The Summer of ’99: Part II

A small crowd of gawking on-lookers formed around the two men. Some onlookers couldn’t hide the pure disgust on their faces, while others smiled at the sight of true love. Nonetheless, everyone waited for Darian’s answer. Darian’s face turned red, and as the pause between Tanner’s question and Darian’s response lengthened, Tanner’s face grew redder, too. Darian finally walked over to Tanner and whispered a breathy no into his ear as he helped pull him to his feet. An effortless tear escaped from Tanner’s eye as he walked back to the truck with Darian quietly following. Tanner shoved the gold band back into his pocket before opening the truck door. The tension that surrounded the unhappy couple told the crowd everything they needed to know. Slowly, everyone disappeared through the airport doors, whispering about the unpredictable event they had just witnessed.

“Tan, listen,” he began once the two were seated in the truck again, “I think the world of you and I think you have a beautiful spirit and an even more beautiful heart, but I’m not gay. I can’t be. I’ve always been attracted to women and I want to have a family someday. A natural one, and I can’t do that with you. All the emotions I had this summer were real and they were real because I had them with you, but this is my chance to make it, to become the man I’ve always thought I could become. And that future man doesn’t include a boyfriend. I’m sorry Tanner. I didn’t think this was turning into anything serious. I just thought it was good and strictly in the moment.”

Tanner was speechless, his face full of tears and confusion.

“But, you came on to me,” he stammered. “You started everything. You wanted this. I never asked for this. I was straight before I met you. But, things have changed now. You’ve changed me and I’ve changed you. Doesn’t that matter? Doesn’t the love we have transcend the lives we planned? Isn’t the love we have, our passion, what you want in life? Why won’t you take it? You have it right here, right now. You have my heart. You have a piece of me I can never get back. Why won’t you keep it?” The words were barely audible between the gasps for air and his unceasing sobs.

Darian watched Tanner’s heartbreak while trying to ignore the aching in his own heart. He couldn’t admit that he had fallen in love. Somehow he knew life would be easier if he was straight.

“Tanner, I’m sorry, but this isn’t me.” And with that, Darian climbed out of the truck, shut the door behind him, and left without turning back towards Tanner one last time. But Tanner, he waited for Darian to disappear behind the automatic glass doors before lurching into traffic. Horns blazed as he ran light after light. He wiped the waterfalling tears with his forearms as he bit his bottom lip, attempting to quiet its quivering. Somewhere during the drive, his mind turned from sad to angry, and without any prior thought, he felt himself pulling into Rosie’s driveway. He couldn’t contain the rage pulsing through his blood. He couldn’t fathom how someone could make him fall so deeply in love and then turn his life upside down without more than a bat of an eye. He had never felt so betrayed or so broken before. For the first time in his life, he had let somebody in completely. For the first time in his life, he had hope that love could finally be his. But, those thoughts became nothing more than a foolish dream. Tanner harnessed Darian’s heartlessness and turned his emotions into fuel, fuel he would use to break Darian the way Tanner was breaking now.

Tanner pulled the key from the ignition and sat in the still truck, seething. The sweat dripped down his face and down his back. His breaths were short, rapid and stagnate. His face turned darker and darker, until his cheeks met the bloodshot red color of his eyes. Without another thought, he slammed the door of his truck, kicked in Rosie’s front door, and stormed into her bedroom. He stood in the doorway shaking, awkwardly tugging on his sleeves.

“Oh hello Tanner,” Rosie smiled from her bed, looking up from the pages of a worn romantic novel, “If you’re looking for Darian, he just left. Oh wait, you took him to the airport. Did he forget something?”

“Yes,” he forced out, attempting to disguise the rage in his voice, “I’m looking for his address. He left a few things at my grandpa’s and I wanted to mail them to him.”

“Oh of course.” She placed a bookmark in her novel and shuffled through a few papers that were stacked next to her. “Here you are.” She said extending the scrap paper towards him. Keeping his eyes locked on the ground, he shuffled towards Rosie, took the piece of paper from her, and giving her a forced, wicked smile, coldly said, “Thanks”

He sped off towards his grandfather’s and quickly threw everything he owned into his own suitcase. Without as much as a hello, Tanner took his grandfather’s truck and drove himself to the airport. Gary heard the engine’s roar and headed to Tanner’s room. He expected to find his grandson, but instead found no trace of him, but a lone gold wedding band sitting atop the dresser.

Tanner spent the night in the airport after buying a ticket for a flight to New York in the morning: he didn’t want to run the risk of Darian seeing him board the same flight or having a layover in the same airport. He wanted Darian to be surprised. While everyone slept in their chairs or made pallets on the airport floor, Tanner sat against the wall and spent the night thinking. What would he say to Darian? How could he win him back? Did he really want him back? How would he react seeing the love of his life lying there, refusing to be with him? His thoughts spiraled out of control, overwhelming Tanner and finally forcing him to sleep in order to simply quiet his own ravings.

The next morning, he was in the air heading towards Darian. The flight only took 3 hours, but it seemed excruciatingly longer than that. After landing, Tanner hailed a Taxi and found himself standing on the stoop of a high-rise apartment building. He took in a few deep breaths to steady his nerves, and then followed an old woman through the resident-only accessible gate. They made small talk about the weather and her poodle named Cupcake that she was walking until they reached the 3rd floor. That’s where she left the elevator and he found himself 2 flights away from Darien’s apartment. The next stop was his.

He exited the elevator and made his way down a long, brightly lit hallway. The walls were a pale yellow and each apartment door was a crisp white with navy blue numbers. “521, 523, 525…” he trailed off as his pace became faster and more anxious with each passing door, until he stopped at the end of the hall. 547. Tanner took a deep breath before raising a shaking, right, hand. He closed his eyes, and then knocked 2 times on the door. He waited a few minutes, but there was no answer. He hadn’t come this far to receive silence, so he began to desperately check his pockets and in the back right pocket, found his credit card. Squatting down to reach the lock, Tanner shimmied the card until finding the lock’s curve and pushing it in. The door quietly unlocked and Tanner entered the apartment. He rolled his suitcase into the living room, which was on his right. There were two gray loveseats surrounding a light brown coffee table. In the far right corner sat a large flat screen TV and on the far end of the living room stood a single lamp. Beyond that room, there was a thrift store dining table and chair set. The wood was worn in and the scratches in the table top were evident. A vase of wild flowers stood in the center of the table, adding a wide array of colors to the otherwise dull rooms. Directly in front of Tanner, a few feet away, stood the kitchen. Owl decorations cluttered the counter; owl salt and peppershakers, potholders, and drying towels were laid out. Tanner took a few steps towards the kitchen, but stopped in front of a closed door that stood to his left. He grasped the circular knob, inhaled one deep breath, then turned the knob silently and pushed the door in. He had found the bedroom. He had expected to find Darian asleep in the bed, recovering from his jetlag, but instead found a brunette haired woman lying under the gray comforter.

He tip-toed to the left side of the bed and inspected what little he could see of her. She was lying on her left side, facing away from him. The comforter was tucked under her outer arm, revealing a bare back. She was naked. He looked to the nightstand next to him and on top of it sat a few framed photos. He took them in his hands, one by one. There was one of her and who he assumed was her father in front of a castle, another was of her and her mother building a snowman when she was younger, but the final photograph was of her and Darian. The Eifel Tower was in the background and Darian had his arm draped over her shoulders. While she was smiling for the camera, he was kissing her cheek. He was standing over the slumbering body of his ex-boyfriend’s, girlfriend.

The frames crashed to the floor sending glass shards in every direction. The noise startled Darian’s girlfriend awake. She rolled to see Tanner leaning over her body and let out a blood-curdling scream.

“Shut up Bitch!” he shouted as he lurched on top of her body. He wrapped his hands around her neck as he locked her torso between his thighs. Her pale face started to change colors, from pink to red, as her eyes begged and pleaded for him to stop. But, he couldn’t. As his grip tightened, exposing the muscles he perfected through hard work for his grandfather, his eyes became saddened, but hopeful. He knew that this was the only way he could keep Darian for himself. The brunette’s body wiggled underneath him, at first quickly, but now she moved in a futile attempt to say that she never stopped fighting. Her body lurched one last time. Then, as Tanner exhaled, he began to loosen his grip as her body relaxed into the bed. He released her and climbed off of the bed. He examined her chest, waiting to see it rise or fall, thinking that she could be playing him, but she wasn’t. She lay there, lifeless, dead. Tanner couldn’t help but smile at the sight of his victory. He rolled her onto her stomach and pulled the comforter up to the back of her neck and then gently brushed her hair with his cold fingers. She needed to look perfect, the way Tanner had found her. After he was satisfied, he leaned down and gently kissed her temple.

As he stood over her dead body in the still, crisp, air, he heard the front door handle begin to jiggle. He moved across the floor swiftly and positioned himself between a large dresser that measured up to the center of his stomach and the large window. He crouched down behind the dresser and waited. Tanner listened to the footsteps. They were normal and use to the apartment. They navigated the rooms effortlessly. The carpet in the living room muffled the steps, but the hardwood kitchen floors allowed Tanner to hear the movements with ease. The microwave beeped signaling for food and he heard the person open the microwave door and walk into the living room. The T.V. came on next. Tanner could make out the show faintly from where he was positioned. He needed to find out who was here, but how?

Tanner didn’t have to wait much longer. The television shut off and the person walked to the kitchen and dropped the dish in the sink. The footsteps were muted once more, but Tanner was able to place the location. The bedroom door shook and soon was pushed in.

“Daisy?” the familiar voice called out. Though Tanner couldn’t see him standing in the doorway, he placed the voice. It was Darian.

Darian approached Daisy’s body and gently laid a hand on her shoulder.“Hello Darien,” Tanner stated as he emerged from the shadow of the corner.

“Hello Darien,” Tanner stated as he emerged from the shadow of the corner.

Darian jumped backwards, startled. “Tanner. How did you…” his question trailed off and before he could finish, Tanner interrupted.

“Tanner. How did you…” his question trailed off and before he could finish, Tanner interrupted.

“So this is why you left me? For her?” he accused as he approached Darian. “You left me for your whore!”

Darian stood shocked. He couldn’t find the words to speak. He kept backing away until his back was pined against the wall, but Tanner didn’t stop coming for him.You lied to me!” Tanner screamed in Darian’s face. “How could you?”

You lied to me!” Tanner screamed in Darian’s face. “How could you?”“Look,” Darian began, trying to quiet his quivering teeth, “she’s not my girlfriend. She’s an old friend and she was letting me crash on her couch until I could find a place of my own.”

“Look,” Darian began, trying to quiet his quivering teeth, “she’s not my girlfriend. She’s an old friend and she was letting me crash on her couch until I could find a place of my own.”

“Oh yeah?” Tanner reached for the photographs on the floor, picking up one of them at the Eifel Tower, he shoved the picture into Darian’s face, “ Explain this then!”

Tanner couldn’t stop the tears from escaping down his face as he waited for what he assumed would be another lie from Darian.

“That was taken a few years ago,” Darian began, trying to remain calm, “We were dating then, but after that trip, we both decided to see other people. Then, we became just friends, nothing more,” Darian concluded.

“Lies!” Tanner exclaimed.

Tanner reached for the lamp sitting on the nightstand and brought it crashing down atop Darian’s head. Darian crumbled to the floor in shock, bringing his hand to meet the open wound on his forehead. Tanner ran from the bedroom into the kitchen and saw a skillet sitting on the stovetop. He took it into his dominant hand and whirled around to see Darian charging toward him from the bedroom, empty handed. The skillet flew across Darian’s face, and then landed on his head a few more times as he laid on the floor, motionless. Blood began to splatter in every direction, but Tanner just couldn’t stop. With every crash between metal and skull, Tanner brought the skillet down harder and harder.

“If I can’t have you, no one can,” he repeated over and over, until finally, the life escaped from Darian’s body. Darian’s head oozed the red goo relentlessly, ruining the carpet. Tanner’s chest and face were covered in the red, sticky mess. Finally satisfied, Tanner let the skillet fall from his hands to collide with the blood stained floor. He exhaled deeply as he stared at his boyfriend’s body, limp and lifeless on the beige carpet.

Tanner lifted his fingers to his lip, longing for Darian’s lips one last time. Tanner spread Darian’s blood on every inch of his own body. Then, his tongue caressed the liquid that coated Darian’s lips, tasting him one last time, remembering the simple beauty of that moment. He and Darian were intertwined, if only for a minute, it was precious and perfect. The stillness of the room calmed Tanner’s rapid heartbeat as he drank in the realization that no one will ever have Darian in the way that he did. In that moment, Tanner felt complete for the first time.

He knelt next to Darian’s body,  wrapped his arms around the corpse, and lowered his eyelids to sleep. A smile emerged on Tanner’s face.

“ I love you, Darian,” he whispered. “I had to keep you for myself. No one would or could ever love you the way I do.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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