“This November, a new reign of terror begins…” The announcer’s deep voice boomed through the television’s speakers. “And this time… there WILL. BE. BLOOD.”
Moonlight Massacre. The title card appeared on the screen. Now in theaters.
Jocelyne finally found the remote a few seconds too late, turning off the TV with a soft click.
Stupid freaking trailer. Every Moonlight Massacre preview that popped up hit her like a slap in the face.
It was yet another painful reminder… And not the only one. Mark’s well-loved copy of The Half-Blood Prince still sat on her bookshelf, mocking her. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t escape…
Jocelyne’s thoughts were interrupted by a sudden knocking at the door. Her heart sank instantly. The only person who ever knocked was Elliot. Oh God, what does he want? She wondered as she reluctantly headed to the door. Yet another reminder of her recent mistakes…
But when she opened the door, it wasn’t Elliot on the other side.
Mark felt his breath catch in his throat at the sight of Jocelyne’s face. It had been nearly a week since he’d last seen her… Was it possible that she was truly more beautiful than he remembered? It certainly felt that way. She’s perfect.
“Hi, Jocelyne.” At last, he spoke. “I’m sorry to bother you at home.”
The poor girl still looked as though she’d seen a ghost. It seemed to take her a few moments to regain her composure. “It’s fine. I don’t mind.” From what he’d heard, Jocelyne was usually a brilliant actress… But she was failing miserably at masking her discomfort. “Would… you like to come in? Sit down?” She offered awkwardly.
Mark glanced over her shoulder at the small apartment beyond. He knew her aunt was surely home… And he much preferred to have this conversation somewhere more private.
Mark shook his head. “I was, um… Hoping we could maybe go for a walk?” He suggested. There was a small park nearby that was usually pretty quiet around this time.
“Okay.” Jocelyne agreed. She stepped past him, heading outside without another word.
Mark followed behind her, finally catching up when she reached the sidewalk.
“Shouldn’t you tell Clara you’re leaving?”
Jocelyne just shrugged. “She’s on the phone with her fiancé anyway. I really don’t want to interrupt.” She explained. “The doctor was finally able to confirm the gender of the babies this afternoon, and she’s been dying to tell him. She won’t even tell me yet.” A small smile came to her lips.
Mark found himself smiling too. Jocelyne did not talk about her family very often, but when she did, he loved listening to the way she spoke about them. “Well, congratulations to both of them.” He said sincerely.
Jocelyne said nothing as she continued walking beside him. It was all he could do not to stare at her. So instead, he chose to study the dark gray pavement on the ground in front of him.
“So…” He spoke again as they finally neared the park entrance. Mark tried to hide his nervousness as best he could. “You’re probably wondering why I’m here, huh?”
The girl shook her head. “I know why… And I’m sorry.” Jocelyne sighed. “It was awful of me to go over your head like that, and quit without giving any notice or anything… I shouldn’t have left you short-handed. And I can go back and work again until you find a replacement.” She promised.
I shouldn’t be surprised, should I? There it was again… That was his Jocelyne. Always thinking of others before herself. “That’s not the reason.” He assured her. “But thank you. I must admit, Theresa is… um… lacking a bit in her organizational skills.” Mark couldn’t help but laugh.
Beside him, Jocelyne did the same. “She tries, though.” She said weakly. “Kind of…”
It was a few moments before Mark’s laughter finally subsided. “I’m not mad at you for leaving.” He said seriously as they continued walking past the hedge and into the park at last. “I understand why… I was horrible to you. And I’m the one who’s sorry.”
“Don’t be. You were right… I was way out of line.” Jocelyne shook her head slowly. “I don’t know what came over me.”
The same thing that came over me. Mark thought as he took a seat beside her on the bench. From the moment we met. “Please, just… Stop apologizing, okay? I’m the only one who should be sorry. I never should have yelled at you like that.” He sighed, a feeling of shame suddenly washing over him. “When you started talking to me about how you felt, I just… panicked.” He hesitated a moment before continuing. “I totally lost it… Because you scare the shit out of me, Jocelyne.”
For a moment, Jocelyne appeared confused. “I… scare you?”
Alright. Mark told himself. Now or never. “I am absolutely terrified of how amazing you are.” He explained. “How kind. How smart. How funny. How… beautiful.” His eyes drank in the sight of her as he spoke, and his shame deepened. Jesus Christ, how the hell did I turn into some dirty old man? “You scare me… Because of how you make me feel.” He said at last.
Though she did not smile, Jocelyne’s beautiful eyes lit up then, so full of hope. “And… How do I make you feel?” She asked in a whisper. “Please… I want to hear you to say it.”
“No.” He turned his gaze away from hers, unable to look at her any longer. “It doesn’t matter how I feel, Jocelyne. Because it’s wrong. I mean, hell, you’re… what?” He hesitated. He wasn’t entirely sure how old Jocelyne actually was. “Twenty-four? Twenty-Five?”
“Um, close?” She replied softly. “Twenty-two.”
“Jesus.” Mark rubbed one of his large hands down his face, wishing he’d never asked. It was even worse than he imagined. “Christ, I’m forty-four, Jocelyne! Forty-four! I’m twice your age! I’m old enough to be your…” A wave of nausea bubbled up in his stomach. He couldn’t even finish the sentence.
“I know.” Jocelyne actually appeared almost amused. “Actually… You’re older than my parents.” She admitted. “But… they were really young when they had me.” She added quickly, smiling. “So that doesn’t really count, right?” Her voice was almost teasing.
“This isn’t a joke!” Mark burst angrily. “It can never work between us. It can’t.”
“But why not?!” Jocelyne’s smile faded instantly. “Yeah, it’s a little… unconventional. But so what? It shouldn’t matter, Mark! I’m younger than you, sure… But what difference does it make? I’m still an adult.”
“You’re practically a child!” He hissed. Oh God. He reached up, holding his face in his hands for a long time.
Jocelyne just stared at him, wide-eyed. “Oh yeah? That’s how you see me, huh?” She said at last, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Look me in the eye, Mark. Look me in the eye and say that again.”
Mark wasn’t quite sure what to say. He had never seen her like this before. So strong. So fierce… It was driving him wild. Jesus, now is not the time! He shook himself mentally, chasing the thoughts away.
He sighed softly, finally finding his voice. “You know I didn’t mean that.”
“Good.” The young girl’s expression finally softened. “Please, Mark. Why can’t we give this a chance?”
The man hesitated before replying. He wanted to try, more than anything. But we can’t… “Jocelyne, think of what people would say… I mean, what about your parents? I can hardly believe they’d be okay with this.” He said gently.
“I… I don’t care what my parents think!” For the briefest moment, her voice almost faltered. “I don’t care what anyone thinks but me. And do you know what I think?” She paused, her lips stretching into a smile.”That we were meant to be, Mark. And… That I love you.”
Mark was fairly certain his heart literally skipped a beat at her words. He said nothing.
“If you can look me in the eye and tell me you don’t feel the same, I’ll drop it.” Jocelyne promised. “I swear to God, Mark. I’ll leave you alone. I’ll move on. But I need to hear you say it.”
And, of course, he couldn’t. Because it was true – he felt it too. He wanted her. He loved her. And she knew it. God help me. Mark silently prayed.
At last, he broke the silence. “Look… I, uh… I’m sure you’ve been seeing all the previews on TV, right?”
“Huh?” Jocelyne furrowed her brow in confusion.
“For that crappy Moonlight Massacre remake.” Mark explained. “It opened today, didn’t it?”
The girl nodded.
“Well… What if tomorrow morning, we grab some coffee and go check it out?” He suggested. “As long as you promise not to puke on me.” He added with a smile.
Even if this all turned out to be the biggest mistake of his life, Mark knew he would always choose to make it if he could, time and time again. The way Jocelyne looked at him in that moment would make anything worth it.
“That sounds perfect.” Her voice was so sweet. Like music. “Let’s meet at that coffee shop on Birch Street.” Jocelyne suggested. “At around ten?”
He nodded, his eyes still tracing every inch of her beautiful face. “Works for me.”
“Great! Better than great, actually.” She laughed almost nervously. “So… It’s a date?”
Mark smiled. “It’s a date.”