To Make you love me
Trigger warnings: sexual abuse, mentions of suicide and self harm, violence, lesbian relationship.
"Please, just go away," I whispered. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, hoping that as though by magic, when I opened them again, I would once more be alone in the room.
It didn't work. She was still there, still leaned closely over me, her brow furrowed and her features set in lines of concentration as her hands tugged at and around me, trying to draw me closer.
This was a disaster. This was exactly what I hadn't wanted to happen, what I had known all the same she would do. If she didn't listen to me, if she didn't leave, now, this was going to turn out exactly as I had feared, with the outcome of my worst nightmares. I had to make her leave me, right now, even if that meant I would never be able to see her again.
I owed her that. I owed her so much, but the least I could give her now was some chance at a life, even if there was no more hope for me. There never really had been, but for a time, she made me think that maybe it was possible after all. That maybe, a life of my own was worth trying for.
She didn't even seem to hear me. She was murmuring under her breath, words that were supposed to be soothing me, I guess, but every breath she drew and every gentle, caressing touch she gave me only gave me even more anxiety. How could she waste her time and breath on me, how could she still be focused on me, when her own safety was less secure every second?
"Get out of here, go away!" I hissed, but I was unable to hide the desperate hitching in my voice. "Didn't you hear me, I told you to get the hell away from me!"
But no matter how mean or angry I tried to sound, I couldn't bring authority into my tone, and I knew it didn't matter. She wouldn't buy it. Even if I could fake things enough to fool Keith, I could never fool her. I had never really tried before, and I couldn't do it now, even when it mattered most.
I guess the tears streaming out my still closed eyes and the way my chest hitched with sobs at every other word wasn't helping me sound all that threatening either.
"Zelda, Zelda, shh, it's okay," she whispered, pausing to stroke back my tangled hair. She ignored how her fingers snagged in its tangles and how it was dull and dark with grease, just kept petting me like I was something beautiful, something so much more special than I knew I ever was or ever could be. "Zelda, I'm going to get you out of here, stop crying. Please stop this, baby. I'm getting you free, and I'm taking you away."
Zelda, she called me, even now. Like I still was that to her, an epic princess or prize, exotic and beautiful and standing out. Like I wasn't luring her into a trap just by existing, just by being me.
It wasn't okay. None of this was okay, but I'd accepted that for me, that was just the way my life was going to have to be. I didn't want that for her. But how could I make her understand that, when she seemed determined to handcuff herself to my fate, even without the literal handcuffs that were holding me against my own bed?
She pulled back from me slightly, just enough to pull out a knife from her shoulder bag. It was good sized, but when she measured it up against the chains of the cuffs, I could tell it wasn't sharp enough to cut through metal. Still, she tried, bracing her wrist to keep herself from slipping and cutting me or herself. Part of me wished she would, that she would just cut through my wrist and be done with it, let me bleed out on the bed where I had lay awake so many nights, wishing I could die. It would seem right, somehow. The only place it would be better to happen was Keith's bed.
But I knew even if she did slip, and cut me enough for that to happen, she wouldn't leave. She wouldn't save herself. She'd probably carry me out the window just the way she came in through it, flagging down someone on the road and demanding they drive us somewhere I could get help. She'd save me. She never could seem to resist trying to save me.
That was something I loved about her, but now, it was something I hated too.
Hovering over me, her face was set into fierce, determined lines, almost a grimace. Even so, her dark eyes shone compassion and concern, and when she lay her hand against the side of my head, her touch was so gentle I couldn't hold back the sob that broke free from my throat.
"Please, Jolene," I whispered, knowing even as I spoke that I had already lost this fight, that I had probably lost it from the first moment I saw her, walking with her shoulders set against the weight of her backpack down the road. "Please, just go. Please."
But she wouldn't. I knew she wouldn't, even if that meant she herself would be at risk. I could see it in her eyes, could feel it in her touch. This was what love did to her, making her reckless and stupid enough to not care about herself, just because she cared about me.
My memory flashed back to the first time we had lay together, how my heart banged against my ribcage with anxious anticipation of Keith's voice shouting out as he ran towards us, exposing us not just in body but in what we had become, together. My breath had come shallow and fast, and I had held stiff and still, as I always had before, every time I lay bare before another person's eyes. I had waited, shaking inside, ready to submit to whatever she had in mind for me. I had learned long ago that resistance only made things harder. Even then, with my invitation to her, my desire to have her close, I had fallen back on old habits, tensing into rigid dread when my clothes were off.
But Jolene hadn't reached out for my breasts or thighs, and her hands had not slipped between my legs to feel inside me. She hadn't covered me over with her body until I couldn't breathe, or smothered my breath with her tongue so no words could have come, even if I tried to speak. Instead she lay beside me, inches of space in between us, and the first thing she reached to touch was my face.
"I would never do anything that you didn't want, Zelda," she told me quietly, her gaze fixed not on my body, but on my eyes. "That's what love is, I think. To be good and kind to someone. To give to them instead of stripping away. Love isn't something that brings fear. If it hurts, then it isn't love. Love isn't painful, physically or otherwise."
But she was wrong. I knew that now, even if Jolene still hadn't learned the truth. Love always hurts. Sometimes it just takes a while for the pain to kick in.
"Why won't you listen to me?" I tried again, jerking my head away from her hand, trying with the limited mobility the handcuffs allowed me to get out of her reach. "I told you go leave me, I told you to go! Listen to me!"
"Zelda," Jolene started, the patience in her tone starting to take on an edge, but I didn't care. I was glad for it. If she got angry, if she got upset, maybe she would finally listen to me. Maybe she would finally realize that this wasn't worth it, that I wasn't worth it.
"He is going to kill you," I said slowly and deliberately, making sure she understood every word that I said. I kept myself twisted away from her as she stared down at me, not reaching out anymore. "Why can't you understand that, Jolene? He is going to fucking kill you if he finds you in here!"
I saw her eyes widen and knew that something about what I had said had finally made a mark. But I was pretty sure it wasn't the part about her life being at risk; after all, that hadn't bothered her before. Knowing Jolene, she was just shocked that I had cursed at her for the first time. She always saw me as so innocent, as someone pure and good, and for a while I really tried to believe. But I knew now. I was the same now as I was before her- worse than nothing, someone else's broken toy. Maybe now she'd finally see that. She had to see that, for her own protection.
But she wouldn't. I watched her set her jaw again, lifting her chin high, and I knew I'd failed again.
"I won't leave you, Zelda," she said again. "Not like this. If he wants to take me on, let him. It's about time he faced off to someone who sees him for what he is. It's about time someone showed him what a pathetic coward he really is."
They always tell you that you ought to knock on wood, once you say something out loud you don't really want to come true. My bed frame was metal, even if I hadn't been handcuffed to it. Maybe that was why Keith picked that exact timing to burst into the room, his sheriff's pistol held in hand. And as I cried out, pulling hard against the cuffs on my wrist to try yet again to pull them free, my father released the gun's safety, pointing it directly at Jolene's chest.