The Secret

by Doreen F.

Charlie and Charlotte had been together for some months now. They had met one day in the library of their university. They needed the same book, but there was only one there. So instead of quarrelling they decided to meet in the afternoon and study together using the book. What began as friendship slowly led to more. After some weeks of ‘joint-studying’ Charlie summoned all his courage and asked Charlotte out on a date. She was delighted since she had been fancying Charlie a lot and sometimes concentrating while studying had been nearly impossible.

They went to the movies and to a pub after that. The film had not been that good, but that had not mattered since they had spent most of the time kissing.

Charlie and Charlotte met quite often, mostly at Charlotte’s place since she had a flat on her own and Charlie shared his with two friends. So if they ever wanted privacy they went to Charlotte ‘s. Charlie hardly ever spent the night a Charlotte’s, though since his flat was really close by and he had many lectures in the morning and did not want to wake her. She did not really mind, but sometimes she wished she would wake up with Charlie lying next to her. Sometimes Charlotte slept at Charlie’s on the weekend or when his friends were out somewhere. It was always great to wake up next to the man she really loved. Their relationship was really a happy one, but sometimes Charlotte wished that they would spend even more time together. One of her friends remarked that it was quite odd that Charlie would not take advantage of a girlfriend with a flat on her own, where they could make out at any time they wanted; and instead he would prefer the rather narrow bed of his. But Charlotte did not really mind. Charlie obviously had his reasons and she did not want to push it.

Charlie really had his reason, although not really rationally understandable ones, but he could not help it. He loved Charlotte really a lot and knew that sooner or later he would have to tell her the truth, but did not yet have the guts; furthermore he had convinced his friends not to say anything which was more like bribing them, but he was still willing to make these sacrifices. Whenever they could his friends would tease him, but he pretended not to be bothered. But the truth is that he was hurt and that his friends’ reaction did not make it any easier for him. And living in the constant fear of being exposed was like hell for him. In some of his sensible moments he thought he would tell Charlotte, but he could not bring the words across his lips. Her reaction was unpredictable, although he doubted she would leave him. No, of course, she would not leave him, but he could not tell her. But it would really be nice to spend more time with her, spend more nights with her. He had to do something; otherwise she might leave him because of his stupidity. Charlie had good reasons to react like that since his former girlfriends had stopped seeing him as soon as they knew and he had told them fairly early.

Charlie and Charlotte had been together for nearly six months and Charlotte still liked Charlie as much as at the very beginning, but he had been acting quite strange lately and would not tell her what it was. She could see that something was bothering him, but he did not tell her. She did not think he was with another girl though, it felt different, but what was it? One time he had been really close to telling her, but then the phone had rung and the moment was gone.

They had decided to celebrate their 6months-anniversary at one of their favourite restaurants and go to Charlotte’s flat afterwards. Charlie had purchased a really cute present and was quite nervous about that evening. Above all his little secret was bothering him in more than one way. Eventually he had to give in and take out his contact lenses. "Great, that’s exactly the right day for it", he sighed and put on his rather thick ugly glasses – at least that was how he felt about them and had felt ever since he got them. But there was nothing he could do about it and he could not cancel their anniversary dinner because of that. If he could at least see enough to manage without them most of the time, but he felt helpless without them since he was used to perfect vision with his dear lenses. His friends made another joke as he left the flat and headed for Charlotte’s place to pick her up. He tried walking without glasses for a while, but realized it would be stupid, dangerous and, above all, embarrassing. Standing in front of Charlotte’s door he plucked up all his courage and rang the bell.

Charlotte was very nervous and had spent hours deciding what to wear. When the doorbell rang, she had finally settled for a skirt and a blouse which she thought looked really good in.

"I’m coming", she shouted from her room. She ran towards the door and when she opened there was Charlie, but he looked quite different since he was wearing a pair of glasses. Cute, she thought, then she saw the forced smile on Charlie’s face. "Hey, I’m terrible sorry about the glasses, but my contact lenses were giving me a hard time. My allergy, you know."

"Don’t worry, come on in. I’ll be with you in a minute."

"Okay." Charlie was surprised at this rather neutral, if not positive reaction. He sat down on the sofa and took of his glasses for a minute.

"You won’t be seeing much of my special outfit if you stay like this", Charlotte said with a smile. Charlie put on his glasses and looked at her. She looked absolutely stunning and he felt even more self-conscious about his glasses.

"Yeah, right, let’s go, shall we."

"Okay, let’s go."

On their way to the restaurant they did not talk that much. Once they had ordered Charlotte could not hold back her curiosity any longer. She thought that Charlie looked really great, although he could have picked better frames; but at least she thought she knew what had been bothering all the time. His brown eyes were slightly magnified behind his glasses.

"How come you never told me you had glasses? You did hide that pretty well from me."

"I’m sorry. I know it was stupid, but I’ve had some really bad reactions towards them, you see."

"Yeah…, but"

"Well, the thing is that I don’t like myself at all when I’m wearing them. They make me feel weak and vulnerable. That’s not really what a man wants to feel like."

"I see, but we’ve been together for six months, you could have told me some time."

"I know, I know, but hate talking about this like that and I did not know how to tell you. I did not have the courage, I was a coward."

"At least I know now." And with a smile she added, "Does that mean you’ll be able to stay at my place overnight more often now?"

"I guess I could do that."

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