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THE WOMAN WHO SAID NO/Lucy Ferriss HE WAS PUTTING ON HIS SHOES when he told her. "Samantha wants a contract." "A what?" "Contract. Or something. She wants me to write something down." "What kind of something down?" "It should say that if I ever have sex with someone else again, our marriage is over." They were both sitting on the edge of the hotel bed. "And you said?" "I'd think about it." Marian traced the print on the bedspread. It made a complicated geometric pattern, like Rubik's cube or a pair of those twisted nails that should come apart easily but don't. "How long do you have to think?" "I don't know. She came up with the idea last week." Marian ran her finger down Joe's back, lithe and muscled under the slippery cotton ofhis shirt. Aquarter of an hour ago she had lain behind him, curled on the bed, and thought how similar one back looks to another—shoulder blades, trapezoids, the knotty rope of spine. That she was not Joe's first affair was part of his attractiveness for her: she needn't take him too seriously. "Well," she said, draping her arm over Joe's narrow shoulder like an old friend, "that/s really between you and Samantha, isn't it?" "Yeah, I suppose it is. I shouldn't bother you with it." "But if you sign a contract and keep seeing me, you'll be in deep trouble," said Marian. "I'm already in deep trouble." "I think I'd want to break off if there was a contract on file." Marian drew away, was sitting cross-legged on the bed. "Then again, if you refuse to sign it she'll know you're up to something." "That about sums up the possibilities." Joe smiled, and Marian touched a lean dimple on his cheek. "So what are you going to do?" "Stall. What would you do, counselor?" Marian stood and began to dress. She was a tall, thin, freckled woman with gluteals far sexier than her slight breasts, and for that reason alone she kept her back to Joe as she slipped back into skirt, bra, blouse, hose. "She doesn't mean to catch you," she said, her eyes on the ray of December light that slipped between the heavy maroon curtains. The Missouri Review · 47 Joe had picked this hotel, a cheap, all-season place up a winding road at the New Hampshire border. "If she wants you to sign a contract like that, it means she's expecting you to be tempted, right?" "She knows," said Joe, shaking out a sock, "that monogamy is not my strong suit." "But she's also thinking you would tell her about it. Given the signed contract. And that by choosing to tell her, you'd be choosing to end your marriage. Which isn't at all, I think"—she turned around, her blouse half buttoned, and leaned over him to smell his curly hair— "what you're doing here. With me." He didn't answer that one. He made her take her clothes back off, so that she was late and messy that day, getting back to work. And though she believed that what Joe wrote down for his wife was no business of hers, Marian Lewis was a lawyer and knew the ins and outs of contracts , the loopholes and the parsing ofphrases, so the subject wouldn't quite move off her agenda. She had metJoe at a party in Boston. No, not quite. First he had come up to Peterborough to report on the state senator's fabulous divorce. Then returned to check facts. Then in November Marian had driven her daughter, Lisa, to Boston for sectional finals—girls' fourteen-andunder tennis—and stolen away from the match to a cocktail party, and there he had been, popping baby quiches into his mouth like a starving man. There was always the chance she might have said no. The other times she had, in so many words, said no. Instead, under the ficus tree in the Boston loft, she had been the one to kiss Joe—on his neck, under...


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