There came a time when she stopped and said, in a voice barely louder than a whisper, “I don’t know who I am any more.”
And he shrugged his shoulders and said, “You’re exactly who I want you to be.”
Her mother used to tell her stories on rainy nights, when she couldn’t go to sleep because the lightning warped the trees’ silhouettes into something wicked; there were castles and kingdoms and beautiful princesses, and she would have to strain to hear that soft southern drawl, fighting against the thunder and the pitter-patter of the rain against the window, fogged and distorting the view of outside. Her mother’s whispers would pool in her ears, and they were steady and constant and didn’t stop until her waxy eyelids would tug over her soft-boiled green eyes.
She met him at a party, and he was gorgeous in everyway that a boy should be. She learned that he too was a transient soul: prone to tattered jeans and flannel shirts, to hard liquor and cigarettes, to shaggy hair and scruffy beards, to everything her mother warned her against. He was her perfect alternative prince charming, a poster-boy for the soul mate she had always dreamed of and that night when they made love, she knew it was love at first sight.
Sometimes when the night was still and quiet, and his breath was tickling the curve of her neck, she eyed the darkness that settled around them like a cloak and listened to the apartment breathe; the carpet was airing out, last night’s dinner was congealing on the stovetop, and the digital alarm clock on the desk flashed bright red numbers that cycled by, like a soundtrack on repeat, the same numbers she’d watched a week before, and a week before that.
Her mother sometimes read stories from the Bible, and she never liked these as much as she did the princess stories. They were dark and foreboding, about serpents with sly tongues and trees of knowledge and forbidden fruit. They were concrete, solid, never changing, and they felt oppressive in the night, and in her dreams, she would quiver and cringe at their mercies.
“My name’s Jenna,” she had told him, rosy-cheeked – shy. And there was a part of him that was nothing but ill-intent, but at the same time, there was a part of him that was charmed, that was gentlemanly, and that part smirked and brushed his fingers suggestively against hers.
Eve always ate the fruit and there was never, ever a happy ending.
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