Disparities – 3.

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Disclaimer: This is part 3 of the Disparities novella series. So, if you have missed the 1st two parts, it is recommended to read the first chapter here and the second here.

Disparities – 3.

Henry and Lillie entered the bar together, the same one they have been frequenting for weeks now. Mark promised to join them, after he cleared some stuff with Command. He was back in line, and Command kept interrogating him about intel. No one really knew what it was all about, but Command was convinced that he knew something, even if he didn’t realize, that it could be of importance.

So, Mark went to report to them and Henry and Lillie went ahead. At least they would be able to get a well-positioned table or a box with a good view at the stage. Rumors said that the French singer they both liked very much had prepared something really daring, but no one seemed to know what it might be.

Henry went to get a beer for both of them. A bitter one for himself, and knowing well that Lillie hated bitter beers, something sweet and fruity for her. He sat down with the two mugs, pushing the red colored fruit ale in front of Lillie, then rested his hand on the tabletop. Lillie thanked him for the beer, then covered his hand with hers. Henry stared at their joined fingers, while unspoken words burned his throat. He wanted to tell Lillie how grateful he was for her act, how it has saved him from the bullies among the soldiers, as well as in their own platoon.

“I am really sorry” the words tumbled out from his lips, not the ones he was supposed to say.

“For what?” Lillie’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline, clearly not understanding what was Henry rumbling about.

“For you being forced into this” with his free hand he gestured towards both of them.

“I’m not forced into anything” she shook her head “besides I was the one coming up with this stupid plan. So tell me if it’s too much, then we can call it quits.”

“No. No.” Henry started to protest vehemently. “I just… I don’t even know how to voice it… I have found Mark, and you… you became our shield right away, keeping all the arseholes away. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more grateful for this than I could ever turn it into words. But I can’t help the feeling… that it’s all wrong, because we’re robbing you of your opportunities.”

There. His fears were out, not the way, he wanted to say them, but he hoped that Lillie would understand. Lillie stared at him with eyes big as saucers, like Henry had lost his mind. Then she started to laugh. Even though, Henry knew that she wasn’t mocking him, he was taken aback, he didn’t mean all that as a joke, he was honestly afraid that he and Mark were taking advantage of Lillie.

Sensing Henry’s discomfort, Lillie’s laughter died short, and she looked him in the eye with all the seriousness she could muster.

“You two aren’t robbing me of anything” she said, staring severely at him. “To be honest, I never wanted love or affection from anyone.”

“But” Henry averted his gaze “if it wasn’t for this act, maybe you already could have found someone. Someone who would marry you someday.”

“Don’t give me this manly shit, Henry.” Anger flickered in her eyes. “I can’t believe you’re bullshitting me with that. Let me make this clear: I don’t want to fulfill the so-called women’s purpose in life. What for anyway? To put a mark in the ‘tradition maxed out’ checkbox? No, thank you. I value my freedom more.”

Henry lowered his eyes, pulled out his hand from under Lillie’s, then gripped his mug with both of his hands till his finger went white from the shear force of it.

“Sorry. I didn’t want to tell you what to do. I would be the last person to pull the ‘I know better’ act on you. But can I be honest with you?” His voice was hardly more than a whisper. He raised his head slightly just to be able to see Lillie nod, regret marred her face, no wonder for snapping at him. “I want to marry. One day I want to marry Mark. Hell, I would do it tomorrow given half a chance. But if marriage is not for you, I understand. Why wouldn’t I? I’m someone living against the laws… So how could I judge someone going against the conventions like me?”

“I’m sorry, Henry.” Her eyes glistened, she pried his fingers off his mug, taking his hands in her’s again. “It did not occur to me, that it was this important to you. But it wasn’t for me, hell, it rather felt like a sentence for life, than anything else. But now, because we are honest with each other… I’ll tell you my biggest secret. I don’t want love, never wanted. I don’t want to tie my life to anyone. I don’t want anyone to tell me what to do, to rule over me, like men usually do. I don’t want to bear anyone’s children.

Henry tried to smile, it was tight lipped and didn’t reach his eyes.

“Maybe you are looking in the wrong direction. What about women? Maybe someone can make you feel.”

“Nah” she shook her head again, her smile cheerful “I gave it a lot of thought, especially after I befriended you. But nothing. I don’t want love, nor affection, I don’t even want sex with anyone. Believe me, I tried more than one occasion with men and women to test both ways, and nothing. It wasn’t a disaster, once or twice it was good even. I can’t explain it better, don’t even have a word for the ones like me. So no thanks, it’s not something I want to repeat, or make a habit of just to blow off steam. But what I do want is to be equal to everyone else… to men. To be able to heal, to save lives, to teach others, to pass on everything I know, to be useful, even indispensable for humanity.”

“Wow.” Finally, Henry grinned. “You sure set the bar high. It would be an honor to be with you along the way.”

“The honor would be mine to have you by my side.”

“Wow. Did you just propose to her?” Mark hopped beside Henry, speaking loud enough to be heard at the adjacent tables. This will certainly fend anyone off, a fine way to kill the gossips before they even started.

Taking a careful look at Mark, and Henry could be sure that he got the gist of their talk, and understands as much as he did. And Mark would help too, would want a world where everyone could be equals; men, women, queers, people of every color, every nation. Was it too much to wish for? He hoped not.

Before anyone could say anything, congratulate or crack a joke at Henry’s expense, the singer they all came to listen to mounted on the stage. All the buzzing noises abruptly came to an end, as everyone in the bar focused their attention on him. As usual, he said few kind words to his audience in French, then in broken English. After the loud applause, the harsh claps of hands he was greeted with died away, the orchestra took over.

He let the cadence of cheerful melodies to wash over everyone in the bar, then started to sing. It was the same high pitched voice as always, but that night with his slight make-up, he looked beautiful, eternal, fairy-like. His voice made their skin crawl, giving the audience a pleasant shiver.

A young girl came to me her fortune to see

She sat down in my parlor and looked up at me

Nervous and anxious she waited patiently

And finally with anguish she cried out to me.

Oh, Jocelyne, Jocelyne please help me see

I want to know when my love will come to me

I pray to God and sing to Jesus, no one seem to hear,

Oh Jocelyne when will my love appear?

I looked into my crystal the girl looking at me

I caressed the ball intently as she waited nervously

Her reflection in the ball her eyes so sweetly bright,

Her lips full and rosy, twitched to left then right.

And she said: Oh, Jocelyne, Jocelyne please help me see

I want to know when a man will come to me

I pray to God and sing to Jesus, no one seem to hear,

Oh Jocelyne when will my man appear?

The crystal ball not working, I laid a tier of cards,

The two of cups came forward to tease my fragile heart

The lovers card lay waiting I gasped and closed my eyes,

The girl leaning forward begged me one more time.

Oh, Jocelyne, Jocelyne please help me see

I want to know when my love will come to me

I pray to God and sing to Jesus, no one seem to hear,

Oh Jocelyne when will my love appear?

I looked at her in silence, into her young green eyes,

So eager and so wanting I let out a waining sigh

And she cried, oh Jocelyne, Jocelyne what do you see

When will my prince charming come finally to me

I do not see a man in your future at all,

Instead I see a woman capable and tall

She will love you just the same, maybe even more,

She wears a ruffled scarf and looks into crystal ball.

Young girl, young this is what I see

I am your princess charming and you have come to me.

I prayed a lot and sang my penance but here you are at last

Oh young girl, give this love a chance.

After the last melodies of the song had died out, the silence stretched long, no one saying a word. Everyone was dazed, not sure to applaud, whistle or do something else.

“Did he really just sing that?” Henry gaped.

“Yeah” Mark added “he must have balls of steel.”

The silence started to become uncomfortable, menacing even. So Lillie grabbed Henry and Mark’s shirt at the shoulder, and jumped to her feet, dragging the other two men along. She clapped her hands furiously, and it took only one glance at the others to make them join her. That sound broke the spell, and destroyed the unease. As Mark whistled using his pinky fingers, the others at the bar joined in the applause, some even demanding an encore.

The singer obliged, and started to sing the refrain again, and when repeating it for the second time, he motioned for the crowd to sing along. And they did. Everyone in the bar started to plead Jocelyne to see their future as if they were the young girl from the song.

Lillie sank back to her chair, Mark and Henry following suit.

“Speaking of balls” Lillie winked at them “he is a she.”

“What?” Henry looked incredulously between the singer and Lillie. He could only see an unnaturally beautiful young man. But if you looked more closely, more attentively… Could he really be a girl? “How did you figure that out?”

“I didn’t have to. I knew it from the start.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Asked Mark.

“What was I supposed to say? I mean, he obviously wants to be treated as a man. As any man. And it really doesn’t matter to me. If he considers himself a man, so he will be a man for me.”

“So for us too.” Mark nodded his consent. Lillie watched as he squeezed Henry’s thigh under the table, and Henry covered Mark’s fingers with his. Lillie smiled.

“Yeah, the world should work this simply.” Henry breathed.

Notes

The song is based on the lyrics of Oh, Jocelyne by Frenchy and the Punk

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