Julie

It’s not all just fun and games.

Written with Matt’s approval.

I wanted to write this separately because after all of the shenanigans and debauchery of yesterday, it didn’t feel right to incorporate something so sensitive and emotionally-laden into something so lewd. Although in a way the two do cross over, it is by coincidence, not by design.

Last night, Matt and I tuned into Fifty Shades Freed on the TV. For us, it’s not a fantasy, it’s something of a familiarity – I don’t think there’s anything kinky there that we haven’t done at least a dozen times before.

By now, many will know of my love for the Fifty Shades franchise. Although it is famed for its bondage and kinky sex scenes – which also happen to be something that I live and write about – that’s not all that it is for me. For me, there is something much, much deeper.

When I first met Matt, I knew that there was something different about him. I couldn’t place my finger on what, exactly, but I knew that he was different to all of the other boys that I knew. He was softer, sweeter, quieter. and warmed to him straight away. We worked together for four months, often sitting back to back and often winding one another up. Matt used to fire elastic bands at me while I was working, because apparently that was fun to do. A lot of our colleagues said that we would become an item, but we were both dating other people at the time.

Quite by chance, Matt was actually dating my ex-best friend, and she introduced me to him at a office Christmas party. Now, none of what happened was intentional, but when Kerry told me that he had changed her views on marriage, I knew that I had to meet the guy. Kerry wasn’t hard to please exactly, but she did go through boyfriends at an alarming rate. For her to be talking about marriage was revolutionary.

They broke up six months later on the same day that Matt lost his job. Leopard. Spots. Enough said.

By the time they broke up, I’d already invited Matt to my eighteenth birthday party as Kerry’s partner and so I begged him to come along as my friend and former colleague instead. It mattered to me a great deal that Matt was there, for whatever reason. Unbeknown to me, I think I’d fallen for him a little bit even back then.

I still have the card that Matt gave me for my eighteenth birthday, and the glass that he bought me, too. The card itself is written in red ink, with capital and lower case letters, and capital letters where they shouldn’t be. Although I playfully chided him under my breath for using red ink, I didn’t know anything else about him.

It wasn’t until we began hanging out as friends that I got to understand more.

When I first visited Matt, he lived in an upstairs flat that smelled of damp and cigarette smoke. Electricity was scarce, and his Dad only turned the heating on if it was bitterly cold. Food was something else that they didn’t really have, and most meals were bought with whatever could be afforded from the penny jar. I knew then that I had to help.

Julie was Matt’s Mum, the mother-in-law that I never got to meet. I’m often told that I’m like her, strong-willed and independent in spite of my disabilities. I’m told that Julie was caring, funny and warm like me, and that she and I would have gotten along rather well. I think of her often, and hope that I do her proud.

Julie passed from complications of a urinary tract infection when Matt was three, though for many years he had convinced himself that her passing was a result of his birth. Matt was raised as an only child by his father, and his Dad, Andy, has had his struggles. There were horrors as a result of those struggles which shall remain untold.

In the beginning, I used to draw out sums of money to buy gas, electricity and food for Matt, and I used to cook for the three of us as a way of guaranteeing that Matt had had something hot to eat. Sometimes I used to get the bus just to give Matt money to pay for utilities, but whatever, what mattered to me was that Matt was okay.

Unfortunately, that didn’t sit nearly so well with my mother, who knew very little about what he was doing for me.

Quite quickly, Matt and I became a sort of fuck buddies-style arrangement. Matt needed money, and I needed to feel accepted, wanted and loved. I was sharing a bedroom with my grandmother while the annexe (her new home) was being built, and I was used to being frequently interrupted or replaced in the middle of a family conversation. Feeding Matt and being used by Matt, in a weird way, also benefitted me. I lived for the feeling of purpose that he gave me, for the feeling of aliveness through the pain that he inflicted on me, even if it wasn’t good for me at that time, mentally.

But the longer I stayed around Matt, the deeper and deeper I fell. Deeper, until two years later, Matt admitted that he love me too.

About ten months into our relationship, Andy was threatened with eviction. Matt and I were confused at first. Confused, that was, until we discovered that Andy was in five-figure debt. Half of that debt was in rent arrears.

Doing what I do, I appealed to numerous legal advisers to ask for help. I knew that this would end up in court, but if we could put together a strong enough case, I knew that maybe it could be overturned. We weighed heavily on the fact that Matt would be made homeless without having had any forewarning on the matter, and fortunately, a repayment plan was put into place by the court. We also went though social services and applied for housing together to give our relationship a fair chance, and to overcome the problems that we were both facing at home.

Fast forward two years later, and Matt and I were handed the keys to our first ever rental home. Finally, we had shelter, water, gas, electricity, food, space, privacy – we had everything we wanted to begin our future.

So when I picked the Fifty Shades books up and read them, there was a sense of familiarity for me. The lost boy, the victim of circumstance, the boy with no confidence or belief in himself. Changed and freed, because of her.

Changed and freed, because of me.

Because I loved him. Love him, it’s not a past tense.

But it’s the end of Fifty Shades Freed that really, really gets my tears flowing.

At our engagement party, we had a table with a bunch of yellow carnations in a vase, and photos of those who are no longer with us. Even if I knew where my grandparents were buried, Matt had no idea where his Mum was. Andy had no details to share either, all we had to go by was a name.

It took some detective work, but we found her. There, on a small stone tablet half-buried by grass and in the far corner of a cemetery across town – Julie.

“I’m so glad that we could do that for you” I said softly as the tears rolled down my cheeks. In my mind, the end scene of Fifty Shades Freed plays in my head whenever we visit the cemetery. I know it, Matt knows it, and we share a knowing smile.

After the movie, I retired to the bedroom for a while to think. No, it’s not Fifty Shades, there’s no penthouse suite, no fast cars and no Red Room Of Pain, but there is our second home since 2016 – the converted house-flat with the fireplace and alcove in the lounge that we both fell in love with, there is executive, leather-seated taxis whenever we travel – because he spoils me rotten in that regard – and this was our very own Magnolia Room of Sensation, made so by my own design.

No, this isn’t Fifty Shades, but it is my life, my own complicated, weird, wonderful and sometimes very stressful life,

And I love every moment of it.

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