The spring breeze gently wafts across the field of the English countryside, touching the faces of the congregation underneath a broad tarp in the most refreshing of ways. From a glance, it is a perfection of a scene; family and friends dressed to the nines, gathering to celebrate a marriage of their blood lines, the children playing in the grass, soft orchestral music permeating the group like the perfume of the blossoms on the nearby apple trees.
But for Martin, it is psychological torture, a trap he’s fallen into in order to finally break that lone strand of spirit left within him. This is the only way to keep his family on speaking terms, and it kills him bit by bit with every passing second. “You look great for once, Martha.”
“Don’t, Simon,” Martin hisses, and he hates the way his voice raises an octave or two immediately from the mere presence of his relatives. If Simon takes any notice of his sibling’s plead, however, he doesn’t let on, continuing in his usually pompous tone of voice.
“Really, what a difference a razor and some cosmetics can make. Absolutely amazing transformation. Now, if only you’d grow out your hair, then it’d be just perfect.
“Caitlin, darling, stop for just a moment. Doesn’t Martha look just wonderful for once? Like a proper lady.”
The bride, in all her glory, pauses in her rounds of playing hostess to look at her sibling, all red hair and awkward limbs, painted into a shell of uncomfortable insincerity. Martin feels like she’s staring to reveal all of his shortcomings and expose him for the fraud that he is. He’s praying that she does.
Instead, a smile glows upon her face, and she pats Martin’s cheek and says, “Positively lovely. Why you ever carried on that idiotic ‘man’ phrase for so long is beyond me – you’re such a pretty girl when you try. Nothing pleases me more to see that you’ve finally come ‘round…except for your bloody hair. You don’t have to keep it so short, I can teach you how to style it, you know.”
This happens every time, without fail. Martin plays the part and they fawn – Caitlin shows him pictures of different women’s hairstyles and Simon tries to hook him up with whatever poor guy he can pull out of his pockets – and Martin just smiles, and nods, until an appropriate time in which he can retreat back to his flat and resume life as the man he’s always known himself to be. A few hours’ discomfort is worth the peace it maintains.
Martin tells himself this as he downs a second flute of champagne in one gulp, wishing for access to the whole bottle as he grins at the depths of his family’s misunderstanding. He only has a few more hours to go before the end of the ceremony; he can make it, he’s come this far…
Of course, this is the moment that Martin notices Douglas making a beeline for the bride, leaving the side of his sister’s best friend. “My many condolences,” he begins, taking the bride’s hand to plant a kiss upon it, before he sees Martin, standing like a deer in the headlights, empty glass clutched desperately tight. “My God, Martin. You cannot be serious.”
“Her name is Martha,” Simon asserts stiffly. When Douglas looks at Martin in disbelief, he’s incapable of saying anything at all – all words stick in his throat, and all the noise he can make is an incoherent gurgle of humiliation. “I must say, I’m very disappointed that you’re still carrying on in this unnatural lie. Sir, I’m sorry to inform you, but you’ve been lied to.”
But I didn’t lie, Martin wants to scream. I’m lying right now! But he can’t, not with the air of repugnance reflected back at him in the eyes of both of his siblings. They’ve stripped him of his honesty and dignity, and now all he can do is lay subdued for them to transpose whatever ignorance they believe on to him.
Strangely enough, it’s Douglas that comes to his rescue, though it’s doubtful he even realizes what he’s doing. “That is a load of tosh. Martin can’t lie for the life of him. I mean, look at him!” There’s laughter in his voice that bubbles over as he gets a good, long look at his Captain. “I suppose that I must be the one to break it to Sir, that Sir makes an absolutely dreadful woman. Which is really quite a shame considering Sir’s gorgeous legs, but alas, it’s not a thing that can be forced.”
Caitlin and Simon are utterly aghast at this reaction, before the former hisses, “No, you aren’t grasping fully what we’re saying. This ‘man’ is actually a woman. With…female parts.”
“I hate to spoil your beautiful day with vulgarities, but in all honesty, it doesn’t matter what Martin’s got in his pants. Vagina or not, he’s no woman. That, so much, is obvious.”
The clatter of people fills in the hush that’s fallen, the peppy music an eerie misrepresentation of the tension that’s enveloped the small group. Martin finally finds the strength to talk. “Do…do you mean that, Douglas?”
“Captain, I am hurt that you would doubt my genuineness-"
“Which flight should I use as an example? Perhaps Helsinki, with all your smuggling-?”
“Let me just remind you that I was not the only dishonest one on the trip to Helsinki. You stole my orchids.”
“Carolyn’s birthday is a better cause than your smuggling ring.”
Throughout this banter, Martin begins to relax, his voice falling and standing just a little bit taller and straighter. In those heels and skirt, Douglas can’t help but admire that pert little bottom, but it just doesn’t feel right; he knows it’s Martin, and therefore he should be admiring the way the tight fit uniform trousers fit, like he usually does before every flight. In fact, it’s the whole picture that unsettles him; despite the mockery he’s put Martin through over his pride, seeing it torn from him in so demeaning a way disgusts him. As much as he will never admit it, he can’t help but want to protect him when he looks so vulnerable. “Well, regardless of any previous duplicity on my part, let me reassure that in this case, I mean what I have said.”
“Oh, just get married already,” Simon rolls his eyes, “And I mean marriage, considering Martha is female.”
It’s useless. Martin’s already known this and Douglas is starting to realize. The groom is a handsome man who doesn’t see that he’s intruding, wrapping an arm around his new bride to whisk her away for another dance while the pilots watch in relief. “Whatever you say, er…?”
“Simon.” Out of politeness, the older Crieff holds out his hand to shake. Douglas refuses to reciprocate.
“Right. I think it’s probably about that time to depart. We have a flight tomorrow morning, so it’s best to rest up.” At the sight of Martin’s blank expression, Douglas adds, “To Philadelphia, remember?”
“Oh, oh! Yes, Douglas is right. Bye, Simon. Carry on my love to Caitlin and James.”
“Yeah, yeah. See you, Martha.”
Martin waits until Simon and Caitlin are out of sight before he takes off his heels with a sight of contentment. “You’ll stain your stockings.”
“I don’t give a toss about the stockings!”
Douglas stops him at this, at the edge of the parking lot, and now his eyes are devoid of the original amusement. “Why do you let them humiliate you like this? Goodness, with the fuss you make over insignificant flying procedures, I didn’t think it was possible for you to be so…compliant.”
The heels click in Martin’s hand as he tries to keep his composure. “It’s the only way to keep them talking to me. And at least pretending to care. And that’s better than nobody caring at all, you know.”
“Rubbish and you know it. As much as it paints me to say this, I’d much rather have my arrogant, totally useless and completely male Captain than this facsimile of a woman. I suppose that means I care, and even if it doesn’t, you’ll always have Arthur.”
Martin’s become adept at speaking Douglas. “Thank you,” is all that he responds, before turning, keys in hand and van in sight. “Wait a second. I never would thought that you were so, well, understanding. I mean, if you had known before you have teased me mercilessly, but you were actually nice…well, nice for you, and I just never really imagined-"
“Please do shut up, Martin, it’s agonizing to listen to you struggle. You’re well aware of my reputation as a ladies’ man. I daresay I’ve dated quite a wide variety of the fairer sex. And yes, that includes a woman who was born a man. Didn’t bother me a bit, and in fact, we’re still rather good friends.
“Now, do rest up for the ‘flight’, it is a rather long one, you know. Oh, and Martin?”
Martin turns to him a final time; that joking smirk is back, in all its smug glory. “Yes, Douglas?”
“I’ve always known you were biologically a woman. Call it a sixth sense.”
“Oh, shut up,” Martin retorts, but when he turns way from the First Officer, it takes all of his effort not to burst out in giddy laughter.