Victorian London is a difficult place to be when you are gay, as Henry and Gabriel know all too well.
When they were young at Oxford University, Henry and Gabriel’s love burned hot and bright, and they thought to change the world together until a devastating tragedy ripped them apart.
Now, as youth fades away, Henry can no longer stand to see his own reflection in the mirror. All he sees is a sad, tired old man whose body has betrayed him. He craves the touch of another, to feel attractive and vital once more but his obsession with finding a cure for insanity has stolen his life away, and now his work has taken on a dark and sinister dimension. How far will he go to recapture the passion of his lost youth?
Gabriel fears that Henry is losing his mind, and when a brutal killer invades their lives, they are thrust into the dark depths of Victorian London in a fight for their very lives.
As their friendship is tested to its limits, Gabriel cannot help but wonder if there is still a chance for love. Can they move beyond the friendship that has spanned over thirty years and find the love that once made their hearts beat as one?
You may never be too old to find love, but will you be able to survive it?
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Mirror, mirror here I stand, who is the fairest in the land? In some other life, I would like to think the answer would be me.
In some other life.
Age is such a cruel creature. It saps one of all vitality and drains a beauty once perceived from the very nucleus of one’s skin.
The fire burns so hot and high in the hearth, and tonight it is the only light by which I may dare to look upon myself. As I gaze into the mirror, as I see the decrepit thing looking back at me, the other me, the man who is, not the man who wants to be, it is all that I may bear.
I am lost in the darkness of a life I once had, of a youth taken before its time.
Time. The destroyer of beauty. The destroyer of men.
Look at me, sitting here, staring inside of me.
Look at me, sitting here, hating the sight of me.
Once, some thirty odd years ago, I could look in the mirror and see the sun rising, a beautiful golden morning of a radiance revealed. Now there is but darkness and the endless night of wanting.
If I could reach into the mirror, to the time-scarred man within and pull out that which I see...that which I imagine seeing...then I could guide him back into the light of this world. My youth recaptured in the glory of its moment, my life again with all the knowledge I now possess. For I am a man much wiser than the innocent youth now lost, and I am all the better for it. Could I not make that younger me such a man?
How I loathe the shape of my body, the roundness that now characterises my frame. It is a far cry from the musculature of my adolescent years. My sedentary life has put paid to the curvature and tightness of my once boyish physique, as our working lives so often dictate in this most modern of worlds. The demands of my professional life leave little space for adequate exercise, though try as I might, my midlife condition renders my waistline a lost cause. No matter how I may try to modify my intake of food or rationalise the consumption of such pleasures as a carafe of wine during the evening, still my shape bloats out of all recognition.
Even the golden locks of hair that once adorned my proud head, now lay limp and thin, its lust for life dulled by the reduction of its numbers. How I loathe the sight of my own shiny scalp grinning through those unsatisfying golden strands, their lustre dulled with time and the ravages of an industrialised London atmosphere. No matter how I may position said strands across my head, and no matter the expense of the various concoctions I have used to thicken them and restore their vitality, it remains a shameful reminder of my deepening middle age. It is a failure in the design of the male species that the age of a man may be determined so easily by the quantity of hair on his head.
I should wish to do something about that.
I was once told, in the burgeoning blossom of my youth, that my eyes were the most beautiful things to behold, that they spoke of desire and passion, of happiness and abandonment. It was the most perfect complement, and I can remember it as though the words were spoken only yesterday, as such kind words are wanting to stay in the mind’s eye. Yet, the mirror does not lie. I see but the faded pools of a misspent youth gazing back at me from the silver coated glass, their blue the colour of faded winter skies rather than the fierce sapphire of desire. Yes, they speak of my intelligence, oh yes, for that, at least, is something that cannot fade, but only grow stronger with the passing of each year. They speak of my passions for learning, for the chemistry that gives us purpose and life, and yet they lack the glint of mischievousness they once possessed, that singular spark of life which made them so alive. They are as pale and insipid as the rest of me.
I am perhaps not the most attractive of men, though there have been those who have kindly said otherwise. Maybe once, when my figure bore the sculptural quality of those barely born, a momentary flicker of magnificence in a life destined for old age. Is that not the human condition? We are born, we burn bright for but a small portion of our lives before falling headlong into middle age which is in itself nothing more than a rehearsal for the old age beckoning at the door to claim your bones. Maybe twenty years of youth, thirty if one is fortunate before we plummet into the later part of our lives.
Too short. Our lives are but fleeting moments, stolen from time, merely glimpsed in an all too brief flash of youth.
What would we give to be able to hold onto that youth? Would I be a different man if I was more attractive? Happier, maybe, contented? Not so alone? As the years pile upon my carcase, I find the need for companionship all the more pressing, and yet, the mirror tells me that such a thing may never now be possible, as does the society in which I exist.
It is my own fault. For too long, I have consumed my life with those chemistries that bind this world together, rather than the chemistry that binds two men, and while I hide my desires from an unsuspecting world, I see it staring back at me with ever increasing force. While life and vivacity drain with the passing of each year, I find that my need for companionship increases, both in the beating of my heart and the stirring of my manhood. How many nights have I sat before this mirror self-flagellating? My hand is the only lover that I know, and while the release may be welcome and explosive, it is but a fleeting, transient proclamation of my miserable failure.
I crave more than the comfort of my palm against my raging sexuality. To feel the warmth of a man in my arms, to see his eyes open next to me in the waking hours is almost too much for me to hope. Have I left it too late to find such companionship? Have I put purpose before personal gain, and thus lost the opportunity for love? I have hidden the shame of myself from the world for so long that I have inadvertently hidden it from myself so that I no longer know my own feelings. I am as indifferent to the world as the world is to me, and my outward facade is all the plainer for it.
The need within me is so cautious, and now I find that I must listen all the more intently in order to hear it. I try to hold it close to me, to nurture that spark which has seen fit to visit me so late in life before life itself decides to pass me by. I see the man inside me, the other man, the better man. The more attractive man. He is so full of confidence, so full of life, so full of all the qualities that prevent me from finding such companionship, and I find more and more that I wish to be that man, the man inside me.
I will find the answer. Now that I see him, now that his smile creases the corners of my thin insipid lips, I will never lose him, of this, he has my word. For the man inside is me, and I will find some way to set him free. This much I promise, and I will hold him dear to me until the day that I die.
Mirror, mirror don’t you see? What you show is ruining me.