In the not too distant future, Sweden has no choice but to fight against the evil that stirs in the south-east. Mikhail Braginsky had to leave his home and his husband to fight for a brighter future, a decision that left Jordan heartbroken. In an effort to lessen the loneliness, the couple writes letters to each other, while Jordan stays at home with his best friend, whose husband, Ivan, also left for the war. But one night when the mysterious Ivan comes to their door in the pouring rain with a crumpled, bloodied envelope, telling Jordan that Mikhail has died, the war isn't the most important thing on their minds.
"I'll be back soon, I promise."
That one sentence had plagued my mind for weeks. Weeks that had turned into months, and months that had crept up on a year. Mikhail had been gone for eight months, and I was starting to wonder if he'd ever come back.
The date today is December the 12th. Eight months ago today marks the date of our wedding. It was a simple ceremony; really only meant for the two of us. We didn't have many people to invite, anyways. We had just moved to a totally different country, so we didn't have many friends. No family, either. My parents had disowned me after they had walked in on their son kissing another boy. My mother cried, my father beat the both of us, and refused to acknowledge me at all. I was practically on my own even before they finally kicked me out onto the streets. So there I was, fourteen years old, alone out in the world. I still wanted to attend school, so I would usually stay over at my friend Arthur's house. His parents took me in, put a roof over my head, and were always there for me. I try to talk to them as often as I could. After all, it's the least I could do for the people who practically saved my life.
As for Mikhail, his parents died before they found out about him. They were driving home from a party, and his father had been drinking. Before he knew it, the car veered into oncoming traffic, colliding with another vehicle, killing both of his parents and only breaking Mikhail's arm.
But what we did have was each other, and that is where our story begins.
It was a time of panic, and Stockholm was in great peril. War had raged through most of Europe, killing many and wounding more. Many European countries had been taken over by the Poles, save Sweden and a good handful of the western countries. It was one of the only remaining countries, and our people knew that our freedom wouldn't last longer. We also knew that we had to put up a fight. These were realities that even the children were forced to accept. We couldn't just sit there and let our nation be robbed of us, could we? After many debates and conferences, the decision was made and the neutral barrier broken. Sweden would fight.
There were some who resisted the enemy, and there were some who were weak enough to stand for anything that they were told to. Our enemy, however, was a force to be reckoned with. They had scoured our lands, coming with fire, axes, and machines of war, only intent to kill. They had captured the religious, and over all the 'unfit' people of the continent. They kept them in camps surrounding Warsaw, doing with them what they pleased. The society behind it all was named the "Orędownikami Pokoju," which ironically translated into the "peace keepers." Behind the camps, behind the slaves, and behind the secret services, was one man. This man was now a household name, and the man who was behind it all, wasn't a man. Anastazia Łukaswicz was hands down, no questions asked, the most wicked woman alive. She was so wicked, in fact, that she could be seen as the female counterpart to Adolf Hitler. Not by her, directly, but by her order, were hundreds of thousands of men and women and children exterminated, churches burned, faiths destroyed, families torn apart- and history repeated. They just had to remove those who opposed them.
This brings us up to the time when our nation was preparing to send troops over to Warsaw. The problem was, we didn't have a military, so men and women able to wield a weapon were heavily encouraged to enlist. This feels like so long ago, much longer than it really was. I guess grief can do that to a person.
Alas, dear reader, I believe that I have given you enough background information for you to go on. So without further ado, I shall begin the first chapter of our story. My name is Jordan Kirkland-Braginsky, and I bid you well.
PEACE SELLS... BUT WHO"S BUYING?
I cried, not believing what I'd just heard. Mikhail looked uneasy. He was nervously shifting; scratching the back of his head, violet-blue eyes focusing on everything in the large, menacing room except for me. If I could see my own expression, I would assume that it would clearly spell shock mixed with anger. I felt my face redden, eyes threatening to spill tears. To say that I was hurt was a massive understatement. I walked across the room, bending over to sit down in an antique armchair, putting my head between my legs. He followed suit, wordlessly agreeing that the foyer was not the best place for the discussion to come. He sat on the raggedy ottoman in front of the chair, far off in the very back of the room. He looked at me with concern.
"Jordan, I need-"
"Mikhail, please," I interrupted, still trying to collect my thoughts. "What are you trying to say?" I asked my husband, lifting up my head slightly. Mikhail was looking a tad more distraught than sympathetic at the moment.
"Jordan, I need to fight. If you ever want to see peace again that's what I'm going to have to do, and you know that," he told me flatly.
"I understand. I think I understand this better than you do by now. I just need you to realize that you'll probably end up paying the ultimate sacrifice, Misha…"
"It's either that or we both die! It's our country, Jordan, the least I can do is defend it," he yelled.
"So, going out and killing people is more important to you than your family?" I yelled, hurt.
"I think you're overreacting, of course not, I-"
"Then why do you insist on leaving me?" Mikhail paused, not sure how to respond. He almost looked defeated; face relaxing into an expression that didn't really convey any emotion at all, save a hint of regret. He began to stand up, his large coat wrinkled from where he'd sat on it. He walked over to my chair, standing beside it. He looked down at me.
"Jordan, I just can't stand by while thousands of people are dying, fighting for our home," he said calmly.
"I can come with you. I am no housewife; I am capable of-"
"We both know that you can't. That leg injury that you got last month still hasn't healed yet," he continued.
"But if you go too, what will I have to look forward to when I return?" he said with a soft smile.
"Getting sentimental, are we?" I mumbled.
"And when I return, we will have a safe place to open a new chapter of our lives, one where we won't have to worry about which one of our friends has died today," he finished. I was trying not to cry. I bit my lower lip so hard it bled; a coppery taste flooding my mouth. I never cried. That was a rule for me. Well, even the best ruled are bound to be broken someday. Tears began to fall down my cheeks, staining my face. I was beyond hurt, and what hurt me more was that I couldn't do anything to stop it. I turned my face away from him, in vain of course, as he grabbed my shoulders, forcing me to look at him.
"You'll promise to write me letters every day when I go?" he asked hopefully. I looked at him sadly, confirming in my mind that this was it.
"I promise," I said weakly. I began to memorize the way he looked at me then, when the double meaning to his words hit me like a ton of bricks. Mikhail stood up, briskly walking over to the corridor bound for the stairs. I stood up, but I didn't move.
"Just in case, right?" I asked voice weak. He simply mouthed "я тебя люблю" as he vanished up the stairs.
The time flew by so quickly. Mikhail was leaving tomorrow, and I didn't know what to do. The past few days had been quite different. It seemed like Mikhail was being more loving than he usually was. He'd steal kisses at every opportunity that arose, and he'd tell me how much he loved me at least three times a day. Not that I didn't like it; I loved the extra attention... but it just reminded me that I'd be losing him. There's nothing that can make him change his mind about leaving. If there was, I'd do it without question. It was his decision, and no matter how much it hurt me, it was his decision and I had to support him no matter what. I was lying on the living room couch, reading some book I randomly selected off of the bookshelf. I got bored of it quickly and promptly tossed it to the side. I brushed the hair out of my face as I sat up, brushing off my clothes as I stood. The room had a very dark atmosphere. The heavy curtains were pulled shut, and the walls were an angry gray colour. I needed to prevent myself from thinking. If I thought too much, I'd get worried. I was worried already, of course, but I didn't want it to continue. I walked down the hallway and up the set of spiral stairs (That scare me to DEATH) to our shared bedroom. My room was more of an office space with a bed in it. I actually slept upstairs with Mikhail, which was more comfortable, but sometimes I didn't want to walk up at stairs at night because I was afraid of falling down and hurting myself. It was almost dark out, and I wanted to spend some time with Mikhail before he left. I neared the end of the corridor when I heard the soft sound of the piano. I smiled. Mikhail was a wonderful pianist, who apparently before we got married, could afford to buy a grand piano. We kept it in our room, which was quite large. I knocked lightly on the door, and I turned the brass doorknob. There he was, sitting down at the sleek black Steinway, playing to his heart's content. The room was dim and what light there was reflected off of the piano and illuminated the deep purple walls. It was a beautiful sight; really, I just stood in the door.
"Hello Misha," I said. He turned to face me, flaxen hair glittering in the light. He was wearing his- or rather, my favourite suit jacket, a cream coloured knit turtle neck, and a nice pair of black trousers. I always had a thing for tailored clothing. Mikhail wore clothes very well, and this suit was no exception.
"Hello, подсолнечник," he smiled, beginning to stand up.
"Will you play me a song?" I asked, taking a few steps closer to the piano and resting my hand on it.
"What would you like to hear?" he asked.
"Poets of the Fall?" Mikhail laughed softly.
"Where Do We Draw the Line please," I smiled as he began to play. His fingers ghosted over the ivory keys. The sound resonated and filled the room with a beautiful noise as I began the first verse.
"On your palm an endless wonder,
Lines that speak the truth without a sound.
In your eyes awaits the tireless hunger
Already looks for prey to run down."
"So why do we keep up this charade
How do we tell apart the time to leave from the time to wait...""What does tomorrow want with me?
What does it matter what I see,
If it can't be my design?
Tell me where do we draw the line..."
"The dance of flames and shadows in the street
Make poetry nobody's ever heard
The weight of loneliness stands on your feet
The cage already there around the bird.""So why don't we join the masquerade?
Before it all falls apart before our love becomes insatiate?""What does tomorrow want with me
What does it matter what I see
If I can't choose my own design
Tell me where do we draw the line""Where's the cooling wind
Where's the evergreen field
Where's my mother's open arms
Where's my father lion heart
S'like the sun's gone down
Sleeps in the hallowed ground now
With the autumn's browns leaves
With the one who never grieves.""What does tomorrow want with me
What does it matter what I see
If we all walk behind the blind
Tell me where do we draw the line""Whatever tomorrow wants from me
At least I'm here, at least I'm free
Free to choose to see the signs
This is my line..."
Mikhail's hands pulled the lid down over the keys and he stood up.
"That was beautiful," he said as he wrapped his arms around my waist. He pulled me into a warm embrace as I laid my head on his shoulders.
"Ich liebe dich," I said softly as he ran his fingers through my hair. Our lips met then in a gentle, loving kiss. I rested my hands on Mikhail's cheeks. His lips were soft, and he tasted like vodka and honey.
"And I love you," he said.
"Do you remember how we met?" he asked me, sliding his hands up and down my sides.
"How could I forget?" I said, laughing. "I basically fell over you." Mikhail smiled at me and began to tell me our story from day one.
"Come back soon," I said, standing in the doorway. It was starting to get cold outside, and the harsh wind easily penetrated my knit sweater. Mikhail wrapped me in a tight embrace; his strong hold almost crushing me, but I didn't mind. I rested my head on his shoulder, running my hands through his messy golden hair. He finally let me out of his death grip, and I pulled back to look at him. He looked sad, sort of pained; but at the same time he conveyed pride and hope, something that wasn't very common in this time and place. Our area wasn't as bad as some places, where you'd find more cheer in a graveyard. But nonetheless, we were still in turmoil.
Mikhail leaned in for a final kiss. I didn't want to break apart. I didn't think I actually could. He pulled back, so his face was inches away from mine.
"I love you," he whispered. He started to take off his wedding band, pausing slightly to look at it before handing it to me. "Please, keep this with you," he asked. I looked at him with a confused look on my face.
"Why?" I asked him, taking his free hand. "Jordan, if I don't come back, then you'll still-"
"Misha, don't, okay? Please, just keep it on," I begged, putting the ring back on his finger; almost moved to tears. Anytime he mentioned "...not coming back" I got a bit emotional. I couldn't live without Mikhail. He lit up my world in every way.
"I need to go now, love," he whispered into my ear as he gently kissed my cheek. I tried my best to smile at him as I straightened his scarf.
"I love you," I said shakily.
"I'll be back soon, I promise," Mikhail said as he turned to walk down the steps and get into his car, which sped away in the blink of an eye. Words alone cannot describe what I felt at that moment. I turned around and opened the door, shut it, and took off my shoes. I headed up the stairs to our bedroom, laid on my side of the bed, and cried until dawn.
The house seemed so cold and daunting over the next mornings. The ceilings seemed higher and the walls seemed greyer- and no matter how much wood I put on the fire, it was still freezing. Mikhail must've taken all of the warmth with him when he left. I couldn't let myself dwell on it, though. I wasn't weak; I was generally a very strong person. I've called into work sick every day for the past three days. It was high time that I occupied myself; just sitting and letting myself think wasn't getting me anywhere. I glanced at the clock on my bedside table. It was only eleven o'clock, not too late to call Alfred and tell him I'd be coming in today. Coincidently, Alfred was my best friend. We had been ever since Mikhail and I moved here. He lived a few blocks down from us, so it wasn't a long walk. But, Alfred was Alfred- and he was pretty lazy. He had nothing to show for it, though. He was very tall; he was mostly leg. He was as thin as a post, and looked like he could be snapped in two as easily as a twig. His stature didn't make any sense to me, once you plugged in the number of times he ate at McDonald's per week. He could eat anything he wanted and he wouldn't gain an ounce.
I decided to give him a call. I let the phone ring about three times, and I was about to hang up when someone answered.
"Hey Jay, how are you? D'you need somethin' bro?" said that all-too familiar American accent that I've come accustomed to.
"No thank you Al, I'm fine. And what's with your obsession with the word 'bro'? It's an American thing, right?" I chuckled.
"You got me. It reminds me of home," he replied. "Are you sure everything's alright? You don't call just to chat. I swear you have something against telephones," he continued.
"Actually, I'm feeling better today, and I'm going to come in later," I said. Alfred laughed his trademark chuckle and began to talk again.
"No problem dude, I was the same when Ivan left, too. I cried for days, and you know something terrible had to happen considering the awesome me never cries," he said.
"Uh huh," I said sarcastically. "Remember the time when you watched Paranormal Activity with Mikhail and I last week? You were practically under the table by the end of it, man," I finished. There was a pause.
"You promised not to speak of it again," he said. I could almost hear him pouting through the phone.
"I was beside you the whole time. Somebody has to sit in between you and Ivan or else you'll claw each other's hearts out," he added. I agreed. Ivan creeped me out, a LOT. We both have a mutual hatred for each other. It was hate at first sight, to say the least.
"Okay Al, I'll be there in fifteen minutes," I said before saying goodbye and hanging up the stupid phone. Alfred was right; I really didn't like phones one bit. I realized that I haven't gotten out of bed yet. I lazily rolled out of bed, fumbling a bit as I made my way to the closet, throwing on a baggy Scorpions concert shirt and a pair of torn up skinny jeans, decorated with half of a box of safety pins. Walking to the bathroom, I proceeded to brush my mop of bright red hair until it looked decent. After completing the rest of my bathroom tasks, I put in a different lip ring and made sure the ones on my ears matched. The one on my eyebrow was fine, so I kept it as is. I cursed my freckles, as I did every other day. I slipped my wallet into my back pocket, and then I remembered something. I quickly grabbed the letter that I'd written for Mikhail and made it for the door.
OF INDIE ROCK AND GOTHIC HOUSES
I drove down the wide, crowded streets before finally getting to a less populated area. I pulled the car into the driveway, parked it, and began walking towards the small building. I carefully slipped my envelope into the mailbox, opening the drawer again just to make sure it didn't get stuck in the lid.
No matter how much time I spent here, I never really got used to my surroundings. Here, it was so much different than old dreary Britain. Even less similar than the town in Austria where I grew up. The forest in behind the building was dense and lush, reminding me of the forest of Fangorn, almost. While it did snow a fair bit, for the most part the weather was clear and usually permitting. Ivy clung to the walls of the ex-house, and the white paint was slightly chipped in some places (nothing too different from my own house), and there was a single tree in what used to be the front lawn. It was quite dead, actually. The branches were stripped of their leaves, and the tree itself was almost black. It was at least fourteen feet tall, and it sat on a small courtyard of stone. Alfred never had the heart (or motivation) to cut it down, and I always thought it charming, so it stayed in its spot.
The house itself was a large, two story Victorian house, with many gothic arches and large French doors. There were two stone pillars (also decorated with ivy) and a marble goblin statue sat on top of each. I always liked them. They really reminded me of Lord of the Rings, my favourite books. The overall feel to the house was somewhat dark, but very whimsical in a way. When Al and I decided to do this together, he let me pick what area we'd use- a decision he regrets to this day. At first, the atmosphere really creeped him out, but as time went on he gradually adjusted.
I shook out of my trance and started up the stairs. With a gentle push the door swung open, revealing a large open area, cluttered with papers and furniture. The walls were covered with band posters and flags. There were so many that I could barely see the walls. In the far corner there was a small room, the wall nearest to me had a large glass window placed in the centre.
"Al?" I called, closing the door behind me. The music softened slightly and I heard footsteps coming from the back room.
"Jordan? Is that you?" he called.
"Yea," I hollered back as I took a seat at my desk. He came out of the back room, smiling.
"Morning bro," he said.
"Thank you Al. How are you?" he shrugged.
"Not too bad. You sure you're feeling better?" he asked, genuinely concerned. I laughed.
"Yes, I promise," I said as I looked around. "You seemed to be doing fine when I was gone, the place looks great," I marvelled. Alfred smiled.
"I hired help," he said, busted.
"I knew you couldn't keep up with the organizing," I said. That's what I did for the most part. I organized the records (yes, we still use those) and the CD's that we played. "Yeah, I got a few more for you to put on the shelf," he said as he handed me a small stack of new CD's.
"Thanks Al," I said as I left the room and made my way down the hall to another room. We had plenty of space here, which was a good thing. It allowed us to have as many storage rooms as we wanted, and maybe a band room or two. The hallway was long and dark. The floors were dusty and an ugly shade of beaten up hardwood. Al was my best friend, and I care about him a lot, but mein Gott, he was lazy. Technically speaking, it was his job to sweep and dust the place, but I ended up doing it anyways. He'd just sit in his 'office' and take calls and make up some playlists all day. I turned the brass doorknob of the storage room's door, and looked around. It seemed like everything was the way I had left it before. One light hung from the ceiling, and with a bit of fumbling I turned it on. The room itself was a bit small; the edges were lined with shelves and old boxes. I started at the shelving unit closest to the door, and started placing the CDs in their designated spots, which, I noticed later, weren't how I'd left them. Everything was all mixed up, and nothing was in the right order. The hand that Al hired really didn't know what they were doing.
"If you need anything, just call, eh?" he hollered from the other room. I nodded and went about my business, happy to get back to my normal routine. I walked over to the larger cabinet at the far back of the room. It wasn't really a cabinet; it was more of a large metal shelving unit. The floors creaked slightly as I walked over them, trying not to make too much noise. I reached up to the highest shelf, scanning through a plethora of old records, trying to remember where I had put the extra jewel cases. I really regret not organizing the miscellaneous boxes. I got down on my knees and began rifling through the boxes under the unit one by one, until I came across a large case. It was my old cello. I hadn't touched it in years after Mikhail got me a new one for my 25th birthday. I smiled and went to open it, until I heard a loud noise.
"How d'ya even consider scones FOOD? They taste like petrified couch stuffing!"
I looked up, slightly confused. I decided to go back down the hall and see what was happening. I got up off of the floor, and I dusted off my pants as I walked away from the shelves, turning off the light behind me.
"What do ye mean, instant tea isn't real tea? I'm sorry, but we don't have tea trees in America!"
"Who are YE callin' a twat? The last time I checked 'colour' wasn't spelled with a 'u'!
I started to laugh as I saw Alfred on the phone, steam practically coming out of his ears. He looked at me for a second, and held the phone out. "It's for you, Jordan," he said with a devious smile. I smiled at him. There could only be one person on the phone right now, the one person that Alfred both loved and hated.
"Hello?" I said excitedly.
"Jordan, how are you! I haven't talked to you for ages!" my favourite Briton began. It was Arthur. He was calling all the way from Sussex, too. It's a funny story, but he and Alfred know each other. I have no clue how, but they did. They did their fair share of bickering, that's for sure- but I knew that deep down, they really cared about each other. I smiled at Alfred before stepping into the next room. He was still trying to calm himself down. He just glared at me, like he always did when he was forced to speak with Arthur. I laughed to myself. That'll teach him for not dusting the floors!
"So, how was your first day back?"
Alfred asked as we pulled out of the driveway. It was about eight o'clock at night, and it was beginning to get dark. The gravel crunched under the wheels of Al's Chevy as he put it into drive and we sped down the highway.
"Good, but that hand that you hired really didn't know what they were doing," I told him with a smile. He laughed softly and popped a CD into the deck.
"I'd figured that you'd say that. You run a pretty tight ship bro; that organizing system is way above me," he said dramatically. Now it was my turn to laugh.
"Alfred... it's just simple alphabetization," I said, biting my tongue. He smiled, but didn't respond. He was trying to concentrate on the road, I thought. It was starting to rain and the sky was getting darker.
"Wanna go out for a drink once we get back into town?" I asked after a few minutes had passed and the weather had cleared a bit.
"Okay dude, but if you get drunk, I'm not carrying you home," he retorted. "You have a long history of not being able to hold your liquor, my friend." I rolled my eyes.
"If you're referring to the last time we went drinking at a party, it wasn't my fault entirely," I said, looking out the window.
"Bro, you threw my cousin's parakeet at the piggy bank and screamed "ANGRY BIRDS!" You're lucky he's still alive!"
"I did no such thing!" I said flatly. Oh god. It was coming back to me. That was NOT a pleasant morning the next day.
"Seriously?" I said, at a lack of words.
"No, he's dead," said Alfred, hardly containing his laughter, and doing a rather poor job of it. In a matter of seconds he burst out laughing, and so did I, for some reason. The Yankee's laughter was contagious, even if it was at my own expense. He slowed down as we came up on his house. He parked in his driveway, and we leaped out of the car and ran into the house. It began to rain again, and I swore Alfred thought he was going to melt if he got wet. He fumbled for the keys, dropping them on the ground once before managing to unlock the door. He had a fairly large house, a bit more modern than mine, but it didn't feel much different. He took my coat and I put my shoes on the rack inside the door, and he gestured for me to come into the kitchen area where he was busy pouring a glass of vodka.
"Al, that's quite a lot of alcohol," I said as he put the glass back under the counter and started to drink from the glass that he'd poured, downing the whole thing in about five seconds. I looked at him oddly, and he just smiled.
"There's some of that weird German beer that you like in the fridge; help yourself, my man," he said. I was very tired at this point, and didn't really feel like drinking anything, let alone dealing with a drunken Alfred, who believe me, was ten times worse than normal Alfred.
"Thanks Al, but I think I'm just going to go to sleep now. I'm really tired; it's been a long day," I said.
"Okay, whatever you say bro," he said, now drinking directly out of the vodka bottle. He smiled at me as I left the kitchen and opened the door to the downstairs.
IN HELL, THE COOKS WOULD BE BRITISH
I woke up the next morning as the sun infiltrated the blinds over the small window. I had slept on the couch last night, and as a result had a very sore back. It was a nice couch though, a black suede one, but it wasn't really the best for sleeping. I pulled off the blanket from the floor and folded it up neatly, and crossed the carpeted floors up the wooden stairs in search for Alfred. He was probably still sleeping. He usually woke up at around noon, and it was about seven thirty when I looked at the clock. Much to my surprise, and quite frankly, shock, Alfred was wide awake, fingers flying over his Xbox controller playing some type of video game.
"Morning Al," I said, walking into the kitchen and opening the stainless steel fridge.
"Mehh," was his reply. It was kind of a groan, as if to say "I'm not awake yet, leave me alone." But he was awake, and playing video games at that.
"Have you eaten?" I said with a smile.
"No," said he.
"Would you like me to make you something then?" I continued.
"Y- yea, yea, sure..." he said, clearly distracted by whatever he was playing. I excitedly skipped off to the cupboard to fetch some bowls and whatnot. I grabbed cheese, ginger ale, some instant pasta, some spices (Al loves those, and he's always complaining about my cooking being bland), some more cheese, and a tomato. I turned the oven on, and placed all of my ingredients into the casserole dish, humming to myself. I love cooking for other people. Whether they'd let me or not was a different question, but I still enjoyed it. I took out two bowls, a mug, and a teacup for me, and waited for the timer to go off. A few minutes later, I heard a loud "DING!" and I gingerly took the casserole out of the oven and divided it onto the two plates. I made haste and made myself some tea (the GOOD kind) and poured Al a glass of orange juice.
"Al, breakfast is ready," I called to the next room. No answer.
"Al," I said again, a bit louder. So, I decided to bring the food directly to him, and I sat down on the couch. He jumped about a foot off the table when he looked at me.
"When did you get here?!" he asked, confused. I looked at him with a condescending look.
"I've been here since last night," I replied.
"What's that?" he asked, pointing to the plate.
"Well, you said you were hungry, and I asked you if you wanted me to make you something, so I did," I explained. Al's expression went blank.
"Oh... thank you..." he said, looking confused. I twirled some of the noodles around my fork and took a bite. Not bad at all.
"I put lots of spices in, because I know you like that kind of thing," I added with a smile. "Well, try some!" I said. He looked a bit hesitant. I had no clue why.
"Yea, yea sure," he said, taking a small bite.
"Well?" I said. "It's- interesting," he said softly. I smiled. I watched him eat all of it before I cleared the dishes.
"Arthur called again this morning," I said while washing the dishes.
"Is that so?" Al said, not interested in the subject one bit. He then turned on the television and picked up his guitar off of the stand that was next to the couch. "Come on Al, I know you care about-"
"I do not," he interrupted. I frowned slightly.
"What don't you like about him?"
"He looks funny and his cooking is worse than yours."
"Who says my cooking is bad? You said you liked it!"
"I said no such thing!" he said as he got up from the couch.
"Other than that, there's nothing wrong with him, Al."
"We fight all of the time! He's impossible dude! The guy calls 'soccer' football! What's to like?!"
"Al, the least you could do is to show some respect for my best friend who practically saved my life. It means a lot to me, you know? I know you two don't get along that well, but please, will you try harder this time?" I said with an exasperated sigh.
Alfred looked like he understood what I was saying. He walked over to the kitchen and took a bottle of the crappy American beer out of the fridge, freezing as he went to close the door.
"Wait... what do you mean by 'this time'?" He asked nervously. He looked at me with a slightly frightened look on his face, which quickly faded into one that clearly spelled 'what on earth did you just do.'
"Well Alfred," I began as I put some of the plates into the cupboard. "Iggy didn't have any plans for the weekend, and considering that we haven't seen each other in years, he's going to come down for a visit," I said flatly, not pausing to look at Al. I could practically feel his death glare burning through the back of my skull.
"And when exactly is he coming over?" he asked.
"He'll be here at ten o'clock tomorrow morning, so you'll have plenty of time to prepare for when he gets here," I said. Al frowned. His hair was down, and cascaded over his shoulders and face messily. He had his beer in his hand and he was wearing one of Ivan's old dress shirts. Or at least I think it was Ivan's. It came down to his mid thigh, making me realize how thin this man actually was.
"Don't make that face at me, Alfred. It's not going to do you any good," I said. "Also," I began. "I am not letting you drink at seven thirty in the morning," I said as I removed the bottle from his grip and dumped the contents down the sink.
"What was that?" Al complained. I didn't answer him. Instead, I just turned to shut off the sink.
"I promised him you'd be there, so I'll see you at my place tonight bright and early, alright?"
"You can't tell me what to do! You can't make me! He's stuffy and he talks funny!"
"Alright," I said as I began to leave the room. "Have it your way." I could practically hear Alfred's smirk from across the room.
"Such a shame... I guess these Silversun Pickups tickets are going to go to waste then. I'll have to take Arthur." Silence.
"So, what time do you want me there tomorrow?"
"I'll come and get you, and then we're going to get him at the airport. If you're not up by the time I get here, I will call every McDonalds restaurant in town and tell them not to serve you. Okay?" I said with a great big smile. Al looked defeated, and he truly was.
"Ugh, this is too early to be considered morning," Alfred said from the passenger seat of my precious red Corvette, covering his eyes and slouching in the seat.
"Oh my god Al, you're a grown man," I told him as I put a CD into the player and we backed out of his driveway. I was dressed in my best clothes; a pair of grey jeans equipped with a chain attached to the belt, black combat boots, and a Slayer concert shirt. Al, on the other hand, lazily threw on his leather pants, that one pair of boots that make him look ridiculously feminine, and a skin-tight leather vest. His hair was strewn all over the place, and some of it currently hung over his face as he slept in the car. His right arm was hanging onto the door, revealing his pentagram tattoo on his wrist.
I wasn't going to lie; Alfred was very attractive, but I honestly don't know how Ivan puts up with him. He was very smart at times- his diploma from the Rhode Island School of Design is proof of that- but other times, the poor bloke would starve to death in a grocery store. I started to drive down the street, stopping to look outside once and a while. The sun was rising, and I could tell it'd be a beautiful day. I could hear the birds sing as we sped down the street, searching for the on ramp for the highway. I was getting bored, to be honest. I'd regret it later, but I decided to wake up the sleeping Georgian.
"Al, wake up."
Nothing. Maybe it was a sign; telling me that I shouldn't wake him up and for the next two hours we can have a peaceful drive to the airport, but I didn't listen. There was nobody else on the road except for us. I slammed on the brakes, forcing the car to a screeching halt. Al woke up with a start, looking around and out the window for a good reason to slam on the brakes like that.
"What the hell happened?!" he said, startled. He was now leaning forward in his seat looking at me with a face that a nine year old girl might have when her puppy got hit by a car.
"Good morning, sunshine," I said cheerfully as I kept on driving.
"There is something really wrong with you, bro," Al said, rubbing the back of his neck.
"I'm sure there is," I said as I rounded the corner.
"How much longer is the drive?" Al asked, sitting back in his seat.
"About an hour and a half longer," I stated. "We're turning onto the highway now," I added. We safely merged and joined the other cars on the long wide road.
I wonder how old Artie's been. I remember when we were in high school together, he always used to be that British punk that stood in the corner and didn't really like to socialize. He wore eyeliner thicker than Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, ripped jeans, and plenty of leather. His eyebrows were ridiculously huge though, but other than that, the bottle blond had everyone drooling over him. He could have any girl he wanted; it was a shame he didn't want them. He always had this one French foreign exchange student- Pierre Bonnefoi; I believe his name was- all over him. Everywhere he went, the Parisian pervert would follow. It was hilarious watching them interact. I wonder what happened to Pierre, too.
"Al, would you like me to put on some music?" I asked the lump beside me.
"Yeah, sure," he said as he handed me a case of CDs. I ejected the one I had put in earlier.
"Dexy's Midnight Runners?" Al suggested with a big smile. I graciously took the disc and put it in the player. The sound of a violin filled the car, and Al and I looked at each other as "Come on Eileen" played.
"Do you remember this at my wedding, Alfred?" I asked happily.
"Of course I do," he replied.
This was the song that Mikhail sang to me on our wedding night. It was incredibly sweet. We have pictures of it up in our room, right above our bed. This was the song that he taught me to dance to, also. If I could pick one song to describe mine and Mikhail's life together, this would be it.
Come on Eileen
Oh, I swear (well he means)
In this moment
You mean everything
When you wear that dress
My thoughts (I confess)
Verge on dirty, come on, Eileen
Al and I sang along right up until the song ended a few minutes later. That definitely put me in a better mood. I glanced at the ring on my hand and smiled bigger than before. I couldn't wait until Mikhail came home.
"Don't you miss Ivan, Alfred?"
"Of course I do. I love him, Jordan, how could I not miss him?" Al looked down at his hand. "He got my ring made especially for me, too, see?" he said, holding his hand up for me to see.
"My wed- wait what?"
"Did you seriously lose your ring?"
"Um," Al nervously shifted in his seat, looking for the missing article. "Relax; it's probably just on my nightstand or something. It's not something to worry about, I promise man," he said, trying to reassure me.
"Al, if you don't find that damn thing when we get home, you're never going to hear the end of it," I warned. He looked at me like he knew what was going on, so I decided to drop it.
The next few minutes flew by, and we drove off of the ramp, searching for the airport.
"Is that the one?" Al asked, pointing to the correct one.
"Yes, it is. Now be on your best behaviour," I said jokingly. Al gave me a quick glare before we parked in the parking lot. We both unbuckled our seatbelts and exited the car.
"I wonder where he could be," I said as we walked towards the terminal. "Hey Al, where do you think-" I began to say as I realized that he was no longer beside me. "Al, where are you?" I spun around, and there he was, frozen behind me.
"Al, would you hurry up?" I said. He was staring at something across the road. "Seriously, what is it?"
"He's over there," he said, pointing his finger. I rolled my eyes and motioned for him to hurry up. He did, reluctantly, as we approached the large doors.
I turned around, and nobody was there.
There wasn't anybody anywhere near me, so I just decided to walk forwards. Al followed close behind me, until I ran into someone.
"I'm so sorry," the man said. His voice sounded too familiar. He was wearing a tweed jacket, a knit sweater vest, and a pair of matching slacks. He had honey blond hair, and green eyes like mine.
"Arthur?" I asked, not quite sure whom I was talking to.
"Jordan? It's wonderful to see you again!" He said as we shook hands.
"My god, you sure look a lot different now," I marvelled, looking at him.
"Well, there's a point in a man's life where he needs to settle down and start a family. You can't live your life like you're seventeen forever, you know," he said with a smile.
"Yes, but you're only twenty-three!" I laughed. He dressed like an eighty year old man!
Arthur smiled at me.
"So, do you have a family yet?" I asked him happily.
"Well," he began.
"Do tell! Who's the lucky guy?" I asked, intrigued.
"Do you remember old Frog-face? Pierre?"
My jaw dropped.
"You didn't!" I exclaimed, laughing a bit.
"We may bicker most of the time, but we do love each other," he said. "Which reminds me..." he said as he fished something out of his wallet, finally showing me a picture of a small blond boy.
"Who is it?" I asked, taking the picture to get a closer look.
"That's my son, Klaus," Arthur smiled. "Pierre and I adopted him two years ago."
I smiled more, and handed Arthur back the picture.
"He's beautiful," I said.
"Speaking of parenting," I mumbled. "Al, care to join us?" I yelled as Artie and I walked over to where he was standing, near the car. I could see the expression in Alfred's face go from bored to 'this is hilarious'.
"What happened to the jerky limey? He looks like an eighty year old man!" Al exclaimed, once again doing a very poor job of stifling his laughter.
"Damn Yankee," Arthur said. "So, are we going to go back to your place, or are we going to sleep in the parking lot?" he asked.
"Get in," I said, unlocking the doors. We all piled into the car and got ourselves situated.
"Did I tell you that Al lost his wedding ring?" I said to Arthur, who laughed.
"What, you mean this ring?" he said, holding up the onyx band in question.
"Where did you find that?!" Al exclaimed, snatching the ring out of Arthur's grip and put it on.
"I'm not telling," he said with a smirk.
"Tell me Governor, or I'll shave your eyebrows off in your sleep," Al said angrily.
This was going to be a long ride back home.
AN AMERICAN, A BRIT, AND A AUSTRIAN WALK INTO A BAR...
"So, how have you and Mikhail been since I saw you two last?" Arthur asked me as we sped down the highway. Alfred was demoted to the back seat, where he sat grumpily trying to ignore Arthur in general.
"We've been excellent, thank you," I said. "A few months ago Mikhail went off to war," I concluded, beginning to frown.
"I'm so sorry," he said, empathetically. "I wouldn't know what I'd do if Pierre left. I'm proud of you for letting go," he finished.
"What do you mean, 'letting go'? I asked, confused and a bit offended.
"Jordan, when you let him leave, you were basically saying that you had faith in him and that you trusted him to be able to come back," he said gently. "If you had forbidden him to go, then he would assume that you didn't trust him and that you didn't think that he could do it," he explained. I hadn't really thought about it that way. It made a lot of sense, actually. It made me feel a bit better inside, too.
"Ivan left, too," I included. "That's why Al and I have been seeing so much of each other lately."
"Oh, my condolences," Arthur said to me, rather than to the disgruntled American who was glaring at him. I smiled and laughed slightly.
"How long are you staying, bro?" I asked. I think Alfred's slang has been getting to me.
"Well, as long as I'm welcome, I guess," he started. "Not too long, of course, considering Klaus has never been alone with Pierre for more than a couple hours. Quite frankly I don't trust him not to burn the house down," he laughed.
"Is there anything special you'd like to do while you're in Sweden?" I asked, turning onto an exit,
"Well, it's not much different than what I'd be doing in Sussex, but it's been a long time since we've turned up a pint together, hasn't it? He said with a grin.
"I think that would be a fabulous idea. What do you think Al?" I said to the man in the backseat. He laughed softly.
"Sure bro, whatever you want," he said with a smirk. I rolled my eyes and pressed the play button for the CD deck.
"There's a really great pub downtown that we could go to," I said to him. "They even have fish and chips, so you'll be right at home," I laughed.
"That sounds great," Arthur smiled and nodded his head.
"Though, they're probably less bland than you're used to," Al said.
"What do you mean by bland!?"
"By bland I mean tasteless."
"They're not bland, it's just your poor American diet has overpowered your sense for good food!"
"And by good food do you mean carrots that have been boiled to a pile of mush?"
"Oh shut up you two! You sound like an old married couple! I intervened, trying to stifle my laughter. Pretending that that wasn't funny was sure difficult.
"Oh please, why would I marry that?" Arthur exclaimed, disgruntled.
"How could you marry frog-face?"
"Speaking of that, Jordan, it was quite a shame that you couldn't come of our wedding," Arthur added.
"What do you mean? I never got an invitation."
"I sent it to your radio station," he said. My gaze immediately went over to Al, who was now smiling innocently back at me.
"What?" he asked, still smiling.
"You're in charge of the mail, you big oaf," I said, very irritated.
"Oh, were you talking about the small red envelope sealed with a wax seal? I remember seeing one that matched your description a few years back," he chimed.
"Are you saying that you took that invitation and never told me about it?" I said angrily.
"Pretty much," he shrugged, obviously not caring about it whatsoever.
"Southern charm, my ass," I mumbled as we pulled onto the final exit and drove down the road that led into downtown.
"We're going to stop at the house first for some lunch, is that okay? We'll go out for drinks later," I said.
"Would you mind helping me with my bags when we arrive? I packed a good deal of clothing and such," he said.
"No problem," I answered.
"Don't worry, I brought you two some presents from England," he chuckled.
"You didn't have to do that," I told him. "It's enough that you came; you didn't have to bring us things, too!" I laughed.
"That's quite alright," the Briton laughed as he leaned forward to look out of the window. "Tell me, where is your new house?' he asked as we neared a subdivision.
"Surely not down there," I said as I pointed towards the long lane of houses that all looked the same. "We live a few minutes up the hill. You can feel free to take my spare room. Al can sleep on the couch downstairs."
"Yes, that would be lovely, thank you," he said, green eyes shining in the light. He sure was different, that's for sure. His manners changed a lot, too. It's like now he's the old-fashioned British gentleman that he never was. I understood that he had a family now, but the guy could dress a bit younger.
"It's this one right here," I said as we pulled into the driveway.
"It's very nice," Arthur said as we all got out of the car, and I unlocked the trunk and helped Arthur with his bags.
"Alfred, would you get the door for me? My hands are full," I said as I fumbled with the large suitcase.
"Sure thing, bro," Al chimed as he sauntered past Arthur and I up to the door, and pulled the keys out of his back pocket. The door swung open and he let himself in, not holding the door for myself and our guest. I stopped dead in my tracks. My word, Al was acting like a child today, and I was losing my patience.
"Al, open the damned door," I said harshly, meaning it, too. Sure enough, he opened it, letting us in. We walked through the threshold and Arthur looked around, getting himself used to the surroundings.
"I'll show you to your room, Iggy," I said as I shut the door with my foot and led Arthur down the hall into the spare room. I placed his bags outside of the door, and switched on the light. That would be essential.
"Thank you for letting me stay here on such short notice. I really appreciate it," Arthur said as he admired the rest of the house. I opened up the door, turning the brass knob ever so slightly to the right and I swung it open. The room was red, and was covered in various posters and had guitars hanging on the walls. The bed was in the right hand corner, across from the empty armoire, where I would let Arthur keep his clothes until he left. He chuckled slightly as he brought his luggage into the room.
"This room reminds me of the one I used to have back home," he laughed. I smiled and set the rest of his suitcases on the bed.
"I'll let you get situated. Is there anything you need?" I asked, walking out of the room.
"No, thank you," he smiled as I left. Now, I was off to go find where Alfred went. I scoured the whole upstairs, which confirmed that he was downstairs in the basement. I was starting to get concerned, actually. He acted childish, like he always did, but today was different. I couldn't let him ruin my whole visit over this little thing. Maybe there was something legitimately wrong. There was only one way to find out.
"Alfred?" I called, descending the wooden stairs. "Al, seriously, where are you?" I reached the bottom of the stairs and continued walking past the couch, which he was currently laying down on. He was leafing through one of the guitar magazines that I had on the coffee table.
"What do you want, Jordan?" he asked flatly, not once looking up to look at me.
"What's your problem? You've been acting weird all day," I asked.
"My problem is Arthur, Jordan, and I don't know how many times I've tried to tell you that."
"I know that, now get over it. You're being childish." Al stood up, but still not looking me in the eyes. I was confused. He was absolutely silent, not moving or speaking. The room was almost completely dark, save for a small ceiling fan on the opposite side of the room. I was about to leave until his voice shattered the silence.
"So, is not wanting to be around your abusive ex-boyfriend childish?" He said as he turned around to face me, obviously pained. He walked a few steps closer. I couldn't believe what I was saying.
"Al, look, he's-"
"Don't even try to defend him! He told me he loved me. I loved him, and then he hit me Jordan, and that's not the worst thing he's done, either," Al said, on the verge of tears. "I've tried to tell you so many times, but you never listened. You never cared about how I felt about him; you'd just have him over anyway. The only reason that I act like him and I are 'friends' is so you wouldn't be hurt. You obviously care about him Jordan, and I didn't want to break that. And to make matters worse, he's married now, and I have no clue what he's doing to Pierre, or that child... Jordan, please, won't you listen to me this time?" he cried, finally breaking down.
I didn't know what to say. None of this made any sense... but by the look on my best friend's face, how could he be lying?
"Alfred, I'm not saying that I understand, but I'll try to make things better. It's not like I can just go up there and start telling him off. If he really did that to you Alfred, you have to have to courage to deal with his presence until I you can do something about it. It's already happened Al... I promise the worst is over." The taller man wasn't in tears, but he was very shaken up. His eyes were blood shot, and he was shaking nervously. I don't think that I was doing very much good. To be honest, I didn't know what to do at all. I hadn't seen this coming. I had to believe Al and go with his story. But until I could do something, he had to deal with it. Then, it hit me. Is that why Arthur had requested that Alfred stayed with us? I knew just what to do.
"Al, come upstairs with me please," I asked. He wordlessly followed me back up the wooden stairs and we walked through the corridor, only to be greeted by the man in question. His honey blond hair shone, and his eyes could stare through your soul.
"Is something the matter?" He asked, tilting his head to one side.
"Yes, Al's not feeling well, so I'm going to take him to the hospital," I said, continuing to walk across the house in search of my car keys.
"Why don't I take him? I wouldn't mind, and that way we can... catch up on old times? He suggested.
"No, that's alright," I said, reaching for the door.
"You sure are difficult," he mumbled.
"What a shame," he said as I felt him hit me in the back of the head with a heavy object, and I blacked out.
When I came to, there was no sign of Arthur or Alfred. I was sprawled out on my back in the middle of the floor. I felt the back of my head, and checked my hand for blood. I began so sit up slowly, as I could have a concussion, and sat up. Arthur was nowhere to be seen. Well, at least I knew that Alfred was telling the truth. I grabbed the arm of the couch for support as I stood up, brushing off my clothes.
"Alfred?" I called yet again, not knowing where he was. Dear god, I hope Arthur didn't take him, I thought as I searched around the first floor in search for him. I neared my room when I heard a faint sobbing noise.
"Alfred?" I exclaimed as I rounded the corner to the room, and I stood frozen as the scene in front of me played out. Alfred was lying curled up in the fetal position in the far corner, pants around his knees and his hair was all over the place. I couldn't see his face, mostly because his hair was in the way, but his hands were covering it too. From what I could see, he was bleeding a fair bit, everywhere, there were small gashes on his arms, and his lower back and down was just drenched. The room was dark, only illuminated by a small bit of light from the kitchen. I ran towards him, and kneeled down.
"Alfred, what the hell just happened?" I exclaimed.
"H-he did it again, Jordan, I told you he would..." He sobbed into the floor.
"What do you want me to do?" I asked, leaning over his body.
"Please help me," he mumbled as he looked up at me.
"Alfred, you're bleeding a lot," I told him. "I need to take you to the hospital," I said, watching him shiver. The carpet beneath him was stained a good deal with crimson puddles that had soaked into the floor. His once porcelain skin was now marred with angry red gashes and marks, all over his torso and his arms. He began to reach down and grab the waistband of his trousers, in an attempt to put his pants back on. He succeeded, and I helped him sit up.
"Do you think you can stand?" I asked him as I held onto his shoulders. His legs were very weak, and he wobbled slightly, and I had to prevent him from falling over a few times. He looked like he was in a great deal of pain when he stood up, letting out a loud yelp when I finally got him to his feet. He put his arm around my neck, leaning on me slightly and I walked him to the door. I would've carried him if he weren't so much taller than me. I feel incredibly guilty for what happened, but at the same time it's not like I could have done anything different. I guess he was actually going to go to the hospital tonight. I handed him a coat, and I threw it over his shoulders, and manoeuvred us out the door, meeting the harsh winds. It was about ten o'clock now. So much for going out drinking, I thought. The winds were cold and harsh and it was very dark outside. I unlocked the door, and let Al lay down in the back seat. He couldn't very well sit down, so I figured that this was the best option. I slammed the door behind me, and I put the keys in the ignition, and sped down the driveway.
"I'm sorry," were the only words that Al said to me the whole ride there.
THE RAVEN IS A WICKED CREATURE
The next few months were getting easier and easier. I'd gotten several letters from Mikhail, too. It seemed very likely that he would be coming back alive, but I didn't want to get my hopes up.
"Get me a glass of Coke, would ya Jay?" Alfred called from my living room. He was lying down on my couch, guitar in one hand and a T.V remote in the other.
"Fine, Al," I called back. It was Saturday afternoon, and rain was coming down fiercely. I invited Alfred over for the night. We'd usually play some music or watch some television. I sat down on the couch, and handed Al his Coke.
"Thanks bro," he said as he sat up and took a drink.
"So I was fooling around last night and I came up with this really awesome new riff," he began. I didn't even get a chance to answer before I heard a loud knock at the door.
"Who would be outside right now?" Alfred asked as I headed for the door. I opened the door, and just about had a heart attack when I saw just what was outside on my front porch.
"Ivan?!" I cried.
Ivan was standing outside, drenched in rain and the ends of his coat were stained with mud. He held his cap in his right hand and a parcel in his left. He looked emotionless almost, save for a hint of seriousness clouding his bright red eyes. "ALFRED!" I yelled. He came running to the door.
"What's wrong, Jordan? Is there-" he stopped dead in the doorway, the colour draining from his face at an alarming rate. His eyes welled with tears, and he stood motionless staring at his husband for what seemed like hours. I don't think that Alfred realized what was going on; like it was too good to be reality. Ivan stepped though the doorway, wrapping Alfred in an embrace and gently running his hands through his now loose ponytail. They said nothing at all, save for a knowing look. I gave them a moment to themselves, as is polite, and went to amuse myself in the kitchen for the time being. It wasn't very long until Ivan and Alfred came into the room. Alfred's hair was dishevelled, now hanging down over his shoulders messily. He wasn't crying anymore, but his face was dusted with a light blush and he looked at me with a small smile. I smiled back at him. The same question was floating around my mind for the past half hour: Where was Mikhail? If Ivan was back, shouldn't Mikhail be with him? I tried not to let myself think about it. What mattered was that Ivan was back and Alfred was happier than ever. My thoughts were interrupted as Ivan began to speak; his baritone shattering the silence.
"Jordan, I having something for you," he said, holding out the thick envelope. The envelope wasn't exactly pristine; the edges were torn slightly and it was covered with mud and what looked like blood. It looked like one of Mikhail's letters. I flipped it over, and as plain as day, it read "моя люблю". I went to open it, but Ivan spoke before I could.
"Jordan, there is something that I am having to tell you," he began, looking a bit stirred. I looked at him intently. I got a bad feeling, but I quickly dismissed it.
"Yes, Ivan?" I answered; trying to muster all of the courtesy I could giving my relationship with this man. He gripped his cap a little tighter; his knuckles turning white.
"Jordan, Mikhail, he-" he choked. Hm, this man was good at faking emotion. "He's what?" I asked. I was trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle together but with no avail.
"Mikhail is dead," he said bluntly. I looked at him, not knowing what to say next. He couldn't be dead. I leaned against the counter, barely able to stand up. Alfred looked at him, as if to ask "Are you sure?" he all but nodded at him, as he stepped across the kitchen to stand next to me.
"He's not dead! He can't be, how do you know for sure?" I screamed, unable to even cry. "Why dammit!" I continued. I couldn't believe what I was hearing; it couldn't be true, could it?
"I know- because I watched him get killed myself. He died to save me, Jordan. We got ambushed, and he managed to fight most of the enemy off… before he died, he was telling me how he couldn't die; he promised you that he'd coming home well and alive. He told me to tell you he loves you, and he wanted me to give you that," he said as he gestured to the letter in my weakening hand.
"That was his last letter." I looked down at it. My hand was shaking horribly, and I collapsed. I honestly didn't know what to do. He just couldn't be dead.
"Jordan, would you like me to stay with you for a while?" Alfred asked, also a bit shaken up, but his southern accent was still as smooth as velvet, which was almost comforting.
"N-no," I choked out. He frowned slightly, but got up anyway.
"Call me if you need anything," he said as he left with Ivan. I collected myself, and went to lie down on my bed. I needed to rest. In a way I blamed Ivan for the death of the only person that I loved. He sacrificed his own life for that sadistic creep?
I was so happy when I read your last letter! I am glad that you and Fredka are having good time while I am away. The enemy hasn't been spotted in two whole weeks! It sure looks like I'll be coming home in no time. When I get home, I'll never leave you alone again. I miss you so much. War can really change a person. I've seen so many people get killed, and all I can think about is the families that they leave behind. It really makes me appreciate being alive. But Jordan, if I don't return, please don't be upset. Know that I love you more than life itself. I want you to be happy. Find a new love, start a family. Adopt a little girl, and name her Maria. Give her all of your love, and tell her all about her father who made the world a safe place for her to live in. Anything love, I want you to be happy. You deserve it. Don't worry about me, I'm fine. Ich liebe dich mein liebe, don't ever forget it.
I love you more than words can say.
I read that letter over and over again for days. I've locked myself in my room with a few bottles of rye and vodka, hoping that they'd make me feel better, but they never did. Alfred called at least four times a day, and I never answered. He eventually started coming over, but I wouldn't open the door. He was starting to get worried, I could tell. I was feeling different today. I opened the door slightly, and put on my Dean Martin record. I loved "Everybody Loves Somebody," and I wanted to listen to it. I turned it up a bit and I took another hit of vodka as I fell onto my bed. The sheets smelled like alcohol, as the entire room did. There were several broken bottles lying around the room, empty. I hadn't eaten for days, and I hadn't the heart to look into the mirror. I could tell I'd lost a good couple of pounds. I didn't know what to do with myself anymore. All I could think about was Mikhail. My dreams were plagued with terrible re-inactions of his death, and that was when I was lucky enough to get to sleep. I kept having one nightmare in particular that haunted me. I was standing outside as Mikhail ran towards me, his uniform cloak flowing in the wind. He would kiss me and hold me, and whisper Russian words into my ear. He'd tell me how proud of me he was, and then he'd morph into some kind of monster and yell at me: "Too bad you couldn't save me!" And then I'd wake up, covered in tears and sweat. I couldn't take it anymore. I was driving myself crazy; I just wanted my baby back. The voices in my head would taunt me with cruel words. I began to hallucinate then, and I'd think Mikhail was really back, but it wasn't. My mind was playing tricks on me, and tonight I'd make sure it'd never happen again.
"Do you, Jordan Kirkland, take Mikhail Braginsky, to be your lawfully wedded husband?" The minister said with a smile as he faced the couple before him. "I do," the redhead said, looking up at his taller partner and soon to be spouse. "And do you, Mikhail Braginsky, take Jordan Kirkland to be your lawfully wedded husband?" he asked again, looking up this time at the taller of the two. "If I didn't, I wouldn't be here," he said with a smile. The guests and the minister laughed at his comment, and quickly returned their attention back to the couple, who then exchanged rings. "I love you Jordan," Mikhail whispered. Jordan smiled. "You may now kiss the groom," the man said as the now married pair shared a kiss, pulling back after a few seconds only to attack the smaller man's lips again. "And I love you too," said Jordan as he took his husband's face in his hands and they began their new life together.
I grabbed Mikhail's letter and smiled to myself. I'd love to have a little girl- Misha would be a perfect father. I can't raise a child on my own, and it'd only remind me of what I'd lost.
The sun was up and the day was young. There was a line of people for blocks and blocks, all of them waiting to see the premier of the Fellowship of the Ring. A young red haired man was wandering around the inside of the theater at the front of the line. "Out of all things to forget, I forget my watch," he said, frustrated. He was walking around, trying to find someone to give him the time. He wasn't wearing his glasses, even though he really should have been. He didn't enjoy how he looked with them on, and so he failed to realize that his shoelaces were undone. The man ran over to another man near the corner, who looked like he would have a watch, or a cell phone of some sort. He was tall, and had shaggy golden hair and sharp, handsome facial features. He was wearing a long, brown trench coat, and a deep purple turtle neck. "Um, excuse me," our lad began, walking towards the stranger. "Yes, may I help you?" he said with a smile. "I was wondering if you had the-ahh!"he cried as he tripped over his shoelaces, and toppled over the other man, falling on top of him. "...time," he said. "I'm so sorry," he said as he collected himself. The other man laughed. "That's alright. My name's Mikhail," he said. "Who are you?" he asked. "My name's Jordan... I'm really sorry about that, I'm kind of clumsy sometimes, heh.." he said as he scratched the back of his head. "You have a very nice accent, Mikhail," Jordan smiled. "You're Russian, right?" "Да," he laughed. "Would you like to go out for coffee sometime? I-I mean, unless you don't swing that way, a-and in that case we can just be friends, right? But if you don't want to be frie-" Jordan said awkwardly, a light blush dusting his cheeks as Mikhail interrupted him. "No, I'd like that very much, Jordan," he said. Jordan just smiled.
I grabbed the bottle of painkillers from the side of my bedside table, taking however many fell into my hand. I deserved this; I've been waiting for so long. I brought myself a surprise today. I traced the outlines of my wrists with the cool metal blade, as I pressed a bit deeper and the knife left a trail of red as I went over the line multiple times I smiled as I felt the world fade out. I held Mikhail's note in my weakened left hand as I slowly faded away, eyes closing for the very last time.
DANCING WITH TEARS IN MY EYES
(THIRD PERSON P.O.V)
"Everybody loves somebody sometimes, everybody falls in love somehow, something in your kiss has told me, and my sometime is now."
-Dean Martin, Everybody Loves Somebody
The morning light seeped through the window as the sun rose the next day. A sound of a door opening could be heard throughout the Kirkland-Braginsky household. As the door opened, the sound of music was echoing off of the walls, coming from a room nearby. They cautiously stepped through the threshold, boots making a good deal of noise on the hardwood floors. "Jordan, you here?" he said as he looked for the redhead, unable to find him. He opened his bedroom door, and saw Jordan lying on bloodied sheets, a note lying on his chest. He wasn't breathing. He stepped closer, and read what was scrawled on the crumpled page:
Mikhail, you lit up my world. I'll see you soon. Ich liebe dich,
Mikhail stood silent, staring at the body of his husband. He was home, alive. He couldn't even cry.
IN MY DARKEST HOUR
"Jordan, Jordan, please…" I cried as I nudged at my husband's side. This couldn't be real, this couldn't be happening. I pulled a letter out of my pocket, the letter that I didn't get to send before I got sent home. I looked at the piece of paper that Jordan held curiously, and read the back of it. This wasn't my handwriting. These weren't my words, either. I was beyond disturbed. Had someone purposely written this letter just to kill Jordan? I couldn't believe what was going on. I ran my fingers through his hair and trailed my hand down his cheek. He was as white as a sheet, and his eyes were hollow. This wasn't Jordan. This wasn't the man I'd married. He could light up a room with his eyes, and now they would never open again.
The gramophone was still playing in the corner of the room. I angrily shut it off. The music didn't make anything better at all. I looked around, in search for a telephone. I decided to call Alfred. I had no clue how he'd handle this... but he had to know, and we needed to get help. I reached for the one that was on his nightstand and started to dial Al's number, but stopped. No, that would take too much time. I picked up the body of my beloved bridal-style, separating his once dainty wrists from the sticky linens and ran out the door. The air was harsh and it was very cold outside. It was beginning to get dark, and the sun was almost set. I ran as fast as I possibly could, running about a quarter of a kilometer before I reached the laneway of their house. I banged on Alfred and Ivan's door with my foot, as I couldn't put Jordan down. Alfred answered, ecstatic at first to see me.
"Hey Mikhail! Welcome ho-" he said as his hands rose up to cover his mouth. He screamed for Ivan, who came running down the steps. He was in tears. "What happened?" "When did you get back?" was all that he could say.
"I came in the door, ran to his room, and I found this note in his lifeless hand," I cried, handing Alfred the note. Alfred froze, everything coming together.
"This is the note that Ivan brought for Jordan…" he said as he read it. "He told Jordan that you were dead," he continued, sobbing. "Then that means… oh my lord…" he said, breathlessly crying. Ivan just stood silent by the bottom of the stairs, smiling an ominous smile. I was shocked. I was angry. I didn't even know what to think.
"My husband is dead because of YOU?" I screamed while Al called an ambulance for my love and set him on the couch. Ivan left the room as I stood by Alfred until the emergency answered the phone. After they did, I looked around the whole first floor, looking for the man that practically ripped my heart out of my chest. As I entered the corridor I heard the sounds of a frantic, traumatized Alfred trying to explain what happened to the woman on the phone. I found him at the end, hand on a small table as he reached into the drawer. I lunged at Ivan, running towards him, and eventually pinning him against the wall.
"What in god's name is wrong with you?" I yelled as I viciously grabbed his collar.
"Everybody has different theory," he responded. He kept on smiling as he pulled a pistol out from the drawer and aimed it at the side of his head.
"Good-bye, 'meine liebe'," he said sadistically with the same smile as he pulled the trigger.
I heard the scrambling of footsteps as Ivan hit the floor, blood staining the wall and the carpet.
"Mikhail, what-" he said as he walked into the hallway.
"Ivan, no!" he screamed as he practically threw himself at his husband's side.
"He killed Jordan, Alfred. And then he killed himself." Alfred just laid sprawled over his husband until the ambulance came.
Alfred and I stood outside in the courtyard where Jordan and Ivan were laid to rest. The wind was blowing lightly, and Al's hair was flowing with it. The sun was almost set; colouring the horizon a smooth, dark orange. We both stood silent under the tree in the courtyard, not far away from our old house. Neither of us could afford to live alone, so Al had to sell his house and move in with me. He lived in the basement, and would rarely come upstairs except to eat. He'd just lay on his bed and fall asleep listening to the Smiths. He's gotten better lately- but he'd never be the same again. Sometimes I think that he had it worse than I did. I did as much as I could to make him feel better... but there are some wounds that only time can heal.
The door to Jordan's old room hasn't been opened once. I just couldn't... it's stayed shut ever since. Alfred couldn't come to terms with what had happened, and quite frankly neither could I. I bent down slightly and laid a bouquet of sunflowers on Jordan's grave, and stood back. Alfred embraced me then, and I held him close. He rested his head on my shoulder as I felt him softly cry on the lapel of my trench coat. We hoped that someday we'd be okay. The war still wasn't over- and in our hearts, it would never end.
So where do we go from here? And how to forget and forgive. What's gone is forever lost... now all we can do is live.