What is this thing called Love?
It was impossible to move with the two men holding my arms above my head. My skirt was not short because I know how that inflames the Arabs, and I know also how quick they are to assume any foreign woman is a whore, and fair game. In any case, the length of my skirt did not matter because the man who was not sitting on my arms had taken it off me.
He had long, thin hands, like a girl’s. That was one of the few things I registered about him. Also that he hesitated when my skirt was off. ‘Please, sir,’ I said in English. ‘Please don’t do this.’ Still he hesitated, and something in his eyes said doubt about what they were doing had entered his mind. ‘I am a virgin, sir,’ I said, which was true. He looked at the other two and I think at that moment he was prepared to stop.
Then one of them spoke to him in Arabic, very sharply. He took the waistband of my panties in his thin girl’s hands and pulled them down.
* * *
I suppose I thought they might kill me afterwards but they did not. They watched while I dressed, slowly because they had hurt me, and then they told me to get into the back seat of their Land Cruiser. When we reached Le Meridien, they opened the door and told me to get out. I could see the man in the turban who opens doors and calls taxis for guests staring at me. No doubt he was wondering what a Filipina was doing in a Land Cruiser with three Arabs. And no doubt he was answering his own question inside his head. It would be an answer not flattering to me.
Mister John Meredith, who I called Mister John, was the American man I worked for. He lived in a house on the Corniche near the new Sheikh Zayed Bridge, not in an apartment, and I had a room there. My job was to keep the place clean, wash his clothes and sometimes cook meals. Only one man in a big house, six bedrooms, and my friends thought I was so lucky. It is true he never beat me, as the wives of some Arab and many rich Indian men beat their maids. He had never forced his way into my bed, as was common, or made me stand on a ledge on an upper floor and threatened to push me off because I had worked for fourteen hours and was tired, as had happened to one maid I knew. He never burned me with a cigarette end, threatened to spray bleach in my face or said he would have me deported. He let me keep my passport.
But he often had visitors, and sometimes guests who stayed a few nights, and the work was more arduous than some other maids imagined.
Nevertheless, I was happy working for Mister John.
I was hoping he would not be in when I got home. I wanted to shower and change my clothes before he saw me and try to cover the bruise that was growing darker on my eye where one of them had hit me. But it was not to be.
‘What happened, Carol?’ he asked me. “Carol” is my Catholic name. He could never have managed the one my parents called me by.
I tried to slip past him towards my room but he caught my arm. I was shocked; he had never touched me before. ‘What happened, Carol?’ he asked again. Not loudly, but firmly. I started to cry and he let go of my arm but he continued to block my way. I had been weighing all kinds of possible lies on the long walk from Le Meridien in the stifling heat, but I knew in my heart that none of them was going to work. I told him what had happened.
‘They were local men?’ he asked.
He looked sad. ‘Do you want to report it to the Police?’
‘There would be no point,’ I said. ‘Mister John,’ I added as I realized distress may have made me rude.
‘No,’ he said. ‘There would be no point. I think I should take you to the hospital.’
I shook my head. ‘They would report it. The Police would say I was a prostitute and I would be deported.’
He stepped back. ‘I expect you’d like to clean up. Use my bathroom, please.”
‘Thank you, Mister John, but I…’
‘Use my bathroom, Carol.’
‘Thank you, Mister John.’
‘There’s a bottle of Dettol in the cabinet. Put a capful in your bath water.’
I don’t know what came over me to say what I said next. I think I was deliberately defying Mister John. I was sure he knew what I was about to tell him, but knowing is one thing and having your nose rubbed in it is something else. Mister John worked at the Embassy. He said he worked for the State Department. One of the other maids I knew had heard her employer talking about Mister John. This man said Mister John was a spy. If he decided he could not ignore what I said, I could not complain. In any case, I said it. ‘And I am only twenty-five. The law says maids must be thirty-five. They would find out that my passport is forged. They would deport me for that, too. And I have not yet finished paying the man who supplied it to me.’
Now Mister John looked really sad. But he said nothing.
* * *
Mister John said he would eat at the Embassy that night. Before he left, he asked me to bring him a Coke from the fridge.
When I put it in front of him, he said, ‘Perhaps you should think of wearing a headscarf.’
‘This is not Saudi Arabia,’ I said. I don’t know why the suggestion should have angered me, but it did. Mister John appeared not to have noticed.
‘No,’ he said. ‘This is not Saudi Arabia.’
‘Lots of Emirati girls don’t wear headscarves.’
‘That is true.’
‘And they wear shorter skirts than I do. And shorts, sometimes.’
‘Yes, Carol, they do.’
‘And bikinis. And no-one bothers them. And I am not a Moslem. I am Christian.’
‘I know that, Carol.’
I began to cry. I had never cried in front of Mister John before, and now I had done it twice in one day. I screwed a tissue into my eyes.
* * *
Some girls behave like prostitutes and never get caught out. I had been a good girl all my twenty-five years, and what had happened to me had not been my fault, and it happened only once, and yet I was going to have a child. After three months, I could not deny it to myself.
‘What will you do?’ Mister John wanted to know.
I said, ‘I am a Catholic, Mister John.’
‘I think you are not a Catholic, Mister John.’
‘No, Carol, I am not. I am Episcopalian, if I am anything.’
‘Everyone is something, Mister John. If we are not something, the world makes us something.’
He did not reply.
‘If I had been an Episcopalian,’ I said, ‘then perhaps I could get rid of this child. But if I had been an American I think I would not have been raped in the first place.’
‘I can understand your being bitter, Carol.’
‘I am not bitter. I am accepting my situation. I have to go home, because if I have a child here, a single woman, they will say I am a prostitute and they will deport me. So I have to go home. Where I will be disgraced, me and my family. And I have still not sent enough money to pay for my passport.’
‘I am sorry.’
‘I am sorry, too, Mister John.’
* * *
When he came home that night, Mister John drank whisky. A large Chivas on the rocks. Then he had another. That was unusual for Mister John. Usually he did not drink alcohol when he was alone. He said he got enough when he was working, and that it was good to give his liver a rest. But that night he drank Chivas Regal.
He came into the kitchen where I was putting dishes into the dishwasher. The latest glass of ice and whisky was still in his hand. ‘Carol,’ he said. ‘I have an idea.’
* * *
The idea was simple. It took my breath away. I said “Yes”.
* * *
I sometimes met my friends, the other maids, those who were allowed out and not confined to their employers’ homes except when they had to go with their mistresses to carry heavy shopping. We would have Coke and sometimes a piece of cake in one of the cheaper places. We did not choose the cheaper places because they were cheaper, but because our mistresses would not wish us to take refreshment in the places they used themselves, or their children. I had no mistress, but most maids were not so lucky.
I had decided not to mention my good fortune, but they knew. Mister John had told colleagues and friends that he was to be married. He had not mentioned the baby, but people are not stupid. And people talk in front of their maids.
‘You’re up the spout,’ said Pena. I never liked her – too full of the importance of her employer, and too proud of her own appearance. ‘Aren’t you? You’ve got yourself pregnant and he’s stupid enough to make an honest woman of you, you little whore. I bet you did it deliberately.’
‘Leave her alone,’ said Maria. Maria was from the same village as me. She had been in the UAE two years longer and her forged passport was paid for. Now she was sending money home to her family, as I should have done if I had stayed long enough. ‘You’re only jealous,’ Maria said.
She was right, of course. Pena was jealous. We all knew people who had got a Westerner or a rich Arab to marry them. You would see them with their husbands, always smiling, their little pot bellies beginning to show because they no longer felt the need to look after themselves. Especially the ones who had caught a Westerner. If an Arab decided to divorce them, they might find things difficult, but from an American or a European they would extract a high price. And if they found themselves in a shop or hotel or restaurant where the person serving them was from their country, God help that shop assistant or maid or waitress. “Look at me,” the married one’s look would say. “I made it. I’ve caught one. In this precarious world, I never have to worry again. But you do.”
We all hated those women.
But in my case it wasn’t like that.
‘Jealous?’ Pena said. ‘What has she caught? A man of fifty who never married before. You think that is a good catch? He will be difficult. He will be impossible. And in bed he will be useless. I would not take her man at any price. He is a fool.’
Maria worked in a house not far from mine and we always walked home together. ‘She heard that from her employer’s wife,’ I said. ‘That is what the Westerners are saying about me. That I have trapped Mister John into marriage by conceiving his child.’
‘Don’t worry about what Pena says.’
‘It isn’t true,’ I said.
‘Of course it isn’t. He loves you, I don’t doubt it.’
I stopped walking. I caught Maria by the arm so that she had to stop walking, too. ‘No. I mean it really isn’t true.’
‘I know that.’
‘Maria. The baby is not Mister John’s.’
Her eyes grew big big. ‘Does he know that?’
‘How can he not? He has never lain with me.’
‘It is true, Maria.’ I could see she did not believe me. I told her the truth. I told her what the three Arabs had done to me.
‘But…but then why does he want to marry you?’
‘I think he is sorry for me. I think he feels bad for me. I think he wants to save me.’
She took a while to understand what I was telling her. When she had taken it in, she said, ‘Oh, Carol. You are so lucky. What a good man he must be.’
‘He says he knows I don’t love him. He is marrying me so that I will be an American and not have to go home. He says he does not expect me to sleep with him when we are husband and wife. He says one day I will meet someone I do love and when that happens he will let me divorce him so that I can be with that man.’
‘Oh, Carol.’ I knew she was happy for me. I knew also that she was wishing she could meet someone who would do for her what Mister John was doing for me. Marry her so that she could have a passport that was real and worth having and then leave her be and let her go. There were tears in her eyes.
* * *
Mister John arranged the wedding. He said it should be quick, which I could not argue with. He offered to use his influence to get visas for my family so that they could come, but I said I did not want them there. My mother would upbraid my new husband for sleeping with me before we were married, and me for letting him, and I was not prepared to allow that. Mister John had a sister in Oregon and he sent tickets for her and her husband.
A week later, we were man and wife.
It was a strange ceremony for one like me. It took place in a chapel in the Embassy, which was another thing my mother would have objected to, although we did have a Catholic priest. The night before, there was a party in our house (how quickly I came to think of it as “our house”) on the Corniche to which John’s sister Phyllis (I had to stop calling him “Mister John”, which was hard at first) and her husband Wayne came, with John’s colleagues from work and many friends. Although a lot of these last were Moslem, the evening was far from abstemious. I would not like to count the number of empty bottles our new maid (yes! We had a new maid, sent by a different agency from the one that had supplied me) cleared away afterwards.
After the wedding itself, the Consul gave me my new American passport in my new name. Carol Meredith. It was the most precious thing I had ever received. I slipped it into my bag. Had I begun to stare at it, I do not think I could have stopped.
That evening we had a small dinner party at the Emirates Palace with only Phyllis and Wayne. I do not like the Emirates Palace. I did not want my husband to waste his money like that. I meant to be a good wife to him, taking care of his money as though it were my own. I did not want to be one of these gold-diggers I have mentioned.
When the dinner was over, John’s driver took Phyllis and Wayne back to our house and we went upstairs to the suite John had reserved for us that night. We needed a guide – a Persian woman in a coat of gold brocade – to show us the way to our room or we should never have found it. That is the ridiculous size of the thing.
Why were we staying in this vulgar place when we had a perfectly nice home of our own? We never discussed it, and so I could not explain to John that it was not needful. I understood, though he did not say so, that he did not want his family to know that there were now two master bedrooms set aside in his house – one for him and one for me. His sister and her husband had to leave for America the very next day and so would not see the arrangements for themselves.
If he had touched on it, I could have told him I did not intend to live that way.
And, in any case, we could have stayed somewhere else, the Rotana Beach or Le Meridien. They are a quarter of the Emirates Palace’s price and nice nice.
Well, perhaps Le Meridien would not have been a good idea.
When we reached the sitting room of our suite, I took the lead by kissing him. That was perhaps immodest, but I do not think he would have done it himself. I said, ‘You are the most wonderful man I have ever met. Thank you.’
He smiled. It was a fond smile and I knew he had not married me out of pity only. He liked me.
Then we went each to our own room, to sleep. Or so he thought. I undressed and took my shower. Then I put on the long pale blue robe that was one of the many items of clothing John had insisted on buying for my new life. The baby showed clearly through the silk.
And then I went from my bedroom, through the sitting room and into his. He was already in bed, reading. I knew that he slept naked because I had never washed any night things of his, and so it was. He looked surprised at my entrance.
I had prepared my little speech, but still I delivered it with timidity. ‘Husband,’ I said. ‘You have done a wonderful thing today. You have given me the three most precious gifts I have ever received.’
He put his book down. ‘Three?’ he asked.
‘My new passport. The return of my honour. And yourself.’
I could see that he did not know what to say, and so I spoke for him. ‘I know the things you said. But, if you will have me, I wish to be your wife. Properly.’
John is too much the man to cry, but I knew he was moved. I made a gesture of “May I?” and moved towards the bed. He pushed down the sheet. I climbed up beside him.
I pressed myself against him. ‘Will you kiss me?’ I asked.
And so we became man and wife properly.
* * *
I will not pretend that our love-making set me alight. John was gentle and considerate and loving. All the things those three men were not. I enjoyed what we did together, but because I knew I was pleasing him and not for the thing itself. And he was pleased. He was like a child at a party, trying everything. I do not think he was experienced with women. He used his eyes and his hands and his nose and his tongue to make love, and not just that other thing. Because he was happy, I was happy. I supposed later, when I had found out what passion could be, that he must have known he did not move me to great heights, but his own pleasure was so clear that it pleased me, too.
* * *
When I was a month away from giving birth, he took me home to Oregon. We both wanted the baby to be born in America and we were afraid that, if I got too close to the moment, the airline might not let me board the plane.
Al Ghazal Lounge, which we went to because we were traveling Business Class, a new experience for me, is circular and on two levels, with smokers on the lower floor. You can get coffee and hard liquor as well as Arabic pastries. I have never acquired the taste for alcohol, but I have a weakness for sweet Arabic pastries. The TV is never turned off, but the staff are good about turning down the volume. At least when John asks them to.
There are no windows. In one wall is an aquarium and in another something John told me was a diorama. It showed an Arab fort among sand dunes with a four by four not unlike ours (though it was really John’s, because I had never learned to drive) climbing one of them. There was an oasis with camels and gazelles and black tents that John said belonged to Bedouins. He also said that, really, we should call them Bedu, because one Bedouin was a Bedouin but more than one were Bedu. But foreigners don’t know that, apparently, and so they say Bedouins. John really loves the Middle East. I learned later that he had twice turned down promotion in order to stay there. Lots of men love the Middle East. It is a place for men.
Outside the fort were five Arabs in white robes, sitting or in one case lying. One of them was playing a mandolin, which I learned is called a buzoc. One had a hawk on his wrist, one was reading the Koran, one poured coffee and one (the lying down one) was staring into the distance.
None of them was holding down a woman with her skirt and panties removed. There was no woman in the scene. No woman with the blood of her stolen virginity drying on the insides of her thighs. No woman at all.
* * *
John spent two nights with me in his house in Portland, a ten minute walk from the place where Phyllis lived, and then flew on to Washington to see his bosses.
I got to know Phyllis quite well during the three weeks John was away. She was older than me, of course, and in a way she treated me like the daughter she had never had. She and Wayne had no children. She began to tell me that this was because of a problem Wayne had, but she saw that I did not want to hear such things and she was kind enough to stop. In the beginning she had been a little formal with me, but after a few days she said something really nice nice. She told me she had assumed I had married John for his money and his American citizenship but now she knew I wasn’t that kind of person. I thanked her. I told her I was glad and proud to be part of her family, which I was. She hugged me tight tight.
* * *
The baby was born one week early and John arrived at the hospital a few minutes after the birth. He had flown from Washington to Seattle and come straight to the hospital without going home to change or shower or anything. He was so apologetic but I told him it was fine. I said a man should be there when the baby is made but not when the baby is born. Then I realized what I had said and I could not look at him. He put his arms round me and we hugged without saying anything. Then I said, ‘He is your baby.’
He said, ‘He is our baby.’
I started to cry. The nurse came in and said it was my hormones and I was tired, but I knew it wasn’t that. She sent John away. She told him to come back next day when I was rested.
* * *
We called the baby Mark and I sent pictures of the christening to my parents. I thought my mother’s heart might soften when she saw he had had a proper Catholic baptism. I also enclosed two hundred dollars. That was John’s idea. We were making plans to return to Abu Dhabi when we realized everything was not right with little Mark. The doctors said it would all be fine, and in the end it was fine, but they said Mark should stay near the hospital for a few months.
John said he would have to go back alone and I would come with Mark when the doctors said it was all right.
* * *
Even without the worries over Mark’s health, it was harder to be a new mother than I would ever have thought, and I was lonely without John. Phyllis spent a lot of time with me. She drove me to and from the hospital; we went shopping and on picnics; and she started to teach me to drive. I, who had never thought I would ever have occasion to drive.
And she took my English in hand.
I had good English – for a maid in the Gulf. I knew that when I was finally able to return to my husband’s side, he would need me to be with him sometimes at the cocktail parties and dinners he seemed to have to go to such a lot. He would also continue to entertain at home and I would need to communicate much better as his wife than I had as his maid. I could not bear to think of putting him to shame.
‘You have to listen to the cadence of a sentence,’ Phyllis said.
‘I’m going to the Mall. I’m going to the Mall?’ Do you see the difference?’
‘Of course. The second one’s a question.’
‘How can you tell?’
‘It goes up at the end.’
‘That’s cadence. Then there’s punctuation. Where you put the pauses. Did you ever hear a song, “What is this thing called love?”?’
‘Trust me, it’s a song. “What is this thing called love?”‘ She sang a few bars. ‘Now, suppose I say, “What, is this thing called love?” Do you see the difference?’
‘I think so.’
‘How about, “What is this thing called, love?” Or “What is this, thing called love?” Still see the difference?’
‘The same six word sentence. Put pauses in different places and you’ve got four different meanings.’
‘I had no idea English was so difficult.’
‘You’ll get the hang of it. And when you do you’ll understand far more about humor. You’re a very serious person, Carol. You know that?’
‘I’ve got a sick child and my husband is thousands of miles away.’
‘I know that, honey. You’ve got a lot of problems. Having problems doesn’t stop you showing humor. It’s the American way to smile in the face of adversity. And John’s colleagues will expect it.’
‘Then I’ll try.’
Phyllis smiled. I knew she was amused by the idea of me “trying” to be funny. ‘See?’ I said. ‘I made you smile.’
Her smile grew much bigger. ‘Hey! You’re doing it!’ Then her face took on that look she had when she raised intimate matters. ‘Are you serious when you and John make love?’
She had been right to adopt that look. This was not something I wanted to talk about.
‘Good sex always has a lot of play about it,’ she said. ‘Love-making is for adults, but they need to become like children when they do it. I’ve upset you.’
‘Yes I have. I’m sorry. I stand by what I said, though.’
* * *
The English lessons and driving lessons were good for me. This was also the time I met Lee, and that wasn’t so hot. (That’s an expression I picked up from Phyllis).
Lee was a doctor at the hospital where Mark was being treated. Mark was an outpatient, which meant he lived at home and I took him twice a week for tests and treatment. Sometimes Phyllis came with us.
‘He’s hitting on you,’ she said after one such visit.
‘He’s never touched me.’
‘Not hitting. Hitting on. He’s after you.’
‘Oh, Carol, honey. Don’t be so obtuse. He likes you. He wants to get into your pants.’
It wasn’t her fault. A sudden image came to me, of hands thin like a girl’s, tugging on the waist band of my panties. I shuddered. Phyllis laughed. ‘I’m glad the idea turns you off, hon, but he’s surely not that repulsive.’
* * *
But the truth was more complicated than that. I wasn’t turned off. I was turned on.
When I was a little girl, I had dreamed of the man I would marry. He would fall in love with me, and woo me, pursue me, breaking down my resistance until in the end I said “Yes” to him. We would be married, and love each other for always, and have children, and I would be a good wife and a good mother. But first would come the wooing.
Because of what those three men did to me, I had never been wooed. John had married me, and I was grateful, but there had never been any romance in my life. If you are raped, and you get pregnant, and a man twice your age says, “I will marry you and raise your child as mine and look after you,” you may be very grateful but it is not romantic. The only wooing I had had was the pulling down of my panties by a man with the thin hands of a girl while two other men held me down. There is nothing romantic about that. In fact, it is a horrible thing.
So now here was this man Lee, who was in love with me (though I never saw it till Phyllis pointed it out) and that was romantic. I kept my distance, but at night or when I was not at the hospital I thought about him. I wondered how it would be to let myself love him. I had heard people talk about how wonderful it could be, this thing between a man and a woman, and I wondered if it would be like that between Lee and me, after I had let him woo me a little.
I say I kept my distance, but my attitude to him changed, I could not help its changing, and he noticed. He became bolder. He touched me, on the arm at first and then later on the back just above my bottom. Part of me shrank away from that touch, but part was excited. And then he kissed me. Just put his arms around me, pulled me tight tight and before I had time to react he was kissing me.
Of course I pushed him away. I was a married woman. But that night I dreamed about him and in my dream he was doing that to me. Except that he wasn’t doing it to me, because we were doing it to each other. And we were playing, just like Phyllis had said. In my dream I began to see that two naked adults playing might be fun.
John and I always undressed ourselves before we got into bed. I undressed myself and he undressed himself. What I found myself dreaming about, and I tried not to but I could not help it, was: how would it feel to be undressed by the other? Not the way those three men undressed me, I knew what it was like to be undressed by force and it was horrid. How would it feel to be undressed by a man who loved you? To have your panties removed, not with uncaring roughness but tenderly? How would that feel? And what I was really thinking was: how would it feel to have that thing done by Lee?
I would not have gone further than dreaming and perhaps he knew that because he came to my home. My address was on the hospital records and one evening he knocked on my door.
When I saw who was there, I was shocked.
‘I came to check on little Mark,’ he said.
‘Oh? And the flowers and the bottle of wine? Are they for little Mark, too?’
I did not step back or invite him in or anything, but he was prepared for that. He just walked round me into the house and into the kitchen and he laid the flowers and the wine on the worktop. I followed him in, of course. ‘Mark is asleep,’ I said.
‘Good. I didn’t really come to see Mark. I came to see you.’ And he just took hold of me as if it were the most natural thing in the world and began to kiss me. He kissed my lips and my forehead and my throat, and he was holding me tight and I could feel him pressing hard hard against my belly.
‘Please,’ I said. ‘You should not be here. I am married. I have a husband.’
‘You should not be married to that man,’ he said as he went on kissing me. ‘He is too old for you, and too far away. I am the right man for you. We have heritage on our side, and our age.’ By now his hands were on my bottom, holding me tight against him, and I could feel myself giving in. In another minute I would be letting go, relaxing into his arms, and then it would be all over with me.
I lifted both hands to his chest and pushed with all my might. ‘Stop,’ I said, and I sounded firmer and more angry than I was. ‘I will not be treated like this. Let me go.’
To my great relief, and also to my intense disappointment, he did so. I stepped back.
‘I know you feel the same way,’ he said. ‘I have watched you. I want you and you want me. So why not?’
‘I have told you,’ I said. ‘I am a married woman. I promised before God and His priest to love my husband and abandon all others. You are trying to make me forget my holy vows.’
‘Mark is better,’ he said. ‘You have no more reason to stay in America. If I don’t win you now, you will be lost to me for ever. I do not want to live without you.’
My legs were shaking. In fact, I was shaking in every fiber of my body. I wanted him. Oh, how I wanted him. I longed for him to pick me up and carry me into my bedroom. The longing was so great I could almost feel his hands warm warm on my naked skin. I knew he could see it in my eyes.
I picked up the bottle of wine and handed it to him. ‘I don’t drink alcohol,’ I said. ‘You must take that away.’
He put it down again. ‘Why do you fight against what you know you want?’ He stepped in close. He put his hands on my waist. I turned up my face to be kissed. I was lost.
And then Phyllis’s voice said, ‘You’ve had your answer, buster. Move your ass out of here.’
He stepped away from me. Both of us looked at Phyllis, me with shocked guilt and him in anger. He said, ‘What are you doing here?’
‘Telling you to go. Now.’
There was no arguing with Phyllis at that moment. Leaving the flowers and the wine, Lee made for the door. As he left, he turned towards me. ‘I will be back,’ he said. ‘Tomorrow. I will take you to my place. Where we will not be interrupted.’
And then he was gone.
* * *
I sat in the living room and sobbed. I cried my heart out. Phyllis put her arm round my shoulders and hugged me, but she said nothing. She passed me fresh tissues as each one became soaked.
At last, I had cried my fill. ‘I am sorry,’ I said.
‘For what? Being loyal to my brother?’
‘I am sorry that I was tempted. And that you saw me being tempted. Why did you come?’
‘I was worried. John called to say you weren’t answering your phone. I knew you should be here, so I came over to check. I heard your voice raised, so I used my key to let myself in. Good thing I did.’
I got up and looked at the telephone. It seemed fine. I picked it up. There was no dial tone. I went into my bedroom. The phone there was slightly off the hook. I put it down properly. I came back into the living room and checked again. The dial tone was there.
‘I will call him,’ I said.
‘Yes. And Lee? When he comes tomorrow? Will you go with him?’
I looked at the tissue, torn in my hands. ‘I do not know.’
She hugged me. ‘Oh, Carol. You poor little sausage.’
I started to cry again. I said, ‘John does not want you to know this. But I think I have to tell you.’
* * *
‘Well,’ she said when I had told her the whole story. ‘Well. My brother!’
‘I do not want to hurt him,’ I said.
‘He has given you leave. He has told you you are free to fall in love with someone else, with his blessing.’
‘He meant it when he said it. I do not think he would say it now.’
‘I’m sure he really loves you, if that’s what you mean. But he made a bargain. Lee attracts you. I know he does.’
‘Yes.’ And I told her about feeling that I had never been wooed.
‘Those goddam rapists. Well, honey, here’s the deal. If you want to go see Lee tomorrow night, I’ll babysit Mark for you.’
‘Yes, I can. John loves you. I love you too. He loves you like a wife and I love you like a sister. That means I want you to be happy.’
‘Happy. Sometimes I think Americans expect too much happiness.’
‘It’s in our constitution. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’
‘If I go with Lee, I will go to bed with him.’
‘I want to go to bed with him.’
‘I know you do.’
‘It would be a sin.’
‘When I was a little girl, the priest used to tell us the best way to avoid sin was to avoid the occasions of sin.’
‘You make life very hard for yourself. So what are you going to do?’
‘I do not know. I am going to sleep on it. I will decide tomorrow.’
‘My offer stands.’
‘Thank you. Do you have time to come see me in the morning?’
‘I’ll make time.’
* * *
I had the worst night of my life. I cried myself to sleep. In my dreams, I walked into Lee’s bedroom as on my wedding night I had walked into my husband’s. In my dreams, I did something I had never done with John or any other man, and it shocked me and disturbed me. I knelt over him and took his thing into my mouth. I sucked him. And then he laid me flat. He spread my legs. He knelt between my thighs. He mounted me. In my dreams, he roused me as I had never in my life been roused.
I woke early, to find that my bucking hips had thrown the bed clothes to the floor and my cries had awakened poor little Mark.
I fed him and then fed myself. Phyllis arrived before I had the dishes in the dishwasher.
‘Have you decided?’ she asked.
* * *
Getting a flight at such short notice was not easy and I ended by going through London. Phyllis insisted that John would expect me to go Business Class, and so I did. Little Mark was so so good, hardly making a sound all the way and smiling at everyone who smiled at him. Still, it was nearly twenty-four hours after we had first taken off before I was wheeling a trolley through Customs and out into the concourse. There was a shouting mob of touts all eager to find me a taxi.
‘I’m being met,’ I said with pride.
The Arabs frown on excessive public shows of affection, but John held me tight tight in a wonderful hug. I just pressed into his body and let him hold me and stroke my hair.
When we got home, I gave Mark a drink and put him straight to bed. He went off immediately. John said, ‘You must be tired, too.’
‘I certainly intend to go to bed as soon as I have showered,’ I said. ‘But I do not intend to sleep.’
‘No. I intend to take you with me.’
He said nothing but his face lit up in a beautiful smile. ‘I’d better take a shower too, then.’
‘That would be nice.’ And then I said something that amazed me when I heard it come out from my mouth. ‘We could shower together, maybe?’
* * *
In the bathroom I amazed myself again. ‘I would like you to do something for me,’ I said.
‘And what is that?’
‘I would like you to undress me. And then I wish to pee, and I would like you to watch me as I do it. And if you need a pee, too, I would like to stand behind you and put my arms round you and hold you while you do yours.’
‘That will be difficult,’ he said.
‘Because I will be pointing straight up in the air.’
‘We will manage.’
* * *
When he was watching me sitting on the pan and peeing, he said, ‘What would your mother make of you now?’
I said, ‘I do not care what she would think. You are my husband and I love you and we should not have secrets from each other. And sometimes we should play games together, as children do.’
And then when we were under the water I took the soap and I cleaned him. And then I knelt down before him and took him in my mouth. He was hard hard and I was so proud that I was doing this thing with my man.
I dried him. He dried me. He took me by the hand and led me into the bedroom.
When I felt his tongue on my private place, I relaxed as I had never relaxed before. I said, ‘This is what I dreamed of, all the way here on two planes. If anyone looked at me they would think, “That woman is having dirty thoughts”.’ And I laughed. And I was so so happy. And the three men, they did not matter any more. And Lee. He did not matter, either.
And then he was over me, and in me. I do not know what Phyllis had told him. I do not care what Phyllis had told him. What I do know is that he must have known I had never given myself totally to him before, and that now I did. I held his arms as he rode me, this great strong man. I thought of Phyllis’s English lessons. “What is this thing called love?”
This, I thought. As his warm and tender lips kissed my lips, and as his man thing hard like iron drove itself in and out of those other lips as though it had a life of its own, and as I saw the sweet affection on his face, I thought, “This. This is this thing called Love. I feel it for him and I make him feel it for me. And I am proud proud.”
And then there came for me this wonderful thing that had never come for me before, and I felt as though the whole world was exploding, and I cried out for joy.
I finished. He finished. He sank onto his elbows and looked down at me and he smiled, and he kissed me again.
‘This,’ I said. ‘This is this thing called Love.’
And I laughed.
Note from the Author
Hi. I hope you enjoyed my story. There are other free stories of mine here; if you’d like to read something more substantial, please take a look at this page where you’ll find my books listed.
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