The Secret History
The Fatal Flaw - Chapter One
On the rare occasions when I’m not looking after my children I often wonder about those days when we killed a man - no, two men, and I wonder what on earth I did to deserve a life with three good sons with huge, toothy smiles. If anything, I should have been burdened with ugly children, or bad children, or something should have happened to me that was worse than being married and laboured down with kids, a fate that really isn’t that bad considering what happened to the rest of us. From an outsider looking in, it must seem as if I never really lived up to my potential, and chose to live a life that was handed to me without ever seeming to fight or reach for something better. But when you’ve watched the last trickles of life escape from someone you considered a friend, or been covered in blood and not remembering what happened, only knowing that there was flesh and a soul and the hazy feeling that you've achieved something in your life but also ruined so much that the achievement means little now. It’s true what they say about nostalgia, that it is a strange thing, because when I look back on those days I’m filled with an urge to go back to them, to relive them, to let them sink into my skin and into my bloodstream, to do it over again and not change a thing, to repeat the same actions and call them mistakes because that is what is required of me now.
My fondest memories of that time are of Henry, now dead, but even in life there was always a quality about him that made him seem somewhat absent - he was always there but never fully there. You felt his presence but he was detached. He existed in his own realm and sometimes he would let you cross into it, for a few moments, and then - nothing. And so when we started hanging out, after the first murder (I hate calling it that, but we have to be honest here) I formed an almost sick and perverse obsession with him. I wanted him to devour me, quite literally. I wanted him to possess me and forget that anything else existed. And the murder had changed Henry too. He was more awake in this life then he had ever been. (Afterward, Richard and I would comment on the fact that he seemed happier then than at any other point, happier than he had been with Julian and us). Henry encouraged my behaviour and was an active participant and that made me want him even more. Day by day, especially in the immediate time after the deed, we couldn’t keep our hands off one another. It was the knowing that we’d committed such a horrific act that made the both of us want one another more. There was something so primal, so urgent, so animalistic about our need for one another that we spent hours and hours without sleep and food, going at it, groaning and grunting and screaming with a disgusting animal like passion, eyes half open, rolling back in our heads, clawing at each other’s flesh, scratching, blood seeping gently out of our skins, the tenderness of the pain making me want him even more. I think Henry found himself, really found out who he was, after the murder, as if in the life previous to this, he didn’t really know, and didn’t care either. And whilst he was finding himself, I lost myself in him, I became a part of him, I was his slave and I loved every second. I should have been ashamed of myself - but was there anything to be ashamed of when you had killed a man, or two men?
It wasn’t until Henry’s suicide that I realised that the Henry before, was the real Henry, aloof and removed, and this new being was simply an apparition replacing the Henry we all knew and loved. It seemed to me, and to the rest of us, those of us who were paying attention, that Henry was the one who handled it the best - he was not day drinking like Richard, he was not losing his mind like Francis and Charles. He seemed fine. Sure, he seemed happier, but that was never a bad thing. Seeing him was a breath of fresh air, he walked with a light air around him and he embodied passion and scooped me into bundles of love. Everything was fine. Henry was fine. I was fine.
Then he killed himself.
The signs were all there. They were not the typical signs of someone who might be on the verge of suicide. Arguably, they were the exact opposite. I chide myself time and time again for not realising. For not noticing that he did not want to be alive. That he was as sick and tired as much as the rest of us were. That the loss of Bunny had hit him hard, harder than it had the rest of us. In those final days, I was the one closest to him. I was the one who he spent all his days with. And he took care of me. Saved me from Charles. I was his damsel in distress. I was his lover and friend.
But I did not save him. In fact, in those last moments, I thought he would hurt me. Oh my darling Henry, how wrong I was. How I hurt you. My love. My sweetest.
I suppose it’s best to start on that particular night, when we finally reached the stage of being able to perform the bacchanal. It seems appropriate since before then we were always trying and failing, trying and failing, trying and failing. The futile attempts leading up to the day that it happened seem bleak in comparison to the day it happened and the weeks following. The exhaustion of trying to achieve a completely subliminal state but never quite getting there was tiring both mentally and emotionally. Like the orgasms I faked with Charles, sighing and moaning and whimpering and holding my breath, until I could feel my chest ache and my eyes only seeing darkness and blackness, almost passing out and then letting myself breathe. A fake climax, all that build up, all that torture, all that relief when at last it was over and I almost fooled myself into believing I had been given the release I didn’t really want - but a release I needed, because I had been holding my breath, and he fell for it every time.
I’d like to say that I felt something was different on the night it happened, that I had seen some sort of sign, an omen of some sort, but that would make this so much easier to tell - something or someone to blame, to fault, other than ourselves. But this is no one’s fault - but our own.
As ordinarily as any other week begins, this one was no different. Well, for us. It was a Monday evening and we were all gathered around the big oak table, kneeling, and whispering, hushed voices and blushed cheeks. I was sitting next to Charles and his hand was absently stroking my thigh, Henry sat opposite me and I stared at him, my eyes boring holes into his forehead, my fists clenched at my thighs.
‘This is never going to work, Henry.’ said Francis, as he looked at Henry’s calm exterior. Henry didn’t say anything.
‘Seriously, Henry, let’s not bother anymore, I’m tired, I think we all are.’ This was Charles, and he was only saying this because he wanted to go to bed. Still Henry remained quiet. He was staring out of the window behind me. It was dark out and nothing to see for miles. The room glowed, the light from the chandelier glinting on the oak table and bouncing off into their eyes. It made their eyes look like they were on fire, a burning passion, like they were readying themselves for what would happen even if they were trying to find a way out of it as they spoke. I didn’t want to go to bed, I wanted to go ahead. Try again. One last time.
‘Is Bunny still in Commons?’ Henry spoke, at last, and I looked into his eyes. They seemed unreadable, which was usual, but he seemed tired, like he hadn't slept. Maybe he was having his headaches again, which wouldn’t be surprising especially with the lifestyle we had all been engaging in over the last few weeks. It was probably affecting Henry the most and I had an urge to go over to him and lay his head in my lap and stroke his hair. I admonished myself for having such a bizarre thought. Henry and I weren’t like that.