he smiled when he tasted the poison.
she put it in the wine, he knew. she, who was once his fiancé.
how long, how long ago was that? now she stared at him with a mixture of hatred, pain, anger, and hurt betrayal in her eyes. now she sat beside another man.
he resented her not, for it was all his own doing.
once, they had been a happy young couple, envied and admired by many, for they were perfect together in every way. he was young, strong, and handsome, while she had beauty, grace, and nobility. they had grown up together as children, the engagement a parental decision, and their future marriage-to-be was a widely known and accepted fact.
so who was the man that sat next to her now?
a friend of his. a foreign friend, who had saved his life many times over when he was abroad. really, he owed this friend more than he can ever repay.
this friend knew nothing of their engagement, and when he first came, so long ago, he fell in love with her at first sight. so lovesick was he, in fact, that he fell ill and took to the bed. the boy, naturally, was very worried for him, and eventually, after much talking and coaxing, drew the secret from him.
the poor boy was dumbfounded. and he saw, as they talked, that if ever this friend found out about their engagement that would be the end of it. he would never recover from his “illness.” and he owed this friend so much...
so, he made a painful decision.
he left home, and wasted away gambling and gaming, spending heaps of money on useless sums, ‘til his family disowned him and the engagement was called off. he flirted with countless women in front of her, acting as if he enjoyed himself immensely. he did all he could to make her hate him, and break her heart. it was not a difficult task, for who knew her better than him?
she proved more stubborn than he thought, and cried and pleaded and begged until his heart shattered as well. for she had known him long, and this change came about so suddenly that she could not believe it true. and so it wasn't, but he let not a trace of it show on his face, convinced that his actions were for the better. hardening his heart, he brutally forced her away from him. away, that she might go and find comfort elsewhere. she fled, weeping, not understanding, and never saw how he grieved when he was alone.
eventually, his plan succeeded. she left him for the better man. the one who truly loved her and would do anything for her sake. the first engagement was null and void, and she was engaged for a second time.
...and his friend recovered from the illness.
of course, the boy still loved her. and as much as he was glad to see his matchmaking complete, it hurt him deep down more than anyone could know. he just hoped that she would forget about him and truly love the other man. (or at least, convinced himself to hope that.) he hoped they would be happy together. and he tried his best to convince himself that he could do likewise, that someday he may forget about her.
he forgot that some scars never heal.
when he saw that everything seemed to have gone as planned, he made-believe to himself that he was relieved, by repeatedly telling himself that it was for the best. from the beginning he had known this would happen, and had resolved to endure the pain. of course, deep down inside there was no way he could truly feel happiness at this. only a bitter trace of sadness and regret. but he repressed those feelings, and consoled himself by thinking about what he had done for his friend. for it had been a noble deed, yes, it had, and that was the only thing that sustained him as it was the one thing that could not be denied.
naturally, it was human nature that somewhere, deep down in the far corners of his mind, he wished fervently that he had never done any of this and left the friend to die and kept his girl, so he had not to suffer from this intolerable pain. but valiantly he repressed this as hard as he could, and forced himself to live in that constant torment.
then again, now that things were going the way they should, had he any reason left to live? in fact, suicide might be the best option. as long as he lived, he wasn't sure what might happen. because, when you have done such a deed as he, and made the world hate you for what you are when you really aren't, it is immensely hard to keep to yourself and resist the desire to tell someone, anyone, that you have been wronged. yet that would defy the point, for he had set himself up precisely to be wronged. it would ruin everything. but, to keep everything, EVERYTHING all to yourself so that no one may know even after your death how much you had done for the sake of your friend... oh, it's difficult. there is always the secret desire that someone could accidentally find out. the boy felt this, and he knew it would be wise to seek death as soon as possible, so the temptation would be completely eliminated.
yet, he COULDN'T kill himself, for that would give the game away, which would be incredibly pointless. so, after much indecision, he returned to his home one last time (for he secretly wanted to see her one last time before he died).
there, with sly words and behavior, he drove her to kill him. it was not too difficult, for, as aforementioned, he knew her best. he also knew no one would blame her for his death, for his name was now a disgrace to speak of, and his killer might be praised but never punished.
so he smiled when he tasted the poison.
and drained the glass.
ah, but he had miscalculated. his friend was not a rock. nay, he was a fairly perceptive human being, and he’s had his own suspicions for a long time now, even as he lamented for the downfall of his friend. and right then, when he saw the look in her eyes and the smile on his lips, everything came crystal clear to him. and for a split second he was rooted to the spot, unable to move, for it is a terrible feeling when you realize that your fiancé doesn’t love you half as much as she hates another.
the boy had still been able to grasp onto the fact that he had done all this, nobly, for a friend. it gave him at least a weak sense of superiority, and it was all that sustained him. but what of the friend?
how terrible does it feel, to discover that EVERYTHING you possess had been given to you in such a way? your estate (for after they disowned the boy, they treated his friend like a second son and left to him their house and land), your life, even your love. and how does it feel, after realizing all of this, that your wife still loves the other? that no matter what, you can NEVER match him in her eyes?
it stabbed him, through and through. and he hated his benefactor for it, though he knew he shouldn't. and even as he jumped out of the seat, he caught a glimpse of shock and regret and hate and love and determination in his wife's eyes, eyes that didn't even give him a sidelong glance, and though he ran over to the boy he had a secret simmering desire that it would be too late, even though he knew he shouldn't.
and the boy saw this, and the poison had muddled up his thoughts and he was unable to repress everything that he had held back for so long. for though he had tried to be selfless, and suffer in silence for the sake of others, it is not in human nature to be so, and in the last moments before his death he saw that his friend knew the secret, and he saw in the girl's eyes that he had failed, that she still loved him and had never loved the other, and he knew it to be wrong but he could not hold back a small fleeting sensation of bitter glee and triumph. nay, he was unable to repress it for the poison was swiftly and surely killing him and taking his consciousness with it.
he died with the smile still lingering at his lips.