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Genevieve - Part I
"Chris Keller's going free. His conviction was overturned."
Toby sat across the kitchen table, announcement made, looking at her expectantly.
"When?" She asked.
"Two days from now. They have to get all the paperwork in order. He's in protective custody until then." Toby paused. "But I'll have to call him back tonight with . . . well, some kind of response. Genevieve?"
"What do you want to do?" She asked. She meant; in the end, him or us? He understood immediately.
"You know I would never leave the kids." He said quickly
Toby's eyes widened. Oops. "I didn't mean that. I just mean . . . I'm staying here."
"Because of them." She couldn't keep the edge out of her voice, and saw his face contract in a brief show of anger, and knew the response he was biting back. 'At least I'm thinking about them, instead of trying to gas myself right in front of them. Giving Gary a story about how he called 911 for mommy.' She held out a hand. "I'm going to take Holly and Gary to school and then running some errands. Could you watch Harry? We'll talk this afternoon."
She managed to make it to the school, to let Holly and Gary out, kiss them good-bye and watch them make it inside. Then she drove around the block and sat inside the car, momentarily thinking of parking it in an enclosed space somewhere, leaving the motor running. She got out and threw up on the curb, got back in, drove to the next block, got out and sat on a bench. She fished a stick of gum out of her purse and chewed it, letting it take some of the bile-taste out of her mouth.
Toby's face at the breakfast table had held hope marred by new doubt. They really were exactly alike; pessimists and worriers. He had been so sure that Keller, his lover, would never get off of death row, and now that Keller had, Toby was sure she was going to leave him, leave them, try to kill herself; something to make him miserable. She, pessimistically, had always thought that Keller would get off death row. He was a real-life bogeyman, lurking in the shadow-world of Toby's life in prison, waiting to follow Toby into her world.
There'd always been signs of him: Toby's and her corresponding hospital stays, kind of romantic, both broken by love at the same time. A flustered new prison guard giving her the story, after Keller's confession about breaking Toby's arms and legs, telling her that he and Toby had become "close" and blushing so damn hard over the unspoken part that she couldn't fail to understand the meaning. Toby, not knowing what she'd heard, dropping the name "Keller" back into his letters. The stabbing, the letters becoming obviously more guarded after the New Year's lock down. Then a scrawled letter, with an obscene drawing, sent from Oswald, with a badly spelled detailing of Toby's activities during the lock down.
It had been the work of Toby's enemies, she'd realized. She'd laughed when she received it, at the misspelled words, the idea of her old Toby, meek, sweet, clueless Toby, now having "enemies." She laughed mostly at these enemies having no idea of just how much Mrs. Tobias Beecher had always been willing to ignore to maintain the status quo. The drinking, the "accident", the subsequent ostracism. When her parents came with Toby's partner urging divorce, she'd been herded into it, pushed more by the disastrous conjugal and the swastika on Toby's ass.
Her parents had stopped their urging after her suicide attempt. When she'd got back, the days were unbroken by any communication between her and Toby. She'd taken the kids to school, cared for Harry, halfheartedly looked for a part-time job to become 'independent.' Her mantra had been "Just don't think about dying."
Then came the kidnapping attempt. She'd been letting the kids walk home from school but that day she went out to meet them for a change, and arrived at school to see the van pull up. The next few minutes had been a blur, she'd been screaming, running, swinging her purse at the young face in the van, throwing the kids out of the van and shrieking, and clawing. She's barely felt the blow that had probably saved her life, knocking her out of the van before it skidded away from the school yard.
The next day she was sitting in Oswald, FBI agent on one side, Toby's parents on the other, left eye purple, and staring at Toby for the first time in two years. Toby was leaner, muscled and slouched, a five day beard covering the lower half of his face, and whenever the guards or Agent Taylor moved, his eyes filled with an animal resentment; a hatred strong enough to be visible, but muzzled enough for him to get away with it.
It was that day that she learned what the name Chris Keller really meant; ugly death to most of the people who came near him. And she saw Toby say, no, it couldn't be, he wouldn't, I just know it. His eyes caught hers, then his mother's, his father's, and then back to her. The agent pressed him again, and Toby exploded, screaming another name "Shillinger did this. Him and his son. Get him, keep him away from my kids." The guards rushing to restrain him, Toby's parents backing up, the god squad, a priest and a nun in the corner, coming in to calm Toby.
And then everyone froze, shocked, as small, sedate Genevieve Beecher flew across the room and attacked her own husband, screaming louder than she had in years and tearing her knuckles on that bearded face.
"What have you been doing in here? What did you do?" She screamed.
Later, cleaned up, chastised by the warden, and given one last chance to talk to Toby, a guard close enough to stop any trouble, but far enough away for privacy, she'd let Toby know he wasn't fooling her. His face crumpled.
"Fine. You know. I admit it. Divorce me, you've got all the grounds you could want. But for the kids sake, get them to look at this guy, Shillinger, because Chris would do not this."
"What makes you think I'm divorcing you? Do you want me to divorce you?" His blank, shocked face filled her with vicious satisfaction. "Toby, this is not the first time you've had an affair."
She'd got up and left. The next time Toby's father came back a visit, he'd given her a letter that had been basically a confession of the affair, with a final cryptic postscript, 'You don't have to worry for the kids anymore.' Toby's manifesto of guilt. That night the TV news had a small piece about another death at the prison, Vernon Shillinger, survived only by his father.
Genevieve had stayed, having been assured by lawyers and relatives that Chris Keller would stay in jail for at least fifty years, then life in Connecticut, then that he was sentenced to death, but all the while knowing he would creep out, somehow.
She drove home. Toby was in the living room, going through some paperwork, he looked up when she came through, but didn't press. They'd both learned, now, not to push each other, not to expect to get anything right the first time. It was by admitting that they were both fucked up that they managed to get through their new life together. She brushed her teeth, fixed some mint iced tea for the nausea, and came back into the living room.
"I assume he'll be . . . staying here, at least for some time."
"Yes, I think so. If he wants to."
"I'll make up the guest room." She said. "And I'll move my things in there this afternoon."
"If you have a problem with this. . ."
"I don't. It just makes sense. The king size bed should be for the two people who are sleeping together."
"Genevieve." He got up. Took her hand. She forced a smile. Mistake. He came in closer, those Harvard law trained eyes scanning her, figuring her out. "You're afraid of him."
Her hand shook in his. She refused to look at him until it stopped, then spoke evenly. "I am terrified of him. Terrified."
"Oh, Gen." He realized she wasn't spoiling for a fight, and the caution went out of him. He folded her close, stroking her hair like she was one of the kids. "He won't hurt you. If I thought for a second he would, I wouldn't bring him here."
"You think he'd stay away?"
"He's kept away from me before." He says. "He wouldn't do anything to you."
"You said 'he wouldn't' before, and you were wrong." She says, and he starts to protest. "You know it, and I know it. Everyone knows it. Just because Agent Taylor went over the line getting him prosecuted on that robbery and those . . . other things, it doesn't mean he's innocent. It just means Taylor wasn't innocent either."
"Genevieve, I'm telling you he's not a threat to you or the kids." Toby looks at her, hands on her shoulders. "I understand about this, and you . . . you weren't there. And you don't have to move out of the room."
"I don't want to see you leaving to go to him." She can see him begin to disagree with her. "He smokes doesn't he?"
Toby stares, gold eyebrows ruffled, suddenly suspicious. The lawyer in him knows not to answer this question. The husband in him feels trapped and obligated. "Yes, he does."
"The day when I came to pick you up, when you got paroled. Remember?" She asks. He nods cautiously. "And you were a long time coming back with your things, the guards told me you were having your farewell visits. You came back smelling of smoke. Not a lot. Just faintly, on your clothes. The way you do when push up against some one who's been smoking. I thought they didn't allow smoking anymore."
"You can get away with a lot after lights out." Toby said; half bitterly, remembering pain, half defiantly, thrown in her face.
"They were laughing behind their hands. The sad little wife, waiting there, while her husband says good-bye to his lover. Rather be in prison with him, than free with her."
"Like I said, you don't know a thing about it." He snaps, uncharacteristically dismissive. He does that sometimes, when she complains about her side of the time he spent in Oz. The years before, yes those he'll allow, and these months after have been nonstop atonement for him, on all fronts, but those years, the suffering was his, and his alone.
"I know enough to give you two the room."
It's a school day on the day of Christopher Keller's release, a fact for which Genevieve is profoundly grateful, because she does NOT want to be on that car ride. She has to talk to Holly's teacher, then she delays further by getting groceries, they'll give her something useful to do with her hands when she gets home. She's planning a lot of 'projects' like this. She needs to be busy.
When she pulls in the driveway, the other car still isn't there yet. She sets the kids free on the lawn while she unloads the car, school junk, bikes, sweaters, paper bags full of food. When she comes out from hanging up the kids' coats and putting away their lunch boxes, she sees the kids crowding around Toby and another man; tall, wearing dark clothes and immediately recognizable as the kind of guy suburban housewives either instinctively avoid, or learn to avoid the hard way. He bends to touch Harry, who's got a grasp on his pant leg, and it's harder than she expected to stop the scream in her throat.
Ready as I'll ever be, she thinks, and walks over. She goes to Toby first, and gives him the customary kiss on the cheek, as much for the kids' benefit as anything else. She smells sex and cigarette smoke, she stiffens against Toby before she can stop herself, knows why he's late coming back. She turns to Keller and makes herself go back to the mild smile she used during dinner parties (back when they still got invited to dinner parties).
"Mr. Keller." She says, holding out her hand. And immediately blushes deeply, because it's all wrong, too formal, too cold, and most of all too bland, not letting him know she's on to anything, or making him think she's trying to cover it up. All wrong, and she feels stupid, holding her hand out like it's cocktail hour at the office party.
A warm hand is on hers, holding hers for a moment, then slipping away. "Chris. How do you do, Mrs. Beecher."
The tone is perfect; teasing with your buddy's wife, half flirting, come on, sweetheart, there's no formality here, right? Right?
"Genevieve." She says, lamely, glancing at Toby. He's watching them both too carefully to react to them. She looks back to Chris, at a loss, unable to focus on anything, getting his face in flashes, cut between Toby, the house, the kids. The sharp nose, wide shoulders leading up to a neck as wide as his head, pumped, more so than Toby, thick body, eyebrows overhanging dark eyes, shadowing them further. The expression in the eyes is a bit too warm, wandering over her, or maybe they're too cold, calculating. She doesn't know whether they're unfathomable, or just beyond her experience. But the smile is a dead give away. Men like him should keep themselves from smiling. The smile is purely predatory, no matter the innocent tone, the easy body language. Chris couldn't make that grin look any more friendly than a shark's.
"Go on in the house sit down, you must be tired."
"I can help with these, Genevieve." He says, gesturing to the bags.
"No, really. You're a guest." She turns on the motor mouth to cover her nerves, like she did during the conjugal visit. It doesn't work now, either. Stupid stupid stupid. "I can manage just fine. Toby will show you around. Dinner will be a little late. You're not allergic to anything are you?" Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid. But it earns her a genuine laugh from him.
"Nothing I can think of." He turns toward the house, nearly knocking over Harry, who still has hold of him.
"I gon sit by YOU" Harry lisps out.
"Sure, buddy." Chris says. Infinitely obliging.
The next three days are torture, pure and simple. Chris, blessedly, goes out during the day, but is home whenever Toby is, always around him, always looking, touching, visibly impatient as the evening wears on and the kids take their time going to bed.
'Well, what did you think living in a house with kids was going to be like, think they just disappear whenever you want to fuck their father?' she thinks. She's been cleaning, cooking, baking, sewing, anything to avoid them, which is seemingly fine with Chris, who has only one thing in common with her, a love of baseball not shared by Toby. Toby's been dancing between them so fast his feet are about to catch fire. The only completely comfortable one in the house is Harry, who has taken to Chris in that mysterious way that young children do, always sitting near him, talking to him, showing him band-aids and booboos. Chris responds in murmurs, slightly awkward but easygoing.
It's a relief when something comes up to fight about. On Friday, Chris leaves a message on the machine that he won't be back tonight, and Toby paces and frets, and she goes to her bedroom, only to get no more sleep than Toby does. She can hear Chris come in at six in the morning, a murmur of voices downstairs, then Chris coming up the stairs, loud enough to wake the kids, who are early risers. She comes out of her room and herds them through a hallway that smells of smoke and perfume just from Chris walking through it. Downstairs, breakfast started, Toby is faking a good night's sleep manfully, a shower turns on upstairs, installing the kids in front of Saturday morning cartoons. Then she goes up the stairs behind Toby, quietly, a ghost.
She feels like the quintessential jealous wife, listening at door, as Toby and his lover talk.
"You were safe about it, at least. Right?"
"Fuck you, Beecher."
"Go ahead if you want. Except I guess that's not ENOUGH for you anymore."
"You been sleeping alone the last six months I was on Death Row?"
"Fuck you, she's my wife."
"That makes it okay? Cause I got wives too, remember? You want me to bring them up here?" A deliberately dirty laugh. "How about Kitty? She can bunk with Gen. Or Angelique, looks enough like Gen, it'd be like having twins."
"How 'bout when you got out Tobe? Hmmm? How many times you fuck her that first day, while I was rotting in the hole? I'm thinking at least twice."
Silence, voices getting more quiet, coming closer to the door. She tenses, ready to run if she has to get away from the door. Chris' voice again, soft, deliberately seductive, she hasn't heard it like this before.
"And when you were inside her, were you thinking of me?" An outraged yell from Toby and the sounds of a struggle, bodies against each other, and then a body hitting the door, held against it. She smothers any sound coming out of her, muscles twitching, on her toes, panicking. Then no noise except the soft sound of fabric moving against the door. Then Chris again, same voice.
"You weren't thinking of this, were you Tobe, huh? You were thinking that if you didn't have something here at home, you'd tear off to a bar to go get it. Something soft and wet, the tits, the way they moan high in their throat when they're close to coming. Hmmm." A warm sound of remembrance from Chris, and then a low, long, ragged moan from Toby and a sudden kick against the door.
"That's it, yeah, Toby, baby. Ah!" A yelp from Chris, a sound of unexpected, but not unwelcome, pain, and another buck against the door. "Oh god. Toby."
The low, humming, indistinguishable voices of two men, and she flees down the hall, noticing too late that the light is on in the hallway, but not in the master bedroom. Meaning that a person coming out of the bathroom facing the door, especially a person who's trained themselves to look for potential witnesses, would be able to see the shadows of her feet under the door.
Later, her face still flaming, she sits behind the kids, still in her robe, and thinks; yes, twice, that's right. She remembers the day, driving Toby home, his anxious look meeting Harry, then just barely four, who seemed to like him, even if he didn't remember him. At first he'd stayed away from her, hovering around the kids, stroking their hair, playing with the tiny, soft hands, always in contact. There had been an unexpected intimacy in putting the kids to bed, low voices the huddling together around the small beds in low light. But afterward he'd looked so exhausted. She'd kissed his cheek and moved away, saying she needed to clean up downstairs for just a second.
He'd followed her downstairs, so quietly she hadn't noticed. An arm gently wrapped around her waist and drew her back against a body that was unfamiliar to her, too lean and tense. He nuzzled the top of her head, inhaling, then she could feel him hunch around her, duck his head down and bend his knees to bury his face in her hair, shaking his head slowly to draw the strands across his face. The arm pulled her more firmly against him, and his lips touch her ear. Then he paused. She looked down and saw his hand, paused at the line of buttons on the front of her shirt, tracing the buttons, fingers slipping under the seam to stop just before they touched her skin. He had gone as far as he would go without some sign of acquiescence from her. That hesitance reassured her. It was like feeling the sand at the bottom of a river.
She arched back against him and covered his hand with both of hers, undoing the button at her waist. His arms came around her, tightened almost spasmodically, then slowly pulled the sides of her shirt open, a hand spanned her stomach and she could feel the body around her shiver.
He had gotten rid of the rest of her clothes the same way, the same gentle, insistent undressing, until she was naked, a little flushed with embarrassment, in the middle of the living room. His hands hovered over her, darting in every few seconds to smooth over parts of her body, down one side of her throat, from her waist to her belly, under the ends of her hair, then pulling away, oddly hesitant. Then one hand stayed on her shoulder and urged her toward the door, up the stairs. She passed windows, looking out on the front yard, the back yard. She pulled up her arms, covering her breasts, her ass, turning away. Toby caught her arms at the wrist, not really pushing them down, but guiding them away from her body, half-smiling. She pointedly looked out the windows and he caught the look, but didn't seem to understand. She realized that his definition of privacy had probably been redefined.
When they got to the bedroom he glanced around and maneuvered her away from the bed, toward her desk, still infinitely careful. His fingertips on her hips pushed her back and she'd awkwardly climbed onto the desk. The same fingertips touched on her face, and she'd let herself fall back, legs lifting, opening as her feet searched for purchase at the edge of the desk. Toby stood between her knees, hands still on her face, expression still distant, and she'd stared at him, confused, aroused, craving touch and the ability to hide herself against his body.
She closed her eyes to cut the self-consciousness, her hands still by her sides. She felt his hands trace down her throat, one lifted and the other flattened over her chest, Toby's wide palm tracing down her sternum, between her breasts. There was a surge of frustration at the relentlessly chaste touches, and then her whole body spasmed so violently and suddenly that it was only in the aftermath that she consciously registered, along with the stinging under her fingernails from clawing the wood of the desk, Toby's cool fingertips, now stroking softly through the wetness between her spread legs.
Genevieve could remember trying to breathe in and scream at the same time and managing what could only be described as a sob. It wasn't loud, but she bruised her mouth with the heel of her hand trying to muffle it. She tasted blood, and felt other sensations coming back to her, the smooth surface of the wood as her other hand scrabbled for a hold, and the edge of the desk like a blade against the bottom of her feet. She was using whatever leverage she could to push herself into Toby's hand. It had been five years since she had felt any hand but her own there. Every movement of his hand making her shiver and draw in air so quickly it was almost like retching. Then Toby's other hand wrenching her hand away from her mouth and his mouth on hers, hard. Her nails were ripping at his clothes, but she couldn't get her hands to work well enough to undress him.
She heard a zipper, and then blunt pressure inside of her, stretching pain that she clenched around instinctively. Toby groaned against her mouth, the deep shudders running through his body, and pushed her into the desk hard. His hands circled each of her shoulders, and he pressed up off her, his weight on his knuckles, light pressure on her from the heels of his hands. A moment of panic that he would pull away made her wrap her thighs around his hips. She fisted her hands in his sleeves. The teeth of his zipper abraded her thighs as she pulled her legs up higher, trying to bend his body down to her again, tugging at his arms. He stayed still until she calmed and unclenched her fists.
One of his hands crept up to stroke her face, the other fell to her hip and he'd rocked into her. He straightened increasing the pressure inside her, still rocking, slowly growing more forceful, and his hands returned to their odd, gentle touching. At last she gave in to it, closing her eyes and pressing herself against the touches until her orgasm had hit her out of nowhere and she convulsed around him, clutching at him blindly with legs and arms and fingers.
She'd been half-asleep from the release and the exhaustion when he'd helped her off the desk and into bed. She'd heard him shucking his clothes and then he'd crawled under the covers. He'd spooned his body behind her, one hand coming around her, not over her shoulders, but down over her hips, cupping between her legs and holding their hips together. She'd barely registered the strangeness of this before they were both asleep.
She'd been woken later by motion. He was rocking her between his body and his hand. She opened her eyes to darkness, and tensed for a moment, disoriented. His mouth was against her ear.
"Genevieve, I love you so much." They hadn't changed his voice, at least.
But they were only appropriate words to say, to let her know who he was, what he was doing. Still, she needed to hear them, loved to hear them, and opened her legs when she felt his knee push between them. She arched her back and he'd pushed inside her. She was sore. How could she be sore, she wondered, after having three children? They'd moved together, his hand sliding gently over himself and her clit, the other hand around her shoulders, even when she came it was more of a soothing release than a sensation of it's own. She'd fallen asleep as soon he let her go.
It's lunch time when Toby emerges, and comes downstairs, bleary-eyed and sleep-tousled. Gary demands a game of catch, and Toby jumps at the chance.
"Gary," She says. "Go get your favorite ball from your room and your GI Joe baseball glove, okay? We'll be out in the yard."
As Gary rushes up to his room, Toby follows her outside, wary. He knows the ploy; they have time to talk, but don't have time to fight.
"My parents called. They want me and the kids to visit for a week."
"But not me."
"You can't leave the state, Toby. But no, not you."
"It has to do with Chris." The question hangs, unspoken. What did you tell them?
"I imagine it does. I haven't said anything Toby, but it's not exactly like this thing could go unnoticed by our families."
Toby is shaking his head. "And this call was unsolicited." A statement, a question, an accusation all at once. She's forgotten, now and then, dealing with the difficulty of living with an ex-con, a cheating husband, and an alcoholic, how difficult it was just dealing with a lawyer.
"Yes. It was."
"But it wasn't an unpleasant surprise."
"No, it wasn't. But if it makes you feel better, things have been going so unexpectedly well here lately that I only wept relief for ten minutes when I got their offer." She said. "I can fly down tomorrow, we can stay for three days, you guys can get settled in here."
"How generous of you."
"All right, Mr Tobias Stewart Beecher, Esquire, how's this: I need a break. Desperately. And I will not leave my children here."
He starts to turn away, shoulders up, hands fisted in his pockets. He looks out at the swing set, the toys strewn over the yard, shaking his head. She realizes what's eating at him.
"And I will not leave them there, either." She hears a sound from above her, in the house, and looks up fearfully, scanning the windows of the master bedroom. Toby catches her look, and she turns away, partially, feels her voice tense, get frail and quivery. "Please, Toby, it's hard."
The next day she is on a plane.
She comes back worse than she left. Her parents had cornered her the moment she'd arrived, and not let up until she left. It was all she could do to keep them from talking within earshot of the kids. They wanted arguments for her position, she had no arguments, no reasons, only refusals. No she would not divorce, no she would not leave, no the kids would not leave their father. The children themselves had been anxious, away from Toby again for the first time, and she'd had a tough time keeping them in hand.
By the time she got off the plane she felt bruised, exhausted and she clung to Toby, briefly, before they had headed out to the car.
The house is near spotless, there is Toby's spaghetti for dinner, and afterward they relax in the living room. Not even Chris' presence can bother her right now. Toby talks softly about the weekend, trying to register Gary for summer soccer, biking, dinner at a local dive restaurant, work on Monday. She notices her bag still on the floor and takes it up to her room. The room is the same as when she left, but with an odd smell. She checks around. A pizza box is under the bed. She fishes it out and crumpled it, her mood broken. Slipping down the back steps, she goes to the trash. Lifts the lid and finds countless take-out containers; cartons from Chinese restaurants, long styrofoam rectangles from diners, more pizza boxes, half wrapped Indian food. And lube containers. And the tangled, destroyed sheets that had been on her bed when she left. The twist in her stomach is harder than she expected.
She comes back in and manages a goodnight. Up the stairs, into bed, locking the door behind her.
The next morning, she gets the kids off to school and Harry to his play group, then shakily makes it home. She hears the men in the kitchen, talking, considers sneaking up the stairs, instead calls out.
"I'm going to try to catch a couple more hours of sleep." She rushes up to her room before anyone answers.
The act of hurrying up the stairs seems exhausting, and she barely shucks her shoes and socks before climbing into bed. In therapy, after the suicide attempt she heard one woman say that she felt fragile, as if she would shatter at the slightest touch. Genevieve had never felt that way. She felt more like cotton wool, sluggish, exhausted and soft. If someone touched her, she would simply fold. So when her parents came to her with divorce papers, when Toby's old partners were picking at her, when the thoughts of suicide came, they found her like this; utterly incapable of any kind of resistance.
She lies in bed and remembers what Toby had been like in the weeks following his parole. After that first night, he had never stopped touching her. During the day when the kids were around, he had been subtle, stroking the ends of her hair, putting his hand on her knee when she sat down, on the small of her back when they walked. Alone, he always pulled her next to him, running his hand up and down the smooth curve of her bare calf, letting one finger stroke her thigh just under the hem of her skirt, tracing her lips, the neckline of her shirt.
The nights and the days when the kids were out at school, Toby spent sprawled across the bed with her. He lay with her on top of him, his legs rubbing against hers, feeling their smoothness, hands tracing the curve of her ass. Or he spooned around her, one hand stroking a path from her breasts down between her legs, stroking the skin of her thighs, then back up. Other times he'd pull her into his arms and hold her to him, licking at her breasts, kissing the line where they folded back into her chest. He'd stroke and nuzzle them for what seemed like hours, gently brushing his stubbled chin over them, then catching a nipple in his mouth and drawing hard, laving it with his tongue. Then he'd lie back and almost idly tease around them with one hand. She became as tender as when she'd been breast feeding the kids.
The first day that the kids went back to school he stroked and sucked at her for so long that she was trembling and exhausted by the time he parted her legs. She reached for him, but he slid down her body, pushing the leg nearest him flat, kissing one hip. He stroked the wetness there, brushed his fingertips over her thighs, leaning in to lick the patterns he'd traced.
He stroked her agonizingly softly, kissing her thighs, chuckling when she threw a hand up to cover her face, self-conscious. His thumb came up to press over her clit, not moving, but her hips jerked up against it immediately. Toby's laugh was cut short when she moaned, and her urgency seemed to infect him. He loved noise, now, especially gasps and moans from her, and if he found something that would make her cry out he would do it again and again, lips against her ear, encouraging, "louder, I love that." His hand moved, twisted, two fingers inside her, the flat of his palm spreading her, heel of his hand pressing again, so gently against her clit, arousing without the hope of satisfying. Suddenly she was twisting, trying to trap his hand between her legs, failing because he'd draped himself across the leg nearest to him. She was groaning, high and rough enough to hurt her throat. Her hands went out of control, clawing her own face and down her sore breast to lock over Toby's hand, forcing it harder against her. When the hand pulled away, pulled her own hands away, she went cold, shivering, sane enough to form words.
"Oh god, please, Toby, please."
He covered her, shaking. He pulled her hips to him sharply, and entered her. She buried into the angular warmth of his shoulder, his collar bone, whimpering in her throat, listening to him murmur to her as he pushed into her, slow and hard, grinding her against the bed, until she came, almost shrieking. He picked up speed until his last few thrusts were arrhythmic and violent, his teeth against her neck, her ear.
A lot of their sessions were like this, first frustrating slow and soft, then rough enough to keep her sore. Making love with Toby had become an oddly schizophrenic experience.
Toby had always been gentle with her. Not tentative, they had been fairly easy with each other in bed and years of marriage had lead to familiarity; and certainly not fumbling; sometimes it seemed like the only part of the relationship he was good at was kissing, touching and finally shutting up.
A few times, after his brief affair with a paralegal, she had tried to coax him into the kind wild, intense sex that she had imagined had drawn him away from her arms, but mostly she was grateful. She'd had a boyfriend in high school who seemed to confuse the amount of force it took to get himself off, and the amount of force and pressure it took to get her off. Two more in college had been, not exactly rough, but mostly drunk, big, enthusiastic, and unskilled, and one, in the heat of passion, always confused her nipples with radio dials. Sex with Toby had been like falling into a feather bed; warmth, pleasure, and comfort.
When he got out, it changed. His touch was constant, and compulsively soft. His hands would glide over areas in a way that tickled unbearably, or where the skin was too tough to feel anything and she'd press against it, or squirm, and he'd just pull back further. Sometimes she'd whisper "harder, harder, please." He'd turn his hand so his knuckles were against her and gently butt his hand against her skin, the way a cat rubs against a persons legs. Then he'd twist his hand again, and return to grazing over her with the pads of his fingers. She'd try to press against him, try to arouse him with her hands, and he'd push them away, keep her at arms length.
"Do you not like it when I touch you?" She'd asked shamefacedly one day. They'd been on the couch after putting the kids to bed.
"No. No Genevieve it's not that. I love it, you don't know." His face contracted into that kicked-puppy expression she knew so well for so long. Toby, pained, withdrawn, trying to explain all the things she didn't know. The message clear; please don't push me. "I just need to be in control right now, with you and the kids."
Sometimes flashes of rage would go through her at this explanation. It was all so Victorian; "Oh my wife, I must keep you safe from my animal desires. Do not tempt me, for my passion cannot be unleashed on so frail a vessel as woman."
But then hadn't she played into that, all those years ignoring the drinking, silently trusting, getting dependent, making a show of weakness to Toby would see how responsible he needed to be, how much his drinking hurt her. And the suicide attempt, how perfect, too bad she'd spoiled with carbon monoxide rather than arsenic or laudanum.
And sometimes, well, she could see the logic. Sometimes, after an hour of gentleness, he'd pull her to him. The way his lungs worked like bellows, trying to breathe through desire, reminded her of the way she'd tried to breathe through the pain of childbirth. Then he'd shake his head, close his eyes and give in, fingers digging into her hips, her shoulders, her wrists; hips snapping forward, moaning out a combination of pleasure and defeat. It didn't matter to her at the time, since foreplay lasted long enough to make her frantic, but the next day she'd have trouble crossing her legs, and she'd find finger marks, and teeth-marks. Toby had always used his teeth when they made love, playful bites at her ear or nips down her neck, or gently taking a fold of skin between his teeth and wrenching like a mother cat carrying a kitten. Now, when he was restrained, he'd rub the smooth front of his teeth against her arm, or her stomach, or run the flat ridge of his front teeth back and forth over her shoulder. When he went rough and mindless, he's literally bite, sometimes sharp enough to make her jump and bring tears to her eyes, and the next day she'd see his eyes fill with guilt when he saw the two half-circles of bruises. He'd stay away from her for the rest of the day, then come back, and make love immediately, barely touching her, but cupping his hand around the wound to protect it from his mouth.
She reveled in the attention, always, but she'd come to understand that he was touching what she represented, not what she was. He looked at her and saw a woman, an almost fetishistic object representing his ticket back to his old life, something he desired but also something that needed to be protected from everything that he was inside Oz. The fact that she was his wife was only a convenience. If she hadn't been there, he'd have done just what Chris said, gone out and got something soft and wet, with tits. But not something with a dick. He didn't want a man. He wanted Chris.
And now she is lying in bed losing hope that he will ever again want Genevieve.
She doesn't want to see anyone, so she waits, listening to doors open and close, water running. She hears Toby calling out downstairs, then the front door closing, then the car driving off. Chris moves more quietly, but she can make out dishes being dropped in the sink, footsteps up the stairs, down the stairs, it takes a long time but she can wait. She doesn't particularly want to get up. The front door slams and the second car drives away.
She goes downstairs and does the breakfast dishes, straightens up a little. She gathers the laundry strips the kid's beds, but not hers since the sheets are obviously fresh. She hesitates a moment, then lugs the laundry bag into the master bedroom. She pulls off the sheets without looking at them. At one point she timed herself and found out that she can change the whole damn bed in five minutes, but that turns out not to be fast enough, because she nearly jumps out of her skin when she hears a door close behind her and knows it isn't Toby.
"Hello." Chris' voice is on the amiable side of neutral.
"Hello. I'm just changing the sheets." Why not fall back on the obvious? It stalls for time. One part of her mind is amused. What a predicament. She can't admit that she's just been waiting for them to get out of the house. He can't admit he faked her out and came back to find her. Or maybe he can, who knows? Maybe, says the other part of her brain, this is the day Toby comes home to find her gone, or back in the garage with the car running, a "suicide" instead of a suicide.
"I figured we need to talk." He says, casual, leaning on the opposite wall, arms folded loosely.
"About?" She's trying to make this better somehow, but just can't figure it out. What does one say?
"That's up to you." Chris is looking at her, over his shoulder, left, right, he slides away from door, along the wall. "Anything you want. You gotta have something on your mind about all this." He pushes himself off the wall and continues around the room, keeping his distance, walking a wide circle around her. "I'm giving you a free pass. You know, say what you want."
He comes to rest at the other side of the bed. He folds his hands behind him, and leans against them. The effect is supposed to be reassuring, and strangely it is, not because of what he's doing, but that he feels self-conscious enough to do it. But even if he were standing in front of her with a knife in his hand, there's only one thing she can think of.
"If you harm my children in any way, I'll kill you."
Surprise and incredulity on Chris' face. She presses on.
"I'll find a way." It feels good to say it, to take in his shocked reaction. It takes away some of the fear. She watches him, a little bit more confident, as he tries to decide whether he's angry. He looks up, a grin on his face that masks some anger, and something else.
"What makes you think I'd hurt Toby's kids, any more than anyone else would?"
"I'm getting fuckin' sick of this."
"I'm sorry." A preternatural calm descends on her. She knows it can't last and presses on. "You asked. I told you."
He grins, all casual again, and drawls. "Yeah, you did." He's looking her over, eyebrows raised, pleased for no reason she can think of. He let's his eyes slide over her, less casual before. He leans in, "What would you say if I told you I fixed it so your kids don't have to worry about that Nazi fuck Shillinger and his spawn anymore."
"Toby did that."
"What makes you think that?" He stares at the unmade bed, cocking his head sideways.
"He feels guilty about it."
Chris's eyes snap up, considering her again. She gets it now. She's impressing him. Then again, he's probably set the bar low. She snorts, offended for some reason. "Chris, he is my husband."
"Do you like the thought that he did that? Make you feel safer, love him more?"
"Good, then I don't feel so bad." He leans in, hand on the mattress. "Toby had the will, but not the skill. Guy goes to all the wrong people. I had to do something. Couldn't let him go down in flames, caught by the police, or the Aryans."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"So you know I'm not gonna hurt your kids. I've risked enough for them already. And because telling you won't hurt me any."
"You know that for sure." She asks.
There's a little tension in his frame, the hands stroke the bed, he's making a show of being distracted, casual.
"Who are you gonna tell? Toby? The police? You're the wife of the man I'm fucking, for chrissake, now there ain't a lawyer in the state that could make that stick, Genevieve."
The calm flees, fear returns, and with it exhaustion. She gathers the sheets in silence. In the end though, she feels bound to say something. Thinking back on that day with the van, the paranoia following it, she realizes that she'd thank Satan for ending that misery.
"I'm more grateful than I can say for your help with . . . the children."
He lets out a short, explosive chuckle. "Sure you are. I'm thinking your little threat still stands, though."
Another laugh, then, "Wait, wait, wait." She can hear him cross the room, but can't move faster with the bag of laundry. His hand is on her wrist, the other pries her hand open, getting her to drop the laundry bag. He starts to pull her across the room. She starts back on her toes when he swings around toward the bed. "Easy there, Genevieve." He continues the arc, and heads to the desk. "Come on, come on, I just want to check something."
They're facing the desk, one of her hands in both of his. He uses an elbow to push some papers aside. There are the scratch marks, bright gold and still newly exposed against the dark-stained wood. Chris pulls her hand over it, then away, reaching out one thumb to feel the direction of the scratch. She stifles quick whimper as he twists her hand. He shakes his head at the way it still doesn't fit, then snorts, smiling, grabbing her shoulders and turning her around so she's facing him. He steps to the side, backing up just a bit, shooting her a look, showing her he's making an effort to give her space.
He takes her hand again and fits her fingernails to the beginning of the scratch mark. He presses the hand down and walks around her to grab the other hand. He fits it to the mark on the other side. She feels her face on fire again, glances up expecting a leer, but he looks at her hands, not lascivious, just intent. He steps back he takes in the whole picture, her up on tiptoe on one foot, the other braced against the front of the desk, leaning backwards and pressing on the desk with her fingertips trying to keep upright. He comes closer, one hand on each of hers, and begins to draw her hands back along the scratches, his fingers pressing hers into the wood, intimate. He backs off immediately when she stiffens, fights her hands out from under his, stands up.
She gets about a step from the desk when he comes back in, hands up, palms forward. He keeps eye contact with her as his hands come closer, checking her reaction. One hand lands on her waist, the other hovers in the air near her face. She can feel the heat from it. She drops her eyes, willing herself not to care what happens.
"You know this is what Toby wants, right?" Chris says. "You, me, him. You know someday it's gotta break that way."
"And now is the day?"
"It'd be tough, considering Toby's not here. But if you want to start fun, I'm game. Toby'll get home eventually. Hey, relax." This last when her hands come up and push at his shoulders. His other hand comes up, stroking the hair at the nape of her neck. He comes closer nuzzling her temple. "Kiss me. Shhh shhh, no. Just a kiss, it's okay."
His mouth traces down her face, coming to rest over hers. She can't stop the tremors in her, but she's not moving away. A part of her is shocked at how fast she's back in the old days, going numb, pliant. He's right, this is what Toby's been hoping for. Not directly, but in typical Toby fashion, hoping for a change in some way, just not letting himself think about what it would be. She's clinging to this as a murderer is holding her, kissing her the innocent, careful way a fifteen-year-old might make a move on his prom date. The hand on her neck urges her head back, and pictures of Brice Tibbett's body, head twisted cartoonishly far on his snapped neck, come to her, and shakes start getting harder and harder, fear and inertia battling it out. Every moment the lips on hers, the tongue tracing her mouth, locks her into a reality that's too much fear and need to juggle.
And Chris is thinking, 'Oh, baby, are you lucky you're not a man.'
Because this; someone quietly freaking out in his arms, but still staying, compliant, trembling; this would be enough to send him right over the edge. Maybe even now, maybe even with Toby's terrible look of betrayal, and the electric chair courtesy of Agent Taylor, waiting for him.
But the body in his arms is too small, and he feels the rounded curve of her waist under his hand, the heavy hair, the slightly creamy slide of lipstick. Even the breathing, constricted by fear into a gasping wheeze, is too high. The signals are perfect, but the flesh is the wrong dimensions, and he just doesn't feel . . . whatever it is that kept him going back to prison like it was his favorite fucking place in the world.
He remembers some session with Sister Pete, he can't think when it happened, but it was well past Beecher-gate, when they were officially friends again, despite her knowing about his, well, less Catholic, pursuits. She'd looked over his record in Oz, and the record of his crimes, both those for which he was officially convicted and the ones they merely suspected. She'd glanced up.
"You mentioned your emotional tailspin when your wife left you." She said. "What did that involve?"
He shrugged, nodding to the thick folder on her desk. "You've read it."
"Why did she leave you?"
"Drinking, drugs, scams, other girls. Sometimes I'd leave for a few days at a time. She didn't like that. I wasn't what you'd call a great husband. I mean, you name it, I did it."
"Abuse?" She asked, keeping her voice detached.
"And with your other wives?"
"No. I'd get mad, sure, throw pretty much everything else around, but not them."
"Did they ever come after you?"
He laughed a little. "Bonnie wasn't a fast mover. And the other two, you've seen 'em, they weren't exactly my fighting weight. Easy to fend them off. Why're you so interested in my wives?"
"It occurs to me, Chris, that in your history, criminal, social, psychological, there's a lot of violence, but all of it against men. No domestic violence. No sexual assault against women. No skirmishes in the visiting room. I've been doing this for while. That's rare." She looked at him, hands toying with her glasses. "Chris, any thoughts on why?"
"I've done it. When I was younger, got out of Lardner, I pushed around my girlfriends a couple of times. And there were, you know, woman hacks a few times. But they don't really count. You know, in here a hack's a hack."
"When was this, with your girlfriends?"
"I was around twenty."
"So you did it, and you stopped. Why?"
"No challenge." He shrugged, uninterested even in the concept. "No charge."
Come on, he thought. Guy has to keep in condition. Not that he hadn't met a few women that gave as good as they got, but men, especially the cops and cons he was used to, it was a challenge to freak 'em out, get past the front they put on. Women, on the other hand, had their guard up immediately, and let him know about it. Hell, those like his ex-wife Kitty, they been trained since knee-socks age to stay away from guys like him, and even when they knew him well they went on red alert easily. More of a challenge to charm them, make them think he was a pussycat, a wounded soul.
Sister Pete looked at him, not buying it. "So that's it?"
"No." Fuck, how to explain it? How GOOD it was with men. Even with Beecher, when he'd seen the regret coming even when he was breaking hearts and legs, it had been so good. He'd layer pain, power, control, fear, sex, all of it. More and more, and he'd just slide out of his mind like he was fucking going on vacation.
With women, it was a few seconds of rage, and then it was over, one way or another. And he'd be there, knuckles stinging, still pissed, frustrated and with a twisting, unaccountable urge to flee. He'd tried to explain it to Sister Pete.
"But Chris, don't you see? That's the feeling that makes everybody keep from hurting each other. That's the point. You're not supposed to like it." She was looking at him, one small-boned hand gesturing, fingers outspread; her 'breakthrough' posture. The woman had a way of making him feel proud and ashamed all at once.
He'd leaned forward with a vicious smile, and said, "Well, Sister, I'm real glad that it's so easy for the rest of you, but what am I supposed to do about it? See, I DO like it."
The answer to that had been Toby, the fucked-up, one-man, sociopath-rehabilitation center, the one person Chris had tried to spare pain. Toby, who now comes with kids, a house, and this woman, who is coming apart, as politely as possible, while he's kissing her.
He's coming on like he did with Kitty, all soft and tentative. His shoulders are beginning to ache from keeping the weight of his arms off of her, he keeps his kisses soft, undemanding. He gives her nothing to react to. The problem is, at this point it doesn't matter what he does. He can feel the sudden, tiny spasms in the muscles up and down her back, the way her arms maintain a pressure against his chest. Her long neck twitches the way the necks of nervous horses do, pulling away from his fingers, then startling back when she feels more pressure on her mouth. Her mind is going a thousand miles a hour and nothing she knows about him is good. In other words, soft and tender is not going to work on this one.
The moment he realizes this, what's left of the kiss goes wrong. He catches his breath, and brings his lips back down on hers the moment she begins to inhale, feels her choke, suffocated. The body in his arms jerks violently, shakes, panic closing in. Genevieve's breath turns to shallow, inhaled almost-shrieks, the sound of her throat tightening further. She starts pushing at his chest, her head making tiny shaking movements to try to get away from his mouth to breath. But it's still so subdued. The part of him that's seen the inside of prisons since seventeen laughs. 'Come on, sweetheart, this is surrender. Not even your mother could call this putting up a fight.' The other part of him knows he needs some damage control, so he lets her go. He does it smooth enough to not look disconcerted, slow enough to let her know he's letting her go, she's not escaping.
She breaks off, panting. Not the good kind of panting. It's all exhaustion and desperation, like a marathon runner. She's disoriented, half bent over, but still making for the door. And the amused running commentary in his head is still going; 'What, no one ever taught you to breathe through your nose?' The other side of him playing the angles, looking for the part of the approach that kept her still, the part that made her run, how to shift the balance between those two parts.
"You gonna tell Toby?"
She glances back at him, straightens a little. She doesn't stop moving away and she can't quite get the gasping under control, but her voice, between rough inhalations, is calm.
"Why?" She says. "It was only a kiss. In the old days Toby's partners tried for more. At lunch. With Toby there."
He laughs, impressed in spite of himself. He can see how she made a good match for Toby, back when; sweet domestic manner, corporate ice princess veneer, smarter than she lets on at first. She's gripping the bag and still moving determinedly toward the door.
She isn't waiting. Her hand turns the knob, shakily, her chest is working furiously, swelling up to twice it's size, trying to slow down her breathing.
"Toby told me that you'd surprise me."
She stops, turns heavily back to him. Her face, so expressionless much of the time with him, is full of the distrust that comes with hope. She doesn't want to stay, but she is, the door still half open. Hmmm. This is something different. Unconditional surrender by proxy.
'Toby. You love-god, you.' He thinks. 'I may reel them in, but he keeps 'em. How does he do it? Or is it just us two?' Chris tries to think of the similarities between him and Genevieve. She's still waiting for him. What the hell, he might as well tell the truth.
"Told me about your first time. In his office, 9th floor." He says. "After that miserable date. You'd ruined your dress and you were embarrassed because you didn't have anything on under, and you're wrapped in Beecher's coat. And high heels. And he's fuckin' busting out of his pants, because this is every law-boy's dream. You start laughing, and then you kiss him, but he can't close the blinds, and you won't take off the coat with them open, so you both fuck, on the desk, half-dressed." She blushes both for doing it and being embarrassed about it. He chuckles. "But that wasn't your first time, according to him. See, he tells me, he was always busy, so you guys grabbed it whenever you could, and you'd always be wearing a skirt, his shirt, fuck, sometimes just a bra. He told me about how he finally rented a cabin, took you up and locked up all your clothes, just so he could see you naked."
"He told you that?" He can see the indecision, she's torn between being pissed Toby said anything, and happy he remembers it fondly.
"One day back in Oz, I asked him if he missed women, and that's what he said." He says. She'd be good at poker. She stares at him, face blank. Shades of Sister Pete there, he realizes uncomfortably. She's waiting for him to go on, and he decides he's gotten as much from this as he can, time to push her out. Gives her the smirk that raises Toby's hackles. "Yesterday he said you're the one pushing for that constant fuckin' three-day stubble. Rubs me fucking raw." He smiles, pulls down the collar on his t-shirt to show a red patch of skin. Then let's his gaze turn warm, speculative, suggestive. "I bet it looks better on you." That pale body, Toby looking so big next to it. Coming in the next morning and being able to trace what he'd done to her by the stubble-burn, like following tire-tracks.
She holds up well, gives him a surprisingly calm look, then slowly moves to the door.
Chris is in the bedroom when Toby gets home. He hears Toby greet the kids, goes into the kitchen, some muted conversation with Genevieve. Then he comes upstairs. Chris can tell by the easy footsteps that he doesn't suspect anything. He steps behind the door as Toby comes through it. Toby goes to the closet, begins undressing. Chris steps up behind him, feet silent on the carpeting. Toby yells as arms come around him, Chris puts one hand down Toby's unbuttoned fly. Toby quiets, hands gripping Chris' wrists, pulling him closer immediately, hips jerking forward into his hand. Chris licks Toby's ear, tender, strokes him softly, soothing. He can feel heart beat through Toby's back. It slows down, the breathing changes from shallow gasps to long hitching breaths.
Soft words. Those hands pulling at his wrist. He leans in. "I tried to fuck your wife today." A start against him. "Don't worry, she wasn't having it. Nearly freaked out on me." He lets go, leaves Toby confused, vaguely angry, still wanting.
"What did you do?" Toby's looking to the door, zipping up . . . and realizing he can't go back downstairs with no information and a major hard-on.
"I kissed her." Chris says. "Told her that eventually she'd have to move back in here. With us. She started shaking on me. Not sure which part upset her most."
"Jesus! You can't just . . . ."
"No, Toby, I shouldn't." He says, sprawling back on the bed. "But, as usual, you won't, and you can bet she won't, so someone has to."
"Keller." Toby comes over to the bed. "What the fuck are you playing at?"
One hand on his nape, and Toby is face down on the quilt. He puts his face up to Toby's ear. "What are you playing at Toby, huh? How'd you think this was gonna break down? You gonna have your own little harem out here in suburbia? Pick which one of us you wanna spend the night with? I don't fucking think so!"
Toby scrabbles at his hand, frees himself and backs away, but he's already apologetic. "Chris, no. It's not like that."
"Then what? You were going to kick wifey out? Or me, Toby? Which one?" He asks. Toby, looks away. Can't see your way out of this, negotiator, can you? "You and me both know there's only one way this can work. You want me and your wife, your life. I want you. And I want women. Fuck, for now I'll take just one."
"This is my wife, Chris."
"I'll treat her right." Chris smiles. "I just gotta get the chance. I come on all soft, she acts like I'm trying to snatch her purse. Jumpier than you were, we first met."
"Because, unlike me, she knows better." Toby says, with a ghost of a smile. "Back when . . . I cheated on her. I thought I was covering my tracks, but she knew and she, uh, she came apart in weird ways." Toby blushes, looking away. Probably something interesting there to pull up later. "But when I told her, it went easier than I expected. She just picked up and kept going. Maybe you should just, be who you are." Toby's face contracts at the clich.
"Yeah, I bet she'll love that."
"I do." Toby suddenly looks up, earnestly, that sweet look, scarily defenseless, that sent Chris over the edge of sanity years ago. "And we, you'd be surprised how much alike we are, Genevieve and I. You can find a way."
"I found a way."
Toby knots up those gold eyebrows, already wary. Smart man.
"How?" He asks.
"But. I can't." Toby's innocent look, like he never talked anyone into anything, and how could he do this he wouldn't know where to begin and . . . .
"Toby, it's your fucking house, and she's your fucking wife."
"She wouldn't go for it."
"Yeah, Tobe." Chris laughs, and pulls Toby back down on the bed, playfully now. Hands grazing those nipples, tracing that pale stomach. "She won't go for THAT, but I bet she's been waiting her whole life for a guy like me to move into the house, with her kids, with you. The woman's put up with a lot more than you'd think already. Moving back into your bed, even if it's a little crowded, don't you think that might sweeten the deal?"
"I doubt Genevieve would agree, ohhhhhhh, under the circumstances."
Chris's hand back against Toby's cock, stroking. He leans over, whispers against Toby's ear, tongue flicking out and making that pale chest contract and shiver. "Then. Change. Her. Mind."
So Toby walks downstairs, body still loose and twitching, hugs his kids, and makes sure they're all absorbed in the TV, and comes into the dining room. Genevieve is setting the table. He stares at her back, feeling part of himself melt; something about her small, efficient movements. He thinks about how those hands turn frantic; hurried and clumsy when she's around Chris and thinks 'do I really want to do this?' The twitch in his groin answers for him. 'Yes.'
He closes the door, loud enough for her to hear. She turns, looks at the discomfort on his face, and pauses, then turns back to the table.
"Chris told me about today." He ventures. No answer. He continues with difficulty. "I need to know what you want."
"What do you want, Toby?"
He sighs in frustration.
"Let me put it this way." She says, too evenly to be convincing. "I can't have what I want. So let me know what you want, and give me . . . some time to think about it. And I'll decide."
She's walked around to the other side of the table, but doesn't look at him, draws out the process of putting out the dishes. If this were business, he'd be thrilled. He knows he had the advantage in this negotiation. In a marriage, this is dangerous ground. Genevieve isn't bound by courtroom or boardroom etiquette. He doesn't know which way she'll turn.
"You deserve better than that."
"Really." Her face blurs, anger, tears. He can see what she's thinking. 'Even if I deserve better, it doesn't mean you're going to GIVE it to me. And don't knock this, Toby, not when you've been the one profiting by it.' Then her expression resolves again. It's not exactly cold, just resigned. "Maybe I just put that wrong, hmmm? Maybe I have almost everything I want, and for the rest I'm willing to negotiate." She smiles a private smile, then looks up again. "Tell me what you want, Toby."
"I want you to move back into the bedroom. With us. I want my wife. And Chris. Both of you."
Something in her expression deadens, like a flame guttering. "Your wife."
He realizes what's eating at her. "I want YOU, Genevieve."
She turns her head away, like the correction is hurting her more than the mistake. "Don't. Just don't."
He's across the room and gathering her to him. "You can't think that I don't love you, want you. Genevieve, you."
She looks up, angry, her body winding away from him. He's in a situation he can't fix. Leave it to Genevieve to take the advantage before he even knows what's happening.
"Please, Genevieve. You know I love you."
"As long as loving me isn't inconveniant for you." She swipes at her eyes, which are still dry. "You told me what you wanted. I'll think about it. Get the kids, please."
She goes into the kitchen. Toby heads back toward the kids.
And finds Chris leaning on the wall next to the door, looking at him, amused, frustrated, and as usual, completely shameless.
"Toby. Baby. You are sooo lucky you got our hearts in those pretty little hands, cause that was the most piss-poor try at seduction I have EVER heard."
"We don't all have your gifts, Chris."
"Toby, you want to make her want you to fuck her. This isn't contract negotiation. 'What do you want?' You're supposed to make her want what you got. 'Give me some time to decide.' Fuck, man, when do you think she's going to DECIDE she wants to walk upstairs and fuck a couple of convicts? Huh?"
Toby glances to the door that the kids are behind. A look that Chris completely misses. Instead Chris pushes himself off the wall and spoons around Toby, murmuring. "I was hoping to listen in on some kissing, dirty talk. Is that too much to ask?"
"So show me how it's done."
"Okay." Chris angles his mouth to Toby's.
"No. Seduction. I'd like to see you give it a try."
"Learn by doing, baby."
So Toby does nothing. He and Genevieve circle each other, and do nothing, and Chris fumes silently, and then decides, hell, what did he expect? When had Beecher ever made up his mind completely about anything? And the woman, what was she going to do, come up to her husband and make the announcement, 'yeah, I want to fuck another guy with you.'
So he comes down the stairs one night when the kids are in the back yard and Toby's within earshot in the next room. She's staring out at the kids over the curtains in the dining room. He leans on the door frame and tries to judge how he should pitch his voice.
"You never asked me what I wanted." He says. She turns and looks at him, already on guard, but calmer now than she was before. Toby was right; the innocent act just made her jumpy. He lets his thoughts and his look turn warm, speculating. "I am part of this, um . . ."
"Mess?" She asks.
"Seems to me that you and Tobe should have let me in on the negotiations."
"All right. What do you want."
"You." He answers before she's even done talking.
"Really. Me specifically?" She snorts.
She's so like Toby sometimes, their years of marriage showing, making him feel like the outsider. He looks her over, considers her question honestly, his face set. He imagines that small soft body, cool between him and Toby, the as-yet unknown parts of her personality. The fact that bringing her into the mix will turn Toby up side down again, fuck them up again, and since when could he resist that?
"Actually," he smiles. "Yeah, I do. Want me to get more specific? I want you face down on the bed, moaning through my fingers. Because of my fingers." He's across the room and pulling her against him. One hand is on his arm, ready to push him away, the fingers cool from touching the window glass. He grabs her ass and pulls her hips against his, lifting her slightly off her feet. "I want you right now. Feel it?" He drops her on the table and climbs up on her. "I want to fuck you while you're on your knees going down on Toby. I want to watch you both writhe like I'm fucking the both of you."
He grinds into her slightly, his hands pinning hers, nuzzling her neck, up to her ear. "I want to fuck your ass. But first I want to watch while Toby does it. Has he done it before? Huh? You just have to shake your head yes or no, baby." She shakes her head 'no', panting, breathes fast but regular. She's turning her head away, trying to distance herself, but on the next slow grind her legs come up to clutch at his hips. "I bet he finds some way to be tender about it. I'll be the voyeur. Then I want to tie you down and tease you until you're begging me to let you come. While Toby watches. Until he begs me to let you come. See, what I want isn't just specific, it's fucking obscene."
He brings his mouth down hard on hers, dropping his weight on her, until the hands under him start pushing up against him, her hips trying to buck him off. And still no verbal protest. "But see, what I want, really." He pulls back, hands on either side of her head, those eyes coming up to look at him, frightened again. Always. "Is for you to want it, too." He angles his chest off hers, one hand brushing the hair off her face, the other keeping her on the table, vulnerable. "I don't know what you're afraid of, Genevieve, but let me run down the list. If I was going to kill you, I'd probably have had it done the last couple days I was in Oz. Get a great alibi."
She grows still beneath him, not scared now, just completely intent, using whatever small knowledge of this she must have to try to assess what he's telling her. "I'm not going to hurt your kids. They're Toby's children. And Toby . . . I love Toby." Chris can feel himself grow tense, uncomfortable with the honesty. He lets himself slide back to a natural topic, lowering himself back onto her just slightly.
"As for the sex. You don't have to worry about it. I'm used to getting what I want. Call it a gift." The concern is back in her eyes, this situation too immediate. "But when I don't, I just fuckin' don't." A lie there. There are consequences, after all. Nobody else gets the thing he wants either. Beecher knows that. Still, he continues. "Whatever else you heard about me, Genevieve," he ducks his head to catch her eyes again. Holds them. "the sex was always consensual." She's still again. Pinned by the veiled confession.
It's that moment that Genevieve becomes aware of Toby. He's standing at the door, tense but calm. Chris does too, and backs up off her as Toby comes forward, expression unreadable. She tries to clamber off the table, but Toby reaches out and pulls her to him, sliding her across the table like winnings in a card game. He folds himself around her, a hand at the back of her neck. But his touch isn't comforting. Instead it's caressing, intimate; stroking her in a way Toby never would in front of a guest. His mouth is at her ear, and she feels his head make an odd motion, and she realizes he's meeting Keller's eyes. They are a united front now, not necessarily against her; more like sweeping her along.
Toby's whispering to her. "Just come to us tonight. It's going to be okay. I want this so much. I love you. Just tonight. Nothing has to happen if you don't want. Please, Genevieve." But she knows the voice, the manner. It's Toby, but it's the lawyer too, pressing the advantage. She's vulnerable, shaken, and all she has to do to get out of this moment is say 'yes.' It's a means of escape. And she says it, and Toby knows it not acquiescence so much as it's the easy way out that he's turned into some verbal contract that she won't find the opportunity to back out of. Toby gets what happened here. Probably Chris, too. A contract was made, and when he tilts her head back to kiss her, motions for Chris to come over, kiss the back of her neck, it's like a stamp and a seal.
And then Holly calls from the yard. She digs her fingers hard into Toby's shoulders and allows herself a couple of breaths before she calls back, "I'm going to be out is a second, honey. Go over by the hose so I can wash your feet off before you come back inside." She's happy with her voice. It sounds perfectly normal.
Later they are all in the living room, staring at the TV, the kids unaware of the tension. She gets up to get a glass of water, and when she's stumbling her way back, Toby turns to her.
"Do you want to relax? Take a bath?" He asks. The only bathtub in the house is the one off the master bedroom.
She nods, and tries to avoid Chris' look, and fails. He's amused, deliberately giving the fact away by his ridiculously mild expression. His eyebrows are quirked up, making a roof over his eyes, looking like a befuddled puppy.
She laughs softly to herself going up the stairs. Her and Toby's heritage is showing again. She remembers the Victorian inquiry, a husband, after dinner, asking his wife "Shall you go up first, my dear?" Meaning 'could you go up to my room, prepare yourself, strip down to a nightgown and we'll make sweet, absolutely silent, mostly dressed, species-perpetuating love?' Still, she has to admit, she wasn't ready to make her menage debut without cleaning up first and a bath will help. She grabs her robe and as many toiletries as she can carry and makes her way down the hall.
When she's shaved, washed, brushed and soaking up to her neck in faintly violet-scented water, the bath is too hot, there is too much time, she can't stay still, she starts at every noise. So she climbs out and brushes her hair until it's dried and gleaming. She looks at herself in the mirror, correcting the shine on one nail and another line comes to her. The typical sword and sandals movie line "Have her bathed and taken to my chamber."
The laugh splits her chest painfully. She needed it and now she nurses it, drawing it out, letting it help her relax. Why can't she just do this? Have a sense of humor about it. Or better yet, enjoy it? She remembers over the years wondering what it would be to have an adventurous sex life. She trusts Toby at least, and she's beginning to trust Chris' affection for Toby. Why is she thinking of this situation, one in which she has the power, like she should lie back and think of England? And then there's the noise of the kids being herded off to bed, and someone's using the hall bathroom, and someone's in the bedroom, and she's on her knees, hands and forehead on the cool tile, trying to breathe.
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