Willow

Lost amidst the veil
of leaves, I catch her tears as
pendulous branches

cinch her lungs, suspend
her midair, waiting til death—
he returns to me.

—Nortina


Been wanting to jump on this 2018 Haiku Challenge, hosted by Ericajean over at The Write Web, for a while now.

Week 2 of the challenge is all about writing the senryu, which has the same 5-7-5 line structure as a haiku, but thematically focuses on human nature and emotions, while the haiku makes reference to seasons and nature.

Not sure if my poem qualifies as a senryu, since it still has nature in it, but it was definitely fun to write.

By the way, today is my blogging anniversary! Yes, I’ve been writing “love stories (and poems) with a twist and other peculiar tales” officially for four years now! In celebrating my anniversary, I used a line from the very first poem I ever posted on this blog to inspire the above senryu:

…And I left her skinny ass swinging from the branch of a willow tree…

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#LyricalFictionFriday: Final Memory

They say dandelions are weeds. So I guess I’m doing the environment a service by plucking one from the ground. But then I pucker my lips and blow the seeds into the wind.

A sudden gust shifts, pushes the fuzzy whites, imitating snow, into my face, dries the tears on my checks stiff.

I hate winter.

I hate what it makes me do. How the cold temperatures drive me to crave intimacy, warmth in my bed.

God knows I never meant to hurt him. I never meant to take it that far. The man’s name escapes me now—maybe he never gave it. But I remember his strong arms around me, squeezing my lungs, his heavy breathing into my neck, making me hot. How he pounded me like tenderizing meat, forced me open…

How his whole body covered me.

Not like Stephen, who shrinks further away each day. Fifty pounds lost, now the size of a pre-pubescent teen—I’ve started buying his clothes in the boys section. And this morning he couldn’t lift his legs.

“It’s only going to get worse. I don’t expect you to stay,” he’d said when he was first diagnosed. But that night, when he came home early from therapy with Jackie, our live-in nurse, I felt his heart break in his chest—along with every other bone that has split, every muscle that has succumbed to spasms, weakened and grown faint.

When he saw how that man hurt me, how I liked it, pleaded for more…

He’s not a man anymore. The doctor’s say, by spring he will be no more.

And there are not enough dandelions in my backyard for me to wish that my betrayal was not his final memory.

—Nortina



Written for #MarquessaChallenge, a Fiction Friday challenge that uses song lyrics as prompts. Today’s prompt is: God knows I never meant to hurt you…I never meant take it that far…

Recurring Nightmare

It was only a dream, but when I see him in the checkout line, three aisles down, my heart quickens, and I remember his eyes shooting bullets through my chest, two thumbs applying pressure to my throat.

The air in here is stifling—I can’t breathe. Leaving my groceries on the conveyor belt, I dash for the exit, nearly colliding with a woman steering two shopping carts; one carries the children who will devour the food in the other within a week.

The humid air of the late summer afternoon is a surprising relief to my lungs. But the reprieve is brief. A whisper of sliding doors behind—he’s followed me.

He doesn’t even know how much he should hate me. Suspicion of what I have done far from his imagination. Yet it haunts me every night while I sleep.

He’s seen the woman with the three kids. That will be us soon, he tells me, with his two and our one on the way.

Only, it’s not on the way. At least not his third. And it’s only after he bends to hug my expanding stomach that I notice who is with him.

His companion shakes his head, knowing what I want to say. How long can we keep this secret? Until the baby’s born? How long before family resemblance can no longer hold as an excuse for why his child looks more like his brother than him? And would he ever believe me if I tell him it was rape?

He stands to kiss me, lips dry and rough like the first time I told his brother no.

He says he’ll be working late tonight but will come by after his shift—the ex watching the kids. As much as I love him, I tell him no. I must sleep, don’t want the truth of my nightmares to slip out while he holds me.

A friend once offered me sleeping pills to make the nights more bearable—at risk of hurting the baby, but I’m desperate to do anything. I’ll bury my head underneath a mountain of pillows because I fear his hatred more than never waking from a dream that kills me.

—Nortina


 

Fright Night Fridays:  Every Friday night, dare to venture into something spooky, something paranormal, something suspenseful, something that would surely give you a fright. Are you brave enough to stick around?

Transparent

Kiss me with urgency
the way you did before
your foot slipped from
the sleet-slick bridge
and turbulent ocean
waves swallowed your
lungs. Your lips feel
like ice on my tongue.
I stare into your eyes—
my mirror behind you—
see myself licking air.

Nortina


 

Fright Night Fridays:  Every Friday night, dare to venture into something spooky, something paranormal, something suspenseful, something that would surely give you a fright. Are you brave enough to stick around?

X is for Xenophobia

Originally published April 28, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge. For this post, I used the word, “xenophobia,”  in reference to Whitmore’s ghost coming back to haunt Jessica in her guilt. The poem pretty much describes the fear and insanity she’s descended into since Whitmore’s suicide. This poem won’t appear in the novella (maybe). Like V is for Visitor, it veers into a different [paranormal] direction that doesn’t really fit into how “Love Poetry” has developed. 

This is also a re-working of a poem, “Necro-Lovers” originally published in FishFood Magazine.


He was dead before I met him
A walking corpse
His discolored skin clung
To his bones like bed sheets hanging
On a clothesline

His vacant, gray eyes revealed no soul
Only memories of deceased relationships
A mother’s abandonment
A lover’s betrayal

He sought a woman whose essence he could feed on
Drain her of life
replace it with misery


He arises from the sinister world beneath
Hovers over my sleeping body
Ejaculates rivers of possession into me
You belong to me
He whispers
Nibbles on my ear
Gnaws on my breasts
Bites my bottom lip

Let’s drown together in this memory foam

I scream and he cups my mouth
I beat his concave chest and he spread my legs
He feels his foreskin peeling
I am inside of you

He stays there to morning
Until he feels the last, faint throb in my neck
Then he rises, taking my skin with him

—Nortina

V is for Visitor

I love a good ghost story, but this haunting excerpt doesn’t quite fit in the “Love Poetry” novella. While Jessica will still face something close to a haunting as she tries to come to terms with Whitmore’s suicide, she won’t almost be killed by a vengeful poltergeist. 🙂


They drove in silence. Jessica folded her hands in her lap and glued her eyes to the glove compartment in front of her. Occasionally, at a red light or stop sign, Bruce turned to her, opened his mouth to speak. Jessica’s body immediately tensed upon hearing his intake of breath. She pinched her eyes closed, braced herself for his pathetic apologies and condolences. She wouldn’t accept them. What they had done was unforgivable. A man was dead because of them. A man who loved her. A man who would’ve done anything for her. Either Bruce recognized his culpability, for he didn’t say a word the entire drive back to her apartment, or each time he attempted to speak, his tongue caught at the back of his throat, and he choked on his words.

The flashing cameras, the uniformed men wearing white latex gloves, the caution tape, and the red and blue flashing lights were all gone when they arrived.

“Well, we were at the police station for a while,” Bruce said. His voice was hoarse, as if he’d been screaming.

Jessica nodded.

“I guess they would finish up quickly. There’s not much to investigate when it’s a su—”

Jessica flinched. “Don’t say it.”

“I’m sorry. That was stupid of me.” He reached over to cup her cheek in his palm, but she jerked her head back. “Are you hungry?” he asked, squeezing the steering wheel until his knuckles were white. “We can find a place that’s still open. Get something to eat.”

“I don’t want fast food. I have food inside.”

“Look at me.” He leaned over the dashboard, lifted her chin, forcing her to look at him. “You don’t have to go in right away. You don’t have to go in at all. You can stay at my place tonight.”

“No, I have to do this.”

“Ok, I’ll walk you—”

“No. I’m fine by myself.” Before he could speak, Jessica scurried out of the car, slamming the door behind her. She hiked the stairs two at a time, however, once at the top, she couldn’t move any further.

Her vision blurred, but from eight feet away, she could still see the blood. The authorities hadn’t cleaned it up. They’d left it for her as a haunting punishment. She shuffled her feet forward, but as she slowly approached her apartment, a sudden spell of vertigo swept over her. She was halfway to her door when her view of it began to skew. Her once white door was painted the color of a blood orange. Thick blood pooled from the crack at the bottom. She felt a bar of weights drop onto her shoulders and pin her to the ground. Down on her hands and knees, she coughed and retched at the reeking smell of Whitmore’s decomposing body on the other side.

Jessica crawled to the door and pounded against the wood. “Whitmore!” she screamed. “Whitmore, please! I’m sorry!” She called his name repeatedly. The pool of blood gathered around her legs, and she started to sink. She frantically wiped and scratched at her arms, coated from elbows to finger tips in an even red. Suddenly, she could no longer feel the ground beneath her, and she went under. Her cheeks swelled as blood filled her mouth. Hot iron singed her taste buds.

Something grabbed her hair at the crown of her head and pulled her up just as she was beginning to lose consciousness.

“Help!” she said as blood drained from her mouth. She blinked her eyes open, drops of blood clinging onto the ends of her eyelashes. Through the red curtain, she looked up and saw a cocked smile and thin, uneven eyebrows. “Whit—” she began, but before she could finish, he pressed his palm flat on her head and dunked her under again. She flailed her arms and legs. She tried to scream, but the blood poured into her mouth, filled her lungs. She couldn’t breathe. She coughed and gurgled. All around her, she saw red. A black veil crept down over her eyes and from the sides until all she could see were tiny circles of red as if she were looking through binoculars. Then then those vanished, and her body fell limp.

“Jessica!”

Jessica opened her eyes. She was back on her hands and knees, the dry concrete cold underneath her fists. She tilted her head toward the door of her apartment. Only the single slash from where Whitmore’s head slid down covered the white-painted wood.

“Jessica!”

She turned around. Bruce was running toward her. He fell to his knees beside her and pulled her into a tight hug.

“I heard you screaming. Is everything alright?”

“He tried to kill me! He tried to take me with him!” she cried. Her shoulders trembled from her sobs.

“Come on. You’ll stay with me tonight.” He stood to his feet, picked her up, wrapping her arms around his neck, and carried her down the stairs back to his car.

Jessica buried her face into the crook of Bruce’s neck, afraid that if she looked up, she would still see Whitmore’s murderous ghost standing outside of her apartment, waiting for her to return.

—Nortina

U is for Under Pressure

Originally published April 24, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge.

The two detectives left Jessica alone to get Bruce’s statement. Still shivering from the chilly air in the room, she tucked her arms inside her shirt and crossed her legs underneath her in the chair. She tried to focus her mind only on warming herself up. She rocked back and forth. She rubbed her arms and legs. She pulled her shirt down over her knees. Anything to keep from thinking of Whitmore’s lifeless body lying on her floor, blood spurting from his head onto her carpet, seeping into the split wood at the center of her front door.

She had believed that his talk of suicide had only been an idol threat.

Cheat on me, and I’ll go back to that dark place with Layla. Refuse to love me, and I’ll go back to that dark place with Layla. Leave me, and I’ll go back to that dark place with Layla.

No one who thought death could be achieved by taking a few sleeping pills with vodka was truly ready to die. They hadn’t fully committed themselves to the task. They would rather leave the world peacefully, sleeping, not to violently testify to the world, This is what you’ve driven me to!

But had Jessica driven him to his demise? Could simply not loving him back be the key to his self-inflicted mutilation, or had Whitmore uncovered that Jessica was no different from the last woman who had broken his heart?

Just like Layla . . .

Was it possible that he had known about Bruce? That he had never left the premises after she’d kicked him out of her apartment? Instead, he lurked in the shadows of the parking lot. Watched as Bruce wiped away her tears, took her by the hand and led her down the stairs, opened the passenger side door for her and ducked her into his car. He followed them to the restaurant. Observed as they danced, kissed, and groped each other until the lust had grown so great, they rushed back to her apartment to consummate it. What pushed Whitmore over the edge? When Jessica had straddled Bruce’s lap in the driver’s seat, or did he reach his breaking point when Jessica wrapped her legs around Bruce’s waist and they fell into her apartment? Did he wait outside the door to confront them? Could he hear her loud, desperate moans through the walls?

The door to the interrogation room suddenly swung open, and Dan poked his head inside. “Miss, you’re free to go.”

Jessica uncurled her body from within her t-shirt and slid her feet into her flip-flops on the floor. She hesitantly walked by him, afraid that he might see the guilt on her face.

“I’m, er, sorry for your loss,” he said as he closed the door behind her.

Jessica nodded.

Bruce had been waiting by the door, leaning against the wall. “Hey,” he said. He touched her arm, behind her elbow. “Let me take you home.”

Jessica nodded again. She had lost her ability to speak.

—Nortina

S is for Suicide

Originally published April 22, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge

“Do you have any idea why your boyfriend would want to kill himself?”

It was the third time the detective had asked her that question and Jessica still didn’t hear him. They sat at the cold metal table at the center of the gray interrogation room. A second detective stood by the one-way window.

Jessica wrapped her arms around herself. When she had finally gotten over the shock of seeing Whitmore dead on her floor, a bullet hole in his head, she’d only had enough time to put on a pair of shorts and a tank top before emergency personnel arrived. The police tried to interview her at the scene, but she was too distracted by the men snapping photos and taking samples. Then Bruce behaved so inappropriately. He kept touching her shoulder, squeezing it, telling her everything was going to be OK. Every time he opened his mouth, a film of mucus crept up her throat, tickled the back of her tongue. Stop it! She wanted to shout. Stop acting like the concerned boyfriend. He’s dead. We did this! You. Me.

Jessica wasn’t wearing panties. She didn’t have on a bra. The draft in the room caused her skin to prickle up into goose bumps. Her nipples hardened underneath her shirt, and she felt as if they were pointing out toward the two officers like daggers. I’m not attracted to you, she tried to explain away. I wasn’t fucking when it happened. I didn’t kill him.

She wished they would quit stalling and arrest her for murder. She knew they suspected foul play the second they stepped over Whitmore’s body. She could see it playing out in their scheming minds. She was having a steamy affair with Bruce. Whitmore caught wind of it. She couldn’t keep it a secret any longer; they had to get rid of him. She was the brain, Bruce the brawn. He pulled the trigger. They staged his suicide. Then she assumed the role of the grieving girlfriend.

“Ms. Ryan.” The first detective snapped his finger in front of her face.

“She may still be in shock, Dan. That was a pretty horrific scene,” the detective by the window said.

The good cop, bad cop routine. She was under arrest.

“I’m sorry. Could you repeat the question?”

Dan sighed, shaking his blond hair over his eyes. “Why would Whitmore kill himself? Did he suffer from mental illness?”

Jessica put her fist to her mouth and coughed, but the cough was weak, originating from the front of her mouth instead of deep in her chest. Her tongue convulsed at the back of her throat, and she lightly coughed again, sounding like a child trying to fake sick to get out of going to school. Her lips curled into a smile, and to conceal the imminent laugh, she attempted a truly fake cough, and laughed instead at how pathetic she sounded. Both detectives stared at her quizzically.

“Is something funny?” Dan asked.

“No, no. It’s just—” She crossed her legs, wiped the corners of her lips as if her laugh were crumbs leftover from a dinner long forgotten. “I thought he would kill me,” she finally said.

“Has he ever threatened you?”

“No . . . It was Roger Peacock.”

“The guy in Houston?” the officer by the window asked.

Jessica shook her head. The more she spoke, the more ridiculous she sounded—the more suspicious. “I don’t know why I thought he would kill me. He’s always threatened suicide, though subtly. He would say things like if I ever left him, he would go back to that dark place he was in after his last girlfriend.”

“Layla?” Dan interrupted.

Jessica blinked.

“His final text to you said, ‘Just like Layla.’ I’m assuming Layla is the last girlfriend.”

Jessica nodded. “He admitted that he tried to kill himself then. But it didn’t work. I guess, I just assumed that if he ever had his heart broken again, he would give up hurting himself and hurt the woman who hurt him. He’s never said that to me directly, though.”

“Why do you think you hurt him?” Dan asked.

“I didn’t love him the way he wanted me to.”

“Meaning you cheated,” the man by the window said.

“Excuse me?”

“The man you were with. I assume you two are involved.” He approached the table, pressed his palms down on the metal. He peered down at Jessica over the rim of his glasses.

“I . . . we . . .” She shivered underneath her thin clothing. She could feel her pointy, perky breasts trying to pierce through the cotton fabric of her t-shirt. She wanted to cover herself, but she feared any further gestures to hide her suspicious mannerisms would make her look guiltier.

“Look,” Dan said, “we’re not gonna judge you for what you might have been doing with the radio DJ.”

“I thought his name sounded familiar! My brother-in-law listens to him all the time. Saved his marriage.”

“Jake,” Dan snapped. Jessica could only assume that he was the older and more experienced of the two. He turned back to Jessica. “I don’t care if you were screwing him, sucking him, or watching a movie. All I care about is the dead man on your doorstep and how he got there.”

“We just want to get to the bottom of this. That’s all,” Jake said, recovering the serious tone in his voice.

“The bottom line is he killed himself, and he did it in front of my door to make me suffer for it.” Jessica shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t blame him.”

—Nortina

R is for Ring

Originally published April 21, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge.

“What was that?” Bruce swatted at his ear.

“What was what?” Jessica pressed her lips against his forehead, shingling his brown hair with her fingers.

“I don’t know. It sounded like a fly, or something.”

“Am I making you nervous?” Jessica kissed him on the lips. Then down to his chin. Then underneath his chin, and lower on his neck, near his throat.

“Not at all.” He reclined onto the pillows propped up on the headboard as Jessica moved further down. She kissed his collarbone, then his bare chest. She traced her tongue around the sharpened outlines of his abs. His abdomen convulsed as he chuckled under her light touch. She migrated down to his navel, biting the skin on the outer edges. When she reached the thin trail of pubic hair just below his navel, he suddenly shot up.

“There it is again. That buzzing.”

Jessica searched the bedroom, and her eyes immediately fell on her phone lying on the edge of her nightstand. Bruce picked up the vibrating phone and looked at the picture displayed on the screen. “Is this him?”

Jessica nodded.

“He looks kind of weird. I mean, he has his hands in his pockets. He’s leaning to the left but his head is cocked to the right. He’s smiling, but it’s like he’s trying to show all of his teeth at the same time. Almost like he’s sneering at you.” Bruce leaned his head to the right and bared his teeth to demonstrate.

Jessica snatched the phone from him. “You look like a washed-up rapper.” She tossed it across the floor, and it landed where the door was cracked open.

Jessica climbed onto Bruce’s lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. “I don’t want to think about him. He’s history.” She sighed loudly, her breath ruffling through his hair. “You have experience with stealing girlfriends.” She arched her back. “Steal me.”

Bruce quickly flipped her over and positioned himself on top. “Alright,” he whispered. He sucked on her neck, and she wrapped her legs around his waist as he thrust his hips into her.

Jessica felt as if she would melt, her body like jelly underneath her skin. Two years of built up resentment, dissatisfaction, force appeasement to a tormented love gushed from her pores and onto the sheets in an ocean of sweat. Bruce kissed the tops of her breasts, and she remembered what she had always desired in a relationship. Someone to kiss her, comfort her when she was down, whether that was by lending a shoulder for her to cry on, or through unbridled sex. He intertwined his fingers with hers and pressed her hands on either side of her into the mattress, and she remembered she just wanted to be with someone who made her feel comfortable being herself, whether that meant watching her favorite black and white Alfred Hitchcock movies with her, going bowling just to order the chili cheese fries from the concession stand and using the bumpers to cheat, or dancing under arches of water shot from rusted fountains in the city park with giggling, half-naked two-year olds. He pressed deeper into her, quicker in pace, and she remembered how much she loved to fight. Why have sex in the morning when they could wrestle? Pin each other to the ground; winner got to take a shower first, loser cooked breakfast.

She never had any of that with Whitmore. Whitmore had a plan. He had seen too many movies, read too many blogs. He believed relationships were all about romance, love, working toward marriage. He never allowed them to grow into friends before he began planning a wedding and a family. He’d convinced her that pursuing a friendship wasted time. No one could wait that long. He was so eager to settle down, he never learned her middle name, or her favorite type of food, or what she enjoyed doing in her free time. He missed getting to know her.

She dug her nails into Bruce’s back and released a buoyant moan. She didn’t know what the future held for them, but she wanted him to help her rediscover her passion, the fire that burned within her whenever she became involved with a man who asked for nothing but her company.

Suddenly, there was a loud, piercing bang. It echoed off the walls, rang in Jessica’s ears, ricochet within her skull. Bruce pulled out of her and sprang from the bed so fast he nearly hurt her.

“That sounded like a gun shot. It sounded like it came from your living room?”

“No one else is here. My door makes a lot of noise. I would’ve heard if someone was inside.” Feeling vulnerable, Jessica crossed her arms over her exposed breasts, placing a hand on the opposite shoulder.

“Maybe it was outside your door?” Bruce said.

“There’ve been some break-ins. It could be my neighbor.”

“Stay here. I’ll check it out.”

“Be careful.”

Bruce stepped into his jeans and walked around the corner. Jessica scooted to the edge of the bed, wrapping the bed sheets around her shoulders. She heard Bruce open the door. She heard a heavy thump. Then she heard him gasp. Seconds later, he was standing in the doorway, his lips pressed together. He refused to make eye contact with her.

“You need to call the police.” His voice was short and weighted.

“Why? What is it? What happened?”

“Just—” He bent over and picked up her phone from the floor. “Call the police.”

Jessica was about to dial 9-1-1 when she saw a series of incoming texts from Whitmore.

I need to see you. Are you home?

I’m in the parking lot.

Why won’t you answer the phone?

I want to make us work. What do I have to do to make us work?

I want to marry you Jessica Ryan. That’s what I came to ask you.

So this is it? You’re done with me?

I don’t understand what I could’ve done.

Goodbye, Jessica. It’s obvious you don’t love me as much as I love you.

Just like Layla . . .

 Jessica slowly looked up at Bruce. “What did you see?”

“You shouldn’t go up there.”

Jessica dropped her phone and pushed past Bruce. She sprinted to the living room, and as if she had collided with an invisible brick wall that had suddenly risen from her floorboards, she collapsed to her knees. In front of her, face down, half his body inside across the threshold, lay Whitmore, blood spilling from his right temple. There was a smear of red on the front of her door, midway and on down to the bottom, from where his head hit and slid down as his body fell underneath him. Poking out from underneath his chest was the gun he used to end his life.

Jessica wanted to cry. She wanted to scream, but she couldn’t find her voice, and she realized that all fluids related to Whitmore, tears included, had been purged from her body while she had sex with Bruce. The only word she could muster out of her mouth was, “Oh.”

Behind her, Bruce spoke into the phone. “Yes, I need an ambulance. A man is dead.”

—Nortina

P is for Peacock

Originally published April 18, 2017 for the A to Z Challenge, this cynical scene won’t appear in the novella, but it raises an interesting question…

Jessica stuffed her phone in the locker so that it wouldn’t distract her. She hoped that someone stretching her legs in front of the lockers would hear it rattling against the metal door and take it. That would be the excuse she would give Whitmore for not returning his calls. I wasn’t ignoring you. My phone was stolen.

Jessica increased the resistance and incline on the elliptical and pushed harder. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and breathed through her mouth. She wouldn’t think about Whitmore for the next hour. She propelled her arms and legs back and forth. Closing her eyes, she pretended shed wasn’t confined to a small space under the thick, heavy air of a gym crowed with sweating bodies but outside in an open field, running through the light breeze, the ripe smell of freshly cut grass lifting her off her feet.

When she opened her eyes, reality struck her in the face, and her legs buckled underneath her. She looked at her statistics on the machine. “Eight miles an hour at level 15 resistance? I won’t be able to walk tomorrow.” She wiped down the handlebars with the moist towel. Out of habit she looked up at the TV above her. She hated that every one of the forty or more television sets hanging from the ceiling throughout the gym was on a news station—CNN, FOX News, MSNBC. Anyone exercising in an attempt to relieve stress would quickly regain it by looking up, and reading the closed captions—local middle school teacher arrested on twelve counts of indecent liberties with a minor; police officer fatally shoots unarmed black man in a routine traffic stop; protestors stage a “die-in” at Madison Square Garden; motorcyclist killed in wreck during rush hour on 1-40; Roger Peacock dead.

Jessica froze in front of the television set broadcasting the CNN report. For the last three days the entire city of Houston had been on a manhunt for Peacock after he walked onto the UH campus and shot five women in the head, execution style, all apparently his ex-girlfriends. All this time, he was crumpled in a corner of his apartment’s basement laundry room with half his face blown off after turning the gun on himself that same day.

Jessica hiked the steps of the stair climber. She was never a fan of this machine. The steps were too steep and she often tripped if they were moving too fast. She didn’t care today. She wanted to trip. She want to fall hard on her face, break her nose on the edge of the steps. Anything to get her mind off of what she’d just read, and how familiar it sounded to her current predicament.

Roger Peacock was another one of Bruce’s bitter friendzoned characters. However, after years of rejection from women who this self-proclaimed good guy believed wouldn’t find anyone better than him, he finally snapped and slaughtered them all. It was as if dating him meant life or death. He held their futures in his hands. He was their god. Do not deny me, or face punishment: Death.

What frightened her most about Roger Peacock was how much he reminded her of Whitmore. That self-entitlement they both contained within their hearts. They believed themselves to be good, respectable men and assumed women would throw themselves at their feet, willingly open their legs to them, devote their every being to them, and when those women didn’t, they couldn’t comprehend why not.

It ate at Peacock, tormented him, a molesting parasite, chipping at his brain, until he finally concluded that women dumb enough to refuse a “good man” deserved to die.

But did Whitmore believe Jessica deserved to die too?

—Nortina