Corrupted, Part 1

(by SSTORYMAN, 30 June 2002)


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This fictional account contains adult language and explicit sexual themes.  If
such language and themes offend you, please do not read further.  The persons
and events described in this work are purely fictional.  Any similarity to
actual persons or events is strictly coincidental.  Copyright 2002 by
SSTORYMAN.  All rights reserved.  Permission is hereby granted to reproduce
this story in any form and for any purpose as long as this notice is
reproduced and no financial remuneration is received, directly or indirectly,
by the person reproducing or using it.

CORRUPTED

1.	Someone to Check on You.

   "Darn it, Gwen, I told you once.  I don't like that bright blue dress.
Take it off!  You can't wear that to the Nelson's tonight!"

   Gwen sighed.  "Why?  What's wrong with it, Don?"  She knew the answer
before he answered.  The conservative folks in their fundamentalist Baptist
church all would object to this particular dress as being too showy, too
worldly.  That included her husband, Don.

   "Gosh, just look at it!  It's too short, for one thing, and for another,
it's way too tight.  And it's sleeveless.  It shows your shoulders.  The
blue's pretty, but that's about all that can be said for it.  I want you to
take it back to the store!"

   She groaned.  "Okay.  I'm sorry.  I hoped you'd change your mind and let me
keep it."

   "No.  It's inappropriate.  Put on something else, a dress that doesn't make
you look like a harlot, for goodness' sake.  What would Phil and Judy Nelson
say if you wore it?"

   She headed back toward the bedroom.  Yeah, what _would_ they say?  She took
off the blue dress.  It still had the tags on it.  She sighed and entered her
walk-in closet to chose another dress, a plainer one.  She reluctantly re-hung
the blue dress on a hanger.  She'd have to return it to the store.  Don didn't
like it, and once he made up his mind -.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

   That night Don and Gwen drove back from Phil and Judy's house.  "By the
way, Pumpkin, this Friday I leave for a new consulting assignment out of
town."

   Gwen frowned.  "How long will you be gone this time?"

   "This'll be a long one.  Our team goes Friday to prepare over the weekend.
Then it's two weeks at the client's office.  After that we present a progress
report to their senior management.  If all goes well, I'll be back late that
Friday night, in two weeks."

   Don often traveled on business.  As a result, Gwen had money to spend, more
than she needed.  But she didn't like him being gone so often, or for so long.
But she said nothing.  It wasn't her place.

   "I'll have Phil and Judy check on you every morning and evening, to make
sure you're okay."

   "Don, I've told you.  It's not necessary.  I'm not a child.  I don't need
anyone to check on me.  If I need help, I have plenty of friends in the church
I can call."

   "Nonsense," he laughed.  "We always do it this way.  I'm not about to stop
now.  Phil and Judy will stop over or call every night.  I feel better leaving
you if someone does."

   She nodded.  Don had made up his mind.  There was no sense arguing.

   "Fine.  I'll coordinate the details with Judy, just like last time."

   He interrupted.  "No need.  I gave Phil your schedule.  At eight every
night one of them will stop by.  At seven sharp each morning they'll phone to
check in.  They won't need to stop over on Wednesdays, because you'll all be
at church together for the Wednesday night prayer meeting."  He smiled.  "The
church teaches that it's my job to look out for you, Gwen honey.  I know you
don't think it's necessary."

   She smiled.  He was right.  Their fundamentalist Baptist church _did_ teach
that, though it was beginning to grate on her.  "I appreciate you looking out
for me, Don.  But it's not necessary."

   He smiled.  "You need someone to watch out for you."

   She said nothing.  There was no talking him out of it.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

   Thursday Don got home from work late.  He had a briefcase and a laptop.
He'd leave for the airport the next morning for his two week business trip.

   "Bad news, pumpkin," he began, giving Gwen a kiss.  "This morning I found
out Phil's kids left some toys on their front steps.  He fell on them
Wednesday night when he came home from church.  He wrecked up one knee pretty
bad and broke his leg.  He's in bad shape.  He and Judy have their hands full.
I'm afraid they can't check on you while I'm gone."

   A smile crept over Gwen's lips.  She was setting the table for supper.
"That's okay, honey.  It's not necessary for them to check on me while you're
away."

   Ignoring her, he went on.  "I made some other calls.  The Johnstons are
gone this week.  The Richards are also out of town."  He smiled.  "I tried to
think of others from church that you'd be comfortable with.  But the usual
suspects weren't available.  So I asked Connie."

   "Your sister?"

   Don nodded.  "Yes, Connie just got back from college.  Graduated summa cum
laude, you know.  She's back in town now, living in Dad's old house till she
decides what she wants to do with her life.  I asked if she'd check on you.
She suggested instead that she just move in for a couple weeks.  I told her
that would be fine."

   Gwen put his dinner on the table.  "I wish you'd asked me first," she
muttered.

   "What's the matter?  You like Connie."

   "I know.  I do.  It's just that -.  Well, you always just make arrangements
without asking me first.  It's like you control everything in my life."

   "I know what's best, Gwen.  It's always been that way, and that's the way
the church says we have to do it.  I'm supposed to look out for you.  Relax.
Connie will come over tomorrow.  I dropped off a key for her.  She'll move her
stuff in while you're at work.  She'll be here when you get home.  You'll have
a great time together while I'm gone."

   Gwen finished fixing her plate and sat down at the table across from Don.
"I do like Connie," she admitted begrudgingly.  "I just didn't realize she was
back from school."

   "Connie got back last week," Don said, his mouth full.  "She got a job at
the video store on Davis Street, Video Source.  I don't get it.  If you ask
me, it's nuts.  She has a degree in Business Administration, and she's got her
inheritance from Dad's estate after he died.  But she got a job as a clerk at
a video store.  Makes no sense."  He took another bite.  "But I trust Connie
to take good care of you, babe," he continued, chewing as he talked.  "She's
family, after all."

   "Don, I have other friends at church who could do it, people other than the
Nelsons, the Johnstons and the Richards.  I could have asked one of them."

   "They're not _my_ friends," he nodded, still eating energetically.  "It's
important that someone _I_ have confidence in looks after you while I'm gone."
He smiled.  "Gwen, you think I'm too protective.  But you're my wife.  I have
a responsibility before God to watch over you and direct you.  That's what the
Bible teaches, you know."

   She sighed.  "Yes, I know," she nodded.  "Connie will be fine."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

   Gwen opened her front door.  It was after work on Friday.  As promised,
Connie was in the living room reading a magazine.

   "Hi, Gwen," she smiled, jumping to her feet.  "Oh my God!  I'm so glad
Donnie asked me to stay with you while he's gone for a couple weeks.  This is
great.  We'll have a great time!"

   "Yes, I guess we will.  I'm glad you're here, Connie."

   "You don't sound sure.  Don asked you first, didn't he?"

   Gwen frowned, putting down her purse and opening the refrigerator.  "No,
Connie.  He didn't.  He never does.  He does stuff like this and never asks
what I think."  She paused.  "Don't get me wrong, Connie.  I'm delighted he
asked you and not someone else.  I like you.  It's just that Don's
super-protective approach has sort of been getting to me recently.  That's
all."

   Connie was a pretty, vivacious blond girl of twenty-two.  She nodded.  "My
brother's a worrier; always has been.  Sometimes I wonder why you put up with
it."  Gwen began to prepare supper.  "Don't worry about dinner, Gwen.  I
already popped something in the oven.  I hope that's okay."

   Gwen was stunned.  "Wow!  Yeah, sure.  I don't remember the last time
anyone else fixed dinner.  Don expects me to have it ready for him as soon as
he gets home.  Connie, that was very thoughtful."

   The spirited blond spontaneously hugged her sister-in-law.  "No one takes
care of me, either, Gwen.  If I don't cook it, I don't eat it.  Now, sit down,
and let's catch up.  But if you want, I can go back to Dad's house tonight.  I
can leave, and we'll just tell Donnie I was here."

   "You mean lie to Don?"

   "Sure, why not?"  She paused.  "Oh, that's right.  You can't lie.  Your
silly church says lying is a sin."  She giggled.  "If you want me out, so you
can do your own thing while Donnie's away, I'll lie for you.  I don't mind.  I
don't give a shit what he or his stupid church thinks."

   "But Connie.  It's your church, too."

   She laughed and shook her blond hair.  "Correction.  It's not mine any
more.  I grew up in it, but I have no intention of going back to those
interminable Sunday morning and Wednesday night services.  Nope.  As far as
I'm concerned, they're a bunch of fuckin' hypocrites!"

   Gwen was trembling.  She'd never heard Connie use such foul language!
"Does -.  Does Donnie know that you feel this way?"

   She smiled.  "If he did, he'd never trust me to hang out with you while
he's gone.  I did a lot of thinking this last year at school, Gwen.  I've
tried lots of new things.  I don't buy into all that fundamentalist Baptist
bullshit anymore."

   Horrified, Gwen put her finger in front of her lips.  "Shh!  Don't use such
language in this house, Connie.  It's disrespectful."

   Connie laughed, stood up, and hugged her on her way to the kitchen.  "Oh,
come on, Gwen.  Get off your high horse!  It's not disrespect.  I just think
you and Donnie, and your friends, are too uptight.  Like, who cares if women
wear pants rather than dresses?  And who cares if we strut a little and show
some leg?  Aren't you ever tempted to wear something more revealing than the
stuffy clothes the church approves of?"

   Gwen was in shock.  She sat down as Connie took a pan from the oven.  She
hesitated.

   "Yeah, sometimes," she admitted.  "A few weeks ago I bought a copy of
Vogue.  I looked at the dresses women are wearing.  They're so elegant.  So I
went to the store and bought one.  It's not that scandalous, really.  It's a
few inches above the knees, and it is rather tight.  Oh, and it's sleeveless.
But I liked it.  However, Don said I had to take it back."

   "See, that's what I'm talking about," Connie proclaimed as she dished up
dinner.  "It's all bullshit, Gwen.  The elders in your fundamentalist church
control their members' attitudes about all that stuff; clothes, makeup, and
lots of other shit."  She paused and blushed.  "I'm sorry.  I shouldn't use
such language.  I know you don't approve.  You think I'm being disrespectful."

   Gwen sighed.  "I guess it's all right, Connie.  I hear that kind of
language at work.  I'm just a little surprised to hear it from you.  That, and
all this stuff about the church being too restrictive.  Your father was an
elder at our Baptist Church for years."

   "Yeah, and Dad's dead," she retorted, putting a plate in front of Gwen.
"Don would kill me if he heard me say it, but since Dad died, I've done lots
of thinking.  Being away at college was good for me.  I grew up, Gwen.  I
finally developed a mind of my own."  She pointed at the plates.  "Look good
to you?"

   Gwen laughed.  "Anything I don't have to fix is great  Will you say grace
for us?"

   "Uh, why don't _you_ say grace, Gwen?  I'm a little out of practice."

   Gwen closed her eyes.  "For what we are about to receive, make us truly
grateful.  In Jesus' Name.  Amen."  She opened her eyes.  Connie was looking
at her, smiling like a Cheshire cat.  Obviously she never closed her eyes.

   This was definitely going to be interesting.  If Don only knew what his
little sister was saying -.  Well, _she_ certainly wasn't going to tell him!

   After dinner and some general conversation, Connie went to the guest room.
She emerged a few moments later.  "I'm going to the back porch for a few
minutes.  Is that okay?"

   "Yeah, sure."  Despite some shock over Connie's rebellious attitude, she
enjoyed having her around.  "In fact, I'll do the dishes later.  I'll join you
outside."

   Connie hesitated, and then shrugged.  "Okay, great."

   It was a lovely June evening.  Connie sat in a chair on the porch.  She
then did something that left Gwen speechless.  The twenty-two year old blond
girl put a long white cigarette in her mouth and lit up!

   Gwen sputtered in disbelief.  "Oh my Gosh, Connie!  You don't smoke!"

   The blond pursed her lips to release a long stream of smoke.  "Correction,
Gwen.  I didn't _use_ to smoke.  But now I do, as you can clearly see."

   Gwen's head was spinning.  "But -.  But does Don know?"  She knew the
answer before her sister-in-.law replied.

   "Of course not," Connie smiled.  "He'd shit in his pants if he knew I
smoked.  But what Donnie doesn't know won't hurt him.  And you won't tell,
will you, Gwen?"

   "I don't know.  I guess not," she muttered, still stunned.

   Connie held her cigarette beside her face.  "This isn't the only thing
that's different about me.  I also started drinking beer, Gwen," she went on.
"I like to have a cold one in the evenings.  I hope you don't mind.  I brought
my own supply.  It's in the refrigerator."

   Gwen shook her head in stunned disbelief.  "Golly, Connie, this is a shock.
A good church girl like you!  How on earth did this happen?"

   Connie took another drag from her cigarette.  "Like I said, I did lots of
thinking.  All my life I was a good girl, doing what Dad wanted.  I never
tried anything, I never pushed the envelope.  But this year, all that changed,
after Dad died."

   "But smoking and drinking, Connie?" Gwen sputtered.  "It's sinful!"

   "Is it?"  Her eyes blazed.  "You think drinking is sin?  God, I wonder.  Do
you really think Jesus and His disciples only drank grape juice?"

   "I don't know -."

   "Well, I do.  You're right about one thing, though.  The fundamentalist
Baptist Church where we all grew up, where you and Donnie go, would be
apoplectic.  And for the record, I also wear makeup now, wear short skirts,
and go to movies they don't approve of.  So, there!"

   Gwen didn't know what to say.  She just stared.

   Connie smiled.  "Come on, Gwen.  Don't you get irritated at the
controlling, misogynistic attitude of Donnie and his friends at the church?"

   "What's misogynistic?" Gwen frowned.

   "Woman hating," Connie snapped.  "They keep women under their thumbs.  They
quote 2,000 year old Bible verses to keep us in our supposed place.  Well,
this girl isn't staying put.  Not anymore.  No sir!"  She raised her cigarette
to her mouth for another drag.

   "Connie, this is upsetting.  I can't deal with this.  I'll let you smoke
alone.  I don't think I can talk about it anymore right now."

   "Suit yourself," the blond girl shot back.  "But you know what?  I'd like
to see that blue dress you talked about.  If you haven't taken it back to the
store yet, that is."

   Gwen hesitated, but said nothing.  She went inside to her bedroom where she
grabbed her Bible.  She opened it to the gospels.  Somehow, though, the words
didn't provide much comfort.

   Connie hit the mark with her criticisms.  She and Gwen grew up in the same
fundamentalist church.  Except for a short, rebellious phase in her teenage
years, Gwen always accepted its teaching without question.  Her rebellious
phase ended abruptly her senior year in high school when her dad left her mom,
with no warning, to run off with his secretary.  His infidelity shook Gwen's
mom to the core, and it rocked her, too.  Gwen quickly straightened out her
own life, and began looking to date a man unlike her dad; a man faithfully
involved in their church, someone committed to its teachings, and stable.  Don
Wilson was that man.

   Gwen and Don got engaged shortly after her parents' divorce.  Don was seven
years older, with a promising career as a business consultant.  He was
committed to the church, much more than her dad ever was.  Don was an island
of stability in a world falling apart around her.  They got married less than
a month after her eighteenth birthday.

   For awhile it was a fairy tale.  But now, five years later, she _was_
unhappy.  Connie was right.  She was fed-up with Don's constant controlling
presence, which had seemed to get worse in the last six months.  He made every
decision for her, often without asking.  He treated her like a child.  But it
all her girlfriends at church were treated that way by their husbands.  Judy
Nelson got the same behavior from her husband Phil.  It made Gwen mad.  But
she never considered _doing_ anything about it!

   But now Connie, her own sister-in-law, hand picked by Don to stay there
while he was gone, was smoking and talking about drinking beer!  Worse, she
wasn't apologetic over it!  Gwen flipped through her Bible, looking for a
passage to give her direction.  But she couldn't seem to find anything to
help.

   She looked up.  Connie was standing in the doorway.  She smiled.  "Gwen,
the tonic for what's ailing you isn't in the Good Book," she said with a
gentle, reproving smile.  "You're pissed as hell about how my brother treats
you.  Admit it.  I think it's providential that we'll spend two weeks
together.  I think you want out from under Donnie's hypocritical thumb.  And I
think God cooperated by sending me to you!"

   Gwen's hands trembled.  "You're wrong, Connie.  God judges rebels like you.
And that's what you are.  You're a rebel.  I can't believe you're smoking and
drinking!"

   Connie sat down beside her on the bed.  "Oh come on, Gwen.  Cut the shit.
If I remember correctly, you yourself enjoyed a little rebellion as a
teenager.  Am I right?"

   The brunette lowered her head.  "I'm not proud of it, but yes, I did."

   "Sure you did, I remember.  We were just a year apart in school.  I was a
junior when you were a senior.  You partied with that real wild crowd.  You
did your share of smoking and drinking, too, I bet."

   "Yeah, but the difference is, I'm not proud of it.  I was looking for
something meaningful.  I thought I'd find it there.  But I was wrong."

   "Oh, I see," Connie sarcastically smiled.  "It's more meaningful for my
brother to run your entire fuckin' life and control your every move?  Sure,
okay, yeah, that makes sense.  And you're looking forward to taking that
beautiful dress back to the store.  Is that it?"

   Gwen hesitated.  "I don't always agree with Don.  But it's right for me to
submit to him."

   "Just how much did you smoke senior year, Gwen?  C'mon, you can tell me."

   "Oh, I don't know.  It was a long time ago -."

   "But you remember.  I'm sure you do!  How much?"

   "Okay, yeah, I do remember.  My parents didn't know, so it was only
sporadic.  But when I went out with my friends, I smoked a lot; about a half a
pack of cigarettes a night, I guess."

   "And beer?  I know you guys were drinking beer."

   "Yes," Gwen blushed.  "Plenty of beer.  We used to go to Bobby Miller's
parents' farm south of town.  We were stupid.  We got pretty smashed
sometimes."

   "Ah, just imagine!  Little Gwen Arnold, the high school senior, drinking
and smoking!"  Connie cackled.  "We're not so different, Gwen, you and I.
That dress you mentioned?  It's symptomatic of a larger problem.  You want the
same things I want, Gwen.  You want out.  You're just afraid to admit it.
That's all."

   "You're wrong," she stuttered.  "I love my life, and I love Don.  He's
really good to me.  He's a godly man, committed to the church, and to me.  I
wouldn't do anything to hurt him."

   Connie rolled her eyes.  "I doubt he's all that saintly, Gwen.  But don't
let me ruin your fantasy.  I'll leave you alone.  I'm going back out on the
porch so I can smoke some more."

   Gwen watched Connie's lithe figure leave.  From the window she saw her go
to the porch and light up again.  She was holding an open can of beer.  Gwen
averted her eyes and returned to her Bible.  She kept looking for a passage to
provide spiritual strength in this time of need.

   The next day was Saturday.  Gwen didn't work Saturdays, and Connie wasn't
working that morning, either.  Gwen felt awkward after their conflict.  After
breakfast, Connie once more went to the back porch to smoke.  Gwen decided it
was time to talk.  Wearing a dress, as usual, but trying to appear casual, she
wandered onto the porch.

   "Connie, I'm sorry about my response last night.  You're entitled to do
whatever you want with your life, of course.  It's just that your reaction to
the church surprised me.  That's all."

   The pretty blond smiled and exhaled a plume of smoke into the morning air.
"No apology needed, Gwen.  I understand.  We both grew up in that fuckin'
church.  It's natural that you react defensively when I question the way they
deal with women's issues."

   Gwen sat down across from her.  "Actually, I _do_ understand your concern
about women's issues.  It bothers me, too.  But the smoking thing is a real
mystery to me.  Why on earth did you start smoking?"

   Connie laughed.  "Fall term I got a bit part in a campus play.  I always
wanted to act.  It was fun hanging out with the theater students.  We got
really close during rehearsals.  A bunch of the kids in the show smoked.  I'd
never spent any time with smokers.  But I was intrigued by the habit.  They
all seemed to enjoy it so much.  Finally, I couldn't resist.  I had to try
it."  She tapped some ashes to the ground and raised her cigarette to her
mouth.  "Once I tried it, I understood.  From the start, I loved smoking!  I
still do."  She wrapped her lips around the filter and sucked.  "That's why I
got my job at Video Source when I got back to town."

   Gwen frowned.  "What does that have to do it?"

   "Video Source isn't a chain like Blockbuster.  It's owned by a guy in town.
He smokes, and he lets his staff smoke in the store, behind the counter."  She
exhaled another stream of the bluish gray substance through smiling lips.
"The pay isn't great, but while I'm figuring out what I want to do next, at
least I have a job where I can smoke all day."

   "My Gosh, Connie.  You really must be addicted."

   "I don't call it addiction, Gwen.  I call it commitment.  I like the way
smoking makes me feel.  It makes me feel good, and I'm committed to doing
things that make me feel good.  For years I listened to the preacher and the
elders at the Baptist Church tell me I shouldn't want all those things.  But
now I know it's bullshit.  If I like to smoke, I'm gonna smoke."  She paused.
"But you used to smoke, too, Gwen.  You surely understand what I'm talking
about."

   Gwen said nothing.  She just stared.

   "The truth, Gwen - you liked smoking when you rebelled as a teenager,
didn't you?"

   She shook her head.  "No.  I didn't.  I had a gaping hole deep inside.  I
tried filling it by smoking and drinking and partying.  But that stuff didn't
satisfy.  That's why I married Don.  He makes me happy."

   Connie laughed.  "Correction, Gwen.  Donnie drives you nuts!  You still
have that gaping hole deep inside.  You just fill it with church shit instead
of other things, but you're still not happy.  You said so last night.  Didn't
you?"

   "I didn't mean I'm not happy," she shot back.  "Nothing's perfect, of
course.  But I'm much happier now than when I was rebelling and doing things
like smoking and drinking."

   The blond girl smiled.  "Well, then, that's great.  Good for you.  It's
great you're content.  But for me, living by my own rules is what makes me
happy.  And smoking's one of the things I like.  So, you go to church and
follow their rules.  I'll stay home and light up, and drink a beer or two when
I feel like it."

   Gwen looked at her watch.  "I need to start my chores.  Saturday's when I
clean the bathrooms and wash the floors.  You're making a mistake, Connie.
Don will be upset when he finds out how you've changed."

   Connie crushed her cigarette under her heel.  "I'll help you clean.  As for
Donnie, I don't care what he thinks.  Despite what he says, I can make up my
own mind how to live my life."

   Gwen said she didn't have to, but Connie pitched in and helped clean.  It
went faster with them working together.  Jobs that took all morning were done
by the girls in a couple hours.  Gwen then announced it was time for her
weekly grocery shopping trip.  Connie meanwhile was scheduled for a Saturday
afternoon shift at Video Source.

   Walking the aisles at the supermarket, Gwen thought about Connie's
description of her life.  At one level she found her sister-in-law's
transformation troubling.  Everything she'd been taught at church told her
Connie was making a big mistake.  But Connie seemed happy, amazingly secure,
and pleased with life.  Gwen had to admit she herself didn't really feel the
contentment she so loudly claimed.  She was jealous of how Connie dressed.
Her sister-in-law wore shorts and a tee shirt.  Gwen had on a dress that
covered her knees.  The church frowned on short skirts, calling them sinful,
and on pants, believing they aren't feminine and confuse the distinctions
between men and women.  But the truth was, Gwen liked wearing pants.  They
were more comfortable sometimes.  And yet, there she was, walking down the
supermarket aisle, wearing her dumb dress.  She sighed.  Connie might be
making a mistake, but there were some definite advantages to her point of
view!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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