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.”
"Best Possible Taste" is very loosely based on real life events.