The next evening during dinner, John said, “Jessie, I went by to check on your mattress today. It’s due in tomorrow.”
She hadn’t realized she had shared John’s bed for more than a month already.
“We can go tomorrow and get it, and you can pick up the extra material you needed then too.”
As they lie in bed that evening, John rolled over close to Jessie and whispered, “I’m going to miss having you next to me,” and softly kissed her cheek.”
Jessie smiled. John pushed the hair from her face with his finger and rubbed his hand down her cheek. “You are so beautiful Jessie.” Then he softly kissed her lips.
Jessie’s heart was pounding. John thought she was beautiful! He had said before her dress was beautiful, but this time it was her . . . really her. She never thought anyone would find her beautiful.
She felt John’s lips on hers, softly at first, but then hard and intense. She felt his tongue wondering though her mouth. Before she knew it, John was on top of her. She could feel his hand caressing her body, and then pulling at her nightgown to reach for her breast.
What was happening? Did John think this was some sort of goodbye for her before she had her own bed? Or was she to thank him somehow for sharing his bed? Or had it just come time for Jessie to honor his wishes because he had given her so much? Did he think because he told her she was beautiful that this was O.K.?
Suddenly all she could think of was that horrible night at the Hotel. When that man lie on her just as John was. NO! She wouldn’t have it happen again. She didn’t care what John’s reasons were, it would not happen.
Jessie could not speak. She could not turn away. John had complete control over her. She pulled her arm up and slapped his face as hard as she could.
“Damn Jessie!” he shouted as he sat on top of her.
Jessie squirmed and kicked at him between his legs. She would do whatever it took this time. No matter how hard she had to fight.
“SMACK!” Jessie felt the side of her face throb with pain and tears began falling on her cheek, which made it sting worse.
“Are you crazy?” John shouted as he flew off of her. “A simple no would do!” and he stormed out of the rom, slamming the door behind him.
Jessie lie there sobbing uncontrollably. She hadn’t meant to actually hurt him. But she did want him to stop. Her heart still raced. She could not believe what she’d done, slapping him like that and kicking at him, and him hitting her!
She had seen the “girls” with a few bruises now and then from their nightly escapades, but she was no whore! How dare he think he could just take her that way and just ruin everything!
John had never made any notions before that he was expecting her to give into his desires. She didn’t realize he even had any desires for her. Now everything would change.
The following morning Jessie awoke alone in John’s bed. She went to the bathroom and looked at herself. Her eyes were red and swollen from crying, her cheek still stung and was red as well. John had hit her hard.
She wasn’t sure where he was and didn’t care to find out. It was nearly 9:00, she assumed he would be out by now. She dressed and quietly walked down the stairs. She saw the blanket on the small sofa and knew that’s where John had spent the evening. There were no other signs that he was in the house.
Jessie went to make herself a cup of tea when she heard a wagon pulling up. She peeked out the window. It was John, with her mattress in the back of the wagon. “Oh no,” she thought. He would be coming in. Without thinking, she ran out the back door and headed to the lake.
She began to cry and ran as fast as she could, so that John would not see her going. She just could not face him.
As she entered the clearing to the lake, she noticed the wooden bench. John must have put it there last night. It was just as beautiful as the rest of the furniture in the house. She sat on it and sobbed even harder.
She kept going over last night in her head. Had she over reacted? After all, John was not a mean man. He’d always been kind and gentle to her. But why? Why did he have to go and try to take her that way?
Then she thought, perhaps she was wrong about that too. He was not actually hurting or even forcing her. Then she remembered his words, “a simple no would do.” She hadn’t actually ever told him no, or even given him the chance to stop. She was just so scared, not of him, but of what had happened to her the one and only time any man was close to her. Jessie continued to sit and cry. What had she done? Maybe the whole night was really her fault after all.
John stormed in the house with Jessie’s mattress. He awkwardly got it to the top of the stairs and into Jessie’s room. He was not aware of where Jessie was. He was still furious with her. He could hardly believe she had hit him! And he had never hit any woman, and he knew he hit her hard. But then she deserved it, kicking at him like that. What could she have been thinking?
John realized Jessie was not in the house, and was glad about it. He sat at the kitchen table drinking his coffee and thinking. Why would she have reacted so badly to him? It was as though she was fighting him to stop. He didn’t understand, why did she not just tell him she hadn’t wanted him? He would have accepted it.
Then he thought to himself, perhaps he was a bit fast with Jessie. After all, he didn’t think she’d ever been with a man before. And it’s not like they ever dated each other before. But how was he to date Jessie? They lived in the same house already! Did she not know that he had come to care for, and desire her? Either she didn’t, or if she did, she obviously didn’t feel the same way.
John wished he had given Jessie the chance to tell him her feelings sometime before last night. He normally had at least romantically kissed a woman before he tried to make love to her!
He realized a long time had passed and he had no idea where Jessie was. He decided he’d better find her and straighten this mess out. They couldn’t remain angry with each other too long. They still had to live together. He wasn’t sure what he’d say to her, but he’d find her first and then see how she reacted to him.
John looked in the barn, perhaps she was feeding the animals? No, she hadn’t done that yet. “The lake,” he thought, that was the only other place she could possibly be.
As he walked to the clearing he could hear Jessie, hear her sobbing. His heart ached. He was the one who made her so upset and the one who had hurt her.
“Jessie,” he said as he sat beside her on the bench.
She quickly turned her face away from him and quieted. He would think she was a child for being so upset still.
John was silent. He saw the redness on her cheek. How could he have done that?
“Jessie, I’m sorry . . . sorry that I hurt you. I know now that you don’t want me, but . . . how dare you hit me!”
Jessie could not stop herself from sobbing.
“I . . . I’m sorry. You just, you don’t understand.”
“Well then, make me understand. If we’re to live here together, it can’t remain this way.”
Jessie heard the words in her head “if we’re to live here together.” Had she gotten him so angry he would send her away now too!
“Please John! I am sorry. I’ll never do it again . . . if that’s what you expect from me then . . . I will . . . I promise!”
“What do you mean expect? I don’t expect you to want me! I thought, well, it doesn’t matter what I thought now.”
“I just got scared John, because of . . . that other time, but it would be different with you, I guess, and . . .”
“Yes, well it was not my choice. I tried . . . well I guess I didn’t try hard enough and . . .” Jessie continued to cry as she tried to explain what had happened to her. If she could only make John understand, then he would forgive her behavior. “It was at the Hotel, a while ago. I was cleaning up one of the rooms and this man came in. He must have thought I worked for Aunt Betsy and he . . . he pushed me down. And I tried to tell him no, but he didn’t listen . . . he got on top of me . . . he was strong . . . and . . . I couldn’t stop him. So when you . . . I just couldn’t help but . . . please don’t send me away! I’m very happy here.”
Jessie buried her face in her hands and continued to cry.
John reached over and put his arms around her. “Jessie, I’m so sorry! I had no idea . . . I would never try to force you to make love to me . . . never! And as far as sending you away, why would I do that? Don’t you know how much I care for you?”
She didn’t say a word. She was still too upset. John continued to hold her tight. He knew he would never make the mistake of coming onto her so strong again. She was young and naïve, and she’d been through more than any girl should have to.
Jessie began to get herself under control.
“Besides, I’ve gotten used to your cooking for me, if you left, I might starve,” he teased.
Jessie laughed softly and wiped her tears, but remained in John’s arms.
“The bench is beautiful,” she said.
Jessie realized how wrong she’d been last night. John did care for her. She wished she could go back and change what had happened.
John kissed the top of her forehead. “I’m so sorry Jessie.”