The moment he heard the soft knocking at the door, Mark knew exactly who he would find standing on the other side.
For one moment, he actually considered ignoring it, and pretending he wasn’t home. But what good would that do? How silly and immature would that make him? A feeling of shame washed over him at the thought.
With a heavy sigh he placed his book beside him on the soft brown couch, not even bothering to mark his place. He had much more to worry about than remembering what page he’d been on.
Mark fought back a wave of nausea as he rose to his feet and headed for the door, just in time for a second round of knocking to reach his ears.
He felt his heart race in his chest the moment he set his eyes on her. It had been nearly two months since he’d last seen Jocelyne’s beautiful face. God, I miss her. Mark wanted nothing more than to pull her into his arms, press his lips to hers, and never let her go again.
Instead, he forced a polite smile. “Jocelyne.”
“Hi, Mark.” Jocelyne replied, unsmiling. Her voice still sounded exactly like music… But less lively than he remembered. Less vibrant.
“What are you doing here?” He asked softly as he stepped aside to let her in. It was a genuine question – he truly had no idea why she’d come to see him. To try to win him back? To make him feel even guiltier than he already did? To scream in his face and tell him she hates him? I deserve it…
The young girl sighed, and seemed almost annoyed. “Don’t worry, I’m not here to beg, if that’s what you’re worried about.” Jocelyne sat down on the large couch as she spoke.
“N-no, not at all, I –”
She ignored him. “I just wanted to see you one last time before I leave. That’s all.”
Mark’s eyes widened. He’d almost forgotten – Jocelyne had finally completed her studies. She’d earned her degree. And she was moving back home to Windenburg… For good.
“I guess congratulations are in order.” He smiled gently at her.
She just shrugged. “Yeah. I guess.”
“And I bet you’re looking forward to finally being back at home.” He continued the uncomfortable small talk.
Mark regretted his words almost instantly.
“Yeah… Really looking forward to that.” Jocelyne’s voice dripped with sarcasm as she spoke.
Oh God, it’s worse than I thought…
Mark bit his lip, struggling to find the right words. “Jocelyne… I’ve, um… been hearing that you’re having some… difficulties with your family.” He knew he didn’t have to say that it was Hazel who had told him. “And I just want you to know that this isn’t anyone’s fault but mine, okay? They didn’t –”
“I don’t want to talk about my family!” Jocelyne snapped. “Please.”
Mark knew better than to argue. “Okay.” He said at last. “Just… Please know that I’m sorry… So sorry. For everything.”
Jocelyne nodded. “So am I.” The girl was silent for a few moments before continuing. “I wish I knew what to say. I didn’t exactly come here with any grand speech in mind or anything.” To Mark’s surprise, the girl smiled softly for a moment. “I just wanted to be able to look at you again… When neither of us are crying or sad or angry. I don’t want to remember you like that. And I don’t want you to remember me like that either.”
Mark almost laughed. “You’re talking like we’ll never see each other again. I’ll be in Windenburg plenty to visit Hazel.” He assured her. “I’m sure we’ll bump into each other every now and then.”
“Mark, you don’t get it.” She shook her head. “I don’t want to see you again.”
Her words hit him like a punch in the gut. “What?!”
“I never want to see you again.” Jocelyne repeated seriously. “Maybe if you’d told me you didn’t love me anymore, I’d feel differently.” She admitted. “But knowing that you do makes it hurt so much more…” She shook her head, her brow furrowing slightly.
“And I’m sick and tired of hurting, Mark. I don’t want to feel like that anymore. I don’t want to feel anything anymore.” The girl paused for a moment. “But when I look at you, I… I feel…”
Jocelyne’s voice trailed away into silence as her gaze bored deeply into his.
Mark did not look away.
And when she began closing the distance between them, he did nothing to stop her.
Mark savored the taste of Jocelyne’s soft lips and supple tongue as her mouth moved with his. His nostrils inhaled her sweet scent. His ears relished in the sound of her sighs. He reached up and let his fingers tangle in her hair as he pulled her closer and closer to him.
It was perfect. She was perfect. And Mark wanted nothing more than to stay in that moment forever.
But he knew it couldn’t last.
Mark was called back to reality by the feeling of one of her small hands fumbling with his belt buckle. The other was already working on the zipper of his jeans. Oh God, what are we doing?
Mark pulled away from her, shaking his head slowly. “Jocelyne, no.”
“Please. I need you.” Jocelyne had said she wasn’t there to beg – but that was exactly what she was doing. “Can’t we be together?” She whispered. “One last time?”
He rose to his feet, unable to meet her gaze. “We can’t.” Mark’s voice shook slightly as he spoke. “You know we can’t.”
He wanted to, more than anything. But he couldn’t… Because if he did, he knew he would never be able to let her go again.
Mark stood there uncertainly, waiting for the girl’s reaction. He expected her to cry, or scream, or argue. He expected another scene.
But there wasn’t one.
Jocelyne simply rose to her feet, taking a few steps toward the door. “It was a mistake to come here.” She said softly. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” He replied seriously. “I’m really glad I got to see you before you left.”
“Me too.” For one fleeting moment, Jocelyne almost smiled. “Goodbye, Mark. I love you.”
A million possible responses flooded his mind.
“I love you too.”
But she was already gone before he could make up his mind.