Start a story that begins with a character saying “Speak now.”
“Speak now! Say it!”
She didn’t know what she was supposed to say.
“Say what I want to hear!” he sneered.
Marsha and Joe had come to the park to listen to the band that came on at dusk. It was a popular place with all the high school kids and a place where many small bands became bigger names. Tonight was one of Marsha’s favorite bands, The Jetliners.
Before coming into the park Marsha and Joe had both cracked a beer in the car and raced to see who could chug it fastest. They wanted to at least start the show with a buzz. After the beer came the weed. Joe had rolled a tight joint using the cannabis his mom got for her chronic medical conditions; she wouldn’t miss a pinch of it. This quick drink along with a few hits of weed would be perfect.
They had smoked the joint and then entered the park, finding themselves much too early to even find a spot for their blankets. Joe asked Marsha if she wanted to go on the Kiddy Train that slowly chugged around the shallow man-made lake, marking the center of the park. Marsha knew she would be embarrassed if anyone saw her but in the end, she gave in and told Joe it would be fun.
As Marsha and Joe were the only two passengers on the small train, the girl controlling the on/off switch just let them go around and around the lake without stopping until a small group of children entered the queue. This was their final loop on their semi-private train.
After grabbing a few hotdogs, a couple of Cokes, and a giant, fried Blooming Onion the pair went to find a place on the hill to put down their blanket and wait for the show to begin.
“Tell me something nice that I’d like to hear”, Joe said quietly. Marsha looked at him quizzically and said, “I love you?”. Joe looked annoyed but the conversation got interrupted by people squeezing in around them to see the band.
As the lawn filled up the sky darkened and the concert began. The music was loud and powerful. Marsha sang along with every song, she knew all the words even the new music the Jetliners had written. She wasn’t watching Joe or paying attention to what he was doing. Then out of the corner of her eye, she saw Joe pull a tiny bottle out of his faded jean jacket. He twisted open the cap, sniffed it, and then downed the whole thing. Marsha did not want to deal with a drunk boyfriend and cringed at the memory of how he became so mean when he drank too much. She thought that if she ignored it maybe it wouldn’t be an issue.
The band continued to play and Joe continued to down the nips he must have had stashed in every pocket of his jacket. He had given one of the Malibu nips to Marsha and she drank it willingly, as that was her favorite coconut rum. Feeling buzzed, loving the music, and enjoying the vibe of the crowd, Marsha never felt Joe’s mood growing dark.
“Just tell me what I want to hear!” Joe shouted at her again. He had “screamed” it under his breath, thinking no one could hear him but Marsha. She saw a few people who were sitting close to them glance her way.
“I’m not sure what you mean, Joe,” Marsha said.
“I saaaiiiddd,” Joe dragged the word out, “Tell me what I want to hear!”
“I love you,” Marsha said.
“That’s not it, say the rest.”
“I love you very much,” Marsha replied, hoping she was going to make him happy and then he would go back into his little drunken zone, but she was wrong.
It was right after the band declared it was their last song that Joe seemed to be getting increasingly mad. He had asked her at least four or five times during each song, to tell her what he wanted to hear, but she had no idea what it was he was talking about. She thought about things they might have said before, something he remembered, but nothing came to mind. She had told him she loved him and that she loved him very much, even that she loved him a lot, but with each of her attempts, his anger seemed to heighten.
At this point, all the people sitting near them had leaned over and asked Marsha if she was okay. She had tears rolling down her cheeks because she didn’t know what Joe wanted to hear, he was ruining the concert, and he was embarrassing her. With each hand on her shoulder, Joe would sneer and look the other way, as if trying to swallow down his disgust at their sincere concern. Obviously, he didn’t care how she felt or how he was ruining the night because it continued and continued.
As the band members bowed and the crowd screamed for an encore, Joe continued to sit glaring at Marsha. She was anxious to get out of there and into the car so she started to stand up but Joe grabbed her arm and forced her to remain sitting.
“We are not going anywhere until you tell me exactly what I want to hear,” he said viciously.
“Joe, I tried but I really don’t know what you want me to say.”
“You’re lying and you know exactly what you should be saying to me,” he retorted.
“Joe, I love you but just tell me what you want me to say. Come on, it’s time to go. Everyone is leaving.”
Marsha was correct, many people were leaving but a few of the people who had been sitting near them through the concert continued to linger, wearily watching Joe treat Marsha like garbage. Her embarrassment had long since passed and now she just wanted to go home. This was not what she wanted nor how she ever wanted to be treated again.
Finally, a guy who had been sitting behind Joe leans forward. The muscles in his arms strained as he leaned forward to speak directly to Joe.
“Buddy, listen, your girlfriend spent the whole concert telling you how much she loved you. Honestly, you are pretty lucky to have someone so patient. Now it’s time to get out of here. Can you just tell her what you want her to say so we can all go?”
Joe looked at him and his anger seemed to drain. Maybe he was coming to his senses, Marsha thought to herself.
“Dude, mind your own fucking business. This is between Marsha and me and she knows exactly what I want to hear,” Joe snapped.
“Buddy, it’s time to go. They’re kicking us out. Let’s go talk on the way out.” The guy seemed to understand that Joe was acting belligerent but that this was not going to end anytime soon, not until security came and kicked them out, but maybe that is what he needed.
Joe looked at Marsha, hatred in his eyes, a look she had never seen before.
“You really don’t know?” he asked her.
“No, I wish I did,” she replied.
“You are supposed to say that you love me more than anything in this entire world and always will forever.”
“Okay, Joe, I love you more than anything in this entire world and always will forever. Now can we go?”
“Sure,” Joe said sweetly, “let’s head home and maybe we can stop for an ice cream or something.”
Marsha was relieved to get out of that park. She was grateful to the guy behind them but wished he had gotten involved sooner. She sat in the passenger seat of the car and waited for Joe to get in and start the engine.
Joe turned the key in the ignition and put the windows down. Marsha knew she would be ending this relationship tonight, once she was in the safety of her own home where her parents were. Joe had never acted so belligerent but Marsha had learned all about emotional abuse in Health class and if this is how it started, she was jumping ship quickly!