Joey was left to deal with JC. All the life had left the pale thin man. It was as if he wanted to die too.
The funeral ended up a quite affair with only a handful of people turning up, it was the one thing JC had requested, privacy to grieve alone. He walked behind the mahogany coffin, his eyes devoid of all emotion. He wore the suit that Justin had laid out for what he knew now was his wedding, but instead of the pink accessories he wore a long thin black tie. The ring that had been found in Justin's throat was jammed on his ring finger, a constant reminder of what had been snatched so cruelly from his grasp.
JC knew that inside his coffin Justin was wearing the suit he had intended to wear that fateful day. He knew because he had gathered up all his courage and gone to the funeral home to say goodbye before the lid was closed forever. It was then JC had slipped the ring he had purchased en route onto Justin's lifeless hand and whispered his vows of love before placing his ring on his own finger. One last kiss then he had left, going back to the one place he could be with Justin in his mind, the marques.
That had been where Joey had found him, crying softly beneath the wilted flowered arch. The big man had lifted him to his feet and straightened his clothes before lifting his chin and looking into his red swollen eyes.
“It’s time,” he had said caringly. “Do you want me to walk beside you?” he had asked.
JC refused his offer. This was the one last thing he could do for his lover, walk behind the coffin alone, alone like he would be for the rest of his life.
Justin was laid to rest in a quiet secluded part of the cemetery while JC watched emotionlessly as Justin's coffin was lowered into the ground; in his hands was a single red rose. JC stepped forward and lifted the rose to his nose, inhaling its sweet fragrance before dropping it on top of the dark wood. “I’ll always love you,” he breathed. A single tear escaped his eye as the first shovelful of dirt was scattered and his breath caught in his throat.
Joey resisted taking hold of JC and offering him comfort instead he stood beside him and watched with him until the grave was filled.
“We should go JC,” he said quietly, reluctant to encroach on his friend’s grief.
JC nodded desolately but didn’t move until Joey took him compassionately by his hand and led him away.
Thirty years later.
Over the years JC’s friends had done everything they could to convince him to have the marques taken down but he had resisted all attempts. In his mind taking it down would be removing Justin from his life. So instead he moved in his chair and sat for hours just remembering the love he used to know. He lived as a virtual recluse and eventually even Joey stopped coming around. The house fell into disrepair and the pool went un-cleaned, eventually drying up altogether but JC didn’t notice; he didn’t care.
JC sat in his easy chair, leaning back as he relished in his solitude. He couldn’t actually remember anymore what life was like before. He had grown used to his loneliness, welcomed it and embraced it. He was dead but somehow they had forgotten to bury him.
His only link to the outside world was his computer. He never even had to leave the marques anymore. He did everything via the net. That was how he found out how to end his suffering through a message board that explained the best and most painless ways to take your own life. They even offered links of where to get the euthanasia drugs that sat on the table by his side. JC carefully mixed the deadly cocktail then set it on the side. He wasn’t ready to go yet, not quite. He picked up the remote control that rested next to him and pressed play. His TV sprung to life and images of happier days filled the screen. His tears welled as he watched Justin laughing and swinging him around, tickling him and making him giggle wildly. His laughter weighed heavy on his soul. He hadn’t laughed in thirty years and now he would never laugh again. With the video still playing he lifted the glass of poison to his lips. His eyes met those of Justin's.
“I’m coming my darling; forgive me for not having the courage to come sooner.”
“Don’t drink that.”
JC jumped, he blinked in the semi darkness trying to see who had intruded on his final moments.
A tall dark haired man stepped into the light. His hair was neat and cut short and his dark brown eyes shone sadly. “Don’t drink it JC.”
The desolate man grunted but paused lowering the glass slightly. “Give me one good reason why not.”
The tall man stepped closer and calmly took the glass and set it on one of the dust covered tables. “Because if you kill yourself Joey will go to his grave believing that he failed you.”
JC tilted his head. “I haven’t seen Joey for years,” he said coldly. “He probably thinks I’m already dead.”
The man pulled a cobweb covered chair to where JC was sitting and sat down. “Joey never deserted you JC. He has called here everyday since the funeral, every day for thirty years, never missed.”
“I never knew,” JC whispered. His eyes sought out the deadly cocktail again and he reached out.
JC sought out the caring eyes of the stranger that insisted on stopping him from ending his misery. “Do you know what day it is?” he asked quietly.
The stranger nodded. “It’s Tuesday.”
JC sighed and let his hand drop into his lap and his head hung down to his chest. “It’s August 20.”
The stranger nodded again. “August 20 2033.”
JC looked up tears in his eyes. “Thirty years, I never realised it had been so long.” His mouth trembled and the tears began to fall once more. “I’m tired. I don’t want to be alone anymore. I want the pain to go way. I want to be with Justin again.”
“What if I told you that I can make that happen? That everything that has happened in the last thirty years can be re-written. That I can send you back in time and you can save Justin from his murderer.”
“I’d say you were delusional and you were preying on the desperation of an old man.” JC eyed his cocktail again wishing that the man would leave him to die in peace.
“What if I can give you proof?” the man asked.
“It would have to be very convincing. You don’t have to scam me young man. The house is open, take what you want. I don’t want it, any of it.”
The young man took a small box out of his pocket and handed it to JC. “Open it,” he said.
JC opened the box and gasped. Inside was a ring his ring, the one that was still on his finger. “It’s not possible. This ring never leaves my finger.”
“And yet there it is in the box. Read the inscription JC.”
JC squinted to see the nearly faded writing, reading it aloud. “This ring is like our love JC, never ending.”
“That ring has been handed down through my family for generations. My great, great, great grandfather Joey gave it to his son and told him the story behind it. He in turn gave it to his son and so on and so forth until it came to me. The story says that Joey was devastated by your suicide that he blamed himself for not being there to save you. Joey can’t be here JC, but I can.” The man gripped JC’s aged wizened hand and squeezed. “Don’t drink the poison JC. Choose to live, choose Justin.”
JC started to shake and he griped the strangers hand tightly. “I would do anything to save him,” he cried.
The young man took an armband from his pocket and slipped it on JC’s arm. “Depressing this switch will activate the time field; it’s programmed to take you back to the day of the party. You will have 16 hours to stop Justin from being kidnapped and murdered. When the 16 hours elapse you will automatically be returned to this time.” The man stood up and started to walk away. “Good luck,” he said and then in a flash he was gone.
JC stared at where the young man had disappeared and blinked. His mind was confused. Had that just happened or was he hallucinating? The band wrapped tightly around his bicep told him that he wasn’t. He fingered the band briefly then turned his attention back to his cocktail. He cursed finding the glass gone. It would take weeks to replace the deadly drugs and by then it would be too late, he would have to wait another year.
How could he bear it?
The young mans words tortured him. What did he have to lose? Already he was verging on insanity. Tentatively he touched the band again, feeling the pressure point cool beneath his fingertips.
“Please be true,” he whispered as he depressed the switch.