Before World War II and even in the years that followed, women in rural areas didn’t shop every week at the local mall or big box store for what they needed because there weren’t any. Every town had a hardware store, what was then called a “dry goods” store that carried clothing, fabric and sundries, and a drug store that sold health care products in addition to filling prescriptions, but those stores required driving into town. Most farm wives were too busy to make that trip very often, and that generated a business opportunity for the Fuller Brush Company.
The Fuller Brush Company began by selling brushes, later added cleaning supplies and still later, cosmetics. A small army of men and women traveled the rural areas of the country with sample cases selling Fuller products door-to-door. Farm wives relied on the Fuller Brush man for what they needed to keep their homes neat and clean.
Elizabeth had been overjoyed when Benjamin Mason asked for her hand, though she didn’t know him very well and didn’t know much about being married other than seeing how other married couples behaved. That was always in public, and usually after services in the little church in Mill Falls where she and her family attended. Benjamin’s family were also members, and while her own family were true believers in the Bible, Elizabeth’s mother told her there were no more devout Christians in Mill Falls or the surrounding area than the Masons.
They were married in the little church in Mill Falls, and Elizabeth had been beside herself with excitement from the day before the ceremony through the first week of being a wife. The ceremony itself had been what she expected as she’d seen many before. Weddings were a time other than Sunday services when the people of Mill Falls and the farm families who lived on the farms outside of town came together. The Mill Falls community was small and everyone was either family, related by marriage or at least knew each other very well. There were never any invitations to any wedding sent. It was just assumed everyone would come to wish the new couple well in their life together.
The people had come to her wedding, the women dressed in their Sunday dresses and the men tugging at shirt collars and ties that threatened to choke them. They brought their children too. All the little girls stared at Elizabeth in her white dress as her father walked her down the aisle. Elizabeth had done the same thing, and had dreamed of the day she’d walk down that aisle. She knew the little girls were having the same dream.
The boys weren’t quite as excited. Dressing up on Sunday and having to behave was enough for one week. Weddings meant enduring that torture twice in the same week and not being able to rough-house or explore that hole under the barn sill or walk together through the woods and pretend they were Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett hunting for meat for the table.
The people had filled the hard, wooden pews, sat quietly through the ceremony, and then congratulated Elizabeth and Benjamin as they stood with their parents in the receiving line. They all had a small piece of the wedding cake Elizabeth’s Aunt Emma had baked and decorated and also had a small cup of fruit punch. They showered them with rice when she and Benjamin ran the gauntlet of well-wishers to his pickup truck.
Elizabeth didn’t have a honeymoon, but that wasn’t something she expected. While the people of Mill Falls and the surrounding area weren’t poor, neither were they wealthy enough to afford a week in a fancy room in the nearest city large enough to have a hotel – Slidel. Instead, Benjamin had driven them to the small house where they’d begin life together.
Benjamin’s father had started farming on a hundred and eighty acres he inherited from his own father. The house on that farm was where Benjamin had grown up. When World War II began, grain prices increased as American farmers worked to supply food for the troops fighting the war. Benjamin’s father saved as much of his profits as he could, and as soon as Benjamin was old enough to be of real help with the farming tasks, his father bought the hundred and eighty acres that joined the original farm. The new land was for Benjamin though he and his father farmed both together. The house where Benjamin and Elizabeth would live was on that farm along with a chicken house and a large barn that had once been used for the horses everyone used for farm work.
The house Elizabeth would make into a home was still in good shape and relatively modern because Benjamin’s father had installed a bathroom in the corner of one of the three bedrooms. She’d spent a week cleaning it before the wedding and though it wasn’t fancy, the curtains she’d made and hung and the sparkling counters and table in the kitchen made the house look nice. She’d hung new curtains in the bedroom as well, and had made the bed with sheets from her hope chest and the quilts her grandmother had made from scraps of dress material.
Elizabeth was happy with the house for another reason as well. While it was within walking distance of Benjamin’s mother’s house, it was far enough away she and Benjamin would have enough privacy to learn how to become man and wife.
Their first night together in bed was both exciting and frightening for Elizabeth. When she was eleven, Elizabeth’s mother had explained what was going to happen to her and why, but hadn’t said anything much about what a man and wife did together. A week before her wedding, Elizabeth’s mother had told her what to expect.
“Elizabeth, even though you’ll be afraid, you should let Benjamin do what he’ll want to do to you. It will be like you’ve seen the bull do to the cows in your daddy’s herd. Benjamin will be stiff and hard and he’ll put it inside you and move it in and out until he spends. It will hurt a little and you’ll bleed a little the first time, but it will be over fast. After a few days, it won’t hurt anymore.
“You might get pregnant on that first night, but if you don’t, don’t worry about it. Benjamin will want to do it a lot, so you will. Just remember, the Bible says a wife should obey her husband and that’s what you’ll promise to do when the preacher marries you and Benjamin. You must never refuse him. If you do, you’d be breaking a vow you made before God.”
That first night had been about what her mother had told her. Benjamin raised the white nightdress Elizabeth wore and then knelt between her legs. Elizabeth had laid back and then closed her eyes.
Elizabeth felt the sharp stab of pain when Benjamin entered her and kept feeling that pain while he stroked in and out for the next couple of minutes. Then, Benjamin groaned and Elizabeth felt him throbbing inside her as he thrust quickly in and out three times. He pulled out then, rolled to her side and onto his stomach, and went to sleep. Elizabeth placed the small towel she’d put under her pillow between her legs, and then tried to fall asleep.
For a while, Elizabeth just lay there wondering if she might be pregnant. She didn’t feel any different, but she’d heard her Aunt Emma talking to Sarah Fields, and Sarah said she was sure she felt something when it happened. Maybe Benjamin hadn’t done anything inside her. Elizabeth felt between her legs to see, and when she touched the slippery wetness between her lips, knew he had. As she drifted off to sleep, Elizabeth was still wondering.
The next morning, Elizabeth and Benjamin were up before the sun because there was work to be done before Benjamin joined his father to work in the fields.
Once Benjamin and Elizabeth moved to the farm, they needed their own cow and chickens, so Benjamin bought Bossie, a jersey cow who was a twin to Mabel, his father’s cow, and that summer, bought fifty chicks for Elizabeth to care for. Elizabeth was happy to do her part and fed and watered the chicks every day.
She asked Benjamin to teach her how to milk Bossie, but he said when God made man, he put him in charge of the beasts of the field, and when he made woman, she was to be responsible for the home, cooking, and bearing children. Since chickens weren’t beasts of the field, they were a woman’s responsibility, but cattle were, so they were a man’s responsibility.
Elizabeth began cooking breakfast for her and Benjamin while he milked Bossie. It was planting time, and a rain was forecast for the next day. Benjamin and his father would be in the field all day in order to get the crop in. Elizabeth would feed and water her chickens, and then make lunch for Benjamin.
Elizabeth rode to the field with her mother-in-law, Rachael, to take lunch to the men, but they didn’t stay long. Benjamin and his father gulped down the ham sandwiches and cold baked beans in only a few minutes and then started planting again. Elizabeth and Rachael went back home then, and Elizabeth started the beef roast she was making for their supper.
Elizabeth thought Benjamin might be too tired to do anything after supper, but when they went to bed, he rolled on his side lifted her nightgown. It wasn’t quite as painful this time, and like the first time, it happened quickly.
And so it went for the next three weeks. Every night except Sunday night, Benjamin would slide his hand up her thighs, and every night Elizabeth would open her legs for him. It didn’t hurt anymore except that she was always a little dry at first, so his first strokes were uncomfortable.
Elizabeth was a little surprised that after two weeks of spreading her thighs for Benjamin and then lying there until he finished, she started to feel something. It was a tightening in her core that began just before Benjamin groaned and made his last few strokes. Nothing her mother had told her had been anything about the woman feeling good during sex. Her mother had just said it made her happy to be able to satisfy her husband’s needs and that was enough.
Once Elizabeth had experienced that new sensation, she began wanting it to happen, and it usually did. As time went on, it happened sooner and sooner as well, and one night, Elizabeth moaned at the little contraction that tightened her tummy.
Benjamin had stopped and asked if he’d hurt her. When Elizabeth said he hadn’t, he asked why she’d made the moaning sound. Elizabeth stroked his arm.
“You made me feel good, Benjamin…inside…that’s all.”
It was as if she’d said a curse word. Benjamin rolled to her side and said, “Elizabeth, lust is a sin. It says so in the Bible.”
Elizabeth touched his arm.
“Benjamin, I only said you made me feel good, not that I was lusting for you.”
Benjamin pushed her hand away.
“If you felt it, it was lust. Lust is from the Devil, not from God. Lust will make you want everything you see and will make you commit the sin of pride. You have to fight it, Elizabeth, or it will turn you into a harlot, a Jezebel searching out men to satisfy her lust, and the Devil will take your soul.”
Elizabeth didn’t believe the Devil was taking her soul just because she’d felt good. Benjamin always seemed like he felt good when they lay together.
“Benjamin, don’t you feel good when we…when you…”
“No, Elizabeth, I don’t. I’m only doing what the Bible says in Genesis – go forth and multiply. What that means is a man and a woman should have children, and I have to lay with you for that to happen. If I liked doing it, I would be failing in the eyes of God because the Devil had caused me to feel lust.”
Benjamin sounded like he was upset, so Elizabeth just said, “I’ll try to not feel that way again, Benjamin.”
Benjamin found and squeezed her hand.
“I’ll pray for you, Elizabeth.”
The next night, nothing seemed different about Benjamin. They went to bed, and Benjamin touched Elizabeth’s thighs just like always. The only difference was the way Elizabeth stifled the moan she felt in her throat when Benjamin entered her. She’d felt that same tightening in her tummy too, but remembering the night before, she forced herself to lie quietly.
They’d been married for a month and a half when Elizabeth thought she was pregnant. A month later, she was certain she was, and told Benjamin he was going to be a father. Benjamin had grinned and then rushed to the main house to tell his parents.
That night, instead of working his fingers under Elizabeth’s nightgown, Benjamin rolled onto his stomach like he always did before going to sleep. Elizabeth wondered if she’d upset him but he’d seemed so happy she didn’t think that was likely. There had to be another reason, but try as she might, she couldn’t think of one.
After Benjamin hadn’t touched her for a week, Elizabeth finally asked him if she’d made him mad at her.
“Why would I be mad at you? You’ve always worked hard and now you’re going to give us a baby.”
“I was just worried. You haven’t wanted to…to touch me for the last week.”
“Elizabeth, if you read your Bible every day like I have since I could read, you’d know. We have multiplied like the Bible tells us to, so there’s no need to lie together again until after the baby comes. To keep doing it would be just an act of the flesh. Galatians five nineteen says acts of the flesh are impure, and Hebrews thirteen four says the marriage bed must be kept pure. If I allow myself to want you for pleasure, we’ll both be judged by God to be impure.”
Elizabeth didn’t say anything after that, but she was thinking that the God she believed in would never judge a man and wife for enjoying each other. Wasn’t that what Preacher Johnson had said at their wedding – a man should leave his parents and take a wife and they would become one? Why would God say a man and wife would become one if he didn’t want them to want each other?
As the baby grew in her belly, so did Elizabeth’s frustration with Benjamin, and that was what she was thinking about that day at her kitchen window. She couldn’t tell him she needed to be touched to feel like a wife. Wives were supposed to obey their husbands and she’d promised to do that. It would have been easier but for one thing.
Her mother told her that being pregnant would cause other changes to her body, and one of those changes was she would have a flow that would soil her underwear. To cope with that, Elizabeth washed herself every day after Benjamin left the house, and the first time she did, she noticed that touching herself there brought on the same tightening in her tummy she’d experienced with Benjamin.
Elizabeth told herself she was only doing what was necessary to keep clean as she continued to stroke between her lips with the washcloth, but after a few minutes, she was panting for breath. A little later she felt a tension building in her body, and then gasped when that tension was suddenly released.
As Elizabeth dried herself and then dressed, she wondered if what she’d just done was lust. She was sure Benjamin would think so, so she wasn’t going to tell him, but surely the way she felt – warm, happy, and contented – wasn’t lust brought on by the Devil. The Devil was supposed to make you mean and unhappy.
The other things Elizabeth noticed was her breasts becoming larger and the way her nipples seemed to quickly respond to even the slightest touch. Sometimes her nipples would grow thick and stiff just because her breasts moved a little in her bra. When that happened, or when she touched them in the process of bathing, that same tightening in her tummy happened.
Though Elizabeth knew Benjamin wouldn’t approve, the next time she washed between her thighs, she lightly brushed her nipples to see what would happen. The moan she couldn’t hold back told her that stroking her nipples made the sensations from between her thighs more intense and cause the tightening and then the release to happen faster.
Elizabeth knew she couldn’t tell anyone about what she felt. Her mother would have said she should be ashamed. Benjamin would have said she would have go to church and confess her sins in front of the entire congregation if God was ever to forgive her. Elizabeth didn’t feel ashamed at all, and she didn’t feel any desire to do anything else that the Bible said were brought on by the Devil. She only felt better after that release.
In January, little Mark was born, and for the next three months Elizabeth was so tired she didn’t think about Benjamin again lifting her nightgown and joining with her. When she suckled Mark, she felt the same tightening in her tummy, but it wasn't quite the same. She felt the same little contractions but didn’t feel the need to feel more.
Elizabeth didn’t feel that need until one night when Benjamin touched her thighs. When he entered her that night, Elizabeth caught her breath, but covered it with a cough. A little later, Benjamin lowered his chest enough the hair on his chest brushed her nipples. Elizabeth had to cough again or Benjamin would have thought she was becoming lustful.
Sex became frustrating after that night. Elizabeth would feel the tension building in her body, but before she reached the point of release, Benjamin would be done and going to sleep. If only he’d understand that she needed that release, needed to be straining into his strokes as it happened, to really feel as if they were one like the Bible said they should be. He’d never understand though, so Elizabeth continued to take care of that by herself when Benjamin was working.
Because Benjamin and Elizabeth had only one vehicle for transportation - the pickup truck Benjamin used every day to go to and to haul things to the field - they didn’t go to Mill Falls except on Sunday for church. There was no need to go shopping every week because almost all the food they ate was raised right there on the farm in Elizabeth’s garden and chicken house. Once a month or so, usually if it had rained to much to work in the fields, they’d drive into Mill Falls to the grocery store for flour, sugar, and the few other things Elizabeth needed to cook and preserve food for the winter.
There were always things Elizabeth needed between those shopping trips, but she didn’t have to make do. The Fuller Brush Company employed salesmen to go door-to-door around the rural areas to sell brushes, cleaning supplies, and other goods any farm wife would need.
In general, those salesmen were pleasant men who knew that making friends with the wife of the household was their ticket to sales. Howard Jones was one of those salesmen, and he called on Elizabeth about every two weeks. He always carried an assortment of hair brushes, brushes for cleaning cobwebs from the ceiling, and brushes for about anything any woman could think of.
Usually, Elizabeth didn’t buy anything from Howard because his brushes lasted a long time, but Howard didn’t seem to mind. He’d drive his car up to the house, usually on a Tuesday afternoon, knock on her door, and spend half an hour or so just talking before showing her the latest brush Fuller offered.
Howard was a good salesman because he had a good understanding of women. He’d always tell Elizabeth she seemed to be getting prettier every time he saw her, and he’d always say he figured all the men around were jealous of her husband. Elizabeth would smile and tell him she wasn’t any prettier than any other woman, but inside, his words made her happy.
She couldn’t tell him that Benjamin never said she was pretty, and she couldn’t tell him that Benjamin didn’t want her like she thought a man should want his wife, but that didn’t matter. It was enough that Howard would give her that certain smile and then say something like, “I’ll bet your husband can’t wait to get back to the house in the evening. I know I’d have a problem staying in the field with such a beautiful woman waiting for me”.
When Elizabeth’s belly began to swell with Mark, Howard had grinned and said, “Looks like you and your husband have been busy. I’m jealous”.
Elizabeth just grinned, but inside, she was thinking about how Benjamin had stopped touching her as soon has he knew she was with child. Howard’s funny smile told her he wouldn’t have stopped, or at least she didn’t think he would have stopped touching her.
Howard probably wouldn’t just pump away until he was done either, because a couple of times, he’d grinned and said if he ever found a woman as nice as Elizabeth, he’d make sure she never wanted to leave him for another man.
Over the months of Howard’s visits, Elizabeth became very comfortable talking with him, comfortable enough she felt no embarrassment telling him things she’d never tell Benjamin and would be reluctant to tell even her own mother. Part of the reason was she was lonely, but most of the reason was how Howard seemed to always be thinking of how to make things easier for her. She thought Howard really cared. Elizabeth was in her seventh month when he stopped by to show her a new brush.
“Elizabeth, I’ll bet it’s hard for you to bend over to scrub your floors now, isn’t it? Believe me, I can understand. My sister told me it took her twice as long when she was as big as you are now because it was hard getting up an down. Well, Fuller has something that will fix that. It’s our floor brush with a long handle. You won’t have to get down on your hands and knees. All you have to do is dip the brush in your mop bucket and scrub the floor while you’re standing up. When you get done, just use your mop to pick up the dirt and water.”
Elizabeth said she was doing fine so far, but she’d think about it. Howard had smiled and said that was OK and he’d be back in a couple of weeks to see how she was doing. Then, he said she looked prettier than ever and he figured her husband must think so too.
Elizabeth said it before she thought, but once she had and saw the look on Howard’s face, she wasn’t sorry.
“I don’t think he does. He doesn’t…we haven’t…we haven’t been like that in a long time.”
Howard had pursed his lips.
Elizabeth shook her head.
“No, not since I found out I was going to have a baby. Benjamin says it would be lust if we did.”
Howard scratched his head and then frowned.
“Hmmm…I’ve never heard that before. My sister told me her husband wanted to do it even when she got so big the last month it was difficult and the doctor said it wasn’t a good idea.”
Howard had chuckled then.
“Sally said that was the longest month she’d ever had. She was so happy when her Julie was born because she wasn’t huge anymore and she and her husband could do it again.”
Elizabeth had grinned then, but said she’d be all right. Howard had shaken his head and said it was a shame her husband felt that way.
Howard didn’t say anything more about that on his next calls at Elizabeth’s house, but he did keep telling her she was beautiful and that helped. After that conversation, sometimes when Elizabeth stroked herself until her body jerked at the release, she found herself imagining it was Howard between her thighs instead of her hand. He wouldn’t be like Benjamin and just pump in and out for a couple of minutes. He’d caress her breasts and nipples, like she was doing to herself, and he’d go slow, slow enough she’d feel that tension winding her core tight. When that tension exploded, he’d groan and his strokes would speed up to carry them both over the edge. Afterwards, he’d tell her she was beautiful and that he wanted to do it again.
Elizabeth thought it a little odd that she felt no shame at those thoughts, but she didn’t. She didn’t feel any shame when Howard called after Mark was born and she told him about another problem she had.
Howard had come at the same time she was about to nurse Mark. She couldn’t very well keep Mark waiting or he’d start to cry, but she wanted to see Howard, so once she’d let him into the house, she told Howard to have a seat at the kitchen table and they’d talk while she nursed Mark.
Elizabeth brought Mark into the kitchen, took a seat, and then uncovered her right breast. Mark nuzzled around for a second, then latched on to Elizabeth’s swollen right nipple and began to nurse.
Howard hadn’t expected to see Elizabeth’s breast. He’d seen many women nursing babies on his sales calls, but they always covered themselves and the baby with a blanket before talking with him. Elizabeth hadn’t done that, and he wondered if that was because they’d become more friends than salesman and farm wife, or if there was some other reason.
If there was another reason, Howard thought he might know what that reason was. He’d been calling on the farm wives in the area for five years and over those years had gotten to know all of them very well except for one – Rachael Mason, Elizabeth’s mother-in-law.
The other farm wives were a joy to call on even if he didn’t sell them anything. Before the war, most were quiet and a little shy. During the war, they’d had to step up to the jobs men usually did, and that had changed them a lot. It was like they’d come out of their shells and started to act like they were real people instead of just homemakers and mothers.
After a while, they’d joke with him about things, like the time he’d shown a new hair brush to Mary Hicks. He was explaining that the engineers at Fuller had designed the handle specifically so it fit a woman’s hands by not being completely round and by being a little softer than most of their other brushes. He said it would be easier for the woman to rotate as she brushed her hair that way.
Mary had stroked her hand up and down the handle and then grinned.
“It feels pretty good. What happens to it if you get it wet?”
Helen Rhodes had been more forward. She’d lifted her skirt to the middle of her thighs and then grinned at him.
“Howard, you’re a man. Do my legs look sexy like the girls in the movies? My husband says they do, but he’d tell me anything to get me into bed. I don’t mind him telling me that, but I’d like another opinion.”
Howard had said yes, her legs looked great, and he understood why Mr. Rhodes was like that. He’d then changed the subject to his line of household cleaners. Alvin Rhodes was a big guy, and though Howard had felt the stirrings of his cock when he saw Helen’s soft inner thighs, he thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to have Alvin mad at him.
The only farm wife who hadn’t changed was Rachael Mason, and if anything, she’d gotten more prudish. She seldom bought anything from him other than the occasional broom and she was not pleasant to talk to. If he showed her a hair brush or a nail brush, she'd always quote some passage from the Bible that she interpreted as meaning a woman shouldn’t do anything to make herself look better. After he left, Howard always smiled and thought to himself that Mrs. Mason was succeeding in making herself look plain as a mud fence.
He’d heard that Mr. Mason was of the same opinion about things and lived his life in strict accordance with a very conservative interpretation of the Bible. Howard had a hard time understanding why anyone would be like the Masons. Howard went to a church in Slidel, but had been taught that religion was a guide for life rather than a way to keep you from enjoying anything life had to offer. He couldn’t imagine the Masons enjoying much of anything.
Since Elizabeth’s husband had grown up in that atmosphere, it was likely he shared the same opinions about women. If he did and Elizabeth didn’t, surely her life was drab and lifeless. Maybe she just wanted someone to tell her what her husband either couldn’t or wouldn’t – that she was pretty and a woman any man would like to know.
The thought struck him then that maybe Elizabeth was so dissatisfied with her marriage she was looking for more attention than just words, and that was why she’d not covered her breast. That was an appealing thought, because he did think Elizabeth was pretty and had often wished he’d met her before she got married. He wasn’t about to read anything into that lack of modesty though. If he did anything with her, word would get around and he’d not make any more sales.
He’d almost averted his eyes when the baby began to nurse, but when Elizabeth flinched and caught her breath, he thought maybe he could sell her something other than brooms and mops.
“Elizabeth, does that hurt you?”
Elizabeth flinched again as Mark sucked a little harder.
“Yes, it does. He dries me out so much I have little cracks in my skin.”
Howard smiled at her.
“I understand. My sister said she got sore from nursing her little girl so many times a day. I suppose that must happen to a lot of mothers, and Fuller must have understood that too.
“We now carry a line of skin creams and lotions, and one of them is a salve made just for nursing mothers. It doesn’t have any chemicals in it, so you don’t have to worry about it doing anything to your baby, and it’ll keep your skin soft and moist so you won’t get sore. I gave some to my sister and she said she wished she’d have had it when she was nursing because her husband always liked doing the same thing and it hurt her when she was nursing a baby too.
“Fuller knows it’s not something most women would buy without trying, so they made up some small samples in little jars. I’ll leave you with one so you can try it out. If you like it as much as my sister did, maybe you’ll want to buy some. This sample will last you at least a month.”
After Howard left, Elizabeth nursed Mark until he fell asleep and then put him in his crib. As she started making supper, she thought about Howard and what’d he’d done.
Elizabeth hadn’t really thought before she opened her dress so Mark could nurse. Howard had become so close a friend she’d forgotten that women didn’t do things like that. When she thought some more though, she wondered if she had meant for him to see her even if she didn’t think that at the time. That happened to her once in a while – she do something without thinking about what she was doing and then wonder why.
It had been that way the first time she’d undressed while Benjamin was in the room with her. She hadn’t really thought about it. They were married, after all, and he’d been with her naked in bed. It was when he turned away and then walked out of their bedroom she realized he didn’t want to see her, and she knew why. It was his belief that if he saw her without clothes, he’d be filled with lust and lust was a sin and he’d have to confess to the congregation that he’d sinned. That’s why he always turned off the light in their bedroom before they’d taken off any clothes.
That knowledge had hurt her inside. Her mother had said a man would want to see his wife naked before they had sex. Until she understood just how prudish Benjamin really was, she thought maybe something was wrong with her. Once he’d talked to her about lust and how that would make their marriage impure, she realized it wasn’t her.
Maybe she just wanted another man to see her and tell her she was a woman he’d want. She thought Howard had smiled a funny smile when he’d seen her heavy breast and dark, swollen nipple. Maybe he was a man who would want her.
That thought shocked her. She’d been taught that a wife shouldn’t ever want a man other than her husband. That’s a vow she’d taken when she’d been married. She was further shocked when she began thinking that Benjamin had broken the vow he took because he didn’t want to become one flesh with her like the Bible said he should. If he could break his vow that way, why would it be a sin if she broke her vow too?
It was two weeks later when she thought she might be pregnant again, but she didn’t tell Benjamin for another month until she was sure. Just like before, he stopped touching her at night, and just like before, Elizabeth felt the tension building inside her that she had to release herself, only this time, it was worse.
Elizabeth was using the salve Howard had given her, so she bought some more and it worked in two ways. It did keep her nipples from getting chapped and hurting. It also gave her more thoughts about Howard. When she smoothed the salve on her nipples and nipple beds, she imagined it was Howard doing that. If she lightly pinched her nipples she’d imagine it was Howard sucking on them like he said his sister’s husband liked to do.
When Benjamin began ignoring her in their bed this time, Elizabeth realized she couldn’t go on living like this – having sex only so she’d get pregnant and then nothing for the next several months except her imagination and her fingers. It was making her crazy. Benjamin could call it lust if he wanted to, but it was a hurt deep inside her that wouldn’t go away no matter what she did. It didn’t hurt like a cut or a stubbed toe. It was a pain in her mind, the pain of knowing her husband didn’t really want her except to make her pregnant.
Howard always called on Tuesday about two, so at one that Tuesday, Elizabeth nursed Mark and then put him to bed. With any luck, he'd sleep about four hours and that would be enough time. She brushed her hair until it shined and put on a dress that wrapped around her body and tied in the front, then waited for Howard to knock on the door.
Elizabeth felt nervous, but knew this was something she had to do. When she heard his knock, she asked Howard to come inside, and once he did, she sat down on the couch in the living room. When she did, her dress fell open and bared one of her thighs. She smiled to herself at the look on Howard’s face. His face looked a little shocked, but there was something else there, something she’d never seen in Benjamin’s face. Without closing her dress, Elizabeth smiled at Howard.
“So, what do you have to show me today, Howard?”
Howard didn’t say anything for a few seconds because he couldn’t stop staring at Elizabeth’s bare thigh. He knew this was no accident, and he was beginning to believe that when Elizabeth hadn’t covered her breast, that wasn’t an accident either. It had to be that Elizabeth was trying to tell him she wanted more than something from his sample case, and that prospect had set every one of his senses on alert.
After that day when she’d nursed her baby in front of him, Howard had wondered how it would be with Elizabeth if they made love. It was a thought that pleased him even though it was just a thought. Most of the other farm wives might hint about sex, but they never did anything so blatant. There could be only one reason Elizabeth was doing this, and while she was married, that didn’t stop the desire for her he was feeling.
“Well, I don’t really have anything new today. I do have some bigger jars of that salve. Is it working for you like I said it would?”
Elizabeth took a deep breath and then did what she’d thought about doing for the past week. It took all her courage, but it was the only way. She untied the belt of the dress and then smiled at Howard. Since she was wearing nothing underneath the dress, her heavy breasts spilled out as soon as she pulled the front open.
“Come see for yourself.”
Howard could only stand there and stare at Elizabeth. Her breasts were swollen taut with milk and her nipples were long and stiff. As if that wasn’t enough to tempt him, Elizabeth wasn’t wearing underwear either. The thatch of dark brown hair on her mound made his stiffening cock grow even harder.
“Elizabeth, I don’t think I should. It’s not that you’re not…you’re very inviting, but you’re a married woman.”
Elizabeth’s face was pleading.
“Yes, I’m married, but my husband isn’t really a husband to me. I need a man to make me feel like I know a woman should feel with a man. I need that, Howard, I need it so much I can’t think about anything else most of the time. I don’t know any other men I like and trust enough to ask this of, but I want you to make me feel that way. If you won’t I’ll try to understand, but if you’re like my mother said most men are, I think you want to or you wouldn’t be staring at me.”
Howard tried to say he couldn’t without really saying that.
“Elizabeth, it’s not that I don’t want to, but what if you got pregnant?”
Elizabeth stood up and walked the few feet to where Howard stood.
“I’m already pregnant so you can’t do that to me. All you can do is show me how it’s suppose to feel when a man and a woman are together, and that’s all I want you to do.”
If Elizabeth hadn’t put her arms around his neck and pressed her breasts into his chest, Howard might have been able to resist. That’s what he was thinking afterward. He was also thinking he was glad he hadn’t resisted. He’d had sex with other women before, but Elizabeth was different.
She’d shuddered when he stroked the side of her breast, then took him by the hand and led him to the bedroom. She didn’t say anything once they were standing beside the bed. She just pulled back the blanket and sheet, shrugged her shoulders and let the dress fall to the floor, and then stretched out on the bed, held out her arms and spread her thighs.
What was also so different about Elizabeth was the way she reacted to what he did. It seemed to him as if this was the first time for her. He knew that couldn’t be the case because she’d already had one child and was pregnant with another, but no matter where he touched her, she’d shiver or moan or do something else like she’d never felt that before.
Only once, after he’d cupped her breast and stroked a finger down over her thick nipple, did Elizabeth say anything, and that was just a whispered, “Do what you said your sister’s husband does to her”.
Howard had already seen the little drops of whitish milk on Elizabeth’s nipples, but he wasn’t prepared for the spray of milk that just gentle suction caused. He wasn’t prepared for the gasp Elizabeth made or for the way her hips jerked either. She was not like any other woman he’d ever been with. It was like she couldn’t control what she did.
When he cupped the full lips hiding in the dark brown hair between her thighs, Elizabeth caught her breath and then moaned when his finger slipped between them. Howard was surprised that she was already wet and slippery, so he chanced slipping a fingertip to her entrance.
What Elizabeth did then wasn’t the actions of a woman experiencing her first time. She arched into his fingertip and then pulled on his shoulder. Howard knew she wanted him to enter her then, but he also knew she wasn’t really ready. Gently, he slipped that fingertip inside Elizabeth’s slippery/sticky passage, deeper and deeper, while she writhed under his hand and made little erotic moans.
Howard delayed as long as he could, but Elizabeth’s heavy breathing and her attempts to get him between her spread thighs made it difficult. When she began to rock her hips, he gently moved between Elizabeth’s legs, lifted her knees, and then probed for her entrance with his cock. After a couple gentle thrusts, he felt his cock head slipping inside Elizabeth and then slowly pushed. He’d never been with a woman who’d had a baby, but he always thought she’d be more open. Elizabeth wasn’t, and the sensation of his cock head sliding through her tight passage was fantastic.
Howard pushed slowly through that resistance until his cock was fully inside Elizabeth, and then began making the long strokes he liked. It was obvious Elizabeth liked them too. She wrapped her arms around his back, then slipped them down to his hips and tried to pull his cock inside her deeper, and all the while she kept either catching her breath or making little moans.
Howard felt Elizabeth’s thighs squeezing his waist when he pulled back out as if to keep him inside her, but as soon as he started to stroke his cock back in, she’d open her thighs as wide as she could and pull on his hips again. A little later, she started rocking her body up into each stroke, and the catches of breath and moans became gasps and then little mewing sounds as his cock bottomed out inside her.
It was when Elizabeth began to claw at his hips and pant that Howard knew she was close and though he wanted to keep feeling the ripples of her passage stroking his cock, it was becoming difficult to control himself. Elizabeth was the most erotic woman he’d ever been with, and Howard knew if he could just hold on, if he could stave off the explosion of seed from his cock until Elizabeth was writhing out the orgasm, it would be the most fantastic thing he’d ever experienced.
He knew of one way to help Elizabeth along, and when he slipped his right hand around her hip and up to the stiff, little button at the top of her sex, he knew it wouldn’t be long. As soon as he touched the smooth, rounded tip, Elizabeth dug her heels into the mattress and lifted her body into his stroking cock. She held her breath until he pulled back out and then fell back down.
Howard began rubbing beside and over the tip of that little throbbing button, and it was like magic. Elizabeth began lifting her body into every stroke and after a few, began to pant heavily. Just when Howard thought he couldn’t hold back anymore, Elizabeth shrieked a little cry, arched up, and then her entire body began to quake as the orgasm swept through her. She was still gasping and rocking her quivering body into his stroking cock when he’s spurted his seed into her three times, and he felt her passage contracting and relaxing around his cock as he kept stroking it in and out.
When Elizabeth did ease back down on the mattress, she pulled him down on top of her and held him there with her arms around his back. They lay there, still locked together, until his cock softened enough it slipped out. When that happened, Elizabeth whispered, “I thought it would feel nice. I can’t describe how it really felt. I don’t want to stop doing this with you.”
Howard didn’t get dressed and leave until little Mark started to cry. Elizabeth frowned then.
“I have to feed Mark now, but I’d like you to stay a while longer.”
Howard had a lot to think over and didn’t think he could do that if he was there watching Elizabeth naked and nursing a baby. He’d just want her again, and he was sure she wanted him. That would just make more confusion of the confusing thoughts running through his head.
“Elizabeth, I have to make some other calls this afternoon, but don’t worry. I’ll be back next week.”
As he drove away, Howard was struck by how much that one afternoon had changed him. Before, Elizabeth was just another farm wife, prettier than most and willing to confide him, but still just a married woman he sold products to. Now, she was more than that.
When he thought about it, she’d probably always been more, but because she was married, he hadn’t let himself think about that. Now, after feeling and hearing her shaking under him and trying to keep him inside her, he realized she was a lot more than just a customer. All the thoughts he’d had about wishing he’d met her before she got married came crashing back into his mind.
If he’d known her before, he’d have asked her out, and once he got to know her as well as he did now, he’d probably have been seriously considering asking her to marry him. Now, that was out of the question, and yet, he didn’t think he could ever be just a man selling her household products again. She was already married and he had no claim to her at all, nor would she ever consider leaving her husband. Married women, especially married women in a small, very religious community like Mill Falls, would never think of doing something like that. A woman in Slidel might, but not a woman in Mill Falls.
As Elizabeth held Mark to her breast and felt him start to suckle, she felt the same tightening in her core that caused, but now she also knew how that felt when a man did the same thing and it was a feeling she knew she needed to feel again. She was also sure that she’d never be able to convince Benjamin to do anything like that, much less even be able to tell him about the other things Howard had done to her. He’d have just started quoting Bible passages again and accusing her of becoming a Jezebal.
Was that what she really was now – a Jezebel who would start seeking out men to satisfy her sinful lust? Try as she might, Elizabeth couldn’t convince her self she was. What she was, was a woman who for the first time in her life had experienced two people truly becoming one. That’s how it had felt. Howard wasn’t a man just trying to get her pregnant and she wasn’t a woman submitting to what her husband wanted. She and Howard had been one body straining for the release both needed, and were still one after that happened.
She was surprised that she didn’t feel any shame at all. What she felt was a need to have that experience again and to keep having it as often as Howard would do it. Elizabeth frowned when she remembered the vows she’d taken on her wedding day, but started to rationalize those vows with what had become reality.
“I, Elizabeth Hastings, take thee, Benjamin Mason, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.”
Elizabeth had made that vow thinking Benjamin truly believed in the part of his vow where he promised “to love and to cherish” her, but that’s not what Benjamin was doing. He didn’t love her or he’d have listened when she told him he’d made her feel good instead of lecturing her. He didn’t cherish her either, or he’d have wanted to be with her in bed.
What it seemed to Elizabeth was that Benjamin had married her only to have her keep his house and bear his children. She wasn’t much different to him than Bossie, their milk cow. Benjamin would be happy keeping things like they were as long as she kept fixing his meals, doing the washing, and having babies. Surely that was not what God intended for a wife to be to her husband, nor would God be happy if that’s how the marriage turned out. He would think Benjamin had not honored his vows.
Elizabeth also remembered what the preacher had said during one sermon on Sunday. He had been making a point about wives being faithful to their husbands and quoted a Bible passage that said if a woman lay with a man not her husband, she had committed adultery just the same as a man committed adultery if he lay with a prostitute.
So, she’d committed adultery and she should have been ashamed, but she wasn’t. She wasn’t married to Benjamin in the biblical sense because they weren’t one body like the Bible said they should be. She reasoned that if they weren’t married in the biblical sense, she couldn’t commit adultery in the biblical sense.
In her mind, they were just two people living together. True, she’d had his baby and was going to have another, but that didn’t seem all that different from Betty Lou Jacobs. She’d gotten pregnant her senior year in high school and hadn’t married the boy because she didn’t love him. God hadn’t struck Betty Lou down, and two years later, she’d married a man who took care of her and loved her and her little boy like life itself.
It was at that point Elizabeth realized she didn’t want to stay married to Benjamin. She could not endure a life of being ignored, not after Howard. It wasn’t the sex so much, she realized, as the simple fact that Howard wanted her and that he’d cared enough for her he didn’t just rush to satisfy his own needs. She thought he might want her, but even if he didn’t it would be better to be on her own than to stay with Benjamin. At least on her own, she’d be free to do what she wanted without Benjamin lecturing her on sin.
Elizabeth thought about talking to her mother, but figured her mother would just tell her she’d vowed to stay with Benjamin until one of them died and that’s what she had to do. There was only one other person she trusted enough to tell how she felt.
Elizabeth anxiously waited until the next Tuesday, and when Howard knocked on her door, she opened it, and before he could say anything, she asked him to come in and sit down so they could talk.
Howard sat his sample case on the floor and then sat down on the chair opposite the couch. He thought Elizabeth was going to tell him the week before had been a mistake and she couldn’t do that again. When she began speaking, he realized what she was really telling him.
“Howard, what we did last week…well, it opened my eyes about a lot of things. What you did was make me realize how unhappy I’ve been with my husband, and that made me think about what I needed to do. What I decided is I can’t keep living like I have been because it’s not living. I just don’t know how to get out of it…my marriage, I mean. You meet a lot of people. Have you ever known another woman with the same problem, and if you have, what did she do about it?”
Howard just looked at Elizabeth for a moment. She was half-smiling, but her eyes looked as if they were pleading with him.
“Elizabeth, you’re talking about a divorce. I do know one woman who got divorced, but she wasn’t the one who brought the case. It was her husband.”
“Why did he divorce her?”
“Because she was sleeping with another man. He caught them together one day, and she admitted she’d been doing it with him for weeks. Her husband really didn’t have much of a choice. He couldn’t stay married to her knowing she was doing that and the judge agreed. The only thing that turned out for the best is the judge didn’t award her any property or alimony because she was the cause. That didn’t matter to her. She married the man she was sleeping with and they’re happy now. The husband isn’t very happy that the marriage failed, but he’s happy she’s gone.”
“She told you all that? I’d think she’d be embarrassed to tell anyone what she did.”
Howard shook his head.
“She didn’t have to tell me, Elizabeth, because I already knew everything. I was the husband who divorced her.”
Elizabeth looked at the expression on Howard’s face, and a tear streamed down her cheek.
“Howard, I’m so sorry. You must think I’m no better than she was after what I talked you into doing.”
Howard half smiled.
“No, I don’t think that, and you didn’t talk me into anything I hadn’t already thought about a lot. Besides, it was different with her. We got married right before I left for Europe during the war. It was the thing to do then, and a lot of couples got married without really knowing each other.
It was when I came back home after the war I found them together. He had some sort of condition that exempted him from the draft and she needed a man to help her since I was in Europe. He was there and I wasn’t. They started out as friends, then decided they were in love, and…well, that’s what just naturally happened. Once I found out, I realized neither of us was really in love with the other.”
Elizabeth’s face was blank when she spoke.
“That sounds like how I feel. I’m married but it doesn’t feel like we love each other. Why didn’t you find another wife?”
Howard looked at the floor.
“Because I never found a woman I felt that way about…”
He looked up at Elizabeth then.
“…until I met you.”
Elizabeth put her hand on her chest.
“Is it because of what we did?”
Howard shook his head.
“No. That just convinced me that what I felt was real.”
There was no mistaking Elizabeth’s smile this time.
“You think you love me?”
“Yes, for all the good it will do. You’re still married, and I don’t see any way for you to divorce your husband. It would have to be because he was sleeping with another woman, and if what I hear about him is true, he’d never do anything like that.”
Elizabeth wiped the tears from her eyes.
“Howard, there’s a way. If I tell Benjamin what we did, he won’t be able to keep living with me and he’ll divorce me, but before I do that, I have to know if it matters that I already have a little boy and I’m pregnant with Benjamin’s baby. I don’t think I could ever give up either of them.”
“You’re going to tell him about us?”
“I am if you’re serious about wanting me…and my little boy and the baby I’m carrying. It would have to be all of us.”
“What if he wants to keep them? What will you do then?”
“I don’t know, but if he does, I’ll try to fight it, that is, if you still want me knowing I want to bring them with me.”
“Elizabeth, I like kids. We just never had any because I left with the Army so soon after we were married and when I came back… Your little boy is young enough he won’t know the difference and the baby won’t know at all. They’ll have to know someday, but until then, I’ll be happy to be their daddy.”
That Sunday after church, Elizabeth asked her mother if she could go home with her and talk for a while. When her mother said that would be fine, Elizabeth told Benjamin she needed to go home with her mother but that her mother would bring her home when they finished trying the clothes on Mark her mother had sewed for him. It was a lie and lying was another sin, but Elizabeth couldn’t think of another way to be alone with her mother.
Benjamin just nodded and said she needed go be home in time to cook supper. Elizabeth lied again and said she would, but she had no intention of ever going back to that little house alone again.
Elizabeth ate lunch with her mother and father, and after nursing Mark, she put him down for a nap and then asked her mother if they could talk about something privately. Her mother smiled.
“Your father will be taking his nap too, so we’ll just go into the living room.”
Her mother wasn’t smiling when Elizabeth told her what she was going to do and why. She did seem to understand though, because she didn’t tell Elizabeth she had to stay with Benjamin.
“Elizabeth, I wondered about you getting married to Benjamin, but it wasn’t my place to say anything. To tell you the truth, I’m not surprised. The Mason’s are good people, but they’re too strict in what they believe for my liking. I believe in what the Bible says, but it was written a long time ago and people were a lot different back then. Women needed men to take care of them and they married men just to have a man who would do that. Today, women can go to work so they don’t need men to take care of them, and I think there should be more than that to a marriage.
“When your father and I got married, it was for the same reason, but over the years, we grew to love each other. If you can’t do that with Benjamin, what you want to do won’t be any worse than staying with him and being unhappy. When are you going to tell him about Howard?”
“I was going to tell him tonight when you take me home. I’d like you to be there because I don’t know what he might do.”
Elizabeth mother patted her on the arm.
“I’ll go with you, but I don’t think you have to worry about Benjamin doing anything to you. He’ll be disappointed, but he’ll have some Bible phrases to explain why he shouldn’t do anything except divorce you. You tell him and then I’ll bring you and little Mark back here to stay until everything’s over and done.
Her mother frowned then.
“Elizabeth, Howard is a nice man, but I won’t have you committing adultery in my house, so I can’t approve of you two doing anything again until you’re divorced. Can you agree to that?”
“If I can just be with him and talk to him, I can.”
A week later, Howard knocked on the door of Elizabeth’s mother’s house and grinned when Elizabeth answered the door.
“I guess this means you told him.”
“Yes, I did, and he filed for divorce the next day. My lawyer says it will be fast because I didn’t ask Benjamin for anything except Mark and my baby.”
“How did he take it?”
“About like everything else. He didn’t get mad. He just called me a Jezebel and said he couldn’t live with me after I did what I did. He did say he’d pray for me though.”
“What about Mark and the baby?”
“He was pretty cruel about that. He said he couldn’t have a whore’s children in his house. That’s the other thing he called me – a whore. It didn’t bother me to be called a whore because I know I’m not, but it bothered me that he thought his own children weren’t worth having. It bothered my mother too. She told him if he’d taken better care of me instead of preaching to me all the time, I wouldn’t have done what I did, so if I was a whore with whore children, it was his fault. I didn’t think my mother would ever talk like that, but she did.”
Howard touched Elizabeth on the shoulder.
“So what happens with us now?”
Elizabeth put her arms around his neck.
“Unless you’ve changed your mind, we wait until the divorce is final and then start living together.”
“You don’t want to get married first?”
Elizabeth pressed her cheek against his.
“People will talk if we don’t, but I don’t care as long as I’m with you.”
As could be expected, the women of the town, the same women who went to church every Sunday and said they believed in what the Bible said about judging other people, those women talked about how Elizabeth had given in to the Devil and doing that had forced Benjamin to divorce her. They would temper that criticism by saying they didn’t know how any woman could live with a man like Benjamin anyway, so maybe it wasn’t all Elizabeth’s fault.
They also said that Howard shouldn’t have given in to Elizabeth either, but since most of the women liked Howard, they said he was only a man doing what a man did. A few stopped buying anything from him for a couple of months, but once he and Elizabeth were married, all that gossip stopped and they talked about how happy Howard and Elizabeth seemed to be now.
They’d been married a year when Howard was promoted to an assistant sales manger position, so he didn’t go door-to-door anymore. He moved his family – Elizabeth, Mark, and little Jennifer – to Slidel to be closer to his office there.
Elizabeth was a little wary of moving to a bigger city, but moving put her in the same city as the doctor she needed because she was pregnant again. She told her parents she was, but she didn’t tell them that she and Howard were still intimate at least several times a week. She thought she should keep that to herself. Her mother probably wouldn’t understand how happy that made her.
Benjamin didn’t marry again. He told the one woman who asked him if he was looking for a wife that no, he wasn’t because the Bible said if a man divorced his wife and then remarried, he was committing adultery. He still lives in the little house on the second farm, though he farms both since his father passed away. People at church say he seems to be even more serious about religion now, and they don’t like talking to him because he always has to quote phrases from the Bible about everything.
Howard was happier than he remembered ever being. Mark is only three, but Howard is teaching him how to fish and you’ll seldom see one without the other unless Howard is working.
Howard loves Jennifer like she was his own, and in reality, she sort of is. She wasn’t born until after he and Elizabeth were married, so he went through sitting in the hospital waiting room and worrying for the ten hours it took Elizabeth to deliver. His first thought upon seeing Jennifer’s little face was she looked a lot like Elizabeth. That opinion has changed several times. Now, he thinks Jennifer just looks like Jennifer, and Elizabeth has to keep reminding him not to spoil her so much.
Every night before Elizabeth goes to sleep, she closes her eyes and thanks God for Mark, Jennifer, and the baby she’s carrying. Then she says a special thanks to God for giving her Howard and another chance at life. She doesn’t know if God has forgiven her, but she thinks He probably has. If He hadn’t He wouldn’t have let her get pregnant with Howard’s baby.
If God hasn’t yet forgiven her…well, the Bible says God loves all his children even though they’re all sinners. Elizabeth thinks He will forgive her if she’s the best wife and mother she can be, and that’s what she’s trying hard to do.