The Fern

Part One

There are times when you just give up on meeting the man of your dreams. For me it had been a matter of denial of what I truly wanted. I’d dated handsome men, kind men, and even some who were both, but I’d never met one who made me really want him. I’d been through the motions of relationships, you know, and I always felt like I was acting. There was a spark missing, and I even knew what it was.

Like Sugar, I wanted mine to wear glasses.

Are they so hard to find?

I’m even sure, looking back that I enrolled in art school thinking that there would be more guys in glasses there. Sure there were, unfortunately they were also either weird, ugly or gay. But the course was fun, and it enabled me to do a job that was never really work. I found myself working in a large graphics company in Frisco, with a great bunch of people.

The latest project was huge, involving a team of over 30 artists, and we even had to get more in from outside. One of these was a freelancer named Ten Sinclair. Funny name, a number, but what a gorgeous guy. I was immediately attracted to him. He had long dark hair which he sometimes wore loose, sometimes tied back, and he had a very exotic quality. He was also very talented.

There were a lot of hold-ups at the beginning of the project, and many of the team had wandered off to catch up on other work while we waited for the powers that be to authorize our first drafts.
Ten had nowhere else to go so he hung around the studio where I was occupying myself, and we chatted. He had a lovely open attitude, obviously very well-read and yet gentle with his opinions. He was funny too, and I found myself enjoying his company more than I really intended. I was going through a stage of fear of relationships, and I just wanted to talk, laugh, and keep it “light”. But deep inside that longing never went away, and I found myself gazing at him with an “if only” feeling in my heart.

He looked at his watch, smiled, and asked me if I was hungry. Oh, how hungry I was. But I just nodded and smiled, and he suggested a small restaurant on a boat right next to our building, which I’d seen myself but never tried, so it seemed like a good idea, and he suggested lunch in such a natural off-hand way - even saying that if it turned out to be terrible we could just leave -  that it didn’t feel difficult saying yes.

It was a nice enough place, nothing fancy, but my surroundings weren’t all that important to me at the time and I couldn’t describe it now if I wanted to. All I remember was the large open window next to our table that the sun came through, filtered by a large potted fern on the sill, and it was this soft illumination that came to be the turning point in my dilemma. I played with my food really, too intent on his face and words to have any desire to eat. We talked about the project and then the conversation took some very natural courses off, including the closest to gossip I ever heard from him, as we examined the pros and cons of the people we were working with. Artists are always prone to moods and attitudes, some more so than others, and Robert was slowly driving us both mad with his affectations. Even then, Ten didn’t actually criticize, and in fact he seemed to be incapable of any sort of negativity. He was slowly turning into a God in my mind, and I was fighting it with every fiber of my being - “Don’t fall in love. DON’T.”

And then, as I listened to him talk, in the filtered light that played across his face, as the fern moved gently in the soft afternoon breeze, I saw something I hadn’t noticed before, discs on his eyes - he wore contact lenses.

The room spun round, my breath left me, my stomach lurched, my body shivered with adrenalin, and I almost lost my grip on reality. I also lost my ability to look at him, and even his voice, which I was so tuned into, seemed to fade away, as my mind raced with the implication of this discovery. Suddenly the prospect of submitting myself to his charm came into being. My guard was down, my heart was his, and it obviously showed. He stopped in mid-sentence, then asked “Are you OK?”. Maybe I looked faint. I certainly felt it.

I smiled but I couldn’t really reply, I think I would have suddenly developed a stammer at that point if I’d tried. I just forced myself to make eye contact again - and found myself feeling hot, like I was blushing. Was I? He continued haltingly, still looking at me a little oddly, as if he was concerned. I tried to keep my cool, but my inner voice was screaming “I want to see you in glasses”, while a second inner power was stopping it from coming out of my mouth. And finally the most powerful inner wisdom said “patience”, and a calm came to me.

Perhaps he thought I still looked unwell, and needed some fresh air as he suggested we go for a walk along the harbor front. At that point I didn’t care where I was. A walk through the landfill would have been just fine. I was in the company of a man so beautiful that the world around him ceased to exist. All I saw was his face, all I heard was his voice. The walk did me good however, as I regained some of my senses, and even started to go over some scenarios in my head as to how I was going to handle this. Obviously, I didn’t want him to think I was a freak. I had to choose my words, bide my time, just make it sound natural. At the same time a ridiculous inner voice was telling me to “make sure” before I committed myself. Make sure of what? Make sure I wasn’t imagining it? No, I knew what I saw. Make sure he didn’t look like a weird geek in glasses? Impossible, not a man that handsome. No, it couldn’t happen. So what then? I had no answer, but I just had to see. I felt like I’d been given a beautiful package, and wanted to peek inside, but was afraid of being disappointed.

Eventually of course we had to go back to the studio and at least make the appearance of doing some work! There was no mistaking the mutual attraction we were experiencing, but what was next? Would he ask me on a proper date, and if so, how soon? I suddenly realized that there was a chance that might not actually happen, that I might be jumping the gun, that he might just be a charming man who takes his colleagues to lunch and talks very openly! The horror of that thought brought all my fantasies crashing down and once again, it must have showed on my face, as again he noticed and asked after my well-being. I told him I was just frustrated about the delay in the project, which was true anyway, and he reassured me that everything was going to be fine. Ironically, it was exactly the words I wanted to hear.

At last the authorizations we were waiting for came in and everything sped up. We were so busy working that it took my mind off my addled romantic fantasies a bit, but even so, all the time I was working I felt that I was being inspired by my feelings towards him. Every curve I drew was his body, every color I chose was from his pallette. He was always there, even when we weren’t actually working together, and although he was friendly with everyone, I felt I wasn’t imagining it that he had more chemistry with me.

The really good news came that I wasn’t the only one who’d noticed this. Steph called me over as I was leaving on the Thursday and asked me if I’d noticed how Ten always watched me, and got closer to me when we were talking, than with anyone else. I guess my face lit up at the suggestion, as she said “oh, you had!”. I told her that we’d had lunch together earlier in the week, which no-one had noticed as the place was so quiet then, and her eyebrows went up. “Lucky girl” she added “he’s gorgeous”.

I trusted Steph. I’d been her confidante through her marriage break-up, but my present dilemma was too weird even to share with a friend. But I needed someone to talk to anyway, and as we hadn’t had a girl’s night out in a while I suggested we go to the Fisherman’s bar that we both loved, and where we had spent many a night giggling and crying over imported beer together.  She jumped at the chance.

Mostly it was shop-talk, but eventually she enquired again about Ten. She asked me if I was interested in him, and I just made a complete fool of myself. I colored bright red, gave the silliest little laugh, and had to look away from her. She laughed out loud, then looked sympathetic. “Steph, I feel like a kid with a first crush”, I told her and she nodded knowingly. I wanted to tell her about my - quirk - and how I felt that I’d finally found The One, but I didn’t know where to begin. “Hi, I’m Teresa and I’m a glasses fetishist” was NOT something I wanted to blurt out. I just couldn’t do it. Euphemisms, that was the way to go, ask her about something else that I might want to see. Trouble was I couldn’t think of any.

“The thing is Steph, I’ve been so hurt before, I’m really scared of committing....” she grabbed both my hands “Oh honey, you KNOW I understand that!” Of course she did. She’d been beaten by a drunken husband.

“No, I mean...I need to know LITTLE things about him.....things that are too weird to ask outright, nothing serious, well, not to most people, I mean to most people it just wouldn’t matter, but, I just have to know, or it won’t be right, and it has to be right you see, and I have to know NOW before I get any more involved, before I .....” I realized I was babbling, and she had her eyes fixed on me. Surely she couldn’t read my mind?

“Be honest” she said, and her face was very serious, “You’re right, the little things do matter.”

She never once asked what I was referring to, and OF COURSE, she didn’t know. But she knew it mattered. Of course it mattered. Little things grow into big things. Didn’t I already know that? Hadn’t I had relationships that had gone stone cold because I thought it didn’t matter? A fetish isn’t a preference, or a hobby, or something for a wet Sunday afternoon. It’s an obsession with no cure, like the poor souls who know they’re trapped inside the body of the wrong gender. You either have to attain your goal or remain forever unsatisfied. It’s like living a lie. It’s about authenticity. So, I had to see. Bless you Steph, for ever more.

Friday seemed different. Ten was late coming in and had tied his hair back in a braid. It looked fantastic. I even saw some of the other girls enjoying the view. But I was the one he came over to, I was the one he said “Sorry I’m late” to. I was the one he sat down beside when he began working. And I was the one who got the chance to ask HIM what was wrong when he seemed distracted. He laughed dismissively at himself, and then totally casually made my day with “Oh, really, it’s nothing, just my new contacts driving me nuts, I stopped by the eye doctor on the way in to see if he could do anything, but he said I’ve just got to get used to them.”

And guess what I said. I said “Oh...”

Oh? OH? The inner voices started screaming at me again, only this time it was less polite. In fact it was profanity. Then I swear one of my inner powers slapped me, HARD. Because to my utter shock, and delight, out of my mouth came “So why don’t you just wear glasses?”. Just like that. No stammer developed. I’m not even sure it was my voice, it sounded so natural and matter of fact. And it had an insistent tone that demanded a real answer.

“Oh, that’s a long story” he laughed, and I swear he looked embarrassed.

“I’m not going anywhere” said that new voice that had just moved in to my body. It was a kind voice, but very firm and confident. I hoped it would stay.

“Well....” he began, reluctantly “I had this girlfriend, well, we lived together, 7 years actually......”

Yikes, The Ex.

“She had this THING....”

EEK! No, please, not the THING, please, please don’t tell me she loved men in glasses in an unnatural way and you have been scarred for life by that experience! Did I want to hear any more? Should I feign illness now? Should I interrupt with a knowing “Ahhhhh........” and change the subject, never to know? No, I had to know. One way or the other, I had to know.......

“She had this stupid thing about glasses.....”

Oh no, oh no...........

“She hated them.......”

HALLELUJAH!!!!!!!!! Praise the Lord and pass the eye chart!

“She nagged me until I got contacts. It was hell, but I wanted to make her happy......”

OOOOOOOOOH

“Do you know it took me a full year to get used to them?”

I tried to look sympathetic without overdoing it.

“And even then they were never comfortable. They tell you that once you get them right, you can’t tell that you’re wearing them. Well, you can. You can feel them every second of the day. You want to make that feeling go away, and all you can do is blink.”

Yes, he did blink a lot. Why didn’t I pick that up straight away?

“Well, anyway, after we split up I just carried on wearing them, I guess it was familiar by then. I’d gone through all that to get used to them, you know?”

Come on Teresa, this is your line.........a wave of tingles came over me, the wise confident inner voice had deserted me, and instead I was left flopping around, and the only thing I managed to do was shrug. WHY? Why did I shrug?

“Why did you shrug?”

Huh? Could he read my mind? It must have been a bigger shrug than I thought. Why DID I shrug? I was waiting for an inner voice to find its way forward, and guess which one stepped up to the podium?......the honest one.......

“Well, because I’ve always preferred men in glasses”.

YOWZAS! I said it! I said it out loud, I said it without blushing, I said it without mumbling. I said it while fixing him with a heart-on-my-sleeve gaze of sheer adoration, and this highly articulate man said

“WOAH!” and then lost HIS power of speech.

He smiled, then looked puzzled, then smiled again, then looked puzzled again, then laughed, really hard. And because he reacted so oddly, I reassured him with

“Honestly. Always have.”

There was a long silence, during which time he never took his eyes off me, as if he was reading my very soul. And then he broke it. He took hold of my hand, and said

“So, if I was to pick you up about 8 o’clock, and wear my glasses, you’d come out to dinner with me?”

WOULD I?

“Yes” I said, smiling. And holding onto the desk firmly with both hands to avoid collapse.

With that, he grinned broadly, picked up his jacket and left. I just stood there moonstruck. Had anyone overheard us? No. But Steph had been watching, and as I turned round she gave me a huge theatrical wink.......

I think I floated home. I don’t remember the drive anyway, and when I got home my sister Maggie was waiting outside. I don’t think I’d ever been so pleased to see her. I giggled all the way up the steps to the front door, like I was drunk, and she kept nudging me with “What?” She knew me well though, once inside she asked “What’s his name?”.

“Ah well” I was so happy to talk about him. “His name is Etienne, it’s French, but everyone calls him Ten for short. He isn’t French, well, I mean he doesn’t sound it, I don’t know where he comes from, or his parents or......”

Maggie wanted something else. “What does he look like?”

Ah, well now.........”He’s dark, very dark, he looks French, you know? He has long hair, big brown eyes, beautiful features.....he’s tall, oh I’d say about 6 feet, and he’s slim but buff, I think he must work out, or maybe it’s just natural...........”

“You’ve gone red.”

I had. Again. This was getting ridiculous. It was because I wasn’t telling her everything. Well, how could I? Anyway, she seemed satisfied, I told her I was going out, and she said it was OK, she’d only come over to use my shower anyway, as hers was kaput, but as I needed it to get ready she’d wait and use it after, no problem. So she pottered in the kitchen - she was always cleaning up after me - and made herself a bite to eat.

When I finished agonizing over what to wear, and was ready, she handed me a drink. Yes, I probably needed it too, to steady my nerves. Soon, very soon, I was going to feast my eyes on a sight I’d been waiting for so long.....not just since I’d known, not just since I met him even, but something I felt my whole life had been building up to. It wasn’t fair. Maggie had had two boyfriends with glasses. I’d never had any. And now I found this..this.....perfect human being, with the perfect smile and the perfect nose, and the perfect sense of humor, and the perfect laugh....and.......and a car pulled up outside. He was early. No.....he wasn’t. I’d taken so long to get ready I’d only just done it in time!

I stood peeking through the blinds at the long window beside the door. Maggie was at the one the other side. He got out the car. My heart leapt into my mouth. It didn’t seem to want to go back down again, so when Maggie shrieked in delight with “Oh my God, you didn’t tell me he wears glasses!” I couldn’t swallow it down far enough to speak, and it didn’t dawn on me until later that my sister, unbeknownst to me all these years shared my passion! But yes Maggie, he wears glasses, and oh, joy to the world, what beautiful glasses. Rimless.

He jogged up the steps and knocked without hesitation. I gestured to Maggie to get in the kitchen quick, and I stepped back and counted to 5 so he wouldn’t know I’d watched his arrival like some dopey teenage stalker. I opened the door determined to make eye contact, but it was hard, and I think I blushed a little.

He said “You look great”

I replied “ So do you”. We were both visibly relieved, and we both laughed knowingly.

I introduced him to my sister, who gushed. He escorted me with an arm, very gentlemanly, down the steps and into the car. For a moment or two he looked uncertain about something, something on his mind. Then he smiled broadly, looked at me and said “This feels good”. And then he reached over and gave me a very friendly hug, and any awkwardness was gone, for ever more.

up

The Fern - Part Two

I was absolutely thrilled with the little restaurant we went to. The service was deliberately protracted and the seating very intimate, all quite plainly designed for those on dates! It was such a find, so well hidden in a far flung part of town, I couldn’t help but be curious as to how he found it. Not that it mattered, we had a superb evening. Everything just seemed to work right. Nice background music, modern but gentle. A natural flow to our conversation. Several romantic kisses. So it just seemed appropriate to invite him in when he took me home. I just didn’t want it to end.

But my sister was still there, and as much as I loved her, I could have wished her further. She obviously liked him, and wanted to see him again. I couldn’t blame her.

“Let’s go in anyway,” I said “we’ll have some coffee. She’ll be leaving soon.”

But she didn’t. Maggie never ceased to amaze me, she was so brazen. She wasn’t exactly flirting with him, but she was enjoying my date too much for my liking really. I don’t think he minded the attention, and in any case, he was polite enough not to show how he felt about it either way, and he never gave me any reason to be concerned, so I let her quiz him. I found out more about him in one night, her way, than I would have done in weeks, maybe months, my way. My way was to wait, but it wasn’t because I wanted to, and it wasn’t lack of curiosity. I wanted to know all there was to know about him, I just wasn’t the type to ask. I don’t know why, but I lived in constant fear of people thinking “Hey, she’s weird”. And of course, the net result of all this was that nine times out of ten, I’d be so busy trying not to be weird that I’d say something utterly, totally STUPID. And just when I was getting past that I found a new reason not to ask.

So, I was actually quite delighted when she took control of the discussion and even asked him about his glasses. I just sat back and took in the conversation. Yum! First she complimented him on the style.

“Oh, thanks.....these are brand new. I’d worn contacts solely for so long that the prescription on my old glasses was way out.”

Yes, I suspected that. He’d left work early for a reason. I wondered how much time it had taken him to choose them, with a date in mind, wanting to impress me. Ha, what a delicious thought!

Then she asked him his history. Oh Maggie! So......I learned that he first started wearing glasses in his final year at High School, and went through hell and back with that. It broke my heart to hear that his girlfriend at the time decided he was no longer up to her standards, and after they’d been seeing each other for almost a year too. The hardest part for him was that he’d realized only too well that he needed glasses, several years before that in fact, but being one of the smarter students he’d put it off to avoid the geek label. By the time he had to give in and get them, because it was really affecting his grades, he went straight into full-time wear. That’s a big deal for a 17-year-old guy. How I wished I’d known him then. I’d have made him feel good about it. I wouldn’t have ditched him! I’d have encouraged him to go sooner maybe....ah, who am I kidding? I was as gutless then as now. No....more so. I doubt I’d have even had the bravado to talk to him. But I’d have worshipped him. I know I would have.

He also told the full story of the dreaded Ex, Karen, who had managed within 3 weeks to convince him to wear contacts, which he was scared of, which had turned out to be even worse than he expected, which he had so much trouble with, forcing himself to tolerate daily discomfort, and then left him anyway, after they’d lived together for seven years. This....lady...and I am using the term loosely, had referred to his glasses as stupid. Maggie called her a bitch and he said nothing but shifted uncomfortably - there was obviously a deep hurt there. I also had the feeling he’d had enough talking about himself in such a revealing way, and he forcefully changed the subject. Maggie didn’t push it, and I was eternally grateful to her.

Finally, she took a hint and said her goodbyes. Ten stayed only briefly after that, just as I was seriously thinking of inviting him to stay, but I thought at the time that it was more fatigue than chivalry that made him decide to go. He made very certain that I understood his feelings by asking to meet again the very next day, and said he’d pick me up before lunch. He seemed like there was something else he wanted to say, but was holding back. Gee, I hoped I wasn’t rubbing off on him.

“There’s something I want to show you Teresa”

“Cool”

“Well, no, well......tomorrow. I’ll see you tomorrow”

He kissed me. I thought he was going to change his mind about going at that point but he said.....

“Tomorrow,” again. And left.

I took stock of my evening. I’d spent the whole time just drinking in his face, his eyes, and his glasses. It was all just so wonderful, and.....woah!..... it was going to go on like this, can a person take in so much bliss? Yes. I just wanted to gaze at him forever. In a moment of inspiration I planned to grab a photo of him as he arrived the next morning.

However Saturday morning was not conducive to photography as it was pouring with rain. So I shelved that idea, and searched for my umbrella instead. I couldn’t find it anywhere, had I left it somewhere? I didn’t like the idea of looking like a drowned rat in the short walk out my door, down the steps, and to his car, but I needn’t have worried. Being the perfect gentleman he was, when he arrived he brought a huge umbrella out of the car with him, and huddled me under it. I never got so much as a drip on me. He of course did get a bit wet, and he had a few drops of water on his glasses - did this mean I’d get to clean them for him, like I’d jealously watched Maggie do to her beaus? Oh please..............No, he didn’t even take them off for a moment. Dammit!

So, we drove right out of town, to a small zoo I’d never even heard of. We had lunch first, then he took me into the tropical house. What a beautiful building, but the architecture was second to the murals all around the walls. Ten’s work. I saw his name on the plaque. I could tell he was obviously very proud of it, by his smile, but he was being very modest not pointing it out, and I was just left speechless by his skill. I was also very confused by this need to bring me here - to show me his talent, while at the same time obviously just.....hoping....... I’d notice This must have been what he wanted to show me, why he brought me here, wasn’t it? He was behaving like it was an afterthought.  There was something quite complex about his personality, but I absolutely loved it. Like.....he was so knowledgeable about so many different things, yet I never felt he was showing off. He just seemed enthused, whatever he was talking about. And he treated me like royalty, holding doors open, always there with the umbrella from building to building, and apologizing for the weather as if it was his fault. Was this man as perfect as he seemed, or was I just in love. Maybe both.

I decided to invite him back again, and offered to cook him dinner. He leapt at the chance, and said he hadn’t had a good home-cooked meal in ages. I hoped my culinary prowess would live up to his expectations, and then suddenly realized again that he had a French name. So I cooked Italian.

He hovered the whole time I was in the kitchen, interested in everything I did, but never offering advice. Either he really couldn’t cook, or he was being polite. But he was fun, so much fun, and I think that was what endeared him to me most. His zest for life was almost childlike. I could feel an awesome bond growing between us, and it seemed like it was going to be plain sailing. I fantasized a respectable length of time getting to know each other and then marriage. Like a romantic novel. I had him signed, sealed and delivered as mine. Or so I thought.

He loved my cooking. I found a decent bottle of wine (not Maggie’s undrinkable home-made stuff that I now had a collection of) and even some ice cream for dessert. We talked, we opined, we laughed. There was never a pause, never an awkward silence. I felt easy in his company like I’d known him for years, and it seemed to be mutual. I felt so comfortable in fact that I suggested just sitting watching a video together. It seemed cozy and romantic, and he loved the idea. It was the first of many evenings spent that way.

The only problem was, after we’d had a wonderful, fun cozy evening he always went home. And we never went anywhere else much, other than the cute restaurant he first took me to. Without wanting to complain - I did enjoy the time we spent together - I started to wonder if I’d made him too comfortable too soon. It wasn’t so much that it was boring, no, it wasn’t. I could never be bored with his company. But I enjoyed going out, I enjoyed variety, and I was rather hoping to enjoy.........something more intimate.

Although he always wore his glasses when we got together privately, he still wore his contacts to work, despite frequently being in obvious discomfort. He didn’t explain this, and right now I didn’t have the nerve to ask. You see, the last thing I wanted to be was the pushy nag he’d wasted so many years of his life with. I was just grateful to see him in glasses of an evening, two or three nights a week. OK, it wasn’t enough to satisfy me, but...well, it was good. What I really wanted to see now was him in no glasses - and no clothes. I wanted that man, but he never made any advances that I could work on. Wonderful kisses, yes. Wonderful hugs. Never anything more. It was really quite frustrating, and rather confusing. It certainly wasn’t anything...lacking....in him. If our kisses started to heat up, he was noticeably aroused, but he always pulled back, and would often leave. Yes, leave me begging for more, good strategy, but just how long was I going to have to put up with this.

Why was I such a coward when I felt so close to him?

I took the opportunity to take Steph for lunch and confide in her. It was difficult, but she made it easier for me.

“So, how are things going between you two? Everyone’s talking about you seeing each other after work” I guessed that, but nothing had been said. We tried to be discreet, tried to be professional about it.

“He’s lovely Steph,” I told her “actually he’s almost perfect. I think this is The One.”

“Good for you! I have to admit I’m jealous. He has such beautiful dark eyes”.    

Ah well, here was my chance to expand....a bit.

“Yes, and the best part is...when I’m with him outside work he wears glasses.”

“That’s the best part?”

Obviously Steph didn’t share my obsession, but I’d begun now.

“Yes, I think he looks REALLY hot in them. Really...... I wish he’d wear them to work....but then maybe I wouldn’t be able to concentrate” I giggled nervously.

“Weird,” said Steph “You’d think it’d be the other way around.”

Yes, you would, wouldn’t you. It made no sense at all really. But I let that thought go, and instead confided in her that I’d been unable to get him into the bedroom - although, I confessed I hadn’t really tried very hard.

“I don’t want to put him off Steph, he’s so.........polite, you know?”

“Polite or not, this is the 21st century, and if, as you say, he’s been in a long-term relationship before, he’s no monk!”

“I know, I know...but...I don’t know what to do Steph, I mean, he is THE ONE, I know he is, and I’m scared of doing anything wrong.........nuts huh?”

“Oh you’re just in love. “

“Yes, yes, that I am. Oh Steph, he’s so......”

“Perfect?”

“Yes.”

Well almost. If only I could figure out what was stopping him from letting himself go.

Maybe he was waiting for me to make the first move, so I didn’t feel he was pressuring me? Maybe he’d got so used to The Control Freak, now he was nervous?  I made arrangements for him to come over the next evening, and I was planning on.......well.......seducing him. Or at least trying to.

So, the familiar routine. I cooked him something nice, we retired to the sofa, he brought a movie to watch, we hugged while we watched it. I waited until it was finished, then I pounced. Well, actually I very casually turned to him and started unbuttoning his shirt. He didn’t put up a fight. So I kissed him, quite passionately, and made sure he couldn’t escape. I made my intentions quite plain, and to my utter pleasure - and surprise - he went along with it quite eagerly. Great! We gradually helped each other remove our clothing, and then I reached to take his glasses off, and he stopped me.

"No.....don’t....please......don’t” he said, looking uncomfortable. I must have looked shocked, and he just shook his head at me gently but emphatically, then kissed me, and pulled me right onto him.

He was the most exquisite lover. Passionate yet gentle, he aimed to please. He seemed as relieved....grateful even, as I did, that we had broken that barrier down, but then, after the glow of the moment, after we’d hugged and relaxed and pulled a throw over to keep snug, a serious look came over him.

“I love you Teresa, you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

I wanted to respond quickly, to tell him that was exactly how I felt, but he had something else to say.

“I suppose you’re wondering why I didn’t want to take my glasses off.”

“You wanted to see what you were doing?”

He laughed, kindly “I can see enough for that. No.....I’ll try to explain without using technical jargon.......it’s just that my glasses - or contacts - they don’t just help me see, they also make my eyes look, well, normal......straight......without them my eyes look.........different, OK? I guess I’m really self-conscious about it. I’ve had good reason to be, I hope you understand........So..........I’ve been trying to find the right moment to tell you....to show you..........”

Very slowly he took off his glasses and I saw what he meant. Although I knew he was looking straight at me, it looked like he wasn’t, it was like he was looking straight through me. I suppose I understood that he might be bothered by this. I sort of understood that some people, looking at him, might be rather distracted by it. I even understood, a bit, that to some women, yes,  it might be a put off......maybe.....What I DIDN’T understand was why I found myself liking it so much. So very, very much. So much in fact that I said absolutely nothing, but just kissed him. Then I looked again at his unusual eyes, with the very long lashes, and somehow found the courage to ask.....

“Did......she....object to that?”

“Yes, she did. It got worse over time, and.......” he trailed off.

I didn’t need to hear any more anyway. I wanted to tell him my opinion of this shallow woman, but restrained myself.

“And you know,” he continued “realistically sometimes I have to take them off, you know? So...even after you encouraged me, I’ve been avoiding wearing them in public. And you know how dusty it gets at work, and it gets right under my contacts sometimes and drives me screwy. At least contact-wearers have a little protection, in a way. But for everyone else it’s just a constant irritation, and I watch everyone who wears glasses, they take them off to rub their eyes. I would want to do that too! But I don’t like people to see my eyes....OK, so you’re thinking how vain is that, right?”

“No, that’s not what I was thinking” but I was surprising myself with what I was thinking. As much as I much preferred to see him in glasses, I had found something special. Something taboo. Mine, mine, mine. I got to see him in glasses, and it was kind of private, something few people saw really. And then I got to see him natural, which was almost sacred. I wasn’t going to share that, however briefly, and I told him that I fully understood. But I wanted to add something, wanted to reassure him. I wanted to find a really sensible way to explain this, but instead I said “I want to keep you all to myself”.

His strange, faraway eyes looked confused for a while. And then the penny dropped, and he smiled.

”I don’t think I’ll ever understand women!!” and with that he put his glasses back on, and his eyes looked straight at me again.

“Ten, do you have anything else you want to tell me, I mean, do you juggle fruit or anything?”

Then he really laughed, he really relaxed. I wished I could be like Maggie, to say what I wanted to say when I wanted to say it. But at least when my brain did this to me it entertained him.

“Actually” he said, still laughing, “I can juggle, pass me those oranges”

And he tossed three oranges up in the air and kept them all up there, in their turn, then did a little bow. So I kissed him again. AND I kissed his glasses.

up

The Fern - Part Three

If there was a word to describe Ten it would be "whole". As I gradually got to know him better I found there was so much to the man, that I ceased to be surprised when I learned more. I felt pretty one-dimensional by comparison, and yet he claimed to find me fascinating.

Working with him was like going through college again. Everyone respected him because he was so dedicated to his work, but after a while he seemed less enthusiastic about the project, fortunately it was drawing to a close by then.

One afternoon he confided in me that he was feeling increasingly dissatisfied about his work, even freelance, and wanted to just go out and do his own thing and hope for the best. No more contracts. Just to create. I understood that. I'd never had the confidence to do it myself but I was ready to back him up. So immediately I offered to support him, to provide a regular paycheck, and even to give him a home. It was just a matter of time before he moved in anyway.

"That's a great offer, but I won't be doing this around here. I want to get on the road....and I want you to come with me."

On the road....wow. It sounded exciting but I'd never done anything so daring. I had to give it some thought, and he understood that.

"You're almost forcing my hand Ten, because I can't let you go without me..."

"I know" he said, grinning.

Naturally I turned to my sister and my friend Steph for counsel. I invited them both over on an evening Ten was busy selling his apartment. He had made up his mind, at least.

Maggie immediately said "GO". No qualms at all.

"You can't lose HIM, don't even consider it"

I hadn't.

But Steph was more wary "It sounds a bit flighty, really, what does he think he is, some kind of Gypsy?"

Actually, that was how I saw him. He didn't exactly sing to me under a balcomy but in many other respects he was my minstrel. His words, sometimes, were poetic, and he was very romantic. A dying art. He had said to me once

"When I'm with you life has a meaning."

And I'd just melted. I started thinking of times like that and was actually zoning out of what the girls were saying to me, but Maggie brought me up sharp with

"We will miss you so much"

Maybe that was what was holding me back. My friends, and poor Maggie who had come to live here to be near me, although she had a life of her own now. I had a life here too, but somehow, as much as it pulled, the need to be with my man was winning.

As we were talking Ten arrived. Maggie gushed, as always and Steph went very quiet when he greeted her - which was not like her at all. At the first opportunity she grabbed me in the kitchen while I was fetching snacks, and said

"You're right! He does look amazing in glasses".

I had forgotten, of course, she'd never seen him wear them. She'd never seen him outside work before. That was my priviledge. I noticed her looking at him quite longingly several times during the evening, and smiled to myself. Mine, I thought.

Then he did something I didn't expect. It was getting quite late, we were all yawning, and he took off his glasses and laid them on the table in front of him, and gently rubbed his eyes. It was something he often did when we were alone together, at the end of a long day, but knowing how self-conscious he was about the way his eyes looked when he didn't wear them I was surprised that he'd let Maggie and Steph see. They both noticed immediately, I could tell. Steph looked uncomfortable and stopped looking at him. That was weird. Maybe that was what bothered him so much. But Maggie, being Maggie said

"Are your eyes tired?"

And he nodded, and smiled like he was relieved she understood. Maybe it was something she'd seen before, on one of her conquests. And she didn't take her eyes off him until she felt mine burn into the side of her head. Oh I knew she was attracted to him, and I didn't really mind that much, I trusted her, and I sympathized! But enough was enough! She grinned at me seeing my disapproving look at her, and looked coy. Ten put his glasses back on, Steph resumed eye contact with him, Maggie looked disappointed, and I relaxed.

Unfazed, Maggie asked him his prescription. He looked a bit confused.

"I'm not really sure. Hold on."

And he went through his wallet, found a slip of paper and handed it to Maggie.

"Oh," she said, mystifying me even more "It's quite complex isn't it?"

Ten just laughed. And with that she handed it back to him leaving me hanging.

Steph was starting to look really sleepy, and Ten offered to drive her home, as Maggie, who'd brought her, seemed to be in no hurry to leave as usual. So after they'd gone I grilled her.

"Maggie, you seem to know more about Ten's eyes than he does, explain it to me. I'm fascinated. I don't know why, but I just am."

"Understandable" she said "It IS fascinating. I've been studying this stuff for years."

"I THOUGHT you must have" I told her "You seem so knowledgeable"

"Well" she confessed "I make a point of only dating men who wear glasses, surely you've noticed that?"

Sort of, well, recently it had occurred to me, looking back.

"Oh Teresa you are so.......oblivious....sometimes!"

Well gee thanks. So I told her the truth

"I have always shared your preference, I just never knew you shared mine, as it were. Seems funny now."

We laughed, a lot.

"Oh Maggie, you're a good sister. Now tell me, what does his prescription say?"

"Well it's a medium minus with a lot of cylinder and a little prism too"

"HUH?"

"Didn't think so........"

"WHAT?"

"Where do I start........."

And she tried, I mean really tried to explain it to me, but she lost me fairly quickly. I got as far as the difference between concave and convex, I knew those from shapes I drew at work, but once she tried to explain in 3D, I didn't get it. I tried. I couldn't grasp how a glass lens could do three things at once, frankly. But whatever helped my man see, worked for me. I just liked looking at them.

"Teresa, you are telling me that all your life, just like me, you've been watching men in glasses, but you've never picked up on the differences in lenses?"

"Well, a bit. I can tell if they're nearsighted or farsighted, and if they're weak or strong. I knew Ten was nearsighted."

"Didn't you think his glasses looked a little unusual?"

"I just.......like them..........."

"Well I understand that! He's a rare find, I mean, he's good-looking to begin with, don't look at me like that, I won't touch him, but he IS, and you know it, he's pin-up stuff. Then, bonus #1 he wears glasses, bonus #2 he looks really good in them, and bonus #3 they're a bit out of the ordinary. He's the sort of guy that even girls who don't care much for glasses would agree - they work on him. Some guys are like that. And you found one!"

Yes, I did, and I was going to keep him. I would go with him wherever he wanted me too.

"I'm going to miss you Maggie"

She smiled and hugged me tight.

"Take your Gypsy lover and have a great time. Just don't stay away forever."

Ten arrived back, and saw the tears in our eyes. He smiled. He knew.

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