Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
Bodies bounced off of each other, mere atoms that were heating up. Marsella knew that these people, much like atoms, were heating up as well; she saw them as they made that shameless trek to the bedrooms of strangers, partner in hand.
It was like high-school all over again for Marsella; so much time spent at parties where she knew no one and no one knew her.
Her only consolation for this loneliness was the small sips that she would take of the vodka and sprite that she clutched in one thin hand. That thin hand was attached to a thin arm, and that thin arm to a stick body; a stick-thin body that displayed jutting bones and sharp corners, with no softness for a child to rest their head upon. A dream for most, but a curse for the Gonzalez women; food went in through their mouths and out the other end, without leaving any trace in the form of an extra pound or two. Marsella felt like she was trapped in a twelve-year old's body, even now as she was aged at 24 years old; her breasts remained as two mosquito bites on her chest, barely noticeable to her and definitely unnoticeable to any suitors she had taken a liking to.
Marsella made her way through the crowd, ending up near the pool; fluorescent lights flashed into her cerulean eyes. The atoms, or the bodies, rather, jostled her around, causing her to lose her footing a few times. She swayed, wobbly like Bambi taking his first steps. Marsella was a fragile thing; a thin tree branch, wavering in the wind, too thin and frail to support its own weight. Unfortunately, the next time that her body wavered and she almost fell over from the simple act of standing up, she was a bit too close to the fluorescent-lit pool; one foot wobbled near the water, and in a blink, Marsella heard a crash that she knew was her body breaking through the still water of an untouched in-ground pool.
In embarrassing situations such as this, Marsella had a tendency to disconnect herself from embarrassing events, a tactic she had acquired from her time in a public high-school. She stripped her mind out of her body, practically giving herself the ability to view her body and brain as two separate entities. What happened to her body was not of any importance; she could disconnect her brain from the humiliations that her body was facing. Now, as she fell into this pool in the sight of everyone, she did just that; she pulled the two apart, able to hold her mind in one thin hand and her body in another. Marsella did not bode well with humiliation.
Finally, she broke the surface, filling her lungs with fresh air and basking in the stares of fellow partygoers. Her chestnut hair had turned black from the water; she pushed it behind her ears, trying even now to make herself look presentable, despite what everyone had just seen her do.
Marsella's fall quickly became old news, something that happened often in high-school. Something embarrassing would happen to one person, and then someone else would be humiliated; that first person became old news, and quickly. At the party, people stared for a few seconds, questioning how that could have happened, but they eventually shifted their attention to whoever was winning the latest game of beer pong, or whatever other insignificant activity could take place at a college party.
With another refreshing breath, Marsella tried to quietly wade herself to the stairs, trying to minimize the splashing. No need to draw any more attention to herself. As she was about to put one of her useless feet on the vinyl staircase, she heard someone say her name- a fact which frightened her. As far as she knew, no one at this party knew her; she certainly didn't know any of them.
“Marsella?” questioned a lean man, coming into her view; he placed his feet, shoes and all, into the slightly chilled early September water of the pool. Accustomed to keeping her gaze down to avoid further humiliation, she only saw his legs; his calves were covered in thick brown hair and his thighs were encased in khaki shorts. “Marsella?” he questioned once again, awaiting an answer eagerly. She moved her gaze up to meet his. Earthy eyes, a mixture of brown and green, stared back at her. The body that the eyes belonged to was moving further into the pool, standing beside Marsella now.
His sharp chin and homely eyes seemed familiar to her, like the face of some long lost lover that she never had. Finally, she realized that she must have looked slow when she didn't reply.
“Yes? That's me,” she said meekly, unable to think of anything else to say to this strange figure who somehow knew her. She analyzed his facial features more carefully now, running his face through the database of faces in her brain; she noticed a mole, just below his lower lip, and the fast-moving gears of her brain stopped in that instant. She knew that mole; placed beneath his baby pink lips, it was a mole on a face that Marsella had studied every day of her high-school career. “Andrew?”
Marsella didn't recognize the man at first; the Andrew that she knew was a lanky boy with veiny arms. Here before her, she saw a man- not a boy of seventeen. He looked completely different; his features were sharper than she remembered. The only thing that tied Andrew to this figure before her was that one mole, a trivial detail to most.
“I didn't recognize you at first,” she said, adding more babbling afterwards than necessary. In school, her conversations with Andrew were limited- non-existent, even. She admired him from afar, and in secret, similar to how most high-school crushes go.
Andrew looked down at himself with a grin, as if he was trying to see if he really looked all that different.
“Well, seven years certainly changes a person” The two not-so-strange strangers shared an awkward silence before Andrew cut through again. “I only recognized you from your hair. Still as long as it was in high-school” This was true; her hair was seldom cut and flowed far past her mid-back. Her long hair was a source of the strangeness that seemed to radiate off of her in high-school; everyone wondered why she kept it so freakishly long. She self-consciously brought a hand to her hair, sure that she must look like a wet dog after the pool incident.
Marsella nodded and smiled, her eyes freakishly wide as they focused on Andrew in disbelief. Truly, she thought she would never see his face again after graduation. Before seeing his face again, Marsella thought that all of the puppy-love feelings she felt toward Andrew had died off when she climbed the stairs of maturity and became a proper woman. Now, as her eyes met his, familiar feelings of innocent love flooded into her chest, only now they were mixed with the lust of a grown woman.
Awkwardly, Marsella tried to continue the conversation, in any way that she could; her boldness, brought on by a few too many sips of vodka a few minutes too close together, propelled her forward.
“Well, when I finally recognized you, it was from the...” Marsella reached out to place her fingers on the mole below his lip, without thinking first; her body acted free of her mind, like the two separate entities that they were. “The mole...”
Marsella cleared her throat to rid the situation of the suffocating silence around them; the party was loud, but this silence, this lull in their conversation, that was deafening to Marsella's ears. With that slight noise, she ripped her hand away from her face, hoping that she could brainstorm a way to salvage this situation that she had ruined. “I'm sorry,” Marsella blabbed while shaking her head, “That was weird” Andrew laughed; Marsella hoped that it was an It's fine, don't worry about it, laugh.
“It's fine, really” Andrew reassured, reaching out to touch her arm in a consoling manner, the way you might try to comfort someone when they tell you that their beloved pet has died. “Honestly, I'm probably going to get so drunk that I won't remember any of this anyway” At that, Marsella faked a laugh; she hoped that he wouldn't get so drunk that he forgot her.
The incredulity of the situation dropped away and Marsella realized that the both of them, fully-clothed adults, were standing in four feet of water. Marsella began to laugh, reigniting a smile that had fallen away from Andrew's face. “What is it?” he questioned through a smile. Marsella beamed back at him, coffee-stained teeth making up for the empty space between her parted lips.
“I just realized that we're still standing in the pool” Upon hearing this, Andrew joined Marsella in laughter, taking in the situation around them.
“Well, shall we continue this conversation, outside of the pool? Maybe in dry clothes, too” he proposed.
“That sounds like a fantastic idea,” Marsella added with a confident nod. Andrew led her by the hand out of the pool, behaving in the same gentlemanly fashion that she had witnessed him exhibit with one of his many girlfriends in high-school.
When her body was out of the water, to which she had become accustomed to, a chill made its way through her body, all the way from her head to the tips of her painted toes.
Once Marsella had safely conquered the stairs, Andrew didn't let go of her hand. Instead, the two walked hand-in-hand to the back doors of the party house, leading them into a new world, full of dry bodies.
In the house, club music boomed, yet Marsella's beating heart was still louder. Her hand was heavy in Andrew's as they walked throughout the house. Fluorescence attacked their eyes, causing Marsella to squint as if she were staring at the sun.
“Where are we going?” She shouted over the music, trying to make sure Andrew could hear her when she couldn't even hear herself. Really, it was a miracle that this party wasn't shut down by the police.
“Upstairs!” Marsella knew what going upstairs with a man meant; Marsella, at the age of twenty-four, was a virgin still, hymen intact and all. Though she wouldn't let anyone know it, this was a large source of insecurity for her. She didn't feel like a proper woman yet, and she didn't feel that she would be until she felt a man inside of her.
Marsella knew that going upstairs with a man meant sex; although she felt severe insecurity surrounding her virginity at such a late age, she felt insecurity around losing it too. Marsella would just about die if she was looked at as a slut, chewed gum, a crumpled flower, something ruined that can not be restored.
She swallowed her doubts, showing them into a stuffed and overflowing filing cabinet in her brain where she placed all of her many worries.
The two went upstairs, their ears relishing the quiet of muted music.
“What are we gonna do up here?” said Marsella, worrying about what would come next. Even though there was no sign that Andrew wanted to be with her in such an intimate way, Marsella knew the ways of men; she knew that men would touch just about anyone, regardless of their feelings toward that person.
“I haven't seen you in seven years,” Andrew said in a matter-of-fact way. “We should catch up, you know, shoot the shit” This statement came as strange to Marsella; she and Andrew had not been friends in high-school-- only acquaintances who might smile at each other in the hallway. Pushing that confusion out of her mind and sending it to another filing cabinet, she nodded, adding a polite smile for good measure. She still wanted to make Andrew like her, and she was starting to believe that she would give up her virginity too, if that's what it took.
The two were still sopping wet, leaving puddles behind them as they walked up the wooden stairs.
Andrew rummaged through some drawers in one of the bedrooms they had situated themselves in. Marsella was unsure if rummaging through a random person's drawers for dry clothes was appropriate.
“Hey,” Marsella cleared her throat and interjected. “Whose clothes are these?” She looked up at him with her eyes that opened a little too widely. Eyes like that could either strike a person as beautiful or as freakish.
“Don't worry about it, Mar” Mar- that was her old high-school nickname, what she had been called by her few friends and even by people that she didn't know personally. As she moved into adulthood, she shed the persona of “Mar” and went by her full name, “Marsella”, as she felt it was more sophisticated than a measly three-letter name. Feeling slightly reassured by the fact that Andrew knows these people, she grabbed the generic gray sweatpants and sweatshirt from Andrew's hand, which was adorned with protruding veins.
A dark thought began to overtake Marsella's brain; she pictured Andrew's muscular hand wrapped around her small throat, squeezing and squeezing until all of the breath left her body. Every so often, Marsella would be attacked by these gory thoughts; she'd be holding a knife in the kitchen while preparing food with her mother, and she could see herself pushing it through her mother's rotund stomach, slashing until her warm guts fell out. When she had these morbid thoughts, Marsella closed her eyes and held them tight until she felt okay again; she worried that, if she opened her eyes too soon, she'd realize that that fantasy, or nightmare, rather, was her reality.
Marsella started toward the door, clothes in hand, when Andrew interrupted her.
“Where are you going?” She stopped, taking a look back at him.
“To the bathroom...” She paused, “to change,” Andrew laughed right in that moment; his laugh was not a rude one. It was the laugh that one might give to a fallen child, or a child who banged their head on the wall.
“You don't wanna change in front of me?” Andrew feigned offense. “I thought we were all adults here” Marsella had no clue what to respond; she wasn't comfortable with showing this man her most intimate parts, but she was absolutely not comfortable with displeasing Andrew, either. Andrew sensed the rising tension in Marsella and provided an attempt to ease her. “Okay,” Andrew turned around and started pulling off his wet blue t-shirt, which had now turned black, as it clung to his skin. “We can both turn around, and get changed that way. Deal?” Marsella didn't like that either, but it was better than her insisting on leaving and making Andrew think she was a prude. She rolled her eyes at him, but only because she knew that he wouldn't see the rude gesture.
“Deal” Marsella turned away from Andrew, fighting that reluctance in her mind. She started to peel the clothes away from her body, exposing her nude body, full of freckles and jutting bones. With her undergarments on, Marsella felt okay. A bra and panties was similar to the bikinis she had sported in front of hundreds of people at the beaches and public pools that she frequented.
Marsella didn't want to remove her bra and panties, the thin string connecting her to dignity. They were completely wet and would ruin the dry clothes if she left them on. Left with no option, Marsella unclasped her bra and dropped it to the floor. She did the same with her panties, letting her last thread of dignity fall to the floor with the fabric. She had never been so exposed.
Marsella's breath caught in her throat; she turned her head ever so slightly to check on Andrew and see if he was decent yet. What Marsella saw next did not come as a surprise to her, yet it disgusted her; a fully-clothed Andrew was staring at her, looking as happy as a fish in water.
Mortification rushed through Marsella's body; her face turned turnip red, her nipples hardened, and finally, she scrambled, looking much like Bambi again, to cover herself with the sweat clothes. “What the fuck, Andrew,” Marsella rarely cursed, but the world came naturally to her tongue, like she was a trucker who regularly used such foul language.
Marsella had never been naked in front of a male, boy or man. Hell, she hadn't even been in her birthday suit in front of any girls either, though she knew it was normal; her friends walked around topless, sometimes even bottomless, and weren't afraid to show off what they had. Marsella had always admired someone with that level of confidence. Nakedness was always a source of embarrassment for Marsella; she loathed gynecologist visits and she loathed this situation even more. This wasn't sensual or sexy to her, like she had imagined that her first time being nude in front of a man would be; it was nausea-inducing. She imagined that she felt even more embarrassed than Adam and Eve when they discovered that they had been gallivanting around in the nude.
“You're gorgeous, Mar,” Andrew blushed, and Marsella realized that she had never seen such a shy side of him; in high-school, Andrew would never be caught dead blushing, no matter the circumstances.
“You shouldn't have turned around, asshole,” Marsella spit the words out, bits of vodka-flavored spittle flying from between her lips. “We're all adults here, but you're a liar too,” She grabbed her wet clothes and stormed toward the door. Before she could quite make it through the door completely, Marsella felt Andrew grab her arm and pull her back into the room, locking the door.
“Just wait, please,” In a rush, Andrew took his clothes off, maybe in an attempt to soothe her. Marsella felt nothing close to soothed; one of those morbid fantasies flashed before her eyes again. She squeezed her eyelids tight, but her mind couldn't escape the horror, the flashes of Andrew thrusting into her while choking her so roughly that the veins in her forehead bulged.
“Now we'll both have been naked in front of each other,” Andrew reassured with one of his goofy smiles, all teeth. Marsella's body acted out the behaviors that she knew would be acceptable for this situation, such as laughter at his attempt at a joke. In her mind, though, something entirely different was happening.
In her mind, Andrew was pushing her down, crushing her frail frame between his weight. In her mind, Andrew was ripping her sweatpants off while she tried to scream but couldn't; no sound would come out. In her mind, Andrew was pushing himself inside of her, and she felt like she was on fire; she felt like her body was going to rip apart and she'd end up dead on the floor, nothing but a pile of skin, bones, and blood. Her body was being invaded by a parasite who disguised himself as a man. His hands, both of them, relocated themselves to her throat as she begun to gasp for air.
Marsella snapped back into real life, wondering what she had missed, because now, in the realm of reality, Andrew was on top of her and their lips were connecting.
It was as if Marsella was sleeping and had suddenly been woken up, thrust into this situation that her body had agreed to without the consent of her mind. Now, she was faced with the dilemma of whether to continue this or abruptly end, no doubt upsetting Andrew. Perhaps he would call her a “tease” or a “prude”; those were among the nicer insults that he could spit out.
Marsella was stuck in her mind, playing tug-of-war with two options; she'd do anything for the people she loved- or at least thought she loved. She decided to persevere forward, figuring that she could give her body away and it wasn't such a big deal; Marsella blurted out the most embarrassing thing she could have possibly said in that moment, or so she thought.
“I'm a virgin” Andrew stopped kissing her and looked at her.
“Oh... really?” He had no clue what to say; he had never deflowered a girl before, and he didn't want to mess anything up for her. He was a bad kid, and even a bad adult, but he was no monster. Without those secrets that he harbored, Andrew was a regular gentleman. “We don't have to do anything, I mean, if you don't want to...” He rambled on, trying to salvage this situation and take them back to the moment they had just been evicted from.
Marsella attacked him with a kiss, in the feral way that she would sometimes act, in a moment of extreme emotion. Honestly, she was willing to do anything to shut that stupid rambling up.
“No. I want to,” Marsella said between the kisses that she planted on his lips.
In these last few moments where Marsella's mind and Marsella's body were entwined, Andrew's lips had become her whole world and the kisses she placed upon them were like seeds planted in the ground; she hoped that something would grow from this spontaneous one-night rendezvous. She was sent back to high-school, where she was obsessed with Andrew. Of course, then, she had never come this close to him; now that she was this close to him, caressing him and lying underneath him, she never wanted anything to change.
Kissing was not Marsella's strong suit; the last time that she kissed a boy, besides for Andrew, was when she first entered college, six years ago. Her skills were rusty, to say the least. But, she tried her best, and Andrew didn't seem to have any complaints.
As for sex, Marsella didn't think of it as an act of love or the otherworldly combination of two souls; no, she thought of it as a transaction, as a form of currency, and this experience was just that. She was naive, but she had no fairytale expectations for sex. There were not going to intertwine their souls; Andrew was going to cum and that would that. That would be the end of the so-called “holy” experience.
The two kissed some more, Andrew sliding in a little tongue to spice things up before they got to the main show. Was this his idea of foreplay? Marsella thought. Everything she knew about sex came from late night television shows that she watched; those, oftentimes, were the fairytale stories of sex. She knew what it would really be like, through horror stories from her older friends when she was in high-school. I bled so much, one friend told her. It felt like I was going to die, another told her as she recounted the moment, and he just didn't stop. Marsella had managed to push those thoughts out of her mind, but as the moment came closer, they creeped back in, like spiders with their spindly legs making their way into a house.
She thought of the positives of this experience; she was having the opportunity to see if this experience was as incredible as she had seen on television, or really as terrible as her traumatized friends recounted to her. Plus, she'd be experiencing it with her high-school crush; it certainly sounded like a fairytale. Can it get any more dreamy than that, having a first sexual experience with a beloved high-school crush?
No, but it can get more terrifying than that. Andrew and Marsella barely even knew each other and she was about to share the most intimate part of herself with him, for the first time ever. Marsella never was a fan of first times- not for hanging out with a friend for the first time, and certainly not having sex for the first time.
Marsella had nothing for Andrew to worry about; no skeletons in her closet, no dirty laundry. She was clean; maybe too clean. Maybe she would have been better off if she broke the rules a little, when she was younger- some underage drinking or trespassing. She had been a good girl, for all of her life, and harbored no secrets.
Andrew, on the other hand, had been a naughty boy and turned into a naughty man, ever since high-school. He was just smart enough to keep all of his skeletons in the closet locked away, behind a steel door. You couldn't get into that closet of secrets with a goddamn bomb.
The sex was nothing spectacular; it was definitely not enough for her to base her entire life around it, as many people have and still continue to do. On the other hand, it wasn't the horror movie that her friends had described. Sure, no fireworks went off, but it was fine enough. At first, she felt some pain, like a demon baby trying to claw its way back inside, with its claws. After a few minutes of sucking it up and keeping her mouth shut, sharp pain gave way to sharp pleasure.
The horror lived in her mind and didn't come as a result of her pain. The horror was shame, combined with those gore fantasies that her mind formulated by itself, free of charge. As for shame, she had always heard the echoes of high-school bullies calling some girl a slut; it seemed as if there was a new “slut” every week. Marsella came to the realization that, oh my God, I am that slut now. Having sex, before marriage, with someone that you barely know- God, what would her mother think about this?
Marsella was too wrapped up in her mind to enjoy the moment; before she knew it, it was over- a fact that both upset her and soothed her. She was upset that she was thinking too much to be fully present when she lost her virginity, such a formidable moment in her young lifetime. She felt soothed by the fact that she was no longer a virgin and she didn't have to deal with the embarrassments that came with being a virgin having sex for the first time; her body dealt with that for her while her mind wandered.
Andrew was panting next to her while Marsella kept still, unfazed by the experience. Marsella was hit with a wave of fatigue that made its way through her whole body; her mind felt tired, all the way down to her feet where they felt weighted down by tiredness. She wished she could go home and lay down in her bed, comfortable in solitude, not laying next to a man that she barely knew.
Andrew hadn't done anything wrong to her, yet, but she no longer desired his presence. She sat up, basking in the awkwardness of the moment; part of his body had just been inside of her body. How strange is that, she thought while stretching her body out. Lying on her back for so long, through the long make-out session and the short-lived intercourse, had created a few kinks in her neck.
Marsella looked around the unfamiliar room, feeling vaguely unreal in the orange-tinted lamp light, as she searched for a pen. Finally, she spotted one with her eyes on a wooden desk located in the corner of the room. She quietly retrieved the pen, walking in a feline manner; quiet, sneaking. Ballpoint pen in hand, she moved over to Andrew, trying her best not to disturb his deep slumber. She liked him, of course, but she had no desire to talk to him or be in his presence while he was conscious at this point in time.
She cautiously touched his arm, testing the waters. She wouldn't dive in straight away; she had to make sure that he wouldn't wake up. For just a small moment, her brain danced around the thought He is dead. That dance in her brain was feral, tribal; it was people in animal-themed masks dancing around a fire.
Logically, Marsella knew he was very much alive; she could see the long breaths of sleep that pushed through his lungs. She gently pressed the blue pen to his skin, writing down the number of her house phone across his flesh-covered veins. A piece of paper would have been a better canvas, but then she ran the risk of him losing her number. So, she trucked on until the number was complete with a”Mar” and a small heart next to it.
Andrew must be one hell of a heavy-sleeper, Marsella figured. It was probably a combination of sex and all of that drinking that college parties were notorious for.
With a tender kiss on his forehead, Marsella left the house that contained the party, making her journey to her mother's house- Marsella's childhood home, where she'd been staying for the past few days.
When she went home, she made her way through the ancient door like a mouse trying to creep its way into a house; an observer, unwelcome.
The big clock on the wall read 12:20 PM- far past an acceptable time for Marsella to come home. At this time, her mother was either waiting up for her, whiskey in hand as she mentally cursed Marsella, or she'd given up waiting and gone to bed.
Even though Marsella was an adult, responsible for herself and well beyond the legal drinking age, what mother would approve of her daughter gallivanting around at all hours of the night? Marsella had never explicitly told her mother where she went when she attended parties, but her mother always found out- through the smell of alcohol on Marsella's breath or the dazed look in her eyes.
Marsella was not so fortunate tonight; her mother had waited up, glass of whiskey in hand, with the ice cubes clinking and all. Marsella was taken aback when, as she walked through the dark living room in order to reach her own bedroom, her mother's voice shot out of the dark. Marsella had been so startled by that raspy, breathy voice of her mother that gunshots wouldn't have frightened her if they started blasting through the room.
“Where you been, Miss?” Marsella's mother was not uneducated; she tended to have a distinct manner of speech that made her seem, at least to others, as if she had flunked out of high-school and had only made it through middle-school by showing the perverted history teacher her budding breasts.
When Marsella heard her mother's voice, she was attacked yet again, with more ravaging thoughts that she couldn't control; this time, she pictured herself, house key in hand, as she pushed it through her mother's soft neck. She blinked, hard, and focused on having this conversation with her mother.
“Just out with some friends, Mommy.” Marsella still called her mother by the childish term of endearment that most children had grown out of by the time they reached their teenage years.
“Girl friends, baby?” Marsella felt like her mother could smell the sex on her; perhaps she could see through her clothes, all the way through her panties, to a place where a man had defiled her daughter, and she could just tell; mother always knows best. Thank God that her mother didn't turn the lamp on; she would have seen the clothes that Marsella donned, different from those that she left in. Marsella wasn't a fantastic liar, and two lies in one night might have uncovered the whole facade.
“Yes, mommy. With Lizzie and Ellie,” Marsella's friends that she rarely hung out with; her go-to excuse when she went to parties, or anywhere else that her mother wouldn't approve of, for that matter. As far as the jaded Mrs. Gonzalez knew, the girls hung out close to every other weekend.
“Next time, don't stay out so late. People'll talk, y'know how they are,” Marsella nodded, leaving the room with a kiss on her mother's forehead, which she almost missed entirely.
Marsella slipped up the stairs and into her bedroom, where everything was exactly the same as when she moved out at the ripe age of eighteen. Once Marsella was in the safety of her room, under the doorknob lock of the old door, she masturbated- something that she rarely, if ever, did. She always felt bad afterwards too; she was no Bible Thumper, but she felt like she was sinning if she touched herself. She figured that she'd already committed a sin tonight, so why not throw them all together in one night? Anyway, the sex with Andrew left her feeling unsatisfied; he got to cum in that neat little condom, while she got nothing. She slipped her hand down her pink panties and gave herself that satisfaction, knowing that no man would ever be able to gift it to her; she kept her hands down her panties, eyes shut in pleasure, until she was panting and feeling even more tired than she felt to start.
The next day, Marsella loafed around near the phone, fiddling with the curled wires while she worried.
“What are you waiting for, girl?” 'Girl' was her mother's favorite form of endearment, although Marsella knew that other people might not see it that way. “You're like a goddamn dog waiting for a bone, Miss” To get her mother to back off, Marsella lied through her pearly whites, for the millionth time; as far as her mother knew, Lizzie was supposed to be calling again to make plans, since they'd had such a blast last night.
To Marsella, Andrew was no longer a person; he was a hobby. A hobby that could be played with, experimented with, altered until it fit her needs, spun like yarn into whatever crochet project she was making.
It was now two o'clock and Marsella had tried to go about her day without thinking too much about Andrew. Oddly, every time that she went to the bathroom and pulled her pants down she thought about him.
The experience they shared together deeply connected them in Marsella's mind; she could only hope that Andrew was as connected to her as she to him. Doubts coursed through her mind, of course. She was not new to the ways of men; of course she'd heard stories of boys or men using her friends' bodies and digesting their souls, and then discarding them. Marsella knew her relationship would be different; perhaps, from a place of naivety.
Finally, at four o'clock in the evening, just as hope was slipping from Marsella and she was making plans to slit her wrists in a bathtub, she heard the phone ring, acting as a beacon of hope in her bleak life.
“Hello?” Marsella said, out of breath from running to the phone.
“Hey Mar, I saw your number,” A sigh of relief from Marsella; as if he'd miss numbers inked into his right arm in blue pen. “You wanna go out, tonight?” God, this was like a dream to Marsella; she had fantasized about this very moment constantly when she was sixteen, usually with her hand down her pants while she lay in her dark room.
“Sure, is tonight at seven good?” She tried her best to sound nonchalant, even though she was bubbling with joy the way that a chemistry lab experiment might react. Silence on the other side of the phone suffocated her, enveloped her; hopefully, he was just checking his calendar to see if he was free, and not thinking of a gentle way to turn her down.
“Sounds good. I have a surprise for you too. I'll pick you up,” Marsella could hear his smile through the phone and tried her best to imagine him; she cherished the idea that he was smiling because he was talking to her.
“Okay, great, see you then. I live at forty-”
“I know where you live. See you then!” Click.
God, how romantic was that? Marsella thought to herself. Anyone else might think it was creepy that he knew her address, but she chalked it up to it being a small town where everyone knew everyone.
Marsella's mind went blank as she tried to plan what tonight would be like, blissed out from her high-school fantasy transforming into reality. She had come home from college for only a few days, expecting nothing, and here she was now; she called the days off 'mental health days', where she would focus on herself and reassess her future. She hadn't taken a single day off since she was in high-school, and that nightmare ended in 1992.
Think, Marsella, think, she said to herself. She wanted to wear something that was enticing to the eye; she wanted to take Andrew's breath away, blow his mind, and make him only want her, for the rest of his life.
After careful rummaging, through her mother's closet as well as her own, she settled on a red dress; casual- it certainly wasn't a ballgown, but it was nice enough for a first date. No matter where he was taking her and the dress-code for that location, she wanted to look incredible for Andrew. And herself, of course, but that came as an afterthought to her
Andrew picked Marsella up around 7:15 PM. When the clock hit five past seven, Marsella had already assumed the worst. He died in a car crash along the way, his seat-belt cutting him in half and sending his severed body forward, large intestine hanging out. Or, even worse to Marsella, he decided he wasn't coming. As per her routine, Marsella blinked, hard enough to empty her brain of all thoughts.
Now, she was stepping into his Ford pickup, blue with black detailing. He greeted her with a tender kiss on the cheek, not sure of her boundaries now, when she was stone cold sober. While Marsella made this risky escape from her house, she made sure that her mother was preoccupied, so she could manage leaving with a simple “Bye Mom, love you!” and running out the door. None of her friends that her mother knew about owned a truck.
“I missed you,” Andrew cut right to the chase, a hand on her thigh as he propelled them forward, hurtling through the universe in a metal contraption. Marsella had the suspicion that he missed her body and not her as a whole, but nevertheless, she wouldn't ever confront him about that.
Their whole relationship was based on sex and physical attraction; when Andrew came inside of a condom positioned in Marsella's body, he knew nothing about her, except for the fact that he thought she was hot. The whole relationship, or whatever it was, was already becoming too scandalous for Marsella and they were only on day two. For her whole life, she had never been so rebellious, in a sexual manner at least. She had never let a man, who she barely knew, touch her that way. Breaking through the awkward static of a poor radio signal, Marsella butted in,
“So, where are we going?”
“Oh, you'll see. It's a surprise, silly!” The two shared a chuckle and sat in silence for most of the drive, Andrew's hand creeping higher up Marsella's thigh; perhaps he thought that she wouldn't notice.
The road stretched out before them, the sky still light, as it was only late August at this point. Although the town that Marsella and Andrew hailed from could be considered rural, Andrew was leading her into an area that would be described as a separate entity from civilization. This was the type of place where no one would hear her screams. Again, violent thoughts spun throughout her head, but she managed to block them out fairly quickly this time. Nothing like the thought of warm blood on a first date.
“Christ, how far is this surprise place?” Marsella said, placing a mocking emphasis on 'surprise place'. “Are you taking me out to the middle of nowhere to kill me or something?” Marsella said this in hopes that it would come out sounding like a joke and not like a true concern of hers, which it was increasingly becoming with every mile that they traveled. Of course she was concerned, but he didn't need to know that; she didn't want him to think she was some nut, at least not this early in their relationship.
“Nope, we are just going on a date. No murders,” he kept his eyes straight ahead, focused on the road. Luckily, he was smiling, giving Marsella the information she needed to relax. “Besides, we're here,”
“In... the middle of nowhere?” It truly was as Marsella had described; fields of high grass and wildflowers stretched out beyond them, connected to civilization with only a measly dirt road. Damn, Marsella thought. A killer would love this place.
“Well,” Andrew looked over at her, searching for approval. “It's isolated, so, I figured we could really be ourselves here” How thoughtful.
Together, they exited the rickety pickup and made their way to the center of the field, vibrant grass and soft wildflowers ticking their bare legs. Not so far off, there was a small shack. Most likely, the shack had been a clubhouse for young children, a long long time ago. Now, it sat there, untouched and crumbling beneath itself. Marsella squinted at something far off.
“Is that a lake?” Andrew squinted too, now.
“Huh. I guess it is” Lightbulbs flickered in Andrew's brain, clueing him in to another way to see Marsella naked. “Last one there's a rotten egg!” He sprinted, haphazardly flinging clothes off along the way.
“Oh, you little-” Marsella exclaimed, feigning anger as she followed and peeled off her red dress with light hesitation.
Andrew made it to the mystery lake first; Marsella had never been too agile or a fast runner, anyway.
Both of them had lost their clothes and bared all, Andrew not feeling the slightest bit embarrassed. Marsella was just glad that the water was such an opaque shade of murky green that he wouldn't be able to catch a glimpse of her bare skin anyway.
Andrew became a little too friendly; he couldn't see Marsella's body at the moment, but his memory could certain whip it up for him.
“No, no, we need to talk first” Marsella had never been the confrontational type, but here she was. Before she was going to have sex in a dirty lake, she needed to talk about where their relationship was going.
Andrew was holding on to Marsella's waist, planting kisses all over her face and neck. He moved up to her breasts, cupping them and pawing them as if he were a cat. It was true that Marsella loved the tender way that he kissed her body, but it was even more true that they needed to talk. She needed to know about their relationship, if there was one, and where they were heading.
Marsella was quiet for a few moments, unresponsive to Andrew's kisses. Eventually, he took the hint and pulled away, staring straight into her eyes. Although sex was a way for their two souls to connect, Marsella much preferred this way; they could connect just fine through eye-contact, his green eyes to her blue eyes.
“Got it, right, talk.”
“Andrew, what are we doing? With us, I mean.” Now that the two were in water, once again, Marsella could think about their origins and ponder what situations brought them to this very moment. What a crazy story these two had.
When Marsella was away at college, chasing that American dream of being a businesswoman, a dream which never came true for her, she was majoring in creative writing. The violent thoughts that coursed through her brain cells ending up providing her with pretty good writing material. This, too, could make for an excellent story.
“No, forget that, why'd you jump into the pool?” Marsella was becoming more bold around Andrew as their fast-moving relationship barreled down the tracks like a train with failing brakes.
“I saw you and I just remembered how much I liked you in high-school,” He paused. “So I jumped in.” Andrew had wanted to talk to Marsella, and jumping into a pool uncalled for was certainly one method for starting a conversation.
“You did not like me in high-school.” Marsella would not falter on this fact- at least it was a fact to her- and she would not put up with any ridiculous straying from it either.
Marsella's hands were around his neck, holding on for support. The water was up to her neck and only up to his chest. She tried to play it off as if she didn't care that he liked her. Sixteen-year old Marsella would be having a goddamn brain aneurysm if she heard this. The mature, college Marsella knew to react cooly.
“Of course I did. I was just too chicken shit to ever say anything.” Although he didn't say it, Marsella knew that his silence was the result of their difference in status as teenagers; he soared among the clouds while she slithered with the snakes.
“I still don't believe you.” Marsella couldn't accept this news; it felt foreign, unnatural, like it shouldn't be happening. Andrew kissed Marsella on the lips, slipping too much tongue in for what should have been a casual kiss.
“Are we dating?” Marsella digested the butterflies in her stomach and asked the big question.
“Of course we are, Mar. We had sex... do you think I'd have sex with someone if I wasn't going to date them?” When he said this, it sounded fake, like he was trying to take some moral highground in an attempt to make Marsella like him more.
In reality, Marsella knew the likelihood of Andrew using her body, stealing her precious pearl, crumpling her flower, and then throwing her out. She pretended that she knew the answer to his question was 'no', obviously.
“Well, I just wanted to make sure.” Marsella's hands ran through his mud-colored hair, tugging gently as his hand rested on the nape of her neck. A flash of a struggle flashed before her eyes; thrasing, water splashing, fire in her chest, the whole works. She pushed it away.
“Can we just kiss now?” Andrew's voice was muffled and whispery as he held his face close to Marsella's.
“Yes, stupid,” Marsella treated him with one big, wet kiss on the lips after she laughed.
The two lovers waded their way out of the lake and went to sit on the sand. They didn't have sex in the lake, and for that, Marsella was glad. Who knew what kind of diseases were in this lake, and Marsella didn't want to give them another entry point into her body.
The two sat on the sand, still nude. Now, Andrew could see every inch of Marsella's body clearly; there was no cover of a murky lake or the haze of vodka to protect her.
“Livin' like Adam and Eve, aren't we?” Andrew said, slightly misconstrued about the lives of Adam and Eve.
“Did you really like me in high-school?” Marsella could not let go of that thought.
“Yeah, I did. It's just... you know who my friends were then, I just didn't think I could tell you or anyone else.”
“I understand why you didn't say anything. We were part of two, completely different, sections of the school.” Sure, she understood, but it didn't take away the anger that she felt, but wouldn't show; he didn't think she was good enough to show off to his friends. “What about Pearl? Didn't you like her?” At the mention of his high-school girlfriend, Andrew's brows furrowed, while he carefully selected his next words.
“Well sure I liked her, she was a great girl. But we were only together, really, because our moms were friends.” Marsella nodded sympathetically.
“So what happened to you two then?” Marsella finally asked the question that Andrew knew was coming. He had his answer prepared.
“We broke up,” he paused. Marsella knew they were together when senior year ended. “Just before we went to college. And you know, it's good that we didn't date then because we'd probably end up breaking up when we went to college, anyway.” He wasn't wrong; very few relationships were made for long-distance in 1999, a time before FaceTime and Skype.
His statement actually made sense to Marsella, no matter how much she wished they were together in high-school. She'd had her future planned out every since they were seventeen. But, nevertheless, at least now they had a chance.
“Yeah. You're right. At least now we have a chance.” Marsella rolled over to Andrew's lap and kissed him, done with the conversation that she had been so eager to start.
Marsella was ready for Andrew to touch her on that night; she had enough time to mentally prepare herself. No matter how much she wanted it, it still wasn't great for her. Her brain just couldn't connect the physical pleasure with her emotions. Most likely, Marsella would space out while Andrew pumped into her, feral. Maybe she'd even picture another gory image, but Marsella didn't mind a gruesome mental image if it was going to protect her from a gruesome reality.
So, they went forth, body parts connecting, sounds escaping from behind lips, until one final groan escaped from Andrew as he shot his seed into Marsella. He didn't bring a condom and Marsella would have felt bad declining him, at that point. She knew that men were not likely to be happy if you cut them off right before they were going to get their fill. She didn't want to be called a 'cocktease'. So, she let him defile her body and leave his lasting impression inside, something that she knew she would pay for later.
They gathered the clothes they had strewn all over the field and made their way back to the truck. Marsella was only half-scared; it had gotten so dark out and her brain kept focusing on that little abandoned shack they saw before. She just kept imagining some deranged lunatic running out of the shack, medicine filled needle in hand, as the two made their way through that field. Then, she thought, I am the deranged lunatic and I am nowhere near that shack.
Andrew dropped Marsella off a few streets away from her house so she could make it into her house without her mother seeing the chariot that carried her home. Marsella did a great job of keeping herself together in the car; they both pretended like nothing happened. They both pretended like that was supposed to happen, even though they both agreed that Andrew was supposed to pull out. He was supposed to pull out, Marsella's brain repeated, haunting her throughout the car ride.
Well, of course it didn't work out like that. It almost never did.
She stood in the bathroom, staring at her face in the mirror as black tears streamed down her cheeks. Statistically, Marsella knew that the chances of her getting pregnant were so low- everything in her life would have to line up perfectly- but nothing could squander that fear.
She wanted to claw his sperm out of her, and she was almost tempted to reach and grab at nothing until her insides were ripped and bloody, as a fruitless attempt to fix this situation.
Soon, Marsella was screaming and crying, grabbing at her face. Her screams came out as choked whispers, as she still had to try her best as to not alert her mother and accidentally invite her to witness this emotional turmoil.
To others, this may not seem like a big deal, but to Marsella, the world might as well be ending. She pictured banging her head against the porcelain sink and relishing the blood running down her forehead in a steady stream.
No, no, Marsella reasoned. This is fine. She took several deep breaths as an attempt to calm herself, but then the crying started up again. The tears just kept coming because, God, I don't want to be one of those girls that my mother talked about. The girls who were stupid enough to open their legs to a man, the kind of girls who fornicated outside of marriage. Her mother's words, told to Marsella when she was only a young teen, reverberated throughout Marsella's skull, bringing back those intense feelings of shame.
Marsella grabbed her red lipstick from her purse, the shade that she knew was too seductive yet still wore on her date, and made a big 'X' on the mirror, crossing out her face.
Marsella had climbed the stairs of maturity, perhaps more slowly than others, and now, she was descending the stairs of sanity.
The next day, Andrew called Marsella, just to talk.
“Hey Mar, what's up? How are you?” In the background, children were crying. Marsella had never liked children and when she heard them cry, that's what really made her go crazy. Although, her standards for what would make her crazy were extremely low.
“Where are you?” Andrew obviously had no children and as far as Marsella knew, he didn't live with any children. After a moment, he said “Oh, I'm babysitting for my cousin.” More crying. “I love kids.” How sweet. Unfortunately, Marsella didn't feel the same. She loathed them, actually, yet she still longed to feel as free as a child does. Her hatred of children was the reason why the prospect of pregnancy was so terrifying for Marsella. If she had a child of her own, that child would surely grow up to be a monster, Marsella knew.
“Oh, we can talk later. You seem busy. See you.” Marsella hung up the phone and went to fetch her mother. “Mommy?” She yelled through the house. Finally, she located her and asked if she could talk to her. Marsella and her mother had always been close; she was a sorely strict woman, but when you behaved the way that she wanted you to, you would be rewarded greatly in affection.
“Mommy, I'm seeing someone.” Now that the official 'boyfriend/girlfriend' label was slapped onto their relationship, and the fact that she had a slim chance of being pregnant, she needed to tell her mother. Marsella could usually never keep things from her mother; it felt like an act of betrayal.
“Oh, really? Who, baby?” Her mother seemed surprised. Marsella had not dated anyone in years. Or, if she did, she didn't run to her mother for advice.
“His name is Andrew Mayfield. He's really great, Mommy.” Her mother's face fell, like a victim of sudden paralysis. As her mother's face fell, Marsella's heart sunk and made a home in the pit of her stomach; looking at that scornful, yet blank, expression on her mother's face made Marsella want to cry. “What is it, Mommy? Do you know him?” Her mother snapped back into the conversation and realized that she needed to control her emotions. She fixed her face.
“Oh, yes I know him. He's a very sweet boy, baby.” Her mother began rubbing her shoulder as a cover for that face she made. “It was just my fibromyalgia. Andrew is sweet, the face wasn't for him.” Sweet, the only adjective that her mother had for her new boyfriend. Despite her mother's strange reaction, Marsella was glad to hear that her mother already knew Andrew and approved of him.
“I certainly think he's sweet. He's so nice to me. Did you know that he liked me in high-school, too?”
“Is that so?” Her mom seemed eager to step off of the praise of Andrew. “You two don't do any sort of... touching, right?” Marsella's right hand flew to her cross necklace as if by instict.
“No Mommy, of course not. You know I wouldn't do that.” Her mother warmly held her daughter's left hand and smiled at her. Once the niceties were over, she went back to her knitting, brows furrowed and all as she focused and thought some more.
Marsella's face burned; her cheeks turned a nice rosy red.
What would her mother think of her if she knew what she's been doing these past few days? Would she call her a slut, a whore, or would she forgive her daughter for her crimes and move on? Marsella thought that last option to be unlikely.
Months of Andrew and Marsella's relationship went by, and her mother was none the wiser about the womanly things she'd been doing with her boyfriend.
In November, their fourth month of dating, Marsella's mother sat her down for a talk, a talk that Marsella assumed would be related to sex and marriage. Her mother was very fast-moving and lived in a no-nonsense manner.
“Hey, baby.” They had moved up to 'baby' over the past few months. It was now October and Marsella liked sex more now, too. She stopped seeing it as transactional and moved on to seeing it as a love-based activity. So many changes were coming and Marsella really felt more confident in her life; she was starting back up with writing. She no longer lived in a college dorm. She lived with her mother, which could be seen as a regression by most. For Marsella, this was way better than living with strangers in stuffy college dorms.
Throughout all of these months, Marsella had only been to Andrew's house on a few rare occasions. Their usual hangout spot was Marsella's house. When her mother was out, they could play house. When her mother was home, they sat a respectable distance away from each other and would only kiss on 'hellos' and 'goodbyes'. They lived a rather conservative life around her mother.
“Do you want to come over later? My mom won't be home.” To any young man, the phrase “my mom isn't home” would send them flying over to that girl's house to ravage her body. Hell, young men would break every traffic law in existence to get to a girl for sex.
Again, the faint sound of children babbling came from his end of the telephone. Marsella thought it was sweet how good he was with children. He spent a lot of his time babysitting for his cousin. She was a single mother, as he had repeated to Marsella on numerous occasions.
“Oh, I can't. I'm babysitting the girls.” Disappointment sprouted from Marsella.
“You know, I can help you babysit. I'm good with kids.” Whenever Marsella offered to help, Andrew always hit her with the same excuse of 'My sister doesn't like strangers around her kids. She's very nervous.'
Marsella had tried every comeback to that statement over the months, but nothing could make him budge.
Usually, she'd go to her mother, her long-lasting source of comfort and her source of advice. Many times she confided in her about how she had never met the children that Andrew spent so much time with.
This time, though, was different. This time, when Marsella heard the same excuse from Andrew, she had a comeback he couldn't deny.
“Andrew,” she said calmly. “Soon I won't be a stranger. We have plans to get married, and soon, for Christ's sake.” It was true; they spent many nights discussing their futures and where their relationship was going. Marsella had entertained many intrusive thoughts about their relationship flying first class into a fiery pit of jagged rocks, in which they would both end up dead and mangled. Their marriage was supposed to be soon, because Andrew was supposed to propose soon, and then they could start their lives together.
“I know that and I feel like it's perfectly fine for you to see them. I'll have to ask my cousin what she thinks about it.” He laughed before continuing. “No one wants to feel the wrath of Eleanor, trust me.”
“Yes, do that, please. Because soon they will be a part of my family too. Okay, bye. Love you.”
They hung up and went about their days alone, Marsella bored out of her mind now that the one person she wanted to see couldn't hang out. Most of her life revolved around the next time that she could see Andrew. She loved that man so much, she practically worshipped him like he was God. When Marsella loved someone, she'd go to extenuating lengths for them.
Marsella's love for Andrew became clouded by that 'big talk' her mother would give her the following month, in November, when their relationship became even more serious. November was the fourth month of their relationship, and they were already so enamored with one another.
“Baby, I need to tell you something. Why don't you take a seat over there?” Marsella's face began burning; the mark of her embarrassment.
“Sure, Mommy, what is it?” She said as she sat down on the couch across from her mother. This was the same place they had sat when her mother told Marsella that her father left and that he wasn't coming back.
Her mother was silent for a few moments, her eyes full of conflict as she took several deep breaths.
“You're scaring me. What is it?” Marsella's heart beat quickened. Did she know what her and Andrew do when they are alone? Did someone die?
“I just don't know how to tell you this, my baby. I'm so sorry.”
“Just get it out, Mommy, please.” Marsella's eyes moved back and forth as she scanned her mother's thin face with the prominent cheekbones.
“Andrew is married. He has a wife, baby.” Marsella's mother braced for the wrath of Marsella, the sidepiece who didn't know of her position.
Marsella bust out laughing, her crazed eyes staying still as she moved her head side to side.
“That's ridiculous. You just don't want us to be together. You don't want us to get married because you can't let go of me.”
“No, baby. He married Pearl Weatherman a few years ago. I just thought you would've known.”
Marsella's world was crumpling beneath her. She had given this man everything in the world. She spent her money on him, her time on him, and she spent her body so that he would be happy. Waves of sadness rushed over here, the kind of angry ocean waves that swallow boats whole. Anger swirled in, mixing immaculately with her sadness. Marsella knew that her relationship with Andrew was too good to be true. Maybe, she knew it the whole time and was so deep in denial that she didn't realize it. No boy would ever want to marry her. Marsella stood up, spinning a little as the tears flowed down her face.
“Why didn't you tell me, Mother?” Her regular affectionate terms of 'Mommy' had been replaced with the cold and formal 'Mother.'
When Marsella was angry, she didn't yell. She got quiet; intimidation was her best tool. Her mother wouldn't meet her eyes.
“I'm so sorry, honey. You were just so happy.” Marsella took deep breaths, reminding herself that struggles could be overcome and that this wasn't the end of the road for her.
Fuck that, she thought. She wanted to hurt, either herself or Andrew. Maybe even Pearl. And God, those children she always overheard. Were they truly his cousin's? Before she stormed off to her room, she had to ask her mother one more question.
“Mommy, do you know, does he have kids?” Her mother was silent, focusing her eyes on the floor. Marsella imagined strangling her mother so hard that her eyes popped out of her head. She just couldn't handle a betrayal like this; Marsella was always fragile with her emotions, and this was throwing her overboard the ship of emotional stability.
Marsella took her silence as an answer and ran upstairs, almost tripping in her rage-filled state. The door slammed behind her with a gust of wind. When that wind came in, Marsella felt like all of the oxygen had been sucked out of her.
Now, she screamed and pounded her fists on her face. These screams were real screams- deafening screams that ripped up her throat. Her mother already knew she was in emotional turmoil, so there was no point in hiding it.
Her mother sat downstairs, figuring that her daughter just needed space.
Marsella thought about Andrew pumping himself into her and about the consequences that could come from that action. She gathered the broken pieces of herself and stood, beginning to make her way outside.
“Where are you going, baby?” Marsella stared straight ahead. She was a woman on a mission.
“Out.” She said and slammed the door behind her, relishing that gust of wind that so carefully carried her out of the house.
She walked in the middle of the street as she made her way to the pharmacy. The sidewalk was perfectly fine, but the middle of the street added the element of possible bodily harm that Marsella liked for right now.
The air was crisp and Marsella gulped down deep breaths of it, trying to get rid of her red, tear-stained face before she went to the pharmacy. She felt terrible, but she was desperate to hang on to her last shred of dignity.
She flung the pharmacy doors open and went straight for the pregnancy tests. She bought one of each kind; she could not risk getting a result that was incorrect.
In the protection of the aisle, she steadied herself. She didn't want to be the crying young woman who was buying a pregnancy test.
She took her receipt and change and left. She speed-walked home, eager to know the results of the test and leave this trauma behind her. Luckily, her mother's car wasn't in the driveway. Marsella didn't want to speak to Diana, at least not for the rest of the week.
She made it to the bathroom and locked the door behind her. Finally, she was safe in her little bubble, with the bleach smell and all.
Marsella began to think of what would happen if the tests were positive. Her mother would kill her for sure, just after she gave birth to the baby. She would never harm a child, one of God's most precious creations.
For one of the rare times in herself, Marsella prayed. She clutched her cold cross necklace and prayed to the God that she only half-believed in.
Please, God, don't let me pregnant. She muttered to herself, eyes closed and head tilted upwards toward the tile ceiling.
Frankly, Marsella was petrified to know the results. She had left the realm of mere 'scared' and had moved onto 'petrified'. The chance of the test being positive was most likely low, but Marsella couldn't escape the creeping feeling that it might be positive.
She imagined knives reaching into her womb, cutting a circle through her torso as tears flowed down her face. Please, she'd beg. Hurt my baby.
Marsella, too, knew how twisted that thought was. Over her many years of existence, she'd entertained many disturbing thoughts, but nothing quite as evil as that one.
Finally, Marsella was done stalling. She knew she'd never relax until she knew the results.
She followed the instructions, praying in her mind as she peed into a small cup and stuck pregnancy tests in.
God, please be on my side, just this once, she thought. While she waited those few minutes for the results, she didn't think of Andrew's betrayal to her; the fact that he had an entire family was secondary to this moment. His coming inside of her was a bigger betrayal to her.
Those few terrible minutes were up. Marsella slowly moved across the bathroom to the counter where she placed the tests. She was eager to know the results and terrified at the same time. Above all, she was disgusted both by herself and by Andrew; with Andrew, because he thought it was acceptable to break their agreement and come inside of her, leaving his wretched sperm stuck in her body and forever changing the course of both of their lives. With herself, because, she let him get close enough to mistreat her in that manner.
She picked up the test and begun to cry, hot tears flowing. The world stood still and all background noise ceased to exist. Marsella would never forget this moment, this nausea that she felt, no matter how hard she tried. The memory would forever be impressed into her brain, like a stubborn stain on a sheet.
On the test, Marsella stared at a red plus sign. The results mocked her and in her moment of delusion, Marsella believed she could really hear them sneering at her. Stupid slut, they'd say.
She threw the test across the room in a sudden burst of rage and climbed into the dry bathtub, where she cried so much that she could fill the tub with tears.
In that cold and unfeeling bathtub, Marsella cried, screaming so loudly that she might as well have been getting murdered. In a way, Marsella did die that day. A little piece of her took its last breath and never returned.
I'm ruined, God, I'm so fucking done. She didn't think she could ever go back; nothing would ever be the same. She'll never be the same Marsella that she was, and she was homesick for her old self.
What would she tell her mother? Would she keep the baby? God, no, she couldn't really get an abortion, could she? So many thoughts coursed through her brain, running like electrical wires through the town of Marsella.
Her eyes were raw from crying. Once those floodgates opened and the dam broke, it was a hell of a chore to close them.
No, no, Marsella soothed herself like a child sucking his thumb. Everything will be okay. And in Marsella's mind, everything would be okay, even if she was currently sitting in a dry bathtub, vomiting on her own body from the sheer fatigue of this emotional turbulence.
It would all be okay. And it was.
Marsella put on a facade of sanity when her mother came home that day. Her mother could never know about it- the pregnancy, the baby, the sin. If Marsella referred to all of that as it, she felt much better. Marsella didn't know what she'd do about the little mongrel festering inside of her, but she knew that her mother would absolutely never find out.
Ideas coursed through Marsella's brain as she greeted her mother as she walked through the door.
“Hi baby, how are you feeling?” Her mother behaved carefully around Marsella, trying her best not to upset her and drag up all of those feelings of anger and misery.
“I feel better. He's just a jerk. I'm gonna go back upstairs and you know... process. Love you.” She gave her mother a kiss on the cheek and retreated upstairs. As soon as she turned her face away from her mother, her expression reverted back to that sour one she wore. The expression that Marsella felt would be a permanent asset, something she could never escape, a reminder of the time when her world crumpled beneath her as Marsella tried to save herself.
Once in her room, Marsella put her hands on her stomach and soaked in the wickedness. Is this a punishment from God, Marsella pondered. Was it a punishment for all of that sex she'd been having, the sex that she knew the church members would disprove of. If it was so wrong, why did it feel so good?
She felt sick to her stomach, the stomach that housed the baby. Marsella disconnected herself from the life growing within her and thought of it as a weed that overtook her body. She was just a lawn and the dandelions had taken over and there was nothing she could do about it.
Marsella went to the phone- she had her own phone line in her bedroom, something that Marsella's mother had given her when she officially became an adult- to call Andrew. After three rings, he picked up.
“Hey babe, what's up?” Marsella almost started crying just from hearing his voice. She loved him with every fiber of her being, and now everything was going to change. She couldn't move past what she knew- she couldn't pretend that there was no Pearl, that he had no children, that none of this ever happened. Their relationship had to change, and Marsella hated change, even more than she hated children.
“We need to talk. Can you meet me at that field where we had our first date, tomorrow at 9 PM?” Silence.
“What do we need to talk about?” She could hear the worry in his voice. Marsella didn't know what to say. There were a plethora of things that they could be talking about. About Pearl, about Marsella's pregnancy, about his children. So many things.
“Just meet me there, okay? It's important.” Andrew let out a big gust of breath, the kind that Marsella knew meant that he was worried.
“Of course I'll meet you there. Bye, love you.”
“Bye.” Marsella hung up, no doubt leaving Andrew to dissect every word of that conversation, tormenting himself. Good. Marsella wanted him to suffer, the way he was making her suffer.
Marsella paced back and forth in her room, deciding how she should tell Andrew that she was carrying her spawn, and that she was keeping it. The fact that she was keeping it might end up being even more scandalous than the premarital pregnancy that she stumbled into.
She considered abortion, but couldn't bring herself to do it; she had a strange attachment to this baby. She saw it as a possession, as something that could work for her and improve her life. She had spent all night thinking about her relationship with this baby and that was when she pondered all of her options. Abortion, adoption, acceptance. She chose acceptance; she moved on and realized that she would keep the baby. She couldn't live with herself if she did anything else. She hated children, but she didn't want to murder a child, certainly not. Her mother would probably kill her, anyway, once the baby was born, she figured.
Today was the day that she was supposed to meet Andrew, and she had no clue what she was going to say yet. She didn't know if she should confront him, spill her bloody guts in front of him and let him know that she knew everything that she wasn't supposed to.
She went to her closet, pulling every article of clothing out, so she could view all of her options. Her eyes scanned over the rainbow of colors splayed out before her, reds and greens laying next to each other like lovers.
She focused on a white dress. White, the color of purity, the color of the thing she no longer possessed. The dress was plain; a simple summer dress, flowing with longevity, and devoid of color completely. Marsella held it up to her body, imagining what she'd look like with a baby bump as she looked in the mirror.
Marsella did not adorn herself with makeup that day; she wanted to be purity personified, with her white dress and bare face, white panties and white bra, long hair flowing down her back. She wanted to make herself as similar to a child as she possibly could, mourning the times of intact hymens and a fresh worldly wonder.
The day dragged on. It was one of those days where the sky is grey and the rain falls incessantly; the kind where it feels like you'll never be able to shut your eyes and rid yourself of the day. Marsella felt like she'd never see Andrew and his stupid face when she confronted him, but, time was inevitable and the moment of glory would come soon enough.
She felt like one of the women burned during the Salem witch trials, sane but seemingly insane to everyone else. Those women were condemned and thrust from her society, as was Marsella. Andrew was her entire world; he formed the society she belonged to and the neighborhood which she lived in. She was all and nothing at once, both sane and insane. As she plotted out the day and her exact words to Andrew, she felt her sanity slipping like sand through her fingers.
The phone rang.
“Hello?” Marsella said into the phone.
“Hey baby, just wanted to check that you still want to meet up later tonight.” Marsella's throat tightened when she heard his voice; she still loved him, she still wanted him back, she wished that everything could go back to normal. She loathed Andrew, of course, but she loathed her mother too. Don't shoot the messenger, but can you shoot the messenger if she wields a gun? Marsella's mother wielded that gun and tore through Marsella's mind, body, and soul.
“Yes, I'll see you there. Bye.” Marsella hung up before he could process her statement and give a response.
Marsella stared out the window; a perfectly sunny day was alive outside and Marsella wanted to run free through her backyard, pearly dress flowing behind her. She'd feel free, like that child she could no longer be and never could be again. No, Marsella knew she wouldn't be free while she still held the title 'girlfriend' to Andrew. Once she ditched that title, Marsella could start to feel free.
She waited while the hours passed, loafing around uncomfortably until the clock struck 8:30 PM. She grabbed the car keys, her mother's, and left with a simple 'Goodbye' shouted towards her mother. She closed the door behind her, maybe for the last time; Marsella wasn't exactly sure, yet, of what she would be doing tonight.
She carried a bag with her, a dainty purse, to help her on her journey through this night, a night which would make the news and leave a scar on Marsella's mind.
Marsella drove in a calm fashion; even Marsella herself expected that she would have been more wired in this situation. Her sandaled feet pressed the gas, propelling her forward at speeds past the dictated speed limit. Inside her body, the inside that was encased in meat, bones, and flesh, chaos ruled. Her mind had become the final circle of Hell and the darkest depths of humanity that could be imagined lived within her mind.
She thought she needed to distance herself from Andrew to save her baby, no matter what it took; her paranoid brain convinced her that he would harm her child. The child she carried, the bastard child born out of wedlock, would never make it in the world. Or so the Andrew that Marsella created in her mind thought. Marsella was determined to make sure that nothing happened to her baby, so she was going to that field tonight to tell Andrew how everything was going to play out.
The sky was darkening considerably. Night time in that field didn't seem appealing to Marsella at all, and she remembered the shack where some deranged lunatic was destined to charge out of.
When she reached the dirt road, she slowed down and quietly made her way to the field. Andrew's truck was parked but he was nowhere in sight. She took the key out of the ignition and exited the car, clutching her purse like a scared woman walking down a dark city street.
“Andrew?” Marsella peered around the field, the driver side door to her car still ajar. Fear clung to Marsella and she figured it'd be easier to make a run for it if the car door was still open. From behind his truck, Andrew appeared.
“Hey baby.” He came over and kissed Marsella on the lips, one last kiss before Marsella ended everything. Her lips did not move in response, but she allowed him one final kiss. She figured he deserved at least that, given what was about to happen.
“So we need to talk.” Marsella's throat betrayed her and shut, the lump before the tears already forming. She steeled her emotions, willing herself not to show any weakness around him. “I know that you're married.” The line came out flat, too blunt, and much too cold. Perfect for this situation. No emotion lingered in Marsella's voice; she had managed to stomp all of that out before opening her mouth.
Andrew stumbled backwards, eyes wide, before he caught himself and switched his face back to a more neutral expression. Not everyone was so gifted at acting as our Marsella was.
“What? Mar, that's ridiculous. Who told you that?” He tried to sound innocent, but ended up saying all too many words at once.
“You never broke up with Pearl. You married her.”
“Who told you that?” Andrew's brows furrowed. Marsella could sense the anger inside of him bubbling over; it was bound to come out at one point or another, but for now, he was doing a solid job of containing it.
“My mother. And I believe her.” Andrew stammered a bit before getting his words out, trying to salvage any bit of the situation that he could.
“Mar, come on. She never wanted us to be together. She's just trying to break us up.” Andrew grabbed both of her hands, trying to seem romantic in a situation that could not be farther from it. She backed away from him, farther than talking distance, yet it was still too close for Marsella. Marsella stifled a sound erupting from her mouth that could've been either a laugh or a sob. Marsella couldn't tell, but she knew she felt like doing both of those things at the same time.
“No, Andrew, stop.” Marsella took a small step closer now, night winds rustling through her hair. “I thought so too at first. But, I checked it out. And you really married her. April 25, 1996.” Andrew was silent. There was nothing he knew to say now. Once she knew that date, nothing could go back, nothing could be salvaged. “And that's not the worst part. I heard you have kids, too.” Andrew averted his gaze from Marsella's beady eyes, unable to handle their intensity. “Those aren't your cousin's daughters. They're yours, aren't they?” Marsella stared at him, or, rather, through him. She wanted to make Andrew feel trapped, closed in, stuck, so she took several steps closer until she could feel his breath on her face.
“Mar, what do you want me to say? I'm sorry, okay?” He looked shy, in this moment at least; once again, Marsella had managed to make him uncomfortable. Good. Marsella ignored his last statement.
“Oh, and I almost forgot.” Marsella really laughed now, at the sheer absurdity of the situation. “I'm pregnant.”
It was like a curtain fell from Andrew, exposing his real self. The tough facade of tonight faded. At first, he looked confused, running through all of the instances where they had sex. Each time, they used a condom. Except for one. And that one fatal mistake was how Andrew would gain a third child, another daughter as it turned out to be.
He reached out, placing his calloused hands on her bony belly. She wasn't even close to showing, but he still felt a connection to her stomach, the current address of his future child.
“Get your hands off of me.” She shoved his hands off coldly. Andrew hoped that their child wouldn't inherit that coldness that Marsella could so expertly exhibit. Meanwhile, Marsella hoped that their child wouldn't such a cheat, like his/her father was.
Andrew caught a glimpse inside Marsella's purse and noticed a flash of silver. She had something shiny in there, and Andrew figured it might be a handheld mirror. He thought nothing of it, truly. Marsella wasn't a violent person, as far as he knew. If only he knew of the sickness that her forehead kept at bay.
“That's all I needed to tell you. We're done here. I don't want you to ever speak to me again. And this child,” Marsella let some emotion slip out. She gritted her teeth, clamped her jaw, and spoke through the pearly white gates of her mouth. “You will never see this child.” Andrew tried to plead, reasoning with her that he's only a shitty husband and that he's a much better father.
“Get in your car and go. I'm leaving too.” Marsella waited to see what he would do. Andrew looked all around, eyes moving from the trees to the sky to the lake and anywhere except for Marsella. None of those things gave him any idea about what to say about Marsella. Simply, he was unexperienced. He'd never been caught before.
When his eyes met Marsella's face again, all he saw was a flash of silver and all he heard was a deafening bang before he hit the floor. Blood flew, yet Marsella kept the same steel expression she managed to keep throughout this entire interaction. Her father's gun and the father of her child, lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood. When her father left many years ago, he forgot one vital possession. His old revolver, forgotten in a safe, with a few stray bullets. For years, they collected dust, but now, now they were useful to someone at least.
Now, as Andrew lay on the floor with a steady stream of blood gushing from his chest, Marsella reasoned with herself. Logically, she knew there was something deeply wrong with this and deeply wrong with her. He was going to hurt my baby. When the last gurgles of life ceased to come from Andrew and he took his last breath and exited the main stage of life, Marsella smoothed out her blood-speckled dress and got into the car. She drove out of the field, off of the dirt road, and continued driving on, in the opposite direction of her house. She had at least a few hours until Pearl noticed that Andrew was missing and a few days, at least, until they found his body, left in the middle of nowhere.
She was crazed, for sure, but as soon as she pulled that trigger and made that life-altering decision, she felt instantly relieved. Now, she could be free. She couldn't run free in the backyard of her mother's house, no, she couldn't go back there, but she was going to find someplace else where she could run free.
Marsella couldn't regain her purity, but she was determined to regain the full extent of her freedom. She no longer felt like she had to please some man for her life to matter, because that man was taken out. Now, it was just Marsella, her child, and the world.
“Mama, look!” Snow fell outside the ramshackle window. Marsella moved her stick-thin body over to the brunette child who sat at the windowsill. That child was filled with the fresh worldly wonder that Marsella would spend the rest of her life trying to obtain.
“What is it, baby?” Her voice had a new air of sweetness, different than she had ever heard from herself.
“It snowing!” The toddler's grammar wasn't all there yet, but Marsella was working on it. Part of their dilapidated cabin had become a mini classroom, made especially for Marsella, the teacher, and Diana, the young pupil.
Marsella had never felt more filled with love than she did when she laid her eyes upon her baby. She felt like she was living the dream; no one else in the world except for her and her daughter, and she was determined to make sure that her daughter never suffered in the way that she herself had.
The murder of Diana's father was, to Marsella, a small price to pay for the everlasting freedom she had won for her daughter and herself. She never regretted her decision, not for a second, until the day she died as an old woman, in that same cabin, with Diana by her side.