"For your sake, I will" he says, which of course will cause her to ponder the phrasing and the delivery of his future promised words. Not, "Because you asked", which would have been an entirely different connotation, but instead "for your sake". She who has always been fascinated by the words behind the words, and she who has developed a certain knack for pulling back the shrouded veil to fathom an alternative motive or meaning, and that same she who can look into a speaker's eyes and recognize when what is being said is a cover for what might be meant will wonder at this small collection of words. She can not help it, it has become second nature.

Her skin is flushed, her eyes are glazed. She misjudges the width of the hallway again, slamming her shoulder into the thermostat. “Shit” she shouts out to no one in particular. “Ellen, get your lazy ass out here now!” she yells even louder. Ellen is wary, but she dares not disobey. Her door cracks open. “Yes, Mom?” “What the fuck are these shoes doing on the floor? Are you trying to kill me?” Ellen doesn’t point out that her mother is drunk and has forgotten that she kicked them off there herself not two hours before. She knows better. She just apologizes and quickly gathers her mother’s pumps, running and ducking out of her mother’s reach before putting them in the closet. Too late, she realizes she has turned her back. She discovers her faux pas as she turns into the pot colliding with her forehead. “Don’t ever pull that shit again! Think about someone else for once in your sorry life” She doesn’t make a sound as she puts the pot away in the cupboard, she turns her head so the tears that might bring further consequences are not seen. She sidesteps into her room, closing the door behind her, silently turning the lock. Her mother bangs on the door, “Quit sniveling before I give you something to cry about. I punish you for your own sake, grow up already”. And Ellen remains quiet and small, tucked safely in her closet hugging her pillow close.

For your sake...for your own good, that is the meaning she pulls forth first. And so with that meaning, she will read his written words and consider which message might be for her own good. Is he trying to warn her? If this is so, then what about? Is there an underlying danger? Where should she keep her guard up? Should she even let it down? Is it safe this time? And she will dig and she will probe and she will search for possible hidden meanings, because that is what she has learned to do, because that is what she has needed to do to get to a truth of things. This has served her well in the past.

I love you, he says as he enfolds her in his arms. You should know that by now. Let’s start again, he says as he pulls her into their home. I never meant to hurt you. You know that. You are the most important person in the world to me, he says as he has said one hundred times before. She lets him draw her upstairs, she lets her guard back down because thank God it was all a misunderstanding and they are good again. She believes him when he says they were meant to be together forever. She can’t imagine a life without him now. She lets his words wash over her like a salve, and she lets him make love to her as he used to do before things went awry. It is just the two of them again and everything is going to be all right. She believes this, because he has said it is so and he is her husband, so it must be so. And just before she reaches her bliss, at that exact point when all guards are down and she is the most open to him, he stands up, wipes off his mouth looking at her with his eyes gone cold and says, “I need to take a shower and wipe off this stench”. He says, “Think about that when you don’t decide to make the right choice. I hope for your sake, the next time you will.” Then he walks away, leaving her shocked and trembling, curled tight in a ball of shame.

She doesn’t see anything that sets off her inner alarm bells, but she could be missing something. She has before. She struggles with the phrase, “for your sake”. She turns it over, looks at it sideways, back to front, and upside down. How much of her reading is due to fear instead of objectivity? She wishes she could have seen his eyes as he wrote these words. She is very good at reading the flicker of the eyelids and the almost imperceptible movement of the pupils. She doesn’t have that added information. She just has words on a page. She rereads the passages.

He takes out his gun collection, handling the pieces one by one, almost caressing each in turn. “I can make this all go away” he says “you know I can” Her face is carefully masked. No thank you, she says nonchalantly though inside her heartbeat has increased by 50%. “You don’t understand”, he says,” I have the power. He shows her the bullet cartridges. He doesn’t deserve you. For your sake, let me make it go away.” He leaves one gun out, putting the rest away. He opens the cartridge, and inserts a bullet, closes and locks it, then sets the cold black metal down in the space between them “No, really, I appreciate the offer, but that isn’t the answer” She quickly tries to come up with a way to extricate herself from this man who had called her friend. She gets up ready to feign a forgotten appointment. It’s the best she can come up with, off guard. “Are you sure?” he says, “I’ll do whatever you want. I do for you, you do for me. That’s how it works” She is momentarily puzzled. He pulls a diamond studded dog collar out of his pocket. His eyes are hungry. “Do we have an understanding?” Dawning registers on her face, triumph on his.

She puts down the letter. She has been alone for ten years now. She has seen hidden meaning in every new possibility. “For your sake” in this case might really mean “out of regard for you, because you asked.” Does it really mean this, or does she want it to? These years she has kept herself safe. She wonders how many chances she may have given up on due mostly to the fear of what might occur and how many open doors she may have slammed shut for self- preservation. She tosses the notion aside. She did what she needed to do. That was then, this is now. There is no ulterior motive that she can see in these penned words. She sees no hidden agenda in the ink. She decides there has to come a point when she can trust her own judgment. She walks to the phone, takes the receiver off the cradle. “When you're ready, please, call me” he asked. For her sake, she will.