A long distance relationship
That first term was hard in lots of ways, but I had a great support system. I went to the Anchor a few times with Harry, and occasionally by myself just to take the edge off before going home. I had the garden to look after and was still invited to dinner with our friends. Pete and Mary, in particular, were always super supportive, and I spent a lot of time in their farm house.
They often invited Dani over too, and I got into the habit of collecting her and taking her home. It was not exactly on my way, but I enjoyed Dani’s company, and it was nice to be able to talk about my feelings, something I hardly ever did with anyone. None of my male friends would, I was sure, appreciate me speaking about such matters, but somehow, talking about them with a close female friend felt safe, especially when that female friend was gay. I even found myself admitting my sexual frustration with Ruby so far away.
For some reason it never occurred to me that Dani and Mary would talk about me, so I was surprised one Saturday morning when Mary showed up at my door and launched straight into what seemed like a prepared speech.
“Tony, I have something to say,” she said. “Dani told me about the talks you two have been having, and I have come to a conclusion. You must know I love Pete, he’s been the best husband I could wish for, and I won’t hurt him for anything. But there is a part of our life that is, well, less than perfect. I also know you, and your” she hesitated, “well, I remember what it was like between us. I just want to let you know that if you need sex while Ruby’s away then we can do that. You’re an old friend and I’d rather it was me than some tart you picked up in a bar somewhere. I’m not suggesting having an affair, no one needs to know about it, and no one will get hurt. It would just be sex between two people who are really good at it, OK?”
She didn’t give me a chance to respond, just turned on her heels and went back to her car. Not that I would have known how to answer in any case. Would I even think about cheating on Ruby? Or sleeping with the wife of a good friend like Pete? And yet, as I had shared with Dani, it felt very lonely at night in that house all alone. And I knew that Mary was an incredibly warm and willing partner.
Three days later I called her. I told her I was splitting up some of the hostas from my garden and asked if she’d like some. She said that Pete was out at a farmers union meeting the following evening, and why didn’t I come over then. It was the first of many visits between us, and I began to feel a bit less lonely.
About once a month I’d finish work early on Friday, and drive straight up to stay with Ruby in Edinburgh. Although I’d arrive too late to do anything on Friday, we had all of the Saturday together, and she’d show me around the city that she was discovering. We walked for miles, all along the Royal Mile and up to the Castle, through the alleyways and paths of the Old Town, then over to the New Town with its Edwardian architecture. We climbed up Arthur’s Seat and took the bus to the beach at Portobello. We enjoyed the bars and restaurants, and I discovered beers from local breweries that never made it south of the border. I could tell that Ruby was falling in love with the city, and I liked to visit it, but I couldn’t see the attraction of all the brick and stonework. Give me the fens and lowlands of Norfolk any day.
At the end of the first year, Ruby came home laden down with books and tapes, and we set up an office for her in one of the spare bedrooms, so she could go on studying during the summer. With Ruby back it was as if nothing had changed, and we slipped back quickly into our ordinary life.