Jocelyne hummed softly to herself as she walked down the sidewalk, enjoying the warm spring sun as it washed over her face. Winter had been so brief this year — March hadn’t even ended yet, and they were already back to clear blue skies and sunny afternoons.
I hope it stays this way. She thought to herself. After everything that had been going on, Jocelyne could definitely use a little warmth right now.
She and Mark had made plans to hang out that afternoon, and Jocelyne knew it would be the perfect opportunity to take Mari’s advice — Sit down, talk it out, and, with any luck, put some of their concerns to rest.
It wouldn’t be easy, but it was something she had to do. They both did.
When she reached Mark’s house, Jocelyne didn’t even bother knocking.
The young girl smiled happily as she crossed the threshold into Mark’s familiar living room. Lately it had begun to feel more like home than anywhere else – more than the apartment she shared with Clara, and definitely more than her parents’ home back in Windenburg. She felt like a stranger there now. Isolated. Judged. Unhappy.
But not here. Not with him.
She leaned forward, pulling Mark into a warm embrace. “I’m so happy to see you.” She said seriously.
“Me too.” Mark replied.
There was something different about the way he spoke. His voice was so quiet, empty, almost. And Jocelyne knew exactly why.
“I’m sorry things are so shitty right now.” She sighed. “It sucks. And it’s not fair. I know it isn’t.”
Mark nodded. “You’re right. It’s not.” He replied sadly. Without another word, he headed for the couch. Jocelyne followed.
Oma was right. She thought as she took a seat beside him. No one else matters but him and me. Her grandmother had been the one to remind her of that. And now she needed to remind Mark of it, too.
“Jocelyne.” Mark’s soft voice called her back to the present. “We need to talk.”
“We do.” Jocelyne agreed. “Things are such a mess right now… But we’ll figure it out.” She assured him. “It’s like you always say, right? We’ll get through it. Together.” The young girl smiled hopefully at him. In truth, he hadn’t said those words to her in a long time.
Mark did not return the gesture. “I think… I think I do have it figured out.” His voice was thick. It shook slightly as he spoke.
Jocelyne felt a wave of dread wash over her at the sound. “Mark…”
“I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. It’s been killing me, Jocelyne. Eating away at me. Keeping me up at night…” He paused, and held his face in his hands for a few moments. When Mark looked up at her again, there were tears sparkling in his eyes.
Jocelyne couldn’t breathe. Her heart dropped into the pit of her stomach. “No.” She managed to choke out. “Please.”
“I’m sorry.” Mark’s voice was barely above a whisper. “We can’t do this anymore, Jocelyne. It’s like you said… It’s not fair. Not to my daughter. Or to your brother. Or to you.”
“N-not fair?!” Jocelyne spluttered. “That’s bullshit, Mark. And you know it!”
“Is it?” He countered. “You’ve heard what they say about us on campus, haven’t you? You’ve seen how this has torn you away from your family.” Mark shook his head. “This is just the beginning, Jocelyne. You don’t deserve to be put through that. And I won’t let you.”
“Jesus, you sound like my Papa! Don’t act like I can’t handle myself! Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid, okay? I know exactly what’s in store for us. And I can handle it!”
For a moment, Mark seemed to falter. “W-well, it’s not just about what’s in store for you and me… Jocelyne, this relationship affects more than just the two of us.”
The girl’s eyes went wide. She knew exactly who he was talking about. “What we have… It’s not hurting Luc or Hazel! No matter what they try to tell you, okay?! It’s not hurting anyone!” What is he DOING?! Her heart raced violently in her chest. He can’t… He CAN’T.
Mark shook his head slowly. “You’re wrong. It is hurting them. If you could have seen the look on my daughter’s face, or heard the things she’s said to me…”
“Fuck your daughter!” Jocelyne shrieked. Mark’s eyes went wide at her outburst. “Why the hell should it make any difference what she thinks, huh?! What anyone thinks?!”
“Jesus, she’s my child! Of course it makes a difference!” He cried. “Someday you’ll have children of your own, and you’ll understand…”Jocelyne watched as a few stray tears found their way down his cheeks. The sight of them simply made her anger rise.
“Can you please cut the ‘someday you’ll understand’ bullshit?! Hazel is your daughter, not me! And what about what I want?! Don’t I get a say in any of this?! What about what’s best for me?!”
“This is what’s best for you! You’ll see that someday.” He promised her.
“You’re wrong.” Jocelyne just shook her head. “And what about YOU? What’s best for you, Mark? Look me in the eye and tell me it’s not me.”
He held her gaze for a long time. “You know I can’t do that.” Mark confessed at last.
“Don’t you see?” She reached out, taking both of his hands in hers. “I’m best for you… And you’re best for me, too.” Jocelyne smiled softly at him. “We were made for each other, Mark. No one else matters but you and me.”
He lifted her hands to his mouth and pressed his lips against them gently. “You’re right.” Mark whispered. “I think we really were made for each other…” He gave her a small smile. “You’re the love of my life. You know that.”
“See?” She said softly. “This is how it’s meant to be. We can’t just throw it all away.”
“I love you. And I will love you for the rest of my life, I promise.” Mark’s voice trembled slightly. “But… It’s over. I’m sorry.” He let go of her hands and turned away as he spoke.
“STOP SAYING SHIT LIKE THAT!” It felt like someone else was speaking. Like Jocelyne was standing to the side, watching the terrible scene unfold. Powerless to change it. Powerless to stop it. “You don’t know what you’re saying! You’re letting Luc and Hazel brainwash you! You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“Please. Please don’t make this any harder.” Mark’s tears were flowing freely now. He didn’t even bother trying to wipe them away. “I was a fool to think we could make this work. And I’m sorry I led you on like this. I never should have let things go this far…”
“So now you’re saying you regret it?!” Jocelyne shot at him. “I gave everything to you, Mark! Did these past few months mean NOTHING to you?!”
“They were everything to me! YOU were everything! But it was all a mistake…” Mark reached up, rubbing one of his large hands down his face. “Jocelyne, you are beautiful and smart and kind… You can do so much better than an old man like me. I know you’ll find someone worthy of you one day. And he will be the luckiest man in the world.” Mark smiled softly through his tears.
“What the hell is wrong with you?! Are you really that blind?!” Jocelyne felt herself coming unhinged. She felt a rage unlike anything she’d felt in her life, and a sorrow deeper than anything she’d ever endured. “I don’t want anyone else! I want you!” At last, her own tears began to fall.
“I’m so sorry.” Mark replied helplessly. “I don’t know what else I can say.” He shook his head.
“SAY YOU TAKE IT BACK!” She shrieked. “Say you’re not choosing Hazel over me!”
“I-I’m not!” He insisted. “I know it sounds like I am, but…” Mark seemed at a complete loss. “Please, you need to know this is for YOU too. You will thank me for this someday, I promise.”
“SHUT UP! That’s not true!”
“I think… I think maybe you should go now.” He said softly. “Go home, think about it… And you’ll understand. This is the way it has to be.”
“Bullshit! That’s BULLSHIT! I’m not going anywhere until you take it back!” Jocelyne’s throat burned in pain as her screams echoed throughout the small living room. “You can’t do this to me! You can’t!”
“Jocelyne, listen to yourself.” Mark said, his voice firm. He rose to his feet, closing the distance between them. “This is getting ridiculous… You’re making a scene!”
Jocelyne reached forward, shoving sharply against Mark’s chest. “STOP TALKING TO ME LIKE I’M A CHILD!”
“YOU ARE A CHILD! I kept fooling myself into believing you aren’t. But you are, aren’t you?” Mark’s voice was suddenly so cruel. So cold. “You’re nothing but a scared little girl, Jocelyne. And you need to go home.” He grabbed her by the arm then, pulling her roughly toward the front door. “Leave. Please.”
The room was spinning. The entire world was lost in a fog. Jocelyne didn’t remember much after that.
Just the sensation of her legs carrying her to the door.
The feeling of a cool breeze against her wet cheeks.
And the slamming of a heavy wooden door in her face, shutting her out of Mark’s house.
And out of his life, too.