“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race [is] not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

~*~Ecclesiastes 9:11~*~

Friday, January 25, 2013

Chapter Nineteen, Part Two

          True to her word, Sandra picked up Elizabeth at exactly eight o’clock in the morning on the Saturday of the retreat.  They drove silently over to the church.  The only sound in the car was Elizabeth clicking her teeth together in nervousness.  Over the last few days, she had gotten to thinking—she had met Benjamin only that one time and they hadn’t even really said anything to one another.  She didn’t actually know the man she was supposed to marry—the man she was supposed to be bound to for eternity.  These thoughts hadn’t helped her nerves.

            Upon arrival at the church, Sandra immediately took Elizabeth’s hand and led her to the outdoor entrance to the colony, rather than to the church.

            “What’s this retreat for anyway?” Elizabeth asked finally, adjusting her small bag of clothes on her shoulder.

            “It’s for all those who have become betrothed in the last month or so to get to know each other.  Your marriage ceremonies are tomorrow, so you have to become familiar with your future spouses in Christ,” Sandra explained.  “All of the older and higher ranked men live in the colony.  When they take a wife, she must come to the colony to get to know him.  The next day she moves her belongings into his cottage, they get married, and then they start their lives together.”

            Elizabeth stopped dead in her tracks.  “Wait.  I have to move to the colony?!”

            Sandra looked at Elizabeth in shock.  “Well, what did you expect?  You and Benjamin are going to be married.  You cannot perform your duties as a wife in the Children of the Rose without living in Benjamin’s cottage.”

            “Duties?” Elizabeth asked warily.

            Sandra sighed.  “Do I really need to explain this?  You’re seventeen, Elizabeth!”

            “Oh…you mean…”

            “Part of being married in the Children is that you are expected to bring children into the church family.  Benjamin’s and your future children are going to be blessed more than they would have been had they been born in the outside world.  They will grow and learn in the Children and be models in the recruitment of Roses from the outside world.  After your first child is born, Pastor Simon will have a meeting with Benjamin to determine how many children you are required to have.  You merely need to keep house, obey your husband, raise your own kids, and bring healthy babies into the Children.”

            “Oh, is that all?” Elizabeth asked, her voice bordering on sarcasm.

            Sandra forced Elizabeth to move again.  They walked through the entrance into the colony, weaved through the cottages, and finally arrived at the square in the middle.  On one side of the square stood a handful of men, all of whom looked to be between twenty-five and thirty-five years old.  On the other side of the square stood a number of awkward looking, late teenaged girls and their Rose Angels.  Sandra and Elizabeth joined the other girls and stood facing the men.  Pastor Simon stood in the middle.  Immediately, Elizabeth picked out Benjamin standing amongst the other men.  He was looking at her hungrily and she averted her eyes quickly, taking in instead the girls she was standing with.  It was easy to pick out the betrothed from the Rose Angels—the betrothed girls were mostly staring at the floor or shyly at the men standing on the other side; the Rose Angels had their heads held high, proud that their charges had been the ones chosen for marriage within the Children.  All of the betrothed girls were of lower rank in the church—Level Two or Three, mostly.  She spied another one of the nervous girls watching her.  They locked eyes for only a moment before they both turned their gazes to the ground.

            “Ladies and gentlemen, today is the start of a very special journey in your lives.  Tomorrow, you will be wedded in the Children of the Rose, the highest honor you could hope for,” Pastor Simon said.  All the men and Rose Angels nodded their proud approval.  The betrothed girls merely continued looking nervously at their feet.  “I will now ask the men to come take their betrothed to your pre-assigned areas of the colony.  You will spend a few hours getting to know each other, studying the Bible together, praying together, beginning to establish your relationship.  When you hear the church bell ring, please come back to this area for reflection and group prayer.”  He gestured from the men to the girls.  “You may proceed.”

            All of the men approached the line of girls.  Sandra took Elizabeth’s bag and pushed her forward as Benjamin grabbed her hand.  Elizabeth looked back at Sandra, who gave her an encouraging smile and waved to her.  Benjamin then put his arm around Elizabeth’s shoulder, turning her away from Sandra, and led her away.  Out of the corner of her eye, Elizabeth noticed the other girls being led to various corners of the colony.  Benjamin was leading her to an empty area near the church wall.  She saw a blanket set up on the ground with a Bible sitting on top.  He steered her over to it.

            “Sit down,” he ordered.  She did as told and he sat facing her.  “We will start with prayer.  Bow your head.”

            Elizabeth closed her eyes and bowed her head.  She felt Benjamin reach across to her and take her two hands, gripping them much harder than necessary.  She gasped silently, but didn’t move.

            “Lord, thank you for bringing us together today…”

            For the entire prayer, and it was a long prayer, Elizabeth sat quietly, her head dutifully bowed and her hands slowly being crushed in Benjamin’s grip.  She clenched her teeth together, but she didn’t say a word and she didn’t fight.  She just let him hold her hands as hard as he wanted.  After the excruciating prayer, Benjamin picked up the Bible.

            Elizabeth, come tomorrow you will be my wife.  I am sure your Rose Angel has told you of your duties to me and the church,” Benjamin said in a rough voice.  Elizabeth nodded.  He slapped her hard across the face and grabbed her forearms hard.  “You will answer me out loud, so there will be no communication lost in non-verbals.  Do you understand?”

            “Y-yes,” Elizabeth gasped, tears threatening behind her eyes.  What had Sandra gotten her into?

            “Let us recite Genesis, chapter three, verse sixteen.”

            Elizabeth mumbled along with Benjamin, still in shock from his harshness, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

            “Good, very good,” Benjamin soothed, stroking Elizabeth’s cheek.  She held back a shudder as he continued, “Tomorrow you will make a vow to me to be obedient and loyal.  Pastor Simon is a very good friend of mine and he will most certainly be made aware if you are ever disobedient or disloyal.  Do I make myself clear?”

            “Yes, very,” Elizabeth said in as even a voice as she could.

            “Good girl.”  He picked the Bible back up and continued to read out loud, but Elizabeth was only half paying attention.  She could only think of the sting in her cheek, forearms, and hands—how could she fully please this man?  He seemed far too demanding to her and she wasn’t sure she could deal with his abuse.  And then she remembered—the Children of the Rose, Pastor Simon, God, Heaven…all of these were her reasons.  At that moment, she decided—she would just have to do her best.

No comments:

Post a Comment