In Between: A Love Story
In retrospect I'm not really sure why I agreed to come along on this trip, even if part of me knows all too well why I did just that. When Cathy asked whether I felt like coming along with her and a few of her friends to a local hot spring resort over the weekend it caught at first me by surprise, not having expected such an offer.
My contact with Cathy up till that point had been cursory at best, with the sharing of the usual pleasantries common among classmates, but little beyond that. We did work together on one school project, but beyond that I have to admit to not really knowing much about her, let alone her friends. I did enjoy spending time with her, however. Through this contact I figured out that we share a great many interests and goals.
Without many friends of my own, most of my weekends are just spent alone. This made spending a weekend together with Cathy and her friends seem like a welcome change.
Thus it is that I find myself in a bus together with Cathy and four of her friends as we make our way to the hot spring resort. Up till this point I have been pretty quiet, responding to any remarks and questions and offering a few remarks of my own, but otherwise not really being part of the group. In some way this annoys me, while simultaneously realizing that this is just my usual behaviour as a loner without a lot of social experience.
I also have to admit to feeling somewhat nervous being around beautiful young women, which Cathy and her friends all are. I keep catching myself feeling insecure and moving about like a fumbling idiot while wondering why Cathy would have invited someone so very much not like them along. Was she just trying to be nice, maybe? That thought depresses me even more until I fall completely silent and just stare at the landscape passing by outside.
Suddenly I feel a soft hand touching my own. Looking to my right I can see Cathy who up till then had been chatting with her friends looking concerned at me.
“Is anything wrong?” She asks.
I realize that there's nothing reasonable I can say in response to that question, so I just shake my head, then smile at her and say: “I'm fine, just a bit tired.”
I can see that she doesn't believe me, but decides to let the matter rest for now.
“We'll be at the resort soon.' she says. “I'm sure you'll feel better once we're out of this bus.”
I nod meekly, feeling ever more miserable.
Giving my hand a little squeeze, Cathy returns to the conversation with her friends. Again it occurs to me just how beautiful Cathy is, with her soft, long hair and delicately shaped face. So very much unlike me, I think as I turn back to stare out of the window again. I can keep feeling the touch of Cathy's hand burning on my skin as I simultaneously feel sick at the thought of spending a whole weekend in this awkward atmosphere.
Even if I did think that Cathy and I have some things in common when it comes to doing school projects together, I feel foolish for even entertaining the thought that this would translate to an enjoyable experience when taking it so much further. Score one for fantasies not living up to reality, I guess.
* * * * *
After arrival I realize that the six of us will be sharing the same room, something which hadn't really occurred to me might happen. At this point it just adds to the awkwardness I'm feeling. The others don't seem to be nearly as concerned as I am, though. Cathy and her friends are energetically moving about, seeming to be really enjoying themselves.
The room itself is split into a living room area and the sleeping area with bunk beds. As we put our bags in the sleeping area I fetch a book from my bag and settle in on one of the couches in the living area, leaning my back against the left arm rest and legs pulled up against my body. I figure that some distraction will maybe help me put my thoughts in order.
“We're going to try out the hot springs, are you coming along?” Someone asks, just as I have become immersed in the book's story. As I tear my thoughts back to reality I realize that it's one of Cathy's friends who just asked me the question, Samantha is her name, I think.
“Sure, I'll just need to get my swimming clothes.” I respond, as I get up from the couch.
“Tonight no swimsuits are allowed.” Samantha responds. “Sorry.” she adds, with a sly grin.
“Ah.” I respond, sinking back onto the couch. “I'll pass then. Thanks.”
Readying to spend a few hours by myself, reading, I fail to notice at first what the others are talking about until I catch Cathy mentioning something about not going either.
“You sure? It'll be very relaxing after today's bus journey.” Samantha asks Cathy as the other three are already preparing to leave the room.
“It's fine, we got an entire weekend ahead of us anyway.” Cathy responds. “Besides, there's something I have to take care of.”
“I see.” replies Samantha, sounding understanding. “No problem. You better make up for it tomorrow, though.”
At this point I can feel my heart pounding in my chest. What's going on? I have no idea. I will just keep pretending to be engrossed in my book while things play themselves out. Meanwhile I'm feeling sick to my stomach as I can't help but feel that it's all related to me.
After the door closes behind the others at first it remains quiet. Then I can hear Cathy moving. She's moving towards me. Before I can glance up she's already made it to the couch and more or less throws herself onto the side I have left empty.
To my surprise Cathy doesn't say anything but instead just giggles before sighting deeply.
“Well, that all was only about a hundred times more awkward than I could have imagined. Don't you agree?” She says, as she looks at me.
Dumbfounded, I just nod and manage a weak smile, awkwardly holding the book in my hands, unsure of what to do. After what feels like an eternity I feel the urge to say something. Anything.
“Uhm...” I manage to say, “I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I shouldn't have come along.”
At this I clutch the book tightly and stare at its cover as though I can find answers to my current predicament there. Hearing Cathy moving I look up to see her sliding closer to me until she can envelop my hands with hers.
“Nonsense.” Cathy says firmly. “I'm really glad you came and that you're here.”
Heart fluttering in my chest, I just look at her in confusion, caught between terror and elation.
“T- then why did you invite me?” I ask, softly.
Cathy's clear laughter rings out.
“I'm so sorry.” She says. “I guess I really shouldn't have kept things so mysterious. I know how awkward you can be around others, even if that's not really how you are, inside.”
I'm confident that at this point I'm giving Cathy my best 'deer caught in head lights' expression. While the earlier feeling of terror has faded, it's been replaced with a sensation of being utterly and completely confused.
“What I'm trying to say is...” Cathy concentrates for a moment, apparently searching for the right phrasing for what she is thinking.
Suddenly her right hand moves up from its earlier position to my cheek. As her finger tips gently caress the skin there she moves closer to me, leaning in until her lips find mine. If I had felt pleasure before at the mere caress from her fingers, her kiss is akin to having every nerve and fiber of my being set alight.
Forgetting my surroundings completely, I barely notice that my book falls, closed, onto the floor next to the couch. It's as though my my body is acting on its own now, with no conscious thought or input from my side. Caressing Cathy's back with my hand I can feel her soft, warm skin through her top. I feel myself becoming completely absorbed in all of these new, pleasurable sensations.
It's the first time I get to be this close to Cathy. While I found her smell to be pleasant before just sitting at the same table, being this closer to her it's beyond intoxicating. This combined with her soft, warm skin touching my own. Everything is warm, soft and pleasurable as I seek to explore further.
Cathy's hands aren't staying put either. I feel them caressing my neck, then my back, pausing to stroke my shoulders and arms, each touch sending bolts of red-hot pleasure through my very being. My eyes closed, our kisses become ever more hungry until my entire universe is just those soft lips surrounded by the most exquisite pleasure imaginable.
In this haze I don't fully realize what's going on until Cathy, one of her hands having made its way down to my tummy, has undone the button of my jeans and slides inside. With a growing sense of horror I can feel her move lower and lower as every sensation of pleasure is replaced with ice cold dread.
“No, please... not there. Please...” I struggle to say, between Cathy's unrelenting kisses and caressing.
Then it's all too late. As Cathy's fingers touch me down there I can feel her freeze up, then slowly remove her hands and move away from me with eyes filled with shock and pain. At this sight I just curl up on the couch while covering my face with both hands as though this will somehow shield me from the sheer agony of the situation. The pain paralyzes my mind as tears stream down my face, leaking through between my fingers.
“That's why I said... not there... please...” I force out.
Rolling over, off the couch, I get to my feet and stumble away, clasping my half-opened jeans with one hand as I make my way into the sleeping area and close the door behind me. Collapsing onto one of the bunk beds, trembling, I wrap the blanket around me and try to shut out the world as the tears just keep coming.
With everything falling apart around me again, I don't know what I should do any more. Run away, is what a voice inside my mind is telling me, but to where? What's the point? Feeling more and more miserable, I do the only thing I can, which is to shut out the world and embrace the void.
* * * * *
I must have drifted off to sleep at some point, as I am awoken by the sound of the door opening. Heart pounding, I stare at the door opening through semi-closed eyelids. The figure standing there is framed by the light in the living area, so I cannot tell who it is, other than a woman.
She stands there for a moment, seemingly torn, then steps forward and closes the door behind her. Waiting again, probably to allow her eyes to adjust to the darkness, she then moves forward, using the sides of the top bunk beds to guide her step. Ultimately she reaches the lower bed where I'm lying and halts there.
Awkwardly reaching down, she touches my leg and then pulls her hand back again.
“Are you awake?” Cathy whispers.
At first I want to pretend to be asleep so that maybe she'll go away again, but then the more rational part of my brain kicks in and I realize that it would be best to just talk about it.
“Yes, I'm awake.” I try to say, yet my throat is so dry that I have to cough and swallow a few times before I can utter these words in an intelligible fashion.
“Mind if I sit down?”
After Cathy sits down on the bed silence sinks down on us like a heavy blanket, smothering the ability to think as readily as it muffles any sounds.
Then Cathy sniffs and I realize that she must have been crying all this time as well. Heart still pounding and unsure what to think or say I just get up and sit on the side of the bed next to her, clasping my hands together, then loosening them again, repeatedly.
Cathy suddenly moves her hand on top of mine, stopping the motion. Looking up at her I can see even in this gloom that she's looking intently at me.
“I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have done that.” Cathy says, choking up a bit near the end. “It was the moment... it just felt right. I had no idea...”
I'm not sure what I should be feeling. Glad for her apology? Profusely apologize myself, explain my situation and beg for her forgiveness? That's when I realize that I'm not feeling anything, really. Just a cold, dark void where I felt passion before in what now seems like a pleasant but cruel dream. To my relief I notice that I'm not even feeling angry.
“I saw the look on your face. I know how you feel about me. That's okay. Everyone feels like that about me. I'm used to it.”
Even as I hear these words leave my lips I can see Cathy respond as though I have slapped her and immediately regret what I just said. As she pulls her hand back, I can feel the cracks form on the surface of the cold void inside my heart, then wince in pain as it shatters into a million razor-sharp fragments, tearing through the surrounding tissue.
Covering my face with my hands I begin to cry again interrupted by sobs wrecking my body. I really don't care about anything any more. Not about myself, not about Cathy, not about anything. There's only this overwhelming sensation of pain, blotting out anything else. I cry for all that I have lost, for all that I have never experienced, for all that I will never known. I cry for having so thoroughly failed at simply living. In the end I just cry because it's the only thing I know.
Then soft arms wrap gently around me as Cathy's voice whispers next to me: “Please, tell me what's going on. I want to understand.”
Swallowing a few times, I nod.
“I was born like this.” I start. “As a... hermaphrodite, with both... female and male genitals.”
At this revelation I feel Cathy's arms squeeze a bit more tightly around me.
Pausing for a moment, I continue: “Not being just a male or female isn't easy.” I manage a small sarcastic, pained laugh at this point.
Looking at Cathy in this gloomy darkness I try to be as gentle as possible as I continue.
“I'm not sure what you were thinking... earlier, when that happened. I often have no idea what people around me are thinking. I have always buried myself in books from a young age, always ignoring this body, especially when I got bullied and harassed about it more often, or just for being 'weird'.”
A few tears sneak down my cheeks at this point and I deftly wipe them away.
“At our school nobody knows about it. Only my direct family knows, but I have had them promise me that they would keep it a secret too. I don't want anyone to know about it because every time it just result in people hurting me.”
I try to hide the bitterness in my voice when I make that last statement, but only partially succeed.
Before I continue, I sigh deeply.
“I'm so sorry that I had to hurt you like that earlier. I... I have liked you for a while, but I didn't want to get closer to you because I was afraid that something like that would happen. Too late for that now, I guess.” I smile ruefully at this.
To my amazement I hear Cathy laughing softly. Before I get a chance to ask her what's so funny, she pulls me into a proper embrace and plants a kiss on my forehead.
“You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear you say all that.” She says, with relief clearly audible in her voice.
“But, why... you're okay with all that?” I ask, puzzled.
Giving me some more room to breathe, Cathy looks at me with a glint in her eyes as she says: “Whether I'm okay with it? I'm more than okay with it!”
Cathy laughs again, clearly feeling reliefed.
“Here I was, wondering whether it was anything serious, but instead I find that you're exactly the person I thought you were, just with a few minor complications which actually explain a lot about why you are... you.”
Then, more seriously: “I must confess that I had always assumed that you were just a lonely female beauty at our school, that's why I was taken aback earlier. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I shouldn't have rushed into things like that, but...”
Before Cathy can finish her sentence I have moved closer to her and planted a kiss on her lips. By the time our lips part again the silence no longer feels so oppressive. Quickly stealing another kiss from her lips I move away again.
“That's for calling me a 'female beauty', you beautiful liar.” I say, grinning.
Pulling me towards her, Cathy steals the kiss back.
“And that's for not believing what my own eyes are telling me.” She says, smiling.
Returning the embrace, we spend a few moments like that, just feeling comfortable being so close to each other.
“What did you think when... that happened earlier? I saw the shock and pain in your eyes.” I say softly, loosening the embrace.
For a moment Cathy doesn't respond and for a split second I think that maybe I have gone too far, but then she responds in a quiet, thoughtful tone.
“I think it was that I... well, I have had these fantasies about you for a while. Just so you know.” Clearing her throat in an embarrassed way Cathy continues. “Anyway, when I felt... that earlier, it felt like I had been wrong all that time. Wrong about you, wrong about myself, wrong about all those fantasies. It really hurt, to tell the truth. It was like one of those dreams which suddenly turn into a nightmare.”
Finding one of Cathy's hands I squeeze it gently as she readies to continue.
“But then you told me all those things about yourself and I realize that it was me who was the fool, just jumping to conclusions like that and even hurting you in the process. I know it's all happened now, but it still makes me feel bad thinking about it all.”
“It's no problem at all, really. Don't beat yourself up about it or I'm going to start feeling bad about it as well.” I respond, in jest.
“Thank you.” Cathy smiles at me.
“Oh, and one more thing...” she adds.
“Yes?” I ask, as my heart makes an involuntary flutter inside my chest.
“I know it's something I don't know much about and I probably cannot understand completely no matter how hard I try, but about your body... you really shouldn't be so hard on yourself about it. It's not your body that's the problem, it's the people around you who cannot appreciate it who are the problem.
“I know that I have no problems at all with it after you have told me everything. So what if you have some extra parts? That doesn't take anything away from the rest of your body or who you are as a person. I still find you just as beautiful and attractive as I did before and I think that everyone should feel that way. I would be more than proud to call you my girlfriend.”
Cathy pauses after all this, leaving me feeling dumbstruck once more.
“If it's okay with you, of course.” She adds, awkwardly casting her gaze downwards.
Futilely trying to wipe away the tears which started welling up at Cathy's earlier words I try to find back my voice. It feels like my chest has exploded with an intense warmth the like of which I haven't felt before. I'm filled with what I can only describe as an intense feeling of joy.
Swallowing away more tears and clearing my throat, I manage to respond in a voice I barely recognize as my own.
“Okay with it? Why, I'd be more than okay with it!”
At this we both laugh until both of us are feeling giddy and filled with joyful feelings. Or maybe it's just the lack of oxygen. Either way I haven't felt this great in my life before. No contest.
“Cathy?” I whisper.
“I love you.”
After only a brief pause Cathy responds likewise: “I love you too.”
“I mean it.” I say. “I don't ever want to stop feeling like this. Or stop loving you as intensely as I do right now.”
Cathy's response this time comes as she wraps me into another tight embrace. Resting her forehead against mine, I can see her eyes gaze deeply into my own. With our eyes adjusting to the gloom in the room it's not nearly as dark as it had seemed before.
“And I'll never let you go. You're more precious to me than anything or anyone I have ever known in my life.”
At this Cathy kisses me again deeply. Returning it with fervor, I wrap my arms around her back. When we separate to catch our breath I sigh contentedly.
“During the bus trip here I felt so miserable, but I just couldn't tell you, especially not with your friends within hearing distance.” I confess, in a calm voice. It feels so liberating that I can finally just speak my mind at this point.
I continue: “I felt jealous of your beauty and that of your friends... with me being so ugly. I didn't understand why you had invited me to come along. Part of me even wanted me to think that it was just to make fun of me or something.”
I pause for a moment, feeling embarrassed.
“It's not like you have ever been anything but nice to me and I couldn't possibly imagine you being mean to anyone, but...”
Another deep kiss interrupts my stream of words.
“I understand.” Cathy says as our lips separate again. “If all you have ever known is for people to hurt you, it's what you naturally come to expect.”
Caressing my cheek again with a soft, gentle hand she continues, softly.
“I understand what it's like to be bullied, but I cannot fathom the intense depths of pain you must harbour at this point after so many years of loneliness and rejection. If at all possible I want to be there for you – for all time – to help you deal with it.”
Gently brushing away the tears which are streaming down my cheeks, Cathy kisses my forehead again. Embracing me once more, I find myself crying into her shoulder. As sobs of painful relief tear through my body it feels as though for the first time crying actually helps.
All those years of bitterness, of turning away from others in disappointment not to mention feeling cursed for having been born with a body like this... all of it suddenly has stopped mattering. The happiness I can feel blossoming inside my chest is like the first rays of sunlight after a long and endless winter shrouded in darkness.
Only when I'm slumped exhausted against Cathy's chest do my tears cease. I'm still feeling numb from so much crying but have never felt so light before. Suddenly noticing the soggy fabric my cheek is resting on, I faintly mutter an apology:
“Sorry... for soaking your clothes with my tears.”
In response Cathy just laughs and hugs me tightly.
“Come on, we better get cleaned up a bit before the others return. They have been away for a while now.”
I nod weakly as Cathy helps me off the bed. As we both scramble to salvage what we can of the clothes we're currently wearing, a sudden thought occurs to me. While I force a brush through my tangled hair, I ask:
“You said something about having been bullied, didn't you?”
“Yes, I did indeed.”
“Mind if I ask what you were bullied for?” I ask, uncertainly.
“I used to have braces.” Cathy responds, all matter-of-fact.
After neither of us says anything for a moment, we both burst out in laughter.
Wiping away the tears from laughter, I finish up my struggle with the brush and turn towards Cathy and nearly fall over from surprise when I notice that she is topless aside from her bra, not to mention that she's facing my direction.
Grinning, Cathy finishes brushing her own hair and pulls on a fresh top. As the spectacle which caught my attention before vanishes behind fabric once more I try to hide my all too obvious disappointment.
Walking over to me, Cathy hugs me. Pressed against her softness I gladly return the embrace.
“All in due time.” She says, teasingly, laughing at my sheepish grin.
* * * * *
As Samantha and the others return from their bath they find Cathy on the couch, watching television with me sleeping soundly with my head on her lap. Putting her finger to her lips, Cathy motions them to be quiet.
Nodding in understanding, the four disappear into the sleeping area with broad grins on their faces to put on something comfortable before they will join the two of us.
Author: Maya Posch (www.mayaposch.com)