Controlling Jennifer XI: Forget-Me-Not
“I just wanted to say I’m sorry.” began Jacob. Jennifer sat on her bed, listening to him. His words sounded like he had practiced them over and over again, but Jennifer only half listened to him. She had heard the important part anyway, the ‘I’m sorry’ part. The rest was just filler, padding for the first sentence. Instead, Jennifer studied his face. He looked different from before, less intense and more tired, like he had gone through some sort of emotional upheaval and was now coming out of it.
“I’m sorry I came on so strongly, and pressured you so much. You were... well, to put it bluntly, that one day, making love to you was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had. I guess you could say it made me a little...” he hesitated. “...obsessed...with you.”
Jennifer’s voice was a little distant, as she remembered how he had looked that day in the hallway, when he had asked her about...hmm, well, he had asked her how he had burned his hand. “You’ve been acting so...different.” she said to him. Come to think of it, how HAD he burned his hand? Jennifer fought off the temptation to pursue this tangent in her mind; she had recently come to the realization that she, too, had been acting very different the past month, and now she was trying to get a grasp of all she had done.
Jacob hung his head. “I know.” he said quietly. “Like I said, I’ve been kind of obsessed with you. I hope I didn’t scare you too much...if it means anything at all, lately, I’ve been kind of scaring myself lately. All I can say is I’m sorry, Jenn...I’m trying to get more in control of my life now.” He looked up at her, and she saw something in his eyes, a glimmer of hunger as he looked at her. “You have to understand...” he breathed. “...that day was incredible. YOU were incredible. I’ve never had sex like that before... it was unreal.”
Jennifer bit her lip uneasily. It was her own fault, for acting that way...why had she done that in the first place, anyway? She had acted so crazy that first day, throwing herself at any man she saw. Throwing herself at Jacob. It was the beginning of everything, the start of the month of madness. Jennifer shook her head. “I have to apologize, too, Jacob. I’ve been acting really weird this month, too...well, since that same day. To be honest, I don’t think I would’ve slept with you if I had really been myself.” She turned away to look out the window, her next words inaudible except to herself. “I really don’t know what’s come over me.”
When she looked back at Jacob, she was amazed. He had a fervent, strained expression on his face, and it looked like it was taking all his willpower to keep from sweeping her up in his arms right then and there. He took a step forwards unconsciously, then noticed and forced himself two steps back. “Don’t say that, Jennifer...you don’t need to apologize for anything. Especially not what happened that day. I..uh...I gotta get going...can we be friends again? JUST friends?” He gave her a slight, almost melancholy smile.
Jennifer thought about offering him a hug...but she still didn’t trust that look in his eyes, and worried a hug might lead to more. “All right. Friends.” she said. She tried to smile but wasn’t able to.
Jacob looked at her uncertainly, then grinned again. “Good. See you later, Jennifer.” He walked out the door.
“Bye.” said Jennifer, and watched him leave. Her eyes drifted to his arm as he entered the hallway and disappeared from her sight. The bandage was gone now, and the burn was pretty much healed up...how had he received it, anyways? She would have sworn she was there, and that she had seen it happen...but she couldn’t remember exactly when, or how. It had happened on friday, she knew that for sure, because he had burned it after he had broken in on her with Derrick. When Derrick had led them out to the parking lot for the fight. Or...was it Derrick? Or...someone else? Jennifer felt a familiar sensation, like something or someone was dancing at the edge of her memory, fluttering just barely out of reach, a moth bumping against the dim light of her mind. But, as usual, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t pinpoint it, and soon it all faded. It had the feeling of a dream, disappearing quickly out of her consciousness until she had no grasp of it left.
She slammed her fist down into her pillow, taking her frustrations out against its softness. She was sure that this elusive memory was the key to her recent madness; she didn’t know how she knew, but she knew. If only she could remember.
The next day, Jennifer found herself staring at a tree. She was in the park with Darlene, walking to the track, when she saw the tree, and abruptly she found herself completely focused on it. That tree. She knew that tree. She had been sitting under that tree...sometime recently...with someone. Not Francisco, not Darlene, someone else. Someone in a strange mood, a non-talking mood, and she was sitting beside him, waiting for him to speak. She could remember it faintly...maybe a dream? It was hard to say. It seemed like a dream, but she couldn’t be sure.
“Earth to Jennifer.” Darlene’s voice sounded right by her ear. Jennifer was startled out of her trance, and turned to look at her roommate. Darlene was grinning at her. “What’s with you? See a ghost?”
Jennifer once again focused on the tree. “That tree.” she murmured. “I know it from somewhere. I can remember sitting under it...with...someone. It’s weird. It’s like I’m remembering something that didn’t happen.”
“Like deja vu?” asked Darlene. She followed Jennifer’s eyes to the tree. “Maybe where you met Francisco? Didn’t you say you guys met in the park?”
Jennifer shook her head. “No, that was somewhere else. Over in that woodsy area over there.” She started to nod slowly. “But I think it was the same day. I was with someone else. Or...maybe not?” Now, when she thought about it, it seemed like it was all her imagination. Hadn’t she been sitting there alone? And she had seen a bunch of boys throwing rocks at a squirrel...yes, when she thought about it, she had done it all by herself. All alone. Yet...that didn’t seem exactly right.
“Want to take a closer look?” asked Darlene. She grinned. “Anything to delay jogging.” Darlene had started to jog somewhat regularly with Jennifer, although she usually quit after two or three laps, and sat in the shade while Jennifer finished the rest of the running. Jennifer didn’t really mind; it was fun running with another person, even if Darlene was slower and got tired faster.
“Okay.” said Jennifer. They walked over to the tree. Jennifer looked at the area at its trunk. She knew where she had been sitting, at a space between two roots. Now, she looked at the space beside it, and it really felt like someone else had been sitting there at the same time she had. Her mind flickered to an image of hands, hands shredding a leaf into fragments. Or was that a dream? She had been there alone, she was sure of that. She would have certainly remembered if it was otherwise.
Jennifer shook her head. “I think it’s just my imagination.” she said. “My mind is playing tricks on me. Let’s go to the track, okay?” Darlene shrugged, and they walked back to the sidewalk and continued to the track.
That night, Jennifer had a dream. She was in her dorm, walking to the bathroom to take a shower, wearing her white cotton robe. But when she entered the bathroom, the walls on the left side of the bathroom were gone, and instead the room extended into another room, a dark study with high shelves of books covering each wall. The study had one chair, a large swivel chair turned backwards so that she could just barely see the head of the person sitting in the chair. He had dark hair, and Jennifer felt a touch of fear. But when she turned to leave, the door was gone.
The chair squeaked as it swiveled slowly around, and she could see the man sitting there. He looked about the same age as her, with straight dark hair, and a darkness to his features that made him look slightly Italian. His eyes caught hers and held them; she realized that he didn’t have any pupils, only blank white where they should have been. But she could tell where he was looking, and she realized he was tracing her body with his eyes. He grinned, a familiar grin.
“Hello, Miss Cailly.” His voice was familiar too.
Of course it is, she abruptly realized. It’s Mark. How could she NOT recognize him? “Mark.” she whispered.
“Did you want to see me again?” he grinned. “Why don’t you take off your robe? I want to see your lovely naked body.”
Jennifer performed his actions without hesitation, untying the belt and letting the cloth slip off her shoulders to the floor. She could see his empty sockets wandering over her bare breasts, tracing her soft skin down to her triangle of dark pubic hair, then moving down each of her long legs, one at a time. “Beautiful.” he grinned. His voice was darker, less human. “Beautiful.”
Jennifer found that she wasn’t embarrassed by his frank appraisal. If anything, she wanted him to do more. She wanted him to pull her onto a bed and spread her legs open. She wanted to feel him inside her, feel him thrusting deep within her and making wild, passionate, uncontrolled sex with her.
And then she realized the den had become a bedroom, and a canopy bed covered in silk waited to the side. Mark stood and held out his hand. “Come to me, Miss Cailly.” he said. His voice was overpowering, and her body trembled to obey.
But a question suddenly surfaced in her mind, and it stopped the lust that threatened to burst from her body. She peered at him. “Mark.” she asked. “Mark, why did you leave me on Saturday?”
He walked forward in three easy strides, and enveloped her naked body in his arms. His hands slipped down to squeeze her buttocks, and push her crotch against his. She could feel his erection pressing against her pelvis, straining against his clothes. “Hush.” he whispered into her ear. “Did I say you could speak? Come with me, Jennifer. Come to bed.”
But the passion was ebbing inside her, leaving her cold and empty. All she could think of was that question. “Why did you leave me? Please, Mark. Please tell me why.” she whispered as she latched her arms around him and fell into his embrace. Just like on Saturday, she thought. It was all coming back to her. Mark. That’s what she had been trying to remember. How could she have forgotten him?
But he released her and shrugged her off. His face was disgusted, and she was still disquieted by his empty eye sockets. “You’re a bad slave.” he said. “I’m willing to please you, more than you deserve, and you won’t please me back. You disgust me.” He wandered back to his chair. “I’m willing to give you what your body wants. You should thank me for that. Instead, you turn me away. You don’t deserve a master such as I, Jennifer Anne Cailly.” He sat down in the chair, grinning once again.
“Please, Mark.” she said, taking a hesitant step forward. “It’s more than that, can’t you see? More than just sex.” He only grinned, as if the smile was frozen on his face, and his chair slowly started to turn.
“Mark!” she cried. She started to walk towards him, her pace becoming faster as his chair continued to turn. “Don’t go! Just answer me...tell me why you had to leave me!” And Jennifer rushed towards the chair.
But when she got there, the chair had turned all the way around, and Mark was gone.
That was when she woke up. It was still dark, and her panties were slick and wet with fluids. Darlene’s slow breathing came from the next bed. Jennifer checked the clock. It was 3:35, she still had a couple hours left to sleep.
For a while, she laid in the dark, staring at the ceiling and thinking of her dream. Mark. She had seemed to recognize him in the dream, but now she couldn’t remember where from. Mark. Maybe she had made it all up; that sometimes happened in dreams, she would recall memories that were all part of the dream. That seemed likely in this case.
But the name kept repeating in her head. Mark. Mark. She knew it somewhere. It felt right. She didn’t know where it came from, but it felt important.
Write it down, a voice said in her mind. In her sleep dimmed memory, she could remember someone had written a poem in a dream, but only wrote down the first few lines, and afterwards couldn’t remember the rest. She felt the same way. If she didn’t write down the name, she would surely forget it. Jennifer searched the top of her desk in the dark until her hand encountered a pencil. Then she found a piece of scratch paper, and scrawled: Mark.
She nodded, pleased with herself. Yes, that name somehow felt important. Her mind drifted back to sleep, and this time, she didn’t have any dreams.
Ann walked up after another boring Chinese Culture class. “Are you eating lunch, Jennifer?”
Jennifer hadn’t paid any attention to the lecture; instead, she had filled up the blank page in her notebook with that name. The name Mark. She felt like the man in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the one who had spent the first half of the movie building replicas of a hill with a flat top. Like him, she knew the name Mark was somehow significant, but couldn’t figure out how.
She looked up at Ann. “Huh? Oh...actually, no. Sorry, Ann. Francisco said he would take me out for lunch.”
“Oh. Ok, that’s all right. Have a good time.”
“Bye!” said Jennifer. Ann walked out as Jennifer gathered her things.
She met Francisco by her mailbox. “Hi, Jenn!” he said cheerfully. “You ready to go?” She smiled and nodded, and together they walked across the street to Joanne’s Coffee Shop, which was a restaurant near the campus often frequented by students. The place was fairly crowded, as usual during the lunch rush. Fortunately, Jennifer and Francisco didn’t have to wait too long before they were seated.
“So how was your day?” he asked as they waited for the waitress to notice them.
Jennifer sighed. “Kind of weird. For some reason, I have this name running through my head. I keep trying to place it....it sounds so familiar... but I can’t get it.”
“So what’s the name? Maybe I know.”
Jennifer doubted it, but she told him anyway. “Mark.”
“Mm. Mark what?”
“Just Mark. I can’t remember a last name.”
Francisco grinned. “Just Mark? There’s lots of Mark’s, Jennifer.”
She sighed again. “I know. But it feels like a Mark I should know.” She considered telling him about her dream the night before, but abandoned the idea. It was too personal.
“Hmm. Should I be jealous?” Francisco joked. But, even though she knew he meant it in fun, it struck a chord in her. That had something to do with Mark. It seemed like Francisco SHOULD be jealous of Mark...for some reason. Jennifer went quickly through the names of all her previous boyfriends, all the guys she had dated, all the men she had had sex with. But none of them were named Mark.
Her consideration did not go unnoticed by Francisco. “Hey! What’s with that look on your face? Is Mark a competitor?”
She smiled. “No, no. I was just going through the names of men I’ve dated, to see if any were named Mark.”
She fought to keep from pausing again. This also struck a chord in her. She KNEW she had never dated anyone named Mark...but...it seemed like she had. “No, none were.”
“Well...” he said cheerfully. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” Then he started telling a story, about something that had happened in his Chemistry class. Jennifer only half listened, her mind wandering. Mark. Who was Mark?
The waitress came and took their orders. Jennifer ordered a chicken salad, and Francisco had a burger. They started to talk again. And then, while Francisco was talking, Jennifer looked over his shoulder, and she saw him.
It was the man from her dream. It was Mark. And he was staring right at her.
Jennifer went pale, her eyes linked with the strangers. She could see he was sitting at the counter, drinking a coke, staring at her. He didn’t look away when she met his gaze, but continued to stare at her, his eyes tracing a line into hers as if doomed to do so eternally. He had a pained expression, as if he would have rather returned to his coke and oblivion, but could not wrench his eyes from her face. Jennifer felt a weird loneliness go through her as she watched him. Even though she was with Francisco, she felt lonely.
Francisco couldn’t help but notice her attention had shifted. “What is it, Jen?” he asked, turning to follow her gaze. Jennifer could see Mark’s eyes shift to Francisco’s face, then returned to regard Jennifer for a moment, before returning to his coke.
Francisco turned back. “What’s wrong? You know that guy?” he asked.
Jennifer could only shake her head weakly. “No. I’ll be right back.” She stood on wobbly legs, and walked over to Mark, not knowing what to expect. Maybe she was crazy. But somehow, she had to know who he was.
Mark stared down into his soda, waiting as she approached. She stood next to him uncertainly. “Hi.” she started. “Um...do I know you?”
He didn’t look up. “Jennifer.” she heard him say.
He knew her name. How did he know her name? She couldn’t remember him. Yet, she could. Her mind struggled to come to grips with what was reality in her mind, and what was not. Finally, she asked, quietly, “Mark?”
He looked up at her. His eyes were creased in amazed disbelief. She watched him, uncertainly, waiting for him to speak. Finally, he did, and as he spoke, she felt something reach into her mind and clean away the darkness. “Jennifer. Remember.” he said. And suddenly, it all came back to her, flooding into her mind. All the memories of the past month. Memories of Mark. She knew him. He was Mark Robert Antonio.
“Mark.” It all came flooding back. Meeting him in the park. Going with him to La Rochelles. Meeting him at the dance. Talking to him in the park. Obeying him. Hating him. Fearing him. Kissing him. It all rushed into her mind in a torrent of images. “Mark. Of course. Mark.”
“You remember.” he said.
“Mark...” she said again. She gasped as her memory finally caught up. “It was you! You made me forget everything! Mark...why...?” She could remember her shock, just before his words had erased her memory, when she had realized what he was going to do.
“I couldn’t stand it anymore...I couldn’t stand that look you had.” he said. But he was talking to himself. His voice was low and strained. “I couldn’t stand you not knowing who I was.”
“Mark. How could you?” she felt betrayed. Hurt and betrayed.
He looked at her. “Jennifer...I had to. I have to do it again. It’s better for you if you don’t remember anything. You can go back to the way things were.” He shook his head, his eyes squeezing tightly together. “I just couldn’t take you not knowing who I was.”
“Don’t you dare!” she said, her voice louder than she intended. Almost a shriek. She caught herself, and spoke again, slower and carefully controlled. “Mark...please.” Now her voice was pleading, but she couldn’t control that. “Please...you can’t...don’t put me through that again. I thought I was going mad.” The words started to rush out now. “Mark...why did you leave me? Why are you doing this to me? What’s did I do to you? How could you put me through all this? What’s wrong with you? Tell me, Mark...what happened?” She finally managed to stop the flow of words and emotion pouring from her mouth.
Mark looked like every question had pounded against him, tearing him down worse than any insults ever could. “Jennifer...please...I had to...I have to again...it’s better...”
Jennifer sat down next to him, feeling her legs go weak under her. “Mark....Mark, don’t do it again. Please. If I mean anything to you at all...don’t make me forget again.” Her mind was swirling in emotions, and it was all making her dizzy. She didn’t know whether to hit Mark or hug him. Her mind jumped from memory to memory, reliving her experience with Mark backwards, forwards and sideways. She felt completely torn up inside.
Mark, too, looked uncertain, and Jennifer could feel the emotions battling on his face, too. Finally he whispered “I have to...it’s better if I do...”
“Better for who?” she whispered quietly, feeling like her soul was drowning in a sea of anguish. He would do it again, he would make her forget. She tried to tell herself that she wouldn’t forget this time, but she knew his power would sweep her away like before. It was all bitterly inevitable.
“I have to...but I can’t, Jennifer. I can’t.” And he reached out for her. That tipped the scales in herself, and before she was even aware of it, she was in his arms again. Letting herself feel safe and comforted in his grip. Clinging to each other, saying nothing. She could feel him shaking. That’s all right, I think I am, too, she thought.
Some colder, logical part of her mind told her that Francisco was getting up and leaving. It informed her that she was letting the possibility of a safe, happy relationship drift away, while clinging on to what was most likely the most screwed-up relationship she could ever have.
Que sera, sera, she thought as she pressed her cheek onto Mark’s shoulder and felt him hold her tightly.