I could never have imagined that four words could turn my life inside out.
It started as an ordinary evening – at least ordinary for the past few months.
We had met in Spring. Those gusty days when Edinburgh knows not whether she prefers to hang back in Winter, or gallop towards Summer. He caught my hand as I tripped off the hansom to go for my customary stroll in Queen’s Park – one tidy morning which had changed its mind and turned blustery. I felt the electricity of his gallant touch even then. And so it became customary for us to stroll together. What an empathetic being, a humanist to the core. But then he was studying to be a doctor. He would reassure with warmth, my own Dr. James Barry.
Our relationships progressed as expected, until last evening.
‘My dearest Liliane – you are no doubt aware of my feelings for you. You know how I hold you in the highest esteem, more than my colleagues, or aye, even my kin. You are assured of this?
‘No … hush. This is a difficult telling and can bear no interruption, no straying from the point. What I have to ask you … nay, confide in you, is a secret of such enormity that surely only death can reveal. And yet, I need your word.
‘You have indicated that my deep feelings for you are reciprocated. You have even hinted that you are adventurous and would value no company more than my own should we take on the world beyond these shores. I therefore humbly ask you “Will you marry me?”
‘No, hush dearest, there is more. And you need to consider your answer very carefully. So do not answer in haste. You know my plans to work in Africa, and I would expect – nay that word is too commanding – I would desire you beside me. Yet have I not revealed that which is most urgent.
‘We have made love together here, you and I. On this loveseat have you answered my touch most gently. Have you not looked into my eyes to find a reflection for that softness which I see in your glance? And have you not heard the passion in my whispers when I declared my love for you? This love is strong and true.
‘When you have heard me out, wait before you speak, and consider your true feelings for me. Only then, say whether you will marry me. I hope, nay know, that you can bear the truth. Yet am I dressed in garments that are not me. My love, I am a woman.’
The shock silenced me utterly, while his warm green gaze lingered anxiously over my face. My fingers, enlaced in his, as ever, burnt at the points of contact, warm, reassuring. He did nor try to hold me, but left me free to withdraw. Would I retreat from the gentlest person I had ever known? He was my best friend, confidant. I wanted to stay within the safety of that embrace for all eternity. My lips uttered: Yes, love, I will marry you.