Sara fumed inside, thinking of the situation with Paul. The sheer gall of him, trying to deceive her the way he had attempted. It made her boil thinking of the trust he had damaged, perhaps destroyed forever. It also made her wonder about the investment in time and energy she had lavished upon him, thinking he might just be the one, that forever one.
She hadn't been born Sara any more than she had been born female. Her birth name had been Steven and she had come equipped as most little boys were with the appropriate plumbing, hormones, and other biological amenities intact.
Sara was part of that generation which upon birth had the advantage of the mother's placenta being deep frozen in cryogenic readiness should the stem cells contained therein ever be needed. There were a whole panoply of human disorders and biological failures which could be cured be appropriate use of those stem cells. Should there be kidney failure, simply culture a new one, no need to wait for a transplant and the attendant rejection suppressant medications required. Advanced age getting you down, Bunky? How about we fix you up with a fresh set of biological equipment, virgin copy, not reprints of worn out DNA.
Sara thought back on her grandmother and the stories she told of her youth. Gram Susie had been born just over 120 years before. She didn't have the advantages Sara had and she was quick to tell anyone who would give an ear. When she was young, back in the late 20th century, gene therapy was just being born. Many of the things Sara had available were pie in the sky to Gram Susie. True, her life had been extended due to excellent nutrition and rudimentary treatments that had been developed in the early 21st century. Gram's problem was that she was just too old to take advantage of the treatments as they became available. The axiom It's easier to stay young than it is to get young applied to Gram in spite of all the advances in medicine.
Gram told of when she had been full of dreams and fire, passion and rebellion, full of the endless supply of basic bull crap with which every generation of young humanity are saddled. So much energy, so little focus. She and millions of her peers had experienced rebellion by having their bodies modified. Tattoos, body piercing, cosmetic surgery and enhancement were the rage. Gram had the withered images to prove it. Sara thought her Gram garish and foolish, just like every grandchild views some of the notions held by their elders.
Was Sara free from all the foolishness and affectations her Gram had visited upon herself? Not in the least. Her generation had found new ways to be rebellious, to be different by their thousands in exactly the same way.
Upon reaching legal age, the cryogenically frozen remains of her birth process became her property. She, and an increasing number of her peers, had elected to have their sex reversed. Some of the cells were used to culture a new set of reproductive hardware (or software, if you are so inclined to view it as such). The surgery to install this new equipment was certainly available for those who could afford it. The trend established back in the 20th century prevailed. Medical care and treatment was increasingly capable of miracles but one had to pay for that miracle. In short, the treatment was available, but the price was dear.
She, (or Steven actually), had entered the hospital at age 23, undergone the procedure, and awoken to a whole new reality as Sara. Where the first operations to transform the sex of a patient were crudely fashioned male flesh made to seem female, Sara's was the real deal, cultured from her own stem cells. No problem with rejection, none whatsoever. She awoke with a fully functioning set of female organs. The fly in the ointment was she couldn't produce ova. Her new biology was capable of bearing a child, one implanted following in vitro fertilization.
She had known that going into the operation. Everyone knew the limitations, and everyone accepted them, some with reluctance, some with joy. There were those who longed for all a woman's abilities without the attendant possibility of pregnancy. For those women, the gift was one which was unalloyed by regret. For the others, those who craved the full female experience, there were ways to work around the obstacle.
Women were also offered the same option as their male counterparts. They could have a new set of reproductive equipment cultured and undergo surgical replacement. Their old female portion excised and a fully functional set of male equipment installed. This ability to fully replace the sex of both male and female had created the new fashion of changing, a term used to describe this ultimate surgical enhancement. What could be more exciting and fulfilling than to experience life as both a man and as a woman in a single lifetime? The people who advocated reincarnation held that a person could perhaps be reborn with a different gender, but really, what was the good of it if you couldn't remember? That was a fine theory alright, and totally useless as far as actual application was concerned.
Medical science had once again come to the rescue. Sara, who was once Steve, had met Paul, who (he said) had once been Paula. They had been a hit with one another from the start. Sara of course spoke to Paul about her experiences during her transformation. What woman isn't enthralled with the retelling of every nuance of her own medical procedures? She had wondered at Paul's reluctance to expound, but had accepted his excuse that the procedure for him had been painful and his memories unclear due to an unpleasant reaction from the pain medications. Maybe it was just his newfound maleness asserting itself.
The first explorers into this new area had many issues to resolve. Because of the limitations in the ability to procreate, women had their own ovum frozen before changing into males. The men also had their own sperm frozen before their change. Upon awakening, there was a supply of viable genetic material available to fulfill the 'need to breed' which some found within themselves.
The first person who changed was a man, (one Donald Turpin), who wished to become a woman. The culturing of components, the operation and follow-up were amazingly successful. She then wished to conceive but was unable. The idea came up that she use her own sperm which lay ready for the moment. She learned that despite having 1/2 of the formula, she couldn't produce the required second 1/2. The medical ethicist had tried to reassure her by explaining that had she been successful in fertilizing her own ova with her own sperm, the resultant child wouldn't be recognized as a person by law anyway. The legislators had already stepped in, defining a human being as possessing 2 sets of chromosomes, one set each from a distinct and different individual. In layman's terms, no one could 'do it' to themselves and have the resultant child without being in violation of the law. This explanation did little to allay the disappointment felt by the now Donna Turpin.
The good part was that the legislators had decreed a marriage consisted of a single woman wed to a single man. Partnerships of the changed fulfilled that requirement. Genetically they were still the same sex as they were upon birth, but as long as they married another changed individual, the legal requirement was indeed fulfilled. The irony of the situation brought red faces to the legislative bodies, but there was precedent to stand on in the matter. A man is genetically a man even if he does use lip gloss, blush, and eyeliner.
The anecdotal evidence was that unions of the changed were better in many areas than unions of unchanged partners. The platitude "I know just how you feel" now really did apply. Men were truly sensitive to their partner in ways they simply couldn't be before, now having the experience base to draw upon. Women similarly found new sympathy for the plight of man, having formerly walked in those very shoes.
Which brings us to the dilemma suffered by Sara. Her beloved Paul had lied, pure and simple. He had never been Paula, never had ova frozen, never was honest with her. Tears stung her eyes as she felt the powerlessness within, felt the inability to punish Paul for his deception. For a moment, she longed to be Steven again, just long enough to confront Paul and probably beat the crap out of him for his deception. Sara smiled through her misery and tears at the thought of that sweet vengeance.
Paul was miserable with himself, with his being found out as a liar, with losing his sweet Sara. He knew it looked bad but he honestly didn't understand the depths of his treachery until he saw the tears spring from Sara's blue eyes. He had left her standing by her door on that evening he had confessed. They had been out to dinner, and Sara had been going on about how much she looked forward to carrying his child once they were married. Despite being changed, she was quite traditional about marriage and child rearing.
Paul couldn't go on with his deception. True enough, if it had just been about his use of Sara for his own selfish ends, he could have gone on. Trouble is, he had really fallen for Sara. He knew that while his revelation would hurt, perhaps badly, it would be a lesser hurt than the one that would come later. Time to act like a man and confess. He thought ironically to himself "I should be able to act like a man, after all, I am one, and always have been."
So, here he was, alone and lonely, sitting over Sunday morning coffee and rolls by himself instead of with Sara. There had to be a solution to this mess, but he couldn't see it.
He decided to call his sister Patricia and tell her the story. Patricia was the same as himself, unchanged from how she had been born. Paul had told her that he was dating someone, but had been a little short on giving all the details.
He dialed her number and drew in a shaky deep breath while he waited for her to pick up. Her voice came on, familiar despite the months it had been since they had last seen one another at their parents home. Patricia's hello took him back to his childhood when his big sister had been there for him, protective and consoling when things went wrong. He responded to her with his own greeting and let the tone of his voice speak for him. Patricia sensed something was wrong, as she always did, and set about ferreting out the details which he supplied with a mixture of shame and relief.
The conversation lasted almost an hour. Patricia asked so many questions, so many with the same poor excuse of an answer.
"Paul why did you lie to her?"
"I don't know."
"How could you ever have let this go on so long?"
"I don't know."
Patricia asked him so many questions, some of them so hard to answer honestly, but he forced himself. No more deceit, not now. He needed Patricia's solace and advice and knew it. The conversation had ended with Patricia's commitment to think things over and get back to him. Paul knew she would give his problem her best attentions, she always had. He hung up with a sense of relief, one short lived as the misery set in again.
Paul had held out for 3 days, and on Wednesday had called Sara. He was full of apology, contrition, remorse. He tried to explain his motives which basically were his desire to taste forbidden fruit. He had heard all the scuttlebutt about the changed, how they were the ultimate experience, and had simply coveted it for himself. He also explained how he knew he had been so wrong, and now realized it all wasn't just some sort of game. He explained how he had fallen in love with her, how that love had forced his confession, and though it hurt her it must count for something, doesn't it? The beginning of the conversation found Sara not responsive to his words, but then she had thawed and with the thaw the water had flowed. Tears choked her words to him, and his own blurred his speech to her. The conversation ended with his watery "I love you, Sara."
Paul sought to settle himself down after the call. "That was a fine mess, wasn't it? Why didn't you just go ahead and beg her to let you crawl back, that's what you wanted anyway."
The phone rang a short time later and it was his sister Patricia. She asked how he was doing, he said crappy, she replied that was about what she expected. After a few minutes she got to the point.
"Paul, I have an idea. It's not a perfect solution, but it's at least a possible one."
"Tricia, I'm all ears. I haven't come up with anything resembling a possible solution. Let's hear what you have."
"Well, apart from the fact you were never female, the sticking point is you don't have any ova to contribute to this union, right?"
"Yeah, that and the fact that I'm a lying bastard, that'd about sum things up, I suppose."
"Paul, I know you lied, Sara knows you lied, you know you lied. That's past and you can't undo it. The part you can do something about is the ova issue. My ovaries are sitting here doing nothing. I can contribute my ova if that'll help resolve the issue. I know it isn't a perfect solution, but if Sara will accept it, perhaps you two can find a basis to continue onward and work through this."
"I don't know, sis. I appreciate the offer, but I don't think she'll go for it."
"That's right, little brother, you don't know, and the only way you ever will find out is to talk with Sara about it."
"Yeah, I guess you're right there, Tricia. I'll think it over and maybe give it a go."
"Ok, Paul, my offer stands if you want it. I'd breach the subject with her before too long though. Instead of being paralyzed by indecision you might want to get this resolved."
"Sis, don't you ever get tired of being right?"
"No, not so far. Love ya, Bud."
The phone died in his hand and he put it away.
Two weeks had passed quickly enough for Paul. He had called Sara a couple times, once to test the waters, and once to set up a meeting with her, dinner on Sunday. He picked her up and took her to a little Italian eatery he knew, one where there was room to speak with some privacy on delicate issues. When he picked Sara up, she looked ravishing despite being restrained in his presence. Her light summer dress clung in the right spots, flowed about her like clouds in others, consuming his sight. They had driven to the restaurant making small talk about inconsequential things, both recognizing the shallowness where there once had been so much depth. It was like they had to become acquainted all over again, test to find the soft spots, the tender areas, the points where the pain began.
Paul held the car door for her, held the restaurant door for her, all those archaic gestures he knew she was such a fan of, customs from generations long gone. They were seated, given menus, then shortly ordered their dinner. As always, it was excellent here, a sensory buffet of scents, tastes, textures which at first teased then brought them to satisfaction. They sat back with contented sighs as the waiter refilled their glasses, then drew away leaving them to their own devices. Paul started the real conversation.
"Sara, I want you to know again how very sorry I am for misleading you."
"You didn't mislead me, Paul. You lied to me."
"Yes, you're absolutely right, I lied. I'm sorry I lied. I've explained as best I can why I lied. I can't do any more than that. It's up to you whether you can accept my apology and perhaps we can go forward."
"I can forgive you, Paul. That's just part of the problem. What happens next time you decide to lie to me? I don't want for there to be a next time. I don't think I could stand it if there were a next time, Paul."
"Me either, Sara. I don't want there to be any more lies either. I'm not changed, and I can't help that, either. I'm just a man. Sara, if you don't want to go on with me, I can understand the way you feel. I deserve whatever decision you make and I won't try to make you change your mind. I love you and I don't want to lose you. If you give up on us and wait for a changed partner, there is no guarantee that he'll be perfect. He could well be a person who is an ass in two genders. I'm not perfect either, we've already established that. But I do love you."
"Paul, I love you too. We were so good together. You made me feel so right, so complete. You couldn't have done that so well if we'd not been good for each other. It set me back when you confessed, but I can deal with that, I suppose, given time. What I can't deal with is the fact we can't have a child together. You don't have any ovum and I can't produce any. That's an important issue to me. I want to be a mother, not just a woman. I need that in my life, and you can't give it to me, Paul."
"Maybe there's a solution, Sara."
Paul outlined the solution proposed by Patricia, how she would donate her own egg cells to be used to help Sara become a mother. Sara didn't have much to say, pleading the need to consider it all, it being all rather overwhelming. They decided to call it an evening. Paul drove Sara home as she sat not saying much on the journey. Her hand stole over and rested on his thigh as he drove. Just like in the good old days.
Sara thought about the proposal of Paul. She wanted him, wanted to be with him. She knew he wasn't what he had led her to believe at first, but really, who ever is? She knew he was sincere in his love for her, she had seen the pain his confession had brought to him, seen it even through the veil of her own tears. She realized that if she gave up on him, she might never have what she and he had. "No guarantees in this old life, that's right as rain, isn't it?" She thought of old Gram Susie and her long list of sayings. One of them was "You can have anything you want, as long as you want it badly enough. You can have anything, you just can't have everything." Sara had started to sense the wisdom contained in her Gram's words. She made her decision. She would accept Paul's solution. They'd begin anew, try to rebuild stronger, better than before. This tragedy had forced them to look within themselves and each other, decide if they were worth the effort, and the answer had been found. Yes, what they had was worth the effort. Sara smiled as she started to pick up the phone and was interrupted by her Gram's voice inside her head, speaking another of her sayings.
"Sara, you can't keep a good man down."