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A Disciplined Wife
CHAPTER ONEGrace Fine hated having her hair frosted. She hated the laborious process the hairdresser had to go through, bleaching each few strands of her hair individually to give her hair the look her husband Roy liked. Yet, having her hair tinted in this manner was a torture to which Grace submitted herself once a month. It was the least she could do for Roy. And it was more than that. It was all he asked.Grace glared at her reflection this afternoon in the mirror at the beauty shop while above her, her hairdresser Betty worked at her patiently. It would take an hour just to pull the strands through the holes in this ridiculous rubber bath cap she wore, an hour just to apply the terrible-smelling purple goo and let the stuff soak in. Then the hair would have to be washed, set, dried, combed out. It would take an eternity.The bored, uncomfortable woman let out an unhappy sigh, and then shut her eyes to blot out the ugly vision of herself in the mirror, a sight she felt sure that if she saw too much longer she would break down in tears of self-pity and frustration. And she wouldn't want to do that, not in front of Betty. What would the hairdresser think if the rich and proper Grace Fine broke down in tears in public like that?The miserable woman had to shut her eyes to ease herself, but no sooner had she shut them than she began to be troubled by the memory of her telephone conversation with her husband Roy that morning. He had called to make sure that she had packed his suitcase properly. He had to leave for the airport precisely at four-thirty, and he wouldn't have time to double-check everything. He was relying on her, he said. And did she think, he asked, she could manage to remember everything?His tone had been so cruel and condescending, as if he were talking to an incompetent employee, not his wife of five years. And yet, it was typical, she thought, of the way he treated her. He barely bothered to try to conceal his disdain for her any more. Not that she didn't deserve his disdain, she thought. She wondered, sometimes, why he wanted her around at all.But she knew why, and she flinched as that sure knowledge returned to her. It was because he liked the way she looked . . . to other people. She was an asset, he had told her many times. People in the business world, he often told her, respect a man who has a wife as beautiful as she was. "They don't have to know, my dear," he liked to say, "that beautiful is all you are."At times like those she would lower her eyes and try to keep her chin from trembling. It was no use arguing. He was right. She knew that. She was a failure as a woman. She didn't want to be . . . but she didn't know how to put an end to the terrible pattern of events that had been set that night so long ago when her husband had proposed to her.Of course, she had said without hesitation, of course she would marry him. Hadn't she waited for years for him to come along? Hadn't she fought off the advances of her many dates and she had had many men pursuing her until a man with just Roy's qualities appeared? She wanted to be pure when the right man came along, and she had been. Maybe that had been a mistake. Maybe that had been what had made her so afraid. Maybe if she had allowed herself to enjoy sex with her dates not going all the way but just maybe some kissing, some petting maybe then she wouldn't have been so terrified the night she accepted Roy's proposal.Of course, Roy didn't know she was a as inexperienced as she was. She acted so sophisticated, so sure of herself. He assumed she knew the score. And she assumed that was one of the things he liked about her-her air of sophistication. How could she break it to him that she was as naive and unsophisticated as a girl could be?She should have told him how inexperienced she was right then on that night in the car after dinner and dancing when she'd accepted his proposal of marriage and they had come together in a passionate embrace.Before that, her beauty and poise had put Roy off. But now that he had become more sure she was his, now that she had agreed to become his wife, he had let himself go, had let himself do all the things he had wanted to do in the weeks he'd been seeing her. He had unbuttoned her silk blouse and begun to fondle her "breasts, had let his feverish hands slide up her stockinged legs, up those long, sleek thighs right to the silken crotch of her panties. And he had not stopped there. He had let his frantic fingers dig up inside the elastic leg band of her panties to touch the hot moist slit between her soft, white thighs . . .He was so passionate and she was, too that she became frightened. But, being unable to tell him of her fear, she said the first thing she could think of."Please, Roy!" she had said. "Don't be so rough. You . . . you'll mess up my hair!"That had stopped him cold. She hadn't meant to do that. In fact, she hadn't wanted to stop him at all. She had liked the feeling of his finger searching eagerly in her hitherto untouched dripping hot cunt . . . she had wanted more . . . much more . . . but she had been unable to tell him that as well.After that night his manner towards her changed. He went ahead and married her just the same, but she felt, looking back, that he had gone on with the marriage for business reasons. He liked to be seen with her. It was as simple as that. And she . . . well, she had married him because she loved him, and she thought that, somehow, someday, things would be straightened out between them, and they would enjoy a full and sexually satisfying marriage.But that day had never come, and now she didn't know what would happen. She didn't like to think about what Roy must do to satisfy himself. . . surely the perfunctory sexual encounters they felt obliged to endure two or three times a month would not be sufficient to satisfy a man as dynamic as Roy Fine. Still, she wouldn't think about it. She would think about something else. Something more pleasant . . .But her mind went back to their telephone conversation of that morning. Roy had been so cruel. He wanted her to drive him to the airport, he said. Him, Dan Ryan, and the company president. Of course she would, she had told him."Then would you mind," he had said in that tone of voice she hated, "would you mind having your hair touched up a bit. The black roots have been showing so much you look more like a zebra than the wife of a successful man."Grace could feel her chin begin to tremble as she remembered this conversation, and she was afraid that she would be unable to control her tears if she thought about this too much longer. Fortunately, the familiar voice of a woman in the chair next to hers brought her back to the present."Mabel," the woman was saying, "give me something special. I want to look extra-good tonight!""Certainly, Mrs. Ryan," Mabel answered. "How about putting it up in a twist?"Grace was startled to realize that the familiar voice belonged to Isabel Ryan, the wife of Roy's business associate, the very same Ryan that she was driving to the airport that evening. What could his wife have in store for them that was so special? Where could she be going with her husband out of town?Nor that it should come as any surprise, Grace thought to herself. If Isabel Ryan was anything, she was sexy. Her voluptuous body seemed to be designed solely for abandon and pleasure. But she was more than just a sexpot, Grace had to admit to herself. She had real beauty. Grace and Isabel, in fact, were popularly accepted as the unchallenged beauties of Coroville.And to be completely honest, Grace had to admit to herself that she thought Isabel was far more attractive than she, Grace, was. It wasn't a physical difference. In fact, Grace liked her own body better. True, she wasn't as tall or self-contained as Isabel, but at twenty-eight, she seemed lovely even to herself, her high bulging breasts spilling in tantalizing contours from her narrow shoulders, her stomach flat and willowy, making her waist an altogether dramatic and exciting contrast to her full breasts and sleek hips. She liked her clothes better than Isabel's, too. Her husband made more money than Isabel's and her clothes were more elegant and better fitting. But despite these superior qualities, Grace still envied the other woman.It was the way Isabel carried herself that Grace admired. She acted sure of herself, as Grace did, but her self assurance seemed more than just the act Grace had learned to perfect. It seemed to come from a real source inside, an inner place of peace and security which Grace could detect in the other woman, and which she knew that she herself did not possess. She wondered if Isabel Ryan could read her as clearly as she could read Isabel.And as if to answer her silent question, Isabel's voice broke through Grace's thoughts, and with a start Grace realized that it was to her that Isabel was addressing her remark."I'll bet I know what you're thinking!" Isabel said.Grace's long eyelashes flew open and she reddened. To her relief, she noticed that both hairdressers were out of hearing range. "Why, Isabel Ryan!" she stammered. "I . . . I didn't know you were here!""Oh, come off it, Grace," Isabel said, giving Grace a good-natured poke on the arm. "You knew I was here. And you heard what I said about tonight. I could see the wheels turning in your head. And I'll bet I know what territory they were rolling over. You were asking yourself what I could possibly have in store for myself on the very night my dear husband is going out of town!""Oh, no! I never thought any such . . . " Grace stammered."But don't worry about it. Harry doesn't mind what I do when he's not here. He's too busy screwing his client's wives and anybody else he can to lose any sleep about my comings and goings. But I really don't care what he does on the road, as long as he always comes home to me!""Why, Isabel, you don't mean that!" Grace said, astonished that Isabel was taking her into her confidence that way. "You and Harry seem so happy. Everybody thinks so. I . . . Well, I'm almost envious. I don't mean to imply that Roy and I aren't happy . . . I don't mean that at all . . . ""Of course you don't mean that," Isabel said, looking the other woman straight in the eye. "It just happens to be true. It's pretty evident to anyone with eyes that you and Roy have a pretty tense relationship, lack of proper communication, I think. I don't even need my master's degree to diagnose your case!""Didn't I tell you? I've gone back to school. I'm getting my degree in behavioral psychology. In fact, if you must know, that's why I want to look nice tonight. There's an interdepartmental party at the college tonight. You know, you really ought to come. My professor's going to be there and you'd really like to meet him. He's a whiz at getting people to loosen up and, uh, communicate with each other. I took his course last semester and it did me a world of good.""Oh, I couldn't possibly go to a party with Roy out of town," Grace said. "He'd never approve . . . ""Oh, come on, Grace," said the other woman impatiently. "Who do you think you're kidding? I don't think he'd mind at all. And even if he did, well, I hate to say it, but it doesn't look like things could get much worse between the two of you."Grace looked nervously at her lap. So it was obvious to everyone, she thought, about how bad things were with Roy and her. She could feel her chin beginning to quiver and the tears forming in her eyes."Aw, come on, Grace," Isabel broke in. "Don't take it so hard. I really didn't want to hurt you. In fact, if anything, I'd like to help you. And you know, the more I think about it, the more I think it's a good idea for you to come along with me tonight. You ought to get out of the house and get some education on your own . . . at the college, I mean. Come on. Say you'll come tonight. We can have dinner together and I'll take you along with me. It will be much more fun for me if you're along."Grace was surprised when she realized that she was grateful for Isabel's interest in her, and for the invitation. She had always liked Isabel and wanted to be more friendly with her, and she was pleased to find out that Isabel felt the same."Well," Grace said hesitantly. "I suppose if it's a party at the college, it would be all right . . . ""All right?" Isabel said, laughing. "Of course it's all right! What kind of a woman do you think I am, anyway? I'll pick you up at seven sharp," she told Grace and then turned her attention back to the mirror where she could keep her eye on Mabel who had begun to wind her thick black hair into a French twist.* * *CHAPTER TWOAll through dinner that evening in a downtown steak house, Isabel Ryan talked about nothing but her courses, professors, and assigned reading at the university. Grace Fine found that she was vaguely disappointed. For some reason, perhaps the confidential, secretive way in which Isabel had mentioned tonight's affair, Grace had gathered that the party at the college was going to be some kind of illicit, wild bash.Earlier that evening, while readying Roy's suitcase, she had been humming the Tonight song from West Side Story to herself, and getting all geared up, disturbingly thrilled at the prospect of the party. When her husband got home from work, he found his wife in an unusually chipper mood, but was irritated because he assumed her good mood was due to the fact that he was leaving town.In the car on the way to the airport, he had been unusually nasty, and in front of Harry Ryan and his boss as well."Did you hear, Grace dear," he said to his wife, "that Harry's Isabel has been improving herself by taking courses at the university?"Roy was in the back seat, sitting next to Ryan, and Grace was glad he couldn't see her face, afraid that it would reveal her fear of being discovered. Was this some kind of trap? Did he know that she was going to attend a party without him tonight? Her back stiffened and she gripped the steering wheel tighter."Of course," Roy went on, his voice assuming that nasty tone that told her she was in for a bad time, "that assumes there's something there in the first place to be improved. On some people it would just be a waste of time."Roy's boss reached over and gave Grace's knee one of the little pats she had to endure from him whenever she was in his presence. "When a woman is as beautiful as Grace, my dear Roy," his boss said, "there is hardly need for self-improvement!" And that, to Grace's relief, was the end of the discussion. If Roy had gone on with the topic, Harry Ryan might have mentioned the intercollegiate party tonight, and her husband would surely have forbidden her to go. They had both heard rumors about the wild, swinging parties at the university.But now. over steaks, Grace was beginning to think that those must have been at some other university. Grace was describing the list of people who'd be there, and it sounded more like an academic seminar than an exciting party. There'd be professors and their wives and some researchers and student teachers. Grace had the feeling she was in for some high-brow discussions which would undoubtedly be way over her head.All day, there had been pulsing in her a new hope, an as yet undefined sense of adventure and self-importance. Something in her, she had been sure, was at the brink of fulfillment. Perhaps, she had thoughts, tonight's party would be the miracle she had hoped for to save her marriage. Now, she was beginning to realize how out of whack with reality her hopes had been.Isabel didn't seem to notice Grace's sinking mod, but went on talking gaily as if it were a swinging party they were going to instead of the drab tea party Grace was now envisioning. Grace did pause a moment to consider why Isabel was wearing such a revealing dress to a collegiate event, but for whatever reason, Grace was glad, because at least she wouldn't be the only one there in a low-cut outfit.Isabel parked her car in the faculty parking lot at the university and led the way to the faculty lounge in the college of liberal arts."Liberal Arts," she said, chuckling. "That's a good department for Professor Gold to be in. Wait till you meet him, Gracey. He's a doll."