He’d had very big plans for himself and the rest of his country. There wasn’t supposed to have been any time to monkey around with silly little dames who had only offered to distract him from sooner accomplishing the goals that had taken root in his mind that horrific day he lay attenuated in his hospital bed; and the debilitating news of their defeat had fallen hard on his ears, shattering something inside him; that day he had decided….
Well. It didn’t matter now, did it? Not anymore.
There was hardly anything left of his Soldiers of the Reich and the little that still existed had been retreating for some weeks now. He had always admired their vivacity. But the end was quickly coming upon them and there was no longer anything that could be done. Something within him knew there hadn’t been for quite some time… he had not woken up this morning to have his exhausted and broken down reflection in the foggy mirror surprise him with news that he had lost; that he had failed.
No. Rather, that morning, while trapped within the gaze belonging to a pair of intense, vividly colored eyes that now lay in an unfamiliar and drained, pallid face—that stare being the only thing about him that had remained completely unchanged in spite of everything—he had somehow been knocked off his feet with the realization that his greatest defeat had not been on the battle field.
He had looked down at the gleaming gold band that now encircled his left ring finger and had been overwhelmed with an emotion he was unable to identify. If his memory was serving him correctly, which, admittedly, it rarely did anymore these days, there had only been one other time he had truly felt as though he were drowning in such a pure and unadulterated sensation. The tissue and blood vessels within his throat had then swelled and he found himself incapable of breathing, suffocating from the absolute magnitude of the situation he found himself in.
Even now, he was unable to keep himself from annexing unwarranted pleasures; even now, she continued to relinquish to him such decadence and sensuality with unrestrained zest.
He had glanced to the side, into the small conjoined bedroom where she had currently been preoccupied with selecting an outfit for the day, humming so contentedly to herself. She was so innocent and young and no less than delighted to simply be with him now. It cut into him deeply to see the glittering diamond on her finger that harmonized with the promise that was now strangling his own. The bands that said to the world they had made a solemn and momentous contract and that he would single-handedly be delivering unto her their shared demise which she would gladly accept and take part in.
Originally, when she had informed him with incontrovertible finality that she would never consent to living in a world without him—whether he ordered otherwise or not—and he had greedily and selfishly taken the opportunity to personally seal her fate with a tender kiss on the mouth in front of a group of stupefied staff members and officers, he had thought her devotion and adoration unparalleled.
Then she had turned around and had caught him observing her go about the small bedroom that they both pretended was only ever occupied by her but in actuality hardly ever was. She dropped the piece of clothing she had been holding within her dainty fingers onto the bed and had silently made her way over to him, holding his gaze all the way. She walked across the threshold and placed her warm hands onto his icy ones. The two regarded each other in the fragile stillness, their gazes drowning within the other’s, and he was acutely aware of the searing metal which now collared her to him for the short remainder of her life.
He’d known their end was coming and so had she. She simply hadn’t been aware of when it would be upon them and he had made sure it remained that way until the last possible second; until she had gone past the point of no return and was unable to do anything that might have gotten her back. She had only known when it was suddenly standing directly in front of her, ripping out her soul and pulling her down into oblivion without him.
But he knew she wouldn’t remain there for very long. Someone had sent him an angel and he’d be damned if he didn’t send her back to where she had hailed from. He supposed he was already damned no matter what he did or did not do, so what was, in comparison, a little more blood on his already drenched hands other than excruciating, self-inflicted torture? The only thing that had allowed him to keep his resolve was the relief that came with knowing he could then off himself. He didn’t have to stay and live without her… only for as long as it took him to put the barrel to his temple, the capsule in his mouth, bite down and pull the trigger.
Their story would hit its end.
He had been all too aware he had seized most of what was supposed to have been her natural lifetime. He was ashamed and had been tormented by this fact for many sleepless nights, most of which were spent lying next to and watching her tranquil and serene form as she dreamt deep into the morning. She would typically wake long after he had reached his limit and was forced to put some distance between himself and her. The blistering black guilt had morphed itself into a physical ailment now: a hot, acicular kind of thing that would slowly and relentlessly spread itself throughout his sternum like ink would on cloth. During the murky hours of the morning, when the feeling would once again awaken and begin to blossom like an obsidian flower within his decaying person, he would imagine a Stygian, toxic like substance spilling out from his heart, gradually traversing through his veins as it took hold of his entire being.
This was when he would be forced to look away from her ever delicate countenance and silently remove himself from the silk sheets of her bed. He did have a room of his own, which could be reached through a door that sat within one of the walls of her bedroom, but he would still be severely aware of how near her sleeping presence was beyond the single concrete structure. Only the open garden that sat above the underground maze they now found themselves trapped within like rats offered any temporary solace.
Standing out in the nipping open air, the dark flowering sky above him momentarily free from Russian bombers, he would always find himself being smothered by the haunting thoughts that loomed within of his mind, tainting and casting dense shadows over even his brightest, most intoxicating of memories. He never remained for very long. Reality was far too intense and nothing ever made sense to him.
He loved her. More than anything else he had come to hold dear in his blackened world. And he genuinely desired her to obey his final instructions and escape on the chartered plane he had had prepared for days to take her to South America, where she would remain safe, out of sight, and live out the rest of her life, if she so choose. But she had consistently, even vehemently, denied him and had chosen otherwise; and now that she was here, with him, when he was in such a precarious, unstable and battered state… now that she had already decided and was uncompromisingly dedicated to her decision of falling into the empire death with him, the shadow of his life’s work cloaking not only him but her as well for eternity, he was certain he would be unable to find it within him to let her go. She had looked into him and realized how completely alone he was; how broken he now felt; and had clearly seen how much he needed her—more than he ever had before—and that would ultimately be her own downfall.
He hated how dependent he’d become of her. To consciously understand he would be unable to do anything simply because he knew he really didn’t want to anymore was a raw, weeping wound, constantly being torn open again and again and again and again; and each time it ripped into him more painfully than the last cut had. She had expressed her desire and will to stay and he had suddenly found himself in the position of confronting a truth he had never wanted to bear: he now needed her just as much as she needed him, if not more so. In the end, her level of affection proved to be paralleled by his own, something she had set out to accomplish long ago and the price of achieving her dream had proven to be fatal.
It killed him to know he adored her; he deeply and undeniably loved her; and he needed and wanted her to hold his hand as he finally descended. When it arrived he wanted to look over and see her standing at his side: the same place she had firmly occupied for the past sixteen years, concrete in her resolve to maintain that position. No matter how much he advised her, how much he pleaded with her, how much he ordered her, how much he begged her, she never left. She never listened. She still wasn’t listening. She still wasn’t leaving.
This life had unblushingly taken everything from them. It had given them a false hope. It had delivered and sent him on a mission and had promised in return for his accomplishment everything they could dream of. A life together. He had been promised a victory and he had been lied to. He had been cheated and he had unwillingly cheated her and they had been cheated out of living out their lives madly and peacefully in love. They had been cheated out of everything.
So much time wasted. Had he been aware it would end like this, he would have married her years ago. He’d known since 1931 she was the one with whom he belonged, the one he would forever need the most. She was the only one for him. She was a dream he had never perceived he’d had, much less was entitled to. He’d been blind to her and he hadn’t ever fully grasped simply how bright she had always burned until she had told him she would stay.
There was only one thing left; one thing that was salvageable; one thing he absolutely wouldn’t allow life to rip out of their hands. He would hold onto this one until his fingers ached and blistered and bled and broke; and still he would never let go until it was permanently within her grasp, safe and irremovable.
They would depart this world under the same name. They would bind themselves together within the threads of history and this was something no one would ever possess the power to strip them of, a power that would never exist. They would never be amputated from the record of this world. The pages on which memories would fall from those who had lived during their time; the pages on which the past would be painted with the colors of this era for posterity; the pages that would be etched into the fabric of time, living perpetually behind everyone: this would be fact, this would be indisputable truth, this would be an image unalterable under any circumstances, untouchable by all arguments.
He would be slandered. His name would never be spoken without venom or written without shadow or read without malevolence. The world would create and offer a picture of him he knew would be ugly: hideous in appearance, grotesque in nature, grisly in composition.
He was aware that by finally taking her as his wife, she would always be in danger of being exposed to this same scrutiny and hate. He did not know how she would fare within the centuries that would follow their demise. But he had enough insight to know they would not be kind to her: they would rip into her and attempt to shred her to pieces until nothing remained but a skewed reflection shaded with his character and his own actions and decisions.
It was possible to save her from all this. Even if she still decided to kill herself with him, it would have been possible to keep her connection to him buried. That sincerely would have been best for her. But he was unable to bring himself to save her. He wouldn’t rob her of the thing she had waited and worked so ferociously for. He wouldn’t rob himself of the last dream he could build into reality.
His selfishness—unshakable even in the end—killed him. His inability to embody selflessness killed him. But the worst of it all: it killed him because he knew it would kill her too. She would be his only regrettable collateral damage.
And no matter how desperately he wished otherwise, the world would never see their story, their love, for what it was: a tragedy.
© 2015 Elizabeth Klarke