Jan Primm leaned against the kitchen counter in her small apartment in San Leandro, California. She sighed and then blew an errant strand of her light brown hair off to the side of her face. She couldn't use her hands because they were occupied holding a screaming Darren Jr., their youngest, who was going through the terrible twos even before he was two. Courtney, almost four, demanding her share of her mother's attention was clinging onto Jan's bare leg with tiny hands, still sticky from the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches she had eaten for dinner. She was shouting "mommy, mommy read me a story . . . read me a story right now."
Jan wished, oh how she wished, that Darren, her husband, was home. She knew that he wouldn't be home for three more weeks because he was at sea thousands of miles away. He wasn't in the Navy but for nearly two years Darren had worked on a container ship that sailed between the west coast and Asia. His typical exotic ports of call included places like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Osaka, Tokyo, Manila, and Singapore.
She was abruptly brought back to the present when she realized that, finally, Darren Jr. had stopped fussing and had, abruptly, fallen into a deep sleep. As she gently laid him in his bed and pulled the covers over him she said a silent prayer that he would stay down for the night. After spending some time with her daughter and reading her the "Little Mermaid" for the umpteenth time, Courtney too was soon off to slumber-land.
Now, at long last, the kids were down and she was alone. Jan was grateful for the peace but with Darren gone she was also very lonely, desperate for adult company and conversations. To tell the truth, she was getting tired of taking care of kids, reading pocket books, watching television, even the daily visits with Rita, her neighbor--whose husband Gus also worked on Darren's ship. Frankly, she was bored to death.
Tonight there would be no television to keep her company until she dozed off because they had cut her electricity on Friday afternoon and they wouldn't restore it until Monday, the following morning, after she made a cash payment for the past-due amount. And, because her computer also required electricity, tonight there would be no possibility of retrieving any e-mail from Darren or sending an e-mail to him. She was grateful that today's large ships were connected to the mainland by satellites so Internet connections at sea, except in a few black spots, were nearly as good as those on land.
In the glow of the candles, that this time were lit out of necessity and not to create an ambiance for romance, she looked around the small two-bedroom apartment. This wasn't what she expected when she and Darren married. She couldn't have imagined that they would be living from paycheck to paycheck and separated for weeks at a time. Practically, they had learned that she couldn't work and help out because the cost of daycare in the Bay area for two children offset whatever she could make with her limited skills. She remembered the disaster of trying to work as a receptionist in a law office for three months when Darren Jr. was nearly a year old. They actually went in the hole when transportation, new clothes, cleaning, a higher tax bracket-- because of their increased income--and the dreaded daycare costs were added.
Darren made fairly good money but the cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area was very high. They were still paying for the three-year-old Honda, furniture, student loans and even the engagement ring he had placed on the third finger of her left hand the night he proposed to her.
As she slipped her husband's baggy college sweatshirt over her head, she noticed the three, faded-red, block letters "O.R.U." emblazoned across its front. This caused her thoughts to drift back to the first time she saw Darren at the Oral Roberts University Student Union more than four years ago. They were both freshmen. She had been a high school cheer leader and intended to become an elementary school teacher but when she looked into his deep blue eyes she was smitten. After that, school and studies soon took a distant second place to him. He was the most handsome man she had ever seen, like a taller Brad Pitt with a twinkle in his eye and a smile that would be perfect for a toothpaste ad. He asked her if he could buy her a Coke and she accepted though she was, supposedly, going steady with John, whom her parents adored. By the next day she was no longer going steady with John and never dated another person. Within two months she and Darren were engaged and by their third month together she was pregnant with Courtney.
Her parents couldn't accept the idea of their getting married. They hated Darren who, they believed, came from the wrong side of the tracks and would never amount to anything. He was also compromised because they had not chosen him for their precious daughter as they had John, whose father was their pastor, and who planned to go into the ministry himself. To this day, Jan's well-off parents had never seen either of their grandchildren and had effectively disowned their only child because she had disobeyed them and settled for less than what they wished for her.
No, on that fateful day when she saw Darren for the first time and fell hopelessly in love, she never expected the financial difficulties they were experiencing or his long absences from their bed. Tonight, like so many nights, she would sleep alone. Tonight, like so many nights, she would ache with emptiness and long to be held, caressed and filled by her husband. She thought that Darren must be the greatest lover in the world. She couldn't compare his physical attributes, technique or stamina with any other man because she had never made love with any other man. She did not count John's clumsy efforts to get into her panties when they were going steady or the awkwardness of several athletes she had dated during high school who tried their best to get to home plate but seldom got to second base. She had been raised in a very religious home. There was never any doubt about which university she would attend, it would be Oral Roberts University located right in her hometown, Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was an institution where the moral code was as important as the faculty and facilities.
Within two weeks after meeting Darren, however, love and her passion for him overcame her mother's teachings, what they had taught her at their fundamentalist church and even the fire and brimstone lectures against premarital sex they had required her to attend at O.R.U. They had driven to Oklahoma City and checked into a motel. It was in that tiny, dingy motel room that she surrendered to her desires and completely gave herself to him. They expressed their love to each other as they hurriedly undressed. Darren came prepared and slipped a condom over his throbbing penis before he slowly and carefully sunk it into her warm, wet and willing but inexperienced body. While the penetration hurt for just a brief moment, the slight pain was soon replaced by an indescribable feeling, one that she never wanted to end. Laying under Darren that night with her long legs spread apart as wide as possible, her arms holding him tightly to her and their lips locked together, she realized that, in more than just a physical way, they had become one. Forever, he and their lovemaking would be a part of her life and she never wanted to go back to how it had been before that moment.
Jan knew that Darren didn't have much more sexual experience than she did. After they made love the first time, she had laid her head on his broad shoulder and tentatively asked, "how many girls have you been with?"
He didn't hesitate, "counting you, three."
Nearly every time they made love after that she playfully asked the same question and he would laugh and give the same answer. Her inquiry and his predictable answer had become a game for them.
During their first two months as a couple they had awakened sexually and learned together. They discovered each other as they were each discovering themselves. Neither was bashful in asking the other to "do this" or "do that." Conversely, "don't do this," "please don't do that." They openly discussed what felt good, great, even better and they were willing to experiment.
Darren wasn't always as careful with protection as he was that first time in the motel room in Oklahoma City. Before Jan could get on the pill, she discovered that she was pregnant. There was never a question for either of them that they would get married and have the child that they conceived out of love. When she told her parents of their plans, they declared that she would be on her own if she insisted on marrying Darren.
Love conquers all, they thought, and since she would be on her own anyway, they decided to elope. After they were married, they stuck it out at O.R.U. for another year. However, the writing was on the wall a month before Courtney was born and Jan had to quit her minimum- wage job on campus. She had already dropped her classes to save money as her parents had predicted she would. Proceeds from Darren's student loans and a string of part-time jobs for him forced them to admit that there was absolutely no way they could make it another two years.
Darren had a distant uncle who worked on tanker ships that sailed out of California. His uncle told him that if he came out to the west coast he thought he could get him hired. There was nothing to keep them in Tulsa anymore because of the estranged relationship with her folks and also because Darren's parents were dead and he had no other family there. By the time they left Tulsa pulling a U-Haul trailer that contained all of their meager possessions, Jan was pregnant with Darren Jr. They thought of the move as an adventure and were very excited as they headed west in the Honda with Courtney safely strapped in the back seat in her car-seat.
Darren's uncle couldn't get him a job on the tankers that sailed out of southern California ports. However, he pulled a few strings and arranged for an entry level crew position working on the container ships that sailed out of the bay area, five hundred miles to the north. Sailing to exotic ports as the junior member of a small crew paid double what Darren could make doing anything else. She smiled as she remembered that they had lived in an even smaller apartment than their present one during his first two voyages. Then, he met Rita's husband, Gus, a fellow crew- member, who told him of a vacancy in his apartment building, this apartment building. They had been here ever since.
She had read an article in "Cosmopolitan" magazine that said after the first year of marriage, and especially after having children, ardor for both the man and the woman would wain. Well, she thought, something must be wrong with us because, unless she was having her period or one of them was sick, seldom did a day go by when he didn't enter her. She had also read that not all women climax and hardly any woman climaxes all the time. I must be some kind of a sex freak, she reasoned, because she couldn't remember a time when she didn't have several orgasms during intercourse and even when he went down on her or when he just played with her with his talented fingers.
Jan couldn't deny Darren anything. One night when she was sucking him he said, "don't stop Jan, don't every stop," as he held her head to his groin. When he came in her mouth that first time she gagged. After that, as she knew what to expect, she would swallow every drop.
As Jan slipped under the cool sheets, she thought of the changes in their relationship since he began sailing off to the Orient. Until he boarded the container vessel for the first time they had never spent a night apart since she lost her virginity in the squalid motel room in Oklahoma City more than two years before. She sobbed herself to sleep that first night she was left alone. The subsequent nights weren't much easier. Her tummy was swelling as Darren Jr. grew inside her. When her husband returned from his first voyage, they were both almost frantic as their pent up desires were released. That night, their lovemaking was more intense than ever. After he came, for the first time, he stayed hard and they screwed again and again.
Laying in the afterglow, she softly asked, as she had so often before, "how many girls have you been with Darren?"
"Counting you baby, three." And they both laughed.
Later that night as they were making love for the fourth time, he shocked her by blurting out, "oh baby, your pussy's made for fucking . . . you've got the hottest cunt in the world . . . I feel guilty keeping this choice snatch all to myself." Where in the world did all of that come from, she wondered.
After his second voyage and a few months before Darren Jr. was born, the night of his return, laying on the rumpled sheets of their bed, bathed in perspiration after they had both climaxed, she played with the hairs on his chest and asked the same question she had asked dozens of times before. "How many girls have you been with?"
He didn't answer immediately then said, so softly she could barely hear him, "five."
She stiffened and contemplated what he had said. She sat up in bed and then to make sure she didn't misunderstand him she repeated her question. "How many did you say?"
This time without hesitation, "I said five."
"Then that means . . . then that means . . . " She didn't want to cry as the reality sunk in of what he had said. During the last voyage he had screwed two other women.
He confirmed what she had been thinking. "Gus took me to this place in Hong Kong and then after we docked in the Philippines he took me to another place in Manila. Ummm, I told you I would never lie to you kitten and I won't. You asked me and I told you."
"But Darren, you've committed adultery. Does this mean you want our marriage to end."
"Shit, Jan grow up." He knew this was coming so he lowered his voice, so he didn't wake the kids, and tried to explain. "Honey, I was at sea for a month. You're pregnant. I don't even remember their names. I didn't love them. I didn't even make love to them. I just fucked them."
"But that's not the way either of us was raised."
"I can tell you I sure as shit don't want to end up like your hypocritical, judgmental parents. You knew that I had been with two other girls before I met you and now I've been with two more. What difference does it make? I'm here with you because I want to be. I love only you."
"Nevertheless, you cheated. You were unfaithful," she said.
"You're right, you're right I did cheat because you didn't know about it until now. But, let me ask you, does it really make any difference? Am I in some way a worse person? Is our marriage and our family threatened by what I did for a couple of hours half way around the world?"
"How can I ever trust you again?"
"You can trust me to love you, only you and our child, our children. You can trust me to do my best to take care of you and to never to lie to you. I think I've proven myself tonight. I could have kept my mouth shut and you'd never have known about those women. You can also trust me to let you be independent and free."
Jan was thinking that this was just too much to take in all at once. She hadn't been feeling well as the time for delivery was getting nearer. What he said was true but confusing to her. She tried to picture what it must have been like and what they were like so she asked, "what were they like?"
"The gal in Hong Kong was really beautiful. She was tall, slim and elegant."
"Was she . . . oh, this isn't easy . . . was she, was she good?"
"Hell Jan, she was a pro, of course she was good. She was great." He paused then asked. "But want to know something?"
"What?" She asked trying to fight back the tears that were brimming behind her eyelids.
"Hell, the gal in Hong Kong had probably fucked a thousand guys and as good as she was, she wasn't half as good in the sack as you are."
"Really? Why do you say that?"
"Even with these two whores, obviously I haven't had that much experience but I know you're very different than the others."
"How so?" She asked.
"You like sex much more than any woman I've been with. I've never been with someone who can cum like you do and always be ready for more." He looked at her, smiled and said, "As a matter of fact Jan, my fucking those women is really your fault."
"My fault!" She exploded. "How could your not being able to keep your pants zipped up for just a month be my fault?"
"Hold it down. You'll wake the kids." Then he lowered his own voice and said, "If it wasn't so good with you . . . I mean if sex wasn't so great with you, I wouldn't miss it so much. I think guys that don't cheat don't really like or need sex. I'll just bet that their wives or girlfriends are ice cubes and sure don't look like you do. Yes, I'd say my obsession with sex is because of you."
"Let me get this straight," she said. "If I wasn't pretty and didn't enjoy making love to you, then you would be able to be faithful to me?"
"Damned straight. You've got it. Couldn't have said it better myself. When I'm away from you, I think about you constantly. Your beautiful face, fabulous body, the way you move, smell and think. I can't tell you how much I miss you and your boobies and your pussy. Without some relief when we're apart I think I would go crazy."
"Maybe you are crazy. What you just said is the craziest thing I've ever heard. If I can wait for you to get back, I don't see why you can't too."
"Who said you have to wait?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"Exactly what you think I mean. You don't have to wait. If something happened while I was gone . . . well, I could live with that." Then, he decided to let her know what had been bouncing around in his mind. "Now that I think about it, I could do more than just accept it, I'd like it, I'd really like it."
Jan couldn't believe what he had said. Not only had she discovered that he had been messing around but he was saying that he wouldn't mind it if she did the same thing, he actually wanted her to be with other men. Now she was sure he didn't love her anymore. He used to get so jealous when men paid a little too much attention to her. When a look turned into a leer. Now, she realized that his new attitude coincided with his doing what sailors--whether married or not--are famous for doing; chasing, catching and seducing women.
"So it wouldn't bother you if I told you that I had gone to bed with someone else?" She asked incredulously.
"Did you?" He smiled at her knowing what her answer would be.
"Of course not. I'm not like that . . . and I'm as big as a house."
"You won't be pregnant forever baby. I'll just bet that a few weeks after the baby's born you'll be hot to trot."
"Maybe I'll be hot to trot for you, but no one else." Her eyes locked on his, "no one else . . . never anyone else."
"Be careful what you say baby," he warned. "Before my second voyage I would never have thought that I would be with another woman." Then Darren shook his head from side to side and advised his wife, "never say never."
Jan actually considered taking Courtney and leaving him. However, the prospect of returning home in defeat, pregnant, with only one year of college and no job skills was anything but appealing. Her parents would gloat and she could just imagine that the phrase she would hear most often would be, "I told you so." If there were other options for her, she couldn't figure out what they were. Also, she had to admit that she still loved him, she still needed him, he was a part of her. And, Courtney and the baby that would be born in a few months deserved to have a father in their lives.
Jan didn't leave Darren after she learned that he had been with other women and that he wanted her to be with other men. They didn't get a divorce. Two weeks later when his ship sailed off under the Golden Gate Bridge toward the setting sun, she knew that he would probably end up in bed with another woman or women. The realization wasn't easy to deal with but, reluctantly, she accepted it. Men will be men she thought. She couldn't deny him anything, even an occasional tryst when he was thousands of miles from their bed.