Alim in Herland, Chapter 14

Thor & Loki
“I heard about our engagement,” Terry said.

There in the middle of Solis's town square, he looped the necklace around my neck, bent me backwards, and smacked me on the lips.

So I hit him on the nose, which bled.

In his narrative, Van calls Terry's initial advance “a dashing attack.” He calls our entire courtship “stormy.”

Van can be eye-rollingly daft. He was so sure that Terry fit a “type,” he never saw how much Terry played up that role.

Terry was being deliberately obnoxious and, I think, thumbing his nose at the mentors. He'd gathered that our so-called engagement was entirely within my say-so. As long as I kept coming back . . .

Which of course I did—how else could we plan my escape? And if it meant being teased and wrestled with and provoked into more than one unexpected boxing match—

I admit, I got into the act. I started to call Terry sentimental names such as “darling” and “honey” and “cutesy” and “Snowball” (one of the cats' names) until he finally broke and shouted “bunch-backed toad” at me. Whenever Terry felt he couldn't be too insulting, he used quotes from Shakespeare, which Herland doesn't have.

His explosions still upset Tyra. She was constantly trying to pull me into private conferences. When I wouldn't go, she urged me into corners: Are you sure you want to marry such an impolite man? Will you be able to talk with each other rationally? What about your duties as a forester? Are you not worried...?
Taming of the Shrew, BBC Adaptations

I fobbed her off, but I came to appreciate her concern. I wouldn't want a sister of mine to marry the kind of man Terry was pretending to be. All that overacting! As Terry pointed out, Tyra was looking out for me (and he dislikes her).

Even Ellador began to wonder if she'd done the right thing when she told the mentors that Terry and I were engaged. And Celis muttered, “Why is he acting this way?” when Terry quoted really bawdy Shakespeare at the end of a lecture.

“It's a plan,” I said between gritted teeth, then went across the hall and punched him. He laughed and mock-boxed me around the hall.

I swear some of the girls looked envious—the ones who snuck peaks in the western temples, I guess.

As the triple wedding ceremony neared—planned almost entirely by Jeff with some suggestions from various mentors, mostly to tone it down—Terry and I had to pretend greater cooperation. That wasn't hard. I liked leaning against Terry, his arm slung over my shoulder, as we discussed flying or astronomy or the newish game of basketball.

The wedding day arrived. All three of us couples married in a blurry high ceremony followed by way too many speeches and a grand parade.

And then we started married life, and everything went back to how it was before. We didn't move into our own home (such as Juste's personal tower in Har) or share a name or undertake the same profession though Terry sometimes wandered out to the forest with me.

Nobody saw the need for us to be “apart,” mostly because everybody pretended not to understand that marriage would lead to (permissible) sex. Celis had no trouble getting instantly pregnant, but Celis is resourceful (Jeff never stood a chance). Ellador was more virginal although I think she and Van managed to get further than he implies in his roundabout narrative.

I hoped—at some level, I truly believed—that the mentors didn't provide us with a separate residence because they knew Terry and I would be leaving.

“You need to learn to be a couple here first,” they said whenever I brought up the topic.

“You need to be patient,” Terry told me.

Except nothing happened: no change in status, no future plans, no concessions. The mentors seemed to think that marriage would resolve my restlessness. I would settle back into Herland life. Terry would also lose his edge as Herland’s comfortable existence overwhelmed him with its benefits.

I didn’t realize until much later how much our mentors reasoned like members of Terry’s own social caste.

“We’re stuck here,” I complained to Terry and I kept complaining until finally, grumbling, Terry agreed to put part two of our plan into motion.

Pamela by Samuel Richardson
Part two required Terry to act more like an ass. He leered at me, called him “his woman,” complained loudly about my job and whined incessantly about not having a “home.”

He then started making noises about “intimacy,” which was code for “sex.” Finally, he proclaimed his intentions of making a dead-set at me—well, at Alima. And then he tried, knowing full well that Moadine was in the room next door. The plan was for Moadine to rescue me, but I got caught up in the act and kneed Terry in the groin which he told me later was a dirty trick for one man to play on another. Running in, Moadine gave me a bemused look and helped groaning Terry to his feet while I ran off screaming.

When I calmed down, petted by Marta and Tyra, I proclaimed my intentions of returning immediately to Har. Everyone said, “Oh, yes, of course, you must!”

The idea—Terry's idea—was that Herland would either locked him up permanently, in which case I would have to break him out, or it would expel him. I was a little afraid that something wholly primitive would emerge from within my many mothers, and Terry would be strung up, drawn and quartered (I'd seen pictures in Van's dictionary). That was one reason I asked Moadine to “guard” me. She seemed to like Terry, to tolerate him, and she wouldn't spit him on a pike.

“She might have,” Terry said much later. “But she'd have done it so calmly and efficiently, I'd have hardly felt a thing.”
Questioning midwife from Midwife's Tale

Actually, Moadine doubted the entire performance. Before I left for Har, she came to see me. I was flinging things into a bag. My rage wasn’t entirely counterfeit; it frustrated me that I couldn't simply leave Herland with Terry, that we had to go through this stupid subterfuge to begin with.

Moadine sat on a chair in our room—Terry had insisted on that much privacy—and studied me.

Finally she said, “Did he truly try to take you by force?”

“You heard him.”

“Yes. You never agreed to his actions?”

“No. He kept talking about it. That's why I asked you to stay next door.”

“Yes, you did. It wasn't a game between you?”

I gave her a lifted eyebrow. If Terry had done what we both said he'd done, he would hardly deserve this kind of defense. What difference did it make what I’d thought or agreed to? Terry assailed me!

Moadine looked back, eyes partly hooded.

“Not a game,” I said forcefully.

“His behavior strikes me as uncharacteristic.”

I hurried to the bureau and emptied it of more clothes plus the necklace which I shoved into my tunic out of Moadine's sight. I kept my face turned away while I contemplated the empty drawers.

I hadn't expected her to know Terry so well, to be able to distinguish between bluster and teasing as opposed to malice and domination. I hadn't realized that anyone but me—and possibly Celis—would see that Terry was honest bravado and strength and good humor and sharp wits and (sometimes) hidebound beliefs. He was never actually dangerous or cruel.

It infuriated me that Jeff had taken the whole thing at face value. He wouldn't speak to Terry, calling him “my former acquaintance!” At least Van tried, but Van never questioned the “woman's version.”

Moadine was being fair, inconveniently so.

“Whatever he does is characteristic to him,” I said.

“Yes,” she said slowly, watching me pack my kit (which contained one of Terry's razors; I was approaching the point where I would need to shave).

“I hope you are happy in Har,” she said at the door and left, as self-contained as always.

Ellador wept when we parted. “I can’t understand Terry,” she said.

I didn't dare tell her the truth. Ellador was the means to Van and Terry leaving. She had to believe utterly in the necessity. She had to go, so Van could go, and Van had to go, so Terry could leave too.

Celis winked and kissed me. She was several months pregnant by then, and I patted her belly and grinned at her delight.

“You’re not supposed to know what happened between me and Terry,” I told her. “We're supposed to keep you from horrid thoughts.”

“I'd be more horrified if I didn't know you were going to be alright. You are, aren't you?”

“Yes,” I said.

If she guessed the rest—and being Celis, she probably did—she didn't say.

I left that afternoon. I went to Har where Juste rolled her eyes at my distressful story and put me to work clearing a new field. I agreed. I had time. Terry had to get thrown out of Herland—after which, he would fly north, breach the mountain passage, and take me away from my home.

Next Chapter 15: Terry