"I said I'm sorry, damn it!" Jeff Green told his wife, his patience at its end.
"I know," Sally told him, backing off a bit. "It's just that you promised to go with me to Goldbloom's Deli tonight. Your mother is not going to be happy with anything other than lox from Goldbloom's. You know what she's like."
"Don't be silly. You make her sound like a monster. It'll be fine. I have to go now, I'll be home as soon as I can."
Sally hung up the phone, feeling let down and anxious. She just knew her mother-in-law would be unbearable the next morning. She always was. Nothing Sally did was good enough. The battleaxe was just never going to accept a gentile as a daughter-in-law. At least, if I go and get the lox, maybe we can make it through breakfast without ugliness, she thought.
Sally remembered her husband's warning about that part of town. The emergency response company he worked for had been getting a lot of calls to that area lately. There was a serial rapist on the loose. She was sure Jeff was over-reacting. Besides, those things only happened to careless people.
~ ~ ~
"Can I see her?" Jeff asked the doctor in the emergency room.
"Yes, we've finished the exam, and she has a rape crisis worker in with her now. I need to warn you though; she's been badly beaten. Her biggest fear throughout the exam was what your reaction would be. It's important that you not appear shocked."
"I understand doctor," the burly, blonde paramedic said, "I really just need to see my wife."
The doctor ushered him into his wife's room, and left them in privacy.
Jeff felt as if someone had jammed their fist down into his guts and ripped out his intestines. He could taste the bile rising up the back of his throat. White-hot rage choked down the vomit that was threatening to erupt. How could this have happened, he wondered, as he looked down at his broken and battered wife?
"Sally?" he called gently, his voice sounding strange to his own ears as he bent over his tiny wife. Her once beautiful face was now covered in deep purple bruises. Her left eye was swollen completely shut, but her right eye fluttered open, the tear covered green orb trying to focus on his face.
"Jeff," she croaked. "I'm so sorry."
"Shh." He put his finger to her cracked and swollen lips, gently quieting her.Guilt clutched its icy fingers around his heart as he looked down at her small and broken body. I should have been there, he thought. I should have known she would go on her own. This never would have happened if I'd been there.
He forced himself to smile at his wife. "It'll be okay Sal, I promise."
Sally shut her eye, squeezing out the tears, trying to shut out the horrible feeling of doom. It wasn't going to be okay. Nothing would ever be okay again. She felt the warmth of Jeff's hand holding hers and tried to block out the horror of the evening's events as she slipped into a deep, blessedly drug-induced sleep.
It's been months since then, Jeff thought as he drove them up the mountains. Months of horror, months of hard work, months of silence, recoil, anger, rage, guilt, blame and heartbreak. As time went by, the bruises healed, but the invisible scars remained. Each time Jeff tried to talk to her about what happened that night, she shut him down, unable or unwilling to re-live it. Each time she shut him down, he felt as though it was proof that she held him as responsible for the rape as he held himself.
Sex between the two of them was a thing of the past. Just holding her at night was a task. She tensed up and gnashed her teeth as though she was in pain. Her eyeballs would screw themselves closed and she sometimes broke into a cold sweat.
Jeff thought things would get better once the guy was caught. He called in a marker from some friends on the police force. It was a surprisingly simple thing. One hand washes the other, and the brotherhood looks after it's own proved to be more than just platitudes. They caught the guy. Sally was forced to give a positive ID at the police station. That had triggered several more weeks of nightmares. Mysteriously, the man had died in jail, awaiting trial. Things like that happen sometimes. Justice.
Having to look at him though, even through the two-way mirror had triggered several more weeks of nightmares and cold sweats. After that, they had sought counseling. The first few sessions they went together, and sat silently, neither being able to start, even with the counselor's help. After that, they saw her separately, each needing to work through things that neither felt comfortable saying to the other. Damaging things, hurtful things.
Sally wanted desperately to make love to her husband, but how could he ever want to be with her again. She had been so violated. She'd fought as hard as she could to keep that man out of her, but he had forced himself inside her again and again and again. Not just in her koochie, as Jeff called it, but in her ass and in her mouth. Just kissing Jeff seemed like a perversion of what they used to be. How could she kiss the man she loved with the mouth that had been forced to ... Sally didn't let herself finish that thought. It hurt too much.
Jeff tried to talk to her about it. But she felt like he blamed her. After all, she's the one who insisted on going down there at night, even when he couldn't go with her. She knew it was a dangerous part of town. She's the one who had made such a big deal about not needing her big, strong husband to protect her from life. Now, she wondered what would have been so bad about a bit of loving protection.
More time went by, the walls of false guilt and injury growing higher and higher each day. Some progress was made, but it was slow. Sally learned to smile again, and to laugh, even if it never quite reached her eyes the way it used to. Jeff learned not to give up on holding his wife, just because she tensed. He learned tolerance.
Finally, December rolled around, and the anniversary of that horrible night loomed in both their minds. The counselor they saw, albeit separately still, suggested they go somewhere together. She was frustrated at her inability to get them to talk to each other, and hoped a weekend away would spark conversation at least.
They agreed to go back to Silver Spring Lodge, where they had spent their honeymoon six years before. Jeff picked his wife up from work promptly at five that Friday evening. Neither of them said much as they drove out of the city. Each was lost in their own thoughts, their own recollections, and their own hopes.
"I don't know if this is such a good idea Jeff, truthfully, I'm not really in the mood for much more than a hot bath."
"Sally," he pleaded, "Just humor me. Please. I promise you'll get your bath."
She looked at his anxious face and found she simply didn't have the heart or the energy to argue with him. Instead, she settled the car seat back to a semi-laying position and closed her eyes.
"Sally," he gently shook his sleeping wife. "Sally, honey we're here."
"I don't see what good this is going to do," she said sullenly, as she woke up and stretched.
His jaw was set though; she recognized the stubborn line of determination. He wouldn't give up until they tried it. He helped her out of the car, and together they went into the lobby where he signed them in and got the key to cabin nine, the same cabin they stayed in before.
Jeff kissed her gently and turned to go into the bathroom. She heard the water start running, and remembered the huge double bathtub with the whirlpool jets this cabin had to offer.
"Come on in," he called, "the water is great."
Sally giggled in spite of herself, and stripped off her clothes, letting the worries of her day fall off with them. She ran into the bathroom and plopped herself opposite her husband in the big oval shaped tub. The big grin he gave her made her heart lurch with regret. It's been way too long since I've seen him look so happy, she thought.
Jeff took her foot in his hands and let his wet fingers slide up and down over her delicate toes. He smiled at her, and watched her eyes sparkle the way they used to before the clouds of pain and shame dulled them.
"Sally, do you remember all those boring pre-nuptial classes we had to go through?"
"Oh Lord, how could I forget. I thought Father Guinness was going to break a blood vessel when that guy next to us answered the 'What is love?' question with, 'Love is knowing how many people have been with your wife, and wanting to fuck her anyway.'"
"Yeah and then you chimed in that love was knowing how many people have fucked your wife and wanting her more because of it," he reminded.
"I was just being a smart-ass." She said, beginning to tense up again.
Jeff kept up his massage on her feet, letting his fingers trail upwards, towards her calves. "I've always loved that rebellious streak in you Sally. That part of you that won't be pushed into a box." There was a long pause, as both of them fell silent. "I miss it. I miss you."
"Jeff, it's not that simple," she said.
"It's not that complicated either, Sally. I love you. I know I screwed up, and I can't ever undo what happened. But we have to move forward."
"You screwed up? Jeff, what are you talking about?"
Jeff looked down at her soapy toes. "I should have been there. I should have been with you. If I had been, this wouldn't have happened. Or better yet, I should have done something about the animosity between you and my mother a long time ago. Then you wouldn't have felt compelled to go all the way downtown just to get her that stupid lox for her breakfast visit."
"Is that what you really believe?" she asked him, astonished at his cock-eyed reasoning. When she saw the tear slip down his face, however, she had her answer. "Jeff, it's not your fault. You told me not to go to that part of town. I was too stubborn to listen. I wanted to be faultless for your mother's visit. I was being miss perfectionist because I was too much of a coward to tell her off. Besides, I thought you were being too overprotective. You can't go with me everywhere I go. You can't possibly always be there. This is my fault not yours."
"Your fault? No way is this your fault."
"You told me not to go into town."
"Yeah, so what. I told you not to go, and you went anyway, that doesn't mean what happened is your fault Sally. That monster was just waiting for the right moment. The right opportunity. If I'd been with you, it wouldn't have happened."
Sally slipped over in the tub, moving until she was laying with her wet back against his warm chest. She realized she was enjoying the feel of her skin touching his. She couldn't take looking into his face for this long overdue conversation. She didn't want to see the disgust and sorrow she felt mirrored in his eyes, but she was drawing strength from the contact and closeness. "Maybe it's no one's fault Jeff. Maybe it's just something that happened. Something unfortunate. But that still doesn't make me clean. That still doesn't help, because every time you touch me, I think about ..." She stopped, fighting for control.
"What. What do you think about?"
"Jeff, please ..."
"No Sally, tell me. How can I help if I don't know. Please, tell me."
She sighed. "I think about his hands on me. How he violated something that was special, just for you. How he stole something that belonged to you."
"Really?" he asked. "That's odd."
"Why is it odd?"
"Well, here, close your eyes for me, and just feel. Don't think. Just feel." He told her as he ever so lightly ran his fingertips over her collarbone and up her neck. He stroked her softly as he kissed the upper shell of the ear closest to him. "Do you feel it?" he whispered.
"Mmmhmm." she shivered.
"Your body feels it. I can tell by the goose bumps, and the blush, but I need you to tell me what your heart feels."
"Love, your love. I feel, cherished. I feel ... beautiful." She whispered, a dreamy smile playing across her lips.
Jeff was encouraged. This was the most progress they'd made in a year. "Now, look at me," he asked her, as he stopped stroking her. When she opened her eyes and looked at him, and he was sure he had her attention, he did the unthinkable, "now tell me what you felt when he touched you."
"What? How can you ask me to keep going back to that night?" she cried, outraged.
"Because trying to forget it is obviously killing us. I need you to recognize the difference Sally, or you never will. Please baby, please. Tell me what you felt that night. Tell me what you felt when he touched you."
Sally looked at her husband for a long time. Her mouth worked open and shut, but no words came out. Her eyes went unfocused, as though she was looking far away. Jeff didn't push her. Finally, in a tiny voice, almost devoid of emotion, she began to answer him. "I felt angry at first. My mind refused to believe that anyone was touching me like that. He told me to ..." she gulped and went on, "he told me to touch him, and when I didn't he hit me. The pain exploded behind my eyes, I saw colors. People talk about being stars, but I saw dark colors. Black shadows, deep purple hues. Then I didn't feel much of anything. It was like, well, it was like watching a movie. I was hovering above the scene, detached. I remember thinking that you would never want to touch me again. I remember thinking how very ugly it was. I was disgusted. He smelled of alcohol and body odor, and something even more foul. He smelled like rotting garbage. I remember thinking, 'You son of bitch, you can force my body, but my soul is beyond your reach.' But then ..."
Jeff wanted to encourage her, but he was afraid the sound of his voice would break her, and stop her all together, so he sat, as motionless as possible and waited.
"Then, he made me look at him. Answer him. He kept taunting me. Telling me I was such a dirty slut. Telling me he could smell my desire for him. He said that he knew I was ripe and ready for anything that would come along, and he slipped a condom over himself. Said he didn't want to catch any diseases from me." Tears were streaming down her face now, falling over Jeff's hands where they rested lightly against her shoulder bone.
"When he was done, I just felt ugly. Ugly and dirty. Like a used paper towel."
Jeff hugged his wife tight. "Thank you."
"For what? Not fighting hard enough?" The self-loathing in her voice cut into him like a knife.
"For not fighting any more then you did. He probably would have killed you if you had. For recognizing that no one can steal your soul, your heart, your mind. For finally sharing this with me. Most of all, for loving me."
"I don't see what good it will do though."
"Well now, let's see. As I understand it, you stiffen because you feel like I must find you dirty now, because someone else touched what was mine. Is that right?"
"Maybe, not exactly, but close enough." she conceded.
"Well then, come on," he said, pulling her out of the bathtub and wrapping her in a big fluffy towel. He led her into the living area of the cabin, and lay down with her on a big fluffy sheepskin blanket. He turned the handle on the floor and opened the flame in the gas fireplace.
"Mmm, this is nice." she said as the room was bathed in a soft glow. I've missed this, she thought.
Jeff started to stroke his wife, in light lazy touches, letting his fingers explore her arms, and her side, as he cuddled with her. He was determined to take his time. He felt her stiffen, but he just kept on, casually stroking her and holding her until she began to relax.
"So, this is my body huh?" he teased.Sally was suspect, but, decided to play along. "Uh huh."
"Mmmm, well, I think it's time you stopped insulting me then." He told her.
"Insulting you? Huh?"
"Yep. You need to quit thinking of 'My' body as ugly. It's beautiful. And I want to hear you say it," he ordered.
"You have a beautiful body," she teased, sarcasm dripping from her lips.
"Now, don't be like that, I'll think you're insulting me. Say it for me Sally. Say, 'these are my beautiful breasts'," he instructed as he started to tease them with his thumb, moving his fingers in big lazy circles all around her right breast, letting his thumb drag over her nipple almost causally.
Sally laughed, but she liked where this was leading. "These are my beautiful breasts."
"Ah, good girl," he said, "see how they're responding to the praise. See how prettily they are standing up for me. Say it again Sally. Say it over and over again."
As Sally repeated her new mantra, Jeff slid out from under her, and leaned over her, letting his lips kiss every inch of her breasts. He kept them light, and open, but made sure to cover every bit of her skin in his worshipful kisses.
What started out as a smart-assed game, soon turned into something much deeper for Sally. As she heard her own voice chanting, "These are my beautiful breasts" and felt her husband making such sweet love to them. She began to believe they were beautiful. She began to feel beautiful. It was almost as though her husband were vacuuming her soul, taking away the big ugly stain. With each kiss, she felt lighter, freer, more hope. More like herself.
As Jeff's mouth moved farther down her body, he made her change her litany. Soon her ribs were beautiful, then her tummy after which he rolled her over and made her proclaim the beauty of her back, her neck, her feet, her calves, and finally her thighs.
Sally was on fire with passion and desire like she could never remember having felt. It seemed to mutate from gratitude and tenderness, to need and hunger.
She was on fire. She rolled over again, onto her back and looked up into the glowing eyes of her equally hungry husband. "I want you Jeff," she said. "I need you."
"Not yet my darling," he told her, "there's still something else beautiful here, that has not yet been paid the proper homage." He stroked his hand up her cheek, and bent to kiss her sweetly on the mouth. Then, after a brief but sweet kiss, he looked into her eyes and encouraged her. "Say it for me Sally. Let me hear the words."
"This is my beautiful flower," she said, all traces of sarcasm gone.
Jeff bent his head and kissed her mound reverently, determined to make her feel its beauty. He let his tongue and lips sweep slowly downwards, stroking and coaxing her to a higher level of need, until she was panting and writhing beneath him, her proclamations incoherent.
Sally thought she would surely lose her mind. She had never felt so thoroughly or completely loved. She had become the beautiful creature he wanted her to be. His love had transformed her, and now, she was simply a creature of need. She needed the completion only he could give.
She felt the gentle suction of his lips around her clit, and she exploded. When she floated back down to earth, he was laying between her legs, his finger gently stroking her swollen womanhood, his head propped up on one hand. His smile lit the room with more brilliance then the fire.
"Now that was beautiful," he said.
"Jeff, come here." She begged, pulling at him, trying to pull him onto her.
He let her pull him to a point, but turned landing beside her rather than on her. He was afraid to break the spell by making her feel pinned down. Instead, he gathered her in his arms, and pulled her to his body.
They lay, a bit awkwardly, front to front, staring into each other's eyes as she reached between them and stroked his hardness. He was throbbing in her hand. Life, she thought to herself as she felt the pulsing of his urgency. Choose life.
She scooted her hips into a suitable position, and slipped herself onto him. They didn't move. They just felt each other, and smiled at each other. Then she closed her eyes and felt her body convulsing around him, her insides welcoming him.
Jeff watched the play of emotions on his wife's face. He looked for any sign of distress, and to his great relief, all he saw was the beauty of her pleasure. When she began milking him with her vaginal muscles, he knew he wouldn't be able to hold out long. Jeff closed his eyes and grabbed her hands, wanting her to ride the wave with him, and without any great movement, he found his release, inside her.
Behind her eyelids she saw colors bright pinks, and peaceful blues, crisp clean greens and happy yellows.
Who needs rose-colored glasses, she thought, when bathed by the beauty of a good man's love. They had a long way to go, but this was a wonderful start. For the time being, it was enough.