Back | Next

Chapter 31

They were alone now. For the first time ever, Gretchen realized. After ushering them to the door of the trailer, the family had let Gretchen and her husband enter unaccompanied. For the rest of the day, and the night, the family would crowd into the other two trailers in the complex.

Silently, Gretchen took her husband by the hand and led the way into the bedroom. The bedroom had once belonged to her husband's parents. Now it would be theirs.

Once in the room, she closed the door and began to disrobe. The look on her husband's face stopped her. Very shy, very nervous. Gretchen had intended to get the matter over with as quickly as possible. Now, seeing his face, she realized that would upset her husband. The thought was unbearable. Whatever else, she owed kindness to this man.

So, smiling, she dropped her hands and held out her arms. A moment later, her husband had enfolded her in his own.

The practiced response with which Gretchen accepted that embrace changed almost instantly into something else. This was no Ludwig, to whose embrace she had both to submit and shield herself. Willingly, she lifted her lips to meet Jeff's. Her lips were soft, probing, open; not the shield wall of the past. She felt his tongue and sent her own to meet it. Fumbling the task, even more than he, because Gretchen had no experience at all in kissing.

She relaxed completely, now, and returned both the kisses and the caresses with her own. The hands roaming her body were becoming more and more enflamed. She could sense it. But she did not fear Jeff's passion. Not in the least. Soon, very soon, she would be satisfying it.

And so what? Satisfying a man's lust was a chore, true enough. But there were chores and chores. There was the chore of cleaning blood from a plundered pile of booty. The chore of shaving a rapist, controlling her hand with an iron will, lest her shrieking soul spill his life on the ground, and her family's with it.

And then, there was the chore of swaddling a baby. The chore of wiping spittle from a child. The chore of warming a grandmother in winter. Easy things, caring things. Family things.

There would be no bruises on her body from her husband's lust, she knew. Never. She was safe. But she also knew that she would be called upon to satisfy that lust far more often—far more!—than ever she had been called by Ludwig. The knowledge brought no fear, only a quiet satisfaction. Here, too, family things would prove themselves again. Strong.

What her husband would want, Gretchen would give. Gladly, if not eagerly. If nothing else, while she carried out the family chore, she could entertain herself mocking the shade of an ogre. Sneering at his ghost.


Then, Jeff was breaking away. Very reluctantly, she thought. To her surprise, Gretchen found that reluctance mirrored in herself. The reaction puzzled her. Even family chores, after all, are still chores. She was usually glad enough to be done with them.

She ascribed the reaction to lingering fear. Nothing more. That strange flaring sensation, likewise. Though that, too, was odd. Why should she feel this regret, now that it was fading? Fear was nothing to treasure.

Jeff was smiling. She could sense his growing relaxation and confidence, and was glad to see it come. Gretchen had promised the duchess—as she would always think of that woman, whatever her title—that she would work very hard at this odd thing which the Americans called "love." This, she realized now, was part of it. A husband was not a rapist. A husband should feel relaxed in the company of his wife. Confident, not in his power, but in his position.

Jeff sat on the bed and patted his hand next to him, inviting her to sit. Gretchen obeyed. Then, haltingly, he began to speak. She translated the broken words easily enough. She had much greater difficulty understanding his offer. It was the last thing she had expected.

Wait? Because of what I have been through? Until I am comfortable, and at ease? Myself willing?

Gretchen was utterly astonished. Her husband's offer, she knew at once, did not stem from lack of ardor. No, not in the least. She understood the difficulty with which he was restraining himself. Male desire was a thing she knew perfectly, and she did not think any man had ever desired her as much as the man sitting next to her on that bed did at that moment.

Her mind groped for meaning. Meaning came, immediately, but it was so obvious and simple that she ignored it without thought. Then, thinking, came back and examined it.

Yes. It is true. He simply cares.

Tears filled her eyes. A wave of affection more powerful than any she had ever felt in her life poured through her heart. Instinctively, without calculation, she embraced Jeff and drew him down upon her. Her lips pressed against his, soft and open, her tongue entering his mouth.

Suddenly, she felt very hot and flushed. She pushed Jeff away—softly, but insistently—sat up, and tried to remove her clothing. Her fingers fumbled at the cantankerous thing which the Americans called a "zipper."

No need. Her husband would do it for her. She returned his smile with one of her own. Why not? It seems to please him. And I need not fear that he will tear my garments. Not this man.

So, rolling and stretching, she helped Jeff in the disrobing. First herself, then him. When they were both nude, she writhed a little on the huge bed—"king-size," they called it, as if they were kings!—bringing herself to its center. She almost laughed, seeing the way that sinuous motion aroused him. Gretchen knew that her body could affect men so, but she had never seen Ludwig become as instantly inflamed as her husband.

For a moment, the sight of his erect manhood brought an old chill. She could feel the shield closing around her mind, and the blankness coming.

No! I will not be false to my husband. I promised the duchess. I promised him.

The struggle was brief, easy. So easy. Far easier than she would have imagined. She did laugh, now. Not with mockery or ridicule, but simple affection. Gretchen had always enjoyed keeping her family happy. This was simply part of it. No more to be dreaded than combing her sister's hair or feeding her child.

Jeff lay down beside her and began flooding her body with kisses and caresses. Another wave of affection poured through her. Then, an unexpected surge of pleasure. She was quite amazed by the latter. Gretchen was accustomed to caressing others, not being the recipient of that pleasure.

For a moment, she wallowed in the sensation. There had been precious little of sheer pleasure in her life.

It was too much. She shied away from it, recalled by stern duty. It was time to satisfy her husband. Men demanded it. So, half-unwillingly—but not for the reasons of old—she began lifting her husband upon her.

Jeff resisted. Not fiercely, no, but firmly for all that. He moved his open mouth across her breast, and down her belly. Slowly, slowly, while his hand stroked her inner thighs. The hand—hot, soft—moved up. The mouth—wet, and softer still—moved down.

When his fingers reached their destination, Gretchen gasped. Partly from pleasure, but mostly from surprise. So gentle. So—

She realized, then, that he was not very experienced. He was fumbling, she thought. Only half-certain of his end, and less so of his means.

It mattered not at all. He was the only man who had ever tried. Half-accidentally, Jeff's fingers found their mark. Gretchen hissed. She sensed her husband's glowing satisfaction. Back again, trying, trying.

Hiss. Oh!

For the first time in her life, Gretchen felt her own eagerness arrive. She wondered, but only for an instant. Her body seemed to have a mind of its own. She gave it the rein and reached down herself. Guiding—or trying to. She was no more experienced in her own pleasure than her husband.

When the sharp sensation came again, she bit her lip. Then, realizing what she was doing, let the soft moan emerge. After the horror of the first day, she had never let a man hear her moan. Or make any sound. But this moan was the rightful property of her husband. It belonged to him, not her—and was freely given.

Now Jeff's mouth reached its goal, and Gretchen gasped again. With shock, this time. What is he doing? Is he insane?

She seized his head, ready to push him away. But her hands froze in the act. Jeff reacted to the pressure of her fingers in exactly the opposite manner to what she had intended. His mouth pressed down, and open. His tongue followed the path found by learning fingers. Sheer pleasure held her paralyzed.

Gretchen's mind was awhirl. Pleasure, confusion, joy, fear—all of them were contained in her sighing, moaning, wordless voice.

What to do?

Fear and confusion triumphed. Her mind fled down a different path. A well-worn, familiar, hated rut.

Just satisfy him and be done.

With her strength, Gretchen seized Jeff's shoulders and hauled him away. Up now! Across! Here, where you belong! She wrapped her legs around his own, pinning him to the rut.

That, too, he fumbled. But not for long, and even his awkwardness brought another wave of affection. For all his passion, Gretchen understood that Jeff was still trying to be gentle. The flare burst in her heart so brightly she thought it might consume her whole.

In, now. Oh yes! She laughed giddily, gaily, happily. Even in this her husband cast memory into the shade. Oh yes!

Duty fell away, replaced by ancient instinct. She felt her body reacting in ways she had never known. Her muscles stripped away the shield, her nerves broke it into pieces, her mind cast the pieces aside. Blankness filled with swirling color. There was nothing, now, between her and her husband. Nothing but skin and moisture. Nothing but his desire and her—


Another wave of pleasure drove a hiss from her throat. She started kissing Jeff fiercely. The breath poured over her lips, down her tongue, into his mouth. She felt her husband respond, eagerly, avidly—


Gretchen finally understood Jeff's purpose, then. For an instant, she froze. Utter shock.

She moved her face away, pressing the back of her head into the pillow. Jeff lifted his own. They stared at each other. Light green; light brown.

Green glowed; brown questioned.

Is it possible? I never thought—

Green assured; brown—accepted.

I will try. Husband, I will try.

She was too confused, at first, to follow him down that path. She simply joined her body to the rhythm. But her mind, soon enough, found the way to join an old rut to a new destination. There was safety and security, for her family as much as herself, in keeping her man satisfied. This was what he wanted, as strange as it seemed. So—

She began by simply reacting, allowing Jeff's desire for her own pleasure to guide her. Waves of delight, she signaled with her mouth, her hands, her voice. Her husband responded. Learning, learning. The waves came closer, higher.

She was almost frightened, then, but drove away the fear with duty. My husband wants this. New desire found security in old habit. Give him what he wants. Safety lies that way.

Safety fell aside, duty fell aside, reaction fell aside. There was nothing left but Gretchen. The waves became a roaring surf and the surf became the tide. Unstoppable, now. When the end came, Gretchen even managed to accept it. Embrace it. Take it for her own, as something valuable and precious.

Glory in it, as if she were a duchess herself.

A refugee from Sepharad had found her sun-drenched legends in this place, and a Scots cavalryman his deadly faeries. Now, a young woman from broken Germany found her old wives' tales. They were true, after all. All that they had said. All that Gretchen had disbelieved, just as she had disbelieved the tales of knights and chivalry.

A new wife had found herself in her own pleasure. She repaid her husband with feverish kisses, tear-filled eyes, and a voice sobbing years of promise.


Satan, she repaid with laughter. Triumphant, exultant mockery, bouncing off the walls of a trailer bedroom and echoing down into the Pit.

Jeff, exhausted for the moment, lay by her side and watched her. Puzzled by the laughter, perhaps, but not caring. He was awash in his own satisfied pleasure and, still more, in the pride of his accomplishment. Whether he understood the savage humor filling his wife—and he didn't, not at all—he was reassured by the joy in her face and the warmth of her hands, stroking his body.

Finally, Gretchen understood the full extent of her victory. Total, complete. She had beaten the Devil. Whipped him like a cur.

She had saved everything from his dark realm. Even the one thing she had thought lost forever. The only thing she possessed of value to the Beast, which she had traded away to save her family. Now, at the threshold of her new life, she reached through the iron gates and snatched back her virginity. Gleefully, she robbed the Robber, and gave the treasure as a gift, to the man who had earned it.

Tears came, too—tears of joy and gratitude—but the laughter remained. Far below, deep, she could hear Satan's howl of rage.

I have been cheated! Swindled!

Laugh and laugh and laugh. Kissing and fondling her husband all the while. He was young, and clean, and glorious, and so fine, and so wonderful. Gretchen was not surprised to see how quickly he returned to her. Nor with what eagerness she joined him.

She had beaten the Devil. Now, she would torture the monster.


Satan's torment lasted through the night. Again and again, Gretchen lashed him with her pleasure. Hers and, even more, the delight she gave her husband. For hours, the Devil rampaged through his stone-glowing chambers. Shattering the walls with his horns, lashing the rubble with his tail, stamping his rapists under cloven hooves.

As her husband's ecstasy mounted—more from his wife's love in the doing, than from the doing itself—the Devil fled in despair. Out of his chambers he sped, down and down into the bowels of the Inferno.

Gretchen followed him, like a dachshund after a badger.

Go away! shrieked the Beast. Leave me alone!

But she was remorseless, merciless. Watch, monster. She cornered him in a grotto, dark and dank with refuse.

Satan cowered. Stop it, he whimpered. You're hurting me.

Watch. Her body—warm, wet, soft, loving—crushed vileness against the stones. Watch.


She was done with Satan, then. Done forever. Even Gretchen was satisfied with her triumph. Her husband's love filled her, purging every trace of the past. Gone now, all gone. Gone forever.

Gretchen believed in that love, now. It was like a pledge. Never again would she have to measure her life by how bad it might be. Only by how good.

There would be surprises in their life, she knew. Many of them, as they came to know each other. Some of those surprises would be unpleasant, of course. He would be petty at times; nasty; spiteful. Whatever. And so would she, at times.

No matter. There would be no surprises at the heart of their marriage. Of that, Gretchen was quite certain.

She stroked Jeff's face, gazing into his eyes. The green orbs glowed, like the buds of spring in a springtime face. Soft, young, full of promise. Wet, warm, full of life.


Gretchen was very pleased with herself, then. She had kept her promise to the duchess.

She laughed. It had been so easy! She had expected years of toil and struggle.

So easy. It was just family, she now understood. That's all. Nothing but the adoration which binds a family. Different in some ways, true. But every member of a family is different, and precious, and valuable. So to each one is given something special. To a baby, a breast. To a child, care and caresses. To a grandmother, comfort and an ear to complaints.

To a husband . . . 

So easy! Just family adoration. Add orgasms.

Nothing to it. In fact . . . 

Gretchen's practical mind worked on the problem, as her hand moved down, working on her husband's adoration. It did not take her long to reach the obvious conclusion. No longer than her hand.

Both felt the confirmation. Growing, firm, strong.

"I love you," she murmured. And set out happily to work on it some more.


Whatever doubts Jeff might have had were long gone by morning.

He awoke before she did, and gazed upon her. And discovered, as untold millions of men before him, that a wife is even more beautiful than a bride.


They made love again, first thing. After that, Jeff made them breakfast. It was just oatmeal, since that was the only breakfast food still available in the town. Even then, it took him quite some time. Gretchen was being very playful.

When the porridge was done, they wolfed it down and returned immediately to the bedroom. The rest of the morning was spent there. It was a happy morning, full of discovery. Trial and error, some uncharitable souls might have called it. But Gretchen and Jeff cared not the least. They welcomed the trials and laughed at the errors, and, most of all, simply savored the work. Love, like all growing things, also needs to be watered. Who cares if the bucket spills, now and then?


Come noon, the family's children could no longer be restrained, especially the youngest. They had fretted for almost a full day. Worried, fearful, anxious. The walls of the trailers were well insulated, but thin. Sound carried right through them.

None of the children had ever heard Gretchen make noises like that. Never. Not Gretchen!

They would have been utterly terrified, except for Gramma. The old woman had reassured them, soothed them, calmed them. Nothing to worry about, children. She had stayed up the entire night, just listening. Smiling, as she had not smiled in years.


Noon was enough! Enough!

The children poured into the trailer. Timidly, they approached the door. Timidly, knocked.

Moment! came the command. They heard people moving behind the door. Gretchen's voice, it sounded like, even though it was laughing. Something about robes.

The same cheerful voice—Gretchen's?—now bade them enter. When the children came into the bedroom, they stared at her. Eyes as wide as saucers.

Gretchen? Is that you?

True, the woman in the bed looked like Gretchen. Sort of. But there was not a trace of steel in that angel's face. No armored soul, in that soft body wearing a robe.

Uncertainly, their eyes moved away from Gretchen and settled on the strange creature lying next to her. Also in a robe. And what was this?

* * *

It was the youngest of them who first understood. Little Johann, not five years old, his instincts still unencumbered by the memory of ogres. That large, round, friendly face—nestled cheek to cheek against the woman who had raised and sheltered them all—could be one thing only.

"Papa!" he squealed. "Papa! Papa!"

A moment later, he was scrambling onto the bed. A small tide of children followed.

Papa was back, sure enough. Right where he was supposed to be. Within seconds, Jeff and Gretchen were half-buried under happy children.

Little Johann, being the first, rightfully claimed pride of place. Like an eel, he wriggled himself between them. It took him not more than a minute to find the newest family treasure. Jeff's big, soft, warm feet.

"Papa," he murmured. Johann's eyes closed contentedly. Winter was no longer something to fear. Not with Papa's feet to keep him warm.



Back | Next