Almost a year had passed since Marta had come to live with him, and Joe was as happy as he could remember being. Only a couple of things kept his life from being perfect. Marta still wasn’t speaking to him and ... well, we’ll get to that in a minute.
Joe’s sister-in-law, Jacqueline, or Jacky, had asked Joe for a favor one day, one that would change his life for the better. He didn’t know that at the time and had been fearful, but he felt an even deeper debt of gratitude now than he had felt after the death of his wife and Jacky’s loving support.
Marta had been brought in by the police, abused, terrified and strangely mute, and been turned over to a hospital where she was treated for her wounds. The hospital had, in turn, moved her to a battered women’s shelter where things took a turn for the worse.
With the help of a psychiatrist, it had been determined that Marta had been systematically abused over years, by a woman or group of women. She was terrified of women and would not allow any of the women at the shelter to touch her, help her. Her reaction to a delivery man, and the male psychiatrist, convinced them they needed a male caregiver.
Jacky, who volunteered her time at the shelter, thought of Joe. Alone and lonely, her brother-in-law had withdrawn after the death of his wife from cancer. He had been almost suicidal but Jacky, with the help of her mother who loved Joe like a son, had helped him through. Still, he was withdrawn from the world at large, though a kind and loving man, and she thought that he was what Marta needed, and Marta was what Joe needed too.
It had been touch and go, at first, the two adjusting to each other, but they had become close over time and, when Marta decided she wanted him to be more than a father figure, she wasted no time in showing him. Joe fought the change in their relationship, feeling guilty over his attraction to the young girl, but she was not taking no and made her desires plain to see.
They became lovers, though that would be a pale description of their relationship. Marta was, by nature and training, submissive and Joe, though not at all dominant, gradually accepted her desires. They had settled into a life together, living, loving and even laughing, and almost all was right with the world.
“Jacky, I think it is time. No more sneaking over to see you and Mom, I want to bring Marta with me. She needs this, to get comfortable with other people. Also, well, I have described how she is at home and even though you laugh and tease me, I know you won’t make her uncomfortable about it.” Joe said into the phone.
He was in his office and Marta, the last he saw her, was doing laundry and humming, something new that thrilled him to no end. She rarely vocalized at all, except when upset (very rare these days) or happy (increasingly frequent) and during sex (extremely frequent!). That she had taken to humming along with the radio, or just the tunes in her head, made Joe grin from ear to ear.
“Let’s do this, Joe! Mom has been dying to meet her, you know. She really is happy that you have found love again and wants to meet the girl who, as she puts it, healed your heart after losing Christy.”
“You know that has been killing me, right? The thought of bringing a woman over, someone who is filling the spot that belonged to her deceased daughter? I love her to death, and the last thing I would want to do is hurt her.”
“Joe, she adores you. You are as much her son, in her heart, as Christy and I are her daughters. Yes, she grieves for my sister, but she loves you and wants you happy. So, when are you coming over? Tonight we are having one of my favorites, Mom’s Ropa Vieja!”
“Okay, sound good. Let me get some clothes on her and we can be there in half an hour or so, okay?”
“Perfect! I can’t wait to see how she has changed.” Jacky said before disconnecting.
Joe felt a hand on his thigh and was surprised to see Marta kneeling by his knee. Not that she was kneeling there, she loved to be by his side and, when he was in his office, loved kneeling with her head in his lap. The surprise was that she had come in so quietly, that he had been so intent on his call that he hadn’t heard her. Had she heard him?
He reached down and stroked her hair, smiling at the girl. He couldn’t believe how his life had changed and his heart felt so full it might burst when she smiled at him.
“Baby girl, we are going out. It’s time for you to meet some people that are very dear to me. My family, and now your family too.” he said softly, stroking her cheek.
Marta’s brow creased, her lips curving downward. He could tell she was uncomfortable with the thought, but it still brought a smile to his face. Nine months ago, she would have been a wreck at the very thought. Six months ago she would have been terrified, but would probably have followed him if he insisted.
Even as recently as three months ago, she might have cried at the idea but she was progressing so quickly. He was sure she really didn’t want to go, having created this safe haven and reveling in the loving atmosphere that they both nurtured, but she would go, for him.
“So, I think one of those summer dresses we bought last month would be perfect.” Joe said, hinting, but not pushing. Marta almost never dressed any more, no more than the weather forced her to anyway. She loved dancing around the house naked and Joe loved it too, though probably for different reasons. She was gorgeous and sexy and was finally realizing it. She loved to tease him, to please him, and she knew he liked watching.
When they went out, she had been reverting to her old self, silent and scared. She would dress in clothing that covered her completely, hiding her from the world.
A month ago, he had taken her shopping and, in a desperate attempt to convince her that she shouldn’t hide, that she didn’t have to hide, he had actually ordered her to try on a dress at the store. It had damn near broken his heart when she looked at him with betrayal in her eyes, but she had done what he asked.
When she had come out of the dressing room, a very pretty summer dress on her petite frame, he had beamed at her and hugged her to him. Drying her tears, he maneuvered her in front of a mirror and watched with fascination as her eyes grew wide. Marta had stepped forward, out of his embrace, and reached out to the mirror, touching her reflection.
She had stood there, staring at herself, her hands touching the material of the dress and, in a moment that Joe would long remember, actually smiled. She had turned to face him, that smile growing even wider, and had jumped into his arms, coving his face with kisses. It had been a very good day.
Marta knelt there looking up at him, searching his face for something, but his smile never wavered.
“These people are very important to me, Marta. Jacky is my ... is Christy’s sister, and her mother, well, she became my mother too. They kept me alive after my wife died and I wanted to die too, and they helped me become who I am today. Jacky is the one who brought me to you, knowing that I would love you and hoping that you would come to love me.” Joe said softly, still stroking her cheek.
There was fear in Marta’s eyes, though less than would have been there even a few months ago. He still didn’t know what horrible things had been done to her, but there were faint scars on her otherwise pristine skin, burn marks that made him wince in sympathy, even if they had been done long, long ago. He raged that someone could be so callous, so cruel, and often day dreamed about what he would do if he ever got his hands on them.
Times like that, when Marta saw the rage in his eyes, she would pet and stroke him, kiss him and hold him. She would bring him back again, and, often as not, make love with him. She seemed to understand. She knew that those times only came when he was touching one of her scars.
“You pick out what you want to wear, and I need to get dressed too.” Joe said, bending down to place a kiss on her forehead before carefully standing and offering her his hand.
Still holding his hand, Marta let him lead her to their bedroom. She had been given her own room the day she arrived, but had never slept there. In fact, she had slept on the floor of his room until he gave up and got her to sleep in his bed with him, though usually curled up in a ball on the far side of the king-sized mattress.
In the master bedroom, Marta actually tugged on his hand, leading him this time, to the walk-in closet. She stopped in front of the section that held her dresses, none of them had been worn outside the house more than a couple of times, and she gestured at them.
Joe looked at her, then back to the dresses, unsure what she wanted for a moment before it dawned on him. Marta was the most submissive woman he had ever met, and it was now obvious that she wanted him to choose for her.
He was careful not to show his frustration, knowing it would bother her. She wanted him to lead in all things, and had her own ways of balking if he pressed her. He reached out, choosing a sleeveless white dress with pale yellow flowers. He knew that it set off her skin and looked great on her. The hem was just at her knees and the neckline dropped just enough to show that there was a swell there, but not enough to uncover her cleavage. It was a combination of innocent and stylish that he thought fit her perfectly.
He handed her the dress, a pair of white sandals and grinned when she held the dress up in front of her, spinning around to look in the mirror.
.... There is more of this story ...