1‘If there was one good thing about this situation, it was that the red shirt would hide the bloodstains...’, Justin thought as he looked up into the mirror, bringing his trembling hand to his head to smooth his tousled hair. He uneasily glanced down at the numerous purple flowers that floated atop the light-pink toilet water. He swiped his sleeve across his face and wiped a trickle of blood from his mouth, and just as he expected, it soaked into the deep red cotton of his polo shirt. Justin bit his lip. It hurt him to think about what had happened. He simply couldn’t shake the thoughts from his mind. Nor could he accept it.
Ross was happy.
He’d finally gotten into a relationship with Michelle, and that was exactly what he’d wanted since his sophomore year.
He gasped and threw himself over the toilet bowl again, blood and violet petals falling into the water like graceful ballerinas, twirling and fluttering.
It hurt. Not just the pain of roots tangling themselves into his lungs and flower petals shredding his throat each time he coughed, but the deep pain of unrequited love.
He didn’t want to ruin it for Ross. Michelle was great, and Ross is happy with her. Justin would put Ross’ happiness before his own any day, he cared so much about him. That’s why he fell in love with him.
He tried his best to hide the bloodstained flowers, but eventually, it became too much of a burden to bear. And he finally bade his choice.
Justin ran a finger across the tender scar on his chest. He’d recently gotten the surgery to remove the flowers that had been growing in his lungs. He’d known all of the risks, and all of the consequences. He would never fall in love with Ross again. But he knew that it would be better for both of them, as much as the thoughts pained him.
He’d forgotten about the flower on his dresser.
A knock on his door brought him into reality.
For once in what felt like forever, he found that yelling did not cause much pain.
The door swung open and he was surprised to see Ross standing there. Ross stroked his beard and ran a large hand through his curly hair.
“Oh, hello Ro—“
“I’m sorry, dude. Are yo—“
“Hey, what’s this?”
All of the colour drained from Justin’s face as he noticed the other man, inspecting a withering flower. A violet, more specifically. Stained with blood.
Justin but his lip. It was now or never.
“It’s a flower.”
“Justin, I— Why didn’t you tell someone? Who made you feel this way?”
He shifted on the balls of his feet before he finally spoke up.
“It isn’t a problem anymore. I had the surgery to get them removed.”
The brown haired man looked away, making a futile attempt to hide his shaking hands and the tears forming in his eyes.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Ross repeated.
After a deep breath, Justin finally spoke up. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
“It was you.”
“You made me feel this way.”
Ross felt his heart shatter.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Because you were happy and I didn’t want to get between you and Michelle. I was afraid I’d mess things up, and I didn’t want to do that. I put your happiness before my own, because I loved you. But now...” his breath hitched.
“But now I’ll never be able to love you like that again.”
The bearded man felt his throat tighten. He put a hand on Justin’s shoulder, only for him to shrug it off.
“I’m sorry. I just want to be alone right now...”
Ross sat on the edge of his bed, still thinking about what had happened to Justin. He felt guilty. He knew that he hadn’t done anything wrong, but that didn’t stop the part of guilt in his chest.
He brought his hands to his mouth and gave a harsh, ragged cough. It was painful, too. He pulled his hand away and his eyes widened in horror. In his palm lay an orange poppy, and drops of crimson, as round and succulent as pomegranate seeds.
It was at that moment he realised; He was too late. He’d fallen in love too late.