The Cross

“I know that I said that I was never going to marry, but I didn’t mean that. I was a kid back then, I was just a kid. I didn’t know any better. TV made the bachelor life seem so fucking awesome, but this isn’t awesome. Fucking far from it.” Jules sat in the almost dark lounge, arguing with the bottle in his hand, pausing in between as if waiting for a response. For the past few weeks he spent many nights like this. Alone in the house he bought for them. The house they were supposed to share and raise a family in. He would get home with whatever beers he picked up on his way and start drinking. He didn’t feel the need to eat or clean up the place which was starting to look like a mini pig sty.

Thinking back he remembers how he couldn’t wait for Friday nights. Not because he’d be going out or even because it was the end of the week. No, he knew that come Friday, he would see her. He remembers every detail of her, from the scent of her perfume to the smell of her hair. In fact, every Thursday night she’d spend washing her hair. She did this for him, obviously, and he loved it. As soon as she arrived they’d get something to eat, maybe watch a movie or two but they always ended up naked in his bed. He knew every curve and crevice of her full body and he loved it. There weren’t many things he loved more than seeing the afterglow of love on her beautiful face, and she showed it well. He smiled, thinking of her.

Now he finds himself trying to drown his sorrows, knowing very well where he went wrong. Counting his mistakes and taking a swig of his beer with each one, he was now on is sixth and still had a long way to go. He stares at the TV, the sound was off, but it showed a series he used to like watching. These days there aren’t many things he likes or even care for. He takes a sip to empty the beer in his hand and walks over to the bathroom. While opening the tap for the shower he gets a towel and starts to undress. He steps inside and just stand there, feeling the water falling on his neck and shoulders. This somehow helps to relieve some tension. As the water runs, so does his tears. How did he ever let things turn out this way?

She sits on her bed with the room door closed, the only light coming from the small LED screen on her hi-fi. He bought her this little hi-fi for when she got bored. She picks up the remote control and presses a button turning up the volume to some song she never heard before. The artist didn’t matter, neither did the lyrics. All she wanted was the sound to be loud enough to drown out her thoughts. At work or wherever she was okay. She would be around people who could distract her. It’s the moments in-between when there was no one around that the voices in her head would tell her about how she wasn’t good enough. They’d mock her, saying she was a loser and an idiot. Telling her how he was messing around right under her nose and she couldn’t even see it. Stacey couldn’t handle being alone. She couldn’t even speak to anyone because they all believed he was such a good guy, he couldn’t possibly be screwing around. She pulled the pillow to her face and laid down as the tears streamed into it. “How could he do this to me?” The question she asked herself a million times before, even before he admitted to sleeping with Kim.

She grabbed her phone and noticed 5 missed calls and a few messages. She didn’t have to check it because they were all Jules’. Logging on to her twitter account, her mentions showed that he apparently missed her. A whole list of retweets that he tagged her in. His timeline showed not a single sign of remorse though. Some random retweets from relationship advice and horoscope accounts, but mostly tweets to friends and other girls. “Still tweeting these hoes, aren’t you Jules? You could never stay away from them, even when you knew I didn’t like it?” She still cried and had to wipe her eyes to see what’s happening on the screen. She went back to her own account and started writing a new tweet. “Good to see you’re still entertaining these thirsty bitches.” She was about to click send then out of sheer frustration and anger she hit the phone against the pillow, repeatedly. A knock on the door and the sound of her father asking her to turn down the music brought her back. She turned down the volume on the radio, which she completely forgot about, then went back to her phone and deleted the tweet. She wiped her eyes, got up and headed to the bathroom to rinse her face.

While splashing water on her face, she looked back at herself in the mirror wondering what it was that made him wander. Why would he go and mess around with an older woman? Even though she had asked herself these very same questions before, she still had no answer. Kim was nothing like her. She was at least 7 years older than him with a completely different personality, even their bodies were different. It still made no sense.

Jules stepped out of the shower, feeling a little better than he did when he got in, grabbed the towel and dried himself. He then wrapped it around his waist and walked toward his bedroom, finally turning on some lights. When reaching his bed, he noticed the notification light on his phone flickering. “Maybe it’s a text from Stacey.” He’s been trying to call her every day for more than a week now. She never answered his calls or texts, not even his tweets. They went from speaking all day, every day to this. No calls, no texts, no tweets. Wondering if it’s a good idea to try and give her a call or if he should just give it a rest, he decides against it and puts down the phone. The stupid notification was just to show that his battery was low so he connected the charger and put the phone on his night stand.

Sitting down on his bed, still wrapped in the towel he looked down at it. They went shopping for this together and this happened to be one of the towels she picked out. He couldn’t believe how much he missed her. He missed her face with that silly smile, that stupid strand of hair that always fell in her face and covered her left eye. Her eyes; those beautiful, brown eyes always seemed to look deep into his soul. If only he could see into hers then he would have seen the pain that she’s been hiding behind her smile.

He stood up from the bed and dressed. Walking back to the bathroom to drop the towel he spotted the bottle of lotion she left. As soon as he opened it, the smell of her filled the room. When he closed his eyes he pictured her there, like she never left. She did though, and here he was. Alone in this house he dare not call his home thinking about the woman that he used to call his own. What he did was too cold to mention, while all she craved was a little attention. Leaving the bathroom he switched off the lights and went to lie on his bed, still holding her lotion. He fell asleep that way, inhaling the scent of her while tears fell from his eyes.

Stacey mindlessly walked back into her room and it wasn’t until she was sitting back on the bed that she heard the song playing on the radio. It was one by an artist she didn’t really listen to, but Jules did all the time. With no energy left to turn it down she just sat and listened. The song wasn’t really as bad as she had always thought it was. She spoke about love and relationships in a nasty gangster rap kind of way. Stacey then decided that maybe Lauryn Hill isn’t all that bad, if you don’t mind all the swearing. It was funny to her when Jules would speak about Lauren, he was so animated. A brief smile crossed her face as she went to get her phone to read the messages he sent her. There were about 47 messages in total. This was besides the WhatsApp conversations. They all had one thing in common; he missed her and is really sorry about what happened. He wished he could take it all back and if she allowed him, he’d show her how much he loved her. She’s heard all of this before, it’s the same song and dance.

Her room still bared the scent of the flowers he sent her. A dozen long stemmed red roses. It came with her favourite chocolates and a little teddy bear holding a heart that reads, I Love You. The roses had been in her room when she got home from work, her mom said that they were delivered about an hour before she arrived so she put them in a vase with water and left it in her room. Stacey, however, didn’t want the roses and threw it out. They didn’t mean anything to her, not now anyway. The smell of it was a painful reminder though so she got up from her bed and walked to the kitchen where she took one of the roses from the bin she threw it in and took it back to her room. It was hers, after all. She went back to bed and lay down, listening to the radio.

Some new show started and the dj was playing some 90’s R&B, which she generally listened to on a Sunday evening while she drove home from his place. The music was comforting even though it brought back so many memories. She hated what had happened to them, what they’d become. Just as he did, she also wished she could go back in time then maybe she would have done things differently. She knew that Jules wasn’t the only one at fault, this was part of why she didn’t want to speak to him. She was too afraid he might find out, she was too afraid that anyone else would find out. She started dosing off and as she did, she slowly lost grip of the rose that she still kept in her hand.

The sun was already out when Jules got up, with a slight headache reminding him of the night before. One night that’s really been like many other before. He got up and as he did every morning, checked his phone. He found nothing worth paying much attention to. Dropping his phone he went to the kitchen and made himself some coffee. Just a few months ago he wouldn’t have had to make his own coffee; Stacey would have made it with the breakfast, like she did every Saturday morning. She always refused to move in with him, no matter how many times he suggested it, so she just came over on weekends. He always wondered why, if she says that she wants to be with only him, would she then not want to move in with him. It never made sense to him at all.

He prepared a very boring peanut butter sandwich and ate really just because he needed to. Thoughts running through his head had him sitting at the table just staring into his cup, really watching his coffee getting cold. This wasn’t the way he wanted things to be. This was far from what he’d hoped to achieve, but actions has consequences and this was what he had to face. He sipped on the cold coffee and got up from the table to go get dressed. He was determined to see Stacey today, he just had to. Fear was not going to get the better of him today; he simply had to do what needed to be done. He hoped that sending the flowers had helped though. It was the first time that he ever sent her flowers, it had to have helped.

The wall clock showed that it was already after 11, he thought that if he was going to go see Stacey he better call to make sure that she was home. Even if one of her parents or Andrea answered, at least he could just ask them if she was home. He didn’t really expect her to be anywhere else, but you never know. He went to get his phone and dialled there landline, it rang a few times, but there was no answer. He tried again, same thing. No one answered. He decided to quit before he made it awkward for when he goes there later. He went back to the kitchen to clean up before going to take a shower.

Stacey woke up and instinctively pushed aside the rose that was lying close to her face. Realising what it was she quickly grabbed it and kept it close to her chest. Again she questioned his reason for sending her flowers. She decided to stay in bed for a while as she had no plans for the day. After they broke up she didn’t feel like doing much. All their weekends had been spent together, even when one of them had to spend weekends away with family the other would go along. They’d spend all the time together that they could. She just couldn’t figure out where they found the time to screw up what they both held so dear. She pulled the blankets up over her head, as if it would block out her thoughts.

She stayed like that and must have dosed off again because the sound of her father calling to her woke her again. He was standing at her bedroom door telling her that they’re about to head out to the shops and she could join them if she wanted to. She still didn’t feel like doing anything so she declined his offer and asked that they just bring her back some pizza. As her dad left he told her that there’s breakfast in the kitchen, she wasn’t really hungry yet so she just told him to have fun and crept back under the blankets. It wasn’t even 9am yet and already this day was too much for her to handle. From the confines of her blankets she softly wished this day away.

The message tone on her phone brought her out from under the blankets, her younger sister, Andrea, asking her to please feed Lilly. She hated that stupid dog; it was always making a noise right under her window. Barking at nothing or just randomly scratching and sometimes even crying, but always under her window. She got up and went to get the dog food in the kitchen, threw it in Lilly’s bowl and fed her. That meaty odour of Lilly’s canned food still lingered in the kitchen. This made Stacey feel a bit nauseous. It wasn’t at all strange to her though, she’s been feeling like this for the past 3 weeks. Every morning, without fail, something would make her want to puke. She then grabbed a juice box from the fridge and went back to her bedroom. She had just sat down when the phone rang; she had to go into the lounge to answer. The caller id showed that it was Jules; she didn’t want to speak to him so she pressed mute and let it ring. No way was she going to speak to him now. The phone went silent after a few rings, then just as she went to remove the missed call message, it started ringing again. She still didn’t answer and just left it to ring again. She returned to her bed and got right back under her covers, holding the rose close to her again.

It was about 4pm when Jules locked up the house and got into his car. A few minutes later he pulled out of his driveway and headed for Stacey’s house. It usually took him about 25 minutes to get there, but today he had a lot to think about on his way over so he slowed it down a little. He was still very nervous and a bit scared as to how she’d react when he showed up. He didn’t want to think about that too much, for fear of chickening out though. Music from the radio didn’t at all sound familiar to him and even though he drove this road over a hundred times before even it seemed unfamiliar. It felt like nothing made sense anymore.

Stacey got up from bed as she started feeling nauseous again then headed to the bathroom. Just like most of the other times she just sat there feeling funny. After getting up she rinsed her face and headed to the kitchen as it was now well into the afternoon and she still hadn’t eaten. She received a text message from her mom saying that they were going to some relative so they wouldn’t be home till much later. Still sitting on the stove she found some eggs, bacon and tomato that her mom had fried for breakfast. She ate the bacon and decided to make a sandwich with the egg and some mayonnaise. With coffee already in the pot she just poured herself a cup. Turning around she saw her reflection in the glass of the oven. She looked a mess.

With his window open, Jules felt the wind blowing hard against his face. This could be exactly whay he needed to keep him focused on the road, so he kept the window open. He turned up the music playing from his sound system; the CD playing was a compilation he made when they took a road trip to Mosselbay early in January. They took the trip really to enjoy the last few days of their holiday before they both had to return to work. He was approaching the last set of traffic lights before turning off into Stacey’s street as it turned red. He stopped and as he stood there he thought of all the ways this could go. Would Stacey even speak to him or just go into her bedroom and close the door like she did before when she was mad at him? Would she sit down and discuss this in a rational manner? Maybe she’d agree to meet somewhere else, for coffee or something. All the possible scenarios went through his mind. Hooting from the car behind him brought him back to reality.

The warm shower was exactly what Stacey needed to help her feel better. She went into the bedroom with the towel still wrapped around her body. Looking at her reflection in the full length mirror she thought of how many times Jules had told her not to walk around with wet hair like that. She dried herself and got dressed. On the dresser, a light was flashing on her phone. She checked it and found a missed call from a number she didn’t recognise. The area code displayed was 044; the call is from somewhere in Oudtshoorn. She visited this little town with some friends for an arts festival a few weeks ago. “Can’t be anything important”, she told herself and put the phone down again. She decided that this would be a good day to do nothing, so she put on her pyjamas and went to sit in the lounge. Grabbing the TV remote she started channel surfing, but just as usual there was nothing interesting on. She settled for some show on the National Geographic channel. It’s all about animals travelling to the Serengeti. Jules used to find this stuff so fascinating; he always got her to watch it. It was either that or the food shows; he’d then tell her that they should make some of the dishes.

She was still sitting on the couch, watching what could have easily been the 4th show, thinking about the situation she found herself in. It’s been almost 4 months now since she walked away from Jules and he is still trying to get to her to speak to him. He called, sent messages and even flowers with chocolates and all the trimmings that came with it, but she just wouldn’t speak to him. The trip to Oudtshoorn with the girls was a good break away. They decided to take her to the festival so she could forget about everything that she has to face with Jules. It was a fun trip, they went to see some shows, went to some parties and drank a lot. One night they went to this really funny place, Die Oog, where they had lots of drink specials and the DJ was playing the best music. She was out on the dance floor and this guy came to dance with her, with all the alcohol in her system, she really had no inhibitions. They danced and sort of shouted in each other’s ears to speak over the loud music. Finally the DJ started playing some slow music and instead of getting off the dance floor, she moved into him when he extended his arms to her and they started a slow dance with arms wrapped around each other. She felt his hand on her back moving down a bit low, but with the buzz she had going on she really didn’t mind at all. Their heads were beside each other as they swayed from side to side; he then pulled his back and leaned in to kiss her. Just a peck at first, followed by another and then another. Very soon after they were locked in a passionate kiss, it was just a kiss anyway, she figured. Eventually the song ended and they parted, she walked back to her friends who were still sitting at the bar watching her. When she got to them, Emily asked what the hell she was doing. Right then Astrid stepped in saying that they’re just having fun.

Later in the night they were getting ready to leave when the guy Stacey’s been dancing with, came over and introduced himself as Steve. He then asked if they want to join him and some friends at the house they were renting. He told them that they’re about to go make a bonfire and have some more drinks, maybe even have a little braai. The girls discussed it amongst themselves and then decided to go along. After they had met and introduced everyone to the guys they all left, with Emily following closely behind the guys’ car in hers. They arrived at the massive house and everyone went straight to the backyard where one of Steve’s friends started getting wood for the fire and some of the others started getting drinks for everyone. The girls found some chairs and made themselves comfortable.

A car stopped in front of the house. Finally her parents had arrived with the pizza, she thought. Not bother to get up from the couch as they had keys to the house and she did plan on being lazy today. Andrea was the first to walk in with 4 pizza boxes in hand. Her mom and dad followed with some shopping bags with her dad making a few more trips out to the car to bring in all the shopping. She got up for the first time since she sat down in front of the TV and went to the kitchen to get some pizza, glad to see that they brought her favourites, she grabbed a slice of each and heated them in the microwave. She grabbed another slice from the more meaty pizza and started eating it cold then walked to the open door and threw a piece of the meat to Lilly.

The light had now turned green and in an almost mechanical motion, he lifted his foot from the clutch and moved the car forward. He’s taken this turn so many times and this was no different from before. As he made the right turn, the last thing he heard was the screeching of tires and cars hooting like crazy. He felt a very unfamiliar jerk as his car was hit by a dark green SUV. Almost instantly there was a puff of smoke and what seemed like a white cloud was in his face, stopping it from hitting the steering wheel. The car rolled a few times and came to a stop after hitting a wall. The driver of the Golf that was behind him got out of his car and ran to Jules, shouting for someone to call an ambulance as he went. When he got to Jules there was blood everywhere. He was just lying there, not moving at all.

Stacey sat on the couch, eating the pizza and watching TV. Her parents were still in the kitchen unpacking everything they had bought and one of them would occasionally shout out to her, telling her of how the day went. She wasn’t really paying attention to them though; she was too focused on the food in front of her. Suddenly she felt cold shivers and the hairs on her neck standing up. She quickly brushed it off as nothing and pulled the blanket up higher. She then remembered that the only other time she had that strange feeling was when her grandmother had a heart attack and passed away, very unexpectedly.

by BK TheRealist

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