I sighed, Micah squeezed my hand. “But if you believe that sex isn’t important to Richard . . . that would be a mistake and not true.”
“I don’t understand,” she said.
Richard took her hand in his, and gazed into her eyes. “I love you, I want to spend my life with you and have children with you. I want to go to PTA meetings and Boy Scout meetings, and do all of it with you.”
She wrapped her smaller hands around his. “Oh, Richard, I want that too, so much.”
“But to have all that with you, and be happy, I need certain things that you don’t want to do.”
“Why is it wrong that I don’t want you to tie me up and hurt me?”
“It’s not wrong,” he said, “but it’s also not wrong that I want and need to do that with someone.”
“I don’t understand that,” she said.
“I know you don’t, honey, but can you accept that it’s true for me?”
“You’re asking me to let you have sex with Anita and then come home to me as if it’s all normal.”
“Yes, that’s what I’m asking.”
“You selfish bastard,” she said, and she was crying again. She took her hands out of his and this time he let her do it. She stood up and gave him a look of rage and disgust that must have been like a knife through his heart. “Are you honestly saying, that if I don’t say yes to all this perverted sex that you won’t marry me?”
The tables near us were beginning to notice the show, and trying to act as if they hadn’t heard that oh, so, provocative sentence.
We had Richard’s face in profile. He swallowed hard enough that we heard it, and then he said, “I’ve worked too hard to accept who I really am. Ellen, I can’t go back to hiding. I can’t go back to lying to myself.”
“So you are choosing her over me,” Ellen said.
“No, I’m choosing myself,” he said.
She aimed that rage at me. “You must be incredible in bed for him to throw everything away. I guess I can’t compete with a fur banging, blood whore.”
Micah pressed his arm against my shoulders, holding me in my chair, because I had started to stand. “No,” he said.
He was right, because if I stood up I wasn’t sure what I was going to do -- nothing good.
Richard stood up. “That was an ugly thing to say.”
“It’s the truth, isn’t it?”
“If she’s Jean-Claude’s blood whore, then so am I,” he said.
Ellen stared at him; her face didn’t seem to know what expression it wanted to have, as if so many thoughts were chasing around her mind that she didn’t know what to do.
“You don’t have sex with him. You told me you don’t have sex with either of the vampires.”
He leaned in and spoke low, so the other people around wouldn’t hear. Some of the people at the nearest tables were trying not to stare; others were openly watching. He bent closer to her, and said, “Just because no one sticks their dicks in each other doesn’t mean it’s not sex.”
She slapped him, hard enough for it to echo in the suddenly silent restaurant. Everyone was looking now; it was too good a show to look away. Richard hadn’t done anything to protect himself, he’d just let her hit him. If a man had done the same thing to a woman someone would have been calling the police.
Richard stood up straighter, taking his face out of her reach. “I love you, Ellen.”
“I hate you, Richard Zeeman, I hate you for making me love you, and for this . . .” she gestured at me and Micah, though I think we were just representative of the problem.
She started to sob, put her hands over her face and then ran towards the archway and the door beyond. I honestly expected Richard to follow her, but he just stood there with his cheek reddened from her slap. She was outside in the sunlight now, hesitating on the sidewalk, looking behind her. She kept looking back, and I realized she was expecting him to run after her. When he didn’t appear there, she turned toward the window. Richard didn’t turn around. He didn’t see her on the sidewalk. He didn’t see her look in through the windows at him. Ellen had expected him to follow her. I think she’d seen running out as an escalation, but not an end, and if he’d gone after her, she’d have been right. The look on her face as she realized he wasn’t going to follow was one of raw pain.
Micah touched my arm, which made me look at him. He looked at me and I knew the look. I was supposed to do something.
I said, “Richard, if you don’t follow her . . .”
“It’s over,” Richard said.
“Yes,” I said.
“I know,” Richard said.
I looked at his very straight, very still back, and then turned to the window. Ellen was looking at him, as if willing him to turn around, but he didn’t. She walked out of sight, fresh tears streaming down her face. Richard didn’t follow her.