The Tarot Series
An Anthology of Depressive Realism
IV- The Emperor
By: Andrew Pan
Melonie should’ve listened to her friends only a couple of years ago when they warned her about the cute boy in AP Bio. It almost seemed like fate, being paired on the first day of class for a very romantic frog dissection. From an outside viewer it could be determined there was no better couple with her dark Raven hair, his sandy blonde, her petite frame and his everything else. It wasn’t long after their pairing they discovered their specimen was, indeed, alive. Melonie would later joke at their wedding reception that it was love at first leap… Until Darren decidedly stabbed the poor creature with his scalpel. The rumors surrounding Darren and his attitudes toward women soon reached Melonie’s ears as they began their relationship. Completely smitten by his dashing looks and wealth of popularity she chose to ignore these rumors since they had no basis in fact at all.
She chose to see the best in Darren, ignoring his incessant bullying of people smaller than him, ignoring the snarky and vengeful way he talked to his mother and ignoring the way he kicked his dog with his steal toe boots when it didn’t perform a trick properly. Her friends tried to open her eyes to these behaviors up until the day of prom when Darren became furious at the restaurant they all went to for messing up an order. Feeling embarrassed at how loud and rude he was being to the waiter, Melonie tried to get between them when, all of a sudden, Darren flipped the table, knocking Melonie off her feet in the process. It was then that the majority of her friends told her that if she stayed in this relationship that they could no longer be friends.
“It’s just not fair!” Abigail began, “How he treats people, how he treats you!”
“You deserve so much better, Melonie.” Kiya chimed in.
“Honestly, I just don’t think we can continue watching you go through all of this!” Said Rachel. They were all crowded in the restaurant bathroom, retouching Melonie’s makeup and wiping the food stains from her dress. Sophia, Melonie’s oldest friend, stayed silent, mending a small cut on Melonie’s lip as the other girls continued to tear down her friend’s relationship.
“I mean, don’t you agree Sophia?” Asked Rachel. Sophia looked at her then back at Melonie, thoughts churning behind her eyes.
“Well?” Melonie said a moment later after no response, tears forming in the corner of her eyes.
“I think it’s your life and no matter how much concern I have for your safety and how much I dislike the person you love, I will stand by you no matter what.” Just as Sophia ended her sentence a fist banged on the door, Darren.
“Come on, girls! Y’all are gonna make us late!” The girls scoffed, gathered their things and left. Melonie gave Sophia a soft smile and they continued their night. That was the last night all the girls spoke to one another, most distancing themselves from Melonie and Darren at all cost. They scolded and shunned Sophia too for being an enabler but Sophia didn’t see it that way.
It was soon graduation and right there on the stage, once Melonie Price was called, Darren bounded up the opposite side and knelt down with a simple diamond ring in front of the whole crowd. That night at Melonie’s grad party it was only Sophia who came and congratulated her on the engagement. Her gaggle of old friends stayed on the other side of the party, quietly judging but never offering the simplest congratulatory or encouraging remark. But even that night, after people began to filter away, Sophia couldn’t keep her opinions to herself. With no adult supervision, Darren began to drink and his words soured and began to cut like knifes. He began to publicly humiliate Melonie, calling her names and egging on his friends to do the same. It was then that Sophia pulled her to the side and offered her a way out of the relationship.
“I love you, Mel, and if how he’s acting right now in front of friends is any indication how he treats you in private then it’s not a safe relationship for you to be in.”
“You too, Sophia? Really? I thought you were gonna be the one who would back me up, the one who would be there for me!?”
“I am here for you! But you don’t deserve to be treated like that!”
“He was only joking!”
“It’s abuse, Melonie. Plain and simple.”
“He’s just a little drunk.”
“A little? I saw him tackle that 12 pack and he was all on his own.”
“Look, if you can’t handle who I love then maybe we just shouldn’t hang around anymore.”
“No, Sophia. I’m done trying to conform to the future everyone else wants from me. It’s my life, I love him and I’m going to marry him.” Melonie ended their conversation curtly and the next time Sophia would hear from her was when she received an invitation to the wedding, to be held only 3 months after the engagement.
Sophia tried her best to reach out to Melonie, sending her likable Facebook posts and texting her funny memories. Only, if ever, one word responses returned but that had become the extent of their communication. At the wedding Sophia was set at the table in the back, her place card surrounding those of “Uncle Tim”, “Lawrence” and 3 “Blank”s. The crowd was small, no bridal party and very little family actually showed, but Sophia stayed to the back, giving Melonie a far away smile any time their eyes seemed to almost meet. Melonie never talked to her though, always keeping her distance and little did Sophia know but she did this to hide the peeking bruises that had formed up and down her arms. Shortly after Melonie stopped confiding in Sophia, Darren’s abusive words quickly evolved to abusive actions.
After the wedding Melonie withdrew even further away from Sophia and all her other friends and family. It was another 3 months, deep into an autumn chill, that Sophia heard from Melonie for the first time. Three months without a text, email or even Facebook post yet here Melonie was in the middle of the night, speeding down I-85 towards Sophia’s apartment. Tears streamed down her swollen face as street laps dashed overhead, frequently revealing bruises and scrapes that covered her head to toe. She had just hardly gotten away, stealing a moment when Darren was distracted to pull down a bookcase as she left their bedroom. She had just grabbed the car keys and opened the front door when she saw Darren ferociously fighting his way into the hallway. Even after months without contact Melonie knew, Sophia was her only safe place.
She pulled into Sophia’s complex and dried her tears as she parked as close as she could to her door. She thought for a moment about grabbing her makeup bag from the glove compartment and doing some touch up. No hiding this time, though. She was officially done. The townhouses loomed in darkness, only patches of light on dark green grass were visible against the brown brick sidewalk. No lights came from Sophia’s unit, which is when Melonie looked down to see it was 2:15 in the morning. Her mind spun with excuses for Darren all of a sudden. She was beginning to consider turning back, thinking that just maybe the Darren she fell in love with would be there to welcome her. Maybe she just had to be patient and he would come back to her, the old Darren. After all, her mind told her, it was her that took the remote and changed the channel, thinking he was fast asleep.
Then she caught herself.
“No excuses!” She yelled to herself in the car, loud and shrill enough to make her throat itch. “It’s done!”
She wiped her tears and dabbed her face while peering at her swollen reflection in the mirror. She checked her surroundings one last time before slowly stepping from the car. She shuffled across the parking lot, eyes wide open in case she spotted the familiar red pickup truck. She reached the dark porch and opened the screen door with a loud screech that, alone, should have awakened the whole neighborhood. She knocked lightly on the door, hoping Sophia was asleep on the couch. She waited, and then nothing. She knocked again and waited… Nothing. She banged on the door, louder and longer this time and the neighbors light came on, followed by the grumblings of an annoyed older man. Not wanting someone else to see her this way she continued to knock louder and faster, her nerves causing new tears to form and fall on their own. Just as the neighbor seemed to be unlocking his door, Sophia’s opened and Melonie almost fell through.
“Mel?” Sophia mumbled, her black hair matted from sleep and eyes hung heavy in exhaustion. “What happened to you!” She gasped, pulling her inside. Melonie could only sob as Sophia closed the door and turned on the downstairs lights.
“It was- It was- D-d-d-Darren.” Melonie sobbed. They sat on the couch and Sophia began to examine her, the older bruises on her body a dark green/black color and the fresh ones a ripe purple. Melonie’s left cheek was swollen, a visible imprint of a long rectangle and what seemed to be the imprint of buttons set into the skin.
“He hit you?” Sophia asked furiously.
“He has been.”
“A little before the wedding.”
“Melonie! My goodness, have you told someone?”
“What for? It would only make it worse. Or at least that’s what I thought.”
“What about now?” Sophia asked, still attempting to be the friend that’s there, no matter the cause.
“We’re over, it’s done.”
“Good.” Sophia said, standing. “Then we’re calling the police.” She walked to the kitchen, Melonie in tow, and took the receiver off the wall as she motioned Melonie to take a seat at the breakfast bar.
Melonie couldn’t comprehend all Sophia was saying to them but she could tell she was being very curt and very urgent. The more Melonie sat the more her head began to pound. She could feel her new bruises taking shape, her welts swelling more and more. She decided to stand, walking to the back of the kitchen where a small breakfast table sat right in front of a double sliding door that led to a small concrete patio and a dark backyard. She looked out the glass door, back past the yard where the street lights ended at the edge of a small forest.
“Are you ok?” Sophia asked placing back her phone.
“Yes, I’m sorry.” Melonie said turning, hanging her head in deep sadness. ”I just didn’t know where else to go.”
“It’s ok, I’m glad you came. Come sit back down, I’ll give you some ice.” Melonie slowly made her way back to the counter as Sophia rummaged through the freezer for an ice pack. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asked, her voice muffled by the humming machine.
“Well,” Melonie began, clearing her throat.
But before she could even breathe out her words a loud bang echoed out behind them. The glass sliding door smashed into a thousand pieces and something smashed into Melonie’s back. Sophia turned around quickly to see Darren on her back patio, a cut on his eye brow sending a stream of blood down his face and his arm outstretched with a pistol in his hand. She looked to Melonie who was still sitting in the chair, a horrid look veiled across her face. She slumped onto the counter and Sophia could see blood pooling on her shirt from the gunshot wound. Then Darren fired again.