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Discovery–a fascinating, satisfying experience–but sometimes oh, so painful! So Jack and Ann found it.
They met during a college football game, then started dating. In walking Ann to class and in taking her to parties and games, Jack discovered some things about this girl. He quickly learned that she was a very neat person. Her clothes fit perfectly and were never wrinkled. Her papers were always carefully written. He heard from the girls in the dorm that her room was always straightened, her closet in order.
One day Jack found out that Ann was like this despite a careless roommate. Ruth was inclined to let her bed go unmade and her clothes lie in a heap. But she did not remain untidy for long. Ann kept after Ruth about her responsibilities. Sometimes Ruth complained to Jack that Ann was too fussy. But Jack had to admire Ann’s stand. After all, how can you argue with someone who takes the lead in keeping things neat, even to the point of doing the job herself when her roommate fails?
Jack also had great respect for Ann’s academic achievements, and even greater respect for the way she got her good grades. Ann was a serious student. Nothing came ahead of the books. He often wished he had just half her drive.
He was too easily satisfied with just getting by. But things began to change after they became better acquainted. He felt she inspired him.
“Let’s unwind over a pizza,” he would say after classes.
“Let’s work on your English Literature first,” she’d reply.
Jack never paid too much attention to his appearance till Ann opened his eyes to the pulled threads of his sweater or his need for a haircut. He began consulting her on how to dress properly for a particular kind of date. Also, Ann got him back into church. He had become lax, but now always went with her–and they arrived on time.
What more could anyone ask? When a fellow improves his appearance, raises his grades, becomes more punctual, and gets interested in church, isn’t it all to the good? Jack was quite intrigued that a girl had done so much for him, and only slightly annoyed that without her he had been unable to see himself as he really was.
Their courtship was casual, quite uneventful. They talked everything over and settled all issues. Once in a while, however, Jack had to admit to himself that he found relief in getting back to his room where he could relax, sprawl if he wanted, pick things up only when he felt like it–-but, even so, her way was better.
Shortly after graduation, they were married. The ceremony went off flawlessly. Ann’s mother had thought of every detail; the music, the procession, the vows, the reception–all ticked off with clocklike precision.
Having majored in business administration, Jack was soon hired by a large company as a management trainee. Ann got a job teaching fourth grade. Together their paychecks were ample to allow them a nice apartment and many extras.
One night at Jack’s suggestion, they went out to look at cars. He wanted to see the new models; she thought they ought to limit themselves to a used car. He had long dreamed of someday owning a beautiful, powerful new car, and only reluctantly did he put aside the idea. Ann reminded him that they needed to save their money to buy a house, and he could see that she was right.
Jack had a way of coming home from work, settling down on the sofa, and kicking off his shoes. Quietly, Ann would pick up the shoes and put them in the closet. After a short nap, Jack would jump up and feel for his shoes.
“Where are my shoes?” he would call, loudly enough for Ann to hear him in the next room.
Ann never shouted. She would come to the living room and say very evenly, “In the closet, dear.”
Jack habitually peeled off his suit coat and draped it over a chair. When he wanted it again–no coat.
“Where’s my coat?” he would bellow impatiently.
And again Ann would come to the room and answer, “In the closet. ”
She was quiet, steady, dependable. How could you quarrel with her way of life? Because she was the way she was, Jack always bit off the harsh words on the tip of his tongue. It was better that way.
Dinner was always on the table at 6 o’clock sharp. At times Jack would sleep till 6, then wash up. Invariably, Ann would be seated. He would mumble an apology for being late, and grace would sound a little forced.
By the second year of their marriage, they had saved enough to make the down payment on a house. How hard it had been to get together on a location, then on a specific model. They came closer to an argument over those decisions than over anything in the past. Once the house was built, they lacked furnishings. Jack wanted to buy what they needed on credit; Ann convinced him that this wasn’t wise. So they moved in the few pieces of furniture they owned. The living room looked empty to Jack, and he wondered how long it would take to make this house look like a home.
He decided to have the yard sodded, but Ann called his notion extravagant. “You can seed it yourself after work,” she said. About this time a coolness began to develop between them. The usual hug-and-kiss greeting no longer provided the pleasure it once had. They kept up the ritual, but it became a chore. Because conversation at times threatened to border on controversy, long silences developed.
They were glad to spend their evenings reading, watching television, attending church functions, visiting friends–anything to keep from talking to each other. Each was afraid to ask the other, “What’s wrong?”
Neither could put a finger on any real issue between them. Yet something seemed to separate them. They ought to talk more, they decided, since each knew that communication was important to a successful marriage. So they talked more, though often silence was preferred. In one of their long talks, they settled once and for all that there was no unresolved issue between them. They kissed, declared their love for each other, and agreed sincerely that they saw eye to eye. Yet each knew something was wrong.
Jack and Ann felt frustrated. They were an educated, dedicated, ambitious couple who shared common goals, were active together in church, and were loyal to each other. What was this quiet, mysterious, sinister force that threatened their marriage?