England, 1931

Oh God, thought Reginald seeing a light in the bedroom, through the side window.  She’s still up!

He came in silently, and puttered and loitered in the kitchen, getting a drink, wiping his shoes.

Finally, he heard an agonized cry from the bedroom.

“Reginald!”

He frowned, confused.  He went down the hallway.  The bedroom door was open.  Wendy was sitting limply on the bed, cross-legged, like a lost and dejected little girl.  She had their wedding album open.  She raised her broken face to his.

“Oh, Reginald!” she cried, jumping off the bed and half-stumbling to him.  She clutched at him tightly.  “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie,” she repeated.  “This is exactly what I don’t want!”

His anger warred with his pity.  Neither seemed like a road he wanted to take.  His wooden hand caressed her hair.

Wendy wailed out.  Reginald’s heart jumped.  The fear returned, followed by: dear god, does she have to be so histrionic?

“I am a bad wife!” she cried.  “I am not making you happy, and that’s all I want, all I need, all I think about!”

“Shh,” he hissed.  It did not sound like: It’s all right.  It sounded like: Be quiet!

“Reggie, at the beginning…” she gulped, into his shoulder.  He could feel his shirt getting wet, and hoped it was just tears, not mucous.  “…it was so sweet.  We were everything to each other.  We are at war, some – sometimes, and I don’t know why, or over what, or when – how to stop!  I want – I want to get back into those pictures!”

“All right then,” he whispered, patting her back as if trying to burp her.

“No!” she cried, making him jump again.  She took a step back, gripping his hands, almost making him topple over.  “It’s not all right.  It’s not how I want us to live together!  We deserved more, from the courage of our beginning.  My family hated me getting married so quickly!  We did that.  For each other.  But we lost each other.”  She dropped his hands suddenly, and half-turned to the wall, hugging herself.  “I don’t want to be lost, Reginald,” she whispered, to the air, to nothing.  “Please don’t let me be lost…”

Who on earth are you talking to? he wondered.  He took a step towards her.  “We need some time away, perhaps.  I’ve been grumpy.  I’m tired of university.  What do you think about moving to London?”

Wendy shook her head dismally.  Another tear dropped.  A low moan escaped her lips, and Reginald felt a sudden desire to strike her.  Rank self-pity! screamed one of his many devils.  Stop her before it’s too late!  His hands itched most unpleasantly.  His breath came short.

She collapsed heavily onto the bed, her shoulders limp, her breasts hanging forward.  Reginald suddenly felt excited.  All right, this might not be the most graceful transition, but let’s see, let’s see…

He sat down next to her.  He put his arm around her, flexing his muscles, so she could feel his strength.

“I’m sorry if I was unkind, dear,” he said.  He loved that word ‘if.’  It pushed everything over to her side, her perceptions, her paranoia.

“It’s not just tonight,” she said in an empty voice.  “It’s just – how much do you want me when we’re not making love?”

His penis flickered and fell a few notches.  “It’s an expression of love.”

“Yeah,” she murmured – and he hated the lower-class softness at the end of the word.  “But everything should be an expression of love.  You sitting while I’m filing my nails should be an expression of love!”  Her voice was getting hard.  Reginald’s cock got soft, and almost shriveled back into his torso.  “Running away when you don’t get exactly what you want is not an expression of love!” cried Wendy, wriggling out of his embrace and jumping up from the bed.  She brushed back her long dark hair.  Her hands were shaking.

“Forget about fucking me for ten minutes, Reginald!” she said, her voice rising like sharp bricks of ice, obscuring her.  “Forget about my looks, my body, my tits and pussy.  Look at me, just me, just for a moment!  We got married so we could fuck.  All right.  Now we’ve fucked.  Now what?  Are we going to be best friends?”

There was a pause.  Wendy glared at him.  “Well?”

“You’re not interested in my replies,” said Reginald, feeling far from his own skin.  “You could be having this fight without me.”

“It’s not a fight,” said Wendy, her voice breaking again.  She reached out her hands in bottomless supplication.  “I just want to get through to you!”

“By yelling?”

“I can’t find any other way!” she said, suddenly exasperated.  “What other choice do you give me?  It’s either fucking or yelling.  That’s all you notice!”

“How..?”  Reginald had no idea how to finish the sentence.  Or what he might be asking.

“All I ask,” said Wendy slowly, “is that you take a step outside yourself for five minutes – no, I’d even take three – a day, just to check in with me, see how I’m doing.  Not much. You don’t have to obsess about me or write me poems.  Just check in.”  She put a fist on a hip and imitated a little boy.  “‘How are you, Wendy?’  ‘Why, I’m just fine, Reggie.  How are you?’  That sort of thing.  Not a lot.”

“Don’t I do that?” asked Reginald, losing his own fight to refrain from responding.  There is no bottom to this hole…

“Sometimes.  With your heart a thousand miles away.  I don’t know where.  Or with who.  With your work?  Your cock?  Another woman?”  She shrugged tightly.  “There’s no way to know.”

“You think…” said Reginald, feeling his way, “that I might be unfaithful?”

Wendy laughed harshly.  “As if you had that kind of virility!”  Then her face softened.  “That’s not what I mean.  I just feel cold inside.  Unloved.”  She leaned over and toppled on her side, onto the bed, and pulled her knees up to her chest.  Looking at her curled form, he almost expected her to bring a thumb to her mouth and stare emptily at the wall.

He patted her hip, desire warring with fear.  He leaned a little closer, his brows knitted.  She was staring into space.

Reginald felt anger then.  It was a brittle kind of anger.  Anger and terror.  He felt as if he were a kind of champagne, and Wendy a kind of vacuum.  His soul was streaming from his skin in tiny bubbles, into her void.  And when it was finished, when the transfer was complete, he would be empty, and she would be empty.  It was like pumping petrol into deep space.  Space could not be filled.

“What…” he said, his voice cracking.  He paused, and then said: “What do you want me to do?”

“Love me,” she moaned.  “Love me, love me, love me, love me…”

“What – does that look like?” he asked, feeling more giddy terror, more helplessness.

“If it’s in your heart, I’ll know…”  She began to weep, and it was an awful, sniveling type of weeping.  It was like oily water oozing from a broken vase.  He circled his hand on her hip, getting excited again.  How I would love to fuck her while she’s crying, he thought, so we could wind ourselves into each other, like the filaments of a rope, and be complete, as one, unbreakable…  The thought of rope led him towards the thought of tying her up.  Reginald glanced at the bed, at the knobs in the four corners, and thought of Wendy’s long legs spread, chafing at their confinement, her head lolling, perhaps blindfolded…

Wendy seemed to sense his excitement, like a thick scent in an airless room.  She moaned, grabbed his hands and moved it up from her hips, to her side.  Reginald’s heart began pounding.  Could it be..?  He began caressing her side, in long, flowing strokes.  He let the tips of his fingers roll over the sides of her left breast just a little, a tiny, tiny bit – it could have been an accident.  He was prepared to defend it, as an excess of concern, an unthinking brush while comforting her extremity.  But then he saw the little poke through the silk of her nightgown.  The magical chilled nipple.  He suddenly imagined, cradled in the bow of her curved body, an infant, suckling through the silk, and some sort of fusion of sex and blood and milk and babies possessed him, and he felt there was something almost Satanic about their bedroom tonight, as if he were being cajoled into a screwing which would produce an Antichrist.  And if I were, he thought, with an inward giggle, I should not care at all!

Almost afraid to breathe, he cupped her breast fully.  He held his hand there, without moving, as if it were a leaking bowl.  He felt the silky pucker of her nipple.  She wept more openly now.  With a convulsive movement – which jarred him once more – Wendy writhed up and threw herself into his arms, kissing him passionately, on his face, his hair, his neck.  His prick seemed unbearably hard.  He wanted her so much that his throat was swollen, aching, airless.  He threw her back on the bed – even in the extremity of his passion, he wondered if she liked the rough, Viking stuff.  He lifted her nightgown, up past her legs.  She was wearing a thick pair of underwear.  ‘Supertankers,’ she called them.  Reginald wanted to chew through them.  He ground his teeth, enraged.  Fuck all these layers!  He tore at them with his fingers.  Wendy writhed her hips, her face obscured.  He clawed her panties off in a side-to-side seesawing way, leaving little red lines of pressure on her thighs.  He leapt off the bed and struggled out of his own clothing, almost toppling over.  He left his shirt on, feeling like a pirate.  Then he threw himself on her.  She groaned in a kind of frenzy, clutching at him, his back.  She grabbed the little rolls of fat on his lower back painfully.  Why is there always more pain in fat? he wondered briefly.  She put her foot on his calf and raised her hips to accept his thrusts.

“Goddamn it!” he cried, as agony shot through his leg.

She did not seem to hear him.  Her head whipped from side to side, her eyes closed, her mind on the dark side of some far moon.  Reginald closed his eyes.  Something crested in him.  It was more than rage.  It was the desire to obliterate.  He wanted to fuck his wife into atoms, and then open the window and let her out, to wander the universe in lost and discontented fragments.

He cried out.  His orgasm had no warning.  His head seemed wildly inflated, about to burst with dark, measureless pleasure.  His body convulsed.  He farted.

Reginald collapsed on Wendy.  She continued to moan and clutch at him, rolling her hips.  She cried out as he slipped out of her.  She continued to writhe and pant.  What the fuck?, he thought.  It’s over!  He felt anger again, but it was deep, foggy, like a shipwreck far below a storm.  He rolled off her, hoping to help her see that they were done.  He almost expected her to continue having sex with the air, with ghosts, but her body subsided, and she turned and clung to him, her nails digging painfully.

“I love you,” she gasped.

“I love you, too,” he said.

Something seemed to have been solved, for the moment.  Reginald wondered briefly what it was.  But the room was dark with devilry, and he quickly fled to sleep.

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