It shouldn't have been a surprise that Rhonda was still the one who got the guys. Rhonda was just the sort of person that people were drawn to, and nothing could diminish that even a little. Not her disability, and not living in a poky flat where she couldn't do anything with a guy without Muriel knowing. Rhonda could go down the road for a carton of milk and come back with a guy, and really, Muriel can't blame them. She's as much a victim of Rhonda's magnetism as any of her boyfriends are, maybe even more so. The boys stay for a night, or a few, if they're lucky. Muriel never has to leave.
It's just that Rhonda doesn't get it. She doesn't understand the way that men flock to her in a way they never will to Muriel. Maybe it's sweet in its own way, that Rhonda thinks Muriel is every bit as beautiful as she is. But she also doesn't get that Muriel doesn't care. Muriel had spent her whole life waiting for the perfect man so she could have the perfect wedding and a happily ever after. She got the man and the wedding, but he wasn't her happily ever after. Rhonda was.
It was a Saturday morning, and Rhonda had just booted the previous night's conquest out the door and wheeled back into the kitchen where Muriel had already made her a cup of tea and took a long sip.
"Aaaah," she said, closing her eyes. "I needed that. What a night!" She opened her eyes again and grinned wickedly at Muriel. "So what'd you get up to."
"Oh, nothing special." She smiled awkwardly. "I called home and talked to my sister. She's doing really well now. They all miss Mum, but things are getting better..."
"Is that all?" Rhonda looked disappointed. No, not disappointed. Something else. "On a Friday night? You should have guys lining up for you!"
"I don't care," Muriel said, and looked at her tea.
"But you should be having a good time," Rhonda insisted. "You're such a cool person. You deserve a great boyfriend."
"Maybe that's not what I want," Muriel mumbled. "I always dreamed about getting married, and then I did, and it wasn't that great."
"That's because your husband sucked. You just have to meet guys who really appreciate you and don't just want to use you to get a visa. There are heaps of guys out there who would love you, Muriel."
"Maybe." She shrugged. Maybe it was true. She wasn't really convinced, but maybe. If Rhonda could look at her and see someone amazing, maybe there was a man somewhere out there who could, too. But that wasn't really the point. "But I really don't mind."
"Is this because of me?"
She looked up to see Rhonda's face hardened into a frown. "What do you mean?"
"Are you saying you don't want to meet guys because you think you need to stay here to look after me?" she asked, hotly. "Because that's bullshit, Muriel, that's stupid, it's..."
"I'm not," Muriel almost shouted. She felt bad for raising her voice, but Rhonda stopped, and listened. "I'm not stupid," she repeated, "It's not because of you, and it's not because I can't find a boyfriend, even if guys don't chase after me like they do for you. I just really don't care. I didn't come back to Sydney to meet guys, I came here to be with you."
Rhonda regarded her thoughtfully for a moment, and then without another word, went back to sipping her tea. Muriel hesitated, unsure what to do now. Was she supposed to say something? But Rhonda had finished her cup now, and was looking at Muriel expectantly. So she did the only thing she could think of and finished her tea as well.
"Good," said Rhonda, cryptically, and turned her wheelchair so that she could move closer. Before Muriel could ask what was going on, Rhonda had pulled her into a kiss.
It was certainly not what she expected, but it was nice. It was the first time Muriel had kissed someone and it hadn't felt awkward, or forced. Rhonda had a lot more experience at kissing than she had, so she was obviously pretty good at it, but it was more than that. It was the first time someone kissed her and she'd really felt loved, even though she was sitting in her daggy kitchen in her daggy pyjamas on a Saturday morning. It just felt right.
"Okay?" Rhonda asked, and pulled away a little. "Is that what you meant?"
"I don't think so. But it was nice," Muriel added, hurriedly.
"Yeah?" Rhonda's mouth quirked into a smile. "So you want to do more?"
"Yes. No. Wait." Muriel closed her eyes, took a deep breath, opened them again. "I don't want to be like one of your boyfriends. I mean, I like this, I think, I'm not really sure... but I couldn't let you just leave me the next morning like you did with that guy just now."
"Oh, Muriel." Rhonda pushed her tangled morning hair off her face, carefully, like it was precious. "I could never tread you like them. You're so much more than that."
"Really?" Muriel smiled, tentatively, and curled her fingers around Rhonda's.
"Really," Rhonda kissed her again, then gave her one of those wicked smiles. "So, we've got a whole weekend and nowhere in particular to be. How about we just go back to bed?"