The tea was getting cold. Peter scowled at the liquid in the porcelain cup for a good three minutes before calling his wife. “Arlette, my tea’s gone cold. Get me a new one, and hurry this time,” he ordered. Arlette smiled and took the cup obediently, then sighed as soon as the kitchen door shut behind her. Her husband had been so wonderful when they had married; it wasn’t until after the Fall he began acting this way. But she couldn’t blame him. All the men were like this now: shouting at their wives, beating and raping them, locking them in their homes. The only instinct the men had left was one of survival, and to them that meant taking women and doing what they pleased with them in order to procreate.
Peter and Arlette had nine children in this bantam bungalow. Three sons, six daughters, the oldest of which, Mabella, was 17 with a husband and three children of her own. Arlette supposed she should be grateful she was Peter’s only wife; in these post-Fall times, most men have at least three. Mabella was one of four wives herself.
When Arlette brought Peter’s tea out, he took it gruffly and didn’t thank her. He didn’t complain, though, and she had grown to register that as a compliment. After a few sips, he gazed at her the way he used to, just for a fleeting moment before returning his eyes to the wall. “Arlette,” he said, setting his drink on the coffee table, “I’ve received an invitation.”
This got an eyebrow raise out of her. “What kind of invitation?” she asked, sitting beside her husband on the worn sofa.
He wiped his hand over his mouth. “A post-Fall celebration.”
No. She would not allow it. This was not a celebration as he called it, it was a place for men to take new brides, hosted once a year. Every man was invited, and every unmarried woman—but those were becoming fewer and further between as the years passed. Of Peter and Arlette’s six daughters, only the youngest was unmarried, and she was seven years old. The second-youngest was eleven and had gotten married two years ago.
“Are you going to go?” was all that came out of her mouth. Her husband’s faint nod was all she needed to stand up and storm down the hallway to her bedroom.
A million things ran through her mind. Amongst them, suicide. Could she really live a life where her once gentle husband was not only abusive and negligent, but also having sex with several women under this home they had shared for twenty years? Yet taking her own life didn’t sound like something she wanted to do. Even after everything Peter had done to her in the years since the Fall—the war that ended in a decimated population—she loved him. And their children, some of which still needed her.
So she decided against suicide, opting instead to murder any woman Peter brought home.
A week after the “celebration,” Peter still hadn’t taken a second wife. Arlette asked him about it one day, and he replied, “They aren’t women I would want to marry. Most of them are children. You’re my wife, and that’s good enough for me.”