“What if we left?” Jacqueline whispered.
“What?” the other two asked simultaneously, shocked.
“What if we left the Children?” Jacqueline repeated. “Maybe Aimee was right. There’s something not right with this whole thing. And I didn’t see it before. But…I can’t keep seeing you like this,
“We’ll go to Hell!”
cried. “And, besides, I can’t leave. Benjamin may very well kill me!” Elizabeth
“Look, I’m not leaving without you, Elizabeth. You’re my sister. I’m not leaving you behind for Benjamin to torment. If and when you decide you’ve had enough, when you finally decide to become your old self again and fight back, then I’ll leave too. But it has to be your choice,” Jacqueline said.
“I can’t leave,”
yanked her hand out of Morgan’s and
stood quickly. “I can’t believe I’m
hearing this. I can’t believe what you
want me to do. I’m married.” Elizabeth
“I’m with Jacqueline on this,” Morgan added, taking one of
hands. “I’m with you. If you choose to leave…I will too.” Elizabeth
“We’ll go to Hell, don’t you two get that?”
“Honey, you’re already in Hell,” Jacqueline sighed. “And once you realize that, we’re here.”
“By the state?” Morgan asked.
“By the Children of the Rose. God is higher than the state. I promised God to stay with Benjamin until death,”
“You do realize if you stay, that might come sooner than you think,” Jacqueline whispered.
“I’m married. Look, I appreciate what you two are trying to do, and I’m thankful for the support, but my life belongs to Benjamin now. And I have to go, because he only let me out for an hour. I’ll see you both later.” Without so much as a hug, a nod, or a wave,
turned and stalked away, leaving two of the only people she trusted anymore in
her wake. Elizabeth
But from behind her, she heard Jacqueline yell after her, “By the way, happy eighteenth birthday!”
When she got home, Benjamin was out, so she pulled out her journal. She looked at the clock on the wall and knew he would be home soon for their nightly ritual at having a child, so she quickly wrote:
They don’t understand. I can’t leave. They don’t know what they’re asking me to do.
At that moment, she heard his voice from down the walkway, talking loudly to another man of the colony. She quickly shoved the journal back into its hiding place, took off her clothes, and got into bed. This was what was expected of her. She knew if she wasn’t ready, he would hit her. He would deem her disobedient and make her pray in the corner again. It was just easier to do his bidding. And so she lay there naked under the sheets, waiting patiently for her husband to decide it was time to once again force himself onto her. She would wait for him quietly, she wouldn’t fall asleep. He would take his time around the kitchen, reading the Bible, going to the bathroom. But she would be here as expected and, as always, she wouldn’t make a sound. She wouldn’t fight.
“Do it,” Morgan hisses at Liz and Jackie.
“Shut. Up,” Liz hisses back, but Morgan pushes both of them into the kitchen, where their family is sitting, eating lunch. Morgan came back as soon as the sun was up the day after the party, determined that Liz and Jackie will tell their family about the boxes.
“Do it now or I’ll pinch you,” Morgan whispers.
“What are you three up to?” Mrs. McLancy asks, looking up from where she’s putting out some goodies for the grandchildren.
“Jackie and Liz have something they want to show you,” Morgan announces. Liz glares at her, but doesn’t contradict this statement.
“What is it, Liz?” Eric prompts. Liz glares at him too.
The entire family stares at the two girls in silence until Liz finally gives in and produces her shoebox from behind her back, Jackie following suit. They put their boxes in the middle of the kitchen table.
“We were down in the basement yesterday and we found these,” Liz explains.
“What’s this?” their mother asks.
“These are the boxes from our time in the Children of the Rose,” Jackie says.
“Your what?” Eva asks sharply. Greg hurriedly suggests that the kids go to the other room, but none of them leave. Liz can’t even meet Eric’s eyes, but she can feel him staring at her.
“When we left,” Liz explains with a sigh, “we put our old memorabilia into these boxes and hid them on a shelf in the basement. We forgot they were even down there.”
Everyone stares at them. Jackie and Liz open their boxes so their family can see inside. The kids crowd around as well, but Liz can’t find the energy to shoo them away. Sara will learn sooner or later anyway.
“I can’t believe you kept all of this!” Eva shrieks, wielding Liz’s very battered Rose Bible like a weapon. Andi tries to shush her, but Eva completely ignores her. “After all that! After all we went through! Why on earth would you keep all of this?”
“Eva…” both of their parents sigh at the same time.
“NO! These two put us all through hell and back and now they’re turning around and telling us that they kept EVERYTHING!”
“It’s not that simple, Eva!” Liz argues, finally looking her younger sister straight in the eye. “It’s not a matter of just picking up and moving on. You can’t possibly understand.”
“Kids. The other room. Now,” Greg orders, and the seriousness in his voice means that this time they finally listen.
The second the kids are in the family room and distracted by the television, Eva turns her glare back on Liz, her arms crossed. “You think I can’t understand? How about you try me.”