2nd Edition - re-edited and re-written, with additional and expanded scenes.
The Downe's Valentine's Day Masquerade Ball has been an annual event for over a hundred years and where, four years ago, Gabe met Mike. It's been over six months since Mike's death and Mike thinks that Gabe is ready to move on. How does Gabe know this? He receives a letter and a ticket to the ball, from Mike. Gabe isn't sure he'll ever be ready to move on, but in deference to Mike's memory, he attends the ball.
What Gabe doesn't know, is that his best friend, Tom, the one constant in his life since college, has also received a letter from Mike. Will Gabe be able to move forward and remember a long forgotten love, or will his world come crumbling down around his ears, again?
Behind the Mask is now available at Amazon HERE.
Here's Mike's letter to Gabe to whet your appetite...
Gabe, my beautiful, beautiful, Gabe,
First of all, don’t panic. You don’t need to put your head between your knees and kiss your arse goodbye, you’re not hallucinating. And no, this is not some sort of ‘P.S. I Love You’ kind of deal either—you’re not going to get a letter a month sending you off on little voyages of self-discovery. Take a breath, ‘cause this is a one off, gorgeous.
So, what shall we talk about? Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. It’s not like you haven’t heard it before, but I’ll say it again, anyway.
I love you.
I’ve loved you from the first moment I saw you, which is kind of crazy when you consider the night we met I couldn’t actually see your face. But one look into those eyes was all I needed and when you smiled, damn—I was a goner. I knew you were the one, you know what I mean? I had to have you and I didn’t care who I nutted out of the way to get to you. Luckily for me, you agreed to dinner and a movie. Not that I’d have given up if you’d said no. I’d have convinced you how fabulous I was eventually—and you know it.
We went to see that stupid indie movie which should have gone straight to DVD, it was so appalling, but we didn’t care. We sat in the back row like teenagers. I held your hand and you put your head on my shoulder. I have to confess, I could have watched a reading of the yellow pages that night and it would still have been the best first date ever! Of course, I had a lot more hair and a bit more muscle then, which is why I’m so glad I pinned you down before the chemo turned me into an extra from Dawn of the Dead. Sorry, bad joke, but you know me… I don’t know any good ones.
I wanted to say so many things, Gabe. To tell you, to try and explain to you how much you mean to me, but I’m having trouble finding the words. ‘Thank you’ and ‘I’m grateful,’ sound so pathetically inadequate. But that’s what I am. Thankful that you’re mine, that I’ve been able to wake up to your beautiful smile every morning for the last four years and thankful to have been loved by you. What was the other one? Oh yeah, grateful. I’m grateful for your support these last months, for standing by my side, and for holding my hand through this total shit-fest. You’ve been my strength and I couldn’t have made it this far without you.
I know we’ve said goodbye a thousand times already, in a thousand different ways. And I know we’ve talked about, you know, after, but what I never told you is how angry I am… with myself.
Angry for putting you through this… angry for leaving you… angry for not beating it like I promised… angry this happened to us. Just fucking angry. And I do mean us, because I know, although you can’t share my physical pain, I see the emotional heartache in your eyes every day, baby—and I’m so sorry for that. I only ever wanted to make you smile.
Jesus, there are so many things I wanted to show you, Gabe. So many places I wanted to take you, to share with you. I only hope, someday, you’ll experience some of those things yourself. Like climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower, or strolling down Las Ramblas in Barcelona, or flying in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon. And you really have to go Christmas shopping in New York. I wish I could be there to see your face when you look in Bloomingdale’s shop window. To see your mouth drop open and your eyes light up. But that’s where I’ve come to realise what a wonderful thing imagination can be. All I have to do is close my eyes and I can see you there, right now. The slack-jawed look on your face, the fairy lights picking out the gold flecks in your eyes as you stare up at Santa’s Grotto and the utter joy on your beautiful face.
Stop shaking your head. I haven’t lost my marbles completely. I’ve just learned to get in touch with my more creative side. What? You think you’re the only one who knows how to be a giant sap? Now where was I? Ah yes, Santa’s Grotto… as I was saying.
I guess I will be there in spirit. Because you’d better be carrying a little piece of me in your heart. As I’ll be carrying you with me, wherever it is I end up. Which will hopefully be the big men’s changing room in the sky *snort*.
I sent you off to Tesco a while ago under the pretence of a desperate craving for chocolate cheesecake. You’ll be back soon so I guess I need to get to the point.
It won’t be long now. I can feel it. But I’m not scared, which is weird because I thought I would be. But I know, when it comes, I’ll be in your arms and your beautiful face is the last thing I’ll see.
I know I’m getting the easy part, baby. My pain will stop. The one comfort I have to hold onto is that you won’t be alone. You have your parents, my parents, Sarah and, of course, Tom. I know their support will make it a little easier, but the grieving you’ll have to on your own.
So that’s what you should do—grieve. Cry, scream, yell. Whatever you need to do to get through it. People will understand. You don’t need to keep your upper lip stiff, let it out… that’s ok, you’ll need to do that.
But please, don’t drag it out, baby. I don’t want you to waste your life on some sort of misguided notion that you can’t love again. That all hope of a happy ever after will die with me. Your capacity to love is immense, Gabe, and shouldn’t be put away in a drawer—which is what you need to do with me. So grieve, but then dry your tears and move on. Live your life. And know I’ll be watching you, with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.
In this envelope you’ll find a ticket to the ball, Cinderella. Just think of me as your ghostly fairy godmother. Don’t pull that face. Downe Hall is where we met, and it’s the perfect place for this chapter of your life to end… and a new one to begin. Please go. Dress up, drink champagne, remember me for a while if you must but not for long. Then find yourself a gorgeous new Prince and ride off into the sunset.
I know you think I’m nuts, that my brain’s a lump of Swiss cheese, but after you’ve read this letter twenty or thirty times, you’ll know I’m right. Let’s face it, babe, I always am.
My hand’s starting to ache and my writing looks like a five-year-old has gone nuts with a biro, so I’m going to sign off now. If I don’t, I won’t be awake enough to eat that cheesecake you’re buying and my cover will be blown.
I love you, Gabe, always. Go to the ball and find your Prince Charming… it’s where I found mine.