Jocelyn never knew her dad. When she was tiny, her mom told her that he was away at work, but when she got old enough to understand, she found out that he died. Not in a glamorous way, like fighting for his country, but to cancer.
She knew what he looked like, for her mom kept pictures on the mantle. One on their wedding day, one when they were on vacation to Yosemite when Jocelyn was a toddler, and one taken at a family reunion somewhere down in New Mexico.
Jocelyn loved to look at the photos. She tried to see resemblances between her and her dad. The eyes. The chin. The color of their hair. Those were there for anyone to see. But what Jocelyn really wanted to know was what her dad was like as a person.
Her grandmother said he was kind, athletic and smart. Her mother thought he was a gentleman and a hard-worker. Those things helped, but what Jocelyn really wanted to know was what his voice sounded like when he was happy and mad, how did he laugh, and what he smelled like after a shower.
When Jocelyn was twelve her mother got a new job and they moved out of their apartment in a tiny country town and into grandmother’s house in Chicago. Jocelyn hated leaving her friends, but she loved spending time with her grandmother. No more before and after school childcare. No more being shuffled from one friend’s house to another while her mother worked.
Things were going along nicely until her mother started bringing Mark into the house. He was kind to Jocelyn. He smiled a lot, gave her big hugs, and like to rub her on the back, but Jocelyn didn’t like his touches or smiles. He didn’t seem real. More like a mannequin in a store window, posed to look friendly but would shatter if someone moved the limbs a little too far.
Mark insisted that Jocelyn go everywhere with her mother, making a threesome. That part of it was kind of fun. They went to the zoo, to the theater, to see movies and to the park. They ate fast food and in fancy restaurants. They went swimming at the pool in Mark’s apartment complex and went walking along Lake Michigan, Jocelyn always between her mother and Mark, Mark always holding her hand.
When she pulled away, he grimaced like the Grouch in the cartoon and quickly reached for her hand, squeezing it tightly, sending the message that he didn’t want her to let go.
After several months of this, her mother called her aside. “Honey, we need to talk,” she said. She ran her fingers through Jocelyn’s hair, which always felt good. “Mark and I have been seeing each other for quite a while now.”
“He wants to make our relationship more permanent. Last night after you went to bed he asked me to marry him.” She leaned forward and pulled Jocelyn to her chest.
“Do you love him?”
“Yes, I do.”
“But you love my dad. How can you love two men?”
“Your father’s been gone a long time now. He’ll always have a special place in my heart, but it’s time to move on. Mark’s a good man. He loves both of us and wants us to be his family.”
Jocelyn stood up and walked over to the front window. She ran her fingers down the cool glass, pretending to write her father’s name, over and over.
“Well,” her mother said. “What do you think about that?”
“I don’t like it at all. Mark is not my father. He likes to touch me and hold my hand. It gives me the creeps.”
Her mother stood behind her and pulled her against her chest. “I’ll always love you. That will not change. But I love Mark and want to bring him into our family.”
The wedding was two months later. Jocelyn and her mother moved into Mark’s high-rise apartment, on the fifteenth floor, high above the city. Jocelyn changed schools. Mark enrolled her in a private academy close to where he and her mother worked so that he could walk Jocelyn to and from school every day.
He held her hand tightly in his own hand. He bought her gifts almost every day. Toys. Dolls in fancy dresses. Clothes much too fancy and in styles that Jocelyn didn’t like.
After school they were alone in the apartment until her mom got off work. Mark made her get dressed up and sit on the couch next to him. He put her hand in his lap and held her tight against his chest. So tightly that she could barely breathe.
He fixed her special treats and insisted on feeding her as if she was a baby. Jocelyn complained, but Mark didn’t stop. Instead he demanded more a more of her time.
“Mom,” Jocelyn said one night when her mom came into her room. “Can I stay at school until you can come get me? There’s an after-school study group that I’d like to join.”
“Why? Are you having a hard time in your classes?”
Jocelyn shrugged. “Not really. But I’d rather be with kids than her alone with Mark.”
“But Mark loves you. He’s changed his work schedule just so he can see you safely too and from school.”
“I don’t want to be alone with him.”
“I don’t understand. I thought you like Mark.” Her mother sat on the edge of her bed and rubbed her daughter’s feet.
“No, I never did. You liked him.” Jocelyn pulled her feet away and wrapped her arms around her bent knees. “Can’t I go live with Grandma?”
“Honey, Grandma lives too far away.”
“I’ll go live with her and go back to my old school.”
“I’m sorry, but no. Mark, you and I are family now.”
Jocelyn refused to say any more, so her mother left. Jocelyn wanted to tell her mother about the way Mark looked at her, at the way he held her hand in his lap, about the special clothes he made her wear, but she didn’t say any of those things.
She wished she had as it only got worse. One day Mark took her to a shop for young women and asked the clerk to pick out bras and matching panties for her. They were very pretty, very expensive, and very fashionable, but Jocelyn would rather have gone shopping for these things with her mom. And when she and Mark got back to the apartment, he made her try on the underwear and model them for him.
Jocelyn didn’t want to do it. “No, Mark,” she said and went into her room.
“Yes, you will. I spent quite a bit of money on these things and I want to see how they fit. Put them on,” he said as he tossed the bag on Jocelyn’s bed. “You’d better be in the front room within ten minutes or I’ll come dress you myself.”
Jocelyn opened the bag and pulled out one set. It was a pretty purple, her favorite color, but she hated the color now. She didn’t want to model the clothes for Mark. She didn’t want to parade around in her underwear, so she stuffed the bag in the back of her closet and went into the bathroom.
“Jocelyn,” Mark called. “Come out. Right now.”
“No. Not until my mother comes home.”
The doorknob turned and Mark stepped into the room. He grabbed Jocelyn’s right arm so hard that it hurt, pulled her to a standing position and drug her into her bedroom. “Change clothes. Now.”
Mark’s fist punched her in the stomach, bending her over. “Do it. Now.”
Jocelyn stumbled over to her closet and opened the door. She bent over to reach for the bag, but then Mark leaned over her, pressing himself against her back. “Now you’re being a good girl,” he said as he smoothed back her hair. He reached into the closet and pulled out the bag. He took out the purple outfit and handed it to Jocelyn, all the while holding her tight against his chest. “Put it on.”
Jocelyn stood frozen. When Mark held the garments before her, she refused to hold them.
“So, you’re going to be that way,” he said through gritted teeth. He turned Jocelyn around so that she faced him and unbuttoned her school blouse with his right hand, never letting go with his left. He slid the blouse off her shoulders, exposing her naked chest. He handed her the bra. “Take the tags off and unsnap it.”
When Jocelyn refused, he put the tag between his teeth and pulled. The cardboard easily tore off. Then he put one end of the bra in his mouth and unhooked it. He placed the cups over Jocelyn’s barely showing breasts, then turned her around. He fastened it, then pulled off her uniform skirt and panties.
He handed her the matching lace panties. “You do it.”
Again Jocelyn refused, so Mark did it for her. Then he walked her into his bedroom and stood her before the floor-to-ceiling mirror. “Look how beautiful you are,” he said as he rested his chin on the top of her head. He ran his arms down hers.
“Stop or I’ll tell my mother.”
“No, you won’t. Your mother trusts me. She knows how much I love you. She approves of the time we spend together. She wants us to be closer. I want us to be closer.” He turned her around and touched her belly button. “You have an innie.” Then he bent over and kissed her, right there.
Jocelyn wrenched free and ran into her bedroom, then into her bathroom and locked the door. Mark pounded on the door, making it rattle. “Open this up right now.”
Jocelyn sat on the floor and made herself as small as she could. She heard Mark leave and sighed, thinking it was over. But then he returned and she heard scratching sounds coming from the other side.
“When I get this open, you’ll do as I say,” he shouted.
Just as the doorknob fell to the floor, Jocelyn heard screams.
“What are you doing?” her mother said.
“Jocelyn locked herself inside and can’t get the door open,” Mark said.
“Move away,” her mother said as she opened the door. “What are you wearing?” her mother knelt before her and touched her on the chin. “Look at me. Tell me what’s going on.”
“Mark bought these for me and put them on me. He touched me, Mom. He made me uncomfortable.”
“Oh, my baby.” Her mom pulled her close. “How long has this been going on? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I tried to, Mom, but you wouldn’t listen. You said you loved him and he loved me. You made me spend time with him even though I begged to stay at school.”
“I’m so sorry, honey. So very sorry.” Her mom wrapped Jocelyn in a towel, sat on the toilet seat and pulled Jocelyn into her lap. Tears poured down both of their faces. “I should have listened to you, but I thought I was in love. Now I see that it was too good to be true. I’m so sorry.”
Jocelyn got dressed while her mother packed their suitcases. Before they left the apartment Mark was sitting at the kitchen table. “Whatever she told you was a lie,” he said.
“My daughter doesn’t lie.” Her mother took off her wedding rings and placed them before Mark. “Don’t call me, write to me, or text me. Don’t come near us or make any attempt to be near us. It’s over.”
Jocelyn smiled when the door closed behind them. She walked as close to her mother as she could all the way to garage. They got into the car and headed out of town. “Where are we going?” Jocelyn asked.
“Back to Grandma’s. We’ll live with her. I’ll get a new job, close to home.”
“What about Mark?”
“He’ll never bother you again.”
And Jocelyn believed her.