Posted in Short Story

What You Gonna Do With Me, Baby? (by Cortney Joseph)

Eli walked in calmly, speaking politely as the love of his life invited him into her home. It’d been a little over three weeks since they’d last seen one another, since they’d last argued, since she’d claimed she never wanted to see him again.

Having gone down the breakup road numerous times, he finally decided that he would not be the first to initiate a sit-down to talk out what was slowly becoming an ongoing problem with the two of them. Though it pained him greatly, he only made a move when she called. And even then, he made her wait a few extra days, just to see if she’d change her mind.

“I’m glad that you’ve agreed to see me.”

 

He paused mid-step, turning to face her. As mad as he wanted to be, his look only softened as he stared into her doe-like eyes. She was as beautiful as ever, petite and fragile. He only wished to pull her into his arms, shower her in his love and kisses, the way he always did.

Still, he held his ground, simply nodding before he continued into the living area. Thanking her when she offered a seat, he sat comfortably and waited. He would not initiate the conversation either.

Caitlyn sighed, wondering if the last time she sent him away had been the final time he’d allow her to cross the line. She’d admit, shamefully, she played with his heart and emotions one too many times. So bent on testing his loyalty, his desire to be with and around her, so certain that at some point his actions would stop matching his words. And just as she knew her own actions were always foolish, sending him through hoops that seemed impossible to jump through, she knew eventually she’d lose him for good.

Standing before him, as he sat silent and stone faced, she prayed for a last chance she was certain she didn’t deserve.

“How have you been, Darling?”

Eli shrugged, cutting her off just before she could begin rambling. “I didn’t come for small talk, Cait. What are we doing?”

“Huh?”

“This. Us. This back and forth. Is it on, or off? Are we hot, or are we cold? Are you done? Because I’ll be honest; it’s becoming frustrating, and downright annoying, to be pushed away when I’ve done nothing but proven myself time and time again.” Without warning, a surge of pent up anger burst through. “I mean, one moment I’m you’re king and the next you’re casting me aside like some jester. One minute you’re thrilled and delighted to say that yes, I am yours. And the next, you’ve disowned me. Walking around as if you’ve never even known me. Telling people you’ve never even loved me. Try as I might to break from it all, I can’t. I stay and I take it, can’t bare to walk away because it hurts too much to be without you. Temporary love and constant rejection, that’s the cycle.”

Caitlyn ran her fingers through her hair. “I-I-I…” She sighed heavily, shrugging her shoulders. This infuriated Eli. The sight of him angry, foreign to Caitlyn, sent a bout of guilt through her. He spoke up again, and she allowed him, giving him the room to finally vent.

“Unfortunately, I feel I’ll always be that fool that keeps running back. I’m yours, no matter what happens because you’re all that my heart has known. You’re the only one I’ve never been afraid to give it to. I was made to love only you, but I truly believe you’re too blind to see just how true and beautiful this love, designed just for you, can be if you would let it flourish.”

“I just need to know that you’re in this for the long haul. I need assurance, constant assurance.”

“By doing what? Testing me!?” He stood tall, shaking his head as she took quick steps back. “Nagging and dogging me every chance you think is perfect when all I have ever been is honest and forthcoming, a man of my word. Bending over backwards to do any and everything only to be told constantly that it’s just not enough? What do I need to do? Prove how deep this love is, how much stronger it grows each hour, pinpoint every little moment that solidified my love for you?”

“I-I…” She groaned, stumbling over the words that she couldn’t find or piece together correctly.

“I am enchanted, under your spell completely. You could tell me to jump in the ocean, off a cliff, into a lake of fire and I would do it if it reassured you that my heart and soul are yours, that I belong to you and only you. Tell me, what will it take? And once I do it, what are YOU going to do with me? If it’s nothing, and there’s nothing you feel you can do, please let me go so that I can attempt to break away and move on. I won’t, but at least give me the room to finally try. Tell me, because I need to know.”

 

“I just don’t know if the constant need for assurance will ever go away. I don’t know why I doubt you, your love, I don’t know what brings about these thoughts that things between us will end badly. I just, I don’t know, Eli. I want things to always be great, I want to be with you. I don’t want to go back and forth, breaking up and making up. But I can’t change the way I am. I don’t know.”

He nodded, willing himself to grow calm again. Stepping to her, Eli gently pulled Caitlyn into his arms. Placing a soft kiss on her lips, he pushed her away after a few moments and smiled. “Then there’s nothing for us to work out.” Her heart sank. “Not at the moment. Perhaps, after you’ve taken time for yourself; to figure out what you want and what you want to do with this, and us, we can talk again. I’ll be waiting.” Though he wasn’t sure how long, Eli gave her a bit of reassurance that he hoped she’d hold on to, a bit he hoped would wake her up. “Call me when you know, Pretty Baby.”

And with those final words, he walked out. Broken, unsure of what he would do with himself until she made her choice.

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Posted in Short Story

My Bed of Thorns (by Cortney Joseph)

I suppose I should have been like most fools; lie some more and deny. Speak softly and sweetly in hopes that my beauty and presumed innocence would let me off the hook. That my gentle nature and presumed meekness would give him reason to doubt the rumors he’d heard, that he’d keep believing I could never do such a thing to break his heart.

Perhaps if I had done something menial like overdraft our account or been the cause of a scratch or dent appearing on his car, perhaps the outcome would be a little different.

That wasn’t the case, nor could I worm my way out of the problems I’d caused. Reaping what I’d sown, I silently watched as my husband walked in and out of the home we once shared, making numerous trips as he packed and boxed up his belongs, carrying them out to his car. Leaving me and our life behind for good.

 

No matter how I sought and tried to explain, he wanted to hear nothing.

You had plenty of time to talk when you were running to the arms and bed of another man. Instead, you lied and kept me in the dark, too busy finding satisfaction with another. It didn’t matter how many times I’d uttered the words I’m sorry, or how I meant them with every fiber of my being.

I would be left to deal with the pain and guilt of what I’d done alone. Suffer by your lonesome.

Those were his words, and I had no choice but to rest with the mess I’d made.

As he began picking between the photos that lined our dresser, I noticed the way he caressed our wedding photo with his fingertips. His shoulders dropped, a low sigh escaped his lips as he finally turned to me.

Eyes bloodshot red, boring into mine with fire that left my face heated until the painful expression he held became too much for me to bare. I dropped my head, inquiring about if there was anything he wanted to say.

I hoped against hope that his words would be more loving than they’d been over the past three weeks.

“I just want to know, where’d I go wrong? What I’d do? All of the love and trust, the life it took us years to find and build; you throw it all away in a split second, for what?”

Foolishly, I shrugged my shoulders, jumping when he made one swift move, punching his fist into the side of the dresser. “It wasn’t you, it was me.”

 

He scoffed, no doubt feeling I was throwing out a cliché excuse. I wasn’t. “I became comfortable, began feeling as if our little life wasn’t enough. I became bored, began to feel you were too nice, not exciting enough. I was so dumb,” tears slid down my face, dropping one my one against my arm. “searching for something that I thought was missing in my life. I went looking elsewhere, instead of bringing it to you.” Finally, my truth found it’s way out. “I was so used to having you, so used to your devotion to me and our relationship, to our life together; I thought I had you all wrapped up tight, that you’d never leave. I took your love, your kindness… you, I took it all for granted, and I am so sorry. Lawrence, I am sorry.”

“Who was it?”

I shook my head, begging him not to ask that question. I couldn’t bare the thought of giving a name, thoughts of how he might react clouding my mind. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It does! You want to finally come clean, after a whole year of lying to my face, come clean about it all. Who was it?” I stuttered the name, sobbing as he groaned in anguish. “Teddy. My coworker.”

“I didn’t mean for it to happen. I didn’t mean for it to go on, Lawrence.”

“Do you love him?” My voice was low, shaking as I tried to get my answer out. “Do you love him, Cassy?”

“No, I don’t. It was just a thing, a mistake.”

Looking up, I could see as he clenched his jaw, holding back the fresh tears that begged to be released as he stared at me intently. The pain shifted to hatred. “You’re right, I shouldn’t have asked who. Still love you so much, I was thinking that I could work through this.”

 

I stood, rushing to his side. Clinging to him, I pleaded heavily. “We can! I’ll do whatever it takes. Lawrence, please, please let’s work through this. I’ve been so lost without you, this house has been so empty, my days so dark. There’s not a day that hasn’t passed since you’ve walked out that I haven’t regretted hurting you.”

He pushed me away, prying my hands from around his arms as he shook his head. “No, not now.” Lawrence turned from me, walking out the door without another word. Out of my life once more, and possibly for good.

My eyes filled with fresh tears, threatening to spill over as I looked towards the dresser. Grabbing our wedding photo, I clutched it to my chest before moving back to my original resting place.

Climbing into the center of my bed, I lay quietly. Curled into fetal position, I clung to what had been the happiest day of our lives, and to my hope, as the realization that I would have to pay the consequences for all that I’d done to chase away the only man that had ever loved me. The bed beneath me grew cold, the sheets prickling my skin as bits of pain began to pang through my body, resting at a heart now attorn.

I laid myself down to cry in the bed I’d made; surrounded by the seeds of deceit I’d sown with my own selfishness.

“I’m sorry.”

Posted in Short Story

Don’t Look Back (by Cortney Joseph)

Melvin paced back and forth through Sabrina’s living room, thinking of all the ways this one moment could go right, and all the ways it could go wrong.

Though he chose to have faith in a positive outcome, he knew he had to be realistic and consider that her feelings just might differ from his own.

Though it seemed they’d been having a great time with one another, enjoying the company that the other provided, the entire situation could be taken two totally different ways.

What he wanted, and what she felt it should be.

 

He mulled over all that he could say, promising himself that he wouldn’t get tongue tied or lose track of his thoughts, that he would be clear and concise in his intentions, as honest and open as he’d been since the day they first met.

Melvin stopped, stood still for a moment before shaking his head and moving on to the next set of scenarios. He paced and paced, patiently waiting for Sabrina to make her entrance.

There was another twenty minutes, for which he was thankful. From the corner of his eye, as he paced to the left, he saw Sabrina walk in with her hands resting at her sides. There was a smile on her face, a sight he’d grown to love. A sight that brightened even the darkest of his days when he was blessed with her presence.

“Sorry that I kept you waiting so long. I couldn’t settle on a look.”

He eyed her up and down, willing himself to speak with the sense the good lord gave him. “You look wonderful in anything, Darling.”

Sabrina thanked him, offering a seat as she took one, hoping to break the awkwardness that threatened to settle around them by jumping straight into a conversation. “I was surprised to get your call this morning. As much traveling as you’ve done lately, I was expecting you to take some time for yourself before you found your way around here again.” I wasn’t expecting you to return this way at all, she thought to herself.

Melvin inched closer, speaking honestly. “I couldn’t bare the thought of being away from you any longer. To say I’ve missed you, that wouldn’t even begin to explain my feelings over the past month and a half. The loneliness seemed unbearable, until I called to mind sweet thoughts of you. They helped me get by.”

“Why me?” She exhaled, suddenly feeling the urge to speak on the things she’d heard in his absence. “You’ve got your pick of women, all through this town and the next.”

“None of them can hold a candle to you, not in any way.”

Sabrina chuckled, twiddling her thumbs as she looked down and away from the loving gaze Melvin sent her way. It was all so new, so scary. And so undeserving for a woman like her, she felt. “I don’t see how. In case you’ve forgotten, Melvin, I’m not exactly the pristine and pure type of woman most men seek. Damaged goods, if you will.”

Placing a finger beneath her chin, he lifted her face towards his, smiling warmly. “You’re a treasure, worth all that your heart desires. My only hope is that love is one of those.”

 

“It used to be.” Sabrina stood, refusing to face Melvin as he sat up straight in his seat. “It hasn’t been kind to me, hasn’t given me much of a reason to believe it’s something for me.”

“Yet, you still feel it taking hold of you, don’t you? Don’t you know that no matter how you try to run from a feeling as strong as love, as unrelenting as love, there’s nowhere you can hide from it. Try all you might, it finds you and forces itself into your space. Won’t you trust that it’s for real this time?”

“I’m a mess. Nothing but trouble for a good man like you. So broken that I’ll probably fight everything you throw my way. I’ll just bring problems you don’t need when you can live a simple life with a woman that will know her place.”

“Life’s full of problems. We’ll work through ours just the way we work through the unnecessary things life throws our way. And if I’m honest, there’s no one I’d want to fuss and fight with, make up with, and move forward with than the woman that has brought me so many of the happiest days of my life. No one I’d rather learn from, grow with. I love you, I’m in love with you Sabrina and I can’t keep this feeling to myself any longer.”

His words caused her to tense up. She felt the same, though she’d hoped she’d never have to say it. She banked on never having to say it, because until now she’d never gotten this far with a new man. Her only thought was, how long would his feelings last? How long before she did something to make him change his mind.

“Don’t…”

“I’m in love with you, Sabrina. And I’ll come here every day and say it until it’s understood that you’re the woman I want, the love of my life. My dream come true, and all that my future holds.”

His optimism, the joyful lilt in his voice upset her a bit. She wanted him to be like the other foolish men that came calling following the divorce from her ex-husband. To grow tired of her incessant pushing away. Unlike the others, Melvin failed to take hints. Was persistent in seeking every bit of her time and attention that he could earn, persistent in his attempts to love her pain away. Treated her with respect that others seemed to withhold when speaking to or of her. Thought nothing negative of her past or how she went about handling the trauma that came from it. He was patient, kind, a man of his word. He was fearless, relentless in playfully coaxing her out of her comfort zone so that she could learn to enjoy life again. Overly-eager when trying to show her that there was still some good in the world outside of the wall she’d built up, still a good man somewhere waiting and willing to be by her side.

It drove her mad. “How are you so sure? Haven’t you been through the worst in love too?”

 

Melvin nodded his head, standing. He shoved his hands into his pockets. This conversation failed to present itself in his mind as a possible scenario. He thought professing his love would get him thrown out, or laughed at before being told he was nothing more than a friend.

In her voice he heard all the doubt she threw his way, but he also heard the glimmer of hope. “Yes, I have. But, I’ve always known not to go into the next moments of my life with old hurt on my shoulder. I’ve always known not to hold someone new accountable for an old person’s actions. Just as I hope you won’t hold me to whatever your first love has done. Because as easily as I can toss out what I think you want to hear, I can also tell you that I’m not him. It’s easy to say; but I’d like to think that my actions have shown you I’m a cut above him and any other man that was too foolish to see what a gift you truly are, how special you are.”

When Sabrina turned to speak, she came face to face with Melvin. A tiny smile crept across her face as he extended his hand and waited patiently for hers. “I’ve fallen, but I’m so scared.”

“I’ll be with you, every step of the way. Won’t ever let you hit the ground.” She placed her hand in his, feeling the flutter of butterflies that swarmed the very first time she’d ever laid eyes on him. The look of love filled his own eyes, smiling wide as he pulled her into his arms. They danced to a melody that only they could hear. “Things in the past happen for a reason, to make us stronger, prepare us for the great blessings he’s already made ours. All of the pain, the hurt, it’s behind us. And if you walk with me through life and love, we won’t ever have to look back or dwell on the past. All troubles, we’ll leave. We’ll make our own beautiful memories. Will you give it a second chance… with me?”

Swallowing the hesitation that had been so strong, gathering her faith, Sabrina nodded. “Yes.” Melvin smiled, lifting her into his arms as he spun her around. “I love you.”