Chapter Description: The truth comes out as Ryan spills the beans on why he's been acting so strangely.
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Anna didn’t know what to do. She stood awkwardly across the room as Ryan unexpectedly just slumped down to his knees. He covered his face but it was very clear he was loudly crying. Anna was shocked, it was the first time she had seen a man cry. Anna’s adoptive father hadn’t even cried at his own parents’ funerals and here was Ryan sobbing like a baby.
When Anna had made her way back into the living room she had been terrified of her husband. For the first time he had laid his hands on her and spanked her harder than she had ever been spanked before. She didn’t know what to do, after considering leaving the room she decided to stand her ground and see what happened. If anything she felt she was the one who should be crying.
“I’m sorry!” Ryan suddenly exclaimed so loudly that Anna jumped backwards.
“You… huh?” Anna muttered with a frown.
“I can’t do this!” Ryan moved his hands from his face to reveal streaks of tears and puffy red cheeks.
Anna was feeling very awkward. It was if she was intruding on a private moment. Ryan was looking up at her through eyes blurred with tears. What she decided to do took even her by surprise. Instead of retreating she took a couple of steps forwards towards the middle of the room. They were small and tentative but when she stopped a few feet from Ryan she didn’t feel he was a threat. He looked so vulnerable on his knees in front of her, like a child who was lost.
“What’s going on?” Anna asked with concern. It was concern for her own well-being as much as Ryan’s.
“I’m not… I can’t…” Ryan was shaking his heads and trying to speak in between sobs that seemed to shake his whole body.
Anna took another couple of steps forwards until she was within arm range of her husband. There was an armchair just to the side of the pair of them and she perched herself on the edge of it. She was in uncharted waters and half-reached out her hand before pulling it back to herself. After her spanking she had expected to hate Ryan, she had expected to fear him even, and yet she was now a couple of feet from him as he continued to loudly cry. It was so unusual she really didn’t know what she was supposed to do. She wasn’t prepared at all for a situation like this.
“I’m sorry!” Ryan wailed again, “I’m so, so sorry… for everything!”
“Slow down…” Anna said. Rather hesitantly she reached a hand out and put it on Ryan’s trembling shoulder, “I don’t understand.”
“I don’t want this.” Ryan said after a deep shuddering breath, “I didn’t want any of this. I didn’t want to marry you, I didn’t want to force you to move in with me, I didn’t want to make you a housewife when you’re clearly capable of so much more!”
If Anna was shocked before these last revelations were almost enough to knock her off her chair. She pulled her hand away from Ryan and looked around as if fearful someone might overhear them. None of this made any kind of sense to her and she was desperate to be told what was going on. Was this some kind of test? If Anna didn’t submit was Ryan going to punish her again? Ryan’s tears looked real and she didn’t think he was that good of an actor.
“You need to explain what’s going on.” Anna said warily.
Ryan took a deep breath and the tears that had been running down his face slowed down. He took a deep breath and seemed to compose himself a little. He pulled his shirt up and used it to wipe his face as he turned to look at Anna. He stayed on his knees before his wife as if he were begging for forgiveness.
“I… I hate this society.” Ryan seemed to spit the words out venomously, “I hate everything about it.”
Anna could hardly believe her ears. She had never heard any man complaining about the male dominated nature of Sallas, she hadn’t even heard many women dare to openly complain about it. The fear that her husband was testing her disappeared, as she looked into his eyes she could see he was deadly serious.
“You need to start at the beginning…” Anna prompted when it seemed like Ryan was lost for words.
“Right, right…” Ryan took another deep breath. He paused for a couple of seconds and then launched into an explanation. His voice remained shaky like he might burst into tears again at a moment’s notice, “I’ve hated this ever since I was a small child and I saw what father did to my mom. She was a beautiful, intelligent woman and just filled with love. Father took all of that and twisted her until she was…”
Ryan trailed off but Anna knew what he was thinking. Anna had seen Ryan’s mom at the graduation. She had seen how she had been changed to the point she looked less like a human and more like a doll. Obscenely sized breasts, lips bulging out and more plastic than flesh it had seemed. Every part of that poor woman had been molded and shaped by countless surgeries to make the perfect plaything for Anna’s father-in-law. The image of Ryan’s mom wouldn’t leave Anna’s mind for a long time.
“I watched my mom have everything taken away and I knew it was wrong but I couldn’t do anything about it. I watched as she was stripped of everything that made her… her. I watched as her smile and sunny disposition disappeared, she became more and more introverted the more they worked on her until she gave up.” Ryan clenched his fists for a few moments, “I knew then this whole society was… bullshit. I knew enough to keep it to myself but I truly couldn’t stand it… I can’t stand it!”
Ryan paused and grabbed one of the cans of beer still on the table in front of him. Anna watched him give it a little shake and when he heard there was still something inside he lifted it up and took a big drink from it. He put it back and stared into the middle-distance for a few seconds.
“My father said I had to get married.” Ryan continued, “Told me to pick someone.”
“Why?” Anna asked. Her one worded question had two meanings. Why did he have to get married? And why pick her?
“You know how my father got to where he is at the head of this massive company?” Ryan asked in response, “He’s a control freak. He micro-manages everything. He has a plan laid out and that plan called for me to be married when I went to college. He didn’t care whether I loved someone or not, he didn’t care if I was even interested in women. In his view men have to be a very specific thing, they have to do specific things and he was not going to suffer anything that contradicted that. He gave me an ultimatum to pick someone and he would sort it all out.”
“Wow…” It was all Anna could say.
“So I said the first name that came to mind.” Ryan said with a shrug, “I didn’t know any women. I was afraid to really get to know any after what happened to mom. I always admired you though, you weren’t like the other girls. I saw you getting into trouble for bucking the trend and I admired that. I… Well, I had a crush on you. I always watched you and wished I had the courage to say something.”
Ryan stumbled over his words a little and Anna, much to her own surprise, felt her cheeks warming a little bit. She didn’t say anything though, she wanted Ryan to keep going. It felt like this was the first time they had really spoken properly and honestly to each other. The man in front of him was not the man she had been living with.
“So I said your name. My father spoke to your dad and arranged things. You have to understand I couldn’t stop anything and I can’t argue or refuse or he would kick me out.” Ryan said. For the first time he looked up at Anna, “I want to be a businessman more than anything in the world. I want to make money. For all my father’s faults he was giving me an open door to step into that world, I just had to go along with his plans. Do you know what happens to men who step outside of the norm?”
Anna shook her head.
“They are shunned.” Ryan said, “They might not be sent off to a camp like women are but I would be blackballed from ever having any kind of job that mattered. I’d never get work that paid above minimum wage, my family would cut me off and I’d struggle to keep myself off the streets.”
Anna truly had no idea. The fact that women were sent off for “re-education” was well known and often used as a threat against errant behaviour but Anna didn’t know men were also under pressure to act a certain way. For the first time she was starting to see Ryan in a sympathetic light.
“We got married and then I came to live with you.” Ryan continued, “My plan was originally for you to stay at home whilst I came here. I knew you didn’t want me and I didn’t blame you. I wanted to focus on college. I guess in a way I was just hoping to put off being with you when you so clearly resented me and the life you were going to have. I thought maybe one day I could win you over or something…”
Anna had to acknowledge that Ryan was more switched on than she had given him credit for. He had everything about right and things were starting to make a little more sense. It didn’t stop her from being utterly shocked by all these revelations that were coming out.
“But when I saw your dad… punish you.” Ryan shuddered as he remembered what Harold had done and what he himself had done earlier that night, “I couldn’t just leave you there. I wanted to protect you. I swear to everything that is holy I didn’t want to punish you. I don’t want to be like fucking Paul!”
“I… I…” Anna was at a loss for words.
“I want you to be free!” Ryan exclaimed, “I want you to be able to do everything you want. I tried to be the alpha man like everyone else wanted me to be but…”
Silence fell on the room heavily as Ryan stuttered to a stop. Anna didn’t know how to process anything that she had just heard. Despite the obvious sincerity of emotion she couldn’t help but wonder if Ryan was playing some cruel trick on her, she had never known a man to share their emotions like this nor be sympathetic to her. What if he was just saying this has a test of some kind?
“Ryan, this is a lot to take in…” Anna finally said carefully.
“Come with me.” Ryan said as he stood up suddenly. He used his shirt to wipe his eyes as he walked off down the hallway.
“W-Where are we going?” Anna asked fearfully.
“I need to show you something.” Ryan answered.
Anna now felt even more sure that had been tested and that she had somehow failed. She stood up and felt her bruised butt ache with the change of position. She wondered what more Ryan would do to punish her, when she thought of all the other women she had seen both at the college and out in the world she realised the limits were probably only his imagination.
Anna assumed they were heading to the bedroom but Ryan actually stopped before reaching that door. Instead of turning left to where the bedroom entrance was he turned right and Anna saw him fish through his pockets before pulling out a key. With a start she realised he was stood in front of the mysterious door that had, as far as she knew, not been unlocked since their arrival.
“What’s in there?” Anna asked as she made her way forwards cautiously.
“Come and see.” Ryan replied as the door clicked and then opened.
Anna watched her husband walk into the room beyond as she continued slowly towards the hallway. She had been so curious about the room behind that door but now she was reminded of that old saying “curiosity killed the cat” and now that she had the opportunity to look inside she wondered if she would like what she found.
Anna practically crept forwards until she reached the doorway. She took a steadying breath ready for whatever might lay beyond and then turned and looked inside. What she saw didn’t look like it belonged attached to their apartment at all. A nursery, fully stocked and seemingly ready for a baby was waiting there. It looked like something out of a catalogue. The walls were pink and the furniture all white. A rocking chair sat in the corner next to a giant crib whilst a changing table, much more childish than the one in the bedroom, was placed just under the window. Toys, diapers, changing supplies, activities and everything else a baby needs were scattered around the room.
“What the…” Anna stepped inside the room and looked around it, “This has been here since we moved in?”
“Yes.” Ryan replied, “And by all rights you should be spending at least some of your time in here. From what I’ve heard from the other guys they use it all the time.”
“But you…” Anna looked at Ryan as if seeing him with new eyes, “You left it locked. Why?”
“Because I’m being honest when I say that I hate everything this society forces either of us to be!” Ryan held out his hands, “I like you, I genuinely do. I like that you aren’t one of these braindead women meekly accepting everything, I like that even when you’ve been doing what I say you have a rebellious streak. I didn’t know you when I chose you for marriage and I dare say I barely know you now but I like… you!”
Anna was rather taken aback by the passion Ryan spoke with. He was no longer crying but he was no less emotional. They looked into each other’s eyes for several long moments. Anna could see the truth behind them, she had seen plenty of eyes that his malice or disrespect behind them but she saw the opposite in Ryan. She was speechless.
“You can change yourself.” Ryan finally said as he let his gaze fall back down to the carpet, “I’ll sleep on the couch, you can take the bed.”
Ryan turned and left the nursery before Anna could say anything. She was left in the middle of the room stumbling over her thoughts and before she could really work out what to say or do Ryan was gone. She lingered in the unused nursery a little longer as she heard Ryan take his pillows and a blanket to the living room. There were a thousand questions going through Anna’s head but the emotions of the day were catching up with her. She suddenly realised just how exhausted she was.
Anna left the nursery. She practically tip-toed though she didn’t know why. She closed the door behind her and looked out to the living room. She couldn’t see Ryan who was hidden by the back of the couch but she could see his blanket hanging over the edges and she saw the glow of the television which had been turned on but with the volume practically muted.
After taking a moment Anna went into the bathroom and closed the door. She stripped down and turned on the shower much as she had done the previous time she had changed herself. She ended up spending at least half an hour standing under the water and wondering what to do. It had come so far out of left field that she just couldn’t wrap her mind around it. Realistically she knew she should be delighted but she just found herself struggling to accept it, maybe it was just the shock.
Once Anna was clean and dry she picked up her used diaper and took it into the hallway. She looked down to the living room again, there hadn’t been any change. She continued into her bedroom and dropped the used diaper into the pail. She re-diapered herself on the changing table and then climbed into the bed that felt very empty without Ryan in it. She stared up through the darkness at the ceiling and tried to clear her mind so she could sleep. It was easier said than done.