tagLoving WivesHands on the Wheel Ch. 05

Hands on the Wheel Ch. 05


Both women needed a break from the intensity of Sarah's confession. Fumiko started fixing another pot of tea and Sarah went to the bathroom. She came back and sat at the kitchen table; Fumiko poured them each a cup of tea, then sat down across from Sarah and favored Sarah with a knowing, sisterly smile..

"You don't have to explain why you started falling in love with Ivan. I did too, nine years before you did. I think I may still be in love with him."

She told Sarah about her job as a simultaneous interpreter, the data mining conference at the Fuji-ya Hotel, about Ivan's kindness toward the waitress who spilled the eggs in his lap and his outrage at how she was treated by the hotel. She said she still had the glossary of terms he put together for the translators at the conference, and smiled as she related how the three young women in the translation booth giggled when Fumiko wrote "he is a cute gaijin" on a sheet of paper while Ivan was staring at her through the glass of their booth.

Her voice was even softer than usual when she described the hours she and Ivan spent in the Odawara train station, deliberately missing two Tokyo-bound trains so they could keep talking. They continued to share their lives on the all-too-short train ride to Tokyo. She looked down into her teacup for a long moment before continuing.

"I didn't want to leave him when we got to the Tokyo station, but I didn't know how he felt. We got off the train and just stood looking at each other, not knowing what to do. Finally I stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek and said good-bye. I had to turn away quickly so he wouldn't see my tears."

Her face blossomed into a smile as she told how he called her name just as she was about to get on the escalator, then fought his way through the crowd, took her hands, and asked if she would have dinner with him that evening. She described the dinner as almost magical: the food was perfect, the wine was perfect, the dessert was perfect, the service was perfect. Everything was perfect.

After describing that perfect dinner, she paused, overcome with emotion. "Then we went to his room and made love until sunrise. That's when I knew I had fallen in love with him. We felt wicked eating a room service breakfast in the nude, and had to shower twice because we made love one more time after the first one. Then he left. I didn't see him again until the conference in San José nine years later."

The love they shared for Ivan forged a strong bond between the two women. Sarah reached across and covered Fumiko's hand. "Ivan cherishes those memories, too. He told me. He still loves you, Fumiko, that's why I had to come talk with you."

Fumiko held her teacup to her mouth, inhaling the green tea's essence and thinking about what she had learned. She still had questions. "But you're Sarah again. Why? What happened to Woodley?"

"I didn't tell you the whole story of my rehabilitation project with Ivan. The night before I told Ivan he was ready to return to real life, his ex-wife Jean showed up at his apartment. I answered the door and was fairly rude to her." She shrugged and flashed a smirk. "Well, I guess you could say I was exceptionally rude to her. I slapped her a couple of times and called her a bunch of time-worn Anglo-Saxon terms that nowadays are considered insults."

Fumiko had to smile at Sarah's euphemisms. Given the stories she had already told, Fumiko was pretty sure that "exceptionally rude" was an understatement. Sarah quickly confirmed her suspicion.

"When she left, I told her—no I threatened her—not to try to talk Ivan into letting her come back. Ivan was so impressed with what I said that he's remembered it word-for-word, and repeated it to me enough times that I think I can quote it, too. Just before I shoved her out the door, I described how her punishment would escalate. If she ever tried to talk her way back I'd slap the shit out of her. If she tried again, I'd cut off all her hair and tattoo SLUT across her tits. If she did it one more time, I'd pump her asshole full of pepper spray, super-glue in a butt-plug, then cut off her nipples and feed them to the ravens."

Fumiko couldn't stifle a shocked giggle. "You didn't!"

"I did," Sarah said, grinning wickedly. "I don't think I would have actually done all that, but I'd damn sure say it again; it felt really good to say it." She turned serious.

"My adrenalin must have been off the charts. After I finished cursing her and throwing her out, I was so horrified at how enraged I had been that I collapsed and started crying. Ivan didn't just try to make me feel better, he did an instant 180 from submissive patient to Mr. Take Charge And Fix It. He comforted me, soothed me, assured me everything was all right, then gently but surely made love to me. I'll never forget what he said when he took charge: 'Woodley, tonight the only words you're allowed to say are oh, yes, there, more, please, and again.' "

Fumiko inhaled sharply, a sudden clench of pelvic muscle setting her innermost female places tingling. Sarah noticed, and smiled. "Yeah, me too, every time I think about it. We made gentle love that still moved the earth most of that night. I had to get out of there or I would have been lost in him."

"But how could you give that up?" Fumiko was shaken, worried that Sarah made the wrong decision, that her own love for Ivan was doomed. "Won't you regret all your life that you left it behind, or at least wonder what would have happened if you had stayed?"

Sarah shook her head, confident that she had done the right thing. "No, because the greatest gift Ivan gave me wasn't that night of love, it was restoring my belief in me. After that night I knew that I could find love—no, I knew that love would find me.

"Even though deep inside I thought I wasn't worthy of love, Ivan showed me that deep inside I was wrong. If he believed that I was worthy of his love—even if only for that night—chances are I must be worth loving. That's why Woodley died that night: her quest had failed.

"She wrought vengeance on Sarah Elizabeth Morrison for fucking up her own life and the lives of those who loved her. Woodley was determined that the stupid slut would never find happiness. But Ivan reached into the ashes of Woodley's scorched-earth march, lifted out Sarah's unbroken spirit, brushed it off, and gave it back to her."

They sat for a long while without speaking, stilled by the impact of Sarah's emotional outburst, then Sarah grinned, breaking the spell. "Or maybe he just fucked my brains out and I forgot what I'd been upset about." They dissolved into relieved giggles.

Sarah turned serious to sum up her explanation. "The three weeks we spent together gave Ivan back his life, and that last night gave me back mine. That's why we love each other so much: not as lovers, but as the best possible friends, as brother and sister. That's why I left him, to set him free to find real love after Jean almost killed him. And that's why I came to you—I want him to be happy, and I believe only you can bring him the happiness he needs."

Fumiko nodded. She understood Sarah's reasoning, but marveled at the strength it must have taken for Sarah to leave after healing Ivan then making such tender love with him. "It must have been terribly difficult for you." Sarah didn't respond, and Fumiko had her doubts that she could make Ivan happy, not after his anger the evening he found her at the conference.

She remembered something she had been curious about earlier.

"Why did you call yourself Woodley? Is that an old family name?"

"No, Woodley comes from a story I read when I was a teenager about a young woman who lived in England in the Thirteenth Century. I think you might understand why it made a strong impression on me."

Woodley's story


It was Sarah Miller's wedding night. She was waiting for Albert, her new husband, in the bedchamber of her parent's small farmhouse, still wearing the wedding dress her mother had made. The sound of horses galloping up startled her, because peasants didn't ride horses. There was some shouting, then the sound of blows and swords.

The noises frightened Sarah, but her fear turned to terror when the Lord of the Manor stormed up the stairs and burst into her bedroom, brandishing his bloody sword. He cursed her stupid husband and father, saying that they learned a harsh lesson about Droit de Seigneur and now it was her turn.

He ripped off her wedding dress, hoisted her petticoats, and raped her. When he finished she still tried to strike him, so he called in his men-at-arms and told them she was theirs, then left. The five hulking brutes took turns savagely raping her for hours, then left her naked and bloody lying on her bed and galloped off back to their Lord's castle.

Summoning what little strength remained in her ravished body, she gathered the bloody remnants of her dress around her and stumbled down to the stables. There she found the bodies of her husband and father, hacked and run through. Her mother lay nearby, half naked, bruised, and bloody, but still alive. She told her daughter that she must leave immediately because she heard the men-at-arms say they were sending the stable boys and other rough workers from the castle back to get their share.

When Sarah said she wouldn't leave her mother there alone, her mother reached beneath her skirts, took out a dagger, plunged it into her breast, and died without a word. Sarah cried out, clasped her mother's bloody body to her bosom, then gently laid her back down. Her expression changed from grief to hate. "I swear to you, Mother, that they will pay. Every one of them."

She tore the skirt of her tattered wedding dress from the bodice, tied the skirt around her waist as best she could, took the dagger from her mother's breast and concealed it beneath her petticoats, and started across the field to the nearby forest. The woods were the domain of a band of brigands who preyed on travelers, favoring, of course, those who looked prosperous but poorly guarded. They did not share their ill-gotten gains with the poor; anyone unfortunate enough to be caught straying into their woods regretted it.

So when Sarah, sobbing and nearly naked, stumbled into the forest, she soon was taken by rough hands and dragged to the hidey-hole of the brigands. In the light of their ever-present cook fire, she was presented to the Leader. After some loud discussion of her fate, the Leader was about to declare that she would be community property—their serving wench and laundress available to be ravished by any and all. Before he could speak, a tall, thin fellow with no facial hair stepped from the motley ranks into the firelight.

"She's of little use to us in her present state," he declared with authority, as well he might, for he was the Physician. When a nobleman's wife he was treating died through no fault of his own, he had to flee for his life and fell into the brigand life. "She is suffering from hysteropsia and several gorlesional crepuscularities. Not only do these severely impair her physical strength, they affect her mental state—and could even be contagious."

His fellow outlaws were impressed by such ominous-sounding maladies—having no idea they were nonsense terms he had made up on the spot—and frightened by the threat that they could be similarly infected. They demanded to know what their respected healer recommended. He offered to treat her until she had recovered her strength and wit and was no longer a threat to their well-being. They eagerly turned her over to his ministrations, whereupon her threw her over his shoulder and carried her off deeper into the forest.

In his solitary wanderings, for he never took part in either robbery or rapine, the Physician had discovered a secret glade deep in the forest, deeper than anyone else had ventured—a wudu leah in Old English, now called a woodleigh or woodley. It wasn't a large clearing, less than an acre, but provided more than enough space for his cottage, garden, and paddock for two smallish horses. He kept her there for a month, making sure she ate properly and got much-needed rest.

She told him what had happened and swore that she would never love again, that she would not rest until she took her revenge on the Lord of the Manor and his brutal henchmen. He said he would help her, and spent the following weeks showing her how to use cudgel, dagger, garotte, and poisons.

The second fortnight he suggested that he also teach her how to use her body to tease a man and lead him on, to seduce him no matter how suspicious or uninterested he might be. He assured Sarah that although the teaching would involve actual carnal knowledge of each other so the teaching would be realistic, he would never hurt her. Despite her avowal never to love again, she agreed to the practices as a necessary exercise to develop her skills, and encouraged the Physician to teach her all she would need.

The first time they coupled, she found herself wishing that it were her slain husband, but she saw that response as a foolish weakness of spirit. Thereafter she allowed herself to take occasional small pleasure from the exercises, but denied herself any stronger response. He, on the other hand, found himself growing ever fonder of this damaged young woman.

Sarah grew strong and skilled under the Physician's care and tutelage. He saw that she possessed intelligence far beyond the mere cunning of most of the ruffians in the brigand band, and so at the end of the month suggested to the Leader that she would be of greater value as an advisor and tactician rather than something to passed from bandit to bandit for sexual release.

He was careful to mask any compassion or fondness for her, but presented his case as simply in the best interest of the group. Memory of the night she was dragged before the fire in the intervening weeks had faded, and mindful of the Physician's intelligence and judgment, the Leader agreed to his suggestion. He informed the others that Sarah was now his Counselor and the Physician's assistant and would be doing no serving, washing, or fucking.

She didn't tell anyone else of her plans to kill the Lord of the Manor and his minions for fear that they would believe she would fail and bring down the nobleman's wrath. The Physician was loath to let Sarah go alone, but she insisted. If she failed, then it was not meant to be. If she found she needed help, she would ask.

One day a friend of one of the brigands, who served in the Lord's household, revealed that all the villains were at the manor house. She dressed as a beggar and set out on foot, carrying a rucksack that contained a poisoned cake, some bread and cheese, a flagon of wine, and a revealing dress she had fashioned from the remnants of her wedding dress and an old cloak of the Physician's. A bone-handled dagger tipped with crystals of the deadliest poison the Physician had concocted was bound to the inside of her left thigh with two strips of linen.

The men-at-arms were simple-minded, so it was a simple matter to bring them their just deserts. They were lounging about on the manor house grounds drinking wine and telling tall tales about their brave experiences. She walked up to them and asked if their master needed any workers. Not recognizing her as a woman, they jeered and asked what a puny man such as she could do.

She said she could hunt and cook whatever she killed. They didn't believe she could hunt, and poked fun at her claim that she could cook anything. She responded by taking out the cake and telling them to taste it and decide for themselves. They eagerly grabbed the cake, divided it amongst themselves, ate it all, and washed it down with the last of their wine. Each proclaimed it the best cake they had ever eaten, then one by one all five fell asleep, never to waken.

Having taken care of the brutes, Sarah hid as best she could in the shrubbery outside the castle, took off her beggar's rags, and put on the revealing dress. She emerged from the shrubbery and picked up the empty wineskin they had been sharing and slit a hole in it. Standing out of the way to avoid any blood, she sliced off the ruffians' ears and put them in the wineskin. Fluffing her hair and pinching her cheeks to make them rosy, she tucked the beggar's rags and wineskin in her rucksack alongside the bread and cheese, then strolled into the castle singing a merry song of spring (although she thought of it as a song of seduction).

When the Lord of the Manor heard the merry singing, he looked out and saw a fair peasant maiden in a revealing dress. Assuming—correctly, as it happened—that she had come with carnal intent, he sent a servant to bring her into his bedchamber, then dismissed the servant. "Why la, sir, why would you have me brought into your bedchamber?" she asked in the coquettish manner taught her by the Physician.

"I think you know quite well why, wench." He had paid little attention to her on that doomed wedding night and so did not recognize her; after all, she was nothing but one of many peasant girls he had raped. He grabbed her arm and dragged her to the tall bed, then began to remove her dress.

"You shouldn't have to do that, m'Lord, let me. Perhaps you could remove some of your own clothing." She smiled fetchingly as she slid her arms from the top of her dress and began to lower it. The nobleman disliked her sassy manner, but as her fulsome bosom slowly emerged from the folds of her dress he grunted approval. He sat on the bed and unbuckled his belt, which held his purse and shortsword, then began loosing the toggles that fastened his tunic.

As she bent to slide her dress down, she saw that he was not looking at her, but was concentrating on his own efforts to unfasten his tunic. Making sure that beneath his tunic he wore only a linen undershirt, she took her dagger from its linen bonds and quickly thrust it into his belly. The Physician had assured her that the poison would instantly paralyze him, but his very painful death would take much longer.

He fell back on the bed with a muffled cry, his face contorted in shock and pain. She drew her dress back up, then turned and lowered her face to his. "You killed my mother, my father, and my husband," she hissed. "I have killed your stupid men-at-arms, and now I have killed you. The pain you are feeling now is nothing to the pain I have felt every day since your foul deeds.

"I shall not rest until I have taken my revenge on your family. I will kill your sons, your brothers, and their sons. I will take your wife and your daughter, and the wives of your sons and your brothers and your brothers' sons, and all their children and turn them over to brigands, beggars, and lepers to be raped, then I shall sell them as whores and slaves to the Moors in Spain. I shall take all your gold and silver, burn your houses and barns, slaughter your cattle and sheep and oxen, and I shall curse and slander your name throughout all Christendom."

Then, while he still lived, she cut off his genitals and stuffed them in his mouth. After wiping the blood from her hands on the bedsheet, she climbed onto the bed, stood straddling his head, lifted her dress and petticoats, and pissed on his face. Though he was paralyzed, his body twitched and shuddered at the insult.

She leaped down from the bed and exchanged her dress for the beggar's clothing from her rucksack. Taking the Lord's shortsword from its scabbard, she stood beside the bed and once again lowered her face close to his. "Everyone knows how to get rid of a snake. First you cut off its head, then you kill it." She raised the shortsword and chopped off his head, then plunged the blade into his heart.

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