“Three can keep a secret, but only if two of them are dead.” My dad had told me that once. It sounded smarter coming from his lips. And not nearly as threatening as it did in my head.
Bruce’s breath came out in a rush against the door to the bathroom. “Josie.”
He hadn’t actually mocked me. Rationally and logically, I know this. But crazy rarely pays attention to such things.
I hate that I take this all out on him. The mere implication of how those two girls always react to my presence, their giggles and whispers dripping with deceit and disgust, it nails me behind the bathroom door. It floods me with a jealousy that chokes out all sane thought and produces the intrinsic need to hide.
It doesn’t matter how much I trust him. I don’t trust THEM. And the knowledge that he spends every day, alone in tight quarters, with women who were cut out of magazines and pasted into his life for pretty much no other reason than to actualize my self hatred, it’s too much for this broken girl to take.
A gentle thud on the wood makes me close my eyes and mimic his likely stance. Foreheads pressed against each side of a bathroom door that has separated us far too many times. His voice is simultaneously muffled and amplified by the position of his lips which I imagine grazing the surface of the tan paint as he speaks.
“There’s no one else who could even hold a candle to you, Josie.”
The pinch of those words travels right to the center of my forehead. That place that makes tears eminent and rips right down through my heart and guts and soul.
There is no believing those words.
“I don’t even know how to compare you to other girls. I can’t even imagine wanting anyone else.”
I do. I can. I am plain and pudgy and gravity has stolen anything that might have been desirable about me long ago. They are beautiful and sexy and pert. Oh how I hate that word.
“Not a Victoria’s Secret model or those dumb girls I work with.” His voice is gruff, filing down the last words to wood shavings and casting them aside like garbage. “Especially not the two of them.”
A lifetime of self hatred boils up through my chest, escaping in silent sobs that wrack my upper body and steal my balance. I steady myself with both hands pressed on the hollow core door. But instead of holding me up, it disintegrates like a wall of dust.
I free fall as though everything around me was nothing more than smoke. The spiral is deep and dark, rushing through my ears and somehow constricting every inch of my body at the same time.
Closing my eyes to the furious spinning, I feel the door against my fingers again, as well as the solidity of the floor beneath my feet. The vertigo releases me as quickly as it chomped down.
But everything feels different.
Eyelids squeezed shut, I exhale and push myself back from the door. My center of gravity is off, my heart feels heavier and louder against my ribs, and my chest itself feels constricted from within. Bigger somehow, but tighter. I take a deep breath, filling an expanse of lungs that makes my eyes pop open.
As they focus, I’m on the wrong side of the door. The other side of the door. The tan paint marked with the oil of where my forehead just rested, except it should be on the white side. And much lower.
I take another step back as the handle turns and the door swings open.
She stares up at me. Shy, flirty smile budding on her soft, pale mouth. Lips that always seem to carry the tiniest pout below the most adorable nose that fits her face just perfectly. Her hand rises to sweep back the silky strands of hair that fall in her face whenever she looks down. But when she looks up, her oceanic eyes rimmed with long, black lashes, painted by expert hand, watch me expectantly.
The delicious curve of her breasts, which lift and press against the sweetheart neckline of her red polka dot dress makes my mouth flood with saliva. The hourglass dip of her waist and thrusting curl of her hip beneath the satiny bow fogs my mind so that I can hardly force my gaze further down to the arc of her calves.
I swallow against the feeling that fills my chest. It’s like warm soup, how a look can somehow give you a hug and a kiss and wipe away all your complaints. But the feeling doesn’t stop in my chest. It sinks and swells, burning hot and bright and full in my groin. I crave her like a beast hungers for it’s prey, but at the same time, I long to cradle and care for her like she is fragile.
My mind can’t quite wrap around what it is that I’m experiencing, and there isn’t time to contemplate it. I simply must convince her just how wholly and completely beautiful she is. That it’s impossible for me to notice other women because, when she is near, even in thought or memory, I am simply engulfed with desire to kiss her. To touch her. To hold her.
I take her hands, or she takes my face, or some cosmic force magnetizes us until our bodies are touching and I feel exactly what it is for a man to want a women so completely that his body takes over the thinking.
As his lips meet mine, the spiral stops for real, and my eyelids spring open.
Behind my own eyes now and watching his face from the correct perspective, I am frozen in his arms. His lips tasting of all the love I just felt and his hands preparing for the task of forcing me to feel it.
No other women get to experience that. Only I do.
“Please, Josie. I’m so-”
I hold a finger to his mouth, tracing the soft, full curve of his lower lip before looking deep into his clear but heated gaze. The words he wants to say pour from his fingertips as they pull me tighter against him and grip me there like he cannot allow me to escape.
“They are beautiful, Josie, I don’t deny that. But you are a sunset. Compared to you, they are the dry desert surface of the moon.”
I know it’s crazy. That no amount of affirmation could ever make me see myself as he does. But even after feeling it first hand, it’s difficult to believe myself worthy.
But it’s easy to believe he wants me. To see the beauty he sees in me. To feel the physical representation of that affirmation.
So, I guess I’ll hold off on killing those girls just yet. You know, now that I have some perspective.