They marveled at her chiseled beauty, they were awed by her icy calm. But it was Effi Barry's unfathomable loyalty to her husband. Washington. D.C., Mayor Marion Barry, that left the watching world bemused and bewildered. What manner of wife was this who could stand by her man so unflinchingly while revelations of his misconduct seemed daily to make their marriage a mockery?

For 6½ excruciating weeks last summer, as witnesses in Barry's 14-count drug and perjury trial told tale after tale of alleged drug offenses and sexual dalliances, Effi wore the mask of forbearance. Even when she saw an FBI tape of her husband asking former model Rasheeda Moore for sex, smoking crack and attempting to fondle Moore's breasts, she did little more than stiffen.

To those who know Effi Barry, her refusal to dissolve under pressure came as no surprise. The 46-year-old former model, business analyst and flight attendant had long ago resolved to ignore her husband's widely rumored infidelities. "She has the patience of Job." says Max Berry, the outgoing Mayor's onetime finance chairman. But even the most dutiful wife has a breaking point. Her resolve may have begun to crumble last winter, after she saw news footage of Christopher—her 10-year-old son with Barry—leaving home with a blanket over his head. "She told me that seeing her son in the posture of someone guilty had to be the most painful experience she ever had," says WRC-TV reporter Barbara Harrison.

Around Thanksgiving, Effi moved with Christopher to an apartment in Northwest Washington; there has been no talk of a reconciliation with Barry, who was convicted of just one count of cocaine possession.

Standing amid still-unpacked boxes, Effi Barry looks to the future as resolutely as she faced the untidy past. "I'm trying to do the right thing." she says, "and I'm just going to take it one step at a time."