The Butterfly and the Flame - Chapter 2

the-butterfly-and-flame.jpgChapter 2

In this chapter, Emily faces here worst nightmare - her wedding day.


"There's something you need to know about Emily..."

In the year 2404, America is no more. In a land ruled by the oppressive theocracy known as the Dominion of Divinity, being gay is a capital offense, adultery is punished with the lash, women are forbidden to work, and forced marriages are common.

Fifteen-year-old Emily La Rouche faces an impossible choice. On her sixteenth birthday, she will be forced to marry Jonathan Marsh, the son of her landlord. If she refuses, her family will lose everything. If she takes his hand, it is certain that her life will end by a hangman's noose in front of an angry mob. All because Emily has been hiding an enormous secret for years-she was born a boy. As the wedding approaches, Emily's parents realize the only way that she will be safe is if she is to escape the Dominion.

With her brother Aaron at her side, Emily flees across post-apocalyptic America in search for a new home. With vile bounty hunters on her trail, only time will tell if Emily will ever find a place where she can live and breathe free as the person she was always meant to be.

Chapter II

Emily felt as though she were falling through time, and before she realized it, the day of the wedding had arrived. She awoke in a daze, with fatigue weighing down heavily upon her. Lately, she had had trouble getting enough sleep, each night culminating with only a few restless hours.

She felt disembodied. She could see her actions but did not feel a part of them. She got up from bed, dressed, and made her way to the family eating room where her mother had prepared lunch. She felt like a prisoner eating her last meal before being led away to the gallows. With her fork, she twisted and turned her lunch of fried eggs and cornmeal into an unidentifiable yellow and white mash. She was looking for the strength to make it through the day.

She didn’t want to marry Jonathan, and she knew he didn’t want to marry her. Her parents didn’t want her to marry him. So what was the point? After today she’d be trapped in an unloving, abusive, and impotent marriage–a prisoner of her husband’s design, trapped in their home, only leaving for social functions and dinner with his parents. She’d almost never see her family. Jonathan and Aaron hated each other. Jonathan knew that seeing her family would bring her great joy, and that was something that he simply wouldn’t allow.

It was nearly impossible to get a divorce, except in cases of lechery or homosexuality. But even with a marriage dissolved for those reasons, the unfaithful spouse was punished, sometimes severely, for violating the sacred covenant of marriage. Jonathan would certainly look outside the marriage bed to satisfy his carnal lust. What was worse, there was nothing she could do to make the authorities believe he’d been unfaithful to her. It would be his word against hers, and they would believe his. Then there was that other thing–

“Emily,” her mother said, interrupting her train of thought. “Aren’t you hungry, hon?”

Emily closed her eyes and tried to make time stop. She stood up from the table, hurried to her room, and shut the door. She slid to the floor and buried her head into her hands. This was it, the last day of the rest of her life. Whatever happened after this didn’t matter. She would live and grow old in a perpetual state of unhappiness. For years she had known this day would come, but it had always seemed like a speck in the distant future. Somehow, time had caught up with her. It had stalked her, toyed with her, waited for the right move, and finally it had stolen her life.

She desperately wanted to run away. But they’d find her. Anyway, where could she go? She hoped that when she got to the church the wedding would be called off, because Jonathan had died in a fire or by a gunshot wound or had simply drunk himself to death. Anything would do; she thought of a hundred different ways in which it could happen. But in her heart she knew it wouldn’t happen, and even though she detested Jonathan, it was wrong to wish for the death of another person–even if he was a worm!

Even if Jonathan would be tolerable to live with, sixteen was far too young to be getting married. She had seen the effects of marriage on young girls; they slowly turned to old crones with the burden of raising children and keeping house. It was the same for almost all women whose lives were designated exclusively to domesticity. She knew that it wasn’t always like this, but she
found it hard to believe the expectations society constantly reiterated for her.

Before long, her mother opened the door just far enough to stick her head through. “Emily, it’s time,” she said in a somber tone.
Emily pulled herself up and followed her family to the wagon outside. Throughout the trip to Seaton, she remained silent. The trip progressed slowly, but it led inexorably toward the event she dreaded. After they had finished their lunch, they reached the city
limits of Seaton. When they came to the cathedral, her mother escorted her to the rear of building.

Emily stopped in front of the door to the bridal suite. “Ma, could you give me a few minutes alone, please?” she asked.
Her mother nodded, “Okay. Let me know when you’re ready.”

Emily closed the door and looked at the small, stuffy room around her. There was only one small window opened for ventilation, and the gray, drab bricks trapped almost enough heat to roast her. She sat down at a small desk and stared at her reflection in a mirror. She knew she only had a few minutes of precious freedom left, but she wanted nothing more than to be left alone. Her eyes wandered away from the mirror and fixed on the hanging wall clock. She watched the hands on the clock tick slowly toward five. She now had a scarce half hour left. She couldn’t waste any more time. She had to get ready.

As she stood, another wave of fatigue washed over her. She removed her faded black dress and stood wearing nothing but a tattered, dusty cotton slip. She looked over her wedding gown. Despite her feelings about the marriage, she had to admit the dress was stunning, and it took her breath away to think that she could ever wear something so beautiful. The gown was as white and pure as porcelain. The corset was made of sleek, shiny satin. A line of finely tailored velvet roses crossed the breast and ran back from the left arm to the right side, and a short white lace strap would just barely cover her shoulders.

The skirt itself was actually three skirts. The innermost layer was a made from a delicate dark purple lace that would be almost completely obscured from view, except for a small length just above her ankles that would jut out when the outer skirt cut away. The second skirt was lavender and made from imported silk. The outer skirt was made of a thick bridal satin with a white lace trim and was garnished with small, delicate lavender bows. Along the back, the satin clustered together in a small, tight bustle.

It was time to put it on.

Emily opened the door a crack and called for her mother. Her mother entered the room and shut the door behind her. “Give me a second to get this corset on,” Emily said. Her mother turned around, and Emily removed the dusty slip from her body. She pulled on delicate lace pantalets and then stepped into the corset and pulled it around her chest. “Okay,” she said, beckoning her mother to help her tie the corset stays behind her. She had never worn a corset before, and the tightness she felt in her chest made it hard to breathe. The corset slimmed her waist, giving her straight figure subtle, gentle curves. Around her waist, Julia tied a small horsehair tournure so that it rested gently on her bottom. The pillow would give prominence to her bustle and add even greater emphasis to her new curves. Her mother picked up a small package from the desk. She opened it to reveal the most beautiful treasure Emily had ever seen–delicate white silk stockings. She reached out and carefully lifted them from their box. Her eyes swam with hot tears. She looked through her veil to meet her mother’s gaze. Emily knew her parents had gone to great lengths to procure the stockings for her. She felt her heart breaking as she slid the stockings up her legs. Would anyone ever show her this kind of loving gesture again?

Once the undergarments were in place and the corset was tied, she stepped into the skirts one by one and slowly pulled them over her small, boyish hips. As quickly as she could, her mother fastened the skirts together by the series of hooks that were sewn into the fabric. The pieces of her bridal outfit had come together.

“Come, dear. We still need to fix your hair,” her mother said.
Emily looked back into the mirror and noticed how disheveled her hair was. Its brownish-red strands were still tangled from yesterday’s sleep. She sat back in the chair, and her mother brushed through the snarls and tangles.
Her mother was midway through brushing her hair, when she suddenly stopped. Emily turned around and looked at mother. She could see her mother’s hands were shaking.

“What’s the matter?” Emily asked.

“It’s nothing, it just–” Her mother looked away from Emily, and she wiped a tear from her eye. “It’s just that I realized this might be the last time I get to brush through your hair.”

The last remnants of Emily’s strength were shattered. She threw her arms around her mother and cried. “Oh, Ma–don’t let him take me away from you. I don’t want to go!”

“I know, baby, I know. I don’t want you to go.” Her mother held Emily tight. “You know the Lord says he’ll never give us more than we can handle. I still believe that. I know this day is so hard for you to bear. But always know that, even though we may be apart, you’ll always be in our hearts and minds. I think that if you can take that with you, it will give you strength to make it through the toughest of days,” she said.

Emily didn’t believe what her mother said. They’d be separated, miles apart, but she might as well be on the moon. She knew she’d rarely get to see her family. That, coupled with being married to someone who despised her, was far more than she could ever bear. She closed her eyes and flushed those thoughts from her mind, focusing instead on her mother’s tender embrace. The love of a mother, she thought. In all the world, there is no equal.

Continue reading: Chapter 2

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This story is 1946 words long.