Compromise - F
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Compromise - F
She had missed only a few Phys-Ed classes, and she resolved to not miss any more. She was taking basketball, ironically enough, and she threw herself into getting on top of the rules. Her grade midterm in PE had been her only B. History was probably beyond hope by now, and she decided to cut her losses instead of throwing effort into failing it more narrowly. She was almost back to speed in Economics. There had been a bad month there, but she'd caught up. She resolved to catch up in English and Geology, too.
She considered returning to Aldersgate on the 9th, but that meant either accepting Eric Stewart's invitation to call him for a ride or rejecting that invitation. Either course had its problems, and she dithered between them until it was too late to call him. Showing up without calling him might offend the one male who stood in her corner, and she'd found out the last time that simply showing up didn't guarantee seeing Claire, and Joan might not come this time, either. She hadn't quite decided by Saturday evening, but the beginning of a snow storm then decided for her.
Even without the support, the week went tolerably. Her stomach was a little queasy before PE, but somehow basketball settled it down. Wednesday, Prof. Pierce called her aside to tell her that her grade on the final exam would probably be her grade for the course.
"I know students think of grades as judging you. Really, though, they are a judgment on your knowledge. It isn't enough for me to know that you would have learned more economics under different circumstances. The grade I give you is a certification of what economics you know."
"Well, Professor, that is fair." And, as well as a reason to learn the course, it was really one more fragment of help from a woman who had given her more help than anyone else had.
Saturday morning, though, it all fell apart. She'd felt queasy for a week, but she barely made it to the bathroom to throw up when she woke up on Saturday morning. The nausea was bad enough. What it might signify was worse. Could it be morning sickness? Well, her period had been due that night, and she had put in a Tampax just in case. The Tampax was dry.
She'd already missed an earlier period, and she'd attributed that to stress. Well, she was still under stress, but she might well be pregnant, too. She stayed in her room except for lunch and dinner. She feared that Mom might be able to tell that she was pregnant just by looking at her. How, she couldn't say. It certainly wouldn't be by the fit of her clothes. She'd been eating enough less since the rape that she'd lost weight.
Finally, she decided that she really needed the support she'd been offered, and the streets weren't in shape for traveling by bus. She called Eric Stewart.
"Mr. Stewart, this is Candy."
"Hello Candy. Nice of you to call. Is there something I can do for you?"
"I know it's late."
"Not at all. I don't go to bed for hours yet."
"Well, it isn't late to talk, but it's late to ask for a ride to church."
"Not too late. Your place? I mean pick you up at your place? Let's see, church starts at 11:00. I don't like the driving conditions; let's say half an hour. Leave your place at 10:30. Is that okay with you?'
"That would be fine."
"Is there anything else you want me to do? I mean come in and meet your folks?" Definitely a bad idea.
"No. Can you be in front of the door and still in your car at 10:30?"
"Sure. I might have to circle the block, but I'll be there within 2 or 3 minutes of the time you set."
"That would be marvelous."
"Does Claire know you're coming?"
"Would you like her to know? Want me to call her?"
"I can try. Who were the others?"
"Gwen and Joan."
"Well, I'll try for them. I can't place Gwen."
"Thank you very much."
"You're quite welcome, Candy. In front of your house at 10:30 tomorrow?"
"Yeah." And, after all that dithering, it had been that easy.
She went out a little early, and he drove past almost immediately. He started to get out of the door when he stopped, but she opened the other door before he could go very far.
"Claire said 'yes,'" he began. "Joan said 'maybe.' Look, there is something I should warn you about. After service on third Sundays, the church holds what we call a Coffee Hour. There is coffee, something to eat -- not a meal, maybe donuts -- and conversation. You can decide to deal with the coffee hour or not. Probably your friends would introduce you to some others of your age if you do. You can make the decision at the end of service. Tell me, and I'll deal with it."
"I don't know."
"Well, as I said, you have to decide at the end. You want to go, and we'll go."
"You're so kind, Mr. Stewart."
"Well, if you want to return the kindness, call me Eric."
"You'll find that Aldersgate doesn't deal much in last names. I'll bet Claire doesn't know mine."
Eric parked the car and they both walked to the church. Claire was there waiting for them. She sat between Claire and Eric until Joan showed up. Eric moved aside to give Joan a place. After the service, Claire and Joan both urged her to come to the coffee hour, and she agreed.
"Look," Eric said, "this is a time for you to meet your age group. It isn't my age group. Why don't we split up until you're ready to go?" Prof. pierce and her family were also there, and she, too, left Candy alone except for a greeting. When she felt she'd had enough socializing with the few college and graduate students there, she got up. She did, though, tell them that she would be back the next week. She went over to Eric's table. He excused himself immediately and walked her to the door. "Why don't you wait here, again?" Eric said. She waited until he drove up. This time, there were few people leaving right then and no parade of cars driving to pick them up.
"Claire's a nice woman, isn't she?" Eric asked.
"I think she's wonderful."
"Look, as I said, Coffee Hour isn't really a meal. Shall we stop on the way for a real Sunday dinner?"
"You have been so kind, already."
"Well, I'm a bachelor. I cook some meals, but not Sunday dinner. It isn't as if I had a meal waiting for me at home. If you refuse to eat with me, I'll just visit a restaurant after dropping you off. Solitary eating isn't as dangerous as solitary drinking, but it's rather sad. When I'm eating alone in a restaurant, I always think the other diners are looking over and saying, 'Poor man; he doesn't have any friends.' Think of it this way, I saved you from a long bus ride, and you'll save me from the pity of waitresses."
"You're a nice man. I'm sure you have many friends."
"A few, but I'd rather be eating with you." Well, by now, Mom and Dad would have finished eating. She could have a meal, but not without some criticism.
"Thank you, Eric, I'd be happy to eat with you."
This time, it was a rather standard restaurant. It was several steps above McDonald's, though. She liked the taste of the food, but she found that she could eat only half the meal. Even so, he offered her dessert. When she refused, he didn't order any for himself.
"Look," she said while he was waiting for the check, "I told some people I'd be there next week."
"Okay. Same time for pick-up? Earlier? I really don't think later would leave any time for traffic jams."
"I should have asked you before committing you." She was grateful, though, that he didn't expect her to go public transit. Getting to Circle was bad enough.
"Well, I can't remember what I said precisely, but my understanding was that I was available any time you wanted to come."
"And I kept you out of choir." Really, though, he could have gone to choir after driving her there.
"You didn't deprive them of much. Aside from a little sexual balance, I contribute very little to the choir."
"But don't you enjoy singing?"
"Yes, but I enjoy sitting with you much more." She, able to think of nothing to say to that comment, said nothing. They sat in silence while he drove for another two miles. "Look," he resumed as if the silence had been seconds instead of minutes, "what is your easiest day? What day has the least school work?"
"Well, I had fewer classes Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays." That was all information about the past, of course. The next week was final exams, and the next semester she would have a different schedule, though probably not all that different. Anyway, it was nice of him to show an interest, however clumsy his question. "But I had Physical Education Tuesday afternoon."
"So you have the least prep for Thursday. Would you be willing to have me take you out to dinner on Wednesday night?" Now, where did that come from? And, really, if that was why he was asking, she should have told him that this coming week was exam week. Actually, though, she didn't have an exam scheduled for Thursday, and only History scheduled for Friday.
Well, it was the invitation for a date. Two months ago, she'd been dying for a date invitation. And Eric was an older man, if not a terribly impressive one. Still...
On the other hand, Eric wasn't the type to assault her. He'd laid out for her the proper response to an assault, and she knew people who knew him. For that matter, he wasn't the dominant type like Jerry. Her thoughts were still going around in circles when he interrupted them.
"Nothing else is contingent on your answer. I'll still pick you up on Sunday morning. You want to think about it?"
"Yeah." She was already thinking about it. Well, he'd said that he was interested in dating her. Suddenly, she was the Prom Queen again, or -- really -- the girl she'd been her whole senior year leading up to being Prom Queen. She didn't have the choices among suitors that she'd had then, but she had one suitor who wanted the date enough to allow her to set the rules.
"Well, why don't I call you tomorrow night? Will that be enough time for thinking about it? Really, I don't need the decision before Wednesday, but my mother told me that inviting a girl for a date on one day's notice was bad form."
Well, she was almost decided, but a day for thinking it through might be a good idea. "Fine. Call me Monday night." He parked the car as near as he could and walked her to the door.
She thought the question of a date with him through, although she was conscious that she had already reached a conclusion. He was a nice guy, and as little of a threat as any date possibly could be. Either she was going to date in the future or she was not, and deciding to not date meant allowing Jerry to utterly destroy her life. She wasn't really ready to date yet, but if she was going to date sometime, delay didn't make all that much sense. And, finally, he was a nice guy. When she went out on a date with a guy, she would have to tell him her past sometime. The later she left it, the worse the guy would take it. And, telling him would risk his telling others. Well, Eric knew her past.
Her time deciding interfered with her study for Geology. So she decided to say yes, and then tore into the book. Monday, the test was harder than she expected. At 6:30 that evening, the phone rang, and Mom answered it.
"Candy!" She went to the phone.
"Candy? This is Eric Stewart."
"Yes, Eric, how are you."
"I'm fine -- better from your calling me by my first name. And how are you?"
"I'm doing fine." Actually, she wasn't. Aside from the worries over her Geology test, she wasn't feeling well physically.
"Have you decided about my invitation?"
"What do you have in mind specifically?" Mom was listening shamefully, and she hadn't mentioned the invitation to her. He should ask now so she could accept now.
"A meal together, another restaurant unless you have a particular liking for one of those we've eaten at together." Eric wasn't great at taking hints.
"Dinner with you Wednesday night? Why, thank you. I'd be delighted. What time?"
"Sorry. I didn't pick up your hint. Would 6:30 at your place be all right. I'm flexible, but if it's too early, I'll have to come straight from work.
"6:30 Wednesday. I'll be ready. Thanks again."
"And thank you. Good bye."
"What did I hear?" Mom asked.
"Everything you could. Can't a girl have any privacy around here?"
"Are you trying to hide your date from me?"
"Are you asking me about my date?'
"Okay. He's Eric Stewart. He's a friend of my Economics professor. He's the guy who has given me a couple rides back from her church."
"What sort of boy is he?"
"He's not a boy. He's a man. I think he's a lawyer. Anyway, he's very nice, and he asked me to dinner Wednesday night. You don't have to plan on my being here for dinner then."
"You're going to his house? After what happened?"
"No. He specifically asked me out to a restaurant."
"Well, your father will have something to say about this."
She had Eric's number, and if worst came to worst, she'd ask him to pick her up at school instead. They compromised on inviting him in to talk with Dad.
Tuesday morning, and again Wednesday morning, she was sick. She had missed two periods and now was sure that this was morning sickness. She was certain she was pregnant, but this was too much to tell Mom. The Economics test Wednesday morning seemed to go well. The English test that afternoon wasn't fun, but she thought she had done decently.
When Eric got there that night, he rang the bell. Mom and Dad were in the living room, but she opened the door. Eric was dressed in an overcoat rather than the parka he'd always worn.
"I'm parked a ways away. Do you want to wait here while I drive around the block?"
"They say you have to come in and talk with them."
"Sure." He unbuttoned his coat and pulled a sheet of paper out of some inside pocket. "Here," he said when he handed the paper to Dad after shaking hands.
"I thought somebody might question my bona fides. That's a Xerox of my driver's licence and my ID from the States Attorney's Office. I am who I say I am, and you can file that ID away."
"Why are you interested in Candy?"
"Because, in case you haven't noticed, your daughter is beautiful. I've also seen her interact with the children who are my godson and his brother -- Professor Pierce's children. She did quite well with them, and her personality shown through in that interaction."
"Aren't you awfully old for her?"
"By a decade. On the other hand, she's an adult. I respect your interest in seeing that she's not involved with someone misrepresenting himself. I think that you'll agree that the question of whether I'm too old to date her is one that she's capable of deciding for herself."
"Well, she's my daughter."
"And you want to protect her. On the other hand, she's a college student and an adult. She wants to make her own decisions. I'm perfectly open to telling you about myself. I've delivered copies of the ID that you're more likely to consider than she is."
"And how did you two meet?"
"We were both guests of the Pierce's. Carolyn Pierce is Candy's economics professor."
"Dad," she said, "Eric's the guy I reported the rape to."
"As you can see, that was a legal matter. While I told her that she would have to tell you some time, my telling you would have been a breach of confidence. What happened is that she told Prof. Pierce. Prof. Pierce, while she was born in Arkansas and now lives in Evanston, is enough of a Chicagoan to say, 'I know a guy.' Candy shouldn't have told a guy her professor knows; she should have told the cops."
"Actually," she said, "Prof. Pierce said that. I didn't want to."
"So, she told me, and I got her an appointment with the person who is in charge of rape prosecutions."
"And they didn't believer her. Do you?"
"Well, I believe her. What the person with the responsibility didn't believe was that she could get a conviction. That is a lot different from not believing the witness. She believed her."
"The cops believed the guy?"
"The cop, with whom I have never discussed the case, might have believed the guy. Probably not, though; detectives don't believe much. Again, what he believed was that the suspect couldn't have been proven guilty. In a trial, the jury isn't asked, 'which one do you believe?' They are asked, 'has this been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt?' That is a hard standard to meet."
Finally, they escaped. Eric didn't repeat his suggestion of her waiting while he drove around the block. They walked together to the car.
"Glad I didn't make reservations," he said.
"Well, you didn't do it. You have to learn to stop apologizing for what you didn't do. I make quite enough blunders on my own. I make it a rule that I never apologize for anyone else's actions. Anyway, I understand their concern."
The place was a mile or two east, a Swedish restaurant. Again, she didn't finish her meal. Again, he offered her dessert.
"The cinnamon rolls are to die for. It doesn't sound like much of a dessert, but people come here for just those."
"And I shouldn't. I'll pass them up this time. I think you're good for me." He drove her home. The parking space was even farther from her door than the last one. "Thank you for coming with me," he said.
"Thank you. I really enjoyed myself."
"I'm not going to grab you, but do you think I might be permitted a kiss?" Should she? She damned-well should. Did she dare? Boys shouldn't ask; they should do, but he was right about grabbing. If he had grabbed her, she would have freaked. He was sitting there waiting. She could decide, but -- suddenly -- she couldn't decide anything. Everything came crashing down on her.
"I shouldn't even have come on this date with you."
"Was it that bad? Was I that bad of a dinner companion?" It wasn't anything he'd done.
"You've been great. You have. I've been misleading you." Her eyes were starting to leak.
"Now, you can't have misled me. You didn't say anything but that you'd go to dinner with me, and you went to dinner with me. I might have hoped for a kiss afterwards, but I definitely didn't invite you because I thought you would."
"No. It's worse. I think I'm pregnant." Now, she was sobbing.
"You do? Look I'm sorry." That was ridiculous.
"You don't apologize for something you didn't do."
"Well, that was an apology for something I did, or rather for something I planned. I had this entire, long-drawn-out courtship planned. But that's not what you need. If you're going to have a baby, you need a marriage soon, not a year-long courtship. Candy, will you marry me?"
"I can't." She couldn't saddle him with another man's child. He was too nice. Besides, marriage was more than she could bear. "I'm afraid of kissing you. Marriage means sex, and I don't know that I could go through with it."
"Well, I shouldn't have turned the motor off. The car's getting cold, and we haven't begun to discuss this. Shall I pick you up for church Sunday?"
"You still will?"
"I still will. Same time?" She nodded. "We'll talk after." That didn't seem to be a question, and she didn't answer it. He walked her to the door this time, not stopping at the bottom of the steps. When she took out her keys, he took her left hand in both of his. He raised it to his lips and kissed it.
"Sunday," he said. She let herself into the house. Mom was there.
"Well," she said to Mom, "nothing you're afraid of happened." Lots that Candy was afraid of had happened if not that evening, but she wouldn't tell Mom that. The rest of the week, she was sick every morning, but somehow the sickness didn't wrack her. You could get used to throwing up just as you got used to bowel movements.
She went to school every day. She hadn't even told Mom that this was finals week. Campus, mostly the library, was more pleasant than being at home. She decided to attend the History final. Mostly, it was what Dad would say if he ever found out that she had cut the exam. She didn't see all that many questions she could answer.
The time she saved from not studying history, she spent on worrying over Eric. He was a nice guy. The truth was, though, that -- even age aside -- he wouldn't have been a guy she would have considered marrying except that she was probably pregnant. He was right; she needed a husband. She knew unmarried mothers. Their life was hell. And she had further to fall than other girls had. She'd been so popular, so respected, at Steinmetz.
Love and marriage. Those went together, and she didn't think she loved him. Marriage and sex. Those, too, went together, and she didn't think she was ready for sex. Hell! She had been a little afraid of kissing him. To be brutal, and she could be brutal with herself in a way that she could tell Eric would never be brutal to her, she had no good choices. She could be an unwed mother, an unwed mother with no education beyond high school. She didn't know what her grades would be -- except History 101 -- for the first semester, but she knew that they wouldn't qualify her for a scholarship. They might not qualify her for a second semester.
She could get an abortion, or some pregnant women could get an abortion. Weren't they expensive? Weren't they hard to get. She had never paid for even a doctor's visit; her parents had always paid. Mostly, their insurance had. But she knew her money didn't extend that far, and Mom and Dad would never pay for one -- never.
Or she could marry Eric. And, whatever the decision she made, she would be grateful to him for giving her that choice. There were two problems, well, more than two. Marriage meant sex, and she was scared of sex. She was maybe less scared of sex with Eric than with some other guys. She'd gone pretty far on some high-school dates, and stopping there had sometimes been a real battle. She didn't think Eric would give her a battle. On the other hand, a high-school girl shouldn't, and she had that expectation fighting for her, and the understanding that she could report the boy and he'd be in real trouble. (Well, that hadn't worked out too well, but that was what both sides believed.) A married woman, on the other hand, should. If a wife said no, she was being a bad wife. Eric had told her that a man who raped his wife wasn't committing a crime. He hadn't suggested that he would, but she wasn't sure that it would be wrong if he did. It was one thing to say that you didn't want sex one night after a fight or something; 'I'm leaving you, and we'll never screw again,' might be justified. But saying, 'We're married, but we won't ever have sex,' was fairly bad.
And, nice as Eric was, grateful as she was to him, she wasn't all that attracted to him. You could call him an older man, he said he was 10 years older, but he didn't fit her picture of a romantic older man. He wasn't Rhett Butler sweeping her off her feet. Of course, anyone trying to sweep her off her feet would scare her shitless right now, and he knew that. Her professors, except for Prof. Pierce and Prof. Levin, were older men, too, and she wasn't attracted to any of them. Eric was barely in the date category; she certainly wouldn't have gone out with him, even aside from age, in high school. She'd lowered her standards in college, if she hadn't lowered them fast enough. Still, if he'd asked her for a dance that Saturday, she would have turned him down.
And now she was thinking about marrying him.
And, whatever the negatives she was listing, she was considering marriage to him. What would life as Mrs. Eric Stewart be like? Actually, she wasn't sure she knew what marriage was like. There was her parents' marriage, and her friends' parents' marriages. There was what she saw on TV and at the movies. Her friends and she had decided that they weren't going to be like their parents, but -- really -- TV wasn't the real world. There was Prof. Pierce with her husband and her twins. That looked, in some ways, more like TV marriages than her parents' marriage. They ate in a dining room -- a big dining room -- instead of in their kitchen. They had a big house with new furniture and the wife's portrait on the wall. Prof. Pierce's husband kissed her good bye, and -- if she had seen what she thought she had seen -- groped her while he was doing it.
She wasn't ready for Eric, for anybody, to grope her, and nobody would grope a woman on TV -- they might make love, but they wouldn't grope and leave -- but it looked like a more romantic version of marriage than the one she saw downstairs in this house.
And Eric was respected. He was old, but the few newlyweds she had known had to struggle and hope to get ahead later. Eric was already a lawyer. She'd seen where he worked, if not his actual office. Miss Murphy's office didn't look like a lawyer's office on the TV, and she seemed to be a level or two above Eric. He called her 'Miss Murphy,' and she referred to him as 'Eric.' Still, he had a job and a degree, 2 degrees, if she understood about lawyers. He wore a suit; she'd never seen him without a suit. He was on a first-name basis with Prof. Pierce. He drove a car; okay, it was a Honda, but it looked recent.
Realistically, although she'd never admitted this to her friends, she had suspected that they were all heading towards a marriage like her parents' marriage. Her parents had been a romantic couple once; Mom liked to talk about that time. So, Iris and Ken, maybe even Candy and Tom, were going to have a few years of romance, a few more years of passion, and then quiet co-operation as parents and spouses. Mom and Dad fought, but much less than they combined together to fight her. Mostly, though they were dull. If they had experienced a romance once, and the pictures Mom showed her looked like they had, they now had the quiet after the storm.
Well, what she was contemplating with Eric was the quiet without the storm, the co-operation without the romance or the passion. Maybe, by her stupidity with Jerry, she'd lost the chance for romance. Certainly she felt too frightened for the passion.
Was it fair to Eric, though, to make him give up the good part? Or, maybe, he already had. Eric was, after all, awfully old. What wasn't fair was making him give up the sex. She knew boys, and therefor knew men. They wanted sex. They only took kissing, cuddling, and making out as second best; mostly, they liked it because they hoped it would lead to sex. And a marriage meant sex, there was no getting around that. She couldn't cheat him of that.
She had been called a cock-tease by more than one boy, but it had never been true. They had mistaken their hopes for her promise. Well, marriage would be her promise. If she married, she would deliver. And it would be worse to cheat a nice guy like Eric. He was offering her an out from her disgrace. To take that and then deny him what the marriage guaranteed would be awful.
On the other hand, she didn't think she could deliver what he wanted. She'd been a passionate girl. Plenty of times, she had needed to restrain herself as well as the boy. And, once, she had restrained Jerry too weakly. That had partly been because she had been wrapped up in her own passion. She didn't feel passionate at all now, certainly didn't feel passion for Eric.
But he was right. She might not want a marriage with anyone, but she needed a marriage with someone. Was Tom available? No. when they'd parted, they had said that they would look for other dates. He was probably dating someone in Kentucky. He was certainly not ready for marriage; he was a college freshman. And he would be even less ready if he learned that she was carrying another man's child. If he learned? When he learned. This was her secret, but pregnancy wasn't the sort of secret one could keep forever.
She went over the same thoughts several times in the library Thursday. She hadn't told Mom it was exam week, and she left for school at the usual time. She went over the same ground, but she made no progress. The exam in History on Friday interrupted her worries, but it wouldn't give her much other benefit. She answered a little over half the questions, and a good many of those answers were guesses.
She spent much of Saturday in her room. Her morning sickness, if that was what it was, had bothered her less. She got some stomach pills, and took them every night. Her nausea got less, and Saturday she actually had to make an effort before she threw up.
"You're looking well," Eric said Sunday when she got in the car. It was probably an empty compliment. She was wearing her usual winter coat, and it covered her dress. Even though he was wearing his parka, she knew he had on a suit and tie. He always did.
"Thanks. You always look nice. I feel like I'm underdressed when I'm with you. Do you own anything but suits?"
"Yeah. I even own a couple of pairs of jeans, which isn't to say that I could fit in them. But think for a minute. What do you wear to school? Jeans?"
"Yeah." And so did everybody else. Some of the younger instructors wore jeans.
"But I don't think I've ever seen you when you weren't in a skirt. So you dress up for Sundays. I, on the other hand, wear a suit every day to the office. So I don't dress up at all for Sundays." That didn't make any sense.
"That's a weird way to look at it. Not everybody at your church wears suits." She felt unspoken accusations at home; she suspected that everybody was whispering about her at school. She went to his church to feel comfortable, and feeling comfortable meant fitting in. It was hard to fit in there. Claire and Joan dressed differently than Prof. Pierce and women her age did.
"Not everybody, not half as a matter of fact." She'd thought that most of the men did. "But there are men who don't wear ties." Oh, the half who didn't wear suits were the women. He was trying to be funny. "We're mostly a live and let live bunch. On the other hand, lawyers, businessmen, guys who wear ties every day wear them to church, too. Some of the Northwestern folk wear sports coats. Dan Hagopian told me once that a professor could teach his class in his shirt sleeves so long as he had a sports coat hanging in his office." That was a different subject, but odd.
"Oh it is silly. But every profession has its silliness." Talking to him was nice. The first conversation hadn't been, but that situation had guaranteed discomfort. Now, though, they had a past, and they were talking about other things. She really had to deal with their past, though. He'd told her to think about his offer to save her from being an unwed mother, and she had thought about it. It was time to tell him, but this ride was too nice. She sat and enjoyed his company for another couple of minutes.
"Look," she finally said, "I'm awfully grateful for your offer. But this is my problem, and I've got to deal with it."
"Well," he said, "I was planning to wait until after service. We have a lot of talking to do. But I disagree almost totally. I didn't make an offer; I made a request. I made it earlier than I had planned to because I thought that waiting was a bad idea. Even so, it was a request that I had planned to make at a later date.
"You think your kid is your problem," he went on. "And so he is, but a kid isn't solely your problem. Do you think that Carolyn, Prof. Pierce, goes off in a corner with her kids and deals with them without help? Now the first help she has is the father of the kids, and I can see why you don't want him involved. But other people help, too. Some of them are paid; some of them, like me, are friends; some of them like the Sunday-School teachers are part of the church; some of them are part of the community." She didn't really see where this was relevant. Sure, when she had a child, she would take her to clinics and put her in school. Sunday School? But she wasn't talking about that sort of help, and neither, until now, had he been.
"Parents depend on a community," he went on. "So do people with other sorts of problems. The first thing that Prof. Pierce thought of for you, well the second thing after you'd reported to the official authorities, was a support network. Well, the official government let you down. The support network seems to have worked better. But there are all sorts of support networks, and you shouldn't think you have to go on your own because the most regular network has failed you. And I don't mean the States Attorney's Office, although we did fail you. The father of your child failed you one hell of a lot worse. You can force him to pay some support, but you can't get blood out of a turnip. But you're not going it alone. Nobody else does. Look, we'll talk later."
Well, he would talk later. That's one thing he did well. He talked a lot, and he talked smoothly. He wasn't like the smooth talkers she was used to; he just seemed used to saying things persuasively. He was more like the instructors and even more like the better high-school teachers, but he was different from them, too.
Claire was standing at the back of the church. She seemed to be waiting for them. Joan was sitting with Kurt, whom she'd met the previous week. He was Joan's guy. Claire, Eric, and she went down to sit with them. She sat between Joan and Claire.
After the service, there was no coffee, but they stood there talking. Kurt and Joan wouldn't be together after they went out the door, and they would rather be together in the group than alone out in the nasty weather. Who could blame them? The Christmas Eve service the next day came up. Claire asked if she would be there, and the others said she'd like it. Would she? They didn't seem to understand that she was dependant on Eric, though Joan, who had driven her home once, should have seen it. The trip by bus in the late morning was bad enough. She didn't want to make it both ways at night -- on Christmas-Eve night, no less. God knew what the schedule would be on that night. She looked at Eric.
"Sure," he said, "if you want. I know the time." They seemed to take that as settled, and the conversation went on for a while before they went out. Again, she waited at the door while Eric got the car. She noticed a guy hovering in the background.
"I'll make sure that the doors are locked when you're gone, and I'll go out the other way."
"No sweat. Somebody's always the last. We really need a parking lot." At that point, Eric drove up. She left the guy with a thanks. She'd been alone with a strange man and felt apologetic instead of scared. She was getting better. It was right after church, they were both bundled in coats, she, holding the door ajar to watch for Eric, had an easy escape route, and he was clearly somebody with a church responsibility. Still, she was getting better. And both the church and Eric had helped.
By the time she was down the steps, Eric had the door open for her. She got in, and he went around to his side. He took his usual period of silence to get the car onto a main route. This time, it was south along the lake front.
"Let's start at the end and work backward," he began. "The Christmas Eve program is late but not all that late. it starts at 8:00 p.m., and isn't in the sanctuary. What I thought of, despite the rule against inviting a girl at the last minute, is my picking you up at 6:30 again. We could eat and make the program. Does that suit?"
"Sure." He was incredibly generous. And she had already said no to his proposal, which had been generous, too. So she didn't have to worry that he was taking the time because he believed that she was about to become his fiancee.
"Okay," he went on. "Let's deal with the more important issue. Do you see yourself as avoiding men for the rest of your life?" This was the more important issue? And really, nice as he was, was that his business? Well, he'd said he wanted to be the man in her life, and she'd said she wasn't ready to have a man in her life -- at least, that way. While she wasn't sure she wanted him to be that man when she was ready for one, that did establish his interest in that question. Anyway, that was one question she could answer.
"No. I'm sure I can shake this. It's just right now, it's too much."
"Okay. I understand why it's too much. I said, way back, that I wouldn't take it personally if you wanted to ride in the back seat. Well, if you're off men, and as far as you're off men, I won't take it personally."
"You're a sweet guy, Eric." He was doing so much for her, and he -- aside from the proposal -- asked so little from her. She'd made out in the back seat for an hour with a guy who had bought her a Big Mac and a shake. Eric always bought her more expensive meals, and she hadn't even kissed him.
"Then, too," he continues, "if you're going to get over it, you'll do that in stages." That made sense. "I won't force any stage, beyond the ones I've forced already." He, really, hadn't forced her to do anything, The closest thing to force was going to talk with Miss Murphy. "If you feel ready for some stage, and try it, and -- after trying it -- you feel that you really weren't ready for it, I won't take that personally, either." The problem was that it was personal, at least a little. She'd made out, made out much further than she felt capable of right now, with guys she hadn't liked as much as she liked Eric. She hadn't ever willingly kissed a guy she had been as little attracted to as she was attracted to Eric. And what were these stages he was talking about, anyway?
"You mean sex?"
"That is really one of the stages, but not the one I meant. I was thinking of kisses. If you think you could risk a kiss with me, and then figure that was a mistake, I'm not going to insist on another one."
"I think I'm at that level now." Attraction was one thing. Gratitude was another. Eric was a totally nice guy.
"Good, because I've been wanting a kiss from you for a long time. But let's put that off for another minute and let me finish my thought. You're right. Sex is the last stage."
"I've only had it once, and that was..."
"What you had, Candy, was rape. That isn't sex. Maybe he had sex; you didn't. I'm not the world's greatest expert, but there is a difference. Anyway, it is one stage, and -- while I've said that you'll choose the stages and I won't -- I'll say that you're not ready for that stage yet. And, I'll bet, you've done some of the stuff in between. Some of that, you're not ready for yet. Anyway...
"If you're right that you'll overcome this, and I'm right that you'll do it in stages, then I see you as having two choices," he was on a roll. This was like a teacher in front of the class. Sometimes, it really was a discussion. Other times, he just laid it out. Eric was just laying it out.
"One, you go through the stages and, when you're at the stage where marriage is appropriate and you have someone with whom you want to have a marriage, you get married and go on to the next stage.
"Two, you get married, married to a guy who'll bear with you while you go through the stages. Then you go through the stages with him. Admittedly, the marriage will require a certain degree of intimacy which you're not quite ready for, yet. But I can wait for most intimacy until you feel comfortable with it." And that brought him back to the idea of marriage.
"It would take a while to get a 2-bedroom apartment, but I could do that." While she wasn't sure she wanted a marriage with Eric, she was goddamned sure she didn't want a fake marriage with anybody. Then, too, if she had a fake marriage in the expectation that it would become real, she would feel intense pressure to make it real, and the idea of that pressure scared her -- scared her a hell of a lot more than the idea of sex did. He might say that he wouldn't be demanding, but even if he weren't she would demand it of herself.
"I wouldn't feel honest doing that."
"Well it might be better for the baby, but it's your decision. And, of course, that's what I see as your possibilities. You're in a car with this being thrown at you, although some of it is merely saying your situation out loud. It's your decision, and it will continue to be your decision. But, getting back to what you said earlier, do you think you're ready to be kissed without freaking?"
"Really, yes." And, whatever her feelings about Eric, and they were all tangled up, she would feel safer being kissed by Eric than she would being kissed by any other man.
"Well, you're not ready to be kissed by the driver of a moving car. Let me get this over." He got off Sheridan, and onto a side street. He parked the car. "Okay. Why don't you give me your hands?" Taking each of her hands in one of his, he leaned over her. She had expected to feel a little panic, but she didn't feel any. The kiss was dry and short, more like a birthday kiss from Dad than a kiss.
"Was that okay?" he asked after it was over. It had been. He gave her another, longer and more real. It still wasn't frightening. "Look, I'm not grabbing you." He held her head while giving her another kiss. That felt more like a real kiss. It didn't generate any fright, but it didn't generate that much desire, either. He didn't stop, and she wondered if she was really in control. When she pushed on his shoulder, he stopped. She felt more love for him from his stopping when she asked than she had from the kiss. Eric wasn't a romantic hero, but he was a great guy.
"Was that too much?"
"Not really. I pushed to see what would happen."
"I let go. I'll always let go. Well, this was fun, but I was going to feed you when this started."
They both had bowls of soup. Maybe the soup was what she needed to settle her stomach. Maybe the kisses and the experiences in church were. Anyway, it was the best meal she had had in the past six weeks.
"Y'know, what about my picking you up earlier tomorrow? Maybe 6:00?" Okay, Eric was an older man; he was very kind; he knew all about lots of stuff. He was still a guy, with a guy's sense of deviousness. He wanted more time to kiss -- maybe another place and maybe more than kisses. Well, he would stop; she'd tested that he would stop. She wanted to go a little further. How, aside from trusting Eric, could she guarantee that it would only be a little? Well, getting a girl out of tight jeans was a struggle. She would never wear jeans on a date when she meant to make out -- seriously make out.
"Sure. They say that the dress is casual for the program." Joan had said that. Joan was a girl and sensitive to her problem of dressing to fit in.
"Yeah. It's not a worship service. It's mostly about kids."
"Will I see you in jeans?" Which was another question.
"As I said, I'm not sure that they'll fit." Well, the guy's tight jeans were another precaution. "You won't see me in a suit; that's for sure. I don't work Christmas Eve." Okay. Her jeans would be her only protection. They were enough. Hell! Eric's niceness was enough.
"But I can wear jeans?"
"I'd love that." He seemed actually positive about the idea. Which meant that he was thinking about seeing her shape, and not thinking about seeing her -- and worse feeling her or entering her -- naked groin. Fine!
"And they won't embarrass you in the restaurant." Dressing for church was one problem. Dressing for his dinners was another. Eric didn't seem conscious of women's styles. What the hell! He was a guy. She didn't know laws; he didn't know about women's clothes.
"As I said, I admit that I'm a lawyer. Nothing embarrasses me. I wouldn't take you somewhere where you would be embarrassed." Well, he never really had. That showed, she supposed, that he was thoughtful that way. He was thoughtful in all sorts of ways. He wasn't, just because he was thoughtful, necessarily conscious of things like styles that would embarrass her.
"Unbuckle your seatbelt," he said when he'd found the parking space closest to her house, "but don't get out." So, what had happened to the guy who let her have control? When she had done as he wished, though, he asked, "Now, do you think you could kiss me?" She could, and did. This kiss was a little sexier. She was a sexy kisser, even if he wasn't. Being in control was fun as well as being reassuring. He raised his hands to her face, but she pushed them away. She wanted to be in control. She'd been the recipient of kisses from lots of guys who knew what they were doing, and she used those techniques. She kissed over his face before returning to his mouth. She opened their mouths and touched tongues. This kiss was definitely sexy.
"You are wonderful," he said when she'd ended it. They walked to her door. "Candy?" he said. When she looked at him, he kissed her, a wet kiss. "Thank you for a wonderful time," he said when he'd finished. Being in control had been fun, but the boy, the guy, should have control. He shouldn't have too much control, of course, and she was beginning to trust that Eric wouldn't. She'd still wear jeans that needed a shoehorn to put on tomorrow, just the same.
"Now, Candy!" Mom said. Talking about understanding people, she wasn't one. "We're you going to church or on a date?" That was an idiotic question. Couldn't the guy who took you to church kiss you on the porch?
"Must have been a long service. You've been gone hours."
"He took me to church. Then he took me to lunch. We talked. What's the matter with a date going to church? You'd rather I went on a date to an opium den?" Were there opium dens in the modern USA? The ones in the stories she'd read had been in London long ago. Not even Mom was going to believe that she'd ever been invited to an opium den.
"Who was that? The same guy who took you out last week? What does he want from you, anyway?" And that was the million-dollar question. He'd said that wanted to marry her. But did he really want to marry her, or was he just feeling sorry for her?
"Well, he told Dad that it was because I'm pretty."
"You're going out with him pretty often aren't you? How about your studies?"
"Mom. Last week was finals. We're between semesters." Now she'll ask about my studying in my room yesterday. Well, I'll say I'm getting ahead for next year.
"You didn't tell me."
"You didn't ask me. And, along the lines of going out pretty often, we're going to the Christmas-Eve service tomorrow night."
"You are? You said that they bored you last year."
"Well, it's a different church, a different program. Besides, I lied. It's you who bore me, not the service, you and Dad. I'm going with Eric, and he doesn't bore me."
"Candy!" It was a screech.
"I'm going to my room. I'm going to read ahead for my classes next year."
"That's hardly in the spirit of the Christmas season."
"Well, I'm going to a Christmas-Eve service tomorrow, and you bitched about that. That's in the spirit of the Christmas season. And you said I wasn't spending enough time studying. Make up your mind." Actually, Mom had made up her mind. Whatever Candy did was wrong.
When she got to her room, though, her thoughts were not on Geology, but on biology. How far would she go? The words of the question were old, but the actual question was new. When she was about where she'd been 4 years before. She had been kissed, and she was going to let him have a feel. Back then, though, she had been quite clear about morality and love. Morally, she shouldn't, but she had loved Greg -- was it Greg 4 years ago? No Christmas of '75, her freshman year, it had been Al, and Al had felt her bra but never removed it.
Anyway, she had loved Al, and she had rejected, well bent, morality to allow her love some access. Then, too, she had loved Al, but she hadn't quite trusted him. She had trusted Greg, and that had been a mistake. Greg had bragged to all his friends about what they'd done, and about things that they really hadn't done but he had made up.
Well, still, she had let love bend morality. Now, really, it would be immoral to marry some guy unless she was willing to have sex with him. So, morality wasn't against having sex, much less against making out. The problem with making out with Eric was she probably wasn't really in love with him. On the other hand, she trusted him more than anybody.
And, the way Jerry had left her feelings, how did she know she wasn't in love with Eric anyway? He didn't excite her the way Tom, Al, and the others between them had done, but whenever that sort of excitement started, fright overcame it. When she didn't have a guy in her life, sometimes when she had a guy in her life but he wasn't available right then, she had been used to bringing herself off. She hadn't done that in the past 6 weeks. She was used to imagining that her fingers were really her guy's fingers, and when her fingers started, they became Jerry's fingers and she panicked.
Whether he was exciting or not, Eric was definitely a nice guy. She liked him. Would she marry him? She had said that she would not, but she was certain that he would accept a change of heart. And, that was the one good thing about her situation. Eric was a rock while everything else around her went to hell.
She actually got out her English book. She didn't really read ahead, but she sent back over the parts she hadn't felt confident about while taking the exam. It was one hell of a time to learn the book, but she would be expected to know this stuff next year.
She showered in the afternoon, and shaved her underarms. She put on some perfume before dressing. She wore pantyhose under her jeans, a good idea for cold weather, and also one more layer of protection. Pantyhose hadn't protected her from Jerry, though. She wore a sexy bra and a sexy top. She wore ordinary tennis shoes. Just before 6:00, she put on her coat and galoshes.
Despite the weather, she waited on the doorstep. Eric was right on time. He took her to the Chinese place they'd gone to the first time after church. There were fewer people tonight. Well, it was early and it was Christmas Eve. Eric was wearing a plaid shirt and work pants, but not jeans.
They talked about her experiences of past Christmases over dinner. At the end, the waitress brought fortune cookies. He stopped her from opening hers.
"Look, when we're done here," he said, "I'd like to take you back to my apartment." Well, that was less of a surprise than he thought it would be. Boys were so transparent.
"You going to show me your etchings?"
"Only the etchings you want to see." She could believe that he'd stop when she said to. Then, also, he would have a struggle if he wanted to go below the waist.
"Okay." They opened their cookies. Hers said that she would hear good news this week.
"You will meet a beautiful Blonde," he read. Well, 2 could play that game.
"Don't believe anything a lawyer tells you." He smiled at her. He was a nice guy in all sorts of ways. Imagine her teasing a lawyer about being a lawyer. Imagine her dating a lawyer.
Back at his apartment, he appreciated the view when her coat was off. They kissed standing up. He waited for her to open her mouth, but he explored it thoroughly when she did.
"Candy?" he said when he'd stepped back. He slowly began unbuttoning her blouse. He wasn't too good at that, but she wasn't going to help him. "Let's change the rules to the more usual ones. I won't ask permission, but when something scares you, stop me." His idea was good, but his words were a little off.
"It all scares me." Really it did. Even when they were her hands, it scared her. But she had to do this. The first time after the rape would scare her however long she waited. "When I want to stop you, I will." He nodded, and he kept unbuttoning her blouse. When he'd got it down to her jeans, he moved in for another kiss. She pulled the last button out during the kiss and unbuttoned it herself.
When he broke the kiss, he turned her around. He put his hands on her belly, and she almost grabbed them to keep them off her belt. She needn't have worried. He pulled her back so her butt pressed against his erection. That erection scared her a little, but he didn't try to do anything with it except press it into her butt. He began to kiss her left shoulder and then up to her neck. Now, that kiss felt sexy, and the sexiness and the pressure of his erection were only a little scary. The scariness, she decided, was sexy itself so long as it was only a little scary.
"I said I wouldn't grab," he whispered in her ear, "but I have to." He drew his hands slowly around to her back and up to her bra clasp. That was fine. She bent a little forward so he'd have room -- and so she could still feel his erection. He left the bra on when he'd unsnapped it. His hands went around to her front and slowly raised until they were cupping her boobs.
When his fingers teased her nipples while he was kissing the side of her neck, it did feel sexy. She leaned back against him and appreciated the feeling. He reached down later to pull her back against his erection again, but that was the closest he came to her belt. She could feel his hand turn suddenly across her left boob. He kissed her ear.
"It's time," he whispered. "If we're going to see the pageant, the time to get ready is now." She really would rather stay there, but she had said she would be at the church. Claire and them would guess what kept both her and Eric away. She'd bitched about not having her community after high-school graduation, but having a community was a problem, too. She straightened, only then realizing that she'd been leaning back on Eric. When she moved away, he let go.
"Do you want to finish dressing in the bathroom?" Really, she did. While she was in there, she used the facilities. He handed her her coat on the way in to use them himself.
The program included a 'pageant.' It was a creche scene with a real baby. Nobody touched Baby Jesus, and there was an adult woman just off-scene who grabbed him while the kids were taking their bows. Paul and Johnny had been shepherds, and Prof. Pierce and her husband were there. The actors were age graded -- Jesus, 4 angels, 5 shepherds , 3 wise men -- 2 of them girls with charcoal beards, Joseph and Mary. An adult woman read the words, all from the bible.
"Candy," Prof. Pierce said. She sounded pleased to see her.
"Great shepherds," she told the boys. Well, neither had run off stage or bumped the manger over. And neither had blown their lines, since nobody but the Sunday-School teacher had any lines.
"Baaa," said Paul. He grinned. Everybody went over to the food table. There was coffee, and some were drinking it way too close to bedtime, but the only tables were the serving tables. The food was finger food. Eric got a chair for her and put it in what she thought was an awkward corner. Soon, though she saw why. Santa Claus came in through the same door they had used. The kids lined up with the youngest first to sit on Santa's lap and get a small bag of goodies. From where she was sitting, she could see most of the operation whenever the backs of the standing parents spread apart.
"I'm glad you came," Joan said to her.
"So am I." And however much she had wanted to stay in Eric's apartment, she now was.
"You know," Kurt said. "All the loot I'll collect when I open my gifts tomorrow isn't really Christmas. This is Christmas." When the last kid had sat on Santa's lap, Santa went out the door. Some parents started gathering their broods. The others gathered around the piano and sang carols. There were a few hymnals, but people weren't using them. Candy couldn't find the pages fast enough. Despite what he'd said, Eric had an excellent voice.
She waited again in the doorway while Eric went to get the car. Others were waiting in the doorway, too, and still others were doing the first clean-up behind them. She was really dressed warmly enough to walk to the car that night, and she wanted to be with Eric, but she wanted to be with these people, too. Nobody said much more to her than 'Merry Christmas,' but they treated her as part of the group.
"I'm too old for this," said the girl who had been the Virgin Mary.
"Well," she found herself saying, "you're too old to be a shepherd, but you had a starring part. You're not too old to be a star."
"Yeah, right." The girl was what? In high school certainly. She wasn't that much younger than she was.
"Enjoy yourself?" Eric asked when they had driven for a while. They were comfortable enough with each other that silences weren't awkward. Which, considering the awkward silences she'd endured at home, said something about him.
"Yeah. Both parts. You're not only a nice guy, you're part of a nice group, too. I felt at home there." She thought about the church. Would she go to the Christmas-Eve program next year. If she did, if she didn't darken the door in between, she thought that they would welcome her. Of course, next year she would have a kid. A little young to sit on Santa's lap, but a kid. Probably she wouldn't be going anywhere on Christmas-Eve night. Leaving the kid with a sitter? Taking it along? Aside from Baby Jesus, the youngest kids she had seen had been at least 4.
"Going back Sunday?"
"Am I going to see you before then?" Good question. Did she want more of what they had had this evening? Well, she wanted it, and she feared it. She had things to think out, thoughts to unravel.
"I don't think so. This has been great, but we've been moving too fast."
"Well, you set the limits."
"I've been moving too fast. I'm not accusing you of anything." Except, of course, of proposing to her. Well, that had been his being a good guy.
"10:30 Sunday Morning."
"10:30 Sunday Morning." She was silent until he had the car parked. "Walk me to the door."
"Of course." And, when they were there, he held her firmly while he gave her a long, wet kiss. "Love you," he said when they let go. That was going too far, and she didn't answer.
Dad was in the living room when she went in. The tree was up and lighted.
"Pretty," she said. She should wrap her gifts to Mom and Dad. She'd bought them long ago and hidden them in her room.
"Where were you?"
"Long Pageant, you've been gone nearly 5 hours."
"Well, we had dinner. Then we talked. Then we went to the program. It was a long program. First they had the Sunday-School pageant, then the kids got a visit from Santa Claus. After the families with young kids left, some of us sang Christmas carols. Eric has a great voice." Dad was silent. He didn't believe her.
"I need the wrapping paper," she said. "I forgot to wrap your presents."
"Did you wrap that lawyer's present?"
"No. I didn't get him anything. I hope he didn't get me anything, either. We have a strange relationship."
"That's one way to say it." Dad was insinuating something. She didn't want to figure out what.
She went to the kitchen closet to get the wrapping paper. She carried it up to her room. There were only the 2 presents, and she wasn't in a mood to do anything fancy. When she was done, she took them downstairs. Dad was still there, though he didn't look like he had done anything.
She put her packages under the tree.
"Decorating the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve is a family tradition," Dad said. And so it used to be.
"I spent Christmas Eve with people who supported me when I needed support, people who I could talk with without watching my words. I don't know where else I could go for that sort of people. I didn't think I could find them here."
"And a Merry Christmas to you, too."
"Merry Fucking Christmas."
After they both had a good night's sleep, with Mom determined to be cheerful, with her opening nice presents from her parents instead of interpreting baleful looks, Christmas was -- to her surprise -- fairly merry. She didn't feel the need to spend much time in her room, and she joined the family watching TV when they weren't doing the more particularly Christmas activities.
In bed, she thought back over her time with Eric. The conversation and the Christmas-Eve celebration had been delightful. So had making out. She now had more than a desperate hope that she would return to normal relations with men. She had started that journey with Eric. Sometime, and she had this week to figure out when, she would go further with him. She might not go all the way with Eric; she hadn't gone all the way with Tom, although she had loved Tom. But, sometime, she would meet the man with whom she would go all the way. Jerry had ruined many things, but he hadn't ruined this. But she shouldn't think of Jerry; she shouldn't even think of some future man. Right now, she was Eric's girlfriend, and she should think of Eric.
He had already stroked her boobs, and stroked them sexily. When she stroked them herself, she remembered his fingers. Sometime, probably quite soon, he would go below her waist. She pictured his seeing her naked. The thought was no longer frightening. It was Eric, and he was safe. She imagined his hands searching her, providing her own hands to help her imagination along. As her fingers stroked her clit, she imagined that he was doing it. The imagination combined with the real strokes to bring her to a stage of excitement she had feared she never would experience again.
The climax was so pleasant that she started over again at her boobs. She imagined his stroking them while he lowered her panties. After the scenario led to a second climax, she turned on her side and went to sleep.
Intense nausea awoke her the next morning. She felt barely able to hold it in for the run to the bathroom. The door was closed and the shower was running, but she went in anyway. She bent over the commode and then knelt in front of it emptying her stomach. She reached up to flush, and then retched again. She heard the shower turn off.
"My God, Candy!" It was Mom behind her. Well, that was better than Dad.
"I had to throw up. I'm sorry I broke in."
"You've had to throw up other mornings?"
"Are you pregnant?"
"I think so. I've missed 2 periods."
"Is that why you said it was rape?" For God's sake.
"I said it was rape because it was rape. That was before I'd missed any periods."
"Have you talked to the boy?" What a brilliant idea, not.
"Not about that. The only time we talked afterwards was calling each other liars over whether I consented."
"Well, you have to talk to him." Candy stood up and moved to the wash basin. She washed her hands and washed out her mouth. She brushed her teeth. She looked at the toothbrush. After this, she didn't want to use it again. She threw it in the waste basket.
"Did you hear what I said?" Mom asked.
"I heard. I don't know his phone number. I can't talk to him until school is open again." That was avoiding the issue. She didn't want to talk to Jerry; she didn't want to see him except in a courtroom.
She retreated to her room again. Mom wanted her to marry Jerry. Eric wanted her to marry him. She didn't want to marry, but she didn't want to be a single mother, either. And what of her child? She got out a sheet of paper to put everything down. E was marrying Eric. J was marrying Jerry. Q was marrying some other guy down the road, after the baby was born, maybe. It was surely a question, which was where she got the letter. 0 was not marrying anybody, continuing to live as a single mother.
She figured that marrying Eric would be terribly unfair to him. It would be mostly good for her. The bad parts, and she could see some already, were baked in the cake. If they married tomorrow, she would still bear a baby within less than 9 months, which wouldn't help her reputation. Her grades for this semester would be really bad. She would still bear mental scars from the rape. The consequences she saw for herself from marrying Eric, aside from a guilty conscience, looked good. One problem was that she felt grateful towards him, not attracted to him. She had seen him with children, if only once, and he seemed to be good with kids. Of course, how he would treat a stepchild was another matter. Well, he was a gentle, controlled man. You couldn't know how well anyone would do as a father, but Eric looked like a good bet. The life they would lead would be fairly good economically. The man was a lawyer, not a car hop. And, too, the life they would lead would include his church, and that was a positive. There was some possibility that he would change his mind, but the marriage was likely if she said yes. He had asked.
Marriage to Jerry was much more than the son of a bitch deserved. She would suffer. Even if he never forced her again, she would always be afraid. Really, would her fright keep her from responding sexually? And, of course, it was a frightening thing to think of a violent man being a father, especially being a father to the child whose birth forced him into an unwelcome marriage. And they wouldn't live well, especially before he graduated. This was incredibly unlikely, too. If she saw it as too good for the SOB, he would see it as undesirable. Could he be forced to marry her? She didn't think so.
The possible future man was mostly problematic across the board. He would have to know her history. She wouldn't marry on the basis of a lie. He'd have to think marriage was good even considering that. She wouldn't marry unless it was good for her, though -- looking at the next line she hadn't filled out -- she might set a low bar for being good for her. The way he treated her child would be a condition of the marriage; it might make it less likely, but she wouldn't accept mistreatment. She had no idea of the economic circumstances of the man she hadn't met yet, though she guessed she would be poor and that would make most of the people she met likely to be poor. Maybe not, waitresses met their customers. Still, she couldn't envision a romance between a waitress and a customer. This entire picture was really unlikely. She hadn't pulled off a romance at Circle, and college was the place for romances.
And then there was the case of having no man in her life. She didn't think she would enjoy that, quite aside from what practical help a man could provide. She would make it as good as possible for her child, which would mean sacrificing some things which she would want. And, of course, no amount of sacrifice on her part would keep her kid from being called a bastard. She didn't see herself as being able to earn all that much, which -- combined with a child -- probably meant that they would be poor. She was certain to have this life in the beginning, and escaping it meant meeting the man for her -- and that didn't look all that likely.
At this point, Mom knocked on her door. She handed her in a plastic bucket like she used for scrubbing linoleum and that sort of cleaning.
"Just for emergencies," Mom said. "What if Dad had been taking a shower, or -- worse -- on the toilet?" She took the bucket. "Lunch is in half an hour if you have any appetite." Oddly enough, she did.
Dad went back to work the next day, and she set her alarm to wake her after he had left. She was sick the next few mornings, but she didn't need to use the bucket. Every night, her fingers pretended to be Eric's, but she stopped each night after one climax.
Sunday, she was outside when Eric drove up.
"Did you have a nice Christmas?" he asked.
"Fairly nice, surprisingly enough." He didn't need to know the ups and downs. "And you?"
"Really, the pageant was the acme of my Christmas celebration. I gave and got a couple of presents, but the celebration is really about kids. I did get handmade gifts from each of the twins.... Should I have got you a present?"
"I'm glad you didn't. I didn't get you one."
"Yeah. What are we?"
"I'll go with that."
Attendance was sparse for the service. They sat with Joan and Kurt. She and Joan were side by side, and Eric and Kurt were on the ends. Somehow, although she and Eric weren't sitting as close together as Joan and Kurt were, they were one couple and she and Eric were another.
Eric took her to yet another restaurant. He seemed to know millions of them. It was an Evanston restaurant, though, and she was totally unsurprised by the question he asked when they got to the car after eating.
"Would you like to see my etchings again?"
"I'd like it very much." In his apartment, he hung up her coat and then his parka and his suit coat. After a long kiss standing up, he turned her around. He kissed her shoulder while unzipping her dress and unsnapping her bra. He reached inside and held her boobs. He kissed the back of her ears while playing with her nipples.
"Really," he whispered, "shouldn't you take off your dress and hang it up?" While she did, he stripped off his own shirt and undershirt. They had a long kiss with skin pressing against skin. Then he led her to the couch. They sat side by side, while he kissed her and stroked her boobs. He kissed her mouth, but spent as much time kissing all over her face and on her neck, ears, and shoulder. Finally, he kissed down her left boob to suck on her nipple. He was exciting. He went back to her lips before breaking to look her straight in the eyes.
"If I remember, he scared you when he took off your pantyhose."
"Yeah." It hadn't quite been frightening her, though the entire incident had frightened her to death. She'd told Jerry 'no,' and he had ignored her.
"You might want to take off your own this time." He went back to kissing her and stroking her nipples while she thought. Did she want to be naked with Eric? How far would it go? Well, she didn't feel all that scared, she might not be as excited as she had been other times, but she was more excited than scared. When she straightened, he moved back. She got half up to push the pantyhose down her thighs. Then she sat down to get them off her legs. She would never have chosen a soft chair, much less this mushy sofa, for doing that task.
"Oh, darling," he said when she got the second foot out of them. "Darling, darling, Candy." He kissed her again when she settled down beside him. One of his hands was holding the back of her head while the other was stroking her boob. Then that hand left her boob to stroke from her knee inward. She was a little scared, but the scare was making her more excited. She grabbed his hand before it reached her pussy. He pulled it back and moved back from the kiss. She was holding his hand and moved it back where it had been.
"Just checking," she said.
"You are in control." He stroked the inside of her thigh without going any further. She moved her hand up to pull his head back into the kiss. When his hand reached her panties, he stroked the outside for a while. She spread her legs and scooted forwards on the cushion. She wanted this.
As soon as his finger was inside her panties, she realized that her play-acting over the past few days had been wrong in one way. His finger was much larger than hers had been. The pad of the finger felt fat between those lips. Soon, much too soon, he pulled his finger out and backed off from the kiss.
"I really think you should be sitting up here." He slapped his knee. So, like the little kids with Santa Claus, she sat on his lap. He hugged her, and her right arm was pressed against his warm skin. He stroked both her boobs before he brought his hand back down between her legs. This time, he didn't stop. This time, he dropped his head down to kiss her boob and suck her nipple. This time, she had a climax.
"Oh, Candy," he said. His hand was between her legs, but he was no longer moving it. "Oh, Darling." They kissed again, more from her impulse than from his. Their tongues played.
"Oh, Candy," he said. "Are you okay? Was that okay?"
"That was wonderful." It hadn't been as intense as the climaxes she had brought herself, but a man had been holding her and stroking her; a man had had his hand on her pussy, and it had hardly frightened her at all.
"Should we stay here?... Or should we go into the bedroom?" This had been grand. Did she want to go further?
She had thought things through, spent days thinking things through. She had told him she would think things through instead of having another date. She hadn't thought this far ahead. She hadn't really expected to get this far with this level of comfort. If she didn't go all the way, then there was one act that Jerry still haunted. But she really didn't want to have sex with Eric, at least not very much.
She had wanted to have sex with Tom; sometimes she had ached with desire. She hadn't done it because she was a virgin and losing your virginity was special. By the time the prom came along, she was clear that they were going different ways, and your first time shouldn't be with somebody who was going to leave you -- who you knew was somebody who was going to leave you. But this wouldn't be her first time. If she hadn't been a virgin, she would have had sex with Tom, probably would have had it a year ago. You can't unring a bell.
Eric was sitting quite still while she thought. He kissed her shoulder occasionally -- not the top edge that he'd kissed in the beginning, and had kissed sexily -- he was kissing the corner, the boniest part. That was Eric. She'd make a decision, and he would accept her decision. And, if she didn't quite love Eric, she loved that about him.
Then, too, she was scared; she had a damned good reason to be scared. And she was less scared with Eric. The fact that he was waiting for her decision was an argument for having sex with him.
If she met a man later who swept her off her feet, she might freeze up at the last moment if her only memory was of Jerry. If she froze at the last minute today, Eric would stop. Who else would? When she met the one who would be her lifetime mate, she couldn't give him the gift that he would be the only man who was ever in her pussy. Jerry had taken the ability to give that gift from her. Would it be so much worse for him if she gave him the third time instead of the second? Especially if she didn't lay it out. He would, after all, know that it wasn't the first time because he would know that she had a child. Maybe it would be more important for him that she didn't shiver in fright when he first had sex with her.
And Eric, whatever her emotions towards him, was the nicest man she'd ever met. Besides, she was proving to herself that Jerry hadn't ruined her life, and she could only prove that when she had done everything.
She looked around the room. The doorway to the kitchen was just an opening without a door. She'd been through the closet, bathroom, and outer door. The only other door had to be the bedroom door. As she got off Eric's lap, he dropped his hands. She was nearly to the bedroom before he got up. The bedroom was neat, and the bed was a twin with a bedspread on it. She pulled down the bedspread, blanket, and top sheet. She lay down in the middle of the bed before Eric got near.
"Candy, darling," he said. She could feel the bed sag and hear his shoes drop as he knelt beside her. He kissed her mouth and then her boobs again. "Let me," he said when he straightened up from those kisses. His hands were at the waistband of her panties. Having already decided to have sex with him, she simply raised her hips off the bed. He pulled her panties down and then off.
Instead of starting on the sex as she had expected, he stroked her again. His finger felt even bigger as he stroked between her lips down below. He kissed her boob and sucked her nipple while he stroked her clit. She was getting close. She needed him to press more firmly and stoke more rapidly on her clit to get off. Instead, while he maintained the slow, steady pace with the light touch, she grew more and more aroused.
This climax was extraordinarily intense. She shook.
As she lay there recovering, she felt the bed shake from his motions and heard a drawer open and close. Then he kissed her forehead.
"I love you, Candy." Right then, she loved him, too. "May I? Candy, dearest, please say yes." He was between her legs. He took her hand and brought it to his groin. She felt something. It was his cock. He was holding her fingers against a band of something at the base of his cock. Of course, he had a rubber on. She really wouldn't have identified it if it hadn't been the only thing he could possibly be showing her right then.
"Please say yes."
"Let me see." He knelt up, still between her legs. She'd seen Tom's cock several times, and felt it in her hands more often. Eric was naked, and his cock was shiny from the rubber. It was more blatant sticking out than Tom's had been peeking out from his pants.
"Please say yes." Well, she had already decided.
"Darling!" He dropped down. That frightened her for an instant, but he didn't touch her until he had stopped right over her. She felt him spread her lower lips with his fingers, and then he was going into her. It was smooth. It didn't hurt, wasn't even uncomfortable. He was a little cool at first, but he warmed up while he stayed still and kissed her. "I love you. May I move?"
"Sure." And so he moved in and out. This felt nice, and the expression on his face in front of hers was intriguing. He looked like he was concentrating on doing it right. Was it so very difficult? At first he moved slowly, and the feeling inside her was pleasant if not in the least arousing. Then he moved more rapidly. That didn't feel as pleasant, but she began to be aroused.
"Darling!" he said. He shoved into her and against her hard. She felt some movement down there inside her. Then he was lying on her. She put her arms around him. Well, she had had sex twice. The earth hadn't moved either time. Poetry and exaggeration aside, they were talking about climaxes. She not only hadn't experienced an especially intense climax, she hadn't experienced any climax at all.
She couldn't blame Eric, though. And, except for that one moment when she thought he would fall on her, it hadn't been frightening. She figured that he wouldn't have dropped down if he hadn't straightened up when she asked to see. And, now she knew what one felt like in her hand, she wouldn't ask to see it again.
Why had he used a rubber? He wasn't in any danger of making her pregnant. Still, Jerry hadn't, and Eric might have wanted to be as little like Jerry as possible. Eric was, indeed, as little like Jerry as possible.
"Sorry," Eric said. He moved off her and lay to her side. She was in the middle of the bed, and it wasn't that large a bed. She moved over and then, thinking he might see that as moving away from him, reached over to hold his hand. He moved a little closer.
"Was that okay? Were you frightened?" If she answered either question with a 'yes' or a 'no,' he'd hear the answer to the other question.
"I wasn't frightened at all. You were very gentle. It was fine." He moved a little closer and put an arm over her. He kissed her shoulder again.
"Look can we talk? You've said that you think you're pregnant. Have you been to a doctor?"
"I'm pretty sure." He didn't have to hear about throwing up.
"You don't look pregnant. Well, even if you are certain, you should go to a doctor. I don't know all that much about pregnancy, but I've been in the choir when pregnant women have talked. They all visit the doctor."
"I've told Mom. Maybe I'll ask her about doctors. I don't like talking to her about it. She doesn't believe I was raped. She thinks I wanted to have sex with him."
"Well, when we're married I'll be paying your doctor bills, or -- at least -- my insurance will. I don't see anything wrong with starting early. Really, it's just investment in having a safe pregnancy, and most of the pregnancy will be during the marriage."
We're they going to get married? That was news to her! Well, she had told him that she couldn't marry him because she would be too scared to have sex. She wasn't too scared to have sex. But that was only one reason she didn't want to marry him, the reason that sounded nicest about him. But, really, she hadn't decided not to marry him, either. She should keep her damned mouth shut until she had decided. Besides, right now wasn't the time. They had just had sex, and he was in the afterglow.
"You have to talk to somebody. Do you know your gynecologist? Doctors have ethical rules, just like lawyers do. (Not a great recommendation, I know. but we mostly obey legal ethics. Honestly, we do.) Anyway, go to your doctor. I'll pay, and he'll keep silent."
"I don't know." Actually, the doctor she remembered, and not too well, was her pediatrician. She'd only gone to Mom's doctor two times, and those were for bad cases of flu. She couldn't remember much of anything from those feverish times, much less the doctor's name.
"If you don't want to ask your mother for a name, do you want to ask Prof. Pierce?"
"As I said, the women in the choir gossip with each other. They don't talk to me about such things, but I hear. I've heard her say nice things about her gynecologist."
"I won't talk to Prof. Pierce until school starts again."
"You could call her on the phone. I have her number. She is almost certainly at home now." He was pushing her. Well, he thought it was about her health. She got up and got dressed. Eric dug out his church directory, and she called. Mr. Pierce answered.
"May I talk to Prof. Pierce, please."
"Sure." There was a long pause.
"Carolyn Pierce speaking."
"Prof. Pierce, this is Candy -- Candy Wharton. I hate to bother you again."
"Candy... How did you get this number?"
"Eric gave it to me. I hate to bother you at home, but I have a question and you've helped me before."
"That's quite all right."
"I want to talk to a gynecologist. I need to talk to one. And I don't want to ask my mom. Do you have the name of one?"
"Sure. I use Dr. Gabel, but he's in Evanston. You aren't, are you?" Well, she was, but she wasn't about to tell Prof. Pierce where she was. Besides, she meant getting to the doctor's, and she wouldn't start from here.
"I can get there."
"I'll get you the number." She did, and Candy thanked her. They said goodbye and hung up.
"I'll call him Monday," she told Eric. He'd been in his bedroom until she hung up. He could still hear the conversation, but he hadn't been hovering over her shoulder. He was now dressed in slacks and a plaid shirt.
"Good. What's his name?"
"Gabel." Eric looked it up in the phone book to see the spelling. Prof. Pierce hadn't thought that was important. He wrote out a signed check to Dr. Gabel with the amount left blank.
"Look," he said when he handed it to her, "maybe you should be checked for venereal diseases as well as pregnancy." She felt the bottom drop out of her life once again. "I trust you, but I don't trust the MF. Miss Murphy thought he might make a habit of something like what he did to you." Well, that explained why Eric used the rubber. And he was right. "Don't, for God's sake, have nightmares about that. Just check it out."
"Okay, I will."
"I don't know what to do next. We could stay here. I have eggs and I could fix you an omelet for dinner. We could go to a movie and eat out. We could even go to a movie and come back here, for that matter, but I wouldn't take you to a place where the food is cooked as badly as I cook."
"Why don't you take me home?"
"Well, there are a lot of reasons against it, but come here." He gave her a kiss. As their tongues played, his hands roved over her back. When he let her go, he went to put on his shoes. He got their coats out of the closet and handed her hers.
In the car he asked her, "When can we get together again? Tomorrow is New Year's Eve, but it doesn't have to be tomorrow. Truth to tell, what I like about being with you, is you. I'm not all that enthused about taking you out drinking somewhere."
"Well, I know I said that I would think things out last week, but I didn't think things out enough. I really didn't expect that."
"Darling? Did I push you too far?"
"You didn't push. The situation did. I was going to go along with you until the fright got too bad. The fright was going to get too bad long before we got to actual sex. I trusted you to stop when I said 'no.' Hell! You even asked me to say 'yes.'"
"Well, yes. I said I'd go forward until you stopped me, but right then I thought that you should have more opportunity to stop."
"Eric, you're a wonderful guy." And he was. If he wasn't her life choice, she would owe him forever. Her life choice would owe him, too, in a way that life choice would never understand.
"I love you," he said. She was supposed to respond, but she couldn't. And Eric, who was always so permissive, didn't press the issue.
"So, I really think we should wait 'til next Sunday."
Mom was all huffy when she got home. Mom didn't like how much time she spent with Eric, but she expressed that by making the time she didn't spend with Eric that much less pleasant.
"Men only want one thing from you," Mom said. Actually, Eric wanted more than one thing. If he had only wanted sex, she wouldn't have these questions buzzing around in her head.
"And Dad? Dad is a man. Did he only want one thing from you?"
"Well, if he did, he had to marry me to get it." Well, Eric wanted something from her, and he certainly had to marry her to get it. She had dinner with her family and then escaped to her room. She might escape from them, but she didn't escape from herself. She couldn't really escape from Eric. His body was back in Evanston, but his issues were in her room with her.
She knew a drug store which still had a pay phone. She called Dr, Gabel's office Monday and the machine told her to call back on Wednesday. Wednesday, she asked for an appointment. She told them she wanted to be tested for pregnancy and VD, and wanted an appointment as soon as possible. She got an appointment for Friday.
The waiting room was full, and half those waiting looked pregnant. The nurse took two vials of blood and told her to strip and put on a flimsy gown. When the doctor came in, he had another nurse with him. He gave her a thorough examination including putting her on her back with her feet in what he called stirrups and looking in her pussy. When he was done, he'd seen more of her than Eric, Jerry, and Tom had combined. He ended up wiping what looked like a Q-tip down there and dropping it in a test tube.
"Now tell me about it," he said. She looked at the nurse. "She won't say anything. She never has, and she's heard worse."
"Well, I was raped."
"Recently, and have you reported it to the police?"
"No and yes." She told him the whole story, leaving out Eric. If you thought you were pregnant, you should see a doctor. If you had been raped, you should be tested for VD. There was no reason to mention that these were Eric's suggestions.
"Well, we're going to make both tests. You're right, my best guess is that you are pregnant, but the blood tests are certain."
"From one time of sex?"
"Well, every pregnancy results from one single act of intercourse. Each act, of course, is unlikely to cause pregnancy. But some individual acts do. Look at my waiting room as you go out. Then, too, men produce sperm on a fairly regular basis. How many sperm are produced in one hour differs from one man to the next, but the man having sex once a week or once a month is likely to produce as much sperm in a week or a month as he would if he were having sex once a night. That's a simplification, but the man who raped you probably wasn't having sex as often as the husbands of the women in the waiting room are. He probably had more sperm saved up.
"Anyway, as I said, we still aren't certain. You have missed periods before, and you have been under major stress. As for venereal disease, I see no obvious lesions. A century ago, a doctor would have said that you don't have any disease. Again, the tests will be more certain. If you do test positive, I am legally required to report it."
"But I was told that you'd keep secrets."
"What you tell me, I will keep secret. What I observe in examining you, even what the lab observes and reports to me, I can be forced to disclose. If you test positive, public health workers will contact you. And they will keep it secret. You look doubtful." She felt damned doubtful.
"Well there are two points. Remember, you're thinking that they'll know something shameful about you. What they know is a long list of people who have syphilis. Why should they make an exception to their vow of secrecy for you? The second thing is the consequences. Maybe you'd be embarrassed if your neighbors found out. But you wouldn't be one tenth as embarrassed as the Public Health Department would be. I would introduce a resolution at the next meeting of the medical society calling for the resignation of the director. That resolution would probably pass, and he would probably resign. He wouldn't resign, however, before firing the investigator responsible for the leak. And he'd do everything in his power to see that the guy never worked for government again. These reports are confidential. Doctors make them under that understanding, and we take the idea of confidential seriously."
"You sound like you do." And, after all, she had already told too many people about the rape.
"We do. Now, you're healthy. Have you lost a little weight lately?"
"Well, fad diets aren't a great idea for pregnant women."
"I haven't been following any fad diet."
"Girls your age," he glanced at a folder he had in his hand, "19, are usually healthy. This is really a great age for bearing a child. Our society isn't set up that way, but your body is. On the other hand, you -- your age contingent -- take your health for granted. Now, if you're going to bear this child, you have to take care of yourself and it."
"I haven't decided." Well, he had brought up the issue of abortion. He had, at least, been hinting at it.
"I don't perform abortions, but I can refer you to a medical doctor who does, a skilled professional. The intercourse was two months ago?"
"You should make the decision. It's a serious decision, and I will say that I'm not happy with abortions. But it's your decision. What you have to see is that an abortion in the next month or two is better for you than one later in the pregnancy. So my medical advice is to decide, and decide definitely.
"Now, as I said, there is still a possibility that you aren't pregnant. If you aren't, I want to see you again. The amenorrhea, the cessation of your periods, can have other causes. Some of them are dangerous. If you are pregnant, there is a schedule that they'll give you at the desk. If you are both pregnant and have VD, then that's a complication. The treatment for some venereal diseases changes if you are pregnant. Anyway, we'll call you with the results, probably two calls. If you aren't home, don't be afraid of the message on your answering machine. We don't leave any information, just that you should call the office. The news that you are pregnant is for you to tell, not for us...." He was silent for the longest time.
"That's part of my standard spiel. It doesn't quite fit this case, does it?"
"It's very reassuring." She felt better about trusting her secrets to an office that routinely kept secrets. She could imagine someone who was told to keep this particular secret saying, 'Let me check the records. Oops! We aren't allowed to tell you about Candy Wharton.' "Look, can I just call in for the information? I didn't tell my mom I was coming here."
"Sure. Denise, take care of that won't you? But if you test positive for a venereal disease, that will still be reported."
"You've made that clear."
So the nurse took her to the desk, and made sure she wouldn't be called.
"When should I call?'
"The pregnancy test is certain to be back in a week, probably by Tuesday. I'm not sure about the other." They did take confidentiality seriously here. She'd said 'VD' to the receptionist when she called in, but the nurse wasn't going to say it in front of her.
She didn't know if anything was open at Circle, and she'd told Mom that she was going to the main library. She went from the doctor's office there. She had things to think about. Indeed, she started thinking on the El. She'd had those thoughts whirling around in her head all week without any resolution. Now, she had to get them in order.
Eric thought that they were engaged. He'd paid for the doctor's appointment thinking that. Was she going to marry him? Her first excuse, and it was more than an excuse, was that she wouldn't cheat him of sex and she didn't think she could deliver on the promise of sex. Well she could deliver on the promise of sex. And he'd certainly seemed happy enough with their sex Sunday. So, she wouldn't be cheating him. Would she be cheating herself?
That was a deep question with many layers and many strings through it. She had experienced love, and she didn't feel that towards Eric. Well, she didn't feel that towards Tom, either, though she had. Probably, girls who married for love fell out of love after a while. And would Eric fall out of love with her? If he did, and it was very likely, he would still be the kind man she knew he was. Marriage was his idea, and he knew it. He wouldn't blame her for his change of heart. If she married Eric, not loving him, she would still be a good wife to him. She owed him that much.
But she didn't feel the earth move with Eric. Hell! She hadn't even had a climax during the sex. Some women were frigid. Was she frigid, either always or because of the rape? She didn't feel frigid. She had had climaxes. She had had 1, actually 2, Sunday. She just hadn't had any during sex. She had never had a climax during sex, but she didn't have enough experience to say that it was her rather than her partners. And the romances all said that those climaxes were special. On the other hand, the romances all had beautiful heroines and handsome, rich heroes. That wasn't a source you could trust. Eric offered her something, call it safety. Was she going to refuse that in the hopes that the romances were right on this detail when they were so unrealistic on so many other details? And was she going to take the chance that her life, already ruined in so many ways, was going to fit the romance. If her life was a romance novel, Jerry would have fallen in love with her -- he was closer to the romantic hero than Tom was, let alone Eric -- and courted her for months confessing his undying devotion to her before they ended up in bed. In an older romance, they would have been married before they ended up in bed.
And her child. She had said that she would make things as good for her child as she could, despite her future bad circumstances. She knew herself well enough that she knew that this resolution would be tested many times. But, right at the beginning, to say that her daughter had to enter life with a poor, unskilled single mother working as a waitress or something when she could have a decent life and a father just because her mother wouldn't give up the hope for a fairy-tale ending. And, of course, she hadn't totally decided against an abortion. That life of struggle with not enough money for toys -- and maybe not enough for food -- and with the stigma of bastardy, might not be worth living. It might be a favor to the baby to never be born. But would it be a favor when the alternative was a kind father with a decent income like Eric?
Of course, she didn't know that Eric intended to be a kind father. Maybe he expected her to get an abortion. Even if not, would he treat another man's child with kindness?
Well, she had raised the questions. And, really, there was only one sensible answer. If Eric would care for her child as he cared for her, she would marry him. And, if she did and her fated love came along later, she would say: 'Sorry, fated love, too many other things happened first.'
Sunday, they had communion again. Eric looked at her when she didn't go down, but he didn't say anything. Afterwards, in the car, he had a suggestion.
"Look we have to talk. Why don't we get take-out and eat in my apartment?" 'Talking!' Boys were so transparent. Well, she was willing. After all, she had only had real sex twice in her life. She might well get a climax with a little more practice.
"I was thinking Thai. Would you rather have pizza? Something else?"
"Thai would be fine." He was introducing her to all this new food. Well, this was an adult menu, not what she and her friends had eaten in high school. And this was an adult affair that they were having; she was losing her adolescent dreams.
In his kitchen, though, when he'd got out the plates and opened the serving boxes, he helped her into her seat and started to talk without going around the table towards his own.
"Look I took you for granted last week. I'm sorry. I never want to take you for granted again. You never said you would marry me." That was right. What of it? He dropped down on one knee. "Candy, darling Candace, will you marry me?" Well, she had more than a short answer for that question.
"Get up and go sit down. This will be a long conversation. I'm carrying a child. How do you plan to treat that child?" Did he plan to treat it at all?
"Well. I have thought about that. In the first place, it's rather nasty to punish a kid for what his father has done. That becomes ridiculous when it is for what his father has done to his mother. This will be your baby, and you'll love it. Well, I love you, and I will love him, too."
"You keep saying 'him.' I sometimes say 'her.'"
"Well, I will love him or love her. Have you been to the doctor, then? Are you sure?"
"I've been to the doctor, but I only saw him on Friday. Doctors take New Year's day off. I don't have the results yet. He's not sure. I fairly well am."
"Well, then the rest of what we say isn't, 'Candy's pregnant; this is what we will do.' It's. 'This is what we will do if Candy is pregnant.' That doesn't apply to the proposal, although it may well apply to your answer, and it's almost certain to apply to our time line."
"Then, Eric, in answer to your question, and if I am pregnant, then I will marry you."
"Darling!" He stared to get up.
"Finish your dinner." They had lots of time to make out. She wasn't going to start now. This food tasted interesting, sort of like a cross between Mexican and Chinese.
"Well in line with the discussion of how we would raise the child, I propose that, in all but the biological sense, it will be my child. There are a few people who will know different, but really very few, and those are your friends. Claire and them are your support group; they aren't going to gossip about you."
"Well, when the baby is born they'll all know."
"They'll all know that it was conceived before the marriage. A few old hens will cackle about that. Aside from the three girls, who will be getting their degrees and scattering to the 4 winds in a few years, only Carolyn and Bill will know it was conceived before we met."
"And people they tell."
"Didn't you tell Carolyn as a confidence to your teacher? I don't think she'll be tempted to gossip. And Bill is easy. We're talking about a baby, at least in the first instance. If I say he can hold my baby, he damn-well isn't going to say it isn't mine. For that matter, as little honor is given to a boy by saying he's my son, it's more honor than saying that he's the son of a rapist. Bill isn't going to tell you anything detrimental about a baby he's held."
"Well, if I'm asking you to treat her -- or him -- like your own child, I can hardly object to calling it your child."
"Some people in the choir and their families have heard me call you 'Miss Wharton.' If they remember when, and few of them will, they'll only think that I was pretending a distance from you for some reason. After all, I asked you for a conversation then. They didn't know the subject. For all they know, I was trying to patch a lovers' quarrel."
"And, of course, Mom and Dad know."
"And they have the least reason to gossip of anybody. People around Miss Murphy know. That's a legal confidence, but the office often treats information coming in as only confidential in terms of not going out. I'll speak to Miss Murphy, though, and ask her to keep it from going further. She doesn't owe me any favors, but you're a victim. She'll do practically anything for a victim who'll come forward."
"Claire told me that Prof. Pierce made me out to be some kind of hero."
"For the NOW crowd? You probably are. For Murphy, if you're not a heroine, you waited too long for that, you are what she needs to operate. Which reminds me. You go to worship in Aldersgate. You don't take communion. Are you Catholic?"
"I'm hardly anything. Lapsed Lutheran if there is such a thing. I just feel so dirty."
"Well, don't. (That was a stupid thing for me to say. You can't help how you feel.) But communion isn't for the extra-pure, and anyway, what the bastard did to you doesn't have anything to do with how pure you are....
"Anyway." He straightened up in his chair and put down his fork. "To change the topic, do you know when the doctor will call you?"
"He won't. I'll call him Tuesday."
"Okay. Tuesday night, do you want to go shopping with me for an engagement ring?"
"You want that?" Well, he'd said marriage. That meant an engagement ring.
"Well, we're planning on the basis of assuming that you're pregnant. If you are, you said that you will marry me. If that's the case, then we're engaged. That calls for a ring. We really owe it to your parents to tell them first. You don't want to go home and wave a ring in their face the way you do with your friends. Since men don't get rings, I'll tell some of my friends at work. I'll leave it to you to wear the ring in church. I'll just stand close and look proud."
"And hold my hand."
"Definitely. Whenever you let me. Only your right hand, though, until the news gets out. Really, though, when do we tell your parents? And how? And who? I mean do you tell them or do we tell them? I could take the 3 of you out to dinner."
"Well, let's do it a little different. You keep paying for my dinners."
"This is only the beginning. I plan to pay for your dinners for decades to come." Eric was nice.
"Yeah. But then I'll be cooking them. Anyway, why don't I get Mom to invite you for dinner one night? We can tell them then."
"Okay. You still have my card?" She nodded. "You can call at the office or leave a message here. Probably, both would be better. I've missed messages at the office."
"And where are we going to meet Tuesday? You want me to pick you up at your place?"
"That would be nice."
"I'll find a jewelry store in Evanston. Or do you want to shop on State Street?"
"Evanston is fine." The last thing she was worried about was where they would buy her ring. "We'll be living here, won't we?"
"If you mean here," he tapped his finger on the table, "just for a few months. If you mean Evanston, I'd like to stay in town, stay at Aldersgate." She had meant Evanston.
"Yeah." Aldersgate meant support. She would need support for some time, and her child would need support, too.
"Should we be married here? Married at Aldersgate?"
"Sure." That sounded nice.
"Of course, your parents, your mother especially, will have something to say about that."
"Maybe." She would certainly have an opinion. There was no reason that she should get her way.
"Well, you might have dreams. I don't want to cross them, especially without hearing them. I have something saved up; I was going to go into private practice. That can go towards a wedding."
"Let's cross that bridge when we come to it." Yeah. She had had dreams once, some of them about her wedding. But those dreams were shattered. They were shattered by Jerry before she even met Eric. She was marrying to have shelter for her and her child. That meant more than a fancy wedding meant. "Anyhow, you were thinking of a wedding in your church?"
"I'd like that. Once again, your parents might have some other plans."
"What do they say about home?"
"'Home is where, when you have to go there they have to take you in'? That's Frost." That was the line. And it was true.
"Well, when you have to go there, and they take you in, that's home."
"Timing is, still assuming you're pregnant, the sooner the better."
"People will talk."
"Darling, people will talk anyway. The great thing about gossips is that they find something else to gossip about very soon."
And, contrary to her suspicions, all Eric wanted from her was a long kiss standing up before he drove her home. She spent the rest of the day, then Monday, and then Tuesday morning mostly hiding in her room and studying ahead. At least she told Mom that she was studying ahead. Mostly, she was planning her life. Even that was alternately dreaming and worrying.
Tuesday, right after lunch, she went to the drugstore to use their pay phone. The receptionist at Dr. Gabel's office asked her for the last 4 digits of her social-security number. When she gave them:
"I have 3 reports here. You are pregnant. There was no sign of infection in your blood. The culture of the smear which was taken showed only the usual benign vaginal flora."
"What does that mean?"
"Don't tell on me, okay. I'm not a nurse, but that's medical speak for no infection. Okay, do you have our recommended schedule for appointments?"
"Well, you're pregnant. Do you want to make the next appointment now?" So she did.
She told Eric when he picked her up that night. He took her to a jewelry store, and she picked out a ring. Considering that most of the people who saw the ring would see her swollen belly soon afterwards, she went for something not too flashy and expensive. They selected a wedding ring at the same time. Eric gave the man a credit card, and they walked out with the rings.
"Look," she said. "You're right about telling Mom. Why don't you bring the ring with you when I wrangle an invitation?"
The next day, she told Mom that she wanted Eric and her to talk to them.
"Look, Mom, you want to hear this. I want him to be there when you hear it, and Dad, too. Now, do you want to guess and wheedle? Or do you want to hear it? C'mon, it's not the first guy that I've had as my guest."
"Well, should we invite some more of our friends? The table will hold 6. We could make it a party."
"You should only invite him. What night? 6:30?"
"It seems that's when he's always picking you up."
"Only, this time, he'll be parking and coming in. After all, he's saved you more food than he'll eat."
Mom made it for 6:30 Friday. When she called his office phone, he was there. She didn't have to leave a message on his home phone.
Friday, he rang the bell at 6:28. She opened the door and stepped out to kiss him before leading him inside. Mom and Dad were more curious than hostile. Still, the conversation was stilted, and they were seated across the table from each other. He complimented the pot roast. When everybody had stopped passing and started eating, he put down his knife and fork. He wiped his hands on his napkin and fumbled in his jacket pocket.
"Candy, give me your hand." She reached her left hand across the table. He held out the ring and put it on the appropriate finger. "Candy Wharton, will you marry me?"
"Yes, Eric Stewart. I will."
"Obviously," Eric told Mom and Dad, "this wasn't the first time I asked that question. But this is why I begged for this invitation. Candy and I are engaged."
"And," Mom asked, "do you know that she's carrying another man's child?" You could have cut the silence with a knife. Eric couldn't have been surprised. They had talked about it.
"Yes, Mrs. Wharton. Candy has told me all about it." Eric's voice was icy. "That is one of the reasons that we think that the marriage should be soon."
"Well," Dad asked, "what do you do?"
"For work? I'm a prosecutor in traffic court for the States Attorney's Office. I handle everything from DUI to contested parking tickets. Not too many people contest those." Eric's voice got less frigid as he was giving this description.
"Depends on your standards. The States Attorney doesn't pay lawyers particularly high salaries as lawyers' salaries go. On the other hand, it is quite a decent salary compared to what many other occupations pay."
"Stable? Are you guaranteed the job?"
"We don't, even though the States Attorney is an elected post, usually turn over the personnel when the top man changes. Most people who leave the office do so because they think that they can do better. As I say, many lawyers make more."
"Doesn't make you sound very ambitious."
"I'm not. I have looked at becoming a solo practitioner for years. A solo practitioner who really hustles can make more that I make. The guys who really rake in the bucks work for the big partnerships. They've never tried to recruit me, and I can practically guarantee that they never will. But a solo practitioner who spends every hour of every day searching out clients can do very well. Somehow, I didn't see myself doing that."
"Well, you're talking about supporting a family, now."
"Don't get me wrong. I make over the median income for a family, let alone a single individual. I'm not starving. And I've put something away. The first year or two of solo-practitioner work wouldn't pay the rent. You have to build up the business. So, I've been putting some money away in case I ever quit and go into business for myself."
"But you haven't done that."
"But I haven't done that. I've read that every newspaper reporter has a novel in his drawer he works on occasionally. Well, everybody in the office with the exception of a few supervisors -- and I'm not certain about them -- has a business plan for the law office he's going to open using all the experience he's built up in court. You see, most lawyers are consultants. You go to them to draw up a contract or incorporate a business. The guys who actually appear in court are litigators, and we think of ourselves as special. Well prosecutors are litigators who spend more time in litigation than most defense attorneys do. Of course, there are problems with our experience, too. But we dream of going over to the dark side and making a killing. Not too many of us actually do it."
"Well," Mom broke in, "you make enough money. Honestly, John, he's an attorney not a gas-station attendant. What I want to know is what you've discussed about the wedding."
"Not a hell of a lot. I'd like it to be at my church, Aldersgate United Methodist, in Evanston. It's a pretty church, and Candy has been there. There are people who know both of us."
"Well, I don't know."
"Honestly, Mom," she said. "I've been to worship in Aldersgate more than I've been to worship in every other church in the past decade."
"Well, it's not our church."
"But it's the church where the minister knows Eric's name. Does the pastor at Portage Park Lutheran know mine? I don't know his."
"If Bob Lawrence doesn't know your name," Eric said, "he's not doing his job. You've been there several times, and while you usually go out the back with the choir, you have gone out the back." That wouldn't communicate to Mom and Dad.
"They come in the back of the sanctuary, and the pastor stands there shaking hands after the service. There is another exit, in the front of the sanctuary which leads into the Fellowship Hall. They call that going out the back. Confused me the first time. Anyway, Eric is right. The last time I shook the pastor's hand, he called me by name."
"Well that's no reason to choose someone to marry you," said Mom.
"It's damn well a reason to choose not to be married by someone." She meant not knowing her name.
"Lots of people get married by pastors they haven't seen before asking him to do the job."
"Mom, the kids I went to Sunday School with are scattered to hell and gone. I don't know them any more, and they don't know me. The kids I went to high school with will come to Evanston if they are in town. They don't know Portage Park Lutheran any better than I do. I have a few friends at Aldersgate, and Eric has more. And I want to have friends there."
"Sure," Eric said, "plenty of people get married in a church which they will never visit again, standing in front of a minister they will never see again. Those people, excepting a few soldiers and wayfarers, aren't members of a church. I think Candy has found a church home, and I know that I have. It seems to me that you use your church home for that sort of ceremony."
"Well," Dad said, "if you're expecting us to pay for a big church wedding..." He didn't go to church unless Mom dragged him. He was only more obedient to her than she was. Getting stuffy about their choice of church was two-faced.
"I don't see the sense of that," she said. "The people are going to see my belly bulge in a few months. Why make a spectacle of myself parading down the aisle all wrapped in white?"
"What are you saying?" Mom asked.
"A good dress, one I already own. One bridesmaid, also in street clothes. A small ceremony."
"Let's talk later," said Eric. Well, they hadn't talked about this.
"Well," Mom said, "you certainly surprised us."
"Well," she said, "Dinner is finished. Why don't you and Dad go upstairs while I say goodbye to Eric?"
"Candy!" Dad was disturbed. Mom looked like she was willing.
"Well, would you rather we went upstairs to say goodbye?" They went up to their room. She walked Eric to the closet to get his coat.
"She's your mother. You have to forgive her. I'm not sure I ever will."
"For what?" Not that Mom hadn't been nasty that meal.
"For telling me that you were pregnant with another man's child."
"I'd already told you."
"Yes, and she could well have made sure of that after I'd gone. It would have been one hell of a shock, and not the sort of thing which can be disguised. But you should have told me before you accepted my proposal. There was no excuse on God's green earth for her to tell me. None!"
"I was trying to see where she did you wrong."
"She betrayed her daughter. She betrayed my future wife." That wasn't the worst thing Mom had ever done to her. It wasn't even the worst thing that she had done that night. Still, it explained why Eric had gone from 'You have to accommodate your mother's wishes' to adamant refusal to consider anything she had said.
"Anyway, is that what you had to speak to me about?"
"No. Consider this. A simple wedding is great. But the church will expect to be invited. You want their support. Acknowledge their interest."
"And they notice my bulging belly a couple of months later?"
"So, they stood in support of you. They, some of them, will still be in support of you. Look, a marriage which begins too late is better than a marriage which ends too early, and they've seen those without fainting. Don't decide now; think about it."
They had a long, sweet kiss before he put his coat on and left. Since she'd sent her parents upstairs, she cleared the table before going up.
Eric picked her up again at 10:30. They hadn't set the time, despite all the discussion they'd had in the past week. He offered to drop her off at the door, but she wanted to walk in together. She stopped in the entranceway to pull off her gloves. Eric noticed, and he took her right hand. They still had to leave their coats on the coat rack before walking down the aisle. Claire was sitting in her regular place, and Kurt was there, too. That must mean that he expected Joan. Claire noticed Eric holding her hand and then noticed the ring. After they got in the pew between her and Kurt, she lifted the hand up to admire it. When Joan came in late, Eric moved closer to her to give Joan room. It wasn't clear when Joan noticed the ring, but she asked to look at it after the service. They were in the tail end of the group going out the door and shaking the preacher's hand. Some of those women, noticed the ring, and Eric kept hold of her right hand.
"We need to talk to you," Eric said when they reached the pastor. "This week preferably."
"Well, I try to avoid Monday appointments, and Tuesday is taken. Wednesday?"
"Wednesday evening," Eric said. Then he turned to her. "Can I pick you up at 6:00? Can we have dinner later?"
"What is this?" she asked in the car. "Why do we have to meet with him?"
"Sorry. If he's going to marry us, and I thought you said you wanted that, then we go in for counseling beforehand. It's something everybody in the church knows, and I forgot that you didn't."
"So, he has to talk to us before he performs the ceremony?"
"Yeah, and he more or less got that message that it was about a wedding. I clearly said that it was talking with us."
"We are an us, aren't we?" Silly as that way of expressing it sounded.
"Yeah. And we'll be more so in the future. Which reminds me. We'll keep my apartment through June, right?"
"So do you want me to get a double bed? Another twin?" He would grant her that privacy. Well, she didn't want to have a sham marriage, and -- really -- she didn't need to have one. Sharing a twin bed might be claustophobic, though.
"Do you want both of us to pick it out? We may need to replace some of my furniture later, but I don't want to get anything now that we'll have to replace again."
"Why don't we go shopping together?" She wasn't worried about the furniture, but she was interested in their being a couple. Wednesday was taken. "Tomorrow?"
"Pick you up at your place, or meet at the County building?" Well, she could get downtown. Before she had met Eric, she had traveled every day on the CTA, and the Loop was the easiest place to get to via CTA.
"County Building. You get off at 5:00?"
"County Building. Ground floor elevators. 5:00."
Eric was a really good guy. She'd lost out on a great romance; Jerry had robbed her of her chance at a
great romance. But marriage to Eric would be a fine marriage.
The End Compromise - F Uther Pendragon email@example.com 2012/07/31 These same events from Eric's perspective, can be read in: Eric's Experience The first adventures of Candy with Eric: "Why Me?_1" Another story about another couple preparing for marriage: "Life Is Complicated" The index to the entire Gjt series is: God Joined Together The index to almost all my stories is: Index to Uther Pendragon's website