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All before her twentieth birthday.

Leaning back in her chair, her hands dropping to her lap, her subconscious made note of the linen napkin there. Her conscious ignored it.

She had not taken it personally when, earlier in the same awful week, he had cut their honeymoon short to return to work. Money was needed. But by refusing to meet her sexual needs—wasn’t that one of the pros of marriage?—he had issued a quick death to their new union.

Her body shivered with the cold emptiness she again felt inside. She reached behind her to see if a sweater or jacket hung on her chair back.

Nope.

Abiding by his short unilateral declaration, how could a husband and wife purport to connect if not with bodies and words? He had felt no compunction to open this subject for discussion. Two-way conversation was not allowed? Her wants and desires did not matter? Only his vote counted?

And the two shall become oneare you kidding me? Her farce of a marriage had been assassinated within its very first week. The last tie--the legalities of it—lingered in a slow agony, like a body on life support. Alive. Yet not alive.

Her eyes turned to the bay window, noting the beautiful green trees and tall red-tipped bushes beyond the glass. If she watched long enough, her yard contained more wildlife than mere birds and squirrels. But she was too distracted at this time to appreciate it. Silverware tinkled against china somewhere nearby.

Even with the insulation of time to clearly separate her Now from her Back-Then, she could not laugh about it. No. She wondered why, after so many years, those thoughts returned to torment her. With the divorce, the healing had begun, then completed. The bad memories had died away pretty quickly. Or so she had thought.

Of course, she realized she should have stood up to him, confronted him, in those initial seven days of marriage. After all, could it have gotten any worse?

Neva shook her head. Her former husband had been an ex-Navy SEAL, a Texan, a young man already set in his ways. Words would not have convinced him of anything. Her words especially. The only other recourse would have been to leave earlier. Much earlier.

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