'You would have understood me, had you waited.'
Would she have understood if she had waited? She walked through the park, trying to gather her scattered thoughts and emotions. She had believed she knew him so well. She had thought she could guess his reaction and response to any event. She had loved the safe feeling that he was predictable, that he would never shock her. She hadn't expected him to do or think anything unusual. Others might feel that he was boring and unexciting, but she liked his lack of imagination, his ordinariness, his undemanding friendship.
They had not known each other very long, a matter of months. She grimaced, thinking now that they hadn't actually known each other at all. Now she knew she had constructed too much on their relationship, been too eager to encourage greater intimacy. That had always been one of her problems and it had become less easy to ignore as she grew older. Many, though not all, of her friends were married and some had babies. 'Biological clock ticking' her sister always joked whenever she excitedly mentioned a new man in her life. Every time she grinned unconvincingly and wished her sister, with her wonderful husband and three delightful children, elsewhere.
This time it really had seemed that he was 'Her One And Only', her 'Mr Right', her 'Prince Charming'. Thinking in clichés for a few seconds had taken her mind off her situation but the wrenching in her guts, the awful sick feeling that takes away appetite and hope at the same time had returned. She was – what? How did she feel? It was a mixture of loss, sadness and contempt that she felt. She had been betrayed, deceived and humiliated. Deep down, though, she knew she was being unfair. He had tried so many times to tell her. She remembered the instances – over coffee one morning, during an afternoon stroll by the river, drinking cocktails in a smart bar. There were other times as well but on each occasion he had looked straight at her, cleared his throat and started, 'I need to tell you something,' and every time she had interrupted in her eagerness to prolong the happy moment. Once she had said, 'I must tell you something, too – I've never felt happier than I am with you.' Another day she had put her fingers to his lips and smiled sweetly, whispering, 'Not now – tell me later.'
The last time, two days ago, he had changed his words slightly. 'I wanted to ask you . . . ' but before he could finish she had gasped, her eyes had filled with tears and she had murmured, 'Oh, yes please!' thinking that at last wedding bells would ring for her. He looked at her and shook his head slightly. She gazed rapturously at him, thinking how much she loved him. He stared back and said, 'I'm not who you think I am.' She had laughed and said, 'Of course you are . . . 'then paused as a thought occurred to her. 'You're not already married are you? Are you waiting for your divorce? It doesn't matter, we can wait.'
He said slowly, 'No, I'm not married or getting divorced.'
'Well, then what?' she asked. 'Is there a problem?' She was beginning to feel uneasy for he wore such a strange expression.
'I value our friendship.' She winced at this. 'You're a warm and loving woman and I thought you would understand when I told you . . . ' He hesitated and she leant further forward, urging him on.
'I am in therapy, have been for some years.'
She had nodded impatiently at this. Going to a shrink was no news, nothing to get excited about. Hell, she'd even considered it herself once or twice. He was in therapy . . . what had he called it? SRT? She hadn't paid much attention, thinking it was something like STD and yet another reason for his reticence in the physical side of their relationship.
He had regarded her closely. 'Do you understand what I'm saying?'
A child hurtled past on a skateboard. How could life carry on so normally? As she considered the last few months she began to realise the assumptions she had made. He had never attempted to make love to her. She had thought that unusual but rather refreshing. He had never told her he loved her, though she had told him so many times. She had supposed he was too shy to say it and she had liked his bashfulness. He rarely kissed her unless on the cheek. That meant he truly respected her. There were other indicators. She had liked his smooth boyish skin and admired his beautifully manicured hands. His voice was soft and gentle, his demeanour self-effacing. He dressed impeccably in fine cloth and linen and enjoyed going shopping with her. He always complimented her on what she was wearing. He noticed when she wore a different scent and used sweet-smelling lotions. He discussed skin and hair care products with her. He talked of facials and massages. Many men appreciated such things. They didn't all have Sex Reassignment Therapy.
She stopped, aghast. How could she have been so unaware? So great was her desire to be part of a couple that she had built a fallacious liaison without observing or listening to the person she was with. She had really liked him too, as a friend, and now that was gone too.
'You would have understood me, had you waited,' he had said sadly.
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