Bradley couldn’t quite understand it.
Yes, he was aware of the fact that he had fucked up, but he hadn’t meant it. In his own defense, he was half drunk and terribly mad at Colin. It hadn’t meant a thing, and he truly had been pushed to do it. And it wasn’t even the first time it had happened. Still, he couldn’t understand why Colin didn’t even explain himself or talked to him about it.
He was the expressive one in this relationship. He had always been. He was the one who flirted first, the one who forgot about personal space first and yes, he was the one who – against all prejudices anyone may have on him – romantically declared his love to Colin on a summer night by the light of the full moon next to a large window on the south coast of France. Colin had never forgotten that moment and he loved to remind Bradley of that, especially when he wanted to make fun of him for being a “sentimental pixie”.
Colin was the cold side of the bed, not literally thank goodness. That would have been necrophilia – and a very passionate one indeed – and Bradley was not that kind of romantic, thank you very much.
Bradley was the one who woke up Colin with a kiss; he was the one who wrapped his arms around him while he was washing the dishes and hummed the “Ghost” theme song while reaching for Colin’s hands and mimicking his movements. He was the love struck idiot with a tendency to kiss his partner out of the blue and say “I love you” just for a pair of pancakes cooked by Colin.
The Northern Irishman, shy and cynic at the same time, almost always replied with a smile, a roll of his eyes or by blowing a kiss only to laugh later. Colin was the one who turned his back on Bradley on the bed so he could spoon against him, and the one who showered with semi-cold water on winter secretly – or that’s what he thought – so Bradley could enjoy his long warm baths on the tub.
Colin was the complacent one without being boastful, unlike Bradley.
He had a thousand secret smiles and really dark days, with moods so hard to comprehend that Bradley had stopped trying all together and simply let him be on those days. He was the one who, once a month, pinned Bradley down on the mattress without a word of warning or a reason and fucked him hard until he saw stars. Bradley always tried to make up for that night the rest of the month, and judging by Colin’s moans in the deep of the night followed irrevocably by incessant mumbling – more like chanting – of Bradley’s name, he was sure he was pretty good at paying Colin back for the pleasure bestowed on him once a month.
Bradley was the one who loved to eat take-away, and Colin was the one who loved cooking. In practical terms, that was more than fine with Bradley, as long as Colin cooked a vegan and a bloody meaty dinner.
Bradley made sure the lights were out and the door locked before going to sleep and Colin was the one who waited on his side of the bed to warm it up for him.
They complemented each other entirely and for that same reason, Bradley couldn’t understand what was happening now. It made no sense, it had no logic.
Suddenly, everything he thought he knew about Colin, everything he thought he knew about them was on the spotlight, waiting to be questioned and beaten by the bad cop in Bradley’s mind.
He couldn’t quite understand it and he wasn’t sure he wanted to. To understand is to accept, and he couldn’t accept this, not this.
“I’m sorry, Bradley” repeated Colin, a stray tear running down his left cheek as he tried to catch his quickened breath. It was the same breath he had longed to feel by his side on the dinner party they had just returned from.
His eyes were shining with unshed tears and Bradley couldn’t help but think that they were beautiful. His gaze was full of sorrow, pity, anger at himself and confusion. It was the most beautiful gaze Bradley had ever encountered. If the situation had been different, he would have fallen in love all over again with Colin.
“You’re… sorry?” Bradley had to swallow between words, trying to calm his breath and his heartbeat. This was not happening. He had plans. He had expectations and a whole vegan menu on his head for their anniversary, and that was more than six months away. He had dreams, for god’s sake.
“I can’t do this anymore. I just… can’t”. Colin closed his eyes as he finished the sentence, letting the silence reign.
He was standing under the same light bulb Bradley had changed two days before, under the light Bradley had fixed after days on end of Colin cursing every time he came home and switched the light on, only to find no light at all.
He was standing on the little brown door mat Bradley had bought to put outside the front door, but Colin liked too much and ended putting inside of it.
For fuck’s sake, he was even wearing Bradley’s blue hoodie.
This was too much, he couldn’t stand it anymore.
Before Colin could say anything, or do anything, Bradley lifted his right arm and pointed to the door right behind the love of his life. He had to avert his gaze from him; he couldn’t look at him anymore. Colin was gazing intently at him, he could feel it. Right before turning away, he saw the hurt in his eyes, overriding all the emotions behind his tears. He wasn’t sure if the hurt he saw was the reflection of his own feelings or not.
He felt insignificant, trying to find a reason to beg for him to stay and finding none. He had done everything wrong and even if he couldn’t understand it completely, he knew it was his fault and his fault alone.
All those fights had led them here. Turning back was not an option now.
There he was, right in front of him, the light of his past three years and a half… but Bradley had to do it. He whispered one word without a tinge of remorse, knowing full well that he was the reason this situation had come to pass.
“The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only.”
Five years earlier
Walking down the aisle when he was four years old had been easier. He had been an apprentice altar boy then and he had been terrified to walk behind Father Reid. But then again, he had been next to other three apprentices, and behind two older, experienced altar boys.
He could still remember the pungent smell of incense that made his eyes water. The Christ was looming slowing before him, behind the back of Father Reid and the taller altar boys, and on his four year old mind he found him frightening.
It’s curious how we associate certain things in our pasts with our present. But, after all, it had been easier to walk down the aisle back then.
Right now, Colin’s legs were trembling, his hands were sweaty and he was pretty sure his grasp on the script was going to leave serious paper cuts later. Before him, a short corridor with white washed walls extended, ending in a brown plain door. Surely, not as terrifying as the crucified Christ illuminated from below by tall candles.
“This is definitely more terrifying” whispered Colin to himself, clutching the script against his chest.
He breathed. In, out. And in and out again.
It was the chance of a lifetime and this was the beginning… or the end. No pressure, just the last decisive audition that could change his life forever. He had been called here, that had to mean something. They hay liked his tape, they had liked his curriculum, they had liked his face and he was aware that it was not a splendidly handsome face, just a plain one. They had liked the first two auditions. It had to mean something.
He took a deep breath, the fifth one to be exact, and took the first step towards the door.
It takes more courage to take a first step, than to climb back up the abyss, was his last thought as he opened the door and smiled.
Two hours later, he closed that same door behind him and dropped the smile in disbelief, only to lift it up again two seconds later. He was out of himself, out of this world and into a world of possibilities. New doors, new adventures, new life.
He was so deep into his own happiness that it took him ten seconds to realize he was still smiling like a maniac and he was face to face with a man.
He blinked and took a second to look over the man. He was looking at him quizzically, almost worried; he had a script on his hands and a mobile phone on the other. He had blonde hair and a slightly petulant – no, more like childishly laid back – countenance. He couldn’t help but notice that the man had to be a sport type of man. He had strong legs and square shoulders.
It took Colin one second to check all these points, but when he met the man’s gaze he forgot about it all. He had blue eyes, but not the kind of blue he expected. It was a metamorphic blue. Neither azure, nor cyan. He couldn’t quite find a shade for that color. And he had a kind gaze, almost like a child, but not entirely. For a moment he could see that kindness, but only for a moment. Suddenly, it transformed and became a cold arrogant stare. He looked away embarrassed, aware of the fact that this person was judging him.
He had always found it important to notice a person’s gaze on a first meeting. His mother had scolded him as a child for it, saying that it was rude to stare into a stranger’s eyes for no reason. Eight year old Colin had answered with a line he had read on one of his father’s books: “By meeting gazes instead of glances, strangers become acquaintances, enemies become friends and romantic spirits become lovers”. In this case, he couldn’t quite classify this stranger’s gaze in any of these options.
“Excuse me, I have an appointment with the producers”, said the man suddenly, raising his eyebrows and pointing nonchalantly at the door behind Colin.
“Oh, right, sorry”, answered Colin as he stepped aside, a slightly forced smile upon his lips. “Good luck with the audition”.
The man frowned and stared at Colin. No, more precisely, he stared at Colin’s mouth. For a second, Colin didn’t know what to do. Did he have something between his teeth? Let not that be the answer, because he had just had his final audition face to face with the producers and he would die of embarrassment if he did.
No, the man was staring… almost confused. Like his mouth was a new found element in Earth. Colin was sure his mouth was not as different as any other mouth.
Before he had time to question the stranger’s gaze, the blonde walked passed him quickly and opened the door, disappearing behind it without so much as a “thanks”. Right before the door closed he was sure he heard him whisper “that’s not even English”.
Colin stood there for a moment, confused as to the meeting with this blonde man and his last words. He didn’t know if he had been rude in some way or if this guy was just an asshole. After a moment’s hesitation he realized it was the second option. Sure, the Northern Irish accent was, let’s say, different but it was not Russian.
He shrugged and smiled again after a moment. Not his problem anyway, that asshole wouldn’t change the fact that he did it. He was alone again on the corridor and he was ecstatic. He had to get out of there and call his parents, his brother, his friends and everyone on his contact list right now.
After all, not every day you get to boast of getting the lead role in the BBC’s next drama series.
As he walked towards the lift, recalling how he had nearly passed out next to it a couple of hours ago, a sudden realization hit him.
He was going to play Merlin. He was really going to play the mythical warlock of the books his father used to read to him on cold winter nights by the hearth. But he was not going to play an old man; he was going to be a young, naïve Merlin newly introduced to Camelot. And, as the producers had told him, they had almost everything arranged. The role of Prince Arthur had been cast and they reassured him it was the perfect man for the role. They explained to him the importance of the relationship between the two characters and the variations on the myths. They told him about the “banter” aspect, the comedy side of the show.
He was excited, very excited. He couldn’t wait to meet his soon-to-be coworker and talk about all the aspects of the characters and their relationship.
It had potential, this show was going to be great, and he knew he could do it.
As he pressed the lift button to the lobby, a second realization hit him. He remembered all those illustrations his father showed him, and that movie he had watched growing up. Merlin in the pointy hat on a cartoon version, next to a boy with blonde hair.
Suddenly, right before the doors of the lift closed, he heard a sudden peal of laughter. Loud, easy going laughter coming at least from three persons behind the brown door. He could picture the producers sitting across the table from the man with the blonde hair, laughing easily.
As the doors clicked shut, he had to rest his head against the back wall of the lift as his mood changed for the umpteenth time in the last ten minutes.
He closed his eyes and sighed, suddenly realizing the obvious. He had just met the blonde asshole who appeared on his script under the title of “Prince Arthur”.