Marc Harmon is an extraordinary person. He is special. I have loved him completely since almost the first moment I met him.
I was on holiday with my parents and his family had the cabin next door. The very first day, while my parents were unloading the car I ran off exploring and saw him, sitting on the balcony that ran along the front of their cabin. I ran straight over, and stopped a few steps away.
He was beautiful, the most beautiful person I had ever seen. He had curly blonde hair and the biggest, bluest eyes ever.
We stared at each other for a while, and then he smiled at me. His smile was beautiful too, even though he was missing a front tooth.
I started kicking at the dirt with the toe of my shoe, and sending him shy looks from under my fringe. After a while, his smile faded to be replaced by a look of confusion. He must have wondered what on earth I was doing. No, knowing Marc he was wondering why I hadn’t touched him yet.
Marc is a very tactile person; he loves to hug and be hugged. He is so sweet that everyone wants to hug him. Certainly, at that point, he was prone to throwing his arms around anyone who came close enough, and kissing them. It’s one of his most endearing traits.
Of course, at the time he was only five years old, so it wasn’t quite as off- putting to strangers as it is now he’s almost twenty one.
When his face started to pucker and tears to squeeze out from under the long, thick lashes, I did what I have always done since… I ran to him and hugged him.
Instantly the tears disappeared and that bright sunny disposition re- emerged. He hugged me tightly, and laughed. He has a wonderful laugh. No one who hears that laugh can help but smile, at the least.
By that time Mrs Harmon had come out onto the balcony, and she gave me her smile, which is only a shade less wonderful than Marc’s.
“Hello,” she said. “And who might you be?”
Being only eight myself, I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. “I’m James?” I said hopefully and she smiled again.
“Well hello, James. I’m very pleased to meet you.”
“We’re on holiday. We’re over there.” I pointed towards our cabin and she smiled again.
At that point, I was distracted by a gentle touch on my arm. I turned and looked down into pools of liquid blue. I have always been quite a bit taller than Marc, but it was more pronounced then. While I was staring into his eyes he touched my face and said, “Pretty.”
I smiled, even though I didn’t really know why I was smiling. If I had thought about it, I would have realised that Marc’s actions weren’t exactly normal, even for a five year old, but I didn’t see anything beyond his angel face and bright smile. He made me feel warm. He’s had the same effect ever since.
“Would you like a drink, James, or some biscuits perhaps?”
“Yes please,” I responded instantly, being at the age when affairs of the stomach overrode just about any other consideration.
“Do you want to see my special stone?” I asked Marc, as she turned to leave. He smiled at me, but didn’t answer, so I took out the stone and held it out to him. It was my most treasured possession. I had found it on the beach the year before and it had not been more than a foot away from me ever since.
For a moment, Marc stared at me, and then he stared at the stone. Gently he brushed the stone with his fingertips, and then looked up again, his eyes wide with wonder.
“You can hold it if you want,” I said magnanimously. He took it from my hand and lifted it close to his face, to examine it carefully.
The stone is about the size of an egg and fits snugly into the palm of the hand… at least for a child. It is blue, shot through with white lines, making a criss cross pattern through the stone. I thought it was beautiful; so did Marc. He still has it.
When the time came to take back the stone, he gave it up readily but looked so sad that it hurt my heart. There were tears in his eyes and his lips were trembling. I have never been able to stand seeing him cry, and so I handed it straight back over, hungry for the beautiful smile that rewarded me.
I was way too young to know it right then but in that moment, when I handed him my stone, I also handed him my heart. He still has that too.
In the days that followed, our families met and became fast friends. Marc and I were inseparable. Even when I discovered that he was different, not the same as anyone else, special, I adored him with a passion and spent every possible moment at his side.
I was fiercely protective of him, and would move the earth to make him smile, when he was sad.
Not so much then, but, as the years passed, and we spent every summer together, I would fight anyone who made him sad, or tried to hurt him. There were a depressing number, over the years.
After the third or fourth year of meeting up every summer, our parents became so friendly – initially, they told me later, because of the relationship that had developed between Marc and me – that we started to spend other holidays together. Marc visited my home, and I went to him. It was one of those friendships that only grew stronger with separation.
When I was twelve, Mr Harmon was promoted in his job, and the family came to live, only a short bus journey, from my home. By then, Marc had a sister, Judith, who was four years old, and as pretty as he was, although very different. She had the same sunny personality and sweet smile, but she was bright and inquisitive, quick witted and talkative.
Marc was much quieter, tending to sit back and watch; waiting to be presented with things, rather than seeking them out. He barely spoke, and when he did it was usually single words or short, disjointed sentences. He made himself well understood, though.
By then, I had realised that Marc wasn’t the same as everyone else, as anyone else. It wasn’t just his beauty and his sweetness; it was more, much more. Strangely, it has never been an issue between us, and it was a huge shock to me the first time I heard someone make a derogatory comment to him.
I found in unbelievable that anyone would want to hurt Marc. He was so gentle and loving, but, one time we were at the beach and there was a group of boys, about my age. I was eleven and Marc was barely eight. We were walking through the arcade, hand in hand.
Our parents were next door in a bar and I think it was the first time I had been allowed to take him anywhere on our own.
The boys were gathered around one of the gaming machines, and they started nudging each other and giggling. Marc was, and is, very distinctive looking, with his baby blonde hair and vivid eyes, which are always wide with wonder at everything.
We were lost in the colours and sounds of the arcade, and Marc was bouncing with excitement. When the boys appeared in front of us, he grinned at them and reached out his hand to touch a colourful wristband worn by the nearest boy. The boy instantly snatched it back, causing Marc to frown.
“Are you two gay, or what?” one of the boys asked. I didn’t even know what gay was, not then.
“Yeah… you’re a couple of fags.”
“I…” I had no idea what they were talking about, but I knew danger when I saw it and I was seeing it, in the form of four large pre teens, with mean streaks a mile wide. If it had just been me I would probably have put up a fight. I was well built, even then, and have never run from confrontation. However, Marc was with me and the thought of him being hurt or scared was unbearable. So I just took his hand and walked away, down one of the aisles.
Unfortunately, the arcade was almost empty and there was no one there to help us.
“Hey freaks,” one of the boys called after us, and I felt Marc jerk. I stopped and looked at him. He had blood on his cheek. He had been looking back, curious about the boys, and not understanding at all why they were being unkind. He’d been hit by something one of them had thrown after us.
For a moment, Marc had stared at me, his eyes shocked, and then he had blinked hard, as the tears came, and he started to cry. Of course, the boys loved that, and it whipped them into even more of a frenzy.
“Aww, is the poor little baby crying?”
“Why don’t you take your boyfriend home to his mammy?”
For myself, I could have ignored them and walked away; but Marc was here. Marc was bleeding and crying, and I had to protect him at all costs. I carefully let go of Marc’s hand.
“Stay here,” I said gently, and guided him backwards, pressing him firmly against the machine.
He shook his head and gripped my arm. “Don’t leave me,” he said in a small scared voice, looking up into my face. I forced myself to smile and loosened his hand.
“Marc, it’s alright. I promised to take care of you, and I will. Just stay here and you’ll be fine.”
“Jamie, no. I’m afraid. Jamie, no.”
“It’s alright. I’ll take care of you.”
Marc shook his head.
“What’s the matter? Doesn’t your boyfriend want to play?”
“He’s not my boyfriend.”
“No, no, no,” Marc moaned, getting more and more frightened by the situation, the threat that was now almost palpable. “No Jamie, no. I want to go home. Home, Jamie, home.”
The boys had sidled closer, and they were staring at Marc, as if he was some kind of exotic bug.
“What’s wrong with him?”
“There’s nothing wrong with him,” I snapped. “Leave us alone.”
One of the boys put his hand into his pocket and took out another stone. He drew his hand back, but before he could throw I threw myself at him and caught him in the middle, knocking him to the floor. When he was flat on his back, I pummelled him until I heard Marc’s wail behind me.
I leaped to my feet, and grabbed the nearest boy by the back of his neck, flinging him against one of the machines. Marc was crouched on the floor, hugging himself, with his face half turned away. The boys were poking him and making derogatory remarks.
I don’t know what would have happened if the arcade attendant, probably alerted by the wail, hadn’t appeared and taken control of the situation. Seeing Marc and the state he was in he ordered the other boys out of the arcade and, with threats and curses, they left.
“Are you alright? Are you hurt?” He reached out his hand to Marc, but he shrank away and wailed again. I crouched down and reached out to stroke his hair. Slowly, he turned his head and showed a face streaked with blood and tears. I smiled at him and a hesitant smile came back.
“It’s alright now, Marc,” I said in a careful, even voice; the one I always used when he was frightened, or hurt. “It’s all gone away, and I’m here. I’ll take you back to your mam now. You know me, don’t you; you trust me?”
“Jamie,” he said flatly, his eyes still blank and hurt. I hated myself that I hadn’t protected him from that.
“Is he alright?”
“He’s… different. He gets upset. He trusts me.”
“Are your parents far away?”
“Are you sure?” He looked concerned. He was a nice guy.
“I’ll take care of him.”
“I’m sure you will. Is there anything I can do to help?”
“I’ll take care of him.”
I was a stubborn kid. He looked at Marc, who, by now, was smiling his sunny smile again and looking at me with adoring eyes. The man smiled and nodded and then left us alone.
I took Marc by the hand and led him back to our parents. All hell broke loose. Marc’s parents were very protective of him, and they were all for calling the police. After first, being cast in the role of villain for not taking care of him, once my mother pointed out that there were always going to be arseholes who didn’t understand Marc and that it wouldn’t be fair on him to keep him close all the time, I was suddenly a hero.
There were other times over the years when I fought to defend him, sometimes in more subtle ways as we grew older.
Marc never went to school like I did; he went to a special school, in a taxi, every day. I knew he hated it, because I had to work hard to cheer him up every day, when he got home. I don’t know why he hated it, but I hated it too… just because it made him sad. He never learned to read, or ride a bicycle, or play football.
There were a lot of things he couldn’t do but there were so many more things he could do. For one thing, he could climb like a demon, given half the chance. He climbed trees, mountains, climbing walls, anything and anywhere, and I mostly got the blame, not that I minded, because he was happy when he was climbing, and when he was running, or riding.
Once, we went on an outward bounds course for… I won’t call it by its name because it doesn’t apply to Marc. Marc isn’t and never has been disabled, handicapped or challenged; he was, and is, just… special.
The course was good, though. It gave Marc the kind of freedom that he lacked at home and everyone was surprised by the way he took to the challenges. He was like a fish in the water, and wasn’t afraid of anything.
Once, when we were standing on the top of a tower, waiting to jump off, trusting a rope and a few pieces of metal to get us to the ground, he put his arm around me and smiled his smile. “I’ll take care of my Jamie,” he said, and then he pushed me off. I screamed all the way down, but he didn’t. When he landed he grinned at me.
“I thought you were going to take care of me.”
“You’re okay,” he said smiling, as if that explained everything and then he hugged me. I was fifteen and that was the moment I knew, for sure, I’m gay. The smell of him; the warmth of his arms; the softness of his hair. Although, later I felt guilty about it; about the way I felt; about who I was feeling it for, at that time, that one glorious moment I was totally and absolutely in love with him.
In some ways, Marc never grew up. As we got older, his childlike innocence became more and more pronounced, as he reached the age when he really should have left it behind. He never learned how to lie, how to cheat and steal, or how to hurt people. Marc would no more have hurt another person, than he would have pulled his own teeth.
That didn’t impress everyone. There were some who like to spoil perfection, to corrupt innocent. There were some who wanted nothing more than to tear him down and hurt him and, every time they did, I kicked their arses and built him back up again. It was never hard. Marc always found it easier to be up than down.
I thought that was because of the way he was, but I should always have realised that it was actually because of the person he was.
When he was fifteen, almost sixteen something terrible happened to Marc, something he never recovered from. He lost his best friend; his supporter; his protector; his other half. He lost his sparkle, his shine. He changed. He was broken.
I didn’t know that any of that would happen, when I accepted the place at an university, almost two hundred miles away. I didn’t know that I would hurt my best friend, so badly that he never completely got over it. I didn’t know that I would never see that light in his eyes again; that from then on every time he looked at me, there would be a shadow.
At first, when I tried to explain to him what was going to happen, that I was going to leave, to go to school, but I would come back for weekends and holidays, he really didn’t understand. He had no frame of reference. He had no concept of a life without me around. He didn’t understand and that was why he accepted it. It made me feel that it would be alright, even when I knew, deep down, that it wouldn’t
Both sets of parents reassured me that I was doing the right thing. His parents thought that, without me around, Marc would find a little more independence, that he would have to. I acknowledged that Marc relied on me totally, maybe too much, and so I believed then. My parents thought that I would find more freedom, a life of my own, a girlfriend maybe. I let myself be persuaded that it was the right thing to do, and I have to admit that the thought of total freedom was a rush.
I started a degree in technology, with a major in interstellar travel. My mother always said I had my head in the stars, and I was learning to design star drives; helping people travel to them. It was exciting, stimulating, all consuming. I thought there were no limits, no boundaries.
I had believed that Marc would learn to accept. I spent hours explaining what I was going to be doing. We looked at star charts, watched programmes about transports and cruisers; I even rented movies about university life or star travel. I really thought that he understood, that he was okay, even happy for me, but I was wrong.
The moment I saw the confusion replaced by pain in his eyes; the moment I hugged him for the last time and turned away, and he ran after me; the moment he looked into my eyes and begged, “Don’t leave me Jamie,” I knew I had made the biggest mistake of my life. But it was too late. Way too late.
The first time I came back for the weekend, my heart broke. I went straight over to Marc’s house, even before I unpacked. He was in his room and I knew from the look on his mother’s face the moment she set eyes on me that he wasn’t in a good place.
When I opened the door and saw him sitting on his bed with his knees dawn up, staring out of the window with blank, empty eyes, my heart broke and the minute he looked up at me, it crumbled.
“Jamie went away.”
“I know, but I came back. I told you I would come back. I’ll always come back.”
He shook his head and turned back to the window. “Jamie went away.”
And that’s all he would say… for hours. It took a lot of encouragement and cajoling to draw him out of his shell enough to speak to me, and even then it was in single words with downcast eyes.
I tried so very hard but it was as if he had shut a door somewhere inside which he never opened for me again. He never opened it for anyone else either and as the months and then years passed he withdrew further and further behind it.
When he was almost eighteen and I was twenty one I finished university. I came home to find him so changed I wouldn’t have recognised him if I had met him in the street. I hadn’t been back for three months because I had finals to study for and parties to go to. I’d had a life and I thought that by immersing myself in that life I could shut out the images that haunted me… images of blue eyes filled with tears.
As soon as I walked through the front door my parents told me straight away that I needed to go and see Marc. They said that his parents were worried about him and they thought I would be able to help. I wasn’t. He didn’t want to see me. He wouldn’t talk to me and I grieved for how much I had let him down. He was a precious, precious gift, a sunflower and I had crushed his petals. I didn’t know what to do to make him alright again.
After three hours when he still hadn’t said a single word to me I went downstairs to get a drink and his parents asked to speak to me in the kitchen.
I sat on a tall stool at the kitchen table and they stared nervously into their drinks.
“We’ve been contacted by someone through Marc’s school; a doctor. They’ve been doing experiments; research and development about conditions like Marc’s.”
I had learned a long time ago that Marc was the way he is because of complications during his birth that had starved his brain of oxygen and cause irreparable brain damage. At least until now it had been irreparable.
“They think the can do something for him.”
“Better?” For some reason I felt angry, so angry I wanted to hit them. “How could you say that? There is nothing anyone could do to make him better. He’s perfect the way he is.”
“Jamie… It couldn’t have lasted. Maybe three years ago I would have listened to you, believed you. Three years ago he was whole, he was happy but now…” She stopped.
“You couldn’t have stayed with him forever. You have your own life. You have friends, a career, a future. You couldn’t have given all that up for him and that’s what it would have taken to keep him whole. You were always going to have had to leave sooner or later and it was always going to have broken his heart.”
“I would never have done that.”
“You did do that Jamie. I know you didn’t mean to. I know you would never have hurt him deliberately; but you did. When you left it tore the heart out of him and he has never been the same since. He’s broken, Jamie. Somewhere deep inside he’s lost his sunshine. He doesn’t smile any more; doesn’t speak, barely sleeps or eats.
“Marc was never going to be independent. He was always going to need someone to look after him all his life but we never meant to make that person you. We never meant to put that responsibility on your shoulders.”
“But I don’t care about that; I want it. I want to take care of him. I won’t leave him again.”
They exchanged glances and I didn’t know what that meant. By that time I was so scared, so angry, there were a lot of things I wasn’t noticing.
“Jamie, no one could expect you…”
“I don’t care what anyone expects. I’ll get us a place together and I’ll take care of him.”
“And how would you support yourselves?”
“I’ll get a job; work anywhere.”
“And who will take care of Marc while you’re at work? Or were you planning on leaving him in your home alone? Do you think he would cope with that?”
“No, I… I’d find a way.” I felt desperate, as if the conversation, Marc’s life, was slipping through my hands.
“What about when you fall in love?”
“What…?” Shit do they know?
“Sooner or later you’re going to meet someone and want to make a life with them. You’re going to have a wife and children. How are they going to fit in? You couldn’t just put Marc aside at that point. It’s a lifetime commitment.”
How could I tell them? How could I admit? How could I explain how I had tried? I had tried so hard to open my heart to someone else. There had been girlfriends… and boyfriends but none of them lasted because none of them could compare.
I knew that there was never a possibility of Marc and I being together that way. I knew he loved me as much as I loved him but, with Marc, it could never have been anything more than innocent; strictly platonic and I was happy with that. I was sure that I could live with him, love him and never compromise him.
“I’ll make it work,” I said stubbornly. They smiled sadly at me.
“We know you mean that. You’ve always been a wonderful friend to him but you’re a man now, Jamie, a man with your own life, your own responsibilities. Marc can’t be first with you any more, and you can’t fight the world for him.”
“I’m sorry Jamie. I know this is hard for you but it’s happening. Marc’s booked in for the surgery on Wednesday.”
“What? So soon but…”
“We’ve been thinking about it for a long time, Jamie. We didn’t want to worry you with the details until we were sure. We didn’t want you to worry when you were so far away.”
“Does he know?” I was stunned, completely stunned but my main concern was with Marc as usual.
“In a way. He knows but he doesn’t understand.
“How can you do this? I can’t understand why you would hurt him like this… for nothing.”
“He’s hurting anyway, Jamie. He can’t cope with an adult world and you can’t stay a child for him. These have been… worrying times. He’s growing up Jamie. It’s been delayed but in the last two years he’s become a man and…” She sighed and shook her head and I’ll never forget the look in her eyes. I wasn’t aware of it but she knew, even then she knew.
“He’ll never find love, Jamie, never have a relationship, never know what it’s like to hold someone in his arms; to kiss. He’ll never have a job or a family and what will happen to him when we are gone.”
“I’ll take care of him,” I said dully, but I knew the battle was lost. “Is it… is it dangerous? Will it hurt him?”
They exchanged glances again and Mrs Harmon bit her lip. “Yes,” she whispers and I couldn’t take any more.
I heard them call after me as I strode from the room. Marc was surprised when I burst into his room and hugged him close; surprised but not worried in any way and he hugged me back eagerly. I could feel his heart beating fast and hard, but I didn’t really notice.
When he realised I was crying he pulled away and looked into my eyes with that piercing gaze that makes me shiver. I had often wondered what went on behind those eyes. He always knew how I was feeling, sometimes even better than I did myself.
He reached up and touched my tears. “Don’t be sad, Jamie.”
“I’m not sad.” I covered his hand with my own and he looked surprised again. “I’m scared for you Marc. Do you know what they are going to do to you?”
He narrowed his eyes “Do? To me?”
“The doctors in the hospital?”
His eyes widened again and he shivered. “I don’t like it, Jamie. I was scared. They hurt me and I felt funny.” His brow furrowed with concentration. “Mam held my hand and,” he brightened and treated me to his smile for the first time. “next time I get to hold your hand.”
I felt like I had been punched in the stomach and I started to turn away but he wouldn’t let me. “Jamie?” Reluctantly I turned back. “You will hold my hand?”
“Yes, of course I will hold your hand but… Do you know what’s going to happen to you Marc, what they are going to do to you?” He shook his head but he didn’t look overly concerned. “They’re going to cut into your head Marc; put things inside your brain that will change you. You won’t be the same. You might die.”
For the first time there was a flash of fear in his eyes but he shook his head and said stubbornly. “I’ll be with you.”
“But I can’t stop them hurting you, Marc. I can’t…”
He smiled, a different smile, a smile I couldn’t read with a look that had more behind it that I had ever seen… or maybe noticed, before.
“No Jamie…after. I’ll be with you after.”
“What do you mean?”
He shook his head and wouldn’t say more but there was a lot going on behind his eyes.
The days that followed were absolutely the worst of my life and the day we took him to the hospital will haunt me for the rest of my days. We were all tense and that rubbed off on Marc so he was jumpy and nervous.
The day before the operation we spent every minute together. I had taught him to play games on the computer and he had taken to it with remarkable alacrity. He couldn’t read but when the game required it I was always there to help. Actually he was very good and he usually beat me… not that night though, his mind wasn’t on it.
After a while we gave up and watched silly comedies on TV. Mark loves to laugh and he does so easily and infectiously. We cuddled together on the battered old sofa in his room and I struggled not to cry while he laughed aloud, snuggling into my side with his head resting on my shoulder. He had no idea how hard it was for me to have him so close, so affectionate; or how badly I wanted to hold him, to kiss him. But I didn’t.
Sometimes he looked at me with the strangest expression, as if he wanted to say something, but he didn’t.
That night we slept, as we always did, in the twin beds in his room. However, this time when I woke up in the early hours of the morning it was with his arms around me and his head on my chest. I raised my head and looked down at the blonde curls, my hands clenching at my sides and my stomach clenching under his hand. He was so innocent. He didn’t know what he was doing to me; he couldn’t have.
At first, when we got to the hospital Marc was nervous, but okay, as long as I was close to him. He was scared when the doctor examined him and highly suspicious of the nurses. The whole environment unsettled him and he was very anxious. He freaked out if I was out of his sight even for a moment and when I went to the toilet he had to go too.
They sedated him early on, when he was getting anxious and agitated but that only made it worse because then he was confused and disoriented as well and it killed me.
We were there for a long time, waiting. I got more and more tense and to be honest the fact that his parents were there added exponentially to the tension because at that time I really wasn’t happy with them for putting Marc through this.
As I got more wound up Marc picked up on it more and more as the drugs confused him and the environment scared him. I felt as if the situation was spiralling out of control and there was nothing I could do to stop it. He didn’t want his parents near him and he clung to my hand with more and more desperation.
I will never, ever forget the look on his face when they came to take him to theatre. I was lying on the bed, holding him and he was dozing, finally feeling safe. The nurses were dressed in scrubs and were very nice but very firm in insisting I get off and then move away from the bed.
Marc woke in absolute terror and when he couldn’t see me he started to struggle and then to scream. In the end they let me go with him and hold his hand but the damage had been done and he cried bitterly the whole time until they finally put him to sleep.
When the doors closed behind me after they bustled me out and I found myself alone in the corridor I started walking. I had no idea where I was going; I just walked.
I finally came to myself to find that two hours had passed and I was almost home, having walked automatically for almost 10 miles. There were numerous missed calls on my mobile phone. Most of them were from Marc’s mother and there were some from mine. Panicking, I rang my mother who was almost frantic with worry.
“Nothing. There’s been no news; but Jamie where have you been. We’ve been worried sick?”
“What? You walked all the way home?”
“But why?” She sounded very concerned but I was too tired to even try and give her a full explanation.
“I don’t know why. I just had to get away. I had to stop thinking. It was… I just couldn’t stand it any more.”
“Are you coming back?”
“I don’t know. I really don’t know. It’s not as if Marc will know whether I’m there or not.”
“No, but Jill and Gary will. This is really tough on them and it would mean such a lot if you were here.”
“I’m sorry, Mam but I right now I really don’t give a fuck about them.”
“It would be better if I wasn’t anywhere near them for a while.” I surprised myself with how cold my voice was. I hated them. Every time I thought of Marc’s beautiful face twisted with fear and heard his screams in my head I hated them more. This was their fault. It was unnecessary and cruel.
“Jamie, what’s going on?”
“I don’t know. You have no idea what it was like Mam; what he was like. He was so scared and they… I… There was no need for this. There was never any need fodr it. They didn’t have to put him through this; they shouldn’t have. I can’t… I don’t want to be around them right now, not when I hate them so much.”
“Oh Jamie, sweetheart…”
“I know… and I’m sorry but I can’t help it.”
I stayed away for three days. Marc came through the surgery and they put him in a medical coma while his brain healed. I have never wanted to be somewhere so badly while not wanting to be there equally. The fact that his parents were there with him all the time made any question of giving way to my longing academic. I could not face them.
They rang me from time to time and my parents begged me to speak to them, but I couldn’t. The thought of looking into their eyes and seeing pain there was too much for me because I knew that I couldn’t feel sympathy for them. I wanted to see pain there because no matter how much pain they were feeling it wasn’t anything like as much as Marc was… or at least had been.
On the third day I was making a sandwich in the kitchen when there was a knock on the front door. I was alone in the house so I opened it. It was Jill Harmon. I wasn’t so far gone that I slammed to door in her face but I turned and walked away from her. She followed me into the kitchen.
“Jamie, I understand how you feel…”
I had promised myself not to say anything but this was too much.
“Understand? How could you possibly understand how I feel? You weren’t there. You didn’t see him, you didn’t hear him scream. He didn’t deserve this. He didn’t… This didn’t have to happen. He didn’t have to get hurt like this. Why? Why did you do it to him? You knew what he would be like, how scared he would be, how he wouldn’t understand what was going on. Why did you do it? Why did you do this to him?”
“Jamie… You weren’t here. You didn’t see what he’s been like, what’s been happening to him. You saw the Marc you used to know, not the one he’d turned into. He’s… changed.”
I almost spat at her. I have never hated anyone as much as I hated her in that moment. Maybe it wasn’t fair, even rational, but I had not been sleeping. I had lain awake for nights worrying about him, remembering him, and mourning him. “He hasn’t changed. The only thing that changed was you. You didn’t want to be burdened with him any more.” I saw her eyes widen with shock but I didn’t care. I pushed on. “You didn’t need to. I would have taken care of him. I would have mortgaged my soul to look after him.
Once I started I couldn’t stop. “I promised to protect him. I promised that I would never let anything or anyone hurt him. I swore that I would always be there for him and you turned me into a liar. I had to hold his hand and let them hurt him. I had to watch him cry and scream and do nothing NOTHING. And it was all because of you. I hate you. I hate both of you.”
“I know you think we deserve that, Jamie, and maybe we do. This was never an easy decision for us but in some ways we made it because of what you just said to me.”
“I know you love him, Jamie.” There was something in the way she said it that sent a shiver through me.
“Of course I love him. I have always loved him. I would have done anything for him, anything; and now… I don’t understand why you didn’t trust me, why you didn’t at least let me try. I would have taken care of him; I wouldn’t have let anyone hurt him. I have never let anyone hurt him.”
“No, you haven’t and I have always been grateful for it, for what you have done for him. But you’re also in love with him and that’s a different story.”
I stared at her, my heart thudding painfully in my chest. What should I say? What could I say?
“I… I’ve never…”
“I know you haven’t. I know that you have never been anything more than a wonderful friend to him. I know that you have been careful and honourable and I know it’s been tearing you apart. Can you imagine what it would have done to you if you had been living with him?
“I know you, Jamie. I know that you would never have compromised him and that you would have been happy to sacrifice your love and your life for him… but how long could it have lasted? You couldn’t have lived like that for long without destroying one or other of you.”
“I… I could have… I could…” The strength went out of my legs and I sat down suddenly on a stool.
“I’m sorry, Jamie. I didn’t mean to hurt you but I need you to see.”
My head snapped up. “But even so. You could have told me. You could have told me you knew. We could have worked something out. There was no need for this.”
“Maybe. If it was just you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You have eyes, Jamie, a brain in your head. You saw the way that Marc reacted to you going away. You haven’t seen the half of it. It almost destroyed him. Did you really never wonder why; why he had that strong a reaction to you leaving him? And I don’t mean that as a criticism.”
“I…” An uncomfortable feeling was worming in my gut and I felt sick. I wanted to run away but there was nowhere to run.
“He isn’t made of marble, Jamie. He’s a man. In every way except for his mind he’s a man. These last two years he’s changed, grown, grown up. You didn’t see it. To you he was the same Marc he always was, the little boy in the body of a man but he wasn’t, not any more. The little boy grew up Jamie. He has… feelings, emotions… urges. He… he was in love with you Jamie… he is in love with you and…”
“And you punished him? You punished him for being in love with me?”
“No. No Jamie, it was nothing like that. It was when we realised that he was in love with you that we really started to think seriously about this. You are two beautiful young men and you are in love with each other. What kind of a cruel world would it be if you had to spend every day together and never be able to kiss, to touch, to be in love?
“And what would have happened when he couldn’t stop himself any longer, when the feelings overwhelmed him and he showed you how he feels? What would have happened when he tried to kiss you or… or…? How hard would you have fought him?”
“I would never have… NEVER…”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure.” But was I? I don’t know. I was in shock. Shaking my head I changed the subject. “Are you trying to tell me that you did this so that Marc and I could be together?” The scorn was clear in my voice. I was not about to accept this at face value.
“No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying that I did it because my son was desperately unhappy and all I could see was a future where he just got more and more so. And it didn’t help that someone I care very much about was about to ruin his life and any chance of happiness he may have had.”
“I – don’t know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything. Just come to the hospital – please.”
There was something in her voice that worried me. Why had she come now? Why was she telling me this now? Why did she want me to go to the hospital now? “Why? Is something wrong?” I was scared and all thoughts of everything flew out of my head; all there was room for was Marc.
“No, there’s nothing wrong. He… he’s doing really well, surprising everyone. They took him off the breathing machine this morning and they’re reducing the drugs. The doctor said that maybe he would wake up soon and… and I…”
“Wake up? Soon? Today?”
She nodded. “Maybe.”
I didn’t travel in the car with her. I wasn’t ready for that and I had a lot to think about. I almost flew to the hospital. A journey that had taken me two hours walking took less than 10 minutes in the car.
I left the car in the car port and almost forgot to pick up the tag. Just as well there was a verbal prompt or it would have been the last I saw of it and I really like that car.
I have never been so nervous in all my life as I was walking in to that hospital. I got lost, found my way; walked away and came back again and eventually, taking a deep breath I opened the door and walked in.
Mr and Mrs Harmon looked up at me with expressions of uncertain relief. I ignored them, not because I was still angry but because I only had eyes for the beautiful boy who lay in the bed. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t this.
He looked just the same. His face was relaxed and peaceful and his blonde curls bounced around his shoulders. Behind the bed the screen flashed its constant flow of indecipherable numbers and symbols. But apart from the plastic tubes that carried drugs into his arms there was nothing, nothing at all to say that he was anything other than sweetly asleep. He was even wearing his favourite black pyjamas.
For a moment I did my usual mental somersaults, forcing myself to bury my feelings deeply but, after the conversation with Mrs Harmon I thought ‘fuck it’. My cover was blown anyway, if I’d ever had it in the first place.
Throwing caution to the wind I let my feet take me over to the side of the bed where I allowed my eyes to consume his beauty and my hand to reach out and touch his soft curls and to caress the curve of his cheek. It was the first truly sensual touch I had ever given him and it made my pulse quicken and my blood pound in my head.
I had never let myself to appreciate how truly beautiful he is and once my eyes were opened I was dazzled. I just couldn’t help myself. I had to touch him; to stroke his hair, his eyelids, his cheeks, his lips.
Eventually of course I realised what I was doing and looked up in abject horror. Mr & Mrs Harmon were looking at me but not with censure. Their eyes were sympathetic, in fact misty with emotion.
“I… I’m sorry,” I mumbled, feeling acutely embarrassed, and before they had a chance to say anything I pressed on. “What have they said?”
“Only what I told you. The doctor examined him this morning and said he’s doing remarkably well and they want to see what’s going on mentally now he’s stable physically.”
“So he’s going to be okay?”
“Physically he’s fine. The doctor said he could probably come home in a few days and in a week he’ll be back to normal. It’s just…”
“You don’t know what ‘normal’ is going to be,” I finished for her and she shook her head, looking at Marc anxiously. “What have they said about that?”
“They just don’t know. Until he wakes up there is no way of knowing how much capacity he’s gained, if any at all.”
“So he might be exactly the same as he was before and this was all for nothing?” They exchanged glances and Mrs Harmon shook her head.
“What do you mean ‘worse’?”
“It’s possible he may have even less capacity than before, although that’s unlikely, or… or there may be changes, personality changes.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means I don’t know Jamie, I just don’t know.”
I stared at her for a moment and then looked at Marc. He was… the same. On the outside he was the same. I turned away. I couldn’t look at him any more. I was afraid that he would open his eyes and I wouldn’t know the person behind them.
I wandered over to the window and stared out. Everything had gone silent and all I could hear was breathing.
We were on the sixteenth floor and I felt as if I was floating above the city. There was a fabulous view across the city, all the way to the sea. There was a hover, floating above the waves, heading out of the bay. It was probably going to The Island.
Marc has always loved The Island. We still go every year. It’s changed a lot since we first met on the balcony of the little wooden hut. The cabins are gone, replaced by ultra modern hotels and resorts.
The arcade is gone too, replaced by rows of virtual reality pods. Marc never got the hang of those. He didn’t like doing anything completely alone. I didn’t like them either. To me they represented a trend towards seclusion that I neither understood nor embraced.
But still – there were beaches where we swam or scrambled through rock pools. And there was the bluff where it seemed as if we were flying over the water. At sunset a track appeared stretching out towards the horizon so that it seemed almost as if it was possible to stand on it and walk on the water into the dying sun. I swear that if I hadn’t been with him there were times when Marc would have tried. He was always a sunrise and sunset person. I wondered if he still would be.
I was more scared than I had ever been and I wondered if Mr and Mrs Harmon were sitting there in the silence regretting their choices, thinking ‘what the hell have we done?’
I stood at the window for a long time, until the sun went down and the lights came on in the city. At night it’s easer to see the patterns of streets and squares, all laid out below like a cheap reflection of the stars.
I raised my eyes to the stars, which were just coming out. I have always loved the stars. When I was a child I used to really believe that one day I would travel to the furthest ones and touch them. I didn’t realise at the time that to even try would have meant instant death. As I grew older my passion remained but my dreams changed.
I no longer dreamed of sailing among the stars because I knew there would be no possibility of Marc being there at my side. Instead I learned how to help send other people up there in the hope that one day a ship I helped build would take a part of me further than anyone had ever gone before. Maybe it wasn’t a very realistic dream, the chances of me ever finding employment with one of the four major producers being slim at best, nevertheless it was a dream.
I was lost in the dream when I became aware of a soft voice calling my name. It took a few moments to orient on Mrs Harmon. She was smiling uncertainly and holding her hand out. Hesitantly I walked back across the floor. Marc was stirring and as I watched he yawned and tried to turn over onto his side. He has always preferred to sleep curled up on his side like a cat.
Mrs Harmon, afraid that he would dislodge one of the tubes stopped him and he opened his eyes wide with a look of surprise on his face. Mrs Harmon smiled uncertainly but his eyes slid past her, searching.
“Jamie,” he whispered and I saw Mrs Harmon flinch. For the first time I felt guilty.
“I’m here, Marc.”
It was beautiful to see the way his eyes lit up when he turned and saw me. He smiled his beautiful smile and everything was okay.
“My Jamie,” he whispered, still smiling and I smiled back with tears in my eyes. At that moment I had no idea why I was crying. Maybe it was just knowing that he was okay, that he was still smiling, still calling me ‘his’ Jamie. I don’t know… maybe it was more. Maybe it was because even then I knew that the Marc I knew had gone forever.
“Hey sleepy. How are you feeling?” I spoke to him in the same way I have always spoken to him, the same way I speak to everyone. He continued to smile but started to look a little confused.
“I…” His eyes left mine and slid over the room behind me. Then they widened and filled with fear. “Jamie what… where…?” he whispered half sitting up.
“Ssh. Marc it’s alright. It’s alright. You’re in hospital. You had an operation. You’re fine now but you have to be calm okay?”
“No. No, Jamie. No. Jamie it’s all… it’s all… wrong.”
He was struggling in my arms, trying to push me out of the way but I held him firmly by the shoulders, pressing him back onto the bed. He twisted his head from side to side and started to cry.
“Jamie… Jamie please help me. I… I can’t… I can’t… Jamie I’m scared. I don’t know, Jamie… I don’t know.” He was begging and I didn’t really know what he was begging for. All I could assume was that he remembered how scared he had been before and didn’t know what was happening now. Although I did acknowledge the possibility that it was more, much more.
“Ssh, Marc. Listen to me. Marc listen to me.” I forced my voice to be firm and he responded. I let go of his shoulders and put my hands on either side of his face, forcing him to look into my eyes.
“It’s just us, Marc. I know it’s scary. I know you’re afraid. You didn’t understand what was happening to you and you still don’t but it’s alright. I’m here and I’m going to stay right here with you. I know that things are… strange but we are going to make it through… you and me… just like always. Just you and me Marc, okay?”
His eyes were enormous, huge pools of blue, full of fear and confusion. I could feel him trembling. His hands had come up to grip my arms and every part of him was shaking.
“Marc, it’s alright. Just you and me. Nothing else. No one else. One step at a time. One step, Marc. Just calm down and focus on me. Just me okay?”
Slowly he nodded and whispered. “You and me.”
“That’s right. It’s always been you and me hasn’t it? Right from the very beginning. Always. Just you and me. We’ve had quite a journey and this is just another stop. Don’t you remember how we talked about the journey; how we talked about travelling together? Always together, remember?”
Marc tore his eyes away and looked around again.
“Stay with me, Marc. Don’t worry about anything that’s out there. Just you and me.”
As I spoke I could feel him relaxing. It was painfully slow but gradually the shaking eased and he just wept quietly and let me take him in my arms, resting his head against my shoulder.
Unfortunately at that point the doctor came in and came straight to the bed with his strident and cheerful voice, scaring the crap out of Marc who instantly started to freak out again.
“Look, just leave him alone for a while. We were doing fine. He was calming down. Just go away for a bit.”
“I need to examine him,” the doctor said more quietly. “Physically he’s going to be fine so we have to concentrate on his mind now. It’s important that we find out what’s going on in there as soon as possible. We have to get to grips with the changes and help him deal with them right from the start or it might do irreparable psychological damage.”
“The only thing that is causing him psychological damage right now is you. He was fine. He will be fine if you just leave us alone.” My voice was rising and I had to struggle to keep my anger under control. Marc was clinging to me and the last thing I wanted was to scare him even more. I just wanted to calm the situation down so that I could talk to him, reassure him. I couldn’t have cared less how much ‘function’ he had or what the future was going to hold; all I cared about was that Marc was scared and hurting right then and there and I wanted to stop it.
“Marc,” the doctor said gently, sitting down on the edge of the bed, “I just want to talk to you. I’m not going to hurt you, just talk. Will you talk to me?”
“Jamie…” he whispered and I looked down into his tear streaked face which was white as a sheet and terrified. “I don’t want to. I can’t. Please Jamie… help me… please.”
“It’s alright, Marc. I told you… just you and me okay. It doesn’t matter about anyone else. It’s just you and me.”
He threw his arms around me and pulled me close to him. Mrs Harmon would have stepped forward again, still concerned he might displace the equipment but the doctor stopped her.
“That really isn’t important right now. I think that… Jamie?… is right. The most important thing is that Marc settles down and relaxes. He needs to talk to someone that he trusts and it seems that right now the only person he trusts is Jamie.” He stood up. “I’ll come and talk to you again in a little while, okay? I’ll let you talk to Jamie first.”
Marc didn’t look at him. He buried his face in my shoulder but my arms around him seemed to be working as he had stopped shaking again and he was relaxing.
The doctor turned to Mr & Mrs Harmon. “If I could have a word outside for moment.”
“Is everything alright?” Mrs Harmon asked, panic in her voice. It must have been really hard for her to see her child in such distress and then to be asked to walk away. I think she understood that the doctor didn’t want to talk to her as much as he wanted to make space for me to talk to Marc.
When we were alone I gently disengaged Marc’s arms to allow me to get up onto the bed with him and he curled into my side. For a while I just held him and let him calm down. I simply stroked his hair in silence.
After a time I thought he had fallen asleep and I was happy enough with that. I needed time to think. But I wasn’t going to get it.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Sorry? What for?”
“I’m scared. I’m really scared. I didn’t mean…”
“Hey,” I said hugging him closer. “It’s okay. It’s not your fault. None of this is your fault.”
“Why have they done this to me?”
I froze, my heart thudding. That didn’t sound like Marc. It was one of the most complete sentences I had ever heard him speak and there was something in his voice that was…
“Done what?” I asked carefully.
There was a long pause before he answered, equally carefully. “It’s… different, Jamie. The same but… different.”
“I… I don’t know.” He sounded exhausted and completely miserable.
“It’s alright, Marc. You don’t have to think about that, not now. You need to rest. Look… make yourself a little bit more comfortable and you can have a sleep. Things will be better when you wake up.”
“No,” he said simply and sadly. I didn’t know what he was saying ‘no’ to and I didn’t want to ask. My mind cast around desperately trying to find something helpful to say.
“Do you remember?”
Shit! That was unexpected. He’d answered almost like a… as if… “Before. I mean before the surgery, what you were like?” Fuck, that was stupid. How could I possibly expect him to understand that? “I’m sorry I’m not making sense. I’m really sorry, Marc. I’m not helping very much am I?”
Marc tilted his head back to look up at me. He seemed thoughtful. “I don’t understand what happened to me.”
He didn’t understand? Neither did I. “Do you… feel different?”
He smiled and gave a little ironic laugh. “Yeah.”
He closed his eyes and shook his head. “Jamie, I…”
As he became calm something changed. I couldn’t have put my finger on it but there was something in him that… settled and… changed. There is no other way I can think of to explain it. I think maybe that the panic that had gripped him almost from the moment he opened his eyes was disappearing. Gradually he was letting himself accept that things were different.
Looking back it was typical of Marc. He had always been methodical and careful but very passionate. When his passion overburdened him he simply stopped, calmed down and let his innate optimism and inner balance settle him. And that is exactly what he was doing right there and then. He wasn’t forcing it, trying to make sense of it, trying to understand it. He was simply waiting until he was calm, until he was able to get his balance back.
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly locking his eyes with mine. “I’m different Jamie. I remember how it was before, but I’m different.”
“How are you different?”
He shook his head, confusion etching deep crevasses into his beautiful face. He shook his head again and then, slowly, incredibly, breathtakingly his eyes widened and his slow, blinding smile crawled over his face. The smile flickered from joy to uncertainty and was like but unlike the beautiful light that I was used to shining from him and that confused me.
“Are you alright?”
“Jamie,” he said, a strange note in his voice. His eyes searched mine and they were so different they scared me. Marc’s eyes have always been beautiful, so expressive and loving but there had always been an… emptiness there, which had somehow been filled.
I shifted so I could look into his face properly and he sat up. I was sitting with my back against the wall and he was half turned so that we were pretty much on a level.
“Shouldn’t you lie down?” I asked but there was something in his face that made it come out uncertainly. He smiled but it was flickering as emotions flew through him.
“My Jamie,” he said softly and that time that was definitely something new in his voice that made me very uncomfortable.
“Marc, I think that we should…”
He shook his head and his smile twitched into a grin as his eyes twinkled with mischief. That look was familiar enough.
“Marc, you’re in hospital. You’ve had brain surgery. You really shouldn’t…”
I used my firm voice but that time it had no effect on him at all. Before I could finish, he reached out his hand and touched my lips effectively stopping me. I was shocked and remember staring at him not knowing what to say, what to think, what to feel. If it had been anyone else I would have been feeling… excited.
Uncertainly Marc bit his lip and lowered his eyes then he smiled again, slowly looking up through his lashes. I was scared rigid. Was he flirting with me?
“My Jamie,” he breathed.
I swallowed hard and licked my lips. That time the way he said it left no room for doubt at all. It was entirely unlike the way he had ever said it before.
“Everything’s different, Jamie, everything. I’m not…” A look of uncertainty passed over his face and he licked his lips. “It hurts… in a way. There’s too much… just too much, but…” Raising his eyes to meet mine again he captured me in their glittering depths and I jumped, startled when something touched my face. I was even more shocked when I found it was his hand. I was frozen as his long, cool fingers traced my jaw and slid into my hair.
“Marc… stop. This is… this…”
“It’s different, Jamie, my Jamie.” His eyes were smouldering and it was me who started to shake. “There’s no more ‘can’t’, no more ‘shouldn’t’, no more ‘mustn’t’. Can’t you feel it? I always felt it but I didn’t understand it. Didn’t you feel it too?”
Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck. I felt sick. I wanted to scream; to run; to laugh; to cry.
“Marc… you can’t; we can’t. This isn’t the time or the place. Fuck… half an hour ago you were in a coma, four days ago you were… you were… and ten minutes ago you were freaking out.”
“All true. But I have you, My Jamie. I’m not scared any more. I don’t understand what happened to me. I don’t know what changed. I can remember what it was like before, what I was like before. It’s not clear, as if a curtain’s been drawn over it… or maybe it’s that the curtain has been torn away, but there are some things I remember. I remember you. I know how I felt and I know how I feel and I don’t have to…” He sat up straighter, wincing slightly. The screen behind me was flashing and making strange noises, presumably because I was pressing myself against it, half hoping I would sink through or that someone would come. I felt… wrong but the whole bloody thing was surreal.
I have no idea why no one came. It can’t have been normal for that screen to be making noises like that. There must have been alarms going off somewhere. Maybe someone did come but I didn’t notice. I was completely mesmerised by Marc’s eyes.
“I have always been told what to do and that’s okay. I needed it. I know I needed it. I have always been confused. Everything was… I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand anything; well… almost.”
He took a deep breath and moved a foot closer. I pressed myself even harder against the screen. “Who’s scared now, Jamie?”
“What…?” It came out as a croak. I licked my lips and tried again. “Marc, I don’t know what to say, what to do. I don’t know you.”
He frowned, looking crushed. “Don’t you like me any more? Now that I can… understand you, don’t you want me?”
“Marc… no. It’s not… I love you. I’ve always loved you. I will always love you, it’s just…”
Marc was grinning and I gasped as I realised what I had said.
“Marc no; it isn’t right. It just isn’t…” I didn’t get any further because the screen had completely failed to suck me in and there was no escape when Marc pressed his body against me and kissed me.
At first I let my eyes fall closed, and my heart just about exploded in the sensations that washed over me. Then I resisted because I felt it was wrong. I couldn’t really have said why, not then, not with Marc like this but… And then there was nothing I could have done anyway because it all overwhelmed me and carried me away.
Anyway… that was then and it’s all different now. It’s cold in here, really cold. I should have put the central heating on the clock. The weather is so changeable at this time of the year I shouldn’t have left it to chance. At the moment I’m warm and cosy but I know that as soon as I throw off the duvet my breath will be misting the air. Bugger.
Ah well. I have a few minutes left. I like to set the alarm early so that I can savour these last minutes of comfort and warmth. Today, more than any other day, I want to cling to it, to hide under the covers and not come out. Oh fuck I wish this day was over.
The sound of someone hammering on the front door scares the living crap out of me. I throw off the duvet, completely disoriented and stub my toe on the chair, looking for my slippers. Abandoning them I hop down the stairs, shivering and cursing loudly. The hammering starts again.
“Alright, alright. For fuck’s sake! Give me a chance. I’ve just got out of bed and I’m freezing my fucking balls off.” I’m going to kill them. They weren’t supposed to be here yet. I was supposed to have had at least another half an hour of peace and calm. “Alright. Fucking hell, will you just…”
I open the door and freeze because there is an angel standing on my doorstep.
The angel smiles at me.
“What the hell are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here.”
“Who says?” the angel drawls moving closer. I step back.
“It makes the whole bloody thing of spending last night at your parents’ house pointless doesn’t it?” I growl with mock severity.
“Ah well… that wasn’t my idea.”
“Do they know you’re here?” I ask, with more mischief and less censure now that the shock has worn off.
“What do you think?”
“Oh for goodness sake, Jamie.”
“Shit…” I stagger backwards as he throws himself at me, flicking the door closed behind him. I trip over the edge of the carpet and end up in an undignified heap on the floor with a grinning Marc on top of me. “Get off me, you fool.”
He giggles and kisses me soundly. My resistance weakens and I simply throw my arms around him and hug him so hard he squeaks and pulls away.
“Easy. Don’t break my ribs.”
“Sorry. I’m just… Do you have any idea how horrible it was last night to fall asleep in that bed all alone?”
“Yeah.” The smile fades from his face to be replaced by ‘that look’. I first saw it on the day he woke in hospital and I have seen it every day since. It’s a look that says ‘I love you’. “I know exactly how horrible it was. It’s never, ever going to happen again.”
“Never, ever.” I confirm.
Gently he lowers himself onto me again and I hold him in my arms right there, in the middle of my hall, with my stubbed toe and bruised backside throbbing, and I am happier than I have ever been in my entire life. The sun is shining through the panel in the top of the door and it’s setting fire to his crown of gold. It’s longer than it has ever been, more waves than curls now, tumbling over his shoulders and framing his face with two golden curtains. He looks different than he did before: different but the same.
Everything about him is different. For the first weeks every day was a shock. Who would have known that there was such a keen wit and intelligence hidden behind those vacant blue eyes? He has always been a sponge that soaks up experiences but now he soaks up knowledge too. It took him a matter of weeks to learn to read and, more than that, to enjoy it to the extent that he consumes books rather than reading them now.
He still retains his childlike innocence and excitement at all sorts of things, small and big. He kicks through leaves in the autumn, jumping and spinning and laughing when they crackle. Just before Christmas it snowed and he was wildly excited. Christmas is a season of total magic when he wakes me every day, bouncing. He dances in the rain and drags me out of bed to watch the sunrise. He’s a child, a man, an angel… and a wonderful lover.
“What are you looking at?”
He blushes delicately. “I’m not an angel.”
“You are MY angel,” I say firmly.
Very gently he brushes my face with his fingers. “My Jamie,” he murmurs in that way which is guaranteed to send shivers down my spine. As he bends to kiss me the front door which had not quite closed behind him bursts open and the hall seems full of people. Someone catches Marc around the waist and tears him out of my arms, swinging him away from me.
“I can’t take my eyes off you for two minutes,” a familiar voice scolds. “I knew you would be here.”
Marc grins at his sister and throws his arms around her. “Don’t be cross with me Jude. I just wanted one little kiss. I was afraid I was going to burst if I didn’t.”
“Get home with you, evil boy. Don’t you know it’s bad luck to see the bride on the day of the wedding.”
Marc giggles and points at me. “Jamie’s the bride, Jamie’s the bride,” he sings as Judith pushes him out of the door and slams it behind them.
Alex, my best friend and best man stands over me with his hands on his hips looking down at me with a frown on his face. “Are you seriously insane? Tell me you’re not actually going to marry into that family.”
“Because I think that boy is one of the few people on the planet who is actually more insane than you are. When you’re together neither of you take anything seriously.”
For a moment I’m worried but then I see the twitch in the corner of his mouth.
“I take him seriously, Alex.”
The nascent grin fades and he nods his head. “I know. And he takes you seriously too. Now get your fat arse off the floor and go have a shower so we can find a way of squeezing it into your suit. You’ve got so fat lately.”
“I so have not.”
“I’m not sure that you are going to fit,” he says, shaking his head with a mock frown on his face. “Maybe you should think of that bridal gown after all.”
I let him haul me to my feet and hug him. “Thanks, Alex.”
“What are you thanking me for?”
“I don’t know. I just needed to say it.”
“I told you… insane. Get your flabby butt in the shower.”
Two hours, a hover ride and car journey later, I skirt a bush and almost literally walk into a complete stranger. We had agreed that we wanted to walk in together and that we would meet in our favourite place. I stop and my heart literally turns over in my chest.
His eyes are almost exactly the same colour as the sky behind his head. He is dressed in the same suit as I am, the grey highlighting the blue of his eyes and the pale gold vest making his golden hair glow. I have never seen him look more beautiful, never, and the most beautiful thing about him is the look in his eyes.
He slips his arm around my waist and we stand together, on the lip of the bluff, looking down towards the beach where we can see a crowd gathering around the white tent which has been erected on the sand just above the tide line. It’s typical of Marc that he wants to do this outside, on the beach, in the early spring. It’s also typical that the sun is smiling on him… on us.
“Thank you,” he says simply.
“You were the one who was waiting idiot.”
He pulls away and looks into my face with a strange look in his eyes. “No, not today.”
I feel the smile spreading through me from deep within and when it bursts out it lifts me from the face of the earth and it feels like I am truly flying. Marc laughs and kisses me gently and briefly.
“My Jamie,” he murmurs just as he always did: just as he always does. And then he grabs my hand and we are flying into our future.
Marc Harmon is an extraordinary person. He’s special.