(Sorry if the tenses are a bit messed up, as this story was originally written in present tense, but then I changed it to mainly past tense)

I think my boyfriend is cheating on me. No, at this point, I think I have surpassed the point of suspecting. I know that my Oliver is cheating on me.
And more than anything else, more than feeling angry or betrayed, I’m afraid. I’m afraid of where this might lead our relationship. I’m so anxious that the more I try to get him back, the further away I’m driving him. I want to give it my all to fix this, to get him back to the lovable boyfriend he used to be a few months ago when we first met, to get that look of adoration in his eyes back that used to be there before he… before he met her, I assume. That look is now replaced with one of pain, whenever our eyes meet. Or to be honest, probably at any time, not even when he’s looking at me. His eyes are always filled with torment nowadays; an indication that he is unhappy in our little apartment and wants to be somewhere else- with someone else, I can only imagine.

And I know it’s another girl that is involved. It just can’t be anything else. Only last week I found a pair of panties in our closet that weren’t mine. I was too afraid to tell Oliver about the fact that I had found them. I was just too scared of the consequences of such a conversation, and even though I know I’m being weak and pathetic, I still am. I’m anxious about confronting him about his little secret, because I’m afraid that that will be the end of us. How can I stay in a relationship with a cheater? That’s right, I can’t. So as long as I don’t make him admit to it, it will just be like it’s not happening at all, I have tried to convince myself.

But it is not. It is not like nothing is going on as long as I ignore the evidence. Our relationship has changed. Oliver has become more distant, uninterested, cold, and most of all: unhappy. His sheer unhappiness is killing me. It is becoming unbearable to witness.
Yesterday I had become so pained by that troubled look in his eyes that I had decided I would do anything to get rid of it. I had proposed to watch a movie, but Oliver had said something like: “Please, Leah, I’m not in the mood for something like that right now.”, so we’d gone to bed without watching the movie. I cuddled up to him and kissed him. He had kissed me back, and initiated a hesitant touch on my hips. I had taken that as an excuse to initiate sex, and he hadn’t complained, yet that pained look on his featured only deepened.
“Sweetie, we don’t have to do it if you don’t want to,” I assured him. “Are you sure you want to?”
“No, Leah, trust me, I want to”, he’d said, while stroking my hair out of my face.
While I slowly, seductively took his shirt off, he turned his head away and closed his eyes for just a second, as if seeing or experiencing something torturous. It had offended me a little. Was having sex with me such an unbearable thing? Was his new girlfriend that much better than me? Well, he shouldn’t have insisted on doing it, then, if he apparently hated it that much.
I started to slowly grind against his still completely soft crotch, and when I kissed him, a smile seemed to finally appear against my lips. When I looked up to meet it, his eyes weren’t smiling along, though, and the forcedness of it made it resemble a grimace more than a grin.
I was about to scream in frustration, but suddenly he was taking my underwear off and touching me, and I couldn’t focus much on my irritation anymore.
As I bowed down to kiss his chest, something suddenly dawned on me, something that could explain his behaviour. Was this all just some stupid… insecurity?
“Oliver,” I breathed, “don’t tell me this is about… You know that I don’t care that you’ve lost your six-pack, right?” I was looking at him with such pleading and desperate eyes that apparently, for a second, it had amused him. He stroked my hair again, and promised me: “I know, sweetheart. You’re too nice to care about something like that.”
But I wasn’t entirely convinced. When we first met, Oliver had been very passionate about going to the gym, and I had admittedly felt very attracted to his tight six-pack and firm pecks. But as of lately, he had gotten out of shape. He never went to the gym anymore, although he did often seem to go somewhere, somewhere he was always ambiguous and vague about. So apparently, this girl required so much of his time that he could no longer keep up his visits to the gym, and that had left his body soft and his face rounder. But even if this was caused by some sort of bitch who was stealing my boyfriend away from me, I still loved him this way. He was still attractive, still my Oliver, even without his muscles.
“You’ll always be handsome to me. Even if you’re less motivated to go to the gym lately, you’ll always be my manly boyfriend”, I assured him, gently touching his once firm chest. Apparently, that comment hadn’t made him any more comfortable, because his expression turned harsh again, and without saying anything he started to thrust into me. And like that, we made love in utter silence. I climaxed too quickly, and he didn’t at all. He just turned around and pretended to be asleep once I had finished.

Besides, it’s not only sex he hasn’t been enjoying doing with me lately. He doesn’t seem to want to do anything with me anymore. “Hey, Oliver, we should really go to that new café that just opened up!” I had suggested a few weeks ago, but the answer had been no, because he already had somewhere else to go. “Honey, do you want to go to the fair with me and eat some cotton candy?” but the answer had been a muttered rejection again. Even when I proposed he’d come along to the hair salon with me because his hair was starting to grow out, he had refused. It was like he was avoiding me, trying his best to stay home when I went out, and go out when I was home.

But, to my agony, there is more evidence, even if we’re not counting his distantness or random trips to who-knows-where.
One evening while I was cleaning up our small, too brightly lit bathroom, I noticed something red in the trashcan. First I thought it was a napkin smeared with blood, and I’d grown concerned that something had happened to Oliver, that he was hurt, but upon closer inspection it was a make-up wipe with lipstick on it. I only wore lipgloss, so it couldn’t have been mine.
Oliver has also been very cautious of me around his phone. Every time he gets a call, he first goes into the other room before speaking to the other person on the line. I’m not allowed to watch over his shoulder who he’s texting or what he’s looking at.
Whenever he hangs out with friends, instead of allowing them to come to our apartment, he only ever goes to their places. It makes me wonder who he’s really secretly visiting…

And the worst part of it is that he thinks I’m completely oblivious to it. He either thinks I’m stupid enough not to notice anything, or that I’m pathetic enough to not say anything about it. And I hate that that second one might be true. Not once have I said anything about his sketchy behaviour, or about our deteriorating, miserable relationship.
Once he’d asked me if he knew any nice-smelling perfumes he could buy for a girl friend’s (more like girlfriend’s) birthday. The audacity of this man..! But the sad part was that I just answered him, and continued doing my crossword like nothing had happened. Like he hadn’t just asked me, his girlfriend, about a gift to gift his mistress.

But this morning I’d had enough. If Oliver wanted to hook up with someone else, that was his business, but not under my roof, under my nose, while he still pretended to love me and made himself absolutely miserable in the process.

“Oliver, I’ve had enough of this”, I said, probably raising my voice at him for the first time ever. I had just gifted him a new shirt, in the pathetic hope to please him, to make him happy to have me as his girlfriend again. But all he did was thank me, go to his room, and cry when he thought I wasn’t listening. Normally, it would have made me anxious to the max, and I would be on edge all day to pretend like I hadn’t heard anything. But not today. Today I was done with the game we had been playing for the past weeks. He was not mine anymore, and there was no way of getting around that anymore.
“What are you talking about, baby?”
“Don’t you ‘baby’ me!” I spewed, feeling angry at his pretentious cluelessness. “I’ve been trying to ignore it, to hope that you would stop, but I can’t live through this anymore. It’s killing me, Oliver, and I know that you’re unhappy here with me, too.”
Oliver seemed to wince when I said his name like that, but his face turned innocent again. “That’s not true,” he said, “you don’t make me unhappy.”
“But still, apparently there’s some other girl who can make you even happier, isn’t there? Don’t try to act oblivious now, I know that you’ve been hiding something serious from me. You’re cheating on me.” I couldn’t believe I’d finally said it. And it was not as terrifying and regretful as I had imagined. It almost felt… satisfying. I felt satisfied watching his face grow confused, and then go pale and anxious.
“That’s not true…” he muttered again. For a second, I wanted to slap him, but his anxious and unhappy face almost made me feel pity for him. Unbelievable, I was feeling bad for the man I was confronting about cheating on me!
“Then what is it? If you’re not cheating on me, then where are you going when you mutter something vague about going out? If that’s not the case, then why do you never let me touch you anymore? Why did I find underwear that isn’t mine in our room? And make-up wipes with make-up that isn’t mine? What other explanation can you think of other than… that you’re a filthy cheater..?!”
Only when I was done speaking, I realized that I had started crying out of frustration, and also perhaps loss. After this conversation, nothing could be the same anymore. Oliver and I could not be a couple anymore.
Oliver spoke very slowly when he had finally picked the right words to say: “Leah, I’m being honest with you. I’m not cheating. I could never do such a thing, especially not to you.”
I was about to burst out into screaming at him, but he held up his hand and continued speaking before I could say anything: “But there is something that I need to talk to you about, something that I have been hiding. Of course I knew that you were noticing that something was up with me, but I didn’t know you’d jump to the conclusion of cheating. And I’m sorry for leaving you in the dark for that long.”
“Then what is it?” I asked, being more curious now than I was angry, “are you gay or something?”
For the first time in ages, a genuinely smile of amusement appeared around Oliver’s lips. “No,” he said with a light chuckle. Then he grew very quiet again, probably preparing his text in his head before he would say it.
“I…” he begun, hesitantly, “I find this very difficult to tell you, you must know. But I have been… struggling lately. With… identity issues. I’ve sought help and I’ve talked to people, and I think I can be secure enough in my words now when I tell you that… I think I am transgender.”

I froze on my spot, and it felt like even my heart had stopped beating for a second. The fact that Oliver was a cheater, it was something that I had convinced myself of so thoroughly, but it was… wrong. Oliver was not cheating on me. The girl I thought he had been bringing into our apartment had not been an outsider, it had been him- no- …her.
And suddenly, all I could see sitting in front of me was a very fragile, very unhappy young woman. One that had shied away from my touch not because she didn’t love me, but because my fingers on her wrong skin like that were unbearable because I was touching parts of her she’d wished she never had. Those clothes or traces of make-up I’d found were not that of a stranger. And I had unknowingly been hurting her, calling her my handsome manly boyfriend in an attempt of comfort, and buying her male clothes in an attempt to please her. I’d even suggested to cut her hair shorter again. Even though it wasn’t my fault because I couldn’t have known, I still felt awful about the amount of pain I had conflicted upon the man I loved, because he- … she, had not been the man I loved. It had been a very confused and uncomfortable girl who was trapped and conflicted and humiliated in this body and… just how could I have ever accused this person of being a disloyal cheater?

“I’m so sorry”, I stuttered, “I didn’t know, I… couldn’t have known. But now it makes sense. I must have unknowingly made this so much more unbearable for you…” I sighed. “But why didn’t you tell me? Why did you feel the need to leave me in the dark for all that time? We could have figured this out together!”
Oliver- or, well, whatever she identified as now, looked at me with surprise and confusion: “You’re not…mad? Disgusted? Betrayed?”
“I am a little mad,” I admitted, “but not at you being transgender. I’m mad that you didn’t tell me any sooner.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I was just very scared and confused, and I still am. I was afraid you’d flip out at me. You told me I’d always remain your manly boyfriend no matter what.”
“Oliver!” I cried out, but then I realized what I’d just said, and I quickly corrected myself: “I’m sorry, I know I probably shouldn’t call you that anymore. Should I call you… Olivia?”
A soft chuckle came from the other side of the room. “No, I’ve been thinking about…”
“What?” I encouraged when she didn’t seem to gather the strength to continue talking.
“Don’t laugh.”
“I could never!”
“I’ve been thinking about Sofia”, she said, a small smile playing around her lips.
Sofia, that’s a lovely name,” I said, which was true, although I would definitely need the time to get used to it. “Well, Sofia, what I was trying to say that what I said about you always remaining my manly boyfriend… I only said that to comfort you because I thought you were insecure about your masculinity. I didn’t know that something like this was going on! Sweetie, I want you to be happy. The last weeks have been excruciating to me, having to watch you suffer. Of course you’ll be my ex-girlfriend from now on.”
“Ex?” Sofia whispered.
I gave her a pained, apologetic look. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m not attracted to girls. But I still love and support you, just… not as a romantic partner anymore, I’m afraid.”
Sofia nodded shakily. “I was already expecting that. I don’t blame you, you can’t control stuff like that.”
It was as if at that moment, both our emotions overflowed, and we took a moment to wipe our wet eyes. “So, for the past weeks, where have you really been, if not cheating on me?”
“Gender therapy,” Sofia whispered, “and my friends. They already know. They already call me Sofia and treat me as a girl when I’m with them. I guess I was just so afraid to tell you, because you’re my girlfriend. I thought that out of all people, you must be the most disgusted. I guess it doesn’t matter, though, as we’re breaking up now anyways.”
Ouch, that hurt, but it was true. Of course I was heartbroken to the core that this would be the end of our relationship, but at least it didn’t have to end in some big fight like I had been afraid of. At least Oliver would now live a happier life as Sofia, and we could remain friends. Maybe I didn’t even have to move out, and we could remain roommates.
Suddenly I stood up. “Let’s go”, I said, grabbing Sofia’s hand.
“What? Where are we going?” she asked anxiously.
“We’re going shopping, as gal pals. I think it’s time you get a new wardrobe."

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