My blog began on a whim - this year has been amazing but next year I know there are certain times I need to be more organised and do several week ahead. I have an ear infection and I'm just too medicated and in pain to produce anything coherent. So your trip to my blog isn't an entire waste:
Steph’s mother was out again. She was using Chez Newlove as her own personal hotel. Outside in the garden the children shrieked and played. Ellie bounced on the trampoline. None of them sounded in pain so she left them to it. Finally, Steph had time to check her messages.
I pity your wife
Dangerous, latent transphobia.
You’re not accepting your wife’s gender
Get a divorce and let her live her life.
Stop misgendering her with terms.
She’s your wife and the children’s mother.
Fucking transphobic bitch. ...and they continued.
A cup of coffee grew a skim and decreased in temperature as it remained untouched. Buried in the insults was the odd message of support but the unpleasantness drowned out the good. She placed the phone down and buried her head in her hands. Was she ever going to get this right? Was she holding Nick back? Steph and Nick sometimes Lori had been out on a couple of dates since they got back and things were going well but an innocent comment on an online forum where she had referred to Nick as her husband had brought down so much hate that they bruised her mentally. Fact was she struggled to say my wife and there was no way she would ever force the children to call him mother, mama or the equivalent. They came first and they adored their superdad. Calling Nick or Lori my wife was hard. They’d reached a stage where she called Nick or Lori by whichever name their dress at a particular moment suggested. When they got married only one them knew this was a same sex union.
“Steph? You OK?” Nick opened the fridge and poured himself a glass of orange juice. “Want a glass?”
“Apparently I’m not worthy of you.” She waved her hand over the phone.
He sat kitty corner to Steph and sipped his orange. When he read the messages, he went quiet – too quiet. “Steph, it’s just online rubbish.”
“When I put myself out there online I expected it, but some days the comments get to me and today is one of those days.” She took a sip of the coffee and spat it back in the cup. “Ugh.”
“Here, Steph, take this before I throw it. We can’t afford a replacement.” His voice was angry and quiet. “Reply and say your husband says their pity is unwelcomed and unneeded.” He covered her hand and smiled.
“Our relationship is our business and nobody else’s.”
She sighed. “It’s just I’m straight. I don’t fancy women. And at the risk of paraphrasing a Meat Loaf song. I want you and I love you but there ain’t no way I’m ever going to need you. Well not you as such her. It's complicated.” She tapped her head. “At least not in that way I can imagine a man whilst we’re being intimate. That man may even be Nick. I do love you and I think our marriage is worth fighting for.”
“It’s my fault. I knew and I...”
“I get it.” Her smile reached her eyes. “And perhaps it’s a good job you didn’t say anything or we might not have got married.” Her hands slipped under the table and she rubbed his leg. “And… I wouldn’t now be imagining you in that silky nightie. It’s well – silky. We can fool around and find… well ways of making this work.”
For the first time in months he gave her a seductive smile, he grabbed her hand and moved it further up right into his groin. “I guess you’re right we have a lot to work out and I guess a practical...”
“Mum...” Luke appeared in the door with blood pouring from his nose. “Jake made me fall over.”
Behind him Jake appeared. “I did not.”
“Can happen tonight,” Steph mouthed to Nick before dashing to Luke’s aid.
Lori picked up Steph’s phone and typed a message in reply to the comments. Her indignation refused to leave this alone. She’d never agreed with the don’t feed the trolls and she believed they should not go unchallenged. There had been times when she was vulnerable and the people who countered them had strengthened her: This is her husband. Whether I stay with my wife is my decision. Your pity is unneeded and unwanted. We are a trans family. My wife, my kids and myself are transitioning together. We’re all allowed time to work it out.
Steph huffed but her huffing never lasted long. In her pyjamas, she stormed through the woods before turning round, and with her energy sapping, she walked back to the cottage.
She wasn’t sure what she was going to say Lori. Whilst Steph wasn’t angry any longer she still felt alone. A large log provided her with a seat and she sat, holding her head. Tears appeared out of nowhere and she sobbed. There was no real definition to her feelings she didn’t know what she felt or why. This week had brought home that she was going to lose her husband but she was supposed to be happy for the person they became., She didn’t want Nick to be miserable but she wanted her life back. A life where the only real concerns were paying the bills, caring for the kids and getting through the day with her fibromyalgia.
“Are you all right, my dear?”
Oh God I’ve been caught. She wiped her face with her hands and her arm and looked up at the old lady standing there. A watery smile was the best she could manage and she nodded. “I think I am. I lost my husband...”
The woman looked fitter than Steph had been and attired in hiking gear, the old lady sat down next to her and placed her arm round her. A Westie ran up, sniffed Steph’s feet and ran away again, sniffing at the undergrowth. “That’s Tommy, I got him when my husband died. He’s such a comfort to me. You’re so young, dear - do you have children?”
People often thought Steph was younger than she really was. She nodded. “Three.” None of them felt they had lost a dad, at least she didn’t feel that way.
“Are you staying with the other nice lady at the cottage?” She smiled. “I run the Post Office and she came in earlier. Really kind.” And then in a conspiratorial way she whispered. “I think she’s one of those.”
All Steph could do was swallow. She nodded. “Lori is...” Jesus, what do I call her? “My friend. She is very kind.” It was the term her dad used for his myriad of lovers. They were always just his friends even the ones he’d had around for twenty years. Friend felt wrong to apply to Nick but she didn’t know Lori and Lori wasn’t Nick in a dress. Lori had a personality that was distinct from Nick.
“Are things all right... well you know financially?”
Steph nodded. “My husband well he is still providing for us.” That was true. She stood up before she was asked any more awkward questions. “I ought to be heading back. The children are... well they’ll be wanting breakfast. Thank you for your concern.”
The older lady stood up and held out her hand. “My name’s Cynthia. If you need anything please come down to the Post Office.”
“Thanks, Cynthia.” The brief encounter had helped Steph gain some perspective and she trudged back to the cottage. She walked into the kitchen. Sweet smells and laughter greeted her.
Round the table Lori sat with Jake and Luke, they were playing Monopoly. A stack of pancakes sat in front of each of them. Lori gave her a shy smile. “Want to come and join us? The pancakes are everything free. And I put out some agave syrup for you.”
Steph nodded. She got herself a plate and sat down. “I’ll be the top hat if no one else wants it.” She peeped under the table. Lori was wearing the pink hiking books that Steph had put in the welcome to womanhood box.
Lori winked and mouthed, “Sorry.”
Wrapped in a thick dressing gown, Steph sat at a table outside the chocolate box cottage. She hugged her coffee tight and watched the world awake. The birds said hello and the sun waved a greeting. It was a quiet moment when no one else existed.
Lori came out in a ridiculously thin satin nightdress. Her make up was already done. She smiled and sat down opposite Steph. She looked at her nails and blew on them. Her voice was soft and a notch higher than Nick’s had been. “Do you have any plans for the day?”
“I thought we could hang out. Watch some TV, walk over the hills. You know get to know each other.”
“Why don’t I book us an hour of beauty treatments. Maybe find a babysitter?” For the first time since they arrived Lori looked excited, happy.
Steph raised an eyebrow. “Really, Miss Moneybags – you are feeling flush today?”
She blushed and looked away. “I… I… just thought.”
With a sigh Steph reminded herself that Lori had only been a woman for two days and this must be bloody confusing. She reached over and took Lori’s hand. “This holiday is about getting to know you. That treat was a big deal for you I know but lets have a day here. If you want to go into the village tomorrow we can try it.”
“Mum, when’s breakfast.” Luke zipped past in his swim shorts. “I’m going in the burn.”
Before Steph could raise an eyebrow in his direction there was a splash. “Do you not want breakfast?” she shouted.
“After my swim.”
An awkward silence descended between Steph and Lori.
Lori coughed. “Maybe I could do your hair? Paint your nails?”
“Yeah. OK. No make-up though.” It hurt that Lori didn’t seem to know Steph like Nick knew Steph. There’s no way Steph would normally agree to having her hair and nails done. It wasn’t her thing. “I’ve got something for you.” She got up and went into the pretty kitchen, all chintz and relaxation, where she put her cup in the sink. From the cupboard she got out a box. Stefan had helped her wrap it in pink paper with felt flowers – it looked beautiful. Carrying it like the fourth king in a nativity she went back out and placed it down in front of Lori.
Lori appeared nervous and she blinked. “I didn’t get you anything.”
Steph waved that away. “Nick never bothered buying me anything so I hadn’t expected it from Lori.” She kissed her cheek and brushed it with her hand, adjusting to the smooth face caked in foundation would take time. It took an effort on Steph’s part not to wipe her hands on her dressing gown. “This is your welcome to womanhood pack. I gave Ellie one when she was about eight – I figured as a new woman Lori should have one too.” Covering her mouth, she whispered. “I didn’t bother with the Tampax though. You’re one lucky gal and get to skip the shitty stuff.” Whilst Steph had expected Lori to laugh, Lori didn’t. She appeared a little upset. “Look, if I’ve messed up, I promise that I’ll get you tampax and nice carrying case the next time I get to a chemist. Just...” Steph shrugged. “I don’t get why any woman would want a period if she doesn’t have to have it.”
Lori shook her head. She looked a little angry. “It’s not that. You’re just so damn understanding. Can’t you hate me a little bit?”
“You want me to be angry with you?” Steph sat down.
Luke came past them. “Period’s are manky. You put me right off the breakfast you haven't made me.”
“Periods are not manky, young man. They’re painful but they’re a fact of life.” Her emotions were pulled in all directions and Steph didn’t want Luke to leave. This was supposed to be a time to relax, their first holiday in years. But he left them to face each other. “Why do you want me to be angry, Lori?” Steph had been trying to say the name as often as she could in an attempt to forget the bitch from school.
“Have you any idea how hard its been for me? Wanting to be Lori and I kept it secret all this time. Then when I finally tell you, you tell me not to wear your tights. What the damn hell was that all about?”
“I was hung over, you stupid bitch. It was all I could think of. Then I spent all bloody day trying to work out how to be a lesbian and then you said I’d done it wrong because I’d talked to people.” Furious that Lori had ruined what Steph thought would be a special moment, Steph ignored her aching legs and took off down the path to the nearby forest. She kept checking behind her but Lori didn’t follow.
Coffee cups clinked, and the crowd chattered. Steph nursed her decaff latte with soya milk and jumped every time the door jingled open.
Over half an hour late, Nat rushed in with her arms full of shopping bags. She wore a fetching tunic top and a pair of leggings. Her eyes scanned the coffee shop, and she waved at Steph. “Daniella, I’ll have a gingerbread latte and a cheesecake. Thank you, sweetheart.” With confidence, she glided through the tables and sat down opposite Steph. She dumped her bags and smiled. “How are you, hon? I wanted to catch up what with your gal being in such a state the last time we met.”
Steph held her cup tighter. She still couldn’t get used to Nick or Lori being referred to as “a gal”. She shrugged. “We haven’t seen Lori in two weeks. Not a peep. Not even nail varnish or women’s knickers.”
Daniella brought over the cheesecake and coffee.
“Thanks, Dani, love.” Nat smiled at her. “This looks so good. You not having, Steph?”
The cheesecake looked so damn good. Forget the diet. Steph wanted to feel shitty physically to match her mood. She needed to collapse in bed and be miserable. If the fibromyalgia was bad, she could do that. “Daniella, can you get me a slice? And I’ll have the caramel doughnut with custard.” If she was going to be ill Steph figured it might as well be worth the pain. It was not like she had to worry about turning Lori or Nick off as they still showed no interest in Steph.
“She’s probably having trouble admitting things to herself.” With the fork, Nat tucked in. “Scared herself back into the closet.”
“She shouted at me for using she as a pronoun the other day. Says I should use the pronoun she dictates. But I never get what is going on from day to day. I need something more concrete.” Steph held up her hand to stop Nat saying anything. She had to get this out. “It’s selfish of me but I need her to engage with me. I need to understand. She’s still barely speaking to me. I guess I need it to be our issue not Lori’s issue. Our daughter thinks we need a week away somewhere. Just the kids, Lori and me. It doesn’t help my mother’s living with us and she hates Nick. Nick doesn’t want her to know.”
“Your daughter sounds like a sensible kid.”
“Thanks.” Steph leant back so Daniella could lay down the cheesecake and doughnut.
“Dani, chick. You think Steph here should take her transitioning mtof spouse on holiday, you know try and get to know the woman?”
Daniella shrugged. “Worth a try.”
Steph glared at Nat.
“Don’t worry, chick,” Nat addressed Steph. “This is a safe environment and Dani has been my friend for years. She’s like my Stefan.”
It was still an invasion to have all and sundry told but then she’d done the very same thing to Nick when Nick had first come out. There wasn’t any reason to be ashamed. She looked up, gave Daniella a nod. “All advice welcome. Was Nat cagey, secretive and uncommunicative when she came out? I gather you’ve been in her life that long?”
Daniella shook her head. “Sorry. No.”
“Oh. Stefan and I have been a non couple for twenty-five years.” She squinted. “Speaking of the stylish hunk.”
“Ladies.” Stefan waltzed in. “How are you all?” He kissed Dani, Nat and then Steph on the cheek. “I was hoping I’d find you here. There’s an exhibition at the art gallery you should all see. And I’ll buy you dinner afterwards? When do you get off Dan?”
Steph concentrated on her cake. She tried not to be annoyed with him for not being in her life much. He had a lot on at work. It’s just she needed time with right now. Time alone with him to talk and not time with other people, virtual strangers.
“Oh my, Steph. I heard what Nick’s new name is. Bloody hell. Can you handle that?” Stefan sat down next to her and held Steph’s hands. “I am sorry. You know I’m opening a new shop.” He avoided her. “And I let you down.”
Steph nodded. “Yeah, I know. You’re busy. I’m fine.” She swallowed. “I will be fine.”
“No you’re not,” Stefan mouthed.
Nat raised an eyebrow. “Is there a problem?”
Tears formed in Steph’s eyes but she brushed them away and sniffed. “Lori Hudson was the girl that made my life at school a misery. I’ve never met another one.” She bit her lip. “I just need to get used to Nick being Lori. I’m sure it’ll be OK. I’m sure once we’ve had this time away that I will associate it with my Lori rather than that Lori.”
Stefan blinked. “Stop being so damn reasonable Steph. Your Lori is walking all over you. It’s tearing you apart. It’s time for Lori to throw you a bone.”
Steph stared at Nick.
Nick stared at his brandy glass.
Her brandy glass sat on the table untouched. The smell of it taunted her. Although her left leg twitched a couple of times, the lower part of her body remained out of touch with her mind. The pain from sitting still so long grew with every minute.
The blasted cuckoo cuckoo’d again. She tried once more. “Maybe I should call her Birdie or what was that film...” Her hand moved, Steph clicked her fingers and smiled. “Tootsie. Can I call her Tootsie?” Once she had the feeling back in her hands her upper body managed a brief wriggle which gave her some relief from the stiffness, but her feet remained welded to the floor.
Nick stared at his brandy glass.
“You know I love you. Nick, you’re not a freak but I need to understand and you’re not helping me.”
Nick stared at his brandy glass.
Still no response from Nick.
“Lily as in Savage?” She needed him to talk and needling him to anger was the only thing left in her toolbox.
“Oh Rosie don’t you do that to the boys,” she sang the Joan Armatrading song loudly and out of tune. Unable to come up with the rest of the words she dah dummed until she came to a line she did know. “Don’t you come on so strong...” Her voice tailed off. “I wish… might as well have married Stefan for all the sex I’m getting at the moment. He said he’d marry me but I wanted more… and so did he really. I thought I had that with you.” She paused. "I hope I still have that with you."
Nick stared at his brandy glass and he said nothing.
She sighed. “Nick, please. If not for me think of our children.” He leg kicked out and she knocked over a chair.
Voices outside the kitchen door and Chris came in. Behind him stood a petite woman in jeans and a t-shirt. He walked over and picked up his oak chair.
“I’m sorry. My leg kicked. I didn’t mean to.” Steph used her eyes to plead with him for forgiveness. “I really didn’t.” She turned her gaze and looked the woman up and down. She was unhappy that Chris had brought a stranger into this intimate moment between her and Nick. “Who’s this?”
“Steph, Nick. This is my friend Nat. I think she might be able to help you.” He took two more glasses out of the kitchen cupboard and sat down next to Nick. Chris poured the brandy out for himself and Nat, and another one for Nick. Steph’s glass remained untouched. She was uncomfortably sober.
Nat, at ease, picked up the chair, spun it round and sat on it backwards in between Steph and Nick. She looked Nick up and down. “I know you’re hurting, honey, but you’re the luckiest girl alive. This woman has been taking your crap and she’s still here. She doesn’t deserve this.” With confidence she touched Nick on the shoulder. “I used to be called Jack. When I told my wife she threw me out that night and I had to fight to see my children.” She jerked her head in Steph’s direction. “Talk to her.”
Nick turned and he looked at Steph. His eyes were red and heavy. The pain in them was palpable.
Steph’s emotions did a 360. The anger and petulance melted. Her eyes burned and her face screwed up. He was in such a lot of pain and all she wanted was to kiss it away. She wanted him to hold her, to love her and to tell her it was going to be all right.
“Lori. Her… I mean my name is Lori.” He, she, they, drained their glass.
Steph grinned. “Hey Lori Newlove, I’m Steph.” She held out her hand. “Now hurry up and shake my hand, because I want that bloody brandy.”
Stefan and Chris left.
Steph and Nick were alone together.
Alone with a bottle of brandy and two glasses.
For Steph the emphasis was definitely on the alone. She felt no connection to this Nick and there was no reaction from him.
Unnaturally still, Nick sat at the table. He made no move to pour the brandy. A deep and abiding misery gnawed at him. It hurt her heart to watch him.
Beyond exhausted, Steph stood by the door although not through choice. She couldn’t move. Her body and mind were numb, and her fibromyalgia had enforced life support only. She could stand and she could breathe but nothing else would work again until her body decided otherwise. Chris’s beloved cuckoo clock ticked and chimed. The bird cuckoo’d the hour and if she could have moved she’d have thrown something at it. Her legs ached but they still didn’t move.
Talking was a chore and each word needed forming separately. It took her a long time to remember the word she needed. “Help.”
He had the temerity to sigh and give her a glare more at home on a sulky teen than a grown man. His expression made it clear she was nothing but a useless burden.
“Forget it.” Tears would have fallen down her face but her body couldn’t find the energy to do it. Her eyes stung but her face couldn’t even crumple.
All manly and sexy, he marched over to her, picked her up and carried her to the chair. The way he rammed her body into the sitting position had little care about it. It was undignified and she slumped forward like an ape with her arms long by her side. God she needed the drink but her arms wouldn’t move to pour the brandy. She considered asking but suspected she’d end up wearing it. “I didn’t mean to hurt you… I feel you’re cheating on me with another woman... I mean I hardly… see her.” She struggled through the fibrofog to get the words out she needed. “I don’t have a name for her...”
He didn’t speak. He didn’t pour a drink for either Steph or himself. She wasn’t Luke Skywalker and the bottle didn’t magically pour for her.
“Tonight?” she asked.
“I...I...” He pulled his lips in over his teeth in a manner that suggested he held in intolerable pain. With them still over his teeth, he clamped down on his lips and didn’t say anything. Finally, he reached over and opened the bottle, releasing the scent of the good quality brandy into the kitchen. “I got to the hotel where they were holding the meal...” As he spoke he poured out two glasses and placed one in front of Steph but he made no move to help her drink it. He drained his own. “Then I saw them go in. You know the other freaks like me.”
“Not a freak.” Again the force failed her and the alcohol didn’t make it into her mouth. Her hands dangled by her side and her bum ached from being sat so still on a hard kitchen chair for so long.
“Everything in society says I’m not normal and I can never be normal. That makes me a freak worthy of a Victorian sideshow. What did they call them – female impersonators. Well I’m impersonating a man and I make a lousy woman.” His voice held a deep bitterness that told her of the sourness in his soul. He poured another glass and drained it.
At least one of them would be hung over. Steph sat and glared at her brandy for daring to remain in the glass. “Tonight. What? What happened?”
“First a transman went in and that was fine. But I stayed in the car because I was working up the nerve.” He tortured her and downed his third brandy in five minutes. At least it was turning the bitterness into a slight slur. “Then a really gorgeous girl arrived in and that was OK. But then well… Cupid Stunt appeared. I mean she’d shaved her face… and she was so damn confident… but she was a bloke in a frock.” The fourth brandy he nursed, swirling it round his glass. “I want to be like her and can’t. To own the woman I want to be. She made me face what a damn failure I am.” He threw the alcohol down his neck. “Do you want that?” Nick pointed at Steph’s drink. His fingernails were still manicured and polished. Whilst he’d removed all other traces of the woman, he’d kept the burgundy nail polish.
She stared at his fingers but Steph didn’t know what to say. “I love you.” And she did love Nick, but she wasn’t sure she knew how to love the other woman. Her voice freed up enough to be able express her feelings, maybe it sensed this was life support and as necessary as breathing. “You have to stop blowing up without telling me where the minefields are. I can’t live like that, Nick. I grew up in a home filled with eggshells and I swore my children would never experience that. I don’t mind you becoming a woman I do object to the way you’re treating me because of her.”
After an hour of crying, Nick-the-man announced he needed to go for a drive.
That had been five nail-biting hours ago. Steph sat at her kitchen table, staring at her mobile phone.
Nick – call me. WTF r u. She sent the third text in five minutes.
The front door opened. Steph grabbed her car keys. “Mum?”
“I need to go out.” Not wanting to explain, Steph kissed Mum on the cheek. Mum stank of booze. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Nick’s missing. I’ve left a note telling the kids you’re in charge.”
Mum’s mouth opened but Steph left the house, still in her slippers, before Mum could raise any objection. She trawled the streets. The new blue LED lights frustrated her.
She parked outside The Royal where Nick played darts. Nick’s car in it usual spot and she let out a huge breath of relief. He’d need a lift home. She used her blue badge to park near the door. Her fibromyalgia hurt worse than usual and she limped into the pub. “Have you seen my husband, Nick?”
A new barmaid shrugged and checked the clock. “He left an hour ago. Have you two had a fight? He seemed awful upset.”
Steph shook her head. “No. But I need to find him. Do you know where he went?”
The barmaid shook her head. “Sorry.”
On her way out the door, Steph sent a text to Mum. Is Nick home yet?
The response came before Steph returned to her car.
No. R U OK?
Steph responded with: Yes. Sleep tight. But then she sent Nick another message: Please. Where are you?
She drove. She checked her phone. Drove some more. Checked her phone – again. In a tired haze she drove to Stefan’s house; he and Chris lived in a smart town house opposite the ornate parish church. She parked outside and leaned on the steering wheel. Steph didn’t even know why she’d come here, but she needed help.
A knock made her jump.
Stefan looked at her.
She opened the window.
He wore his funeral expression on his face. “I think you’d better come in.”
“Nick? Is he OK?”
Stefan responded with a sage nod.
Stiff and sore, and having forgotten her coat, she’d frozen. Impersonating a ninety-year-old in the aftermath of a 10K race, Steph eased out of the car. The black railings alongside Stefan and Chris’s path provided her with support as she waddled up the path and into their hallway. Elegant with Stefan’s photography blown up and framed. They’d fusedStefan’s love of the chrome bachelor pad with Chris’s fondness for the interior of stately homes.
Men talking and delicious food smells drew her to the kitchen at the end of the hall. Cream gloss units lived alongside Chris’s pride and joy, an eight seater polished oak table.
In his pyjamas Chris sat at the table. Next to him sat Nick-the-man with red and puffy eyes.
A feeling that she didn’t know Nick any more replaced the natural desire to hold him and to comfort him. “Hey.” She stayed at the door. “I came to find you.”
Stefan placed a bottle of brandy with two glasses in the centre of the table. “Get drunk. Chris or I can take you home later. Do you want us to leave?”
Nick shook his head. “Don’t leave me. She doesn’t understand. She doesn’t want me any more. I need help to talk to her.”
“She wouldn’t be here in her slippers and without her coat if she didn’t want you.” Chris placed a muscular hairy arm round Nick. Chris’s big brown eyes turned to Steph, and he indicated for her to sit on the other side of Nick. “You need to talk,” said Chris. His deep voice took on a commanding tone.
She wasn’t sure he’d aimed the censure at herself, or Nick, or both.
Those seal-like eyes, that had wooed Stefan so many years ago, were hard to resist, but she didn’t want to be the one to give in first. Not again. She was done being a doormat. “He doesn’t want to talk to me. He’s made that clear.” Her lips pursed, and she fought the tears as though she was Joe Frazer taking on Mohammed Ali. No way would she let Nick see any weakness. Hours of worry evaporated and Steph was pissed, more pissed than she’d been at any point in their marriage. If she moved closer to Nick, she might hit him. She turned her head, so she wasn’t looking at Nick. “I can’t get anything right. I’m not even allowed to know what the other woman is called.”
Silence. Nobody spoke. Boredom made Steph sneak a peak.
Stefan nodded to Nick. His head jerked in Steph’s direction.
Nick stared into his cup and ignored the cues that Stefan tried to give him.
Stefan said, “Come on, Steph. You need to get this sorted.” He walked round the table to stand in front of her. “I’m going to do what your husband should be doing.” He wrapped his arms round, and her held her tight. His familiar musky deodorant, an aroma of safety, broke her defences, and the tears came, soaking his shirt. “You and Nick must talk. Chris and I will be in the living room. Holler if you need us.” He whispered in her ear, “Be gentle with him. Nick nearly killed himself tonight. Instead he thought of you and came here. He’s a mess.” Out loud he said, “Steph and Nick, you’re the best straight couple I’ve ever met. For God’s sake talk to each other and move forward with this together. Tell him you love him whatever his gender.
Steph checked her phone. Her discussion on the LGBTQA forum continued but still nobody could come up with the simple solution she needed. Apparently someone in a similar position to herself did not exist. But they must exist, so she continued to monitor the responses to her post, and she replied politely to anything well-meaning but way off base. Some came close, but she wished they’d stop telling her to go to the local group. There were six members, only one transperson, who attended on a good day. She sighed and left her phone on the side. Swearing to herself, she ran the hot water into the bowl, letting it agitate the washing up liquid.
Her mother, thank God, had a date. Nick and her mother glared at each other whenever they were in the same room.
She turned on the radio for company and sang along to “Perfect” by Pink.
Up in her room, Ellie performed a complicated filming procedure that meant nobody could even sneeze close to the door. It was another thank the Lord moment for Steph. Whilst they got along most of the time when they both suffered from PMS, like now, they were better off apart.
Steph eased her hands into the piping hot water, and wiped the first plate. “Pretty, pretty please...” she sang loudly and out of tune.
[Warning: The YouTube Video below isn't the radio edit]
Luke had spent the day trying to blow up the shed at the bottom of the garden. He now slumbered peacefully, full of dinner, in his bed. Yet again Steph thanked the almighty. No matter what she’d asked him to do today she’d been ignored. He’d done his own thing and buggered anyone else. She couldn’t have faced one more no.
“Don’t you ever feel...” She forgot about the radio edit and inserted the f word. Steph shuggled a glass and put it on the draining rack.
Jake... well Jake she was ready to bury and hold a funeral service over. He’d finally decided he should stay out of his mother’s way as whenever she spotted him she asked him to take the rubbish out. He should have done it yesterday. There was no way Steph was doing it for him this time. Well at least not until it started stinking and buzzing with flies.
Yick. Steph hated mashed potato pans. They were the worst thing to wash – ever. The radio had moved on to a song she didn’t know.
Nick she prayed for. She wasn’t usually a religious woman but tonight she she’d offer herself up on any available altar. For the first time Nick had left the house as a woman. A woman they still hadn’t given Steph a name for. A woman that had spent a fortune on makeup, clothes and shoes whilst Steph stood barefaced in an ill fitting bra and wearing secondhand clothes. Her shoes were nine years old. But she told herself the other woman needed to feel good, and that this meeting needed to be just right for Nick.
She put another plate in the draining rack.
The door opened. Her heart leapt so much she thought it might fall out of the chest cavity. She knew she’d been on edge but she hadn’t realised how much. “Mum?” No response. “Nick?” No response. Neither of them were due home yet.
She turned off the radio.
“Nick?” Still no response.
Ellie came into the kitchen. “Dad’s in the bathroom. I think she’s upset.” She picked up a tea towel. “I’ll finish the dishes.”
An offer from her teenager to do the dishes froze Steph for a moment before adrenaline kicked in and she became a superhero out to save her man… woman… whatever she found in their bathroom. She threw the dish cloth in the water, left the kitchen and ran up the stairs. She knocked on the bathroom door. “Nick?”
“I didn’t go. Well I did... but I didn’t go in there.” Nick’s voice cracked and it was all male. “God – I saw them.” When Nick was all woman, it moved a fifth of an octave higher. “Leave me alone.”
“What are you doing?” Her mother’s pronouncement made Steph jump. Quickly, Steph tabbed out of the site she was looking at and called up a spreadsheet with next month’s finances. “Nothing interesting.” She prayed her mother hadn’t seen the LGBTQA site she had been looking at. “Thanks.”
Her mother placed a coffee down in front of her. “All adding up? I can help out a bit if you like?”
“We’re alright next month. I’ve got some agency work coming in and Nick’s wages cover all our bills.” She sighed. Nick had a reasonable job, but the one wage made things tight, but when they got married they had both agreed that the children shouldn’t go to school. Home education was something she’d been set on since the start of the marriage. Long before they’d even had children.
There was a parp from a car outside.
“That’s for me. Don’t wait up.” Steph’s mother swanned out of the room and closed the door.
To make sure nobody else was looking Steph went to the living room door. Jake was outside playing with his mates. Ellie wouldn’t come out of her room unless she was forced to by the apocalypse. “Luke?”
“Mum?” His shout came from the kitchen.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m making my Excalibur extra suped up. I’ve heard bicarbonate of soda and vinegar can really make it fizz. I’m trying to find a way to encase it so it’ll release when I’m fighting Beelzebub.”
“Does he go to the home ed group?” With that particular group of people it was highly possible. There had been a Lucifer or two and a Lilith. And she’d misread little Stan’s name as Satan for a couple of weeks.
“No, Mum. He’s the devil. Summer says he’s in the bible. She called Jake it last week. He’s one of the big bads. She says I’m one of the big goods in the bible so I have to fight Beelzebub.”
Summer’s family were religious.
“OK, honey, there’s doughnuts and pink milk in the fridge if you want.”
There would be a mess to clean up later but he would be busy for a time and she could get back to surfing the net. She went back and sat in front of her computer.
My husband is trans. He is becoming she. I’m not angry. I don’t mind he wants to be a she but I keep putting my foot in it and if I want to help her I need to understand better. I would like to talk to a man or woman in a similar position.
She clicked send and posted it on the LGBTQA and allies group. Every forum she had found and wandered on to seemed to be full of angry bitter spouses. She wasn’t angry, she wasn’t bitter and she was damn well going to fight for her marriage. Three times she’d been called brave as she attempted to ask questions and been treated as though she should have been more hurt that Nick was becoming someone else.
A bing alerted her to a response.
Response: You need to get a divorce. You have to let him be free to discover himself. Do you have children?
This was a supportive site. Maybe they knew something she didn’t. She didn’t want a divorce.
She typed: Three.
She went back to general surfing, and sipped her now cold coffee. This time the bing came quicker than she’d been prepared for. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and went back to read it.
Response: He can’t be a good father once he’s a woman. It’s against nature. You and the children need to forget him and let him be himself.
Anger drove her response this time. She was angry this no mark had called Nick him. She was furious about the slight on her husband. She was also sure this jerk was wrong.
She Typed: My husband is a good man and she is becoming a good woman. She will be an exceptional parent no matter what her gender.. All I want is to understand.
Other comments followed, but none seemed to understand what she was asking for. Some were kindly and suggested she try the web, as though she was as incapable of trying Google. Another suggestion was to try their local LGBTQ group was lovely but small and limited. The only other transwoman travelled miles to get there.
All she really wanted was another woman or man in the same position whose partner was transitioning and who could tell her what was going on in Nick’s head, because Nick didn’t seem to be able to tell her that. He’d never been good at expressing his thoughts and feelings, but she now needed him to.
"Best Possible Taste" is very loosely based on real life events.