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After Marcus

by Nell Iris

Ossian’s heart shattered when his husband Marcus died unexpectantly. He shut down, put his life on hold, and would’ve wasted away had it not been for his neighbor, Joar.
Joar was there when Ossian needed him, offered a friendly shoulder to cry on, convinced him to eat, and helped coax him back to the living.
Three years after the life altering event, Ossian starts seeing Joar in a different light, awakening feelings he thought was dead forever. But is Ossian ready to take the leap and open his heart to someone new? And does Joar feel the same?

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    • But after spending so much time with Joar, I’ve started noticing things. A trembling hand whenever he’ll touch me. A hoarseness to his voice. A lingering gaze. The way he’s gone above and beyond in his support, way beyond neighborly, or even friendly, kindness. Even I, as clueless as I am, can’t not notice clues like that.


    • He’s never said a word, never made a move. He’s just continued being steadfast and loyal, protective and supportive. And that’s probably why he’s the only person I could ever be interested in again, why I can’t stop thinking about that moment in the kitchen earlier, about the feelings Joar stirred to life inside me.


    • My body hasn’t reacted to anyone since I lost my husband. For the longest time, I never wanted to be attracted to anyone ever again, and as time passed, I thought I couldn’t. But lately, a flutter in my stomach I haven’t felt in ages has proved me wrong. A tender warmth filling my chest. A twinge in my balls and a desire to touch. To be close to someone.


    • No, not someone. Close to Joar.


    • At first, I tried to push it away, feeling like the innocent emotions would make me disloyal, would brand me a cheater, but I can’t ignore them anymore.


    • I don’t want to ignore them. But what do I do?

What are you afraid of, Ossian?

    • “Shut up. I’m not afraid,” I tell Marcus’s imaginary voice in my head.


    • The urge to talk to him is overwhelming, so I grab my glasses and jump out of bed, get dressed in warm clothing, head out to the car, and drive to the cemetery. I don’t stop to think until I’ve parked at the gates and stepped out of the car, into the freezing winds, and slip on the icy ground. I manage to catch myself on the car before I fall.


    • “Fuck, Ossian,” I mutter, “one day your impulsivity will kill you.”

Don’t be a drama queen. But you’re right; that was supremely irresponsible of you.

    • “Supremely irresponsible, my ass. Stop talking to me in my head. You’re not real, just the imagination of my sleep-deprived mind.” I collapse against the car, shoulders slumped and shaking, hiding my face behind gloved hands.


    • I don’t like driving in the dark -- my myopia makes it hard for me to see properly -- and I especially don’t like driving on icy roads. And as on cue, more snowflakes start pouring down from the sky, dotting me with white flecks, as though the universe is mocking me for my stupidity. I shake my hands, my arms, my head, shaking off the snow like I’m a dog trying to shake off water after a bath, but it doesn’t help. Instead, the snow increases, and I have to hurry, or I’ll be stuck here for the rest of the night.


    • My feet know the way to Marcus’s grave without any input from my mind; I’ve walked the path many, many times. It’s not my first nightly visit, even if I haven’t been here at this hour for a long time, and definitely not in December when the temperatures are freezing and with snow sprinkled on my glasses. Someone shoveled the walkways earlier, but if anyone’s been here before me, their footprints are long covered by freshly fallen snow.


    • I slip several times, barely managing to stay on my feet, and it’s a relief to finally sink onto my knees on the icy cold ground when I reach my destination. The headstone is partially covered with snow, and I sweep it away with my gloved hand until I can read the inscription.

Marcus Nyman 1972 – 2018. Beloved husband.

    • “Hey you,” I say, caressing the headstone, knowing he’d be so pissed off at me for driving on a pitch-black December night and in such awful weather conditions.

What’s so important you need to risk your fucking life?

    • “You.”

A dead guy is never more important than your life, precious.

    • Precious. He never used endearments unless he was being ironic or upset at me for some reason.


    • “I needed to talk to you.”


    • His imaginary voice in my mind is right, though. I was irresponsible driving here, barely paying attention, after not sleeping at all. I’m lucky I managed in one piece.


    • It’s past four in the morning and the winds have picked up, sneaking underneath my clothing, whirling the falling snow around me until it finds its way into my ears, underneath my scarf, attacking me from every direction. I need to stand up right now and leave, or I won’t be able to drive home.


    But I remain in my spot, needing to be close to him.



About the Author

Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along at the top of her voice but she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, bullet journals, poetry, wine, coffee-flavored kisses, and fika (a Swedish cultural thing involving coffee and pastry!)

Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.

Nell is a bisexual Swedish woman married to the love of her life, a proud mama of a grown daughter, and is approaching 50 faster than she’d like. She lives in the south of Sweden where she spends her days thinking up stories about people falling in love. After dreaming about being a writer for most of her life, she finally was in a place where she could pursue her dream and released her first book in 2017.

Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angsty, short over long, and quirky characters over alpha males.