Containing an episode which the author would rather not have to describe.

Matt pulled up in front of the suburban, ranch-style house and turned to Mercy. "It was nice of you to drive me home, Matt," she said, leaning over to kiss his cheek chastely. Matt insinuated an arm around her waist, pulled her close and kissed her on the mouth.

"My pleasure," he said.

Mercy pushed him away, laughing. "Oh, Matt Mollitt, you haven't changed, have you? Still the horniest softie this side of the Rockies."

"Why only this side?" Matt protested. "There aren't very many on the other side. You're looking good these days, Mercy." He tried to snuggle her neck, but Mercy held him at arm's length.

"Come on, Matt, I'm married," she protested humorously.

"Not very happily."

"True enough. But what about Myrine?"

"We're not married."

"That's not what I meant and you know it."

"We have an open relationship. And we're not exactly madly in love or anything. Never were. It's more like a convenient arrangement."

"Well, I don't want to get mixed up in your arrangement anyway," Mercy told him, shaking her head and smiling. "I've got enough problems as it is."

"Another kiss for an old boyfriend?" Matt asked.

"Okay, but only for an old boyfriend." Mercy pecked him on the cheek, opened the door and got out. "Good night, Matt!"

"Good night, Mercy." Mercy slammed the door and went up the walk. The light was on in the living room, so George must still be up. Unfortunate--he would probably ruin the good mood the party had put her in. Sure enough, there he was, sprawled in his favorite easy chair, (why did men always have easy chairs?) watching the door as she came in, a glass of whiskey by his side, a drunken husband waiting up for his erring, unrepentant wife.

"Have a nice evening, my dear?" he sneered, slurring the words only slightly. His heavy-lidded, disdainful eyes drooped lower with alcohol.


"Who brought you home?"


"And may I ask what you two were doing in the car so long?" George asked, smiling his not obviously drunken smile, predominant to one side of his face and suspiciously like a smirk. George held his liquor well.

Mercy didn't have the faintest desire in the world to discuss her manners and morals and discontent with him, and even less to defend herself. "We were kissing passionately," she replied, somewhat surprised at herself.

"Oh, really?" George said with a mocking tilt of his eyebrow. "So that's where your wifely duties are going. I thought you were pining after some old flame in Texas."

So he had noticed. George might be a lot of things, but he wasn't stupid. At the moment, though, she didn't care what he thought he knew. His irony bounced right off her, making no dent whatsoever. Her good mood was admittedly gone, but it had fled as soon as she had seen him waiting up for her, and she wasn't cringing for a change. The truth wasn't anything like what he was probably imagining. She hung her jacket up in the hall closet.

"Don't you think I deserve a little attention too?" George continued. "After all, I'm your husband."

There was the crux--attention didn't have to be earned, it was deserved. It was an inalienable right of husbandhood.

"I'm doing my best," Mercy replied.

"Well, your best is certainly cold comfort, I must say."

"As far as I'm concerned, you can find comfort somewhere else," Mercy said, and headed for the bedroom. George downed his whiskey and followed her.

"Like you?"

She ignored the comment. "I'm only going through with this for the boys."

"It doesn't seem to me like you're making much of an effort," George complained in his sarcastic nasal twang.

"It's hard enough as it is." It was hard enough sharing a bedroom, sharing the big double bed, lying there next to him in uncomfortable silence every night, ignoring him stubbornly every time he touched her. She stayed up late so he would be asleep when she went to bed and got up before him in the morning. Soon she would have to make other arrangements. It would mean a major battle, but she no longer cared.

"And what about me? Have you thought about me at all?"

"I thought you were the one who wanted to preserve appearances at all costs," Mercy said and took her nightshirt into the bathroom. She didn't want to undress in front of him. It seemed silly, after two children and years in the same bed, but she feared it would be misunderstood. Or it would give him ideas.

When she came back to the bedroom, George was already in bed. Mercy turned out the light, got under the covers, said goodnight shortly and turned her back to him. When he reached out for her, she lay still and waited for him to let up as he usually did after a while. Then his hand started crawling. It crawled around towards her stomach and up to her breast. She scooted to the edge of the bed. His touch made her shiver, but not in delight; it was hard to believe it had once thrilled her. The persistent hand came back to her waist. She pushed it off and tried to move even farther away, but he scooted after her. George was refusing to take the hint. She was about to jump out of bed and go sleep on the living room couch when he grabbed her around the waist and pulled her to him. He was naked and he was ready.

"George, let go of me," Mercy said in an angry whisper.

"No way, Mercy. I've been patient for too long." He sounded triumphant but still sarcastic. "I should have done this long ago."

"Stop it, George!" Mercy hissed, trying to free herself from his embrace.

"Why should I? You're my wife."

"You wouldn't dare!" she said, still struggling.

"Oh, yes I would," George said and pulled up her nightshirt. She tried to squirm away, but he pushed her onto her belly and pinned her down with his own body. Her face was half smothered by the pillows. He took her from behind, entering her brutally, without even the minimum of habitual preparation characteristic of marital sex. She winced away and bit the pillow in order not to scream. It would only wake the children.

She couldn't believe the pain. She was dry and he was hard, tearing her open. She writhed beneath his weight, trying to get away, but he had her effectively pinned. There was no question of enduring stoically, and certainly none of taking it like bad weather. She tried to punch him with her elbow. He didn't seem to notice; he actually seemed to be enjoying it. But this act had nothing to do with love and more to do with punishment; nothing to do with sexual fulfillment (on one side at least), and more to do with assault and battery. The fulfillment on the other side was probably of the same nature--an undeniable proof of physical superiority. Her flesh was yielding, and his was inflexible. He was stiff, rigid, invincible. Fulfilling her lexically correct function, she was the sheath, and he was the sword, jabbing and stabbing, relentless and merciless.

George continued his jabbing movements for an unbearably long time until he finally shuddered, slid off her and almost immediately began to snore.

It had not been a battle of equals or a demonstration of superiority, it had been an unfair fight. Mercy felt mastered, but she did not feel fulfilled. She felt conquered, but that did not inspire her with admiration for the conqueror. She felt little better than a toilet, an object for him to do his duty on. Why couldn't he jack himself off rather than use her as a receptacle?

Mercy did not like being forced. Scarlett O'Hara may have enjoyed it, judging by her reaction the morning after, but she belonged to the famous raped wives. Mercy belonged to the not-so-famous, certainly the vast majority. She had not been carried up sweeping stairs and kissed passionately on the way. She too felt degraded, but it had not been wild, passionate ecstasy. The violence of the taking was something less than rapture. Between her legs was a painful throbbing. These were the realities of marital rape--a pillow in your mouth and a cock from behind. And all in the name of female obedience and male superiority.

Mercy's tears soon dried, but she didn't sleep. She watched the stars ducking between the clouds all night, and when they began to fade, her intentions were clear.