Jolea


I didn’t mean to kill him. My intent was not to claim a life but to protect and guard my own. Yet beneath me he lies, his body limp, chest still, eyes wide and cloudy like a tornado sky. I hover, unable to look away, that brick I grabbed, gritty and hard against my clammy palm.

Drawing in air with newly discovered ardor, electricity trailed along my shoulders, swept across my breasts, slipped through my navel and pierced my loins. Overcome, I knelt down and pressed my knees into the softness of earth. My free hand extended with force, fingertips stretching eagerly. Suddenly a hesitance struck.

Moments slipped away before I pressed my hand onto his thigh and began to stroke back and forth. The denim of his blue jeans was soft and the warmth that seeped into them from his flesh tickled parts of myself I had never known to exist. I was moved. Moved to push my hand further up. I grabbed his crotch and held it tightly.

Wet. Between my legs. I pulled my hand back and could feel my heart slamming around in the confines of my chest. My eyes darting to the right, to the left, behind me. Nobody was around. Nothing was ever around the dilapidated bridge or the rills but the running water, the brick and rubble, the trees, and myself. He wasn’t supposed to be here. This wasn’t supposed to happen…I’m not a murderer.

I’ve read about those people. The unnatural thoughts and urges. They were plastered on breaking news reports and crammed into little cement rooms to melt into lost time with every passing tick..tock..tick..tock. Always sick and derived from evil. They’re old, they’re perverted. I tried convincing myself I’m nothing like them, pressing my thighs into one another until the skin pinched. My eyelids colliding together as I focused on this high I was succumbing to. Fear. Adrenaline…Lust?

Standing up, I analyzed the area I had been spending my afternoons once school let out. There was no movement or peering eyes, no unusual sounds. Still nobody in sight. I smoothed out my blouse and before grabbing my backpack I took one last look at the body. His alabaster skin had already lost a bit of its glow. Pupils like tiny blemishes. Those thin lips that frequently wore a smug smirk were now agape and his intimidating stature seemed like nothing more than an interesting lump near the water’s edge. He was powerless. I had the final say whether or not he or anyone else agreed.

I made my way through the woods, shifting through the same eclipsing umbrage and mysterious sounds, making the same turns, drawing nearer to the unkept field that led to Lancaster Boulevard. I paused abruptly mid-way through the vast stretch of grass and wildflowers, observing the distant people walking. They resembled small, moving figurines from where I stood.

My palms were coated with fresh perspiration but there was no dirt, no blood smeared. I flipped my hands over, looking at the shape of my knuckles, veins that trailed, examining the extensive length of slim fingers leading to bitten down nails and dried out cuticles. Balling my right hand, the hand that struck forcefully with a brick earlier that afternoon, into a fist, I raised it eye level. Out popped the thumb and I turned it upright, pulling it closer to my face, watching it sway back and forth.

A young man, or so I thought, being he was a considerable distance, caught my eye. His canary polo stood out amidst the looming darkness that was dusk. As I thought about where he may have been going, where he may have been coming from, I placed my thumb in front of him just as he stopped near a crosswalk. He was now gone to me, gone in my world unless I decided otherwise.

He reappeared once I dropped my hand. Standing at the same corner, wearing the same yellow shirt, waiting for the same traffic light to change. My eyes stalked him crossing the street and the idea of following him flashed through my mind and evaporated just as quickly.

Traipsing down the boulevard I peered at the strange faces floating by like cream colored balloons begging to be popped. I had been down Lancaster countless times since I was forced to move here and each time the same vacant expressions crowded the sidewalks. Nothing filled the heads of these people outside of where to eat dinner and how to make others feel inadequate next to their own material possessions.

The sidewalk had become quite familiar to me. The cracks from which loose blades of grass sprouted, those ancient, little black gum dots, all slowly becoming committed to memory. The small shops and stores that lined the streets remained unexplored, not because I wasn’t curious, but due to the dreaded idea of human interaction. What was I to say? Something mundane that nobody cared about, such as how is the weather? How are you doing? A question that was always returned following an I’m well or Fine, thanks, even if the person only had 24 hours to live.

What about the questions I’d be asked. Where are you headed to? Where are you coming from? I haven’t seen you around here, what’s your name? All of this was overwhelming. People need to know too much yet fear the truth. Humans, living contradiction at its finest. But today, for some reason, I was craving conversation. If not conversation, perhaps just a cup of tea.

The coffee shop was quaint but not crowded and as the door swung open warmth and sweet aromas welcomed me. I was enveloped by the succulent scents of coffee beans, anise, and ambrosia before being drawn further inside. Small tables neatly spaced outside of the counter held a number of what seemed to be local college students propped up in curious poses. Clutching books, pen tips dancing across spiral bound notebooks, conversations about Simone de Beauvoir, Edmund Husserl, and last night’s party that was dispersed by campus police; they remained secluded in their own tiny universes.

My pace slowed down and I studied them, questioning what their minds were really hiding behind false pleasantries and self-righteous philosophical bullshit. A girl with a sleek, blonde bob haircut bit into her scone and listened to the ramblings of a man sitting across from her. She wore a mask of intent countenance but as her gaze glazed over, I chuckled to myself.

I had always been fascinated by how much a person would endure to feign interest. The extremes people would go through to avoid being honest, to avoid possibly offending someone at the expense of their own beliefs and opinions.

Fingers grazed my shoulder and ripped me from my train of thought. Overcome with surprise I could feel my heart climb into the back of my throat as I stepped aside and quickly spun around.

“Woah, woah, I’m sorry…did I startle you?”

It was the same canary polo I had spotted from the field. Snug around his torso and shoulders, it draped loosely over his trim waist, soft against wrinkled linen shorts.

“I’m sorry,” He continued.

Towering over me I tilted my head upward and stared into his face. He didn’t seem so massive when I was in the field, and wasn’t as old as I originally assumed. Shaggy amber locks swooped across his forehead and there was a light that shone from behind his face. With an impish grin he stared down at me and I tried to avoid eye contact but soon caught myself staring back into an inviting gaze.

“Are you using this table?”

Glancing to the small, round, wooden table he gestured towards I paused before returning my attention to him. Solemnly, I shook my head, keeping still amongst the light laughter and espresso machines hissing wildly.

“So you don’t mind if I use it?”

Again, I shook my head and continued looking into two portals that had a spark to them. They were nothing like Dennis’s as he remained lifeless beneath shadows cast from hanging tree branches, his body against cold dirt and twigs. I relived the moments I spent touching him once more but couldn’t rekindle the same fervid sensations within the binds of a dark memory. Instead my skin began to crawl like maggots twisting and turning amongst one another and I closed my eyes tightly.

Pictures of him deteriorating, decomposing, the stench of his remains all tore savagely into my consciousness. I could see his sallow face sunken in, cheekbones protruding as if trying to escape his rotting face, darkened holes where light eyes had been. Those maggots, once writhing on my flesh, now eating away at his, seething inside of a hollowing corpse. The wet, squirming sound of indulgent larvae wiggling against one another was loud and thick as it penetrated my ears and as my breathing grew violent with angst the noises closed in with a red brutality.

“Are you alright?”

My eyelids sprung open. Intense brightness invaded me. Loud shirt, loud skin, loud expression. I nodded and again, he smiled. I found something about his lips intriguing. Supple, full, and pink… they brought bubble gum to mind as I contemplated what they’d feel like against my teeth.

Still looking at me, I could feel my armpits dampening. Unable to push any florid, empty banter from the back of my tongue I was awkward when I stepped away from him and walked hurriedly to the counter where a small line had formed.

The display case was nearly barren aside from a few untouched slices of torte, miniature chocolate chip cookies, and a handful of fruit tarts. Chewing on my bottom lip I glanced up at the menus that hung above the coffee machines. They were nothing more than detachable chalk boards with colorful handwritten print but for whatever reason I found myself smiling as I browsed the selections. I think it was because they reminded me of my mother’s make-up palette.

Littered with a profusion of hues she always avoided anything too colorful or ostentatious. Flashy colors are for prostitutes and gypsies, she would say to me as a child while I watched her paint her eyelids with soft nude shades. She never taught me how to apply make-up but then again, I never asked. I knew that bothered her.

Cècile Marie Josepha was born the day before Christmas. According to grand-mère it was on account of the fact that my mother lacked patience as a child. Born in a posh suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, France in the late 1940s she was the only daughter of Arnaud Josepha, a cut-throat business man descending from a line of blue-bloods and Isabelle Josepha, a woman of modest background but great beauty and charm.

During her childhood my mother was given everything she asked, fancying herself something of a daddy’s girl, despite the fact that grand-père Josepha was terribly strict. He liked everything done in an orderly fashion and considered things such as slumber parties and play dates to be frivolous. I always assumed that to be why my mother is so neurotic and high-strung. At least, it had to have contributed.

I’m ignorant to most details regarding the story of my grandparents aside from how they met. Arnaud was attending a banquet in honor of one his dearest friends in the automotive industry, and the successful launch of a newly designed vehicle. It just so happened that Isabelle was at the same event, not toasting to new profit, but serving the guests. I had heard the story more times than I cared to, but she possessed a singular charm and an aesthetic so enthralling that grand-père was infatuated the first time she said bonsoir, monsieur.

As much as I’ve never really taken to grand-père Arnaud I’ve always had a soft spot in my spirit for grand-mère Isabelle. A soft-spoken, timid woman she never liked to ruffle feathers or be a bother…I suppose that’s why I feel protective of her. Like a china doll you’ve had since you were small, you’re accustomed to its frailty and don’t want anything to happen to it. Yet still, I’m curious to know what the ringing of shattered porcelain sounds like. A part of me despises her for the way she raised her daughter.

My mother has always had this notion of what the perfect woman consists of. As a child she was never allowed outdoors because an authentic lady was crafted to stay in the home. She was taught proper posture and poise, but had no idea how to change a flat tire. She learned what cutlery was used to eat which course of meal, but had never been inside of a kitchen a day in her life. She was shown how to curtsey but could not balance a check book, and why would she need to? Her husband would take care of such affairs.

And so this was what her life was, what it still is. Unaware of it being a modicum of reality which she was allowed. With an affluent father and a mother who was the ideal wife she didn’t think she could ask for much else, and if she did, she’d receive it as long is it held monetary value. Opulent ballrooms and dinner parties were permanent fixtures for her until she turned ten.

In 1958 she and her family moved to America. I think it’s because of effects the second World War had on France. I was always curious as to how they had managed to remain well off even though World War II had ravaged a great deal of their homeland, economically as well as culturally…but I never really cared enough to inquire. Grand-père Josepha sold his business and relocated himself along with his wife and two children to the United States.

Mother would tell me stories of how hard he worked to keep them living in a lifestyle of which they were accustomed. He ventured outside of the automotive realm and explored different areas of business such as the manufacturing of beverages and candy. He invested wisely in the stock market and turned a great deal of profit…I’m guessing, because grand-mère Josepha has never been employed and they’ve always had at least one maid on payroll.

As my mother and uncle got older they slowly began assimilating with American culture, much to the dismay of my grandparents. I had to have gotten my streak of rebellion from my mother because in her teen-years she traded in the diaphanous European dresses with intricate stitching for casual mini-skirts and sleeveless chemises. This is probably where the war at home began.

There was leniency with my uncle who was only one and a half years my mother’s junior, while my mom was held to the strictest regard. I try to imagine my mother young, with the steel exterior and dogmatic temperament. Grandpère was not hesitant to raise his voice, break valuables, or chastise back then (apparently, he has mellowed with age, but just slightly). He and my mother clashed a multitude of times and it caused friction within the home. Can you imagine? Daddy’s little girl breaking traditional rules.

That’s where I like to encapsulate her; that era of time. Standing up for herself, making raucous and errors, even if it wasn’t lady-like or proper. Her mistakes are the reasons I respect her…respected her? But now she’s a shell of that brazened insubordinate, renouncing compliance. Or perhaps she’s just morphed back into the little girl who was trapped inside of a mansion in France.

“You’re a lot less intimidating when you smile.”

That canary yellow was once again beside me.

“…Thank you,” I forced out.

“So…wh, what are you thinking of ordering?” He asked, an insincere laugh at the end of his question.

I shrugged.

“I’m thinking about a tall coffee with a shot of espresso. You know..it puts hair on your chest.”

My lips pursed and I quirked an eyebrow. The faintest shade of red lifted form beneath his cheeks.

“I mean,” He began “Not your chest, but…Uh.”

“It’s a cup of coffee…not a pint of whiskey.” I stated.

A tightness stiffened his shoulders followed by his eyes wandering every which way. I figured he was looking for something to say but as his jaw hung low, nothing escaped his mouth. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing and he looked at me with what I thought was terror but I could see his shoulders lowering and his chest expand before he joined in.

“I’m sorry,” he exclaimed.

“It’s…it’s alright.”

“I guess I was trying too hard to–” he caught himself, but so did I.

“Impress me?”

“…Maybe.”

I was next in line and a friendly young woman greeted me. I ordered a small blueberry tea and fruit tart. As I reached into my backpack for my money, canary yellow said hello to the barista before insisting he’d be paying for me.

“No…that’s alright,” I interrupted, handing her two crumpled bills.

The expression on his face would have led an onlooker to believe I ran over his childhood pet. I found it slightly dramatic and so unnecessary that I decided against resisting the smirk spreading across my face… Or perhaps I was reveling in the idea that a part of his fragile male-ego had been bruised over something so petty as paying for a small dessert and tea leaves in hot water.

“To go,” I said.

“You’re not staying?”

Turning my body towards his, my head weighed so heavy with thought it tilted to the left. Had I met canary yellow yesterday, he would’ve frightened me. The build of this giant would have evoked a feeling of uncertainty I was just getting the hang of concealing. Thousands of ideas of what he could do to me without my consent would be whipping wildly within my mind and I would have to calm myself with the self-assurance that there were people around, lights above us, and the societal need to save face still in place. Yet at that moment, all I felt was the desire to bite his lips…but I’d settle for digging my fangs into the fresh fruit tart I ordered.

I collected my food and beverage before stepping out of line, making my way towards the door.

“H,hey…what’s your name?” He called out apprehensively.

I turned towards him and pressed my back against the glass door, pushing it open with a smooth motion. Our eyes met once more and I bit my lip before spinning away from him, away from the coffee shop, and stepping back into the freshly fallen night blanketing Lancaster.

*This excerpt simply serves as the introduction to a larger piece of work…I hope you enjoyed it*

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