I told myself. She’s nothing to me, she dislikes me, she’d have me out of the house in a minute, or worse, if she could think up any excuse at all. If she were to find out, for instance. He wouldn’t be able to intervene, to save me; the transgressions of women in the household, whether Martha or Handmaid, are supposed to be under the jurisdiction of the Wives alone. She was a malicious and vengeful woman, I knew that. Nevertheless I couldn’t shake it, that small compunction towards her.
Also: I now had power over her, of a kind, although she didn’t know it. And I enjoyed that. Why pretend? I enjoyed it a lot.
But the Commander could give me away so easily, by a look, by a gesture, some tiny slip that would reveal to anyone watching that there was something between us now. He almost did it the night of the Ceremony. He reached his hand up as if to touch my face; I moved my head to the side, to warn him away, hoping Serena Joy hadn’t noticed, and he withdrew his hand again,
withdrew into himself and his single-minded journey.
Don’t do that again, I said to him the next time we were alone.
Do what? he said.
Try to touch me like that, when we’re… when she’s there.
Did I? he said.
You could get me transferred, I said. To the Colonies. You know that. Or worse. I thought he should continue to act, in public, as if I were a large vase or a window: part of the background, inanimate or transparent.
I’m sorry, he said. I didn’t mean to. But I find it…
What? I said, when he didn’t go on.
Impersonal, he said.
How long did it take you to find that out? I said. You can see from the way I was speaking to him that we were already on different terms.