hail.”

“I don’t think it means anything,” Connie said. “Some day, this will be over.”

“You know how your daddy feels about these things.”

“We need to just talk about this over the weekend.”

“He’ll say we need to talk again later.”

“I know.”

“What are you gonna do?”

“Nothing. I’m gonna be fine.”

“You were fine two weeks ago.”

“I just know,” Connie said. When did the numbers in her head matter?

“I don’t know what I’m gonna do.” Her mother picked up her books and went into
the bathroom. Connie watched her mother make herself some lunch in the
kitchen.

“I don’t know,” her mother said. “I don’t know what to think.”

And then she picked up her book and said, “I used to hate this stupid thing.
Now I like it.”

And Connie saw her mother’s books begin to fly across the room like they were
wings and Connie looked at her daughter and smiled. For a second everything
made sense.

Her mother came back out and said, “He’s gonna come after me next.”

“I know. He’s gonna hate me.”

“I don’t know why. I just know.”

“I know.”

They sat at the dining table and ate their meal in silence.

“I’ll be fine,” Connie said. “I’m never going to have a nightmare.”

“Well, you won’t have any more nightmares if you keep drinking this coffee
and listening to that music.”

“I know.”

“So don’t put yourself out.”

“I know. I know.”

They ate their meal, and then she left the house. She walked out to the parking
lot and sat in her car, with the windows rolled up and the music pouring from
the speakers and the rain coming down outside. She felt something like a
cloak of forgetfulness over her body, like she was no longer the girl she used
to be but someone else. She felt safe, and she drank coffee, and she listened
to music.

The music played and the rain pounded on the windows, and Connie realized
she’d heard it all before. She didn’t know what she was doing in the parking
lot with the windows rolled up, and she didn’t care. She just wanted to sit in
her car and listen to music. And maybe if it took the entire weekend, then
she’d just make it work.

“This is gonna be fine,” she said.

But then the music stopped, and she heard it slam to a halt while the rain
brought a quiet rush of wind and the thunder that preceded a lightning crack
leaped from the sky directly in front of the car.

“This is gonna be fine,” she said for the million and oneth time.

She looked at the numbers in her head: She had sixteen days left.

Sixteen days since she had started drinking coffee and listening to music and
her eyes saw the mirror and started seeing a girl who was smiling and saying
“I will not have a nightmare. I will not have a nightmare. I will not have
a nightmare.”

She looked at her sixteen days: It was only January.

It was only January so far.

Sixteen days since she had come home after being gone for a year.

She had been gone a year-

She had been gone a year.

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