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A Debt, Forgiven

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It took you diggin all the way to the bottom of your trunk ‘fore you found it, but there it was: momma’s nicest dress that you stole outta her chest of stored away things. Daddy had kept most of her belongings hid after her passin, but you wanted somethin of hers to keep. You’d stowed the dress away for just this sort of occasion, so you reasoned it was alright to’ve done the stealing in the first place.

It weren’t terribly fancy, but it was delicate, pretty, in a simple sorta way, and wearin it made you feel special. You were an inch or two taller than momma’d been, so it didn’t reach down to where it oughta, but you didn’t figure anyone would notice. ‘Cept Forrest. You hoped he’d notice the effort.

‘Course, he didn’t do more’n grunt in your direction when he saw you were up and ready to go into town. But at least he held the door open for you. The drive weren’t supposed too take long, but the tense silence that fell between the two of you set time to crawlin. When you couldn’t take it anymore, you started with somethin easy.

“Your brothers didn’t wanna come along?”

He kept his eyes sternly on the road. “Why would they?”

“’Cause their brother’s gettin married.” He didn’t say anything, didn’t even grunt, so you pressed on as the car jostled you around. “I take it you ain’t the sentimental type?”

“Marriage ain’t about a weddin. This is just about makin it official.”

You happened to agree, and told him as much. “Shoot, I’d be content just makin a promise in the woods. What matters is the agreement between the husband and wife.”

He glanced over at you then, and seemed to finally notice that you’d gone to the trouble of dressin nice. “What do you think those promises should be?”

It was the first proper question he’d asked you, and if you said the wrong thing, he might call it all off. So you measured your words. “Faithfulness, first of all. Respect. Lookin out for each other, ‘specially in hard times.” There were lots of other things, personal rules you’d made up for yourself, ‘bout not bein violent and tryin not to yell. Daddy had done enough of that to last you a lifetime. But those things coulda been part of his nature and you didn’t wanna condemn them outright. Least not yet. So you went with a softer hope, somethin even a grump like him couldn’t disagree with. “Tryna make each other happy, when you can.”

He hummed to himself as he turned the wheel. “Mm. That’ll be alright, then.”

The wedding was a quick affair–it took more time to fill out the paperwork than it did to say the “I Do”s. When Forrest reached for your hand, you realized it was the first time he’d so much as touched you. But it weren’t a bad touch. His hand was rough, cut up in places, but he didn’t squeeze too hard, and it was nice that he was so warm. When the minister said the two of you oughta kiss, you waited for Forrest to take the lead, but he just stood there like a man outta sorts. Perhaps he was shy. You were shy too, but the room was startin to feel uncomfortable. So you gathered your courage and rose up to your toes to place a soft kiss at the corner of his mouth. Seemed the modest thing to do, what with you not really knowin each other and you never havin kissed a man, period. It was nice. His cheek, the prickly stubble, the soft seam of his lips felt nice beneath yours. You were almost afraid to pull away, lest he look disappointed. But you did anyway, and saw that somethin else shined in his eyes, like maybe he thought it was nice, too. 

The court stenographer signed as witness, and easy as that, you rode back to The Station as husband and wife. Despite the rushed nature of things, and not even knowin the man, you felt happy. Happy to not be worryin about Daddy’s yellin or drinkin, most of all. And you liked the idea of livin somewhere with lots of people around. You even liked the idea of bein a wife to someone like Forrest. You just hoped he wasn’t expectin miracles.

“You’ll have to be patient with me,” you blurted out in the silence of the front seat. “My momma passed when I was only little, so I’ve not exactly had trainin to be a wife.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“If I ever do somethin wrong, can you–”

When you paused, he turned to you with concern on his face.

“Can you tell me? ‘Stead of yellin or hittin?”

“Is that what your daddy did?”

You didn’t wanna talk about him in this otherwise content moment, and Forrest seemed able to tell.

“Look here, I ain’t ever gonna lay a hand on you like that. I don’t pretend I ain’t got a temper. But ain’t no kinda husband who takes it out on his wife. It’s a weak man, that does that.”

If it weren’t for the roof of the car, you mighta floated all the way up to heaven. That’s how light your heart felt at his words. Perhaps Forrest would be more’n just a tolerable husband.


You and Forrest moved into one of the larger guest rooms at The Station. He’d been sleepin on naught but a mattress when you showed up, but it didn’t seem to faze him. It was only at your insistence, that folks would think it queer for a new husband and wife to sleep separate, that he agreed to cohabitatin. But a week into marriage and he still didn’t do more’n kiss your cheek goodbye each mornin. Even that was lovely, though. You never thought a man could have such soft lips, but his were a warm delight on a cold morning. You started pinin for your own husband.

Durin the days, you tended to the kitchen, keepin locals fed and offerin a piece of pleasant conversation when they were friendly. You were happy to have brothers now, too, who’d stand up for your honor if Forrest was out and some scoundrel was bein fresh. In hindsight, you was glad that it hadn’t been Jack you were supposed to marry. He was a sweetheart, but he had a sweetheart, too, and you liked them together. Howard still frightened you a bit when he was deep in the bottle, but you worried more about him hurtin himself than anyone else.

Forrest usually came home long after you’d already turned in for the night. Sometimes he stayed out by the bar, sometimes he was gone on business. Sometimes he came home with bloodied knuckles. You didn’t ask why, it was best not to know. You only prayed that he weren’t in any real danger. Folks said the Bondurants couldn’t be killed, and you rested a lot of your hope on that. But truthfully, you couldn’t imagine a man or beast alive that could take your Forrest down.

Still, he never touched you. And in time, it started makin you uneasy–partly ‘cause you worried there was somethin wrong with you, but partly ‘cause you wanted him to touch you. You never would’ve dreamt it, but you found yourself wantin to be near the old grizzly. He was safety, and comfort, and the quietest kind of strength. You even started to like the smell of cigar smoke that clung to the sweaters he wore.

One night, when he went to bed the same time as you, you ventured a question into the dark. “Do you like me?”

He usually slept flat on his back, so all he did was turn his head in the direction of your voice. “I think you’re doin a fine job ‘round here.”

That gave you pause. It was a sweet compliment, genuine comin from him. But it weren’t nearly what you were looking for. “I’m glad, but do you like me? As a person?”

You could hardly see him in the dark, but the moon was just bright enough that you could make out the lines of his face, forehead wrinkled in consideration. “I saw you ‘bout a year ago. In town. Thought you were the prettiest woman I ever seen.”

That made your heart thud wildly, ‘cause he’d never so much as hinted at findin you attractive. But he had more to say. “Only reason I agreed to business with your daddy was ‘cause I thought it’d help you somehow. A little extra money. But when he offered you up, I–” He turned his head again to rest flat on his pillow. It made the moon glow an outline along his nose and lips and even the tips of them long eyelashes he had. “I don’t like your daddy. But I like you.”

“Forrest?”

“Hm?”

“Are you ever gonna kiss me?”

He weren’t lookin at you, but you were burnin the image of him into your brain. So you saw his chest raise up with a deep breath. And your eyes were already waiting for his when he turned his whole body toward you. It took him a minute more to make up his mind, and even then, he moved slow. He brushed the tip of his nose against yours, just a little touch that thrilled you. Then his mouth was on yours, soft and warm, and you could’ve died happy. You had no great skill at seduction, but when you opened your mouth a touch to taste his lips, and his velvety tongue slid between your teeth, he breathed in heavy, like maybe you was doin somethin right. Both your breaths grew faster, til you were just breathin each other’s air. He was a force, pressin toward you, and you wondered how long it’d been since he’d done this.

You whispered his name and he stopped altogether. “Y’alright?”

“Will you touch me?”

“Where?”

“Anywhere. I like your hands.”

The rest of your life, you’d laugh inside yourself at anyone who called Forrest Bondurant a monster, ‘cause the first thing that man touched was your face. Soft as could be. Ran his thumb against your bottom lip and stroked the outside of your ear, makin you shiver.

“You ever done this before, darlin?”

You hated admittin that you didn’t know what you were doin, but you didn’t wanna lie to him. “No. Hell, you were my first kiss just now.” As if to emphasize the point, you licked the pad of his thumb, just barely. You were workin with nothin but instinct to guide you, but instinct said you wanted to touch him and taste him and hear him. “But I feel safe with you.”

“Slow, then. I ain’t gonna hurt you if I can help it.”

He leaned down and buried his face against your neck. You couldn’t decide what felt nicer, his nose puffin out cool air against your skin or his mouth, heatin it back up. Something started to warm in your belly, like when you kissed him at the courthouse. ‘Cept now it felt like fire and it nearly throbbed. You knew, abstractly, what was meant to happen, and you’d touched yourself before, tryna figure out what all the fuss was. But this was a different feelin altogether, buildin from the inside.

He had the loveliest, strongest hands you’d ever seen, and when one of ‘em cupped your breast real careful like, you couldn’t help leanin your head back like it might open you up to more of him. He worked at you like this, switchin between kissin your neck and kissin your mouth, fingers runnin up and down your arm and your waist til you thought maybe you’d died and gone on to heaven. But then he moved his hand lower, to the hem of your nightgown, and pushed it up your thighs. He kept his touch light there, but still it shot somethin through you like lightnin. When his hand hovered over your panties, he stopped everything.

“This alright?”

You all but begged him to keep goin and he obliged, tuggin at the underwear til they slipped off altogether. You knew what he was gonna do, but it startled a moan out of you all the same when two of his fingers slid right up against your cunt. You’d never made a sound like that before, and you weren’t sure you were meant to be so slick, but he started his kisses back with more vigor’n before, so he must’ve liked it. And God, you liked it too. It was like you couldn’t get close enough. You had half a mind to sit the both of you up so you could wrap your arms around him, but he pressed a finger inside you and you forgot your own goddamn name.

Sensin you liked it, he added a second finger after a minute and kept a slow, steady rhythm, in and out, in and curled. At some point, his mouth had moved down to your chest and you thought idly ‘bout how nice it was to have his mouth right over your heart like that. Maybe it’d be a grand romance, after all.

Later on, you’d learn that he was tryin to prepare you to keep it from hurtin, and truth be told, you were probably ready then. But to be on the safe side, he slipped a third finger in and you arched right into him.

“Still alright?”

“Does it always feel this good?”

You didn’t actually expect an answer, you didn’t even know why you’d asked him that, but it’s all you could think about. The pleasure of it was such a surprise. He moved his hands away altogether and you thought maybe you’d angered him. But then he crawled on top of you, bracin himself by his forearms, and it wasn’t until then you realized just how big and strong he was. You spread your knees as far apart as you could and he surprised you again with a kiss to your lips.

“You tell me if it hurts.”

You nodded and closed your eyes, eager to just get it over with, whatever it was that everyone said was gonna hurt. You felt him loom over you just a bit more, then you felt the head of his cock against you. He sunk himself in slow, and it stung just a little, but nowhere near enough to stop him. ‘Cause it felt good, too, havin him inside of you like that, the whole of him swallowed up by you.

“Alright?” You didn’t know his voice could sound like that, thin and broken, and you worried if he was alright.

“Better’n alright.” Your answer was halfway to a laugh, you were so relieved. And when he pulled out and pushed back in so you felt every inch of him without fear of pain, your whole body seized up. It was like being shattered and floatin, all at once. He kept movin in and out, sometimes slow, sometimes sharp, and he started makin noises. Like his grunts, but airier and full of feelin. In between his strangled sounds, he’d say your name real soft like, and that made the achin build back up in you again. You liked the way he moved, strong and steady over you. You held onto his arms just for the excuse of feelin him, and they were hard as stone. His face, normally so serious and unreadable, twisted up with emotions and it was lovely, even if his eyes were closed.

So you touched it. Lifted just your fingertips to his cheekbone, and his eyes flashed open, full of fire. Then suddenly he was losin his pace and his lips parted and every bit of him tensed up. And you felt it–his release splashin inside you, warm, in a strange, comforting way.

You figured he’d collapse on top of you, lookin exhausted as he did. But instead, he kissed your lips one more time and rolled back to his side of the bed. You watched him for a minute, his eyes closed and his breathin heavy. And you couldn’t help it. You sidled up to him and rested your head on his chest, cardin your nails through the coarse hair there. He’d probably pat you on the back and ask for his space, but you just wanted a minute more. You didn’t expect him to wrap his arm around your back and fall asleep like that.

Come gunfire and bar brawls, trouble with the law and fights between the brothers, you only ever felt safe, all the rest of your days. He never laid a hand on you, ‘cept in a lovin way, and you loved him back somethin fierce.