Dahlia and Edmund were a couple like many other newbie couples. Each of them had been in the community a relatively short time, and if you knew what to look for, it showed. And I actually don’t mean that in a bad way – everyone is new at some point. New people brought new ideas and kept the munches and parties lively. Some of them would drift off after a while, some of them stuck around and started their own munch groups, all of them were important to the community.
Dahlia was in a marriage that had recently opened up and, from what I could tell from behind the bar, had the usual growing pangs. Her husband, Barry, seemed a decent sort, but was having some issues navigating a new relationship while adjusting to the changes with Dahlia. And Dahlia was bouncing around a bit from one group to another, trying them all out.
It was at the Feisty Friday munch that she met Edmund, who had been in the community about a year, after having been involved in a kink community somewhere out east. He identified as a dominant, but he didn’t seem to me to have much confidence in the role. He tended to scowl a lot, for example, and rarely looked like he was enjoying himself. But Dahlia seemed smitten, and within a week, she was telling everyone that she was his sub.
I’d seen Edmund and Dahlia together at a party. Edmund was wearing his signature black vest and tight black jeans, and had Dahlia on a leash. She was wearing something schoolgirlish with a peter pan collar. I didn’t see their scene, but the next day Dahlia was proudly posting photos of her bruises, and saying how happy she was with Edmund.
A week or two later, though, was a very different story. Dahlia came in with some girlfriends for a beer, and they sat huddled at the end of the bar, all sharing an enormous slice of chocolate cake from Nick’s Food Truck. Dahlia was drinking Lindeman’s Peche, a peach lambic. Sari had an Almond Joy Killer Boots – a Porter from Verboten Brewing that is better than it sounds. And Nan had a Longbottom Leaf Ale from Surly, a favorite of the LOTR fans.
Between getting the beers for them, and some extra napkins, and accepting a taste of the cake (amazing!), I overheard some of their conversation. Dahlia had broken up with Edmund the night before. She’d texted to see if he was free so she could drop by and pick up some stuff she’d left at his place. He told her no, he was out on a date. Which he had conveniently forgot to tell her about.
“We agreed that we can have other partners, but he promised he’d let me know. And I thought that meant before, not after.” Dahlia speared another bite of cake.
“It does! What good is knowing after the fact?” Nan put her hand on Dahlia’s shoulder. “So what happened?”
What happened was there had been a few texts back and forth, and a face-to-face confrontation the next day.
“And then I asked him,” said Dahlia, “whether his date knew about me. And he said he thought that was none of my business. I finally got him to say no, he hadn’t told her.”
“You mean he didn’t tell her he had other relationships?” asked Sari. “The fucker.”
Nan snorted at that. “Exactly. Did you tell him off?”
“Kind of.” Dahlia took a sip of her lambic. “I told him I thought that we agreed that he’d tell me about other partners before he saw them, and that they would know all about his other partners. And he told me I was his sub and he’d do what he damned well pleased. So I told him no, I wasn’t his sub anymore and could I please get my things from his apartment because I wasn’t going to be visiting there anymore.”
“Good for you,” I said before I could stop myself.
Dahlia looked up and I thought she was going to tell me to back off, but she just smiled. “You think so?”
“I do. You deserve better than that. And wait just a second, I’ve got something I want you to try. . . .” The crystal bottle with the tear-drop stopper was on the shelf where it should be, and I poured a little into an aperitif glass and set it in front of Dahlia.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“It’s called White Male Tears. Try it.”
“You’re kidding,” said Sari. “White Male Tears? Really?”
“That’s what it’s called,” I said. “I can’t vouch for the ingredients though. What do you think?”
Dahlia took a sip and laughed out loud. “This is amazing! Wow, I’m getting floral, and some watermelon, and . . . maybe a candy cane?”
I poured a sip for Nan and Sari too. “It’s a little bit different for everyone, actually.”
The trio spent the next 15 minutes comparing notes on the liquor, and on what they thought Dahlia should do next. The consensus seemed to be “move on, and find another partner/dom that would respect her values.” And they left a big tip in appreciation of White Male Tears.
A couple days later, I got to hear Edmund’s story. He came in a bit early for an ImpAct party and ordered a Totally Naked, a New Glarus lager. It’s a decent beer, but I couldn’t help but think he liked saying it out loud when he ordered it. I reminded him that there was a one-beer limit if he was going to the party, and he nodded and waived me off.
I was working the other end of the bar, so Mikhel heard more than I did. According to Edmund, Dahlia was possessive, jealous, and unreasonable, and he’d done nothing wrong.
“She actually thought she could control who I see and what I do.”
“Is that so?” asked Mikhel. “Had she been seeing anyone new without telling you?”
“No, but that wasn’t the issue. She wanted to know where I was, who I was with, every single minute, and started crying when I told her I wasn’t going to put up with that.” He took a pull of his beer. “She’s more than a little unstable. I feel sorry for her husband.”
Mikhel put both hands on the bar and leaned forward, a gesture I recognized as meaning “enough of that shit.”
“I think that’s enough, Edmund. It’s bad form to insult a former partner, and certainly not in public. Keep your relationship problems to yourself. It’ll make it easier to find another partner too.”
Edmund opened his mouth to protest, took a look at Mikhel, and shut his mouth.
Later that evening, I overheard Edmund complaining to a small group of fellow party-goers over a root beer. “And the worst of it is, she’s poisoned all her friends against me.”
I walked over to the table where they were sitting, looked at Edmund, and said, “Do you remember your conversation with Mikhel earlier? I hope so. I’d hate to have to ask you to leave.” Which was a flat-out lie, I’d love to ask him to leave. But the reminder did the trick – he shut up immediately.
Later, I told Mikhel about Dahlia’s conversation with her friends. “The breakup drama is thick with that pair. I hope they can get through it without too much nastiness.”
“Sounds like Dahlia’s on the right track, though,” said Mikhel. “We’ll keep an eye on Edmund – I can’t control what he does elsewhere, but I can damned well make sure he doesn’t bitch about Dahlia when he’s here. Or anyone else he has a relationship with. It’s bad form.”
His advice to Edmund turned out to be spot-on: Dahlia had a new partner within a few weeks, which seemed like a pretty fast rebound, but it was clear she was happy. And Edmund? It’s been six months and he’s dated a few new potential subs, but I’ve never seen him with anyone more than once. But neither did I hear him complain about it, so there’s hope for the guy.