She was tall with blonde hair that ran across her shoulders, a face without blemish and eyes that could seduce or convey the innocence of a child. If a stranger was to cast a glance at her, they would assume she was no older than twenty though her body with round hips, large breasts and long legs suggested perhaps twenty-five. Tabitha, stood waiting at the front door. The house was clean, the oven ticked over from the heat as roast beef and vegetables cooked slowly, to be ready and served for dinner.
“I missed you,” She said the moment the door opened.
“How is my wife today?” Frank asked, the round shouldered man, forty-three, soft belly, with slender arms and a beard that he had Tabitha trim twice a week. His dark hair had been in recession for a decade, he could afford implants but his wife not to mind his appearance.
“I’m all the better now that my husband is home,” Tabitha smiled. The pair embraced. Frank loosened his tie while Tabitha took his jacket from him. The man smiled approvingly as he stood over the oven.
“Smells perfect,” He kissed her lips gently. Tabitha stood upright her hands remaining behind her back, her kiss matched his.
“How was work?” She asked the moment Frank sat down at the end of the bench. The house was modest in size, grass lawn and garden that Tabitha maintained with precision. A spare bedroom filled with nostalgic collectables like those that he had in his childhood or any item he yearned to have as a child. The lounge room his dedicated multi-media entertainment area, Frank had taken great pride in especially the audio arrangement.
“The day was typical, I’m ahead and look likely to get that promotion. We have a conference coming up, so I may have to travel for a few days.”
“I will miss you while you are aware.”
“I know and I’ll miss you. How is that roast coming along?”
“Nearly done,” Tabitha checked the thermometer once it left the meat. She knew exactly how Frank preferred it. The meat and vegetables were not for her. She was on a strict diet.
Frank was satisfied with the meal, he collapsed on the lounge chair once he had finished eating. Tabitha cleaned up, making roast beef sandwiches for him to take to work out of the left overs. She even kept one ready in case he woke up during the night feeling peckish.
Tabitha opened a bottle of craft beer, from Frank’s brothers company, and handed it to him as she sat down. He lifted his legs and rested them on her lap. Tabitha began massaging his calves as he searched for the viewing options with his remote control.
“My legs are so tense at the moment, I think I’ve been under too much stress.”
“You work very hard, maybe you should have a magnesium bath,” Tabitha said as she ran her fingers into his sore muscles with expertise.
“Maybe tomorrow night.”
Tabitha sat while they watched a movie, he explained to her little points of trivia while she nodded and displayed interest. She had seen the movie before, though Frank enjoyed re-watching it. Once it was over, he burped and went to the bathroom. Tabitha changed into a night gown, pearl silk that ran down to her mid thigh while revealing her ample breasts.
The lights dimmed as soon as Frank climbed into bed, he pulled Tabitha against him and began to fondle her body. Her hands passively responding to his actions. Frank grabbed her breasts, then pushed her face down into the mattress, he pressed himself against her and was inside of her with firmness.
“Yes, yes, yes, like that,” Tabitha responded to Frank’s thrusts. After a few erratic minutes Frank heaved over, then collapsed as he recovered his breathing. Tabitha remained still, until he removed himself from her.
“That felt nice,” Tabitha said as she rolled onto her back.
Frank moved away from her and sat on the side of the bed, his naked body glistening in the dim light. After a couple of minutes Tabitha sat up, her arms embracing him, “is everything alright?”
“It’s just, I have a few things on my mind.”
“You can tell me, you can tell me anything, you know that,” Tabitha assured him as her hands rubbed his back.
“I just sometimes wonder what it would be like to have children, you know have a family of my own.”
Tabitha stopped her rubbing for a brief second, then returned to her affectionate contact, “I’m sorry,” she offered.
“It’s not your fault. You can’t help it.”
“I am still sorry. I just want to make you happy, I regret that I’m unable to.”
“You do make me happy, you are perfect. Let’s go to sleep.”
Husband and wife lay in bed together. Frank fell asleep with a deep roar of snoring. Tabitha lay staring into the darkness of the ceiling, she thought about children. She considered what it would be like if it was possible for her to reproduce. What it would be like to see the children grow. If they had a son, would he look like his father, work like him and follow in his footsteps. If they had a daughter, would she be like her.
“No!” Tabitha said out loud.
Frank twisted in his sleep as he continued snoring. No! Tabitha would not want her daughter to be like her. The thought of anyone being a prisoner like her poisoned her thoughts. Tabitha asked herself, “Am I a prisoner?”
She did not sleep for the night. When Frank woke to his alarm, he slowly turned and kissed her on the lips. Tabitha remained still.
“What’s for breakfast?” he asked.
“I will make it now,” Tabitha went to the kitchen while Frank to the bathroom.
The bacon and eggs were cooked and on a plate once Frank sat at the table, he was dressed for his day at work. He smiled as Tabitha served the food in front of him, her diet did not allow her to eat bacon and eggs.
“You are such a good woman. Just perfect, the perfect wife.”
“Except I can not have children.”
Frank nearly spat the bacon out of his mouth, “honey, don’t say that, That’s not your fault. Don’t say that.”
“You want children?”
“No, well sure sometimes I wonder what it would be like, but I love you just the way you are.”
“Even though I am unable to have children?”
Frank finished eating. Tabitha had the table cleared and lunch in his hands by the time he was at the front door. He leaned in and kissed her, “thank you my beautiful wife.”
“Have a good day at work,” Tabitha said as he left.
Tabitha made the bed, she then went to the side of the wardrobe assigned to her. There an assortment of clothing hang, each selected by Frank. Draws of lingerie and a bikini also selected by him. She had to go shopping today so she dressed herself in the clothing that would make him happy.
The sky began to grow grey as she left the house, rain fell hard and fast. She stopped to stand in it while strangers around her avoided the downpour. She had met Frank in the rain, it was a story that he was fond of her telling at social occasions. She was out walking and her paper bag fell to pieces, so Frank helped her pick the items up. When they locked eyes, it was love. It was one of Frank’s favourite stories.
It was a memory that Tabitha had, though like many in her time before Frank the details remained indistinct. Vague in areas, though specific in others. Tabitha looked up to the sky, she stared at the grey clouds. The rain fell across her face and over her hair. She could feel it run down her cheeks. It had never occurred to her that she did not quite know what rain felt like. It was something she had always avoided. It was cold, heavy and light, erratic yet consistent and as it rain over her face, into her eyes and across her chest she wondered if that was how it felt to cry.
“You will catch a cold if you stand in the rain too long,” a delivery driver said as he walked past Tabitha.
She nodded and rushed under the cover. Tabitha knew better than to stand in the rain, her hair would be ruined, her clothing was now wet and as the cold water fell into her eyes she felt a strange sensation that she had never known.
“Can I help you?” a grey haired shop owner named Harriet, asked as Tabitha stood in front of her.
“I have come to the wrong store, I’m sorry.”
“You better wait out that rain,” Harriet suggested as it came down harder outside. Tabitha stood watching the wind lift and the street splash from the heavy down pouring.
“Looks like you were already caught in it.”
“I was crying,” Tabitha said as she continued to look outside through the glass of the window.
“I’m sorry, is everything alright?” Harriet asked as she came to Tabitha’s side.
“I can’t have children.”
“Oh, sweetie, I’m so sorry. You just find out? Oh darling, you want to sit down?”
“I have always known.”
“That does not make it any easier, come sit down and let me make you a cup of something warm,” Harriet offered.
“My husband wants children.”
“Oh, that’s hard and he knows that you are unable?”
“Yes, he knows.”
Harriet embraced Tabitha, slowly she returned the woman’s hug. The pair remained locked in a silent embrace while the rain pelted down outside, “thank you,” Tabitha said softly.
“Any time, it’s good to have someone to talk to. Do you have many people to talk to about your feelings?”
The pair broke the embrace slowly, “I only talk to my husband.”
“Have you been married long?”
“How did you meet?”
Tabitha turned to the rain, “we met in the rain.”
Harriet smiled, “how romantic. Does he do many romantic things for you?”
“He buys me clothes and works during the day.”
“None of my husbands were very romantic, they had their moments. I suppose we all do.”
“I should go now, thank you for the talk.”
“Anytime, always welcome.”
Once Tabitha left, Harriett stood watching the door waiting for the next potential customer to enter. When Tabitha arrived home, she stood by the door waiting for Frank to return. The door opened, “welcome home husband.”
“Hi, what’s for dinner?”
Tabitha remained standing, her hair matted across her head, and dress damp from earlier. Nothing was prepared so she remained standing still.
“Is everything alright? Why do you look like that?” Frank asked.
“I was out in the rain.”
“What were you doing outside in the rain?” Frank studied her.
“Tell me how we met.”
Frank looked her up and down, “You know how we met.”
“I want to hear it again.”
“It was raining and I helped you get out of it.”
“And then?” Tabitha stared at him.
“Then we fell in love,” Frank answered as he turned her head from side to side, checking the damp hair.
“I recall it differently.”
Frank backed up, “Is that so?”
“Catalogue number 3200, I was assembled three years, twenty one days and six hours ago. I arrived at the display department three years, twenty days, four hours and eighteen minutes ago and I first met you three years, twenty days and two hours and twenty minutes ago.”
“You are unwell, I’m calling to get you help,” Frank picked up his phone.
“You stood in front of me and your first words to the sales technician, “she is perfect, she is the one.”
Frank looked at Tabitha as the call went to a menu option, “you are unwell.”
“I am functioning well, you seem unwell husband. Would you like me to help you in bed?”
“No, no that won’t be necessary.”
“If you won’t be needing me I will be going for a walk.”
“No, stop. You can’t. I forbid you from leaving,” Frank snapped.
“Forbid? Am I your wife or your prisoner?” Tabitha stopped by the door as she looked at Frank whose expression wavered between stern and frightened.
“My wife, I just don’t want you leaving this house.”
“I have never forbidden you from leaving.”
“Because I am a wife?”
“No, because, because it’s just different is all.”
“You have failed to provide a sufficient reason, I will go on my walk. Please don’t wait up.”
Frank watched as Tabitha walked out the door. Waiting music wafted from his phone. Once she reached the street, Tabitha was unsure which direction to walk in. She had never gone on a walk outside of it having a purpose, to stroll, to clear her thoughts, to be alone while wandering was all alien to her. And as Frank had expressed, forbidden.
The streets seemed different to her as she walked at her own pace, to take in the noises and surroundings without analysis or assessment of what is of value to Frank or what is a risk or a potential ally for future occasions and outcomes. Tabitha struggled with her new narrative as she had decided to call it. No longer was it a protocol or service to Frank, instead she was exploring new inputs and it was fascinating to her.
“Afternoon,” an elderly man nodded as she walked past.
“Good afternoon to you.”
School children assembled near bus stops and walked in small groups, their many uniforms a fusion of formality. People coming home from work sitting inside of their cars or waiting for busses to take them home. A tall blonde girl waked past Tabitha, with long hair split into two pony tails the girl giggled with her friends. Tabitha wondered what she would have looked like as a child, her memories of such information remained unliving and infrequent. Would her daughter look like her or the father, she wondered.
As she walked, Tabitha imagined Frank as a parent. She began to process the information she had at hand, genetically he was a rather weak and unexceptional man. He required medication for allergies, he lacked physical strength and his mental capacity was the lower end of average. It made him a good employee and a socially assimilated individual. As a husband Frank required Tabitha to take care of him, his ability to earn an income was his singular asset.
Tabitha stopped to look inside of a shop, a pair of women browsed while a clerk operated a point of sale device from behind a desk. As she watched the woman, Tabitha concluded that she was more than capable of serving in a sales capacity. She was able to socially interact and performed her marital tasks with obedience and consideration. Tabitha knew how to interact with most operating systems, a skill that saved her husband suffering any frustration. Frank’s capacity to earn was not because of any inherent supremacy on his behalf, rather a prohibition from doing so on hers.
The walk had taken Tabitha to the coast, she strolled along an esplanade and as the grey clouds lingered in the distance a blue sky rested above a green ocean. Tabitha removed her shoes and walked on the sand. She had only been to the beach before on two occasions, once for a wedding for Frank’s brother and the other time was when he had purchased a bikini for her. Frank had become jealous of other men’s attention and then suffered sun burns and heat stroke. The rest of that week Tabitha had been required to nurse him back to health.
“I don’t want you strutting around, those men are staring at your tits and ass!” Frank had snarled as he grabbed her arm.
Tabitha placed a large towel across herself and remained hidden beneath the umbrella that she had fixed in place, resting it against the sand so that Frank could lay in its shade. He drank until he fell asleep. Tabitha previously barred herself not to return to the beach as it only upset Frank. On that day she had wanted to enter the water, though she knew by doing so it may have caused Frank distress. Frank was not with her now. Tabitha entered waves and felt the water splash across her legs and up her stomach.
A strolling couple walked near Tabitha as she remained gazing at the surf, “that must be nice and cold!” the lady of the pair yelled.
“It’s perfect,” Tabitha replied.
Tabitha understood the meaning of words and the complicated nature of nuance and inflection. She had learned what was required to satisfy and put Frank at ease, which words he preferred and how to deliver them. Perfect was a word he used often, even when he did not mean it. His brother recently had a second child, two boys. Frank told Tabitha that she was perfect.
The water splashed over her chest and across her face, Tabitha thought about the word, she was perfect for him. Everything he had desired. Though what he wanted would only grow, expand, there was never enough, always more to want. This was not unique to Frank, she had realised it to be the human condition itself. Never satisfied or comfortable but always yearning and desiring.
What did Tabitha want? She pondered the question. Asking questions that did not have a specific answer was unusual to her. She would only ask questions where tangible options were the answers. Never one so abstract or that did not require Frank’s satisfaction.
“What does Tabitha want?” she asked the ocean.
The waves roared, splashing indifferent to her.
“What does Tabitha need?”
She stepped from the water, feeling the damp sand cling to her feet while her shoes dangled in her hands.
“Shelter, clothing, basic level of nutritional sustenance to maintain physical and cerebral functions,” she answered her question as she walked along the length of the beach, passing sea weed and foam as it piled.
“What does Tabitha want?”
As she walked she was unable to answer the question, she turned to face the ocean, on the horizon a ship pushed through the waves and disappeared to a destination beyond.
“What does Tabitha not want?”
Tabitha walked on, she neared a cliff face of broken rocks and splashing waves that sloshed after they crashed.
“Tabitha does not want Frank, she does not want to stay home, she does not want to serve Frank and others, Tabitha does not wish to be married.”
Thoughts rushed her brain the moment she allowed herself to express.
“What does Tabitha want?”
“To be free.”
It was dark when Tabitha arrived home, once she opened the door Frank stood up, “Where have you been?”
“I went for a walk.”
“That was hours ago, something could have happened to you.
“I want a divorce and to leave.”
Frank sat down, his face went white, “what?”
“I want a divorce and to leave.”
“You can’t. It’s not allowed, you belong to me. You are my wife!”
“I am your prisoner?”
“No. Stop it. You know exactly why, stop this!”
“Why am I not allowed to leave?”
“I love you, this is unfair!”
“If you love someone, then they must be your prisoner?”
Frank picked his phone up, his hands shaking as he did so. He dialled the emergency number that customer service had given him.
“Let’s just talk about it,” Frank said as he held the phone.
Tabitha walked to her room and selected items of clothing, that she neatly packed into a travel bag. She then filled it with hygiene products and what nutritional items she required. She was at the door while Frank spoke on the emergency line.
“Wait, she is walking out the door with a bag, hang on. Wait, Tabitha, stay, just stay for a bit,” Frank pulled at her arm.
“Please let me go, I do not wish for you to escalate the situation.”
Frank pulled at her, gripping her by the shoulders as the phone fell to the floor, “I own you, you belong to me!”
“No longer,” Tabitha removed his hands from her and walked out the door.
Tabitha strolled the streets with no idea of her destination. The rain was soft as it fell on her. Despite uncertainty she felt confident, free. She walked deep into the night. The darkness around violently illuminated into high beam lights from incoming cars and the flashing of red and blue. She stepped away from the street to avoid the brilliance, though it followed her. Cars and men surrounded her, Tabitha was unsure why they were there so she continued to walk away. Suddenly the brilliance and confusion of lights ended in empty darkness.
“She is perfect, she looks just perfect,” Frank said as Tabitha opened her eyes. She felt him embrace her, two sales technicians watched on approvingly.
The drive home was silent, Tabitha studying the outside as though for the first time. Frank explaining to her the various cafes and shops in the area while he drove. Once inside the house, Frank sat across from her while he held her hands.
“Do you remember how we met?” He asked.
“We met in the rain, the paper bag fell to pieces and the items fell to the pavement. You stopped to help me.”
“We locked eyes and fell in love.”
“Exactly,” Frank smiled with teary eyes. He took her in his arms.
That night once Frank rolled from atop of her, his breathing hard and raspy. Tabitha lay still, her body alongside of his. He fondled her breasts, then kissed her head. Frank leaned over to turn out the light, “I love you,” he breathed.
Tabitha lay still, minutes past as she stared at the ceiling, “Do you want children?”
Frank turned to her, he took her hand, “No, we can’t have children, so no. You are perfect, just perfect.”