De Rien Redux (Because I’m a Sucker)

[Okay – because I’m a sucker for happy endings, I gave her one. But I wanted it to be a compromise, and I hope that comes across. Keep reading if you, too, like happy endings.]

Six months of loneliness and Mia was wondering what she’d done. She hadn’t realized how much she felt for her husband. That when she’d told him “I love you” she’d meant it.

She couldn’t go back. He wouldn’t have her back. Hell, the country wouldn’t take her back. Even if she pledged to transition. It was too late.

Freedom felt good, just not as good as she’d though it would feel. Freedom was not easy; it was hard and sometimes boring and cold when she forgot to pay the heating bill.

But she had more energy. She wondered at just how toxic those vitamins were after her first checkup in her new homeland and the doctor asked her how long she’d been ill. She’d told the woman about the nurse and the tests and she’d clucked and shaken her head. Mia hadn’t told her about Tom’s pills to boost her system, and that she’d still had awful blood numbers.

On a rainy spring day, walking home from work, slow because there was no rush, nothing to get home for, she noticed a car parked at the curb of her apartment building. She recognized the big vehicle; it had been parked in front of her home every evening for five years–every night since Tom purchased it.

“Mia?” Tom stepped out, holding onto the top of the door like it was keeping him erect.

“Tom?” He looked old, his skin gray, his slim body gaunt.

He swallowed and nodded, slamming the door shut and shuffling towards her.

She’d never expected him to be so angry that he’d some after her. Never expected it when she’d used her real mailing address on the letter. Never expected to see him again.

Worry shot through her. He looked ill. “How are you?”

He shrugged. “You?”

She shrugged.

The rain fell, her hair already soaked, his rapidly getting there. If he was ill, the cold rain would only make it worse. “Do you want to come in and warm up? I can make tea.”

Staring, he nodded. “If you want me to come in.”

If she wanted?

She blinked, her world tilting. “Tom, what was in the pills you gave me?”

He chuckled, but it didn’t sound like laughter. “Probably about what was in the vitamins the nurse gave you.” He looked at her, his eyes dark. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” But the vitaminsĀ been to stop her from passing the blood test-

“I could have killed you.”

She jerked back. “What?”

“You were taking a double dose of poison. I’m glad you weren’t taking them like you were supposed to.” He took three steps towards her, through a puddle that slopped water into his shoes. “Even so, it’s a wonder you were functioning.”

“I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I wanted you to be happy. I wanted to be happy.”

“I was happy. I didn’t realize how happy I was until you were gone. But I was. No matter that Dad said I wasn’t, that I needed to do something about you. Transitioning is dangerous. More dangerous than anyone wants to admit. There are complications and side effects and…I was scared.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” She stepped forward, joining him in the puddle. They’d both die of pneumonia before they were done.

“Men aren’t supposed to be scared. My father kept drilling into me how important it was for you to transition so I could move up in the world. He thought the risk was worth it. I don’t think I understood why I didn’t want to take that risk.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I love you. Just you.” He fingered a frizz made ringlet by the wet. “The way you are.”

“Oh.”

He smiled, the movement softening his features, and he didn’t look so old for a moment. He patted his pocket. “I’m legal. I’ve immigrated. Seems they like pediatricians up here.”

Mia giggled. “They like math majors, too. I have a job.”

He frowned. “You want to work?”

She considered a moment. “Yes. Maybe not if I have kids when they’re young. But yes, I like working.”

“Okay.” But he didn’t look certain.

Sighing, Mia took his hand and led him to the front door of the three-story converted warehouse. “Lock your car with the remote. We need to get in out of the rain and have a discussion.”

“A discussion?” Tom’s voice sounded strangled.

“Yes. We need to decide if you’re sleeping on the couch or in bed with me.”

He laughed, the sound happy for that instant. “Even the couch sounds good with you.”