But I have grown bolder this time that Theo's been gone.


Before when he'd desert me for his precious city, his freedom, his beer-soaked porches, I'd been careful not to let him know of my own feats of liberation.


Alexander's innocence distracts me, and the fact that he can't hear and he can't speak makes our liaison seem, well, all the more discrete. For my generosity, he is grateful, and he caters to me like the faithful servant that he is.


But never would I mistake our passion for love or his kindness for tenderness.


No. We simply rub body against body in the stark damp sheets of my bed. But whereas before I would take caution not to show any affection for Alexander in front of the other workers, now I lavish attention on him, keeping him close to me and my chores. And in the past I would worry if any evidence of my activities would be discovered; now, I flaunt wine bottles we empty, lining them up one by one along the window ledge.


Theo would have to be blind not to notice what I've done this time while he was away.


But that's his problem and my curse: He wouldn't notice. Not in the least would he see what I have been up to.


The bottles could be stacked end to end, on every windowsill in the entire house and he would not see them—would not understand what I do when he deserts me, what I have been doing every day these past few days while he's been gone.


Ruthless and rough he is to all of our men, getting himself all worked up over a poorly dug fence hole or a cow badly delivered of her calf, frothing like beer foam at any man who speaks impudently to him.


But for me, he has nothing.


Some people say I'm lucky to be a wife to a man who never beats her. But I say a greater pain comes from not being touched at all.


This is my problem and his curse.


So I twirl Alexander's newly forming mustache and tease the curl out of his hair and spend these days slapping flies and pushing through the cornfields with him, rubbing tassel against tassel, trying to get the corn to come before the rains wash us all away.