I told him it didn’t matter, that nothing in his past could change my love for him. It’s the truth, of course; I would never blame him for mistakes made out of fear and confusion and loneliness. Everyone deserves their chance at happiness, or at least momentary peace, even if their methods are misguided. Besides, he has punished himself enough for the both of us all these years since, so what more could I ask? Still, like Tanim I find I can’t quite let the past stay where it belongs. Sometimes at night my thoughts dig through his old graves, unearthing skeletons better left to unmarked mounds. I never knew any of them, nor does he ever speak of specific liaisons, but my masochistic imagination covers those bones in muscle and flesh anyway. How many of them were there? How many nights did he spend in the arms of strangers? It’s a cruel game but I can’t help it and the scene unfolds whether I will it or not: my beloved tangled in another’s limbs, skin to skin, mouth to mouth, desperate to lose himself in the surrender of control to this hungry domination. His companion is nameless for individuality doesn’t matter here, only greedy hands and grazing teeth, possession and submission. It breaks my heart to watch yet I cannot cut the scene short and so it plays out to the inevitable end, to Tanim alone and empty once again, willingly used and cast aside, ecstasy cooling to disgusted guilt. I don’t need to fabricate that wounded shame in his eyes, at least; I’ve seen it enough times before, a shadow of loathing that never quite lifts. How can I ignore the scandals of his past when even he cannot banish their ghosts? When I have to face their mockery every time I meet his gaze?


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