After having known each other online for some time, writers, Benji and Ari meet at a convention.
Their attraction is both immediate and mutual.
But all is not straightforward—Ari is intersex and Benji transgender.
Together they embark on a journey.
A journey that unites families, and heals old wounds.
But not everyone is happy with the blossoming love between these two unique and special individuals.
Will an act of aggression crush the flower before it can bloom?
I was wandering aimlessly, in the vague direction of the exit, sipping a reasonably nice coffee from a cardboard cup when I heard someone yelling. It was odd. The voice was quite soft, but very clear, and it seemed to fill the air. I realized, with some shock, it was calling my name. Why the hell was someone calling my name in Bristol train station?
I turned toward the sound and barely had the chance to register a small, running figure before it was on me. The coffee flew out of my hand and hit the floor.
I froze. For a moment my brain ground to a halt in the face of such a surreal situation. I’m not the person who drops coffee on the floor, or gets hugged in stations.
The person—whoever he or she was—threw slender arms around me and held on tight. My face was full of long black hair which smelled of lemon and utterly blinded me. What the hell was going on?
I stiffened for a moment but didn’t have much choice but to return the hug. The person definitely seemed to know me, so I could only go along for the ride. I’d find out who it was soon enough.
After what seemed like an age, the person let go and pulled back a little. Bright emerald-green eyes sparkled in an almost inhumanly beautiful face.
“Benji, you’re so beautiful. I didn’t think you’d be so beautiful. I love your hair so much. Are those your real eyes?”
“Um, well… yeah, they’re my real eyes, just not the real colour.”
Ari laughed. Yeah, it was him. It was really him—maybe. I mean, I still wasn’t sure if Ari was… a him. He was slender and small, at least two inches shorter than my five-feet-seven, and his face was entirely free from hair, in a way that suggested natural absence rather than shaving. He also seemed to have kind of feminine curves, but there was something masculine in his voice and sometimes, when he turned his head—I just don’t know what. He didn’t seem to have breasts, and he’d pressed his chest pretty hard against me, yet a furtive glance didn’t show any kind of package in his jeans. The mystery continued.
I suddenly realized Ari was still talking. I don’t think he even expected me to answer as he chatted with breathless enthusiasm.
“And I nearly didn’t catch the train. You’re taller than I thought you’d be, but did I mention how beautiful you are? We have to take a new photo for your avatar. You’re going to have to be less modest. Come on, let’s go. Do you want to share a taxi? Where are you staying? I’m in the hotel. I keep forgetting what it’s called. Oh, be careful, there’s coffee all over the floor.”
When I looked down, the first thing I noticed was Ari’s boots. They were so pretty, with silver tips on the pointed purple toes. It wasn’t the shape or colour that caught my attention as much as the absolutely killer heels. He was even smaller than I’d thought. My impression as to his gender shifted again.
“It’s mine,” I managed to stammer.
“Did you drop it?”
“Kind of. When you—”
“Oh my goodness. Did I make you drop it? I’m so sorry.”
Before I could say a word, Ari had dragged me to the nearest counter, ordered more coffee, and charmed the barista into cleaning up the spill. Then he linked our arms and guided me away.
CHERYL HEADFORD was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.
Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.
Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re-enactment group who traveled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.
It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.
In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son and her two cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. The part of her that needs to earn money is a lawyer, but the deepest, and most important part of her is a storyteller and artist, and always will be.