Sunday, April 22, 2018


A Short Story 

      Desmond pulled the fabric close over his nose. The sunlight streamed in through the window, lighting the tiny dust particles that floated around him, making the sterile living room seem like an enchanted garden. Holding the fabric tight, he reached out and touched the glass window pane with his extended index finger. It felt smooth, cool. When two women walked into his view, he gasped, ducking quickly below the windowsill.
      “Desmond!” his mother called from somewhere behind him. “Get away from the window!” Sullenly, Desmond pulled at the fabric of the curtains until the window was completely covered. The living room lost its magic.
      “Desmond, you know you shouldn’t be in the window,” mother said, approaching him. Desmond hung his head.
      “I know, mama,” he whispered. “I just wanted to see outside.” She stooped down in front of him, tenderly running her fingers through his long hair.
      “Next time, ask me, and I will stand with you,” she said to him. He nodded.
      “Yes, mama,” he said.
      “Come on,” she said, standing. “You’ve got some chores to finish.” Desmond’s mother was a tall woman in her mid-forties. She had found a spouse early in life and together they had had two children, Desmond, and his older sister Nadia. Desmond watched as mother walked away from him, back towards the kitchen, where she liked to sit and do her work. He could smell the nutty aroma of her coffee.
      Silently following behind her, he made his way to the kitchen sink where he began to wash the dishes from breakfast.
      “Such a sweet boy,” his mother cooed. “You will make a woman very happy someday.”
      “Thank you, mama,” Desmond said, scrubbing scrambled eggs residue off of the pan. His father must have still been upstairs, tidying up the beds after the long night. Mother would be leaving for work soon, and Nadia for school.
      “You will be your papa’s good helper today, right Dessy?” mother said, smiling. Setting the dish back down in the sink, he turned and smiled back.
      “Yes, mama,” he replied.
      “Good boy,” she said, rising to kiss him on his forehead. He watched as she packed her stack of papers into a case, carefully so as not to bend or tear them. Father came down the stairs, quiet as a mouse.
      “I hope your day goes well, dear,” he said. “I will have your supper ready when you get home.”
      “Thank you, sweetie,” mother said, kissing father lightly on the lips. Desmond watched them, marveling at their affection.
      “Come on, Nadia, we have to go or we’ll be late!” Desmond’s sister appeared a moment later, dressed smartly, with her book bag on her shoulder. Her bare legs and shoulders made her look commanding and strong, which made Desmond feel weak. He pulled his shirt sleeves over his wrists to cover them.
      “Oh sweetheart,” mother said, taking Desmond's top shirt button in hand. “Modesty even at home, my love.” She buttoned it for him. His face flushed a little.
      “Yes of course,” he replied meekly. Then she turned to father.
      “I’ll see you tonight, my beautiful boy.” Then mother and Nadia left. Father patted him on the head and asked if he would like to help fold the laundry upstairs. Desmond grimaced, but agreed. As father walked back up the stairs, Desmond loosened the high collar of his shirt, taking a long deep breath. That was the part he loved most: freedom.
      When mother returned home that evening, and after dinner was eaten and cleared away, she asked Desmond to read The Inception. Desmond respectfully retrieved the volume of scripture from the bookcase, taking his place in front of his parents.
      “Thank you, darling,” mother said, sitting close to father on the sofa. Desmond sat on the ottoman, adjusting his collar to cover his neck, and began to read.
      “And the Almighty Celestial Mother saw that woman was lonely, and so she caused the woman to sleep, and from out of the woman, brought forth a helpmeet, and she called him man because he came out of woman; she caused him to be a joy in her sorrows and support in her labors. And she would be his strength and his leader, and the two would bear each other up to the Celestial Mother, the man always covering himself in modesty and meekness. For these things are pleasing to the Celestial Mother. It is not good for woman to be alone; neither is it for man. And insomuch as man remains faithful to his wife, submitting to her in word and in deed, she shall provide a home and a family, that he may fulfill his promise to her, and she may be the salvation of his soul.”
      “Isn’t it beautiful?” father spoke reverently. “Such a special purpose we have son, such a special and sacred calling.” Mother kissed father on the cheek, pleased.
      “You are very special indeed,” she repeated. “And so are you, Dessy!” Nadia wasn’t paying much attention; instead she was busy with her own book. “Nadia, be respectful of your brother.”
      “Fine,” she said sullenly, putting her book away. Desmond finished the passage mother had asked him to read, feeling a warmth in his heart as he read the words. He knew the Celestial Mother had a purpose for him, and that one day he would fulfill his promise to his wife and bless her with children. He knew that he should be meek and modest, but he still wished sometimes that he had been born a woman. They were tough, brilliant, mothers of children whose strength was unsurpassed by any man. In their bodies were the seeds for the future, and they bore them in power.
      “Time for bed, children,” father said. “Off to wash, please.” Desmond hugged both of his parents before leaving the room to go ready himself for sleep. He pulled off his shirt and skirt, then slipping on the long white nightgown he combed out his hair and braided it. Mother told him his beauty was in his hair, and he must never cut it. Father’s hair was long and beautiful too, she said, and only for her. One day, Desmond would have a wife, and she would love his hair. Quietly, he knelt beside his bed and offered his small prayer to the Celestial Mother, remembering to thank her for his special purpose.
      When morning came, father woke Desmond gently by taking his shoulder. “Good morning, little boy,” he said.

      “Good morning, papa,” Desmond said, sleepily stretching out his hands.
      “Today we have our reverence service. If you need help with your veil, let me know.” Once a week, the family went to their reverence service, to gather with the other saints and feel their community spirit. The Reverend Mother would lead the congregation in prayer, and then of course the women would leave to talk of sacred things. The men would be taught the importance of home and family, especially being a support to sustain their wives. Desmond loved reverence day, not only because he was able to meet with the other boys in his community, but it was a chance to get outside for a whole day. Sometimes, he was able to attend the market with father and mother, but ever since he started wearing his veil, his outings had been less and less. Mother told him it was because he was such a beautiful boy, he didn’t need to make a spectacle of himself. He needed to focus on preparing himself to be a husband, so home was the most appropriate place for him to do that.
      After father left the room, Desmond got up and dressed, carefully securing the veil around his head and over his nose. It was a light blue color, like the sky, and matched the darker blue of his best suit-dress. He hadn’t worn pants since he was a little child, as it was immodest for a man to show the definition of his legs, and his sacred parts. Once a young man went through adolescence, it was much more appropriate for him to wear a skirt or a dress, so as not to distract the women.
      He took a yellow pin from the top of his dresser, fastening his veil, and then tugging it slightly to make sure it didn’t slip.
      “Hurry up, slowpoke,” Nadia said, walking past his open room. “Papa has breakfast ready and I don’t want to be late. I’m speaking today.”
      “I am hurrying,” Desmond said, with an air of defiance. Nadia made a face at him and went on her way. Desmond took one final glance in the mirror, before shutting off his light and joining his family in the kitchen for breakfast. Father had prepared a lovely meal of hotcakes and berry syrup, as was customary on reverence day. Desmond wished they would share their thoughts rather than simply eating in polite silence. But mother liked to be able to think while she was enjoying her meals. He remembered one time father had tried to ask her something, and she had become very agitated and called father a nagging bother. Of course, she had kissed his head and apologized for her behavior later, but it had already made Desmond feel badly. Father told him later that mother was under a lot of stress; providing for a family was a difficult task, and it was their duty to be her support.
      Mother always liked to walk to the reverence service, which made Desmond very happy. Walking out in the fresh air, feeling it on his hands was always so pleasurable. He held mother’s hand as they walked, the sound of their footsteps on the warm pavement like a hymn to his ears. Other families were walking too.
      Across the street on the opposite sidewalk, he saw Mother Delia’s family. Her husband had sanctified their family with four sons, which some people might say was misfortune, but she always said it was a blessing. Her oldest son, Adam, was Desmond’s best friend. They always sat together during their home-making class on reverence day, and would often giggle about silly topics like their hair rather than pay attention.
      When they arrived at the meeting house, the family met with the other families in the large gathering room, before separating to their respective classes. After their first set of meetings, Desmond told Adam he needed to use the restroom. Adam offered to go along with him, but Desmond said he would be fine. He adjusted his veil to make sure his face and hair were covered as he walked to the beck of the building where the restrooms were located. As he walked, he heard some laughter behind him.
      Uneasy, he quickened his pace. The laughter grew a little louder, a little more menacing. He could see the restroom door at the end of the hall, but before he reached it, three young women stepped in front of it. He recognized all of them, two were Nadia’s friends from school; they came to his home once before.
      “Well hello there,” one of them said. Desmond felt his pulse quicken with anxiety, and realized two other young women had appeared behind him.
      “You look very nice today,” a young woman behind him said.
      “Thank you,” Desmond said quietly. He lowered his head and tried not to look at them.
      “You’re a very beautiful boy,” the young woman in front of him said. She must have been about 16 years old, not much older than he, but her voice sounded threatening. “Why don’t you let us sneak a peek of your hair.” Defensively, Desmond’s hands flew to his veil. Even covered as much as he was, he felt naked. He didn’t know if he should scream, or run. He was outnumbered.
      “I love your dress,” the young woman behind him sneered. “Such quick and easy access.” She slid her foot to his ankle and raised the bottom of his skirt a bit. The other young women laughed harshly.
      “Please,” Desmond said, a tear slipping out of his eye. “Leave me alone.”
      “Just a quick peek, and we’ll let you be, promise,” the young woman with threatening eyes said. Her short hair was gelled into thin spikes, and her traditional half breasted suit bared the left side of her chest which meant she was only a few levels away from being a Mother. Desmond was shaking. He knew it was his responsibility to keep their thoughts pure; perhaps his veil wasn’t secure, or his skirt was too tight. One of the young women behind him pulled at his veil quickly. He felt the material tear, echoing the harsh laughter of the women surrounding him.
      “It’s dark, just like Nadia,” one of them said. Another pulled the band out of his braid and ran her fingers through it to loosen all of the strands. A shudder ran through Desmond’s body, as one of the young women put her hands on him. He felt sick and dirty, strongly fighting the urge to vomit.
      “I bet he will bless his future wife with many daughters,” one laughed, running her fingers dangerously close on his thighs.
      “Stop!” Desmond said, a little more forcefully. One of the young women shoved him down to the floor, taking his hair in her hands and pulling. Some of the hair came out, causing Desmond to let out a yelp.
      “Poor little boy,” she said, with feigned sympathy. She stooped down, pulled his chin up to meet hers and kissed him hard on the mouth. Then she shoved him onto his back, rising to her feet and standing menacingly above him.
      “I can’t wait till I can choose a husband,” she said, in a sickly sweet threat. “ Perhaps I will visit Nadia more often. Come on women, we’ve got a class to attend and this little boy needs to use the restroom.” The young women laughed again, and left Desmond laying there, breathing hard and crying.
      “Fix your veil, boy,” said the young woman with threatening eyes, as she turned back. “Modesty in all things.” And she left. Desmond scrambled up and darted into the restroom. He locked the door behind him, sinking to the floor and sobbing loudly. As he heaved each breath, his whole body shook with fright. Never had he felt so violated. It took a few moments to regain his composure, but he soon rose to his feet, stepping in front of the mirror. His eyes were puffy and red, his hair a tangled mess. Slowly, he braided his hair again, pulling the veil over the top of his head and around his nose. He couldn’t find his pin, so he looked for something on the restroom counter. There was a hair clip someone had mistakenly left by the sink, so he used that to fasten his veil.
      Looking at his sad eyes in the mirror, he couldn’t help but wonder what he had done to lead those young women on. Perhaps his veil was too thin, or his skirt not loose enough. Violently, he tugged at the fabric of his skirt to try and stretch it further away from his body. Modesty in all things, his mother's voice sounded in his head. He used cold water to try and make the redness in his eyes go away. Finally, after a few moments, he felt composed enough to rejoin his friends. Carefully, he unlocked the door, peeked out into the hall to make sure no one was there, and then darted as quickly as he could back to the young mens' meeting room.
      He took a seat next to Adam. He tried to keep his sniffles as quiet as he could, so as not to draw attention to himself. The man teaching the lesson spoke of the sacred duty of fathers and husbands, reminding them that their bodies were sacred gifts to be saved for their wives. But Desmond wasn't listening. He felt violated. He felt dirty. He could feel the young woman’s hand on his thigh. His head swam with terrified emotions.
      “What a special calling we have, dear men,” the father at the front of the room said. A single tear escaped Desmond’s eye.
      “Agreed,” he whispered in unison with the others. Adam put his arm comfortingly around Desmond, and Desmond knew he understood.
      “Next time, I’ll go with you,” Adam said. Desmond could only nod. He leaned his head on Adam’s shoulder, wringing his hands together anxiously, feeling the young woman’s touch on his thighs and in his hair, on his lips; their laughter echoed mercilessly in his ears. Shame washed over him.
 ​      Just two more years, and he would be given to a woman. And yet he was already hers.

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