" I like it.”
She told him, watching as he carefully spread the dewy clear wax
over his freshly needled tattoo.
She read it once more, committing to memory the harsh,
vintage lettering with which it was traced.
I BELIEVE IN GOOD PEOPLE
It perfectly reflected his inner optimism and grand hopes for the world
that he so often told her about.
“I’m going to change it.”
He would say, “well, me and Bobby.
There’s a plan. Maybe one day I’ll tell you.”
She watched him now,
completely immersed in the task at hand, unaware of her gaze.
They both looked up sharply when they heard commotion coming from downstairs.
Kylee had beaten her to the hallway and yelled down to the angry voice bellow.
“Shut up you stupid bitch!”
The voice yelled back to Kylee and Gemma immediately stepped out of her room
and recognized the voice as it got louder.
Gemma immediately went to her sisters’ side.
He’d been harassing her with messages and phone calls daily to either
call her a slut or beg for her to come back to him.
“Don’t you dare talk to her like that.
Who the fuck do you think you are?
Get out of here!”
Joseph darted his eyes toward Gemma and she could have sworn
they flashed red
“What the fuck is he doing in our place?”
“It’s not our place.
I had Mich come over with a new lease contract and we told him you moved out.
So this officially isn’t your place anymore. Get. Out.”
“This is my place, I paid your rent last month.
So until I get that money, you can’t get rid of me,
but I can get rid of him.”
“Don’t you dare move up even a step.”
Gemma warned him.
By this point Caleb had also stepped into the hall,
though the only one who seemed to notice was Joseph.
Joseph slammed his fist against the wall,
“You slut, I can’t believe you’re already fucking him.”
“Okay, we’re leaving.”
Gemma grabbed Kylee’s hand and stood at the top of the stairs
waiting for Joseph to move out of the way.
“Move, you’re getting what you want.”
Gemma felt Caleb stand at her back and put his arms around her soothingly.
Joseph had begun walking his own way out, until he saw Caleb and Gemma
walking hand in hand out of the door.
Gemma couldn’t make out any of what he was screaming at them.
Gemma could see that, and she was scared.
As they walked out of the back door and down the long driveway, Joseph followed them,
fists flailing aimlessly, words crashing together senselessly.
Caleb smoothly lights a cigarette,
Gemma does not notice that he is getting ready to flick it at Joseph,
who is coming at them heavily now.
Gemma stands between the two and Joseph takes a lunge at Caleb,
pushing Gemma’s body down against Caleb’s
so that the three of them fell onto the frozen ground in a tangle.
Gemma stood up as quickly as she could,
screaming for Joseph to leave them alone, to get off of Caleb.
Finally, Joseph pulled his eyes away from Caleb’s smug grin beneath him and looked at Gemma.
The rage subsided, and Gemma looked into his eyes.
The eyes of a stranger.
Someone she never loved.
Someone who never knew her.
Never even tried to.
She realized, in that moment who Joseph really was.
He had shown her, after all...lain it all out in his eyes there for her to see.
It was not love that drove him, it was obsession.
C o n t r o l .
He had a particular idea of Gemma,
and now that she was unveiling herself and bearing her truth,
she was shattering his i l l u s i o n .
The illusion many carried of her.
The good, quiet girl with her nose in a book.
The perfect girl to bring home to meet the parents,
and the perfect girl to bring to bed.
That was it.
He never cared for her passions,
never inquired into her mind,
never tried to know her truth.
Instead he tried to make her more like him.
He wanted her to drink herself into oblivion every weekend,
to want to do drugs and talk nonsense with his friends,
whom she hated,
in the small town that she hated,
in poor language which she hated.
She tried making him see reason...
“Don’t you see?” She had pleaded to him one night,
“you don’t want me either. You want another girl.
Someone fun and pretty and ignorant.
Someone who likes what you like and does what you do.
You will be happier without me, you’ll see.”
But he could never hear her, just as he never saw her,
and Gemma made the decision there and then never to see him again.
A decision she would always consider one of the healthiest she’s ever made.