A Mutual Surprise Bruce McCorkill May 2015
They both enjoyed their meetings. A gentle hug, peck on the cheek, stroke of the arm, a quick appraisal of how the other was looking, a mutual reassurance that they were both fine. Then to the pleasure of a decent coffee and chat.
Carol and Jan had known each other from their first day in the kinder sand pit. Some instant bond formed and they stayed best friends ever since. Even after both married, they continued to meet for coffee and talk. Neither could really understand this. They were different, Jan the flamboyant outgoing one, Carol the quieter of the pair. Jan had a business career, two marriages and messy divorces, and a series of disastrous relationships. Carol had gone into admin work, married her only boyfriend Brian and stayed in a stolid uneventful marriage.
These differences didn’t matter, and they had stopped querying their friendship. It just was. They enjoyed being together, the companionship and talking. They had tried involving their partners, but it didn’t work. Carol would proclaim “we are soulmates,” and after the third wine, Jan would joke “no, we are really gaymates.”
This meeting was different. They hadn’t met for a while, and Jan sensed something was very different about Carol. “What’s with you? You have a new hairstyle; you look great, new outfit. You even look sexy. This is a change from Brian and the burbs.”
“Well, I have a surprise for you. I’ve decided to leave Brian. The last year has been almost unbearable. We go to work, he goes to the RSL, I go to night classes, and that’s all. We don’t communicate. As for our love life, sex is just a mechanical scratching of the itch, there’s no tenderness, gentleness or emotional feeling. In a nutshell, I’m almost fifty, and I don’t want another three decades of this life. I married early to the first nice boy, raised healthy kids, made a home. So I think my dues are paid and it’s my turn.”
Jan was amazed. “Wow, that’s a real revelation; I thought your marriage was rock solid, although Brian has always struck me as being on the boring side.’
Carol continued, “It’s been coming a while, but after attending some of the women’s study groups, I’ve realised that I haven’t got any real identity apart from my mundane marriage. There are a lot of women I’ve met who feel the same way and it’s been great talking to them. But guess what, something else happened. This may shock you – but I’m in a relationship with a man, and it’s full on fantastic.”
“Tell me all about it, don’t spare any details.”
“It happened by chance, I met him one Sunday at a nursery, he helped me select some plants, we had coffee, talked and it started from there. We just seemed to click. There’s a problem because he’s married, but he plans to leave his wife.”
Jan felt a familiar feeling here; over the years she had heard that promise from many of her new loves.
But she said, “fantastic news, as usual we’re soulmates, because I have a surprise for you. I’ve been going out with a new fellow. I had just about decided to give up on guys. I think about all the smart types from work I’ve been involved with, more concerned about a quick macho shag before charging off to the next planning meeting. This one’s different. He doesn’t even work in the business world, he actually runs a nursery. He’s married also, but is going to leave his wife.”
“Talk about us being on the same train,” Carol exclaimed, “soulmates, gaymates and now
playmates. “My guy also runs a nursery, in Upwey, specialising in grafted roses.”
Jan’s face sagged and she almost threw up, but managed to gasp “and his name is Brett.”
“Why, Jan, how did you know that, do you know him?”
Jan looked at her old friend, happy, vibrant and on the cusp of a new life. She only hoped their friendship could withstand what was coming next.
“I think you could say I know him fairly well, or I thought I did. He’s the guy I’ve been going out with. What a two timing bastard. I had a strange feeling something wasn’t right, but I really wanted to believe in this one. He’s just like the rest. Men!, they just want one thing. This is the finish.”
She closely hugged her friend, who was now weeping softly. Carol had helped her through two messy divorces and now it was her turn to help her friend. This had happened to Jan before and she was just resigned and angry, but Carol was really hurting.
“What do you mean Jan, this is the finish, you don’t mean our friendship surely.”
“No you dummy, I mean this is the end of me and men, this jerk was the last straw.” She stroked Carol’s arm gently and gave her a light kiss on the lips.
Jan continued. “I have a confession. I’ve become totally disillusioned about men. Brett was my last try, it’s easier to have a man on your arm at business functions rather than a woman. But I’m over it now. I’ve been finding women who feel this way. Sick of guys only thinking through their pants, not understanding what women need in the way of tenderness and love.
To coin a cliché, I’ve jumped the fence and it’s great. Hope I haven’t shocked you.”
Carol looked at her friend closely. “Not really. With some of the courses I’ve been doing, I’ve also found women who want more from a relationship than a man can give. Women like me who married the first guy, then drifted through an unsatisfactory marriage, conforming to society’s expectations, but not knowing any better. Now, there’s lots of us waking up and needing to know who we really are.”
She took hold of Jan’s hand and softly murmured. “Seeing as it’s confession time, sometimes when Brian is labouring over me, with his big beer belly, rough hands and bad breath, I wonder what it would be like being with a gentle slow woman.” She softly laughed, “As usual, Jan, we are both on the same train, you’re just a few carriages to the front.”
They looked at each in a different and frank way. A speculative look, curious to discover what track their train would take them down. Their kiss was a gentle sensual brushing of the lips, sweetly almond tasting, a farewell to their old friendship and a promise of things to come.
Jan eased away. “Enough for one day, but how about if you come over on the weekend for a sleepover, like we did on the school camps. We have a lot to talk about.”
“What about Brett. How do we deal with him?”
“Simple, we just thank him for being an excellent train driver.”
Carol suddenly chuckled. “Jan, I have a final surprise for you. You know how we used to share your tent on those camps; I really used to like watching you get undressed and snuggling into the stretcher bed with you. I felt warm and safe.”
“I know, silly, why do you think I brought that tiny tent.”