Sunday, August 10, 2014

Perfect August

Perfect August

*Story contains M/M relations and moments of angst*

The rough concrete block behind Rae's skull was far from comfortable. That in itself seemed fitting; comfort through the knowledge that he was, in fact, suffering just a little even if it did seem to be a gross misrepresentation of the word. He dredged up memory, as slow as it was, and considered definitions and understanding. To suffer: to feel pain or distress; sustain loss, injury, harm, or punishment; to tolerate or endure evil. Perhaps then, Rae thought, nodding to no one, vision lost to closed eyelids, perhaps not so wrong a word after all?

"Shine bright like a diamond ... "

And in that moment, as the lyrics from unseen speakers took their dramatic pause, hooking listeners into straining their ears for the sudden impact of impending notes, it was August. It was two-thousand-and one and the sky was as blue as a child's crayon, the grass as green as a glowing streetlight—go, go, go!—and not even the heat in the air could have slowed Rae's footsteps as he made his way across the expanse of lawn in front of the university. Rae didn't "do" late. Late was unacceptable behaviour. Let the sweat prick between his shoulder blades and dampen his hair until it stuck to his forehead; these were the prices that must be paid when one had need to stop for coffee yet had no time to spare. But even in the rush, the day was perfect. There was light in the sky, birds in the trees and the hum of life all around him.

"Shine bright like a diamond ... "

"Paging Doctor Davis," the sound broke through Rae's reverie at the same moment that something slammed into the double-swing-doors at the end of the hall. "Doctor Davis to Emergency, please."

He had no idea what was on the cart the three employees rushed into the hall and past him with. Only that it didn't look good. Worse though, so damn much worse than trying to figure out what it was for, was the question of where it was going. His eyes didn't leave the unit until the lot had disappeared from sight through yet another set of doors at the opposing end of the passage. Even then, he watched until the barriers had long since stilled their hushed, dwindling swing. Nothing going on past here, they seemed to say. No need to stare so sadly. Have you seen our selection of complimentary magazines?

But Rae didn't need the shiny pages full of beautiful people; especially not pages that would be crawling with every virus and bacteria known to man. No, his fantasy was attainable without visual prompt. His reprieve was back inside his mind. Remembering.

"Find light in the beautiful sea, I choose to be happy ... "

He'd been beautiful enough to take Rae's breath away: dark hair tucked into a pony, a t-shirt that looked like it had been washed so many times the fabric itself was giving up, and slim jeans despite the heat. Rae had actually stopped, stunned, before catching himself and blushing. It had been too late though. The young man had looked up from his sketchpad and grinned.

"I know, right?"

Rae had been so taken with the man's smile he didn't realise the words were for him until they were repeated. "I'm ... " Rae frowned. "I'm sorry?"

"The view is spectacular," he'd said. "I've never seen a building so beautiful in my whole life." He'd nodded at the university with a smile on his face and a dream in his eyes and Rae was sure something in his chest had broken from the sheer joy in his expression. "Were you coming to draw as well?"

It took another moment for Rae to realise what the man was asking. Then he'd yanked his own sketchpad up as if there'd never been anything more obvious in the world. "Yes," Rae had said, voice shaky, every plan he'd had for the day dissolving. "Yes, I was."

The man patted the ground beside him and scooched to the right. "You can sit here if you'd like. It's not so bad in the shade."

With their spines pressed against the wide trunk of an elm, pads pressed on the thighs of bent legs, and pencils scratching fine lines, Rae was sure he'd never been so content. And for what? The company of a stranger?

Sometimes the heart knows though. Sometimes it's perfect even before it starts.

"I'm Samuel," he'd said quietly.

And Rae had to hold his tongue lest he speak the reply his whole self wanted to. "And I am saved."

"You’re a shooting star I see, a vision of ecstasy ... "

"Sir, can I show you how to get to the coffee shop?"

Rae opened his eyes and smiled politely at the owner of the voice even though his soul was furious with the interruption. "Not for this!" it wanted to scream. Don't disturb me until you can tell me ... When you can tell me ... If you can tell me ...

"Thank you, no. I'm fine here."

"You might find it a little more comfortable?"

And then not be here? To not be the first to know? To wander back with a full stomach or a caffeine-enhanced boost and find out that while he'd been gone, while no one had sat in attendance, the worst ... the unimaginable ...

"No. I'm good. But thank you."

"It could be hours still—"

"Yes," Rae nodded. "I know."

Don't sleep, he told himself as his eyelids fell closed again. Just don't sleep.

The grass had been warm and dry underneath them, an oddity in the usually damp August. A small red squirrel kept its eye on the two of them—the Universe's chaperone—and insects flitted and droned on lazy, heat-soaked wings.

Rae didn't need to turn his eyes towards the century-old building to find the lines for his sketch. His pencil didn't seek to copy the ivy-graced stone nor the elaborate entrance. From the corner of his eye Rae traced the smooth cheek of a man-child, the firm jaw of a knight, the lips of an angel and eyes of a mischievous sprite.

"I knew that we’d become one right away ... I saw the life inside your eyes."

It didn't, in fact, happen right away. But the fact it happened at all brought Rae back to life again. Samuel gave hope to what had felt like an expanse of devastation, fresh air to a man suffocating in his own expulsions, and soothed a rattled need for control with quiet confidence.

"Relax, kid," Samuel would tell him. "The only person insisting on your perfection is you."

Rae had never known fortitude as strong as what he felt in Samuel's arms. He'd never known peace as sweet as what radiated from Samuel's heart. He felt whole and completed, like he'd spent his entire life struggling to operate with only a single half of him in place, and just by being there Samuel had filled that hole. The most beautiful part about Samuel though, was that Rae never felt alone in those thoughts. He could see the same ones shining in Samuel's eyes whenever Samuel looked at him.

"Remember," Samuel would say, "how perfect that day was?"

"How can I," Rae would answer, "when all I can recall is how perfect you were?"

"Feel the warmth we’ll never die ... "

"What's wrong?" Rae let the suitcase fall and hurried over to where Samuel had crumpled.

The grimace on Samuel's face belied very word he spoke. "Nothing. Just a cramp." White skin, glassy eyes, blotchy cheeks.

"How long?"

Speech appeared painful; perhaps even breath. "This morning I think."

Rae ignored the cabdriver when the man leaned on his horn. Ignorant prick. "Why didn't you say?"

"And ruin the holiday? You've planned this for months."

The suitcases were dropped back in the loft. Samuel was helped into the cab. And when the vehicle swooped from the curb and merged with traffic it was towards the hospital and not the airport they headed. The flights were delayed by phone as they drove.

"I'm so sorry," Samuel kept muttering.

"Don't be," Rae said firmly. "Trips can wait. You can't."

A minor delay; they'd see what was up and then catch the next flight. No big deal. No worries. Except they weren't smiling and leaving the hospital with a prescription in hand and a story for the flight attendant.

"Eye to eye, so alive ... diamonds in the night."


"It's a common procedure," the doctor told them both. "But we have to do it now before there are any complications. This is serious."

As they wheeled Samuel away, Rae hadn't been able to stop him from muttering, "I'm sorry," over and over again.

Please don't, he'd wanted to beg. Please don't make "I'm sorry" be the last thing you ever say to me. The words wouldn't make it out of his throat though. The passage had been seared closed with the fire of a million held-back tears.

Too good to be forever.

Too perfect to be mine.

But I need you. Please don't leave me.

"You’re a shooting star I see, a vision of ecstasy – when you hold me, I’m alive."


His annoyance to his own name came out in a loud grumble of negation.

"Are you awake, sir?"

He wanted to snap, "No." Of course he wasn't awake. But his eyes flew open and his tongue sputtered sound. Why hadn't he been? How had he dared to sleep?

"There you are," the hospital administrator smiled at him. "He's awake, Rae. And asking for you. Would you like to see him?"

No question had ever been so ridiculous or pointless in the history of mankind's ability to communicate with one another. Rae rose so quickly that he stumbled. He followed her in a state of disorientation so severe that he felt drunk.

Awake. And asking. Those two words could have been diamonds on velvet they shone so brightly in Rae's mind.

"It was just an appendix," Samuel said with a weak laugh when Rae dropped to his knees right there beside the bed.

A million rebukes came to mind but none made it to fruition. "I was so fucking scared," is all Rae managed.

They didn't need any more words than that. Rae dragged a chair as close to the bed as he could manage, gripped Samuel's right hand and leaned on the mattress. For long minutes he did nothing more than listen to Samuel's monitor. A perfect rhythm, a perfect pattern.

Blip. Blip.

Remember how perfect that day was?

Blip. Blip.

I only remember how perfect you were.

Blip. Blip.

"So shine bright ... you and I. We're beautiful like diamonds in the night."

The End

Copyright © 2013 AF Henley

Lyrical references from the single "Diamonds", listed on the album "Unapologetic", released September 2012 on the Def Jam label by artist Rihanna. "Diamonds" was written by Sia Furler, Benjamin Levin (Benny Blanco), Mikkel S. Eriksen and Tor Erik Hermansen; and was produced by Benny Blanco under the production name of StarGate.

This fiction is in no way associated with, indicative of, or based on the lyrics. All rights to both lyrics and song belong to their respective owners.

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