This story is by Hrafn Jóhann Þórarinsson and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“I want out.” Harry gasped upon expelling the words. Gladus’s face fell. His innocent, tender smile morphing into a mask of terror.
“I’m really sorry Gladus. I still love you…but I’m not in love with you anymore. And I need to move on.”
“I’ll kill myself.” Gladus sobbed, then his face fell into his hands. Harry heard faint ringing in his ears. This was not going well.
But isn’t this exactly what I feared?
He took a hesitant step towards the crying, gasping Gladus.
“Gladus…sweet Gladus…please…don’t even think of…”
Harry took another step. “You…you wouldn’t…really…would you?”
Gladus collapsed in a heap onto the floor, crying uncontrollably. This was made all the more disturbing and tragic by the fact that the sofa was just three feet behind him. On it lay an unopened gift.
“Absolutely!! I wouldn’t say such a thing lightly!!!” He let out a desperate shriek of pain. Several sobs followed.
“I’m not just saying this to manipulate you…to make you feel that you have to stay with me. I’m just being honest.” He lowered his trembling hands from his tear-stained face. He looked up at Harry.
“It’s not a trick. It’s the truth. You’re everything to me. I can scarcely remember a time when we weren’t a couple. Not being your boyfriend, giving my heart time to heal…becoming my own person, building a whole new life…without you…I know I’m not up for that.” He sighed deeply.
Harry looked down at Gladus, reluctantly processing every word that he was saying.
“It’s not a threat…it’s just a statement of fact.” He closed his eyes, which caused a fresh cascade of tears to descend his face.
“If you’re really no longer in love with me…if you actually leave me…” Gladus opened his eyes again.
“I’ll die. I’ll end it.”
Harry felt a lump in his throat so hard that he thought it might choke him. He looked right into Gladus’s tearful eyes. In them, he saw every horrifying degree of the truth in the words he spoke. He saw his sincerity, his seriousness.
What do I do?
“Gladus…please…I do love you…I want you to be happy…but I need to be happy too. I can’t be happy while I’m with you…but I want—need you to live!”
Gladus’s eyes opened slightly wider. Almost imperceptibly he shook his head.
“And—never mind me! How could you actually go through with something so selfish?! You have a family! Who all love you! Would do anything for you! Would you off yourself? leaving them to clean it up, to deal with it?!”
Gladus was shaking his head a bit more noticeably now.
“It doesn’t matter. It’s not like I want it. I want to still be happily with you. Failing that, sure I’d love to be capable of moving on, being single, finding someone else. But I couldn’t. I have no doubt that they’d be fine without me. But I also have no doubt…that if you leave me…I…”
“I wouldn’t want to live as the ruined husk of my former self. A burden to everyone. Even to strangers who work in an institution. Better they care for someone who has a chance at recovery. Which I know I would not. If it’s really over, if you’ve decided to drop me…then I’m out.”
Gladus folded in on himself and sank to the floor, his face still in his hands. But no longer crying.
“And…it just seems fair…to tell you that.” he said, his voice even. For several seconds there was quiet. As though Gladus had gotten out everything he had to say. To what Harry had just told him. Perhaps everything he ever would say, in his whole life. He just lay in a sad, fetal position on the floor. The sofa right behind him.
Harry looked at him, his fists slackening. The horrible sense of despair and uncertainty washing over him. No, not washing over him. Barrelling down on him, in fast, merciless torrents of emotion.
What can I do?! He’s serious. He really would. No. He really will. He’s as good as dead. Because I can’t go on with him anymore. Committing myself to him was a mistake in the first place. I was never sure about it. In just a year, I knew we couldn’t last forever. In two more, I knew I needed out. And this past year has just been…going through the motions. Both of us being too accustomed to being a couple so long, not willing to take the leap and split up. No…I guess it was just me, unable to bring myself to hurt him. Always putting it off…ever the procrastinator, me. I really shouldn’t have finally told him…on our anniversary.
Harry’s fists rose to his head.
But now what have I done? I’ve strung him along so long…What can I do?! How can you bring yourself to hurt someone you love, in order to be able to be happy yourself…if it means condemning them? In this world and the next? Harry felt his own eyes threaten tears. His arms lowered again. How could I let this happen? How could I let this farce go on as long as I did?
He closed his eyes. His fists relaxed completely.
I can’t condemn him. But…I can’t stay with him either. I resolved a long time ago that I would not be a cheater. Never.
Harry opened his eyes again. He had made a decision. It would be unbearable. But he would do it. He had to. For Gladus. And his family. He took the final step to close the distance between him and his heartbroken lover. Then he crouched down to where Gladus lay.
“Gladus? Honey? It’s all right. I’ve been a fool. Of course I’m not leaving you. I’ll always be yours.” He brushed the hair in Gladus’s face from his eyes, gently.
“Because you’ll always be mine. Right?” At hearing Harry’s words, Gladus blinked.
“You…you really mean it?” he asked tentatively.
“Don’t say such things if you don’t mean them. I’d hate to think that you…feel forced…” Harry swept his right arm under Gladus’s torso, gently easing him up. “That…you’re only saying it so I won’t —”
“Of course not, my love.” Harry said firmly, as he looked right into Gladus’s eyes, before Gladus had finished. “I would never deceive you.”
Harry kissed him. His lips delicately clasped Gladus’s, as his hands began sweeping the fresh rivers of tears from Gladus’s cheeks. Gladus’s eyes closed, as he let himself fall under the soothing spell of Harry’s comforting embrace. This caused the fresh tears in his eyes to rush down his face. But they didn’t get far. Harry’s warm, smooth fingers caught them and brushed them aside.
Harry broke their kiss only to lead into another. Gladus began to reorient and rearrange himself from his awkward position. Finally, they were both crouched on the floor, each clutching the other. They sighed deeply, when their kiss finally released. Gladus’s arms were around Harry, squeezing him tightly, never wanting, daring to ever let him go. Harry let his fingers brush through Gladus’s hair.
“Believe me now?” Harry whispered to Gladus, their eyes suspended in an intense shared gaze. Gladus searched Harry’s eyes for a few seconds, panting slightly from their passionate kissing.
“Yes, of course Harry. My love.” Gladus gasped with relief and buried his face in Harry’s neck as he clutched him even tighter.
Harry’s hand caressed Gladus’s sleeping face. He had been watching him for a while.
How long has it been? An hour? Thirty minutes? Three hours?
However long it’s been…it feels like an eternity. But I have to be sure that he’s fast asleep.
Gladus was still sleeping. His tears long gone. His countenance was veiled with the most peaceful expression.
Yes. This is how I want to remember him…
Harry shifted to his other side, toward his nightstand. As soundlessly as he could, he opened the drawer.
It’s fine. He’s sound asleep. He would be, after I reassured him long and well…that I would never leave him.
His fingers wrapped around something cold and hard.
Can I do this? I must. I vowed to never cheat on him. And after tonight…I vowed that I would never hurt him again. I’ll never let him condemn himself. I’ll never let him suffer unendingly in the next life.
He raised his hand, slowly, but only to remain quiet. His hesitation was gone. He felt resolve. The moonlight shot through the bedroom blinds fragmenting into disembodied planes of faint light. An owl perched on a tree branch outside the window blinked when an instant flash of moonlight shot from the room, somehow finding it’s way through the blinds, unlikely as that seemed. It had been reflected in something shiny. And sharp.
When the deed was done, Harry felt unexpectedly relieved. It had worked. Gladus would never have to suffer needlessly again. Nor would he ever have to face damnation. He was free.