Once Myrine and Lily emerged from the depths of sleep and their bedrooms, a conference at the round table was called. Adam and Matt were sent shopping and Wes was sent packing. Mercy didn't want to talk to men about it, even long-time friends and ex-lovers. A couple of whispered, preliminary conferences, and it was arranged. The boys were put to bed upstairs in Lily's room and the women met in the kitchen.
"Can you get off work on Monday?" Lily asked.
"I don't see how."
"You shouldn't have to go."
"Mercy's probably right. She isn't sick, she's just battered."
"I'm okay. I just don't want to go back to George anymore."
"You don't have to."
"You can stay here until we work things out."
"You've got to call Virginia."
"I don't want a lawsuit."
"How the hell else do you think you're going to solve this?" Myrine asked.
"Shhh," Lily admonished Myrine. "At least you need advice, Mercy."
"We'll help all we can, but we don't know what you should do," Diana said.
They brought the phone in from the hall and even dialed the number for her. After Mercy explained brokenly what had happened, Virginia was all business. "Did you go to the police?" she asked.
"No, I came here."
"You can still go if you want to prosecute. We've got laws against rape in marriage in this state."
"Are you sure? That Rideout reconciliation really dealt our cause a blow. With you it would be different."
"Look, Virginia, I don't want to set a precedent, I just want to get out."
"Okay, Mercy, I'm sorry if I seemed pushy." It was the feminist lawyer in Virginia that had suggested Mercy prosecute; the friend in her knew Mercy wouldn't be up to it. "With something like this on George, it should be easy for you to kick him out. We're not living in the dark ages, you know."
"What makes you so sure about that?"
"Mercy, it's not hopeless. After this, you can probably get whatever you want in court."
Mercy stared at the chips in the wall where the paint was coming off. "I don't want a lawsuit."
"George doesn't want a divorce, though, does he?"
"Then how do you expect to avoid court?" Virginia was silent a moment, and Mercy didn't fill the gap. "If you don't want a lawsuit, you'll have to work it out yourself, you know."
"I can't talk to him now."
"Weigh the alternatives. Compromise or lawsuit."
"He won't listen to me. He never does."
"Then threaten him with prosecution, Mercy. If he's not dumb, and I don't think he is, you'll get what you want that way."
"Could you call him for me, Virginia? As my lawyer?"
"I could, but sooner or later you're going to have to talk to him again, see him again, even. Think about the boys."
"I've been doing that too long."
"You have to get along minimally, at least."
"Minimally is too much."