BY WINSTON MARKS
Some folks say a good wife is a composite of many
things. And sometimes a girl finds it tough.
But with the ratio of the sexes drastically changed....
[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Worlds of If Science Fiction, January 1955.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
At breakfast Polly and June had an argument over the coffee. Polly hadbrewed it. June thought it was too strong. Doris and Sue stayed out ofthe argument at first.
Polly defended, "Sure, it's a little stronger, but men like it strong.You might as well get used to it."
June said, "See here, he's got to make some concessions. After all, whyshould four of us suffer—"
"Suffer? You call being married to Hollis Jamison suffering?"
"Don't be so impressed. He's not doing badly marrying us, either. Hecould do a lot worse."
"Why, you vain witch! Just because you play a fair game of chess—"
"Oh, I'm not taking all the credit. You're a fine cook, Doris is wittyand Sue's body would make any man's mouth water—but that's just thepoint! Look what he's getting! Why should we have to change all ourhabits and tastes to conform with his?"
Now Doris entered the argument. "You know darn well why! It's stilla man's world and a man's choice. Back when there was a man forpractically every woman, it was different. But it's five women to oneman right now—don't ever forget that—five to one, and so far the lawonly requires a quadracell. Just be grateful you aren't the one who'sleft out. You and your chess-playing! How far would you get attractinga man, all by yourself?"
"Shhh, now, all of you," Sue broke into the telepathic conversation."Let's clear the dishes and get the apartment straightened up. Hollisdid make one concession—moving in with us, instead of making us livein that dismal bachelor's hole of his. Let's not make him regret it."
They heeded Sue and got busy. Sue was the arbiter. She ruled thequartet with a gentle but confident mind. All four knew that her lithe,athletic body with its soft curves and golden hair was the greatestasset in this transaction of matrimony.
There had been no dissension on this point, nor could there have been.The bureau would never have allowed them to be together and form amarriage cell had there been the slightest dispute.
Many differences of opinion were allowable, but the four had beencarefully screened in certain matters of basic tastes. They liked thesame colors, foods, styles of clothing, video programs, sports andvacation activities. All were carefully schooled ambiverts of roughlyequal education. Instead of conflicting, their differences of skills,talents and personality traits complemented each other.
Even with all this care in selecting and matching, however, the bigtest was the culmination of the marriage, itself—the whole purpose ofthis banding together. The unpredictable quality of the most stablefeminine emotions made the choice of a mate most difficult of all.
This awareness was in all their minds this day, and it made them alittle nervous. Even the argument that had started over the coffee hadbeen faintly alarming to Sue. They were a team, welded together by thewonderful gift of telepathy, which was only possible through formationof a marriage cell. The most complete intimacy of thought and feelinghad been nurtured for a whole year before marriage was permissible.Sympathy, tolerance and sharing a common experience with mutualenjoyment and happiness was the keystone of the polygamous unions.Nothing must spoil it now.
The delivery vault thumped, and the signal light flicked on. Sue rushedto slide up the door.
"Orchids!" they chorused mentally, and Sue noticed with satisfactionthat June's thought was as strong as the others. The lovely flowerswere put in the cooler, the apartment was tidied and they turned to theexciting task of becoming beautiful for their handsome husband.
The tiff over the coffee was forgotten as they became immersed insprays, powders, tints, cosmetics, body ornaments and the preciousnuptial perfume. This latter, issued to them only yesterday when theysigned the register and received the license, was now as traditionallyexclusive to weddings as trousseaus had been centuries ago.
Feminine clothing, of course, had long since been eliminated from theoccasion, along with other redundancies such as waggish and mischievousguests, old shoes, rice and hectic honeymoon trips.
The official and religious arrangements had been completed yesterday atthe registry and the chapel, the union to become legal and effectiveat noon on this day. When Hollis Jamison walked through their door attwelve o'clock he would bring four gold rings, and the moment the ringswere placed on the proper fingers the ceremony was complete.
Doris said, "Let's steal just a tiny whiff of the perfume. I'm toocurious to wait."
June and Polly were game, but Sue cut them off. "Not on your life! Iused to know a chemist at the hormone labs where they compound thisstuff, and he told me about it. We have things to do, and if what hetold me is true—well, it's very distracting."
Polly backed her up, "I hear it is terribly volatile. I guess wewouldn't want it to wear off before Hollis came."
"Hollis!" The thought was June's, and it came thin and quavery."What—do you suppose it's like to be married?"
No one answered, for there was no experience among them. Each hadher own romantic idea, so cherished, so private that even within theintimacy of their clique it was too sacred to discuss.
Suddenly June said, "I'm scared."
The thought had come sharply and unexpectedly. It was contagious. Pollysaid, "Me, too."
"Of what?" Doris asked, "Of drinking strong coffee the rest of yourlives?"
It was a weak, nervous stab at humor, and Sue knew that Doris was asjumpy as the rest of them. "Steady, gals," she said sympathetically."It'll be worth it. We want a baby, don't we?"
It was the right thought at the right time. Sue felt their minds relax,and the thought even did her some good. A sweet, little, round, pinkbaby—
She let the mental picture flow out to the others, and the littlecrisis passed.
The minutes flew, and soon it was five minutes to twelve. "Have weforgotten anything?" Sue asked.
"The perfume!" Polly and June said together.
"Hurry!" Doris said. "I think he's coming."
The seal on the tiny vial was broken, one drop on each breast, and therich, exotic fumes exuded a gentle, warm excitement that was entirelydifferent from the innocent scents they had known.
The door was unlocked, and now it opened.
Hollis stepped in, bronzed body bared to the waist.
"The flowers!" Polly wailed inwardly. "We forgot the orchids—"
But Hollis Jamison didn't notice the discrepancy. He advanced smilingfrom his gray eyes and strong mouth. Sue opened her lips and her fine,white teeth showed a welcoming smile. She was proud of her lovely body,and June, Polly and Doris shared in that pride.
Sue held out her left hand with fingers outstretched. Her man cameforward jingling the four rings in his right hand. He paused beforeher, drew her left hand to his lips, kissed the little finger and slidthe proper ring on it, then, in order he kissed Sue's other threefingers and banded them with the remaining rings, symbolic of the fourseparate feminine entities who dwelt in this one magnificent body.
And with each ring he said a name: "June, Polly, Doris, Sue—"
He straightened and gazed into the two blue eyes.
"I thee wed," he said simply.