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Myrine called her significant other somewhat later in the day than her housemate Lily and was rewarded by a much more pleasant reaction. In the best tradition of the engaged idealist, Matt hitched a ride to Portland as soon as he heard what was going on. Demonstrations were his eggplant parmagan and his peanut-butter-chocolate cheesecake, his bread and butter and the icing on his cake; in other words, the next best thing to sitting in trees. Besides, he didn't have anything better to do. And from the sound of things, he would be a single male among a horde of females, a situation Matt was never adverse to.

Myrine got off work early to help get the action organized. Paper and paints and pamphlets and posters were strewn around the living room, and Lily, Sandra and Matt were putting the finishing touches on a sign that read, "Women Unite! Take Back the Night!"

"Was that the most original thing you guys could come up with?" Myrine asked as she shrugged out of her jacket.

"You come up with something better," Lily said. "Besides, it's one of the slogans of the demonstration."

"Oh, I'll come up with something better alright," Myrine said. "Anyone want some coffee?"

There was general agreement. "I'll help you make it," Matt said, getting up and following Myrine to the kitchen.

"Thanks for coming up, Matt," Myrine said. "Not every man would."

"Are you really serious about this strike business?" Matt asked with a fuzzy laugh as he got out the coffee cups.

Myrine looked at him in surprise. "Of course."

"Don't get me wrong," Matt said. "I support what you guys are doing. I just don't see the necessity of being chaste to make the point."

"It's a symbolic action. You of all people should understand that. You're so big on symbolic actions."

"Yeah," Matt agreed slyly. "But it will still be symbolic if you don't participate. Who would be the wiser?"

"Diana and Lily for two. You can't hide much from someone you're living with."

Matt ran one sensitive hand down Myrine's spine. "But it's already been over a week since we've slept together," he murmured in her ear. "Has the strike officially started yet?"

"Yes. And a week is not that long." Myrine pushed the button on the coffee grinder and avoided looking at Matt.

"But what good will it do?"

"Probably none. That's not the point."

"Then what is?"

"It may not do any good, but it's a good idea." Actually, until Matt began pressuring her, Myrine hadn't been so sure if it was a good idea. She spooned the coffee from the grinder into the filter.

"How can it be a good idea if it won't do any good?"

"It's original. You sitting in that tree didn't save the tree, but it got SOFT a lot of attention. If we go on strike, it won't stop rape, but maybe we'll make a few more women aware of how to help themselves. Lyssa thinks we can educate the men, but I kinda doubt it."

"Then what will you achieve?"

"We'll have lectures and discussions and concerts; we'll raise some money for the rape crisis center; we'll teach some women self-defense and self-confidence."

"Can't you do that without a strike?"

"The strike is the publicity stunt. We need it to get us where we want to go."

"But why make us both suffer?" Matt tried to nibble her neck, but Myrine jerked away. His sleaziness was getting to be a little much.

"I'm not suffering. It hasn't been that long after all. Besides, it's a question of integrity."

"What's integrity compared to a good roll in the hay?" Matt asked teasingly, putting his hands on Myrine's hips and drawing her against him.

The kettle began to whistle. Myrine put her hands on Matt's hips and pushed him away. "Integrity can last a lifetime, but a good fuck only lasts a few minutes."

"But why are you all so up in arms? I mean, look at Mercy. Good, George forced her and all, but he was her husband. She'd slept with him hundreds of times already. It can't have been that bad. Can you really call that rape?"

"I hope you didn't mean that," Myrine said.

Too late, Matt recognized his blunder. "Well, no, I know it's rape, but that's not the same thing as this Rachel Vincent..."

"No, that was murder."

"...and that doesn't happen very often. How many women do you know who have really been raped?"

"Murdered, none. Raped, enough." Myrine had just about had enough herself when the phone rang. "I'll get it," she called to Lily and Sandra, eager for an interruption. "Hello?"

It was Adam. "Hi, Myrine, it's me again. Is Lily there now?"

"Just a sec, I'll check." Myrine lowered the receiver but made no attempt to cover it up to keep Adam from hearing. "It's Adam. Are you here?" she asked Lily.

"I guess I am. I have to get it over with one of these days," Lily replied.

"I have to get going now, anyway," Sandra said. "My family's waiting for me. See you tomorrow. And don't let him get to you, okay?"

"I'll do my best. Bye, Sandra," Lily said as she took the phone from Myrine.

Myrine returned reluctantly to the kitchen and Matt. "Coffee done?" she asked.

"Here, have some." Matt poured a mugfull and handed it to her. "I hope you didn't get me wrong just now," Matt said, trying to be conciliatory and ending up slimy. "I fully support what you guys are doing."

"I know. You're just horny and you're looking for excuses."

"I'm glad you understand," Matt said, trying to get close again.

"I don't like your excuses though," Myrine said, fending him off. "If you don't watch out, I'll spill my coffee all over you."

They were diverted from their differences by the sound of Lily yelling in the hall. "This has gone too far!" she screeched into the telephone. When she turned and saw Matt and Myrine standing and staring at her, coffee mugs in hand, she fled to Myrine's room with the telephone and shut the door. Even then the volume of her side of the argument carried all the way to the kitchen, although the individual words could no longer be heard.

When Diana arrived home from work a few minutes later, Lily was still shouting. Diana joined Matt and Myrine in the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee. "What's going on in there?" she asked, shaking her head.

"Adam called," Myrine replied.

"Uh-oh."

"You can say that again," Matt said.

"Oh, I'll spare you the repetition," Diana said and finished off her coffee in one gulp. "I'll be in the garage if anyone needs me. The band is coming over to practice."

"Again already?"

"We need to be ready for the weekend."

"Well, don't blow the neighborhood away," Myrine advised.

"Lily is more likely to do that than we are," Diana said, aiming a skeptical look in the direction of Myrine's closed door.


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