At least, considering the mortifying premarital checkup with the doctor to whom her mother had taken her, where Mary had had to confirm that she understood what would happen when Sam got into bed with her, it had gone fine, anyway. At nineteen years old and with a year of New Modesty education behind her at Girls’ High, Mary had known from her Wellness class about what happened in the bridal suite, and she had been able to tell the doctor that, with halting words, as he looked patronizingly across his desk and Mary could hardly lift her eyes.
Sam, at twenty-eight, didn’t have to go to any such meeting with his doctor, she knew. He had spent the past two years in Smallton’s New Modesty development, but before that he had gone to college and then started his business career in Chicago, pursuing his dream of running his own gym. He had dated several women, Mary knew, in the big city, before moving to Smallton and opening Blaze, where Mary had joined as soon as she and her parents had moved to the development, a few days after her eighteenth birthday.
She knew he must have had sex with the women he had dated in Chicago. He had never pressured her to sleep with him, though, in the six months they had gone out before he had proposed. Suitors in a New Modesty community could get permission from a girl’s parents to be intimate with her, which constituted the reason for the mortifying Wellness class.
Girls’ New Modesty High offered a flexible curriculum for eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds, who might either go on to a New Modesty college or stay home and even work until they married. Whatever curriculum a girl decided on, with the help of her guidance counselor and her parents, however, she always took Wellness in her first semester.
So if Sam Hunter, responsible gym owner and breathtaking physical specimen—especially in tight workout clothes—had wanted to go to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson and, as Mary’s registered boyfriend, ask to take her to her bedroom and there exercise his rights as her accepted suitor, he could have done so. Mrs. Grabano, the Wellness teacher, had made that very clear as her class blushed furiously.
Mary’s parents would have sat down with her and asked whether she thought she was ready to make a commitment to Sam that would strongly imply they would soon marry. Thinking about it now, the morning after their wedding and their wedding night, Mary didn’t know for certain what she would have said, but she supposed she would have said yes.
Then, she supposed, the alright wedding night, or something very much like it, would have happened six months ago. That thought made her frown deeply as she sat at the breakfast table in Sam’s house—her house, she would have to begin to think of it, she knew. She tried hard to push down a doubt that had started to nag at her even just after her gorgeous, kind new husband had taken her virginity and, looming above her, had thrust his huge, hard penis inside her over and over, until he had grunted, stopped, and rolled off to the side.
If we had had sex six months ago, would he still have asked me to marry him?
Sam hadn’t said anything or done anything, not that Mary could identify anyway, to make her wonder about this. He had held her close, kissed her tenderly, and gone to sleep in the dark into which she had plunged his bedroom—their bedroom—after getting into bed in her filmy white nightgown.
The nightgown had turned Mary’s face red when she had bought it at the store her mother had always called the naughty underwear shop. It had turned her face red again when she had seen herself in the mirror of Sam’s bathroom, wearing it. She had looked, Mary thought, like a bride who should have gone with her gorgeous husband to a resort on a tropical island or a grand hotel in Paris, for a real honeymoon.
Sam had wanted to take her to a beach resort in Florida—a really nice place, not a spring break kind of thing—for the three nights they could afford right now. Mary had said no, that she wanted to wait until they could do something nicer, which she thought had made Sam happy, because it showed how much faith she had in him.
She got up from the table and brought her plate, adorned now with the rind of her cantaloupe, to the sink. As she rinsed it in the big, gleaming sink with the disposal on one side and the deep basin on the other, she thought about how very easy it seemed to her, to have faith in him. Mary loved Sam with all her heart—she even looked up to him, the way a New Modesty girl, her parents said, should look up to her husband.
His blue eyes, his slightly floppy light brown hair, and his chiseled jaw made her want to look up at him, literally, and wait for him to take her in his arms as he loved to do. Then he would bend down, she would tilt her face up, and he would kiss her gently, his hand moving to the back of her head to twine in her honey-blonde hair so that her hands on his chest trembled and she felt, This is it.
Mary put the plate in the dishwasher and the rind in the trash compactor. She looked down at herself, in sweats and a t-shirt now—she had gotten out of bed, after Sam had fallen asleep, to put on lotion and change into her usual sleeping attire. A frown crossed her face. Should she have left the nightgown on? If she had, would things have gone differently this morning, when Sam had kissed her gently, then rolled out of bed and started to put on his running clothes as Mary had fallen back asleep, smiling from the little glow the kiss had imparted?
She heard the front door open behind her, and then Sam’s footsteps in the hall. She felt his eyes on her, and the consciousness of her gray-sweats-and-green-camp-t-shirt look made her cheeks get hot. Should she have put the nightgown back on? He hadn’t said anything, though, so… the sweats must be fine, right?
His footsteps, softer now in his socks, came up behind her in the kitchen. Mary could smell the clean athletic scent of his sweat, and it made her smile. She decided she would turn around and ask if she should go put the nightgown back on—she would ask in a seductive kind of voice, one that showed she wanted to try sex again.
When she turned, though, to see her new husband standing there looking so big and virile that it nearly took her breath away, the words died on her lips and her smile faded. His chest seemed so broad in the tight fabric of his running shirt, and his legs so thick and solid in the running shorts that concealed the part of him—still unseen by Mary, of course—he had put in her last night… she couldn’t say anything, because a good girl wouldn’t.
A good girl, of the kind her mother and Mrs. Grabano the Wellness teacher talked about, didn’t let her mind get diverted from modest thoughts by ideas about boys.
When Mary had first turned from the sink to see Sam standing there, he had worn a smile on his face, too; warm and confident and almost… well, hungry. That expression made Mary feel strange in her tummy, and it drove the last bit of welcome from her own face.
Clearly seeing the transformation his bride’s demeanor had undergone at the sight of him, the warmth of Sam’s eyes faded, and his brow furled with evident concern.
“Hi,” he said, in a voice that Mary felt certain differed greatly from the one with which he had meant to greet her, before she had turned from the sink.
“Hi,” she replied. “Good run?”
His frown deepened a little. Then, as if with a conscious effort, his tone became cheerful. “Yeah. Really good.”
Mary managed a cautious little smile. “Hungry?” she asked.
“I will be,” Sam answered, his smile getting a little broader and becoming more genuine.
“Well… you have a little wifey to make your eggs, now, don’t you?” she said, feeling herself relax a little into the semi-ironic way they had talked about marriage from their very first dates.
Sam’s face broke out into a real, sunny grin—the expression that, seen across the exercise floor of his gym, had stolen Mary’s heart. “I do, don’t I?”
“You get in the shower…” she started, hoping the pet name that had eluded her would come at last. After an awkward half-second she tried, “…tiger?”
He chuckled and took a step forward, but Mary held up her right hand, the motion caused by her heart leaping and her tummy turning over rather than the excuse she came up with in the instant she had for it.
“No sweaty tigers,” she said.
Sam frowned, and she could almost see a tiny surge of annoyance rise from his chest to his eyes. For a moment, those blue orbs seemed almost fiery. Mary’s tummy seemed to turn over again, and she felt an answering frown break out on her own brow.
He wouldn’t, she thought suddenly. Would he? Then she felt a thrill of fear, of a kind she had never experienced before, because she realized she had no idea what she had just wondered if her new husband would do.
Something… else. That represented everything Mary could figure out, as the dark expression vanished from Sam’s face and the side of his mouth quirked up into a renewed smile.
“Okay,” he said, and padded off toward the bathroom.
Mary watched his muscular frame depart. For a moment, she felt her eyes drawn down the V of his back to look at her bridegroom’s backside, the black running shorts shaping his solid buttocks so clearly that she had to fight hard to keep ideas about boys from entering her head.
But I’m married now, aren’t I? part of her asked. I’m supposed to have ideas about boys—or at least ideas about this boy. His butt… it’s so… perfect.
Mary bit her lip, feeling the heat rush to her face. She turned to the refrigerator as she heard the water turn on in the shower. Sam would be naked in a moment, wouldn’t he? If she… if she went into the bathroom, she would see him. She would see that part of him.
She found herself standing in front of the open refrigerator with the coolness pouring out of it, just staring, right at the eggs.
Men look for a modest girl who will make a modest wife. That lesson seemed ingrained in Mary’s heart. Sam had asked her to marry him because he wanted a modest wife—he had moved to Smallton so that he could find a girl raised, for the crucial time after her eighteenth birthday, in the ways of the New Modesty.
Six eggs, for a bridegroom who kept his amazing body so very strong. As she took them from the refrigerator, she remembered him above her in the night, her eyes closed so that she wouldn’t have to see him there but his body so big and so powerful, held up effortlessly on his ropy arms. Her knees spread, her nightgown pulled up. Wondering if he would look at her, down there, fearing that he would see the golden curls covering the shameful parts between her legs.
The thing, hard and soft somehow at the same time, moving down there. Sam, it seemed, holding it in one hand and positioning it. It had felt… fine. She had thought about how her body was made for this, for what happened on a girl’s wedding night. Then a push, and she had gasped at the tightness, the pressure.
“Ready?” he had asked.
Mary had opened her eyes for just a moment, to see his face a few inches above her in the darkness, his face only barely discernible. “Mm-hmm,” she had said, biting her lip, and then she had closed her eyes again.
A week into his marriage Sam Hunter had had sex with his beautiful, modest young wife exactly once. He wouldn’t have described himself as frustrated or bewildered, really—or at least he tried to keep telling himself he wouldn’t. By the time Saturday rolled around again, though, one week since their lovely little wedding and their cozy reception, he had to admit to himself that he was on the road to both frustration and bewilderment.
At least he knew Mary loved him. Sam had not the slightest doubt about that; he could see it in her eyes across the dinner table and he could feel it in her body when he hugged her—until the moment she stiffened in his arms, as she always seemed to do, and began to pull away.
Should he have said something, that first morning, when he had woken up to find her in her sweats? Should he have stayed in bed and at least asked if she wanted to try again? He had remembered the way she cried out when he took her virginity, the way she had closed her eyes as if she couldn’t look at him.
The thought of confronting his new bride with his hard cock and demanding that she take it inside her again, after he had opened her innocent pussy for the first time just a few hours before on his thrusting hardness, made him feel like a monster. He had gotten out of bed and put on his running clothes.
Then, her hand rose to ward him off, when he had gone to kiss her after his run. No sweaty tigers.
Since then he had waited patiently. In Chicago he had dated three girls, and had sex with each of them. He had supposed that Mary, once the time came for her to lose her virginity, would want to do it again as soon as possible, since they loved each other and had—Sam had thought from their very first kiss—undeniable chemistry.
The New Modesty program, the reason he had moved to Smallton, promised that if a man adhered to its guidelines he would find in his bride a partner ready to follow his lead in the bedroom. Sam had registered himself as Mary’s suitor, and he had checked the box in the online form that said he would wait until marriage to be intimate with her, given what he had heard about New Modesty girls’ expectations.
__ I will have sexual relations with my girlfriend only when we are married (recommended).
__ I wish to notify my girlfriend’s parents or guardian that I intend to have sexual relations with her when I decide the time is right for her to learn to please me.
Sam had checked the recommended box. He could wait. He had almost, he remembered now, logged out of the form at that point, so that he could talk to Mary about it. He had decided, though, that they needn’t have that embarrassing conversation. They had fallen for each other, and he could feel in her kiss that she felt a healthy need for physical intimacy just like his previous girlfriends.
More important, and, he had thought, wonderful, Mary also had that indefinable, incredibly attractive quality so many New Modesty girls seemed to have. To call it innocence probably didn’t quite capture it, because New Modesty girls knew everything a modern girl should know. Mary certainly blushed a good deal, but she had never seemed like a prude to Sam. Maybe it had to do with the apparent anachronism of New Modesty life: Mary often seemed like a girl from the 1950s, wide-eyed and ready to start a life with a man who could guide her to full womanhood.
Except that the road to full womanhood clearly has some unexpected speed bumps.
Sam didn’t know how long it would have gone on, if it weren’t for the way Mary had talked to him Sunday morning, after she had gone to bed at seven p.m. the night before, in her sweats and t-shirt, telling him she had a headache.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked, when he awoke to find her looking at him across the bed, where he had—foolishly, it seemed to him now—thought they would have so much naughty fun in their first week as newlyweds, even though they had decided to delay their honeymoon.
He had worked all week, and memberships in the gym had been going way up, with several of those joining saying they had come in on the recommendation of the New Modesty authority, who did all they could to boost the prospects of newly married men. He had wanted to share the good news fully with Mary, but she had seemed to find ways not to sit down with him, bustling at the stove all through dinner and playing on her phone while they watched the TV series she had chosen.
Now, in bed, she said, “Oh I’m fine,” in a peremptory voice that suddenly made Sam wonder about the truthfulness of her claim to have had a headache. He felt a frown break out on his face.
“Headache’s gone?” he asked, putting a little of his suspicion into his voice, to see how she would respond.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mary asked, putting a sour look on her face.
Sam felt his frown deepen. “It means, is your headache gone, Pixy?”
Mary seemed almost to flinch at the pet name, which was a reference both to her petite-ness and to her favorite band, and which Sam thought had played no small part in getting her to fall in love with him.
“Yeah,” she said sullenly. “I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be?”
Something in Sam snapped, then. Why had Mary even stayed in bed, if she had intended just to be unpleasant? It almost seemed to him like she had decided to mock him for something. For not calling her on her behavior, maybe?
Sam didn’t think of himself as having a temper, but part of him knew that element of his self-image—cool and collected—concealed a dangerous fact. It took an enormous amount for him to lose his temper, but when he lost it—something Mary had never seen, and he had supposed she would never be at any risk of seeing—Sam Hunter lost it.
Now he felt the anger rising inside of his chest, even seeming to work itself through the muscles of his thighs and calves as he lay there with his wife in the bed that should, he thought, be a place of such happiness. He couldn’t even tell what kind of look he had on his face, or what color it had started to turn, but the effect on Mary seemed to him absolutely electric. With wide eyes she scrambled out of bed to the door.
Sam felt certain for a moment that she would open it and run through it—would run through the house and then out the front door into the street, shouting for help, or at least hide in the bushes and call her parents to come pick her up. Instead, to his surprise, she stood up against the door with her hands to either side of her hips, palms flat against the painted wood.
Mary’s chest heaved, making her breasts move rather distractingly in the soft green t-shirt that Sam knew had come from a years-ago summer camp but had gone through so many wash cycles that not a word of its logo could be read. Her round hazel eyes stared at him in what he had taken at first for terror but which now seemed to him a great deal more complicated.
The contemptuous expression that had occupied her face when he had asked about the headache, and the dull, uncaring tone in her voice, burned in Sam’s mind. He knew only that he couldn’t take it anymore, that he had to do something.
Then, suddenly and very much to his surprise, he knew exactly what he had to do. Something about Mary’s posture against the door had suggested it, he realized it, whether she had taken that particular sort of stand intentionally, in order to guard her backside, or not. Slowly but very deliberately, with his eyes locked on Mary’s, he climbed out of bed, feeling the muscles of his arms, his back, and his legs grumble a bit from yesterday’s workout but, as always, fall into line. He had on only the black boxer-briefs in which he slept, and he saw Mary swallow hard as her eyes followed his rising to loom over her. Her brow furrowed deeply, too, and he saw pink stain her cheeks as he took two steps toward her and she tried to shrink even further up against the door.
“Wh-what?” she asked. “What are you…?” She didn’t seem able to finish the question she had started.
An answer to the unfinished sentence flashed into his mind, though, and Sam spoke for the first time since Mary had seen the hurt and anger in his eyes at her rejection of his attempt to care for her.
“I’m your husband, Mary,” he said, trying to keep his voice as level as he could. “And I’ve had it with your behavior.”
“Oh, God,” Mary said. “Please… Sam, I… you… you can’t. You can’t. I’ll go… I’ll go to…”
Her response, the strength of which took Sam a little by surprise, calmed him down and took his anger off the boil. The threat of the thing they had never discussed with one another, because it had seemed to Sam at least so extremely unlikely to play a role in their marriage, had clearly gotten through to Mary in a fashion effective enough that he felt like for the first time since their wedding they were communicating.
The receding of his wrath and the cooling of his temper left behind a kind of slow burn for justice, though. He and Mary had never discussed it, true, but the unnamed thing constituted an essential part, he knew, of New Modesty education, and he had explicitly agreed to live in a community that tolerated and indeed endorsed it as a healthy part of family life.
“You’ll go to your parents?” he asked, feeling a little more of the anger leave him as the idea of what he must do sank in a bit further. “The police?”
Mary’s face crumpled. Sam didn’t know for certain that Ben Johnson spanked Doreen, Mary’s mother, but his new father-in-law clearly supported the maintenance of traditional gender roles in marriage. The police—as Sam knew New Modesty girls learned in Wellness class—would make sure Sam had gone to the orientation class for men moving to the community. Then they would tell Mary that if her husband wanted to bring her down to the station for a public judicial paddling he could do so by appointment.
He had never dreamed that his sweet nineteen-year-old bride could even make him bring to mind these facts from that orientation class. He could see them pass behind her eyes, though, in all their humiliating reality, as he faced her down. Her cheeks grew pinker.
“I don’t know why you’ve been so distant for the past week, Mary,” he said as levelly as he could. “But I’m guessing it has to be related in some way to the tone of voice you just used with me, and I don’t know what to do except show you that it has to change.”
Sam had come almost to the edge of the real issue, and for a moment he debated whether he should just lay it out and say that he needed to have sex with his beautiful wife, that he wanted intimacy with her so badly that he didn’t think he could keep his reason otherwise. The red in her cheeks, though, and the desperate, anxious look in her eyes stopped him: how could he broach such an embarrassing topic, express such a selfish need?
He thought back suddenly to a particular slide from the orientation, one that had made all the men in the room laugh: Sex is important.
Well, yes, his mind said, but love is more important, isn’t it? It seems like she doesn’t want to have sex with me, which sucks, but I have an obligation to take care of her. She doesn’t want to talk about sex, obviously.
“So?” Mary said into the silence that had fallen between them as Sam worked to control himself.
He felt his brow furl at the tone of her voice, which had astonished him. Had he truly heard challenge in that So?
Heat rose again in his chest, and again he had to think through the seething of his temper at her disrespect.
“So go to the bed and bend over it, Mary. I’m going to spank you.”