Blue-Eyed Devil Page 18

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But I did cry on Monday, when I got a small package in the mail. Opening it, I found Gretchen's bracelet with all its jaunty, jingly little charms.

"Dear Haven," read Liberty's note, "I know you were meant to have this."

Halfway through our second year of marriage, Nick's determination to get me pregnant had become all-consuming. I half suspected he would kill me if he knew I was still secretly taking birth control pills, so I hid them in one of my purses shoved back in a corner of our closet.

Convinced that the problem was me — it couldn't possibly be him — Nick sent me to the doctor. I cried in the doctor's office for an hour, telling him I felt anxious and miserable and had no idea why, and I came home with a prescription for antidepressants.

"You can't take that crap," Nick said, crumpling the slip of paper and tossing it into the trash. "It might be bad for the baby."

Our nonexistent baby. I thought guiltily of the pill I took every morning, a secret act that had become my last desperate bid for autonomy. It was difficult on the weekends, when Nick watched me like a hawk. I had to dash into the closet when he was in the shower, fumble for the cardboard wheel, pop a pill out and take it dry. If he caught me . . . I didn't know what he'd do.

"What did the doctor say about getting pregnant?" Nick asked, watching me closely.

"He said it could take up to a year."

I hadn't mentioned a word to the doctor about trying to get pregnant, only asked for my birth control prescription to be renewed.

"Did he tell you when the best days were? The days you're most fertile?"

"Right before I ovulate."

"Let's look at the calendar and figure it out. How long into the cycle do you ovulate?"

"Ten days, I guess."

As we went to the calendar, which I always marked with an X on the days my period started, my reluctance didn't seem to matter to Nick. I was going to be invaded, impregnated, and forced to go through the birthing process simply because he had decided so.

"I don't want it," I heard myself say in a sullen tone.

"You'll be happy once it happens."

"I still don't want it. I'm not ready."

Nick slammed the calendar onto the counter with such force, it sounded like the crack of a gunshot. "You'll never be ready. It'll never happen unless I push you into it. For God's sake, Marie, will you grow up and be a woman?"

I started to shake. Blood rushed up to my face, adrenaline pumping through my overworked heart. "I am a woman. I don't have to have a baby to prove that."

"You're a spoiled bitch. A parasite. That's why your family doesn't give a damn about you."

My own temper exploded. "And you're a selfish jerk!"

He slapped me so hard it whipped my face to the side, and my eyes watered heavily. There was a high-pitched whine in my ears. I swallowed and held my cheek. "You said you'd never do that again," I said hoarsely.

Nick was breathing heavily, his eyes crazy-wide. "It's your fault for driving me nuts. Damn it all, I'm going to straighten your ass out." He grabbed me by one arm, his other hand fisting in my hair, and he hauled me into the living room. He was shouting filthy words, shoving me facedown over an ottoman.

"No," I cried, smothered in the upholstery. "No."

But he jerked down my jeans and panties and drove into my dry flesh, and it hurt, a fierce pinching pain that turned to raw fire, and I knew he had torn something inside me. He thrust harder, faster, easing only when I stopped saying no and fell silent, my tears sliding in a hot salty trail down to the cushion. I tried to think beyond the pain, told myself it would be over soon, just take it, take it, he'll be done in a minute.

One last bruising thrust, and Nick shuddered over me, and I shuddered too as I thought of the swimming liquid inside me. I wanted nothing to do with his babies. I wanted nothing to do with sex either.

I gasped with relief as he pulled out, heat trickling down my thighs. There were the sounds of Nick zipping and fastening his pants.

"Your period's started," he said gruffly.

We both knew it was too early for my period. That wasn't where the blood had come from. I said nothing, only lifted myself from the ottoman and pulled my clothes in place.

Nick spoke again, sounding more normal. "I'll finish cooking dinner while you clean yourself up. What do I need to do?"

"Boil the pasta."

"How long?"

"Twelve minutes."

I hurt from my waist to my knees. I'd never had rough sex with Nick before. It was rape, a small voice said inside, but I immediately told myself that if I had only relaxed a little more, been less dry, it wouldn't have hurt nearly as much. But I didn't want it, the voice persisted.

I stood and flinched at the brutal throbbing soreness, and began to hobble to the bathroom.

"A little less drama, if you don't mind," I heard Nick say.

I was silent as I continued to the bathroom and closed the door. I started the shower, made it as hot as I could stand it, and I undressed and got in. I stood in the spray for what seemed like forever, until my body was stinging and clean and aching. I was in a fog of bewilderment, wondering how my life had come to this. Nick would not be pacified until I'd had a baby, and then he would want another, and the unwinnable game of trying to please him would never end.

This was not a matter of trying to sit down and talk honestly with someone about your feelings. That only worked when your feelings mattered. Nick, even when he seemed to be listening, was only gathering points to be used against me later. Someone else's pain, whether emotional or physical, didn't register with him. But I had thought he loved me. Had he changed so much since we'd gotten married, or had I made a fatal misjudgment?

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