I noticed a shift in Tyler's mood this past Sunday when we met for our usual brunch. He was drumming on the table as if he had some song in his head only he could hear. He seemed to have a bit more pep than usual. I'm not saying the guy's a sad sack, but he's got enough on his shoulders that I usually forgive him for being in an unenthusiastic mood.
"What can I say?" he said as our plates arrived, "I feel like I'm finally making it work."
"School's going okay, the play's fun, I'm even getting along a bit better with Lauren's parents now that I'm out of the house more often. Things are just... clicking, lately, as much as they could be expected."
"And your little friend?" I asked.
"Hm?" he forked some eggs into his mouth, "Who would that be?"
"You know," I said, sipping my coffee, "That Mark kid."
"Oh, you know," he said, averting his eyes to the parking lot out the window, "I handled it. I was straight up with him and he, uh, seems to have gotten the message."
"You handled it," I repeated.
"Yeah," he insisted.
"Just like that, you explained yourself, and now he's over you. That simple. It's over."
"Sure," he said, "Why not."
I took a bite of my grapefruit, then said, "Just like how I told you I didn't want to date anyone when we first met, and your feelings for me evaporated."
The sound of cutlery dropping on the table. He sat back and folded his arms across his chest. His eyes were as angry as I've ever seen them. I felt like I had made a mistake, but it had to be said.
"Careful," he said sourly. I could tell he was trying to deepen his voice, to summon "Tyler" from deep within "Lauren."
"You know how guys are sometimes," I said, somewhat venting my own experiences, "You tell them no, and even if they respect it, it's not like it flips a switch and turns them off you. It takes time, and I'm just warning you here, it may take more than one 'handling.' This isn't like some jock who just wanders up, tries his luck, and mutters bitch under his breath when you turn him down. This guy feels like he knows you, he's working with you, he has a lot of face time with you. I don't think he likes Lauren, I think he likes you. You have a responsibility to act in a way that doesn't lead him on, doesn't make him feel like you're playing hard to get or that you might come around if he's patient."
"Why is that my responsibility?" he said indignantly, squirming in his seat.
I knew he knew the answer, but I said it anyway, "Because guys suck. They're kinda great sometimes, but they suck so much more than they're great. And until you get your old body back, they're not going to leave you alone."
"Don't mention my old body," he said bitterly.
"If I were in your position," I said, "I might have told Mark I was a lesbian. Or transgendered, even. I mean your exact position, not if I was personally trying to... yeah. That's basically the truth for you."
"Yeah," he sighed, "But it isn't the truth, is it? It doesn't feel like the truth."
I waited for him to elaborate on that, but he didn't. He pushed his half-eaten plate away, saying he was now too annoyed to eat. "Tell me something good," he said. "Tell me about things with Wade." I smile, now that we're at the part of the meal where he feigns interest in girl-talk.
"Things are... goooooooooood..." I start to say, drawing out the last word with uncertainty. I'm always wary of playing up the good times with Wade due to the imbalance in Ty's and my situations. But if I overcorrect and complain too much, he starts to wonder why I bother. I think it helps that, the more Ty has spent time with Wade, the more he seems to reluctantly approve of him. He might even like the guy more than I do.
Not hard to see why. Wade's a grown man with no romantic interest in Tyler, because he's got me. Ty is a little older, mature and a bit smarter than Wade, (certainly more worldly since he's been through this, not to mention various other experiences) but the two seem more or less equal and have even found a bit to bond over. Wade's in that sweet spot of being able to treat Ty basically how he wants to be treated, without the baggage of knowing who he really is.
For my own part, it's a good thing I don't like him more, because that could be trouble, but to be honest... things are going well. He's actually noticed how I've been kind of down about this waitressing thing and how I wish I could be doing something else with my life. He offers suggestions, he offers sympathy... it's sweet.
The bedroom stuff is... a business transaction we both benefit from. Sometimes Ty seems like he wants to know about it, but I know he really doesn't.
I changed the subject again to the weather, a favorite subject of his - he can't stop talking about how cold and dreary it's been around here, and sometimes he seems irritated by that - a quick glance at the weather app indicates it's about 80 in Alabama - and sometimes it seems like a fun novelty to have to wear overcoats. He has a particular bit of material about how excited he is to wear long sleeves and layers and have nobody second-guessing his motives. "Scarves!" he laughs, "Who the hell knew?" Um, every woman, sweetie.
I tell him dressing my body is proving problematic. I haven't been as "good" as he has, putting on a bit of booty-weight since we got here. I'm sorry, there's a little curvy girl in me and she wants cake sometimes. I half-thought it would just go to my breasts anyway (not that that would be preferable.) I tell him he's lucky to be so consistently thin, and he admits that's convenient, but we both know there's more to it than meets the eye. We're just not talking about it. Meanwhile between us, half a plate of eggs grows cold.
I asked if he wanted to go jeans-shopping with me and he consented... after all, what else does he have to do?
Sure, he rolls his eyes, but I see him getting nice and cozy with the sales racks. Having learned how to dress Lauren-ish, he's looking to expand, maybe even redefine. He just doesn't have the money to do so. At the very least, it's clear he looks at shopping as a "feminine" activity he is in some way obligated to try learning. He's not, but it's cute.