“When we met you thought you fancied a girl who was like you.”
Her eyes grew round. “Were you only pretending to like girls ..?”
“Laura, you got it all wrong. I wasn’t pretending at all. I fell in love with you.”
By Kim Johns
I slowly pulled my lips away from Harry’s and gently slid my hands to his chest, pushing him slightly away from me. As he opened his eyes to look at me, his face vacant apart from a somewhat moonstruck expression that I took to be that of love’s young dream, I brought one knee up smartly between his legs, not hard enough to maim but with sufficient force to bring tears to his eyes.
I watched with detached interest as he leaned forward in a silent agony and swiftly clasped his smarting testicles with both hands, gasping as he opened his mouth widely to draw in sufficient air to breathe. For a few moments he looked a bit like a fish out of water.
Finally, as the pain abated, he looked at me with glazed, watery eyes, still leaning slightly forward and still clutching protectively at his wedding tackle.
“Why?” he managed to say.
This time a sneer did cross my lips. Miss Nasty Bastard was in full swing. “Did you really think your smooth fancy talk could make me overlook what you did to me?” I asked him. “You forget, Harry, I’ve seen you in action far too many times to be taken in by your honeyed tongue. I will truly be a female in time, but that doesn’t make me stupid. I don’t know what you thought you were up to by saying you fancied me, but it doesn’t work with this one, buster.”
“But it’s true,” he protested painfully, “I realised it didn’t matter that you were once John. I really love you, Kim!”
A fleeting doubt crossed my mind. Was he being, for once in his life, honest in what he was saying? I didn’t know, and decided I didn’t want to. Whatever his current motives, Harry had treated me more than shamefully and, despite our strong friendship in the past, his actions had put an end to any faint lingering feelings of comradeship I might have had for him.
I knew I could never trust him again, and I didn’t want to. If he did, truly, love me – Kim – then it was unrequited. I might go to my grave alone and unloved, but I would never accommodate a falsehood just for companionship. Harry had crossed an invisible line – and there was no crossing back.
Kim had finally grown up!
I looked contemptuously at his bent figure, turned away from him and returned to the bright lights and joyous atmosphere of my friends’ celebration.
Time passed, and to all intents and purposes I was Kim now. For almost two years I had slept, lived and breathed as Kim. I dressed in her favourite clothes. I was employed as Kim. The measure of my success was, I suppose, the fact that guys were forever asking me out, those at work and those I met at parties. I always said no. I didn’t know why, I suppose I thought that after the operation things would be different, so I played the waiting game, and was told by the various female acquaintances who were unaware of my true self that I must be a very cold fish to break so many hearts!
Those two years had sped by, and the day of my operation drew near. My mother almost had a fit organising things in readiness for my admittance, whilst strangely, I felt an odd sort of calm as the fateful day approached. I went into hospital with a numbed trepidation, although nothing now would alter my sense of purpose, and I knew I faced my ordeal with the full support of all my friends and family.
Lying in bed in hospital on that ominous morning, with my mother sitting anxiously at the bedside, my mind was in turmoil, my self-confidence at an all-time low. Was it too late to change my mind, and if not did I really want to? I had spent twenty-four months waiting for this very moment, enduring the ups and downs of my burgeoning womanhood against all the odds. Was it all worth it? Could I get up and walk away, still a man, and continue happily with my life where I had left off?
In my head, a battle royal was waging between John and Kim, the one puzzling whether to quit while he was still ahead and maintain the status quo, the other struggling to assert her undoubted femininity and break free from the long years she had endured in shackles.
My mother sensed my doubts, and squeezed my hand.
“Anytime you want to change your mind,” she told me, “Just let me know. I’ll have you out of this bed and out of this hospital faster than you can blink!”
I looked her in the eyes. “What shall I do, Mum?” I asked desperately.
She laid her head beside mine on the pillow and whispered softly in my ear. “I can’t tell you that,” she said. “All I know is, I’ll support you whatever. But the final decision is always going to be yours. Shall I leave you alone for a moment?”
I nodded, and she stood and drew the curtains around me. I heard the soft squeak of leather as she sat on the padded wooden visitor’s chair again, out of sight.
I pictured the last two years in my head, rolling the months forwards and backwards like a cinema film, reliving every moment, good and bad. What did I really want?
Behind me, a shaft of sunlight suddenly shone through the window, reflecting my shadow on the bed’s drab counterpane, warming my whole body, calming my turbulent mind, pointing me in what I finally realised was the only direction my heart wanted me to go.
The operation, with the backing of all the modern miracles of medical science, was a resounding success, and although I spent some time in post-op care and rehabilitation I soon found myself standing in the foyer of the hospital clutching my suitcase and waiting for my patient mother, discharged and finally returning home.
I was now, officially, Kim!
Everything gradually returned to normal over the next few months. I went back to work after my ‘illness’ and was told by everyone how well I now looked, and life continued its usual everyday running.
The only difference was that I was now ‘properly’ Kim, both physically and mentally, and although I had been living as her continuously over the previous twenty-four months, there was a subtle change at home. I don’t think my mother had really accepted that my decision was irreversible until the operation became an undeniable fact, and now it was over she treated me as her daughter in every way.
Socially, I had no shortage of friends. Jean and Barry were still my closest and oldest, but I had developed further friendships at my job, and through them and other outside interests, more relationships.
It may sound like bragging, but I was forever being asked out by the guys at work or who I came into contact with through my social connections. This really bolstered my own self-confidence, and I never regretted my decision to become my mother’s daughter.
Whilst I took advantage of the invitations, however, no serious relationship developed. I enjoyed the flirting, and I enjoyed the courting, but whether it was because I had once been of the same gender, I could never seem to wholeheartedly enter into a ‘couple’ situation with any of my amorous suitors, however much I liked them and enjoyed their company.
I guess it may have been the thought that, should a serious relationship be on the cards, I would have to be truthful about myself and my true origins. The fear of rejection loomed high in my thoughts.
Once or twice I even ventured between the sheets with a man I felt really comfortable with.
Bob was a great guy, someone I had met through work colleagues. He was handsome in a rugged sort of way, and ever the gentleman. He took me to a restaurant and wined and dined me, and we eventually ended up at his bachelor flat at the end of the evening.
I sat demurely on his settee while he poured me a drink and put an album on his state-of-the-art hi-fi system, a quiet, romantic record. Then he took my hands and I stood up, and we danced slowly around the dimly-lit room, close together, swaying easily in time to the music.
As the last notes of the music faded he wrapped his arms around me and kissed me passionately, and I realised that our musical meanderings had terminated in his bedroom.
I barely felt his gentle fingers unzipping my dress, or heard the soft sound as it slithered down my body to fold on the floor in a rustle of whispering silk. His hands caressed my breasts before lifting me onto the bed, where he quickly and efficiently divested me of, first, my bra, and then my panties, easing them down my body and over my feet with a suave expertise.
I was quivering with an excited anticipation as he kissed me again, until a sudden realisation exploded inside me. I was now fully female, and this was to be the first time a man would make love to me!
I felt my body tense with frightened apprehension, and Bob must have sensed my inhibition, for he began speaking to me soothingly in a low, calming voice, and stroking my naked body with gentle, warm hands. I willed myself to relax, and felt myself responding to his caresses. He stroked my breasts and the softness of my belly before playing tenderly with my new womanhood.
I sighed, and let my mind and body float. Bob raised himself above me and moved forward, and I felt his hardness against me. He then carefully entered me, and I automatically put my arms around his upper body to hold him close, while my legs enfolded his waist to ensure I enjoyed all of him.
He was a gentle lover, slow and kind, but after a few moments his whole body stiffened and he shuddered with release. Then he lay carefully on top of me and kissed me again before rolling to one side onto his back. Within moments I heard soft snores coming from his slightly parted lips.
I stared at the ceiling, examining my feelings. I was no longer a virgin, whatever that may have meant in my peculiar circumstances, but I couldn’t help but feel that there was something missing from the experience, some subtle absence that I couldn’t quite define. Love, perhaps?
I tossed these thoughts over and over in my mind, satisfied on one level but not on another, while he lay beside me sleeping, issuing gentle grunts and muttering from time to time.
After a few more civilised evenings Bob and I eventually went our own ways, with no ill-feeling, and remained friends.
Nick, on the other hand, was full of youthful energy, always looking for the next buzz. His was the world of the disco, and after a frenzied night’s dancing we returned to his small flat full of laughter and exuberance, and not a little alcohol, too.
No sooner had he kicked the front door shut behind us, however, than he pressed me against the wall and kissed me strongly and fiercely, his hands squeezing my breasts hard. I tried to remonstrate, but his mouth blocked my speech.
Then he pulled my dress up and my panties down, and forced himself between my legs, driving into me with a quick fury that made me feel like a French prostitute in a grimy Paris back alley.
Having speedily satisfied himself, he lurched drunkenly away from me, vanishing into his tiny hall toilet.
I rearranged my clothing and self-composure, and slipped silently out of the flat to the sound of his agonised one-way communication with God on the great white telephone. I knew we would never make it as an “item,” and in truth I never ran across him again.
Strangely, I found both experiences peculiarly enjoyable and exciting in their own different ways and I know I for one came away oddly satisfied from each encounter, kinky bitch that I am, but I never felt I had found that depth of feeling or commitment necessary for a more permanent relationship. In fact, I sometimes found myself feeling disgusted with myself for allowing these male animals to treat me as they had.
I came to the conclusion that perhaps I didn’t really know what I did want for myself, and maybe never would.
That is not to say I was unhappy, however. Whatever the viewpoint, I felt I had finally found and become the real me. Life could throw what it liked at me, I was now a ‘whole’ woman and happy with my chosen life. Whilst John was not forgotten, after all he was an integral part of my formative years, I had made my considered choice, and was satisfied.
As I say, life went on. Jean and Barry’s wedding loomed yet nearer.
It was Jean on the phone; she said the magic word: “Drinkies?”
We met at our favourite hostelry, and she came straight to the point.
“Sorry, Kim, it’s wedding talk I’m afraid!”
I made a face. “Can’t you talk about something else?”
“Nope! And this is serious chat. It’s not long to the big day, and there are still some things to be sorted out!”
“Well,” she looked at me thoughtfully, “Initially Barry and I had always marked you and Harry down as ushers whenever we’d spoken about it. As you know, his brother is going to be his best man.”
“Traditionally, ushers are always men…”
“So break with tradition. I don’t mind being an usher. I don’t even mind being one with Harry!”
I had run across Harry a couple of times since the engagement party. He seemed to have got the message pretty loudly and clearly, avoiding close proximity to me like the plague, although to give him his due he now always, very politely and cautiously, acknowledged my existence.
Jean laughed. “Well, tough! My brother’s going to do it now!”
“Oh.” I was beginning to feel left out, an onlooker on the periphery of the girl’s big day.
“There is another role to be filled,” she continued cautiously.
I raised my eyebrows.
“Well, we were wondering if you would be our second bridesmaid…”
My jaw dropped. This was something I’d never even dreamed of. My brain still sometimes had trouble sorting out the Kim/John thing, even though I was now all Kim.
“Say you will,” Jean urged me. “Mary’s going to be one, and I know you two get along fine. I want two bridesmaids, and I can’t think of a better person!”
“Your sister,” I suggested, playing devil’s advocate.
“She’s told me in no uncertain terms that I will never get her following me down the aisle dressed like a Christmas Tree Fairy!”
“Is that what you want Mary and me to look like, then?”
“Of course not! I’ve got some very nice dresses in mind, but I do need you to say yes!”
I looked at her doubtfully. “Jeannie,” I said, “It’s a lovely thought, but don’t forget, this is your big day. You don’t want it spoiled by everyone flocking along to look at the freaky transsexual in the big dress.”
Giggling, Jean sipped her drink. “Don’t flatter yourself, kid,” she said, “I’ve already done an audit on this. All my family are keen for you to do it, Mary is keen for you to do it, and apart from your mum and Harry I don’t think there’s anyone else with the remotest idea of what you once were.”
“Can I think about it?”
“Sure; you’ve got two seconds; I really need to know now. One…”
I grinned suddenly as the thought took hold of me. “OK,” I told her. “Sold!”
She reached across the table and took my hand in hers. “Thanks, Kim,” she said. “I really appreciate it. I know you might find it a bit difficult, because people will be looking at you and at Mary, as well as me and Barry, but think of it as your big ‘coming out’ celebration!”
“That I won’t,” I said determinedly. “This is your wedding day, Jeannie. I wouldn’t spoil it for you for the world!”
She stood. “I know,” she said, and kissed me on the cheek. “I’ll call you and we’ll all meet up to look at the choices and arrange the fittings. Not long now!”
After she’d gone I sat quietly for a few minutes. Whilst the thought of being the just off-centre point of attraction was not a little frightening, I realised that this sort of thing came with my new territory. I was damned if a queasy stomach was going to put me off doing what other, normal(?) girls did with squeals of delight. Yet again, the die was cast.
The morning of the wedding was bright and clear, with the promise of sun in the afternoon. Nothing could have been more perfect!
Mary and I had stayed at Jean’s the previous night, and after a swift and very light breakfast our task was, first and foremost, to get her looking beautiful for her big church entrance.
Then, of course, we had to get ourselves ready, and off to the church before Jean and her father arrived there.
That morning was a mad whirl. With Jean’s mother and sister there were five of we women in an enclosed space endeavouring to look as if we had just stepped from the pages of ‘Bride’ magazine. I think it is to our credit that we managed it without squabbling, and remaining friends!
This, of course, was my first time getting dressed in a roomful of ‘real’ women, and a part of my mind had wondered how they would react to an ex-male in their midst as the removal and replacement of inner- and outer-wear took place.
In the event, they had taken no more notice of my state of undress than I had in theirs, and I soon got used to dashing from bathroom to bedroom to dressing table in my underwear, skilfully avoiding collision as they all managed the same hasty tasks!
I had chosen to wear a strapless lacy cream bra and matching thong beneath my dress, with cream lace-topped hold-ups. My hair, hanging loose to just below my shoulders, had a slight curl, and I wore it with the fringe brushed to one side. My make-up, whilst fairly minimal, I felt complemented my natural colouring, and my nails were coated with a clear pearl varnish.
The bridesmaid’s dresses were of a burgundy colour, and strapless, fitting closely around the body and into the waist, where the ankle length skirt flared gently out to float just above the ground. They were complemented by a matching stole and small beaded bag, and the piece-de-resistance was a gold-coloured sprig tiara over our hair.
Mary and I looked at each other and grinned appreciatively, before kissing each other on the cheek and dashing off to ensure that Jeannie was a) coping and b) looked twice as good as we both felt we did!
With seconds to spare Mary and I were bundled into a limousine and deposited at the church where we hovered anxiously, clutching our fresh bouquets.
I peeped through the slightly open doors of the church and saw a packed gathering. My heart skipped a beat as I realised I had to walk through the middle of the crowd in my finery. Although now a ‘real’ woman, I still had occasional worries that my features and build were more masculine than feminine, despite constant reassurance from those female acquaintances who were now privy to my secret.
Jean’s brother and Harry hovered just inside the entrance doors, in their role as ushers, presumably awaiting the last minute arrival of guests, and I spotted Barry and his brother standing nervously at the front of the church conversing with the officiating priest. Harry noticed me and offered me a tight smile, and I smiled freely back at him. We would never be close again, in any circumstance, but I wasn’t going to let Jean and Barry’s big day be spoiled by any acrimony on my part.
Then Jean and her father arrived in a flurry of white swirling skirts and petticoats, and Mary and I fussed around her making minute adjustments to her dress and veil that were totally unnecessary. The bride’s father winked at me slyly. Strangely, he had been one of the more supportive of the males who had been aware of my decision. I grinned back.
Then the organ music filled the huge establishment, Jean’s father offered her his arm, and they slowly marched down the aisle to the girl’s waiting groom, with Mary and me close behind.
Everything went without a hitch, and I breathed a sigh of relief as, with Mary beside me, we arrived with the blushing bride at the front of the church. Barry’s face was a picture when he saw Jean, and I knew then that all our efforts had been successful.
I had tunnel vision as we took that long walk down the aisle, wanting to avoid catching anyone’s eyes, still fearful that my presence might spoil the day, but that didn’t prevent me spotting my mother half-way down the church on the bride’s family’s side. She had told me she would be getting a taxi to the church, and whilst my full commitment had been for Jean I still had a small part of my mind worrying about her.
After the ceremony and photographs I sought out mum and steered her towards the bridesmaid’s car. “You’re riding with us,” I told her firmly. “I’m making sure you arrive at the reception safe and sound!”
Jean’s father had booked the reception at a large hotel about a mile from the church, exceedingly posh by all accounts.
My mother clung to my arm as we entered the hotel entrance, releasing it only as we deposited her coat in the cloakroom.
The function room inside was fairly large, huge glass chandeliers casting a bright light over everything, with tables set around a small dance floor that abutted a raised dais where the band would later play, and a board just inside the entrance door indicated at which table we were to sit. In front of the stage sat the top table. Small groups of people clustered around a bar area at one end of the room.
As we progressed through the throng I was conscious of the constant male attention. God, I thought, women must get fed up with men ogling them all the time! I’d only been really female for a short while, and already I was beginning to despise the shallow attitudes of my own (natural) sex.
By previous arrangement I sat with my mother at one of the smaller tables, still in my bridesmaid’s finery, which Mary and I had both agreed we would wear until the final guests had departed.
After the meal, which turned out to be a guessing game played around the huge amount of cutlery aligned at each place setting, and the usual cursory chatting with others at our table, the evening proper commenced. The lights around the dance floor dimmed and the queuing at the bar for drinks started in earnest.
While Barry and Jean were forced into the lonely ‘first dance,’ I left my mother chatting at the table, took my bag and went to collect appropriate beverages. By which, of course, I mean alcohol. To my surprise I was admitted immediately through the crowd and arrived at the bar in double quick time. In a dinner jacket and tuxedo as a guy I would have been hovering on the outskirts for days.
A sudden burst of laughter from one of the tables caused me to look round, curious as to the reason for the outburst.
A group of people was sitting a little way away, a man and woman of about my mother’s age, a young man in his mid-twenties and two girls of about my own age.
I looked twice at the guy. A younger version of Cary Grant, I thought. There’s just no-one on the screen nowadays to match the man. Though young, he even had a touch of distinguished grey around the temples. I envied whichever of the two girls he was squiring.
One of the girls, with shortish blonde hair, had her back to me. The other, with dark, long hair and very pretty, was leaning towards her with one hand on her arm, laughing delightedly, and it was obvious that the blonde girl was also laughing. It was a strangely intimate moment, and I looked away quickly, not wishing to intrude.
I returned to our table and deposited the drinks, and a live band commenced the evening’s entertainment.
I soon lost count of the number of times I had to refuse the offers of a dance with men who approached our table, although my mother repeatedly insisted I should take advantage of the invitations. I felt, however, that this evening was for her, and we chatted away as every mother and daughter do when alone together.
About half-way through the evening our conversation faltered as my mother looked up and behind me.
“Kim?” I heard a voice tentatively ask.
Turning in my seat I was confronted by Laura, doubt in her blue eyes and hesitation in her demeanour. She looked beautiful in an off-the-shoulder bottle-green gown that swept the floor, a small-stoned diamond necklace around her neck. Matching ear-rings sparkled in the half-light, which bounced attractively off her short golden hair.
“Laura! Hi!” I said weakly, and ridiculously stood up. Ridiculous because it was a typical male reaction and not something a woman would have done. However, no one seemed to notice, and I introduced the girl to my mother and pulled out a vacant chair for her.
“I wasn’t sure it was you when I saw you coming down the aisle with Mary,” Laura told me, sitting gracefully. “You’ve changed a lot in two years.” (More than you’d know, I commented mentally). “You look really nice. More than nice,” she added, and blushed.
My mother looked curiously from her to me and back again, obviously wondering about our history.
“Laura’s an old friend of Jean’s,” I explained. “I met her at a party.” I hoped my look explained everything, and as my mother nodded I felt sure she had remembered to which party I was referring. I realised I had never mentioned my encounter to anyone other than Jean and Harry.
“Where are you sitting?”
The girl pointed across the room to the group I had observed earlier. I gazed at Cary Grant and wondered whether I could wangle an introduction. The dark-haired girl was obviously Laura’s air-hostess.
“How did your move go?” Laura asked.
Shit. Mum was giving me another odd look, but Laura hadn’t seemed to notice.
“Ah, it fell through,” I said. “We’re still looking.” I made eye contact with mum, hoping she would cotton on to the mammoth lies I was telling. Her face wore a slightly puzzled expression and I realised that there was going to be a lot of explaining later on.
A pause as Laura gazed blankly at the drinks on the table. Then: “It’s been a long time. I thought you might have contacted me,” she said, cautiously, and with not a little embarrassment. I noticed a faint but attractive red flush appear at the back of her neck.
“I was going to,” I began, reaching inside for another lie, when I remembered what Jean had said to me. I suddenly realised that this girl had meant more to me than that, even though I had only met her on the one occasion, and that I couldn’t continue to lie to her and cause her more pain. I knew she would hate me for what I had to say, but I had been given a new beginning and I knew I didn’t want it to start with lies and deceit.
“Shit!” I said in a most unladylike manner, and both Laura and my mother looked at me, shocked.
“Sorry,” I said. “Sorry.” I took Laura’s hand. “I really need to speak to you,” I told her, standing up. I looked at my mother. “Sorry, mum, do you mind if we vanish for a bit?”
My mother shook her head, puzzled, curious, but accommodating. Laura rose, a small wrinkle furrowing her brow, and I led the way out of the room into the foyer. A number of other people were there, with drinks in their hands, conversing in low tones. They glanced up at our entrance, momentarily, incuriously.
I looked around, desperate for privacy, and noticed a glazed door angled in a small, almost invisible, corner. Through it I could see foliage. Experimentally I crossed to it and pushed it, and found it led to an enclosed courtyard surrounded by climbing plants and with a feebly trickling central fountain. I led Laura through.
We were alone.
“Kim,” began Laura, but I put my hand gently over her mouth.
“Laura,” I said firmly, and paused, collecting my thoughts. “Laura, I can’t lie anymore. I have to tell you the truth. I don’t want to, because I don’t want to hurt you…”
“You found another girl you liked better than me,” she finished for me listlessly, pulling her hand from mine, her eyes shining with tears. “I guessed as much. No wonder you didn’t phone me. I knew it would be something like that. How could I possibly have thought you could have cared for someone like me? And Jean…”
“It’s not that at all,” I said sharply, causing her to look at me with astonishment. “And Jean gave me hell for not getting in touch with you. I’ll never find another girl like you. I…”
I had to say it. “I loved you,” I said simply.
“Then why …”
“Oh, Laura, let me tell you the truth. I don’t want to hurt you, God knows, but you will be…”
Again she interrupted, her face flushed and tears rolling down her cheeks.
“You’ve realised you’re straight and you’ve found a boy-friend,” she finished for me again.
“Oh, shit, no! No!” This was not going well. “Laura, there’s no way to avoid it. I’ve got to tell you, however much it will hurt!”
Her eyes were wide, bright with her tears, staring earnestly at me. She was trembling, and I’ve never hated myself as much as I did then.
“Laura, a lot has happened over the last couple of years …”
She went to interrupt but I pressed my hand gently over her mouth again.
“When we met you thought you fancied a girl who was like you.”
Her eyes grew round. “Were you only pretending to like girls ..?”
“Laura, you got it all wrong. I wasn’t pretending at all. I fell in love with you.”
“No. I was not a girl. I was a boy. I thought you had found out I was a boy, and came into the garden to tell me how clever you’d been to unmask me.”
“Yes. I went to that damn party dressed as a girl for a bet!”
“You’re a boy?” She began edging cautiously away.
“Not any more,” I told her.
“Yes, I can see you’ve dressed up again …”
“Because I’m now a girl.”
She was now edging towards the door, her face a picture of worry and anxiety, and my impatience got the better of me. I took her firmly by the arm and sat her down at the edge of the fountain. The rainbow droplets from the water sprinkled over her hair and bare shoulders matching the diamonds about her neck, but she ignored them, looking at me with not a little fright.
As I explained at length the whole sorry story her face gradually relaxed, sympathy replacing anger and indignation. I left nothing out.
“So you see,” I concluded, “I’m now really a girl, just, and starting my life over.”
“And do you have a boy-friend?”
I smiled. “I’ve had a lot of offers, but somehow they’ve all left me cold. I heard you’d moved in with an air hostess. She’s very beautiful.”
“Your girl-friend.” I visualised the dark haired girl at the table. “With the long dark hair.”
She looked amused. “You must mean Becky. She was the air hostess. She had gorgeous chestnut hair. I stayed with her for about six months. It was good fun, but it didn’t work. We had our differences. I moved back with my parents ages ago.”
“Oh. Well I like the look of your new friend, then.”
Again the laughing look. “Rachel. I really love her. She’s a very, very good friend.”
I must have looked unaccountably sad, although I smiled at her happiness, for she laid a gentle hand on my arm. “Unfortunately she’s also very, very pregnant, and also very, very much in love with my brother. They got married a year ago.”
“The younger guy we’re with? The older man is obviously my father!” She was very patient with me as I took in her words.
Oh well, goodbye, Cary. “Ah. So, do you have anyone?”
“Not at the moment. I’m footloose and fancy free. Looking for Miss Right!”
Where had I heard that before?
“I wish you luck,” I said. “I have never forgotten that evening.”
She made a face. “You let me down.”
“Now you know why.”
“And did you really love me?”
“Of course I did. I never…”
I paused as the truth sank in. My heart had started hammering away at my rib-cage like a jack-hammer. The string section of an invisible orchestra played a soaring, swooping melody, and at the same time a celestial choir had begun to sing in accompaniment. The small garden filled with a golden glow from somewhere far, far away. I suddenly realised an undeniable fact.
“I still do love you,” I said, wonderingly, “I’ve never stopped.”
Something flickered in her eyes. “Even though you’re now a girl?”
“Why … yes.”
She stood up then and came close to me. Her perfume reminded me of the first time we’d met. She raised her face to mine, and I automatically lowered my head to kiss her soft, warm lips.
She raised a finger before our lips touched. “You don’t have to do this,” she warned me.
I remembered heaven, and slipped my arms around her as she nestled closer to me. This time I did kiss her.
“Laura,” I murmured.
“Treasure the moment,” she whispered, and we kissed again, and I realised that somehow the world had, for me, found its own peculiar level. I had found love again, and even though I knew people would once more look askance at me I didn’t care. They had already frowned at me once at one of my decisions and I knew I was big enough to take more of their disapproval.
The world is a strange and wonderful place, and often a fearsome one also, and none of us can know what the future holds. All we can do is follow our hearts and instincts and pray that the decisions we make are the right ones…at least for us.
We wandered back to my mother, both of us in a bemused daze, my arm around Laura’s shoulders and hers around my waist, ignoring the startled, shocked and wondering looks of the other wedding guests who stared at us as we sat.
My mother’s face was a picture, but one of final comprehension and understanding.
“I think,” I told her, “That you may just have found yourself another daughter.”
But of course, if you’ve stayed with me this far, you’re not interested in all that, are you? What you really want to know is if I ever got my six months of free beer, because after all, that is what this has all been about, hasn’t it?
Of course I didn’t. Harry had disowned me forever, and Barry, whilst generous to a fault, couldn’t be expected to shoulder that responsibility on his own. I let him off, because I’m that kind of girl.
And did I feel I’d won my wager?
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