As they entered Lyssa's house with their pizza--hot Italian sausage for him, artichoke hearts and Bandon cheddar for her--Hades greeted them gratefully.
"How you doing, old boy?" Marty asked the dog, grateful himself for the presence of a third party. He was in the unusual position of feeling slightly embarrassed. And if that was how he felt, he could hardly imagine how Lyssa was feeling. At the office he had still been hopeful, but now he was wondering if he'd been overly optimistic. Lyssa wasn't saying much.
"Cold out, isn't it?" he asked, rhetorically and redundantly.
The aroma exuding from the box on the dining room table could have calmed armies; the pizza was a truce. Besides, this particular skirmish in the battle of the sexes was only a minor incident, an accident, really. Lyssa and Marty were charitably disposed towards each other to start with, but circumstances and more hostile parties in the battle had led to discord.
They set about to savor their truce. It had been too long since Marty had been in her house, but he hadn't forgotten his way around, and he helped get napkins and beer. Lyssa drank beer with pizza, but only with pizza. And usually only with Marty.
"The cheddar is interesting," he commented. "Good pick. I wouldn't have thought of putting cheddar on a pizza."
"It always is," Lyssa said and took another sip of beer. Out of the can. She felt decadent.
"Now what are those family problems you've been alluding to?" Marty asked.
"It's about Hannah."
"That's about the only family you've got that I know of."
Lyssa smiled dutifully. "She was having serious problems with a boyfriend this fall, but she only told me about it when she came up for Christmas." She proceeded to tell him hesitantly what Hannah had related to her and the conclusions she had drawn from the tale.
"Damn," Marty muttered under his breath towards the end of Lyssa's recital of events at the Halloween party. He was pretty sure he was constitutionally incapable of rape, but judging by his reaction after he found out Anne was cheating on him, he wasn't incapable of violence.
Marty sucked in his breath and shook his head. "I can understand why you couldn't talk to me about it," he said. His chest felt slightly hollow.
"I haven't talked to anyone about it. Hannah's inability to admit what really happened makes it seem not quite there, even for me." Lyssa gave a helpless sigh. "It makes me feel so powerless. I wish I could have prevented something like this from happening to her."
Marty grabbed her hand and pressed it against his forehead. They sat that way, her elbow on the table and his head against the back of her hand, while the pizza got cold between them. Hades sat patiently next to the table and watched, apparently sympathizing, but more likely begging.
Marty lifted his head and looked into Lyssa's eyes. "Well, look at it this way," he said. "It doesn't seem to have damaged Hannah much. It could have been worse."
"Don't remind me. I've thought of that already too." Lyssa gave a short laugh. "I actually thought at the time that I could have strangled him. Can you believe that?"
Marty shook his head. "Not really, no." He frowned slightly. "When did you find out about this?"
"About a month ago."
"You can't do anything about it, can you?"
"Hardly." The bitterness in Lyssa's voice was even more uncharacteristic than her previous laugh.
Marty was silent for a moment. "This may be a really stupid suggestion," he began. "But do you think it might help if you did something for Cutting Edges on the subject? Maybe a feature on rape and sexual harassment?"
"Well, I'm not generally a big fan of therapy, but it might do you good."
"It might only make me more upset than I am already."
Marty squeezed her hand. "Activity is more up your alley than silent brooding, though, isn't it? You could even get a kind of verbal revenge. How about a vignette: A Portrait of the Rapist as a Young College Student?"
Lyssa laughed and shook her head. "You can make me laugh about anything. How do you do it?"
Marty shrugged and looked intentionally humble. "I only do what comes naturally. I guess I'm basically a clown." Despite the basic clownishness, he soon became serious again. "We men are quite a bunch, aren't we? No wonder I got the feeling I was doing something wrong."
"Oh, Marty, you weren't doing anything wrong. I just couldn't look you--or any man--in the eye for a while. I didn't even want to interview men. I kept getting the impulse to ask them if they had ever raped anyone."
Marty chuckled. "That's what I meant." He gave Lyssa a long look. "Then I'm forgiven? Will you get out of my head and come back to my bed?"
Lyssa's stomach plunged. The combined effect of the words and Marty's intense, humorous gaze made her melt within a matter of seconds. Striving for the same tone he had used, she replied, "If I do, it had better be tonight."
Marty took her hand again and leaned over across the cold pizza to give her a kiss full on the mouth. As their glasses collided, hers big and round, his small and round, they pulled apart again and laughed. They looked at each other, the contagious smile in Marty's eyes finally catching Lyssa's. Deliberately, he took off his small round glasses and she took off her big ones, and they resumed where they had left off. Lyssa's resentment of men fled, and she didn't regret it. It would have been difficult going through life resenting half the human race. But now it was over. At least temporarily.