Benjamin Kimura sank to the paving stones beneath him as his knees went out from under him. The clank and rattle of the train were a distant, dim annoyance as he drank in the words Antonia had written. It rumbled and hissed to a stop as the words swam in front of his eyes.
Why had he never listened before?
Since the moment they met in grad school, Ben had loved Antonio with the kind of single-minded intensity he usually reserved for his beloved books. So when Antonio slowly, haltingly revealed that he’d been keeping a secret, Ben had seen it as a betrayal. A loss of the man he loved. A sign that his idyllic life with Antonio had been a farce.
But the book Antonia had published?
Oh, that told a different story. Because while the names and details had been changed, the soul of the person in the pages was the person Ben had planned to spend the rest of his life with. The book was a love letter, a reminder of what they’d shared. If Ben could recognize the love of his life on the pages—despite the changes that took it from being an autobiography to fiction—why couldn’t he see that in real life? Why couldn’t he see that all of the truly important parts of Antonio were still present in Antonia?
Yes, it was a mind-fuck to go from being a gay man in a relationship with another man to a man in love with a trans* woman, but why did his discomfort have to be a deal breaker?
Why hadn’t Ben seen that Antonio’s revelation was a sign that he—she?–trusted Ben enough to reveal the deepest parts of his—her?—identity?
Fuck, he wasn’t prepared to deal with any of this. He scrubbed his fingertips against his scalp in frustration, ruffling the thick dark hair that was the legacy of his father. He froze when he considered his own identity. He’d grown up in two worlds, blending his father’s Japanese culture with that of his mother—a Caucasian woman from America—all while growing up in London. Ben had fallen in love with a second-generation Italian-Spanish man and his entire world was a hodge-podge of multi-culturalism.
If his parents hadn’t seen beyond the cultural divide, Ben wouldn’t exist. If Ben had been closed-minded, he’d never have met Antonio in the first place. So why was he limiting himself? Why was he letting his fears keep him from being with someone he loved?
Ben snapped his tablet cover shut and stuffed it in his rucksack. Standing, he dusted off the back of his jeans and headed for the exit. He’d wasted money on a train ticket to Oxford to see his parents—he’d been running to them to escape his confusion—but that wasn’t the end of the world. Losing Antonio—Antonia—was.
The anxiety in his stomach grew as he walked to the flat they shared. Lately, it had been filled with strained silence and tense discomfort.
Rather than use his key, he knocked on the door. The person who opened it wasn’t the man he’d fallen in love with. The long, runners legs Ben had loved to feel tangled against his own were now covered in a gauzy, bohemian print skirt rather than the trousers he was used to seeing. The soft dark waves he’d loved to run his fingers through were now cut in a stylish, curly bob that looked vaguely flapper-esque and softened the square jaw.
The corner of the mouth he’d kissed a thousand times before—familiar, yet changed by lipstick—trembled.
He stuck out his hand. “Antonia, right? I’m Ben.”
Her throat bobbed as they shook hands and Ben saw the shimmer of tears in the soft brown eyes he’d fallen in love with. He continued, not sure if this was the right approach or not, but knowing he had to try. “I read your book and I’d really like to get to know you better.”
Her voice was husky, softer than he was familiar with, but the words were all that mattered. “I’d like that.”
I went over the word count this week by a few hundred words, but the story demanded it.
Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics for this week!
I look forward to seeing you next Monday!