Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Short stories

Mousehunter

Inspired by a song I wrote in 1997, which was inspired by a series of poetry written by my friend, Kevin Goodman.

I am Mousehunter. I am Lord of these woods. I track the perimeter of this isolated cabin in search of my prey; the creators of tiny noises in the silent night; the destroyers of my prized peace.

I left the land of high-rises and din for twenty acres and an old log cabin. Rain seeps through the roof and soaks the floors and furniture, but it reminds me that there is still a world outside. The world that I left behind.

Somehow, it lurks in the shadows of my new home; stalking me and attempting to lure me back. Somehow they know where to find me, and how to break my spirit.

But, I am Mousehunter. I am Lord of this cabin. Lord of these woods.

At night, the mice scurry throughout my realm, searching for food, and feasting on my dreams. They tear at my strength and weaken my will. At the edge of darkness, they feel safe. I am at my own edge.

I am Mousehunter.

I traded my mansion for a shack on the hill. A good place to rest my feet, with time to kill. I traded in the Rat Race for a mouse hunt. All the old ghosts know the best places to haunt. Loose thoughts wander around late at night. But I know how to set them right.

I am Mousehunter.

Naked and mad, firing into the walls and the furniture. The mice will soon know their place, just as I know mine.

I am Mousehunter, at the edge of madness, waiting for sunlight to bring me dreams.

I only wish to get my hands on something that will stay still for a little while. I tried to grab hold of something real, but everything I touched killed my sense of feel.

I am Mousehunter. I am Lord of these woods and everything within these walls.

What time is it anyway? So long been chasing shadows. Poised to strike at anything that I can shoot tonight. I still hear them in the silence of shooting stars and falling rains.

The page was blank, and without color.

I am Mousehunter.

Indescribable

Written by: Joel C. Marckx and Kevin Goodman

September 16, 1997

A cabin driven slowly to madness

Sounds flicker from tree to tree

The hunter stands at the edge of darkness

Waiting for sunlight to bring him dreams

Eyes piercing, and feet planted

Gut rot, and heart decay

All the same, it’s still the end of

The way I thought about things today

I can’t explain, it must be this time of year

So, where you been? I’m feeling the same old fear again and again

Big Bear, ‘97

A Slice of Heaven in my private Hell

Hang tight to a rope that’s weathered

A special feeling I know all too well

Cool breeze in blistering sunlight

Punctured eyes see that nothing fits

Bound by the Morton’s chain-gang

And the Rio City roach pit

Thoughts and dots, connect, shut up, don’t ask

So where you been? Shooters following tracks in my dreams

Dangling from strings in the hands of puppets

Sitting still, smiling every now and then

Another day, so far, so weird

Making sure the disease still spreads

(This is actually song #1 of a series of 10 songs created from those old poems. I originally intended to make a concept album.)

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You and I

Based on a 2011 song I wrote called, “You and I”

“I swear I will never understand you.”

“And that’s the problem!”

Chris and Kris were best friends, lovers, and soulmates for nearly 15 years, but their time had ended. For years, they had expected that they were meant for each other, and when they realized that they could go no further, they were confused by the other’s absence. Therefore, they never really left the other.

“I thought we had agreed that we would remain friends”, Chris said in an exasperated tone.

“And we have been great friends—so great that I really believe that we should try this again.” Kris was scared and angry, and she felt a distance that she had never known could exist between them.

Chris felt as though he were repeating himself. “I thought we were both content with how things have been between us. We have never been better friends.”

“And that is exactly why I feel as though there is so much more between us. Still. After all this time.”

“We put each other through Hell when we were together. Why would you ever want to go there again?”

Kris tried not to shout, but her frustration was growing. “Who cares about the past? Look at what we are today. I don’t care about what happened before. All of that was so long ago, and we have both grown so much; do you really think we would ever behave again like we did before?”

She could only try to get Chris to take a deeper look into his soul and hope that he would come around. Yet, she knew he was lost forever. Chris had moved on and burned the bridge behind him. Sure, they would always be connected—be friends—but they could never go back to the intimacy that once defined them.

“If you are so sure that there is nothing left between us,” Kris started, “so sure that we can never be anything other than just another friend to each other, then why do you keep calling me? Why are you still here?”

“Because, we aren’t done with each other, yet, obviously”, Chris replied. “We still need each other…for something, I don’t know. I couldn’t imagine my life without you, but that doesn’t mean I want another relationship with you. I am quite sure that chapter is closed for good”

“Well, you had better figure out what you need me for, because I am quite sure that I need you for more than just another friend.”

“But our lives have gone in such different directions…”

“Figure it out, and get back to me. You were never just a friend, and you can’t start now.” Kris walked away forcing a solitary tear to stay in her eye.

You and I

Written by: Joel C. Marckx

June 4, 2011

Once upon a time, there were two souls

Running in and out each other’s lives

Looking for a hand and heart to hold

Looking for a chance to get it right

Once, I was content to let you go

Once I was so pleased to leave you be

We were traveling different roads

Together, there was nothing left to see

But everywhere I go, and everything I do

Everyone I see, I turn to find it’s always you

But if I am not good enough for you

Then why are you still always here with me?

I cannot trust the words you say are true

I cannot trust anything I see

You’ve got bruises on your head from banging on the wall

I’ve got bruises of my own, but you’ll never see me too afraid to fall

I am not sure you know what’s best for you

I cannot trust you are what’s best for me

I wonder if there’s more for us to do

I wish I could again just leave you be

But, I come lapping at your feet just to hear my name

Pouring from your mouth, still I know it’s never quite the same

And every time I run far, far away

I know that you’d be there waiting for me

Cursing me for being in your life

Begging me to finally set you free

You can live your life running from the past

I’d rather look ahead, I cannot seem to get there too fast

So, if I am not good enough for you

Then why are you still always here with me?

I cannot trust you know what’s best for you

No longer do I trust you are best for me


(And here is a video of the song so that you can put a melody to the lyrics)

You and I

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The Changelings

She could feel him changing, slipping away. He was changing, of course, but he thought that it was his own little secret. Why should she suspect anything? She was just as distant and disengaged with the relationship as he was, and just as willing to pretend that nothing was wrong.

But he was changing. Their interests no longer aligned, he made more excuses not to spend time with her. He found comfort in different friends at different bars, and less comfort in attempting to make love to someone he no longer loved.

He had loved her once; very deeply, in fact, but that was long ago in a very different time. They had grown apart—it happens; so why was it so difficult to finally break it off with her?

They stopped being lovers months ago, but their friendship deepened. She was still an important part of his life, even if he did not want to be in an amorous relationship with her. Could he live without her completely? A few months ago, he would not have believed it, but now…

Now, there was someone new whom he loved, and he wanted to be with this new love every day and night. In fact, the more time he spent with this new love, the better he felt about avoiding the old love. Perhaps it would all go away without confrontation, without guilt.

But he knew that would never happen. It would never be right. He had to face her and explain everything. She would understand, wouldn’t she? Surely, she knew that this old relationship was over, right? It would be as simple as stating the obvious, ensuring a mutual understanding, and then moving on with their respective lives.

Yet, there were tears, and accusations, and yelling, and hitting. She would not go down quietly. Deep inside, she knew this day was coming, and had already come to terms with her fate, but she would not let him go that easily. He would not leave her apartment and go back to that whore without a fight. He would not simply go to his new friends without so much as a thought for his old friends…their old friends.

She had changed, too. She would not sit back passively and let him dictate the terms. She did not even care that he was leaving, she was over that, but she would be damned if she would lose this battle.

He could not understand why there was even a battle in the first place. It seemed so obvious: they were no longer compatible, and they had new and differing interests. Why did there have to be a fight about it. He honestly thought that he could walk in and out with a mutual agreement between the two. He never suspected that she would use her tears as a weapon to make him feel guilt. He never expected her to hit him to make him feel pain.

He could see her changing, and the friend he had hoped to keep was no longer in the room. Only an adversary remained.

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The Bartender

“I’d say that I’ve just about outlived my usefulness to this world.”  Jim spoke just above a whisper and sighed into his whiskey glass.  “It’s all been downhill for the last three years, and I can’t see anything rising back up to where it used to be.”

“You sound like a man who has given up. What…already?  At thirty-eight?”  The Bartender spoke in an impassive voice, yet still compassionate.

“Well, why not give up?  I have fought hard every day of my adult life, and to what end?  A dead-end job, a mountain of debt, and a string of failed relationships to my credits.  I’m losing my house, you know?”

“Yes.  You’ve told me already.”

“And for every step I take to move forward, I get pushed back three.”

“It’s a familiar story”, the Bartender replied in his fatherly way.  “I hear this same tragic tale everyday, not that yours is not noteworthy.  It’s like a plague ravaging the streets, and it is tearing down too many good men and women.”

“Exactly!  So why should I be any different?”  Jim had already resigned to this fate of failure.  His story had gone too far, and he felt that there was no way to retrieve it.  He owed too many people and too many banks to ever come out on top again.

“Well”, started the Bartender, “I suppose you aren’t any different, not in the grand scheme of things.  But your story is significantly different to Hannah.”

Jim recoiled at the mention of his daughter.  Every decision he has ever made in the past seven years has revolved around Hannah.

“Do you believe in Fate?  Or God? Or some All-Powerful Universal Entity?”  Jim never learned the Bartender’s name, but he spoke to him with a familiarity reserved for close family members.

“As a matter of fact, I do”, the Bartender replied.  His countenance changed as if the conversation had turned toward his real specialty.

“Well, I don’t.  Never have understood the reasoning behind putting faith in some unseen, unknown, deity.”

“Faith is the key word…”

“Right, of which I have none.  But if there is a god, then isn’t this all part of his great plan?  Anything I do, and everything I lose, is all part of God’s great plan, right?”

“He did give us free will to create our own destinies”, assured the Bartender.

“Then why bother caring”, Jim’s exasperation rising.  “Why bother caring at all if we are all free to screw each other over.  And how does free will affect a person like me who has worked hard, gone to school, stayed honest, and is still losing everything?  Are you saying that is what I chose?”

“I am only saying that I am listening to your story.”  The Bartender started to pour Jim another whiskey, but Jim waved him off.

“Thanks, but no more for me.  Once I start talking about God and some great Universal Plan, I’d say I’ve about had enough.”

“Jim”, started the Bartender in his most soothing voice, “what gives you comfort?”

“Right now?  Nothing.  Nothing I can think of.”

“What about Hannah?  What brings her comfort?”

“Well, me, I suppose.  Her mother, as well.  I don’t think she thinks about things like comfort; she just takes them for granted.”

“So, she doesn’t worry about whether or not you will pay the bills, or keep your house?”

Jim thought about this.  “I suppose on some subconscious level she picks up on my anxiety, but…”

“And don’t you think that no matter where you land, no matter how you come out of this mess you are in, that you will do everything within your power to make sure that she is safe, warm, and fed?”

“Well, of course I will.”

“Tell me”, the Bartender’s eyes were dark and serious, but his mouth betrayed a faint grin.  “Why can’t you do the same for yourself?”

“Wha…?”

“Why can’t you take yourself and give the same assurances that you give to Hannah?  Why can’t you hold yourself with the same comfort that you give your little girl?”

“Because I know what’s out there waiting for me”, yelled Jim.

“You are scared, right?”

“Yeah, I’m scared!” Jim’s eyes were getting weepy, and he motioned to the Bartender that he wanted another shot.  The Bartender poured him a double.

“Then who is going to assure you that everything is going to be okay?”

“Nothing is going to be okay!”, shouted Jim.

The room got even quieter as the dozen or so other patrons turned to see the commotion coming from the otherwise quiet end of the bar.  There was something desperate in the man gulping a large shot of whiskey down his throat before slamming the glass on the rich mahogany of the counter.

The Bartender continued his deep stare into Jim’s eyes, holding the slight smile that betrayed a hint of assurance.

“Life will only fail you when you give up”, the Bartender spoke with profound gravitas.  “Otherwise, there is always hope.  There will always be opportunities for you to improve.  There will always be a chance for life to get better.  You need to give yourself some of the comfort that you give Hannah.  You need to give yourself the same kindness and love.  Instead of sitting alone in a dark saloon, you need to surround yourself with people who love you and can give you the encouragement that you need right now.”

Jim wiped the tears from his eyes, grabbed a napkin, and blew his nose.

“You have shut yourself away from people who love you because you feel ashamed of your current status”, the Bartender continued.  “Tell me, how much love and comfort do you think you are giving Hannah when you don’t feel any compassion for yourself?”

Jim had never thought of it this way.

“Jim, I want you to call a friend and go to their home and tell them that you are scared.  I want you to tell them everything that you have told me about your so-called failed life, and I want you to be open and honest.  If they turn you away, then I want you to come back here, and I’ll pour you all the whiskey you want.  I’m willing to bet you all the booze in this bar that they will not turn you away.  They can’t help you get out of trouble, but they will give you all the friendly support they can.”

“You’re right, you know.  I don’t know what makes me hide, but I know it doesn’t help me.”

“You are just mixed up right now–depressed.  Talk to your friends and family.  Once you start to feel better you’ll see everything turn around, I just know it.”

Jim stood up from his stool, shook the Bartender’s hand, and put twenty bucks on the counter for the drinks.  As Jim turned toward the door, the Bartender, using impressive sleight-of-hand, put the twenty dollars back into Jim’s coat without him noticing.

Jim turned back around.  “Thanks, man.  I guess I needed that talk.”

“What you need is out there, not in here.”

Jim nodded in silent understanding and turned to face the world that now felt a little smaller, and a little less intimidating.

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War of the Rosemonts

(Based on a song I wrote in 2011 called Circles)

Four brothers, governing an empire built by six generations of Rosemonts, rule their own corners of the kingdom. The eldest, Edward, is the namesake of the father and the natural heir to the highest seat of the household. Henry, the second eldest, competitively attempts to show his brother that he is equally capable of running the family business should anything, God forbid, ever happen to Edward. George, the forgotten third child, is relegated to the furthest reaches of the empire–a sort of exile, if you will, to keep him out of trouble. Finally, Richard, the youngest and most devoted to his eldest brother, acts as the voice of reason for the family.

Now, wicked George has fomented a rebellion against the family. Tired of being consigned to the nether reaches of the House of Rosemont, George first tries to recruit Richard by spreading terrible lies about the family and appealing to Richard’s apparent weakness as the last-born. This was a terrible mistake. George underestimated Richard’s loyalty to Edward, and is forced to find other allies in his attempt to wrest power and exact his revenge on the family.

As the rebellion gains steam, George’s armies make great gains against the Rosemont’s forces. In an unexpected twist, Henry is murdered by George, leaving Edward and Richard to rally their remaining troops against the insurgence. This results in all factions outside of the family, but within the realm vying for power, or at the very least, some gain in wealth and status.

The ensuing chaos leaves no victors, only bandits and vagabonds. The family empire is crumbling. As George’s power once grew, so, too, does it dissipate. His followers are now looting the kingdom, and George has returned to his corner of the realm, which is shrinking daily.

As Edward attempts to salvage the House of Rosemont, Richard consults with his mother about the destruction of the once powerful domain. The dominance of his family name was once assured; a given in an uncertain world. Now, Richard can only ask the same question: “Why? Why, mother, why?”

“Because you, and all the other alpha-males throughout history have done your damnedest to destroy the very world you covet so much.”

“Come now, Mother, is this not the way that this world ought to work?”

“Only because you continue to perpetuate the same lessons of greed and power that you and your brothers learned from your father, and he from his father, as far back as time itself.”

Richard thought very hard about this. His father would have given him a very different answer. His father would have said something about the strong ruling by divine right, and that only the most powerful could rule at all.

“Mother, what other way is there?”

“My dear boy, there is no need for all the greed that makes a man fight for dominance. Can you not see that the same greed that destroys us today has destroyed other ambitious, greedy men before us? There is nothing noble in weakening others for your own gain.”

“But mother, I have only done what my father and brothers have asked of me. I have only acted to serve our family, not to destroy others.”

“But look at their actions, and then look at your blind allegiance. Now, look at where we are today. We are holed up in our palace waiting to be saved before some band of marauders kills us and steals everything we hold dear. Sweet Richard, even if we are victorious in this war, we will still lose unless our actions change. You cannot perpetuate the same motives and exploits that force one brother to start a war on his own family. You cannot continue any policy that makes the masses want to draw arms against you. Sometimes holding your family dear and caring for others around you is more important than your own personal gain.”

Richard thought hard about his mother’s words. He had no idea if Brother Edward was still alive, nor what fate would hold for Wicked George. He now only thought about the safety of his mother, and his own family, which includes a son of his own.

What lessons has he already taught and corrupted young Richard? Can he turn those lessons around and teach him to be more compassionate? Less competitive? Less greedy and selfish? Would young Richard grow to be less than a man because of these new teachings? What does it mean to be a man, anyway? Can the world change with the actions of just one person? Can the world change?

Circles

© 6/5/2011, joel c marckx

I am my father’s son

I’m loud and I’m proud, I cast my shadow over any crowd

It runs in the family

By right of my birth I shall control the very Earth

I’ve learned everything that I know

From the actions of men, who rise and fall only to rise again

From yesterday until the end

Such is our way, until the last seconds of our final day

These traditions that brought us to this

To a world full of warfare and ignorance

We learn that a strong man must never cry

Must never show weakness, must only show pride

I am an exile from myself

My kingdom is lost, my brothers try to account for every cost

As I run faceless through the streets

I alone am consoled by the madness at my feet

Oh Mama, I fear for us all

For the son of our father has got his back against the wall

And there’s none so dangerous as the man without a path

Without purpose, without reason, without a target for his wrath

Running circles around the wheel of fate

Determined to survive beyond the human race

I count my sins among my victories

Where the last trace of my ancestry rests in peace

And now my son is the last and the first

The last of this bloodline, but the first to make it work

To start a new day with a fighting chance

To end this war, to take a different stance


(and here is a video of “Circles” so you can put a melody to the lyrics
Circles

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Room 403

(Based on a song I wrote in 2000 called Plastic Smiles).

I hadn’t planned to get shot. I’m sure that if I could respond right now, the police would love to know why I taunted the gunman the way I did. I’m certain that my family has already told them that I am generally a peaceful man; I own no guns, and I avoid conflict in most situations. By and large, I am a coward with a crippling fear of death.

Truth be told, I don’t even know why I dared the gunman to shoot me. I didn’t even know the guy. From what I remember in this current state, some random psychopath started waving a gun at a crowd of people, and decided to single me out. Who he was and why I drew the lucky lottery number is lost to me now.

If I had to guess why I challenged the guy, I would have to say that bravado was all I had at my disposal. I certainly did not want to be shot, and I have no desire to die, but when a random crazy person starts shouting gibberish while pointing a gun at my face, all I could think to do was to defy him in the hopes of disarming him somehow.

“You want to shoot someone? Do it! Do it now! I have nothing left to take, and if it is so fucking important to you to shoot someone, then go ahead and shoot me!”

That’s all I remember.

Except now, I believe that I am in a hospital room. I hear beeps and a whooshing, pumping noise. I also hear a quiet, steady murmur of random voices; some I vaguely recognize as family members, and others that I am not familiar with. I do not know if my eyes are even open, but I can sense certain family members around me. Maybe even a friend or two. Probably not. Whatever hospital room I am in, I doubt that it has enough space for so many people, yet I can sense them all.

Perhaps they are coming in waves. I am certain that I have no sense of time, at least not in this temporal plane. Whatever day or night this is, I have no clue. My eyes may not be open, but I can see every one of them. My mother and father, my sister, my ex-wife, my daughter.

Sara. Oh poor Sara. She will never understand why this happened. Even if I live to speak to her again, she will never understand how her daddy could end up in a coma after being shot by a mad man.

And she is such a good girl. Really, the only reason I bother to wake up in the morning. An amazing child who has only served to validate my existence. I hope her mother can put this into perspective for her. Sara is mature beyond her years, but still too young to lose her daddy.

I can even sense my friends. Perhaps I feel their concern for me traveling along some cosmic wave across the country. Randy and Allan are probably here at the hospital. Neal is probably raising a glass to my memory. Jackie is clear across the country wondering if he can make it out in time. I feel them all as if they were by my side. I can see them.

If there is a God in Heaven somewhere watching over this scene, I cannot wait to ask Him why it had to be this way. I worked so hard to do well in this life only to fail in every endeavor. And now this pathetic life is being ripped away from me. I am still holding on, but how and for what reason, I will never know. No. I take that back. I am holding on for Sara.

I can feel their plastic smiles looking down on me. They dare not show any grief, not yet. They are hopelessly optimistic; probably for Sara’s sake, but also because they believe that to cry now is to admit that it is over. Save the tears for the final act, I can feel them thinking. They seem hopelessly optimistic, but I know that it is all an act.

I can see them all looking down on me, just as I can see all the different acts in my life’s play. So much bad karma that I must atone for. Is this why I am here now, like this? I know now that all the lying, cheating, and stealing was for nothing. Hell, I learned that decades ago, but I guess I am paying every debt now. A failed life coming to an ignominious end. I suppose I deserve this, but I am not happy about it.

And I am not ready to let go. Not for my sake, and certainly not for Sara’s.

I see my first kiss, my first guitar, my first band, my first cigarette, my first drink, my first concert. I see the time my friends and I hid from the police in the basement of our old house after one of our parties got out of hand. I’m sure that happened several times.

I see my first real girlfriend, and my first attempt at making love. I see my wedding day and the honeymoon on the beach. I see Sara’s first moments of life, and every time I sang her to sleep.

If there is a God in Heaven, I am going to kick his fucking ass for this! My life was supposed to be so much more than it ever was. I had big dreams, and I worked hard for those dreams, but I guess you can call me living proof that dreams never come true!

But then, better men than I have died at much younger ages. I am nothing special, not in the grand scheme of things. Only in the eyes of a few family members and my daughter have I ever been special. In God’s great plan for us all, I am only another meaningless cog in the machinery.

I only wish I were awake, at least awake enough to tell them all that I love them. My family and friends, and especially Sara.

I can feel their sorrow, their worry. I can feel that they are letting go, and so, I must let go. I have no power to control anything further. I trust my family to embrace Sara with as much love and compassion as they have. I trust Sara to continue to be the same amazing kid that she was with me, forever. Trust her to never change or give up on her own life.

If I could bargain my soul for twenty seconds of consciousness, I would tell them all that I love them. I love them all. If only…

Plastic Smiles

© 8/11/2000, joel c. marckx


My friends come by and flash their plastic smiles

But their eyes don’t smile the same

Nurse #552 says it’s time to shut the lights

That’s all the time we have today

I wish I’d kept the face I had when I was a child

When I greeted everyone with a smile

Now there’s a daily fight to get to nowhere first

And I never stopped to find out why


But I’d like to say I’m sorry to those I have done wrong

It never should have taken this long

And every day and night that I won’t soon forget

‘Coz I love everyone that I have ever met

I love everyone…


My mother taught me how to read a smile

“It’s all in the eyes”, she said

I’d like to tell my friends that it’s okay to smile

There is no reason to pretend

There was no reason to lie and cheat and steal

Those dreams were never meant to be real

And with what time is left, you can call me living proof

That dreams never come true

Dreams never come true…


And I’m not ready to let go of this life

Not ready to miss what’s yet to be

Not ready to say goodbye to those that I love best

And I’m not ready to face what happens next

I’m not ready…


So I’d like to say I’m sorry to those I have done wrong

I never should have waited so long

All those days and nights that I know I’ll never forget

‘Coz I love everyone that I have ever met

I love everyone…


(Here is a video of the song so you can put a melody to the lyrics. Mind you, this is the “short” version of the song)
Plastic Smiles

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Giving Up

Giving up was never really Stephen’s style, but he was not sure that he wanted to try again.  One failed marriage and several disastrous relationships afterwards was enough to make him celibate for life.  He understood that he was the common denominator in all of this, so it had to be a fatal flaw in his own design that made relationships impossible for him.

The last girl, Bekka, was too much.  Stephen was determined to stay the course and marry her, because he felt that he gave up on relationships too quickly, and that he only needed time to sort out his own details.  But no, Bekka was too much.  She was controlling, manipulative, and at times spiteful.  She claimed to love Steven’s son, Noah, but complained whenever Noah’s needs got in the way of what she wanted.  She said she wanted children of her own, but Steven knew that she would not be a good mother at all.  She was too selfish and self-centered.

It was easy to blame her, with all of her obvious flaws, but Stephen chose to be with her.  He chose to move in with her, to share a home with her, to let his son share a home with her.  He knew the relationship was doomed from the start, but he was determined to give it a decent chance, just in case it was all him.  But, she swore that she loved him, and Steven wanted to believe that she was The One.

Before Bekka, he faced the same issues with Kristin.  She was manipulative and used sex as a weapon.  Kristin never believed in Steven’s abilities as a realtor, and tore him down every day he came home without a sale.  She criticized his parenting skills, and mocked his tastes in music.  She demanded that Steven and Noah move to the other side of town, closer to her, away from Noah’s school, and she tried to create rifts in Steven and his ex-wife’s already tenuous custody agreement.  But, she swore that she loved him, and Steven wanted to believe that she was The One.

It was the same story with, Catherine and Della and Marlena.  Short, intense relationships in which Steven felt controlled, mocked, and even abused.  He walked away from each of them wondering how he got there in the first place.  Even his marriage contained the same themes of power, contempt, and shame.  It wasn’t until he met Bekka that he began to believe that he was the problem.  He was the reason that all those relationships failed.

Steven had a history of falling in love women he could never have.  He daydreamed over married women, women who were not attracted to him, or, on at least two occasions, lesbians.  When he grew tired of this fruitless yearning that always left him lonely, he would jump into a relationship with the first girl who showed any desire for him.  Those relationships would inevitably fail, and then he would go back to pining over unavailable women.  He could not break the pattern, at least not before now.

Now, resigned to a life alone, Stephen felt free from the pressures of trying to please women whom he could never satisfy.  He dedicated his life to his son, and to bettering their lives.  He dedicated himself to breaking the hurtful cycles of bad relationships and desiring the undesirable.  He did not need a woman to complete his life; he was now quite content alone.  Noah had a mother who was a good female role model; he did not need another one in this other home.  Bekka was the final nail in the coffin, and Steven was now content.  He may yet pine over married women and lesbians, but he would never again get into another relationship.

He truly believed that, at least until he met Cerise.

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