A Safe Place

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A Safe Place

Tina looked at herself in her wedding gown, and tried to hide her nervousness. She could hear the voices from her past, calling her the names she heard so often as a child.

A strange woman entered the room, and somehow, neither her bridesmaid nor her mother-in-law seemed to think that was odd. The woman came over to Tina, and said to her, “You are afraid”

Somehow, Tina could not lie to this stranger, and said “Terrified. What if I cant make him happy in bed? What if after all this, he decides he can’t sleep with a former man?”

“I think you need to remember how you met.”

She touched Tina on the forehead, and suddenly….

Then …

Tina hugged arms around herself as she walked, her second-hand dress being no protection from the cold. She knew where she was going, so she could ignore the stares she was no doubt getting from passing vehicles. It wouldn’t be long now, she was nearing the highest point on the bridge.

She reached the spot she had been seeking, and gently made her way across the safety rail, and sat for a moment on the ledge, just watching the water far below. The only thought in her mind was: “I hope it’s over quickly”

James was on his way to pick up his sister when he saw the forlorn figure making it’s way over the rail. He put on his hazard lights, slipped over to the right lane so he could stop, and jumped out of the car.

“Miss?”

“Not miss. Never been miss. Never will be miss.”

“Well, I don’t know your name, and ‘Hay you’ doesn’t sound good.”

Tina looked at the man standing close to her. He was holding his hands away from his body as if trying to show he carried no weapons, and he had a gentle smile on his face.

“My name is Todd, so go ahead and laugh, and then let me jump.”

“I would never laugh at a woman in distress. Besides, I don’t think that’s your real name.”

“Don’t make fun of me. Of course it’s my name I could show you ID if I still had my purse”

“I am not talking about your legal name. I was asking your real name”

“What do you know about those kind of things?”

“Plenty. But it is a long story, and it is rather cold out here. Any chance we could finish our talk somewhere warm?”

She looked at him hard, trying to see if he was kidding her. He seemed both earnest and sad at once. “You can go somewhere warm if you like. I have an appointment with the river below.”

“Please don’t. I want you to hear the story first. If you still want to keep your appointment, the river will still be there.”

“just tell me quick, so I can get on with this.”

“Fine. The reason why I know something about this is my sister used to be my brother.”

She looked at him hard again. “You are joking!”

“No. In fact, I was on my way to her place to give her a lift to the local TS group, her car is in the shop.”

He seemed like he was serious, so she finally made her way back under the safety rail, and he took her hand. “My name is James, by the way. And you are?”

She shook, and all her energy suddenly left her, and she leaned on him as they made their way back to his car. “My name is Tina. What is your sister’s name?”

“Well, our folks named her Edward, but she goes by Karen now”

“You… you said there was a group?”

“Yes dear. Meeting tonight, as it happens. Didn’t you know?”

“I … I never knew there were any people like me, much less a group.”

“Well, in that case, you are in for a treat.”

They drove off, neither realizing yet just how important this chance meeting was to be.

Now….

Tina snapped out of the memory, and looked at the woman again.

“How… how did you do that?”

“That is not important. Now remember what happened next.”

Then….

As they traveled, Tina found herself peeking at James and then looking away quickly when he looked back. He was handsome in an slightly-off-kilter way. Plus, he had a gentleness that made her feel safe, perhaps for the first time since she figured out she wasn’t like other boys.

The other quality that she noticed was his total and utter acceptance of her as a woman. It was not mocking, not even forced, but seemed simply part of his personality, as natural to him as breathing, and it attracted her.

“Down, girl” she reminded herself.

They pulled up to his sister’s house He opened the car door and took her hand to help her out. It was an old-fashioned gesture, but one that made her feel very feminine, and a surge of gratitude washed over her towards him for it.

After he had rang the bell, a woman answered it. She was mannish in a way, but also very feminine, and Tina found herself believing this woman could have once been a male.

“Hi sis. I would like you to meet my new friend Tina. She NEEDS to go to the meeting tonight.”

Karen smiled, and said “And I am very sure she will be welcome.”

She then grabbed her purse, and the three of them headed back to the car.

“So, Tina, tell me about you, and I can do the same”

Tina said, “My parents are very conservative religious types. They kept me on a very short leash, if you know what I mean. No internet, no TV except in the living room where they could control it, you name it.

But despite the rules I lived under, they had told me from the time I was a small child that they would love me no matter what.

Then I came out as myself to them, and I found out they had lied.”

She paused, and sobbed, and Karen held her.

“I was so upset, I went over to the house of my best friend, and told him what had happened, that my parents had kicked me out for dressing like this. They wouldn’t even let me back in to get my male clothes.

Once he realized what I was talking about, and especially when I accidentally revealed the fact I had always had a crush on him, he called me a fag and pushed me away.

I figured that if that boy, my parents, and even God could reject me, I couldn’t live like that. I was…going to end it when James saw me.”

“I am truly sorry hon. Every day I thank God I had parents who could accept me. It took them a long time, and it wasn’t always easy for them or for me, but we kept working on it. And of course I always had my brother James on my side too.”

“Remember what I told you, when you came out to me.”

“Yeh, I remember. Here I was with a long speech prepared, and before I could really start, you just said, ‘I know’”

“too bad I did, I bet it was a good speech. But girls always talk more than they need to anyway.”

“If you weren’t driving I would do something about that remark”

“Good thing I am driving then”

“No wonder he is so comfortable with me. They get along so well.” Tina thought.

Now

“And the meeting was an eye opener as well, wasn’t it?”

Then

“H…hi, everybody. My name…my name is Tina. If…if it hadn’t been for James here, I would be dead tonight. I never knew, never even guessed that there were so many others like me, and that helps a lot. But, the rejection I have felt….it still hurts, and I don’t know what I can do to stop it.”

“Tina, most of the people in this room have been where you are. We have lost families, friends, lovers, spouses, jobs, and more.

We have been rejected by churches, driven from homes, and mistreated by strangers, as well as people we knew and loved, and even been harassed or worse by law enforcement officers, and been used as a scapegoat by politicians.

But we have each other, and bit by bit, we are working to make things better for people like us. And it is changing, slowly.”

“Tina, do you have a place to go? You could stay with my sister, right sis?”

“no problem, bro.”

“I…I couldn’t impose…”

“Sweetie, it would be no imposition. Stay with me, at least till you can figure out where to go from here.”

“Yeh. After all the trouble it took me to get you off that bridge, I don’t want to lose you now.”

“Thank….thank you both”

Now

“And that was the start of your journey to this day. Do I need to remind you of your courtship by this man? How he stood by you as you transitioned? How he has helped you get into college to take social work? How long it took for him to convince you he wanted to spend the rest of his life with you? ”

“N…no. But is that why you are here? To help me past my fears?”

“That is part of it, but I am also here because there is going to be a moment of truth after your wedding tonight, and you will have a chance to repay all you have been given. You will have the chance to heal your man.”

“Heal…him? He has healed me! He is the strongest, and yet the gentlest man I know.”

“Nevertheless. All you have gone through in your life has been leading up to the moment to come, when you will hold both of your fates in your hand, and by your choice he will be made whole, or perhaps be broken completely and for the rest of his life. And the consequences of that will ripple into the future.”

Tina looked at this stranger, and somehow, believed her.

“But…but I can’t heal anybody. I wouldn’t know how!”

“Do you love him?”

“Yes. He saved my life that first night, and he has made my life worth living since.”

“Then love him. When the time comes, you will know what to do. But it will mean putting your own fears behind you. Good luck.”

With that, the stranger simply vanished, and her mother-in-law and her sister-in-law carried on as thought nothing had happened. Soon, the music began, and she went out the door and started down the aisle that led to her married life….

The wedding was wonderful. They always said a bride glowed, but when she looked at him, as he stood waiting for her to come down the aisle, she saw a pretty strong glow around him too.

“He loves me. I cannot understand why, but he does. What does he see in me I don’t?”

After they said their vows, he kissed her, and she could feel the electricity down to her toes, and her fears faded.

The reception was nice, but soon it was time for the bride and groom to go to the hotel room they had booked for the weekend. He picked her up easily and carried her into their suite.

“He is so strong. How can that woman say he needs healing?”

She noticed his trembling as they slowly undressed each other. He was so careful, like she was china that would shatter if handled without care. He blushed sweetly as she helped him, managing to look both shy and excited at once.

She found herself in a place of peace as well as pleasure. All her fears seemed gone, all the negative self-talk silenced as she looked forward their ultimate union.

But, just as he was about to enter her, things changed. The slight trembling he had shown became full fledged shakes, so much he could not support himself on top of her, and collapsed beside her, tears streaking down his face. He began repeating the words “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”

For a moment, all her fears and doubts came back with full force.

“I was right. He cant make love with me.”

But then she remembered the woman, and took another look at him. He was curled up, sobbing and shaking like a small boy terrified of the dark.

“I don’t care what the reason is. He is hurting, and he has always been there for me.”

She stroked his back softly, and turns him slightly so he can rest his head on her breasts. Then she strokes his hair, and just holds him.

“It will be okay, my love. Whatever this is, we will get through it together”

She waits until his breathing slows, and then allows herself to drift off to sleep.

When she awakens in the morning, she found him fully dressed sitting at the small table, and he was not able to look at her.

“Alright, John. Talk to me.”

“I…I am sorry, Tina. It…it wasn’t you, I hope you believe me when I say I wasn’t you.”

“Thank you for that. But you are not going to distract me. You saved my life, helped me find my way, and wooed me when I didn’t think I could ever be desirable. Now I am going to help you. Please let me.”

“I don’t know how to describe it. I… It was like I wasn’t here anymore. I… I was in the past.”

She put her arm around him, and understood what she could do.

“Honey, you know I just graduated from social work? It sounds like…It sounds like you had a flashback. Can you remember it now?”

“Remember it? It keeps repeating in my head now, and I cant seem to get it to stop.”

And then he whispered, looking at the floor, saying “The worst part…the worst part was liking it”

She gently took his chin and lifted it so he was looking at her

“Listen hon. I don’t need to know details. I don’t need to know who it was, or anything else that you don’t want to talk about. But I want you to know is that whatever happened, I don’t blame you for last night. And we will get through this together, okay?”

“But what do we do now? What if.. What if I cant ever sleep with you without remembering and freaking out?”

“I…I have an idea. Will you trust me?”

“I love you Tina.”

“Not what I asked. Will you trust me, right now?”

“I…I will”

“Then come with me back to the bed.”

She led him back to the bedroom, and said, “one of my classmates showed us a way for a spouse to help a victim rediscover how to enjoy well… sex.”

He blushed.

“We, the two of us, are going to take back ownership of your body hon. It isn’t going to belong to whoever hurt you, it will be yours again.”

“How?”

“By making this bed a sanctuary. A safe place where you can relax, let go of any guilt, and just be able to enjoy”

“What do we do, hon?”

“First, we are going to bless this bed. Say what I say, okay?”

“o….okay.”

“God, we ask you to bless this bed. Make it so no bad thing can go near it. May any evil we carry in us be left behind when we lie in it. Bless our union, our consummation of our love for each other.”

He repeated what she said, shakily.

“We make this pledge. Any arguments, any disagreements between us, we solve before we go into this bed. Any negative thing that happened during the day, we talk through until we can leave it behind before we enter it. We pledge to carry nothing into it but our love for each other and our desire to please each other. Can you make that pledge, my love?”

“I… I pledge the same”

She turned to him, and said, “My love, my spouse, my lifelong partner, I make this promise to you. I give my body to you without hesitation, without any fear. It is yours, as long as you can treat it well. Promise me the same.”

“I promise”

“I give you my word, to honour the trust you have shown to me by giving me your body. I will always treat it with respect, with dignity. If anything I do with it feels bad, uncomfortable, or just not enjoyable for you, I expect and even demand, that you tell me at once. And I promise that I will stop as soon as you say it, no questions asked. Can you give me yours?”

“I give you my word, I will do the same”

“Now, my love, I would like to see your body. May I help you undress?”

“y…yes.”

She slowly, carefully helped him out of his clothes.

“Would you like to undress me?”

He hesitated, and said, “Do you want me to?”

“yes, my darling. Please do.”

Once she was undressed, she led him onto the bed, and very carefully, very gently, and with lots of pauses to make sure he was okay, made love to him. She alternated between taking charge and encouraging him to do so, so he could understand that he could enjoy either or both.

After they both climaxed, and she lay beside him holding him, she knew that this was only one step. It would take time, patience, and all the love she had, and he would also need professional help to put the past behind him.

But this was an important step, and she would be with him the rest of the way, just like he had been with her. She wondered about the woman she had seen. An angel, a ghost, a time traveler, or just a hallucination? She might never know, and it didn’t matter.

The safe place they had built would remain, and with it, they could face the future. Together.