(special thanks to my agent Sara Megibow for being both a badass agent and a tireless resource on modern Judaism)
Day One had been the hardest. Watching her husband Zachary trying to pin the torn bit of black ribbon to his jacket with trembling hands nearly broke her. Grace had walked over and taken the ribbon from him. As she pinned it to his lapel, Zachary pressed his forehead to hers and whispered, "Thank you.” She couldn't even speak. She'd only nodded and kissed him quick.
Taking his hand, they left his childhood bedroom. Feeling lost among Zachary's Jewish family, Grace decided keeping her mouth shut and staying close to her husband would be her strategy for the day. Zachary's grief at his mother's unexpected death two days ago had been so deep and acute that Grace hardly gave her own sorrow a thought. She'd loved Sara, Zachary's mother, and still couldn't believe the beautiful woman who'd given her husband his ice-blue eyes and his black hair and his love of literature was gone. Sara had been the first of Zachary's family to embrace her after their suspiciously quick wedding seven years ago. "You’re too young for him. And you’re a Gentile. But I know my son. He married you for love. Don't ever think otherwise.”
Mute with grief, the Easton family assembled in the living room and filed out of the house and into cars. Grace glanced around at the other women and checked her dress against theirs. The youngest wife present by at least ten years, Grace feared her plain navy dress appeared to chic, too short. But her sister-in-law Dita, wife of Zachary's rabbi brother, wore a tailored black suit that showed off her shapely knees and calves. Dita caught Grace looking at her and smiled a reassurance. Grace smiled her gratitude back and slipped into the backseat of the car next to Zachary.
Alone in the back of the car, Zachary squeezed her knee.
"How's my shiksa?" he asked and Grace laughed a little.
"Your shiksa's okay. How are you?" she asked before she could stop herself. "Sorry. Terrible question."
Zachary gave her a tight smile. "You're here. I'll be fine. I think."
She clung to his hand. “I’m always here.”
Grace looked away and gave him a moment's privacy to wipe the tear from his cheek.
Zachary, as a former literature professor and currently editor of fiction, had been the natural choice to write and give the eulogy for the family matriarch. Grace thought she'd never survive those few hours yesterday when Zachary had holed up in his home office to write his final words to his mother. It took everything Grace had not to barge in and throw her arms around her husband and sob with him all night long. His grief came first so she held it together, gave him his time alone, and cried silently in their bed.
She closed her eyes and remembered last night. At one in the morning Zachary had finally come to bed. She'd heard a noise and turned toward the sound. Watching her husband undress in the dark, she chided herself for thinking torrid thoughts of him even in their shared grief. He'd crawled across the sheets to her and pulled her small frame against his much larger, six foot tall self.
"We can't make love during Shiva," he'd whispered in the dark.
"When does Shiva start?" she asked, wrapping her arms around his muscular shoulders.
"Tomorrow. After the funeral."
"How long does it last?"
Zachary kissed her lips. She could feel the tension in his taut body as she ran her hands up and down his arms.
"Seven days," he breathed.
"Oh, God," she said, and Zachary had laughed softly--the first laugh she'd heard from him since yesterday--as he pushed her gently onto her back.
He slipped his hand into her pajama pants and pushed a finger into her. Part of her relished the pleasure of reconnecting with him after so many hours of separation. But a small voice in her head told her she should be grieving right now, not panting underneath her husband.
"Are you sure?"
"Please, Gracie. I need this," he'd whispered and she'd slipped out of her clothes and opened her legs wide for him. He teased her clitoris with his fingertips and gently sucked on her nipples until they hardened in his warm mouth. Even in his sadness, he would never take her until her body was wet and ready for him.
When he entered her, she'd wrapped her legs around his lower back and clung to him with all her strength and all her love. Missionary wasn't one of their favorite positions. Zachary far preferred her on her stomach, his hand in her long red hair, and with his chest to her back and his mouth to her ear. But tonight she felt he needed to make love to her face to face, needed the comfort of her whole body wrapped around him.
As he thrust into her, she caressed his strong back with her hands and his shoulder with her lips. Exhausted from grief and stress and packing for their week ahead at his parents' house, Grace couldn't relax enough to come. It didn't matter. This time was for Zachary and she whispered that into his ear.
"Are you sure?” He kissed her face, her neck.
"Yes. Just come when you need to. Use me.” She rocked her hips in that way that always made his breath catch. "I want you to."
He nodded and dug his hands into the soft skin of her thighs and thrust harder. Grace relaxed beneath him, happy she could do this one small thing to comfort him. He came with a quiet shudder and lingered inside her for a few minutes before pulling out.
"One week," she repeated. "Whoever invented Shiva must be a sadist.” Grace ran her fingers over her husband's handsome features. She loved his forehead the most. Or maybe his strong nose. His sculpted lips had given her more than a few happy memories.
"I think God invented Shiva," Zachary answered, pulling her to him and resting his head on her shoulder.
Grace rolled onto her other side and pressed her back to Zachary's chest. He held her tight to him and she felt a tear sliding down her face. She couldn't be sure if the tear belonged to her or him.
"I stand by my words."
Finally at the funeral home, Grace refused to let go of Zachary's hand. The few hugs he gave, he gave one-armed, while his other arm stayed with her. They took their seats in the front rows as Zachary's brother, Rabbi Aaron Easton, led them in prayers. Usually she loved seeing him in his yarmulke. She found the traditional head-covering quite adorable. But today he looked grim and somber. Grace tensed as the time arrived for Zachary to read his eulogy.
His brother called him forward and Zachary squeezed her hand once, released it, and walked to the front. He pulled his notes from his jacket pocket and opened his mouth. Nothing came out. Grace's stomach dropped. Zachary took a deep breath and his brother reached out and touched his arm. Grace didn't know what to do. She wanted to sob, to grab Zachary and sink to the floor with him and wail. Instead she stood up calmly and walked to him. She twined her arm through his, took his notes, and began to read.
"My mother," Grace began, wanting to cry but laughing instead as she read out loud the words of her husband's eulogy, "would threaten to slap us all if she saw us right now. And then she'd make us eat something."
That night Grace lay next to Zachary in his childhood bed at his parents’ home and reminded herself that it was only day one of Shiva. And they had six days left to get through before she and Zachary could make love again. She knew it would make the waiting so much harder if she touched him, but she couldn't stop herself from draping herself over his chest and pressing her ear to his chest.
"Your heart's still beating," Grace said as Zachary laid his arm over her back.
"That's a comfort."
"It is. It's never allowed to stop beating."
"It stopped once," Zachary said, tracing her shoulder blade with his fingertips.
Grace looked up at him. "When?"
"The day I met you."
Grace said nothing. She just crawled up his body and kissed him long and deep. Zachary took her face in his hands and didn't let her move away for a solid five minutes.
With a shuddering breath, Grace pulled away from her husband and lay on her side away from him.
He lay close and rubbed her feet with his until she giggled.
"Not quite as good as sex, but footsie will tide me over," she said, play kicking him.
"She wouldn't care, you know," Zachary said, slipping his hand under her shirt and touching her back.
"But you do care. Even if you won't admit it."
Zachary sighed. "I do. I don't know why I do, but I do. I'm usually a terrible Jew."
Grace laughed. "Well, considering I'm Welsh Presbyterian, I really don't think I can judge how good of a Jew you are or not. But you did worship your mother so I hear that makes you quite a good Jewish boy. And she died three days ago. So I think she and I both would understand if your mind were on something other than sex with your wife."
"It's a novel sensation."
"Having my mind be on something else than sex with my wife," Zachary said, moving closer to her but making no move to undress her. "Not sure I like it."
Day Two had gone a little better. A steady stream of friends and relatives, many of whom she'd never met before, kept her mind off her grief. But by Day Three, Grace woke up dreading another night laying next to her husband and feeling guilty about how desperately she wanted to climb onto him, take him inside her and help him forget all his pain if only for an hour or two.
On Day Four Grace had her fill of the house of grief. She pulled on her trainers and went for an early morning run before the parade of friends and relatives started again. When she made it back to the house, wet with sweat and shivering from cold, she found her sister-in-law Dita in the kitchen.
"Tea?" Dita offered and Grace accepted with gratitude. "How are you holding up? It must be strange for you. Zachary tells me this is your first Jewish funeral."
Grace sipped at her tea.
"It's different. I appreciate the rituals--covering the mirrors, not cooking, not going out. It's just...difficult. And more than a little frustrating."
"Yes, I miss the sex too."
Grace's eyes went wide. Then she covered her mouth to stifle an unruly laugh.
"Dita, I didn't say-"
"You didn't have to," Dita said, pouring milk into her black tea. "It's nice to see that after seven years, you and Zachary still can't keep your eyes off each other. You possibly love him as much as I love Aaron. Maybe."
"A close second at least. Yes. I'm not a fan of that particular provision of Shiva. But Zachary's really grieving. I'm sure it's for the best."
Dita rolled her eyes. "Nonsense. He needs his wife. And he needs a distraction. You can be both."
"Not for three more days," Grace said and counted not just the days but the hours until she and Zachary would be free of Shiva and back home in their bedroom in London again.
"I'll tell you a little secret from a Jew to a Shiksa," Dita said, leaning in. "Life comes before death. When a funeral procession meets a wedding procession, the wedding procession goes first. Shiva's suspended during shabbat, Grace. And the shabbat starts at sundown tonight. And...during shabbat, sex with your spouse is a Mitzvah.” A Mitzvah, Grace knew, was a good deed, a divine commandment.
“Dita, I’m ready to convert.”
“Don’t you dare. I love having a red-headed Shiksa for a sister-in-law.”
Grace took Dita’s advice to heart. She said nothing to Zachary, merely watched him that day looking for any signs that any advances on her part would be unwelcome that night. But as they sat side-by-side greeting yet another stream of visitors, Zachary rarely stopped touching her. He’d rest his hand on her knee or lightly scratch her back. His grief today seemed heartrending as usual but calmer now. Late afternoon the house emptied and Easton family started to get ready for shul.
“Would I be a horrible wife if I didn’t go with you?” Grace asked.
“I’d consider it grounds for divorce,” Zachary deadpanned. “No, of course you don’t have to go. Go out. Eat something very un-kosher for me. Please.”
“I’ll have a bacon sandwich in your honor,” Grace said, kissing him. “I’ll see you later.”
Food wasn’t on Grace mind. Just her handsome husband and how she would go about comforting him tonight. The usual fare, although fantastically enjoyable for the both of them, might not provide the distraction he needed.
Once alone in the house, Grace stood in Zachary’s childhood bedroom and looked around. She smiled at the photos of him in his footballer’s uniform. At 38, Zachary remained as handsome as he was twenty years ago when the pictures were taken. More handsome even as time had turned him from a sweet-faced if rather rakish youth into the more chiseled, more masculine adult he’d become. Sometimes she still couldn’t believe they’d made it seven years. They married under horrible circumstances—the one-night indiscretion between teacher and student, the pregnancy, losing the baby only a few weeks into their tenuous marriage. They’d done everything wrong in the beginning that it amazed how right it had turned out.
The picture of him playing football with his friends gave her a delicious idea. She dug through his closet, through his old clothes his mother had kept in perfect condition until she found his old Everton football jersey. A quick run to the shop on the corner provided the other two items she’d need for the night. By late evening she lounged on his bed, eager for him to return home.
She heard voices in the entryway and felt a sudden surge of nervousness. Grace had never seduced her husband before. When it came to Zachary, seduction was a moot point. She couldn’t remember a time when he hadn’t been in the mood. Seducing Zachary required nothing more showing up.
But never before had he been in deep mourning. A small part of her feared he’d turn her down, that he’d accuse of insensitivity. Grace had halfway convinced herself to throw on her clothes before he came upstairs. But then she heard footsteps outside the door.
Grace lay on her back and propped her legs up on the wall. Her head draped off the edge of the bed so when Zachary entered and saw her, she at first thought he was frowning.
“Gracie? Is that my old football jersey?”
“Why do they call football soccer in America?” Grace asked, crossing her legs at the ankles. She’d bought some boys tube socks at the corner shop with blue stripes on them. In addition to the socks and the jersey, she wore the laciest pair of knickers she’d packed and nothing else.
“I knew before I opened the door. Now suddenly, I seem to have forgotten…everything.”
Zachary closed the door behind him and walked over to the bed.
“I’ll teach you something,” Grace said as Zachary sat next to her and ran his hand up and down her bare thighs. “Dita told me that on Shabbat it’s a mitzvah to have sex with your spouse. Even during Shiva.”
“You’re starting to sound like a Jew, Gracie.”
Zachary bent to kiss her lips but Grace rolled away from him at the last second. She came up on her hands and knees and threw her full weight into knocking him onto his back.
“You don’t get to kiss me yet,” she said. “I get to kiss you. You just lay there and behave yourself.”
“I can promise to lay here until you tell me otherwise. The behaving myself ceased to be an option when you put on those clothes.”
“Like it?” Grace straddled his hips and smiled down at him. She ran her hands down her stomach and started to lift the jersey up. But before she bared her breasts, she pulled it back down again and gave him a wicked smile.
Grace started unbuttoning his shirt. She went slowly, one button at a time and dropped a kiss on his chest and stomach as she revealed more and more of her husband’s lean, muscular body.
She didn’t stop with his shirt. She unbuttoned his pants and freed his erection. Running her hand up and down his hard length, she grinned at him.
“This I’ve missed.” Grace teased the tip before wrapping her entire hand around him.
“This has missed you too.” Zachary inhaled sharply.
“Have you missed your wife sucking your cock?” Grace asked as she flicked her tongue over him.
“Grace,” Zachary breathed, half-laughing. “What’s gotten into you?”
Grace grinned at him. Dirty talk in bed was Zachary’s forte, not hers. He’d often whisper his lecherous intentions to her during foreplay while she panted and blushed. This might have been the first time she’d ever said “cock” in their seven years of marriage.
“You’ve gotten into me. See?”
Grace put him in her mouth and sucked hard and deep.
Zachary gripped the sheets as his hips lifted off the bed. She massaged his full length with her lips and plied him over and over again with her tongue. His breaths came hard and fast so Grace stopped and pulled up.
“Not so fast. No coming without me.”
“A fair rule,” Zachary said, his voice hoarse with need.
Grace took a deep breath and rolled onto her back. Zachary sat up next to her.
“I await your orders,” he said.
“Your order,” Grace said, as she slid her knickers down her legs, “is to do nothing but watch.”
Trying to hide her nervousness, Grace opened her legs wide and hooked her knee around Zachary’s back. She slipped her hand between her legs, opened herself, and started playing with her clitoris.
“God, Gracie,” Zachary said, digging his fingers into her calf. He loved watching her masturbate. And she loved pleasing him. But doing this in front of him, even after so many years together, still mortified her. Zachary’s chest heaved and the sight of him so aroused goaded her on. Her clitoris swelled against her fingers and she felt herself growing wetter.
“Zachary,” Grace said as she slid a finger into herself and smiled as Zachary’s eyes went wide at the sight. After seven years, it did her heart good to know she could still shock him. “I think I need to fuck you. If you don’t mind.”
“I won’t object to it.”
Zachary started to crawl onto her but she stopped him with a hand on his chest. “On your back. My turn to be on top,” she said. Maybe once a month Grace would work up the courage to straddle him and take him inside her. She loved the angle of penetration in that position but felt so exposed kneeling naked on top of him.
“I’ve heard of women like you,” Zachary said, amused suspicion in his voice. “Are you a dominatrix?”
“I’m a horny wife who wants her husband inside her. Do you mind?”
“Not a bit.”
Zachary obediently lay on his back and Grace started to straddle his stomach. At the last moment she changed her mind and turned her back to him. She’d read in some women’s magazine about the position called reverse cowgirl. Ridiculous name but apparently men loved the view. Grace faced Zachary’s feet and took him her hand again. She rose up, positioned him at the wet entrance of her body and sunk down onto him.
Sighing with bliss, Grace took all of him into her.
“Have I ever told you how much I love feeling your cock in me?” Grace asked.
“Not in so many words,” Zachary said, his voice breaking as she started rocking her hips.
“It’s the best feeling in the world. I feel complete when you’re inside me, thrusting into me.” Grace reached down and gently cupped his testicles while she moved her hips back and forth and into tight spirals. They’d never done this position before but Grace decided they might need to add it to their repertoire after tonight. Zachary panted underneath her. Now she understood why he preferred being on top during lovemaking. The power she felt make him gasp as she inflicted pleasure on him was well worth any embarrassment.
Grace leaned forward and put her full weight onto her hands in front of her. She rocked her hips back and forth faster. Zachary grabbed her hips and pulled her down hard onto him.
Fearing the thin walls, Grace came hard but quietly as Zachary thrust up and into her. Still inside her, he rolled up and wrapped his arms around her and slipped his hands under her jersey.
“What are you doing?” Grace demanded as she slowly caught her breath.
“Touching your nipples,” Zachary said. “Is that not allowed?”
“Your cock’s in me and I’m wet with your cum. Anything’s allowed at this point.”
“I have to say this scandalous talk of yours comes as quite a shock, Mrs. Easton.”
“Aren’t you the one who said last weekend that you wanted to, and I quote, ‘Fuck me until I forgot my name, fuck me until I couldn’t walk, and fuck me until your cum dripped down my legs’?”
“I said that?”
“You did. You were fucking me at the time. And I believe this may be the most I’ve ever said ‘fuck’ in my life.”
“I’m very proud of you, Gracie. Is there anything else you want to say to me? Or do to me? Or have me do to you?”
“You can kiss my clit until I come again. Just a suggestion.”
“Would I be allowed to suck your nipples first and put two fingers inside you?”
“I want three fingers. At least.”
Grace laughed as Zachary collapsed onto his back in a pretend faint. At moments like this she knew with crystal clarity why their marriage had worked against all odds. The sex didn’t keep them together. The laughter did.
Slowly Grace crawled off Zachary and lay on her back again.
“Forgive me, Grace, but I’m afraid I may have to reposition you.”
“Do whatever you feel is best.”
Grace let out a shocked laugh as Zachary sunk onto his knees on the floor by the bed, grabbed her and yanked her hips to the edge of the mattress. His childhood bed, it sat low enough to the ground that her very tall husband could spread her legs, lean over her body, lift her jersey, and take a nipple into his mouth.
“My wife has the most perfect breasts,” he noted and Grace grinned.
“Your wife’s breasts are freckled.”
“The freckles are my favorite part.”
Zachary continued to sensually torture her breasts with his lips and tongue. He kissed his way down her stomach as he pinched and rolled her nipples between his dexterous fingers. When they married Zachary had slept with at least fifty women. And he had been her first. But she never experienced much jealously when she thought of his past lovers. They’d taught him well and now she reaped the benefits. Zachary’s head pressed between her open thighs and took her clitoris between his lips.
“Do you like tasting yourself in me?” Grace asked as Zachary’s tongue pushed inside her. “I’ve always wondered that.”
“Very much,” Zachary said as he pulled his mouth from her and slipped two fingers into her. “I suppose it’s a caveman male possessive instinct. It’s my semen inside you and no one else’s.”
“Your semen, your cock, your tongue, your fingers…no one but you ever.”
“You’re welcome to tattoo that on your inner thigh.”
“It’s written on my heart,” Grace coming up on her elbows to meet his eyes. “Good enough?”
Zachary didn’t answer at first. He reached out and cupped her face with his hand. “It’s perfect,” he said.
Grace’s heart fluttered.
“I love you, Professor Easton,” Grace whispered.
“I love you, Mrs. Easton,” Zachary answered. “Now lay back. I’ve only got two fingers in you and I believe you demanded three.”
“At least,” she reminded him.
Grace relaxed onto her back and stared at the ceiling as her husband opened her wider. They’d never done anything more than three fingers on occasion. Slim and small-boned, Grace’s body was naturally tight; in the beginning it took a couple of weeks with a very patient Zachary before she could have completely pain-free intercourse. But tonight she felt wild and wanton and wanted to try everything they hadn’t done before.
Zachary spread his fingers apart inside her and Grace whimpered with the flash of pleasure mixed with pain.
“You know what would really help here?” Zachary asked. “Lube. Wish we’d packed it.”
Grace slipped her hand under the pillow.
“Here. Bought it tonight. I mortified the poor teenage clerk. I suppose he can’t imagine what an old married woman needed with lubricant and boys’ tube socks.”
“You’re twenty-six and stunning. He’ll probably masturbate every time he sees a pair of tube socks for the rest of his life.”
As Grace laughed, Zachary applied the lubricant to her vagina. Suddenly three fingers fit inside her perfectly.
“God, that’s amazing,” Grace moaned, her back arching.
“Does it hurt at all?”
“None. Can we try another?” “You are insatiable tonight, aren’t you?”
“You can’t imagine how much I’ve missed you inside me this week. I respect Shiva. I do. And I’ve felt so guilty. You’re grieving and I am too, but I lay next to you and think about how much I want you to make love to me.”
“You should never feel guilty about wanting me to make love to you. I don’t care if I’m on my deathbed and the world is burning down. Understood?”
Grace smiled at the ceiling.
Zachary opened her up more as his fingers probed inside her. She flinched as his knuckles grazed her g-spot, gasped as he went deep enough she felt his fingertip against her cervix. He pushed a fourth finger into her, as his thumb made tight circles on her clitoris. Grace’s heart raced. Her inner muscles tightened. She came hard around his hand buried deep inside her.
“Grace, I have to fuck you,” Zachary said. “Please.”
“Fuck me till I forget my name,” she said. “And yours. Whoever you are.”
Laughing Zachary stood up and put his knee on the bed beside her hip. He started to push inside her.
“Wait. Not like that,” she said, stopping him.
“How then? I will stand on my head and fuck you if you want me to.”
Grace reached down and found the lube again. She held it up and stared into her husband’s eyes without saying a word.
“Are you sure, Gracie?”
They’d never done anal before. Zachary had done it, of course, but Grace had never worked up the nerve to try it with him. She knew he wanted to. There wasn’t much in the bedroom that Zachary didn’t want to do. But tonight she wanted to show him with her body how much she loved him. This seemed the perfect time to try.
Zachary nodded and pulled his shirt off as Grace rolled over onto her stomach.
She breathed slowly and listened as Zachary finished undressing completely.
“Don’t tense,” Zachary warned, as he slipped two wet fingers into her. “Relax and tell me if it hurts.”
Grace nodded and closed her eyes. She felt Zachary at the tight entrance of her body. He pressed in slowly, thrusting gently. Zachary’s fingers gripped the sheets by her face. Grace reached out and wrapped her hand around his thumb. Groaning softly, he twined his hand into hers and pushed in a little harder.
“Please stop me if you want to,” Zachary said and Grace could hear the hunger in his voice, the desire to never stop.
“No. It feels strange. But I do like it.”
Zachary slipped his other hand under the jersey she still wore and caressed her back as he moved in her. She did like this new unusual way he filled her. And she felt so wicked lying on her stomach, her sock clad feet hanging in the air. But the best part was Zachary, the way he breathed so hard, how desperately he held her hand. He thrust a few more time and came inside her with a throaty gasp.
Carefully he pulled out of her. She tossed him her knickers and he used them to clean the lubricant off. Now completely naked, Zachary stretched out on top of her and kissed her mouth, teased her lips with his tongue, and held her so tightly to him she could scarcely breath.
Grace started to say something but a soft banging sound from down the next room interrupted her. A bang followed by a moan. Zachary’s eyes brightened with quiet laughter.
“What is that?” Grace asked.
“Aaron and Dita.” Zachary slipped his hand under her jersey to cup her breast. “She’s rather enthusiastic, isn’t she?”
“If we can hear them, does that mean they heard us?” Grace asked, flushing with embarrassment.
“After your last orgasm? I’m absolutely sure of it.”
“Oh, God. Your brother’s a rabbi,” she reminded him.
“Don’t worry. Remember,” Zachary said, pushing her legs open with his knees. “It’s Shabbat and we’re married. This is a mitzvah.”