It was October in Albuquerque and I was on a first date in 8 years. The guy I was meeting here had paid for us to go up in a hot air balloon. I had met him on a local dating site and his name was Cedric. I was wrapped up in my coat shivering with a hot chocolate in my hand when my phone pinged with a message. I expected it to be Cedric but it was from an unknown number. It read “I see you Mallory” A shiver ran down my spine as I looked at the number again trying to figure out who was texting me.
I looked around to see if I could see anybody I knew around me. But all I saw were nameless strangers. Then suddenly a face caught my eye behind at one of the booths. It was my ex husband Darren who had a history of violence. I had divorced him after two years because he became an abusive drunk. I tapped on my phone starting to text him back “Leave me alone” when a blonde haired guy around my age said
“Hey I’m Cedric. You must be Mallory.” I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding and replied.
“Oh it’s you.” He looked at me in astonishment and said “were you expecting it to be someone else?”
I surprised myself and admitted that Darren had texted me. Cedric reassured me that everything was fine. I tried to relax as he handed me a cinnamon roll but I could still feel Darren’s eyes on my back. Cedric kept trying to distract me as we ate our cinnamon rolls in silence. When we were done, we walked together to throw our napkins away. It was just about time to board the hot air balloons. Cedric kept his arm around me as we walked closer to the middle of the field. When we stopped he leaned over and whispered “Don’t worry I’ll keep you safe.”