'Stolen Innocence' Excerpt

I was comforted by Mom's presence as we walked into the living room for prayer that night. I took a seat right next to her and waited for the rest of the family to assemble. As the room began to fill, I noticed that some of the mothers were sitting on the floor. "Please come and sit here," I told one of them out of respect, motioning to the empty chair just beside me. "Or at least take my chair."

When she declined, preferring to remain on the floor, I grew worried. Maybe everyone was angry with me. Many people viewed my actions of late as immature, and their attitudes made me feel like a child throwing a temper tantrum. To them, accepting the will of the prophet was simply what you were required to do. There were no questions involved, no other options. Even though the temperature in the living room was comfortable that night, I felt cold and wrapped myself deeper into my fuzzy jacket. It was then that I saw Allen standing in the doorway.

"Great," I thought; the night couldn't get any worse. It was hard to imagine that I was related to him. I was hoping he wouldn't even look my way; in my current state I couldn't even pretend to be polite. I watched as his bulky frame clumsily stepped into the room, and I grew immediately unnerved when I realized he was walking in my direction. He would never come straight toward me in a setting like this—unless there was something else going on.

Watching Allen lumber over, I kept hoping he was going to turn and walk in another direction, but he didn't. He walked directly toward me, then without a word sat in the only empty chair in the room, right beside me. In an instant, the realization of my fate hit me, robbing my lungs of air. I could feel the eyes of everyone in the room taking in my every move. Overcome with disbelief, I could no longer handle the pressure, and without thinking, I jumped from my chair and sprinted upstairs. I was afraid, disgusted, and angry at everyone. They knew how I felt and how much I did not want this, but no one seemed to care.

Winding my way through the halls and rooms of the enormous house, I felt tears flow down my face. Part of me wanted to pass off Allen's actions as happenstance, but I knew that for him to make such a public display and sit in the one empty chair beside me meant something. The fact that the mothers had chosen to sit on the floor instead of the seat next to me meant that this had been arranged. The whole family was in on it. They all knew who I was going to marry before I did. Not only would they force me to get married at fourteen, they would force me to get married to the one person I had come to loathe in my short life.

In between my footsteps, I could hear my mother behind me urging me to slow down and tell her what was wrong. I was sobbing uncontrollably when I reached her bedroom door and blindly pushed it open. The four walls of my mother's room were my only sanctuary, and I flopped down on Mom's bed before my legs collapsed beneath me.

"I know who I'm going to marry!" I shouted.

"Really? Who?" Mom asked, sounding completely in the dark.

"Allen!" I yelled back without even raising my head from the pillow. I couldn't believe Mom hadn't been hit with the same realization the minute he sat down next to me.

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