Top Mark - Graeme Aitken This review can be found at The Armchair Reader. Spoilers ahead!

3.5 stars

This was an intriguing short story. It contains all those elements that I refuse to read. Open relationship, cheating, bittersweet ending? Check, check, check! Honestly, I was shocked I liked this one and in a way, I still don’t, but I think that’s just my natural rejection of those plot elements. I can’t deny, however, that once I started I had to figure out how it all happened.

This book holds a lot of punch for a short story. It starts off by introducing the couple, Mark and Mark. They differentiate the guys by giving nicknames. Marx, is the younger, initially less experienced Mark. While Top Mark is the older, experienced Mark. Over time, Marx gets frustrated with his lack of experience and explores on his own at the blessing of Top Mark. The story, however, is told from Top Mark’s (just Mark for this review) POV. It tells of his reaction to the way their seven year relationship has progressed and ultimately declined. It tells of his realization that something isn’t right, how he figures out some startling revelations of Marx and finally gets to the point where Mark has irreparably damaged the relationship to the point of no return.

This isn’t a hearts and roses type of story. It’s raw and powerful and captivating in a way that you’re hoping it gets better but also dreading the moment you realize it won’t. In a way, you sympathize with Mark because the man gets dumped by a cowardly douche bag. But then while you’re reading, you realize that while Marx grew distant, it’s very likely he did so because he didn’t want a relationship with himself. That’s exactly what happened, in my opinion. Marx changed in attitude and appearance and as he changed, Mark changed to match except Mark was no longer the sexy confident man. He became a domesticated, almost needy man. So, while I felt bad for Mark and hated Marx, I slightly understood why Marx wanted to leave. But I still hated Marx. No one deserves to get strung along and then dumped with not even a ‘See ya later’.

Either way, this story was amazing in the self-reflection it told about. Mark had his life changed and now he’s back to ground zero after giving his heart to a man that he thought would be his forever. It’s real and raw and touching. It’s something I don’t read often but I’m glad I picked this up because it shows that things aren’t always perfect and that sometimes you do have to start from scratch after getting all your preconceptions about a content life shattered into pieces.

My only reservation about the story was the ending. While I can handle the bittersweet ending because of its realism, it just ended. The last scene, after Mark figures out Marx has taken all his things, someone is banging on the door. But who you ask? I don’t know because it ends right before he opens the door. Can I get a nooooooooooooooooooo here?! I was devastated to say the least.

I would desperately love a sequel. Knowing who’s on the other side of the door would be lovely but also Mark getting a little bit of happiness would be even better. Maybe a little cheering up from his best friend, Sydney, is in order here. ;)

Definitely recommended to those brave enough to read!