By: Jenny B.

Content Warning: This story includes brief mentions of gun violence and violence toward LGBTQ+ persons

I rolled over, wrapping my arms around Johnny’s middle. 

He shifted slightly. “Eddie?”

“Hmm?” I pressed a soft kiss to his shoulder.

“What time is it?” he murmured. 

“No idea,” I whispered back.

He shifted, halfway sitting up and pulling the alarm-clock towards him. “Shoot.” He yanked himself out of my arms.

I groaned. “Johnny…”

He pulled a shirt and pair of pants on, then ran a hand through his hair, looking down at me. “I know, Babe, I know. But I have to go to work.” He leaned down and lightly kissed me. “We can cuddle tonight, ‘kay?”

I nodded. “Okay. Be safe though.”

He chuckled. “I will. You take care of yourself.”

He hurried into the bathroom and I pulled the duvet over my head.

After he’d fully readied himself, we headed downstairs and into the kitchen. He shoved a slice of bread into the toaster as I cut up a banana. He wrapped his arms around my waist, resting his chin on my shoulder. I smiled, turning the radio on. The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" started to play.

Johnny chuckled. "I love you, Eddie."

"I love you too." I replied.

The toaster popped and he let go of me. He spread some peanut butter on his toast, as I began to pack his lunch. I looked up from the sandwich I had just placed in a plastic bag, to find Johnny staring at me. "What?"

He shrugged, looking away bashfully. "Are you going to be doing a show at the Chateau tonight?" I nodded. The Chateau was a little French place where my friend Pierre worked. It was known for the queer kind of crowd. I'd occasionally perform as a female impersonator there. "Are you coming?," I asked. 

"Always. But-" he hesitated, "would you sing a special song for me?"

"I mean, I'd have to ask Pierre, but I could probably talk him into it. What's your request?"

He smiled. "I've always loved it when you do that song in French."

I laughed. “You mean La Vie En Rose?”

“Yeah. That one. It’s always so enchanting when you sing it.”

“Oh, thank you.” I glanced at the clock. “You better get going now though.”

He got up and kissed me. “While I’m away, take care of yourself. It won’t be long till we’re in each other's arms again.”

That night, I put my make-up on in my dressing room, when Pierre knocked.

“Come in.” I answered.

He strode in, smiling. “Aw, Eddie. You look gorgeous, but then again, you always do.”

I smiled. “Thanks. And you’re looking nice tonight.”

“As if I don’t always.” He chuckled. “I thought you’d like to know that your boyfriend is in the audience.”

I powdered my nose with a pink blush. “I knew he would be.” I put my wig on. “How do I look?” I fluttered my false eyelashes.

He chuckled. “Always beautiful, you know it. Now, are you ready?”

I stood up, adjusting my dress. “Of course.”

We headed towards the stage. I took a deep breath, then approached the microphone. I began my first song, locking eyes with Johnny. He smiled, swaying along with the music. Once I’d finished the number, the crowd went wild.

“Now, I’d like to dedicate my next song to a very special man. He knows who he is.” I said in my most feminine voice. I sang that beautiful French song that Johnny had requested. 

When I’d finished, I stepped forward and pulled off my wig. Some of the crowd gasped, the rest chuckled and smiled. Then they all cheered. 

Johnny stood up, clapping. “That’s my man!” he cried, smiling.

Suddenly, the lights went out and the bang of a bullet echoed. Then the screaming began.

The lights returned and I searched for Johnny in the panicking crowd, but he was nowhere to be seen. Pierre grabbed me, pulling me backstage. “Go to your dressing room, lock the door.”

“But-” I stammered. “What-”

“NOW!” He shoved me towards the dressing rooms. “I’ll call the police. Go!”

I ran to my dressing room, my heart and head pounding violently. I swiftly locked the door and, for extra measure, put a chair in front of the door. Then the tears started. I didn’t know exactly why I was crying. Maybe because I’d never had that happen at a show before. 

It felt like hours before I heard a knock on my door. 

“Eddie, it’s me, Pierre. Can you let me in, hun?”

I moved the chair and unlocked the door. 

Pierre stood there with the police.

The next few minutes felt like a blur. They told me they had found the shooter, and he’d been arrested. Then they told me the bad news; Johnny had been shot. He was in the hospital and was in surgery.

Pierre drove me to the hospital and held my hand in the waiting room as we waited for any news.

“Edward Johnston?” A doctor approached.

I nodded. “That’s me.”

“Your.. er.. Friend, John Newberry is out of surgery. He’s requested your presence.”

I stood up. “Thank you so much, Doctor.”

“I’ll be here,” Pierre said. “Tell him I came.”

“I will. Thank you.” I followed the doctor to the hospital room where Johnny was.

He was pale, and his eyes were closed.

“Johnny!” I rushed to his side as his eyes fluttered open.

He smiled, though I could tell he was in pain. “Hey.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Well, between you and me, things can only get better.” He chuckled, then winced. 

I rubbed his arm. “Don’t strain yourself, babe.” I sighed. “I wish this had never happened.”

“Don’t wish it away. Don’t look at it like it’s forever. But while I’m away, take care of yourself. And it won’t be long till we’re together again.”

“What am I supposed to do without you?”

He shrugged. “Picture my face in your hands. Live for each second, without hesitation, and be your wonderful self.”

I laughed, smiling down at him.

“Never forget I’m your man, Eddie.” He grasped my hand. “I love you.”

I glanced around to make sure no one was looking, then leaned down and lightly kissed him.

Pierre drove me back to my apartment and stayed the night on the sofa. The next morning, Pierre cooked breakfast for us, then drove me to the hospital. I sat by Johnny’s side for as long as I could, holding his hand and gently kissing his knuckles and lips.

“You know,” Johnny said weakly. “I love you more than life itself.” He slowly closed his eyes.

“Johnny! Please don’t die on me. Not now, not yet.” Tears sprung up in my eyes.

He smiled. “I’m just resting my eyes, sweetheart. Don’t worry. Doctors say I’ve got about 60 more years.”

“Thank God.” I squeezed his hand. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Wait on me before you do anything too much.”

“I want so much to cuddle you.”

“Cry in the night if it helps.” He opened his eyes again. “You’ll be cuddling me soon.”

“Not soon enough.” I replied.

He recovered quickly and thankfully didn’t die from the gunshot wound. We spent the next few years in our apartment and adopted a few cats.

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