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Her Husband's Whore

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Their love once had burned, a bitter fire, Harriet realized now. He came mechanically to her bed, his duty clear, the words, like the deed, practised, assured. Meaningless.

There was something, she supposed drearily, to be said for a classical education. Peter would never let her see, except in the thousand tiny ways that rang clearer than any bell.

She was not a blushing virgin to suppose it normal, a part of such affairs - if a marriage could be considered an "affair". She knew the path of love, the blazing rush, the heady hours; knew too, better than most, the cooling of the passion, the death of lust.

Lust, nothing that one well-bred should feel, of course. But Harriet knew - how she knew - its fire, its centrality, in the heart of love. Without lust, passion withered, dying on the vine, until all that remained was this cool amity, the token pleasure.

The heart was gone, and with it her place. She had feared it, fought it, but in the end he left her nothing to fight. He was her Peter, and she remained his Harriet. Cool, precise and present: at best her husband's whore, at worst the tomb of hope.