Not everyone sees a relationship the same way.

Things are going pretty well right now. I just started seeing this girl. She’s nice. Not my usual type, to be honest – I always used to go for glamorous, ultra-feminine, lots of make-up, you know, and that’s fine when you’re young but after a while you want something…I don’t know…real, I guess. And that’s what this girl is. I was drawn to her right away when we met. Something about her eyes, her smile. She just lit up the room, and she made me laugh. She’s smart. Really smart. A lot smarter than me, though I’m being careful not to let on about that. Truth is, I’m thinking of settling down. I’ve done all that single guy stuff, all that sleeping around, sowing my wild oats. I had a great time and I’ve got some great memories, but there comes a time when a man has to face the future like a…well, like a man.

I like him a lot. Maybe I even love him. But I don’t trust him. Well, it’s not him I don’t trust – it’s his anatomy. It’s his body. That sounds crazy, and everyone says I’m lucky to have a guy like him, but I don’t think I can get over it, and I don’t think this is going to work. At first it was great; butterflies and everything, the rush of teenage adrenaline that comes with a brand new relationship, that giddy feeling waking up every morning. And more than that, he wasn’t just anyone, he was the most handsome man in the room. Maybe the most handsome man in any room. When we first hooked up, I could almost see the jealousy shooting out of the eyes of every other woman there. A few men too. He was the sort of guy that a younger, more naïve me, would have said was out of my league. Tall, dark, chiselled jaw with a little scrub of black stubble, well-dressed, broad-shouldered, deep voice and easy smile. What girl could ask for more?

I take her to all the same bars I used to go to on dates, and it’s just not the same, even. I don’t get the kind of buzz I used to. It’s all so soulless. I see the girls walk by, just like the ones I used to chase, and they just don’t look the same somehow. I mean, I’m still a guy! A foxy little blonde in a mini dress walks by, and of course I’m going to take a look in her direction – I think my girlfriend would be worried if I didn’t look! – but that’s all it is. A quick glance. I don’t stare like a moron. You know what they say: you can read the menu, you just can’t order. What’s the harm? Plus, you know, women are just as competitive as men. They like to know that other girls are checking out their guy. It makes them feel special.

But I don’t trust him. He hasn’t done anything, hasn’t given me any reason to suspect him of anything, but I can’t shake this. We walk into a bar, arm in arm, laughing, talking, whispering like kids, and I can feel those jealous eyes on me again. As soon as we come through the door, women look up, and they don’t look away. He has that effect. He’s always had that effect, he tells me. He dismisses it like it’s no big deal, like he finds it annoying, but I see him preen subtly. And I see the way he takes it as his due because, for him, it’s never been any different. His very presence commands attention. The way he looks, the way he carries himself, it just makes every other woman sit up and watch. I can see their surreptitious glances, and hear their unspoken questions.

Not that she needs me to make her feel special. She’s special already. Smart, pretty, cool. We have a great time. Most girls I’ve dated, it was all about the sex. I’ve been with some wild ones before, let me tell you, but this time it’s different. I want to be romantic, I want to do things right. I can feel us connecting on a level that’s deeper than physical. I think this could be it. I think I could be in love. Me! In love! I know, it sounds crazy. Why would I give up the partying, the drinking, the casual sex for just one woman? Well, I realised a little while ago that life is about more than all that stuff. Life should have some meaning. That’s what I think I’m finding with her.

I’m pretty enough, but I’m no knockout. I have frumpy days, I have fat days, I have more bad hair days than good ones, frankly, but we’re in some posh bar in Soho and some of the girls there have to be models. White-blonde hair, tanned skin, tiny waists and shiny legs, teetering around on heels I couldn’t even afford, let alone walk in. He looks at them. Not with interest, not with anything remotely like lust, but I see what happens when one of them walks towards me. They pass him by and his eyes flick across, just for a second, following her as she sashays away, taking in the curve of her tiny arse. He doesn’t even stop talking, doesn’t move an inch, it’s just a moment in which is attention is on her and not me. It’s normal, right? I’ve had boyfriends before. I’m not the jealous type, honestly, but this time it’s different. This time she’s not some anonymous fantasy woman – she’s someone who, if he wanted to, he could have. Every woman in this bar is. That’s the difference. He knows it, I know it, and we’re both dancing around it.

I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Calmer, you know? I don’t know whether it was the drink, the late nights, the long hours at work or what, but I was always pretty highly strung. I used to get angry all the time. Just frustrated when stuff didn’t go my way – like if some dickhead pulled out in front of me or whatever. I know everyone gets pissed off about that stuff, but it wasn’t a part of me I liked. I feel like I’ve turned a corner now. When I feel that aggression building, I hit the gym and work it out on the treadmill. I’m fitter than ever! Life is great, actually. I have a great girlfriend, I’m sleeping better, I eat more healthily – I’m definitely drinking less, that’s for sure! I guess you could say she’s a pretty positive influence on me. I always swore I’d never let a woman change me, but actually it isn’t so bad. I don’t mind her leaving her mark. If she’s making me a better man, where’s the harm?

There’s something else too. His body is fabulous, and he takes care of it. He eats right, he goes to the gym five times a week, he’s lean and muscular. He thinks nothing of it, but he has a strength and an agility that I find astonishing. When his hands are on me, when we’re in bed, I can feel that tension in his muscles: I can feel the power there. He’s not rough or anything, but I know he could be and I wouldn’t be able to stop him. He’s not abusive, we’ve only had a couple of little fights so far, but I’ve seen his temper once or twice. Not directed at me, but when he was driving there was a flash of it, a spark of something surprisingly dark in his eyes. He bared his teeth and the veins in his neck stood out and I was frightened. Frightened of what he could do if he chose to. That’s what it all comes down to, really. What happens if he turns that anger of his on me? What happens if he stops being kind and gentle?

Sometimes I wonder if I’m some kind of project for her. Like, she saw this badboy at the bar and wondered if she could tame him. If that’s what it’s about, then I guess she succeeded. I’m as tame as they come these days. I hope that makes her happy. She seems pretty happy. It’s kind of hard to tell – you know how women are – but she’s enjoying herself. The sex is good and we hardly ever fight. What more could you ask for? We make each other laugh, we like the same movies and TV shows mostly. I mean, I think there’s a real connection here. And, now I stop to consider it, this is probably the longest relationship I’ve ever had, so I must be doing something right. She’d tell me if there was a problem, anyway. I’m an honest guy. I told her that. I like to be given this stuff straight. That’s the kind of man I am: what you see is what you get. No hidden depths with me. She respects that, and that’s one of the things I like about her. You can’t stifle a relationship by always being on each other’s backs, getting jealous and snooping. You have to respect the other person and give them their space.

I don’t trust him, because I don’t feel safe with him. At first it was fun, this constant electric buzz, this thrill of danger, but now it’s getting hard. I grind my teeth in my sleep and I wake up still feeling tired. I’m stressed. It’s like potential energy, as if I’m a glass teetering on the edge of a high shelf, you know? At any moment, I could topple off and shatter into a million pieces. It’s not him. He hasn’t done anything. It’s just the way he is. His body, his anatomy. Looking like he does, he could break my heart if he decided to. He could be fucking around with other women already for all I know – it’s not like we see each other every day. If he wanted to hurt me, he could, that’s what it is. He could break me, physically and mentally. Every second I’m with him I’m at his mercy and I don’t know him well enough to rely on his good grace. I can’t be in this situation. I can’t live without knowing I’m going to be safe. I’ve been here before, and once was enough.

For the record, I’m a strictly one-woman guy these days. That old way of doing things just doesn’t appeal. When I go out with my mates, I get the usual sort of attention, but I just brush it aside. Some harmless flirting’s as far as it goes now. Like I said, I’m honest, and I want to do right by this girl. I want to make her happy and have a good time with her. I think we’re on the same page. No, I know we are. Because I really feel like she’s someone I relate to on a spiritual level, and that we could actually be together forever. How crazy is that, eh?

I don’t trust him, and I can’t stay with him long enough to get over this, so it has to end. He’s so damn pretty, but it has to end. The trouble is that I know he won’t understand this, and he’ll get hurt or angry and I’ll look like the bitch. He’ll say he hasn’t done anything. He’ll say he didn’t give me any reason to distrust him. He’ll say I’m paranoid. It doesn’t matter. He is who he is and he doesn’t know what it means to feel unsafe. He can trust the whole world to be on his side, but I can’t.

This entry was posted in Contemporary, Feminism, Short Story. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Trust

  1. Love this! The concept would be good anyway, but your writing style just makes it brilliant!

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