Mary watched the woman from the moment she walked into the store. She headed straight for the Self-Help section. Mary smiled. “ I knew it!” 

Having been a bookseller for 20 years and a people watcher all her life she had a knack for knowing what section a potential customer would walk to upon entering her store. This particular lady, had a look of melancholy about her. The way she carried herself, the sad droop at the corners of her mouth. “Now to see which book she picks!” Another game Mary played in her mind. 

After 20 minutes, and since the store wasn’t busy on this Monday evening, Mary headed over to the isle the young woman had walked down. The tall shelves were not so tall that Mary couldn’t see the top of the woman’s head, so she knew just by her location she was in the psychology section. Straightening books along the shelves Mary glanced over and saw which book the women was looking at. The title a familiar one to Mary, she had read it herself long ago. 


Just then the woman looked over and made eye contact with Mary. Mary smiled and said “ hello, did you find what you were looking for?”

That question seemed to stun the woman. 

She seemed to suck her breath in a little and stare at Mary as though Mary had seen into her very soul. 

“ I really thought I had” the woman said. 

A single tear rolled down her cheek. 

Mary understood, this lady was a victim, as Mary had once been, of a certain type of predator, a sociopath. 

They destroy you and then leave you wondering what you did wrong. As if to support what Mary knew the woman said, “ I thought he was perfect!” Then she burst into tears, covering her face with the book. 

Mary stepped closer and put her arm around her and tried to comfort her as best she could. 

“ I understand. You thought he was everything you ever wanted”.

That elicited a nod of affirmation. 

Mary sighed. She knew this pain so well. 

Phillip Daniels. 

Handsome. Smart. Generous. 

Mr. Perfect. 

Mary met Phillip when she was 22 years old . She had met friends for dinner and Phillip was there. A friend of a friend. Immediately he met and held eye contact with Mary. Very intense. Throughout the evening he paid close attention to her and every word she said. Mary was flattered and enamored with his charm. So when he asked for her number she gave it willingly. 

He called her later that night. 

Said he couldn’t stop thinking of her. Looking back Mary realizes that should have been a clue, such attention for someone you just met was unusual, but at the time it was nice to get so much attention from such a charismatic man. They met the next day. And the next and everyday for 2 months. Not an hour went by without at least a phone call. Mary started to feel a little pressured, but Phillip somehow soothed her and it wasn’t another 2 months and he had moved in with her. From that point on things started to spiral. 

Phillip lost his job ( later Mary learned it wasn’t the first job he had lost), he drank more than Mary realized ( another one of his habits he hid before moving in) and he wasn’t always available to her. For someone out of work he certainly was busy! It was never clear to Mary where he was or what ( or who?) was taking so much of his time. 

Mary , however, was expected to be available to him. Always. He grew increasingly jealous and suspicious. Mary stopped seeing friends and even her family, just to accommodate his needs. After a while her closest friends expressed concerned. But Mary couldn’t admit just how bad things had gotten. Besides he didn’t like her friends or her family. He said they didn’t really love her. She became isolated from everyone but him. 

It took a year before Mary decided she had to break up with him. She even moved out of the apartment, her apartment, because he refused to leave. After she moved out he eventually got evicted and since the lease was in Mary’s name she owed 3 months back rent. Mary was already behind on all her bills. Financially she was in bad shape. Emotionally , she was in even worse condition. It took years, and therapy, for her to finally heal. Most importantly for her, she learned why she was even attracted to such a man and how to spot them before they could hurt her. 

Now , seeing this poor woman, it all came rushing back, all the pain, the disillusionment, the anger.

It was almost closing time, Mary guided the poor sobbing woman over to the couch in the sitting area Mary had set up in the back of her store. 

“ My name is Mary. What is your name dear”?

“ Twila” she tearfully hiccuped.

“ I’m so sorry to blubber all over your book. I’m going to buy it!”

“ I’m not concerned about the book at the moment” Mary said soothingly. “ How long were you two together?”

“ 2 years. I found out he was cheating on me. With his ex.”

“ I see. Was it the first time?”

Twila didn’t immediately answer. Finally she shook her head. “ No. I caught him last year. Texting someone, pretty racy texts. He swore it was just talk. I didn’t truly believe him. He said I was crazy!” A rueful smile passed over her lips. 

Mary took a breath and said what took her years to learn:

“ It’s not your fault you believed him”. Twila looked doubtful. 

“Guys like him”, Mary continued, “they prey on trusting women. He is good at what he does. You weren’t his first victim. You won’t be his last. But you can learn and never be a victim again. That book is a good start.  

You can overcome this. “

Twila listened intently to Mary’s words. She nodded and the corner of her mouth lifted, and the other side did as well. 

“ Thank you. I came in here seeking knowledge. Answers. I should have just come straight to you and saved myself 20 bucks!” She gave a chuckle at that. 

Mary picked the book up from its spot on the couch where it lay between them. She placed it into Twilas hands. “ Take this. It’s my gift to you. A sort of pay it forward if you will. Someday , you will heal, and you will meet another woman whose pain you recognize. Share with her what you have learned. We can’t eliminate these kind of cruel people, but we can do our part in helping others who have been hurt”. 

Twila was amazed at this woman. 

She saw when she looked at Mary a strength she herself did not possess. But she did feel stronger than she did before. If this woman understood Twilas pain then it must be because she had gone through it herself. It gave Twila hope. 

“ Thank you Mary. I promise to pass your kindness on.”

“ Good girl. Now dry those tears. Go home and read that book, and any other books about this. Talk to a therapist if you must. Then live your life with your head held high. You will be just fine”.

After Twila left Mary closed up and drove home to the man she met and married 10 years ago. He wasn’t Mr. Perfect , but he was real and honest and faithful. Better than perfect, he was Mr. Right. Mary sent a special prayer up that Twila would heal and maybe meet her Mr. Right one day soon

January 22, 2020 03:16

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Amelia Coulon
22:07 Jan 29, 2020

Good story. It touches on some very delicate issues. I just wondered if there was actually any experience personally. I have experience with a sociopath and they aren't very jealous people. They're very awkward socially and they usually hurt the women in their lives because they completely ignore the woman. They are very careless of emotions. I think the description here more fits someone with an obsessive/controlling complex or even possibly a narcissist. It just seems odd that the man wouldn't also be violent or threatening towards the wo...


Allie Pittman
14:41 Jan 30, 2020

So glad you read it and thought it was written well. Thank you. :) As for the description of the sociopath in this story, it's accurate. By definition a sociopath lives without remorse, they lie and present themselves as whoever you want them to. According to Dr. Robert Hale, creator of the Psychopath Test, a sociopath shows lack of empathy, grandiosity, and shallow emotion. There is a range of course, and not everyone is the same. There is the far end, usually described as Psychopath, but the American Psychiatric Association uses Sociop...


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Nivedita Shori
18:43 Jan 23, 2020

What a lovely story, Allison! Touches of realism, pain and resilience woven together in good writing. I noticed some edits with punctuation (extra space before/after commas, quotation marks) and very few typos ('women' instead of 'woman' in paragraph 3; 'her closest friends expressed concerned' instead of concerns; Twilas instead of Twila's).. but I noticed them only because the story was so well-flowing and easy to follow. Such a pleasure to read!


Allie Pittman
19:35 Jan 23, 2020

Thank you for your feedback! I do appreciate it. I should have ran it through Grammarly, no matter how much I proof read, I miss stuff!


Nivedita Shori
20:20 Jan 23, 2020

I was just discussing with someone else.. the edits are always endless, no matter how much time we spend :). Thank you for taking the feedback positively. As I said earlier, it was such a pleasure to read your story.


Allie Pittman
20:27 Jan 23, 2020

Absolutely! Learning is part of this journey! I’m glad you enjoyed reading it at least. That’s the important thing. May I ask was this prompted by Reedsy? I got an email asking me to read and critique two stories. Honestly I was not as brave as you. I read them, but did not critique.


Nivedita Shori
20:53 Jan 23, 2020

I did critique the ones I was asked to ... but yours was not prompted. I just fell upon it. Glad I did :)


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