Henry and Jim
by J.M. Snyder
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A bittersweet short story about a lifetime love affair. Henry and Jim have spent a life in love, from the very first date arranged by Henry's sister, through the rocky times they worked to make ends meet, and into their twilight years.
Old men now, Henry reminisces about the love they've shared as he learns to cope with Jim's fading memory and his own fear of being forgotten by the only man he's ever loved.
NOTE: This story appears in the anthology Best Gay Romance 2008 (Cleis Press) and is contracted to appear in the upcoming anthology, Best Gay Stories 2009 (Lethe Press). It was previously available only in the U.S. through Amazon.com's Amazon Shorts program.
Two seats, a dime apiece, and Jim chose one of the last rows in the back of the theater, away from the shrieking kids that threw popcorn and candy at the screen. He waited until I sat down, then plopped into the seat beside mine, his arm draped casually over the armrest and half in my lap. "Do you bring Betty here?" I asked, shifting away from him. Better to bring my sister up like a shield between us in the drowsy heat and close darkness of the theater to remind me why I was there. Betty trusted me with her latest beau, even if I didn't trust myself.
Jim shrugged, uninterested. As the lights dimmed and the film began, he crossed his legs, then slid down a bit in the seat, let his legs spread apart until the ankle rested on his knee. His leg shook with nervous energy, jostling the seat in front of him and moving at the edges of my vision, an annoying habit, distracting, and when I couldn't stand it any longer, I put my hand on his knee to stop it. As if he had been waiting for me to make the first move, Jim snatched my hand in both of his, threaded his fingers through mine, and pulled my arm into his lap. "Jim," I whispered with a slight tug, but he didn't seem to hear me and didn't release my hand. I tried again -- he just held on tighter, refused to acknowledge that I wanted him to let go. Leaning closer so I wouldn't have to raise my voice, I tried again. "Jim --"
He turned and mashed his lips against mine in a damp, feverish kiss. I shouldn't -- my mind started, then I can't, then Betty. Then his tongue licked into me, softer than I had imagined and so much sweeter than a man had the right to be, and I stopped thinking altogether. I was a whirl of sensation and every touch, every breath, every part of my world was replaced with Jim. Betty isn't getting him back; that was my last coherent thought before I stopped fighting him and gave in.
Later that evening, my sister was waiting when I got home. "Well?" she wanted to know.
I shrugged to avoid meeting her steady gaze. "Do you really think he's right for you?"
"Me?" she asked with a laugh. "Not at all. But Henry, isn't he just perfect for you?"
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