Τα βιβλία του Βαγγέλη Ραπτόπουλου

«Only Death Will Separate Us», a short story

Vangelis Raptopoulos

Only Death Will Separate Us
a long story made short

If we can’t determine the future, then why do we make promises?

«Only death will separate us, honey, only death!» said Iro, repeating Manolis’ words, and she squeezed him in her arms. Then came the sound of his drunken sigh and, finally, the kiss that sealed their reciprocal promise.

But do kisses always tell the truth? And what about words?

***

Manolis and Irο had met in the last year of High School and were madly in love. She hadn’t had any experience of the other sex; his experience was minimal. Yet perhaps it wasn’t their inexperience that accounted for the fact that they were so devoted, as if they’d been made for each other. Literally, they couldn’t bear to be even a moment apart, and when he had to study for his university entrance exams, Iro would go over to his home and keep him company. She herself had a gift for foreign languages and, as she already knew three fluently, she hoped to find work straight after school.

It was a period when they continually dreamed and made plans, though without reckoning ― as none of us do ― on the boss.

***

Iro was consumed with happiness. Whenever she was with Natassa, her best friend, she never stopped talking about Manolis.

«I’m so lacky. I can’t believe it. For me to meet someone who wants only me. And for always. And for me to want him more than anything else. Do you know what he’s always telling me?  Only death will separate us. Do you know anyone today who says things like that?»

«Listen, I don’t believe in such things. Perhaps I’m not romantic like you are, but I want to enjoy my life.   I can’t imagine myself with the same man all the time, and I think we’re too young for that kind of commitment. Besides, it’s all just words, and we’ve had more than our fill of words.»

Iro heard all that and felt sorry for her friend. If she were to find someone like Manolis, it was sure she’d change her mind.

But Natassa just shook her head as if to say: I’ve been where you’re at and where I am now is where you’re going to be.

***

Sometimes, life puts on a show of irony.

Around the time that Manolis was finishing his studies in chemistry, their relationship started to fall apart.  His promise that only death will separate us now seemed an incredibly heavy burden to him. It was only natural that they should have other relationships.

That’s what he said to her.

But it’s absurd! No, it’s unthinkable. He’s simply going through a crisis and it’ll pass.

My Manolis isn’t like all the others, she thought.

A few months later, he admitted that he’d been with Natassa. Iro left him automatically.

At the last moment, she’d thought of saying something sarcastic (Only death?), but fortunately she held herself back and didn’t say a word.

***

Some ten years later, they met again, by chance, at a wedding. At first, they were at a loss; she looked away from him straightaway, but, clearly moved, Manolis went up to her and kissed her.

«It might be us in their place», he said and suggested they get together soon afterwards.

Iro was hesitant, but recalled their saying, Only death will separate us. She considered it to be fate and gave in.

Two months later, they were living together. After three years, they separated again. This time out of love.

Though their relationship grew ever closer and acquired a weird depth, the problem had to do with her. Manolis wanted very much to have children, but Iro couldn’t.

After numerous attempts, doctors and whatever else anyone can imagine, one day she packed her things and left, leaving him the following note: «As I can’t give you a child, I won’t deprive you of one. Please don’t try to find me.»

***

Sometimes, life is sweeter than honey.

On the day of Iro’s forty-second birthday, an enormous bouquet of flowers arrived at her office. The card accompanying it read: «Only death will separate us.»  And below, as a postscript: «I’ll pass by your office at 5.00 to pick you up.»

He was waiting for her downstairs in the entrance to the office building of the multinational company. It was a different Manolis ― at least, so it seemed to her. He kissed her and begged her to cancel whatever plans she’d made for the evening, because he had a surprise for her. They didn’t exchange any other words. His earnestness didn’t allow her to refuse and, a few hours later, he asked her to marry him.

«I can’t live without you, I think of you continually, I’ve never stopped loving you all these years, you’re my whole life, nothing has any meaning if I can’t share it with you. Marry me! I’m telling you it’s the truth and I always meant it, even when I didn’t realise it: only death will separate us!»

***

They got married and lived happily, truly happily, for the next seventeen years till Manolis died of a stroke.

At the funeral, Iro kept thinking: Only death will separate us!

***

A year later, she died of a broken heart.

First published in «Ithaca» magazine, No 8,  March – April 2001


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