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The next morning Lilly and Olivia both woke as new people. They had been reborn overnight. Before they would wake, Matthew had come in early to remove the conditioning headphones he had given them the night before. It played the basic scriptures and subliminal messaging needed to ensure the women were mentally invested without rebellious intentions the next day.
By each beside in the two rooms of his home he had given them, rested a small weak cup of the Nectar. It held enough of the Lord’s blessing to enthrall them but allow the girls to be themselves as well. When they woke, they would drink from the thirst they would feel and then come find him. All of their things had been moved and put away in the rooms, the only things they wouldn’t find were Olivia’s phone charger and Lilly’s cellphone.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/ZXm5RPh.jpg]]
Matthew had looked through Lilly’s cellphone and admitted to being so very displeased. In fact a part of him was seething inside from the text messages he had read and the voicemails he had listened to. There was no doubt he had to hand her phone over to Josiah. He couldn’t believe the girl had been subjected to such before she had come and it allowed him an understanding of her true mental fatigue and possible fears.
It also made him think back to the night before. There had been a reason she had run into his arms seeking his comfort. From the messages on that phone, he could only guess it had something to do with the wives. There were nasty texts and voicemails for Lilly not just from that bastard but also from a woman who was Lilly’s matriarch. It was all negative influence of the outside world, a complete violation of the Faith. Men could discipline their wives, but none would take the pleasure in doing what was left on Lilly’s phone.
A particular message came in the form of a voice mail. It had started out quiet and Matthew was shocked when he heard the sounds of intimacy, of grunts and moans. Then it changed, from slow paced to fast, screams coming through of a woman calling out to a man named Randy. The screams had started out pleasurable, the woman sounding enthused, but soon the sound of a belt against flesh turned those pleased screams into terrified ones.
Matthew had almost hung up, but then a man’s voice came on and the things he said made Matthew wish to hide Lilly away. They were fowl and barbaric, and Matthew knew he could never let Lilly have her phone again. He would turn the phone over to Josiah. The man had said in the message he was in Lilly’s home, that he would wait for her to come back like a good girl unless he found her first. Then he promised to tear away her chastity and make her wish she had chosen differently.
Matthew had faith that Josiah would know what to do, how to handle such a situation. The men were protectors and the women were their responsibility. Matthew couldn’t allow any harm to the women whom he had vowed to protect. He would get to the bottom of it with Josiah. He would get to the bottom of a lot of things this day.
Lilly stretched, her body a bit sore but for once her heart felt lighter than it had in a while. Her hands reached her face and rubbed sleep away, her throat dry and her mouth feeling like cotton. Looking around, she realized she was in Matthew’s house. It seemed that she, Matthew, and Olivia had really hit it off while they had been there and chose to stay longer. [right [pic https://i.imgur.com/q7JNles.jpg]]
In Lilly and Olivia’s mind, they had now been there for a week rather than a day. The subliminal messaging recorded had played over and over the people that were important to remember and Matthew’s house had photos to help trigger the girl’s memories of people. Josiah and his wives pictures were especially placed so that when Lilly and Olivia woke they would see the pictures on their dressers. These pictures included hidden pictures that had been taken the whole day they had been there and altered to appear as if they had worn different clothing and seem to be different days.
Lilly held up the picture of her and Amber. They were hugging one another around the other women. She smiled as memories of the mousey girl sprang up, but shivered when she saw the next photo of Josiah and Diana together. Something about that photo frightened her.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/kQvNOmO.jpg]] Olivia had entered the hall the same time Lilly had. Both women smiled warmly at one another and embraced affectionately. “I told you this would be an amazing experience, Lils,” Olivia said as they walked into the front room where Matthew was waiting. Lilly gave a soft smile, though she still felt a bit of unease seeing more photos like the ones in her room around the house. Matthew watched her as she turned a picture of Diana away so that she didn’t have to feel as though the woman was watching her.
“It was very nice coming here, Liv. I almost don’t want to go back home when it’s over.” Lilly sighed but turned to Matthew and smiled, truly smiled at him. “Oh good morning Matthew! Did you sleep alright?” Olivia stepped beside Lilly, asking their kind host how the night treated him while Lilly continued to beam a smile his way.
Matthew bowed his head, whispering a prayer before smiling at both young women. “Please feel free to stay as long as you like. You are very welcome here.” [i ‘You can’t go back, the Lord has brought you home to roost.’] “Are you ready to go to Josiah’s for breakfast? I see you both chose to wear the clothes the Sisters have gotten you, you both look darling.”
Lilly and Olivia had both chosen clothing from the community. Olivia sported a tan sun dress which the skirt pooled around her feet yet had a slit up the side to mid-thigh so that she could walk with ease. She looked lovely and almost seductive without being mainstream loose. Lilly on the other hand had chosen to wear a pair of white pants close to leggings in how they fit and a lovely tunic cotton long sleeve shirt that held yellow flowers embroiled on it.
Matthew paused for a moment, staring at the tunic amazed that it had been chosen. The flowers that lined it were a scarce plant from which the nectar was made. It made him smile, seeing it as another sign the Lord had sent her there for him to care for.
“I’m sure Josiah’s wives have spent all morning making a wonderful breakfast for us,” Matthew said as he brought the women up to his friend’s doorstep, knocking politely. “I’m sure the women will be happy to show you around, I just need a moment of Josiah’s time before we eat.” He needed to give Josiah Lilly’s phone.
Lilly and Olivia smiled at one another. “It’s no trouble, Matthew, we know how important you are to the community. I’m sure it is important so don’t feel rushed,” Olivia replied, taking his hand, her expression giving him a warm feeling of rightness.
Lilly stepped up and took his other hand shyly, her eyes downcast though she squeezed his fingers in reassurance. “I look forward to seeing Amber,” she said softly as the door opened.
Josiah watched as Lilly had fallen to the ground, limp and motionless. He walked over to her, turning to see that Matthew had clearly selected his first wife. Though, it made sense – Olivia and hi had been closely responding. Lily had been something of a gift offered by God so as to bless hm for his loyalty. He stared down at her, a sloppy smile playing on her lips then as she looked at him. She had found their way. She was a promising student and would be a good wife he knew. He could sense it in her eyes, the Faith was good for her. He leaned down to pick her up so as to help her join the others. He could not allow her to join him, especially with what was going on with the others. He had to put a lot of his time into his wives. They had to understand there needed to be order. He hoped this night they would never forget, that it would be forever ingrained in their minds.
Amber gasped, her ands finding her lips then. Some part of her had been ecstatic. Could it be that he had chosen Lilly? She looked to find Diana clenching the flower crown tight in her hands. This was her own fault and Amber felt a bit happy at knowing she was feeling the same pain as her.
“Back to work,” Faith said. It was unlike her to be so curt, even with Amber and she knew it was because she was on edge Diana thought then as she turned her back. If this was his way of punishing her, he had surely proven a point. Instead, Josiah had laid Lilly beside Olivia and stood by Matthew’s side, a clear indication that Lilly was not to be touched. Though, he was not surprised to find that there were no challenges at this time. The night seemed to be ending much better, but a storm awaited at home.
“You have made me very proud Brother Matthew,” Josiah said against his ear. He pulled back to smile at the ma. Often he felt like they were truly brothers and had Josiah no chance at all of having a child, a small part of him would consider turning the commune over to Matthew. Alas, he had to have faith and he just knew, he knew that Amber would not fail him as the others had.
The ceremony was coming to an end then and many of the women were finding their way with their husbands back to their cabins. There was much work to be done, he was sure future wedding ceremonies that needed to be planned and right away.
“Come by the house tomorrow morning for breakfast with the women yes,” he told Matthew. He called for one of the other men to help with getting Lilly to Matthew’s car.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/awUqaS2.jpg]] The walk back to the cabin had been quiet, all of the girls walking in a single file line behind Josiah. They waited in the entryway as he walked, as though expecting him to lecture them as soon as the door was closed. Diana could only glare at Amber who already looked like she was shaking to bend to her knees. Faith had felt terrible about how she snapped at Amber earlier and even more so she felt sick form lying to Josiah. He had to know right? He had to know that she had stared him in the eyes and lied. Yet she could never disobey Diana. Still, she hugged Amber because she needed comfort and she knew so did Amber.
The women had then went to their respected rooms, Amber feeling lost as she stood near Josiah’s door watching as he undressed. It had been a privilege to do that for him, a chance to run your hands over a sculpted body, to brush against a chiseled jaw with the faint scratchiness of his beard.
“Leave me,” he said as though sensing her presence without even turning around. Amber made a small sound, the beginning of a cry. He said a prayer then, bending to his knees and asking God how he saw fit for him to punish the women. It was in a moment of weakness he actually doubted himself. Finally he had come to his feet.
“Diana, Faith, and Amber!” He called out. He heard their slow feet as they reached the living room where he had taken a seat, a glass of the leftover wine in his hand. His eyes were already glassy indicating it wasn’t his fist glass. It was then Amber looked down.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/3P83ySX.jpg]] Amber was no familiar with being disciplined. She had never upset him, so the sight of the rice spread across the floor had confused her.
“Undress,” he said. He watched them then, Amber trying not to meet his eyes and Faith stuck almost in a trance, lost in her thoughts maybe. Diana of course stared at him, as though begging him not to subject her to being blamed for their incompetence.
How could he embarrass her, visibly a bit older than the woman, her breasts not as perky nor her curves as defined as Faith.
“Bend down,” he said finally, watching as their expressions turned into a painful one, showing the discomfort as the small grains began to pierce into their skin. ‘When I chose you women as my wives, I knew that I had made the right decision. I looked into your eyes and God spoke to me about how you women would be the very support I would need. I depended on that. I depend on you,” he said as he looked to Faith, watching as she squirmed. “I put a lot of my trust in you women. You are an example for the other wives and it’s incredibly important that you are not only to not disappoint them, but me as well.” Josiah had finished his drink then, swaying a little as he could already feel it and the small dose of nectar taking place. His hands fumbled with his pants then, reaching for the belt and Diana seized up.
Instead, she watched as the leather cracked and stretched as he wrapped it around her fist. He bent down then before Faith.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/C7rZbfW.jpg]] There were two options, to beat her mercilessly for her actions while the others watched, or for her to be a witness to their beating for her mistake, if it were he mistake at all. Josiah had reached for the jug of wine then, placing it out to Faith to which with shaky hands she drank from, Josiah tipping the jug even more.
She choked on the liquid, falling over to which she was only drawn up again by Josiah.
“What happened tonight?” Amber watched with tears in her eyes, willing Faith to tell the truth. Would that spare them? He walked behind the women then, waiting for Faiths answer.
“Choose your words carefully Faith.” She looked to Diana from the corner of her eye, the woman's grey orbs focused straight ahead.
“It was my fault. I messed up,” she simply said. Josiah sighed out then. He was disappointed in her. the first lash had sliced through the air quick and before she could even cry out in pain another came, causing her to lose her breath. Amber cried out then.
“Please no!” She begged as Josiah came down again. Diana closed her eyes tight. Another lash had come down. Her loyalty was only to him, no one else. He could smell the lie on her, seeping from her pores. He’d made another lash, but before the final one came down Amber had thrown herself on top, causing Josiah to stop.
“Please please, I am sorry. I am sorry, I beg of you do not punish her for my mistake. Please Josiah.” She begged as she looked up at him, face red from crying. Faith cried against the floor, her back and shoulders stinging from red welts.
“I am kinder than the other husbands. You know I take no pleasure in doing this,” he yelled. “From today you shall be on a fast until I see fit. There will be no beds to sleep in either. I will not be defied again.” The belt was loose in his grip then, dragging across the floor as he made his way to his room. He sat on the edge then, sweat dripping down the side of his face. He would not admit it broke him to hear Amber’s and Faith’s cry and even worse, Diana’s silence.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/ZXm5RPh.jpg]]
Lilly gave Amber a soft smile as she passed the girl, Diana impatient to get the night over with. Matthew watched with hooded eyes next to Josiah, displeasure during something so special clouding his face, his arms flexing taunt muscle hidden beneath loose clothes. He may look like a youthful man, but he was twenty-five years old and one of the best to be Josiah’s second. Behind that boyish appearance hid a man hardened by the Faith and determined to follow through with what was expected of him.
While the women exchanged blood, he couldn’t help but share a look with Josiah that expressed his feelings when it came to Josiah’s wives. He felt it fell on Diana to have properly educated Amber despite the trust Josiah put in Faith, believing the man gave a worthless barren woman too much power. It would cost Josiah someday, that restraint he held for his first wife. Matthew only hoped the cost wouldn’t be too great.
When Matthew saw Diana move to Olivia, he could see how her body tensed, though her tone stayed neutral in welcoming her. Something had happened earlier, something before Amber’s disgraceful behavior. The women were all hiding something, silence between them all. Though Matthew awarded them for their loyalty to one another, he couldn’t help but feel they had lied to Josiah before. Remembering how Lilly had run into his arms seeking his security.
His eyes moved to Lilly, drinking from the bowl after Olivia and turning to embrace her friend as they slipped to the ground with the other three women, all falling under the lord’s cleansing. Moving forward, Matthew moved to pull Olivia into his arms, he held her bridal style as he left the ring of kneeling women, leaving Lilly to someone else to take sadly. Still, he knew she was his as much as Olivia was. At least he believed she was, feeling no competition between the other disciples.
Matthew never once worried about Josiah once they had entered the ceremonial grounds. The man had just taken a new wife before Olivia or Lilly had arrived. He would be busy with Amber and Faith, trying to conceive that child that would be their next leader. Though he knew his friend and leader desperately yearned for a babe of his own, it was still the Lord who decided. Only through marriage for others was Josiah able to bless them with fruitful unions.
Matthew stared down at Olivia as the others finished pulling the women from the circle. The women who remained kneeling passed the bowl around, taking smaller sips than the women who had taken gulps of it before. It would not be enough to knock them out, but it was enough to make them giggly as they crawled about one another, rubbing against each other like cats. The only ones who didn’t participate were Josiah’s wives, who were putting things unneeded away. The rest of the ceremony belonged to the men.
Moving to where the flower bed rested, used moments ago by Carlisle and Josiah for the marriage binding, Matthew and the others who had picked up the new members of the clan laid the women down gently side by side so Josiah could say a few words and their part of the ceremony could commence.
Matthew already began removing his tie before unbuttoning his shirt. He folded both off to the side and removed the ceremonial shoes that graced his feet. In the firelight his muscles flexed, thick flesh taunt with the hidden strength every man knew Matthew possessed. He had much to stand for in this last part of the ceremony. It would be here the men would size up who they would challenge to the Cage of Truth if they so choose to court one of the women newly joined.
It was amazing that Matthew had never challenged someone in the cage for a woman they had brought in. He felt that God had been waiting till this moment to give him the right family. His waiting had not been in vain, either, as not only did the lovely Olivia appear, but the gentle Lilly who was a mystery in of itself had also come along.
There would be no fighting, that wasn’t what this was about. This would be a battle of the soul, of dominance among the men. Josiah held the head of their community, his dominance was unquestioned. But the rest would always have to prove their strength either in sparing, the cage, or at times like this where their spirit would either drop those who opposed them or they would fall and kneel before the stronger man. Matthew had long sense vowed he would only kneel to Josiah.
Diana, Faith, and Amber watched the women fall into a strange array of almost carnal bliss with one another. They knelt outside the flower ring, wishing they could feel that way, each with their own reasons but all reasons revolving about their return home with Josiah. Each of them had proven in need of discipline and Josiah would be very busy providing it on a night they should have been celebrating and focusing on properly placing the others.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/awUqaS2.jpg]] Diana blamed Brother Matthew deep in her heart. She felt he had brought calamity onto the community by inviting those strangers here. An even deeper, darker part of her blamed Josiah as well. Blamed him for her lack of self-control, for her hardship and her pain. Most of all she blamed him for abandoning her after her second miscarriage, after they found she could never bare him a child. He may keep her as his first wife, but she wept as laid in the arms of others and he did not care for her broken heart.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/C7rZbfW.jpg]] Faith was worried beyond belief. She had lied to Josiah on Diana’s behalf not once but twice. She hadn’t told him the truth, that Diana had been hostile to Lilly and Olivia. She also hadn’t told him that Diana had earlier forbidden her from speaking with Amber about the marriage ceremony. Lying was always punished with one thing; The Barn. He would send her there, or he should, but she secretly hoped he would think of his place as leader before showing weakness through admitting his wives lied to him.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/3P83ySX.jpg]] Amber should have been weeping and trembling in fear – and she was trembling. However every time she thought of what Josiah would do when they returned home, she held fast that he loved her and he was only looking out for her. Instead of staring at the women, Amber decided to pray. She bowed her head and pictured Lilly’s kind smiling face and prayed to the lord Josiah would show mercy.
“All is well,” Josiah told the others, watching the confusion on their faces as the women had ran form the scene. “We must remember that we are constantly perfecting ourselves and he a[appreciates that. For some of us, it can be terrifying. But we must have faith.” He stressed. He clenched his hands together, his nails digging into his skin Peace was restored. Diana was gone as well as Lilly, more than likely to bring Amber back. He had to remember that this was his night no longer and to turn it into a public display of what happened when one was disobedient could disrupt Matthew’s attempts at bringing in Olivia and Lilly. Faith could sense his uneasiness and while she was scared, she still walked dover when their eyes met. She handed him a cup of the wine, watching as he drank it quickly. He took her by the wrist then, drawing her in close as the other women had started to clear up to begin the ceremony for the newcomers.
“What happened?” Josiah asked. Faith felt as though she had swallowed her tongue, whimpering as his grip tightened. “Didn’t you teach her? I but a. lot of trust in your Faith, sometimes more than the others when it comes to not holding your tongue. Who is at fault?”
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/awUqaS2.jpg]] “Get up,” Diana said to the women. She was trying not to be angry, though she was more nervous. She was visibly shaking knowing that this was no longer just a Amber problem. This meant punishment for the whole household. Diana was sweating then a little and glad for the cool breeze that came, remembering that night she had dared speak against Josiah.
[I “Are we not complete already? You, and me? Is it not enough? I’m enough!”
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”
“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” Diana hissed back, tears streaming down her face. Josiah had paused then, his hand on his hip as he walked toward her.
“You mock me?” he asked. They’d been together for two years, never had Diana spoke with hi this way, but he also knew that the dynamics of their relationship had changed of course with the new wives coming in. Something about his tone had turned a switch in Diana. “You barren and broken. Why is that? I hear your pathetic tears in the middle of the night and not once do you seem to understand that without faith without works is dead. You mock me?”
“no, no Josiah I wasn’t. I promise, I was just – I.”
“I I [b I].” he repeated. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. I have done you a kindness, keeping you and caring for you and all that matters to you is that I spend my nights with another woman. Your sister, one who [b can] give me the child that I deserve to have.” She cried out as he took her hair in his hands, knotting at the base for much more control. His other hand had gripped her roughly by the cheeks, forcing her to look in the mirror. “This is what you want? Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” She had tried to turn her head away, Josiah quick to hit her and force her to stare at her blubbering expression. “Is this what you want Diana? Answer me!” Her dress pushed up and her scream of pain at his entrance had broken her.
“Please, forgive me.” She had cried out between hits, each rough ram more painful than the first. This had been humiliating to her. Finally he’d dropped her, sobs breaking out.]
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/C7rZbfW.jpg]] Faith remembered the screams, how terrified she had been in her room, her knees drawn to her chest and her eyes closed tight.
[I “Faith!” Josiah had called, loud. She had stopped breathing and it wasn’t until he called her name again did she scramble to her feet and come out to him, wiping her eyes of tears. “Clean her up. Get her dressed with her belongings and take her to the barn house.”
“No no no no!” Diana had begged, trying to scramble from the ground but falling clumsily onto all fours. The thin trail of blood falling down her leg, face swollen. “Please Josiah! Please I beg of you!” Faith had heard enough stories in passing about the barn house. The women who disobeyed their husbands were sent there, a lantern to express that there was a woman available and for the taken. It was the utmost sense of disrespect and to be one of Josiah’s wives.
“Be quick about it.” He told Faith. She was shy as she walked in, Diana quick to slap her hand away as she called out for Josiah. Eventually she fell victim to her injuries, her head resting on Faith’s chest as she tried to soothe her. She knew then to never go against Josiah, ever.
Josiah had never the intention to give Diana away, but she had to learn and understand who was the master. He’d done right, as he found her praying profusely throughout the night in the barn and come the next morning, she clung to him on her knees as he pet her hair.]
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/3P83ySX.jpg]]
“It was my fault, “Faith admitted then as she saw Diana returning with the other women. She ducked her head. “I – I thought Amber knew. It was my mistake for not checking beforehand. I apologize.” Josiah was surprised, this was unlike Faith.
“We will discuss this when we are home.” He said to the women then, his eyes lingering on Amber. She had disappointed him. But she was young, she would learn. “Come now, the ceremony is starting.” The new comers were already standing in the field, music playing as the others danced around them. Amber and Faith had soon fallen into place, after ushering Lilly into the center. Hey soon then fell to their knees and one by one, Matthew had begun to pass around a bowl filled with the bitter red drink. Diana was hesitant, but still tried to remain confident as she walked toward the center. She pulled a pin from the flower that was on her crown.
With one single prick to their finger and her own before pressing them together.
“The Faith welcomes you.” It was when she got to Olivia, she had to show some restraint. Things hadn’t been right since they got here. She’d be glad when they became Matthew’s finally.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/kQvNOmO.jpg]] Olivia was out of it when she and Lilly joined with Matthew for the ceremony. Lilly had swayed against Matthew as the women sang after he did his part as Second. Neither woman really understood what they were seeing, only the rhythm of the music rocking them forward.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/ZXm5RPh.jpg]] Matthew was already whispering into Olivia’s ear as he had spoken with Lilly before, lulling her into his control so that he could guide her where she needed to be. Lilly had already passed expectations of acceptance into the fold, though she had yet to take the final step before any marriage was possible. Her turning to Matthew had also shown everyone that if they wanted her, they would have to fight him in the Cage of Truth to see who was blessed by God to take her from him.
Olivia was staggering, the drug in her system sending her on a wild ride. She could hear the singing and the undertones of a lustful encounter. Her body was giddy through it all and to top it off she could hear Matthew whispering to her lovingly. His breath brushing her ear made her moan out at just the right time with the rest of the community present, her head falling against Matthew as he took on the rest of her weight.
When Amber broke rank and ran, her cries suddenly shattering what had been a joyful occasion Lilly seemed to snap. As all watched Amber flee, suddenly a flash of red like the morning sunrise ran past them all after the other girl. Diana shouted then, her hands clenched in anger as what she had hoped to be an interesting night crumble as she watched the ginger chase after her sister wife. She had completely forgotten herself in that moment as she openly glared at the other two women. [right [pic https://i.imgur.com/awUqaS2.jpg]]
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/3P83ySX.jpg]] Amber stumbled, her grief of what she just saw clouding her mind and causing her to become clumsier than she usually was. Lilly saw this and knew she couldn’t slow down, the grass was too slick under foot to try and come to an abrupt halt. Instead she let years of gymnastics take over as she fell into a half cartwheel, not completing the landing so that she could land lying on her back in the grass next to the other girl.
Chest heaving, Lilly blinked up at the starry sky, something you couldn’t see in New York City. It was beautiful, so beautiful the balls of fire called to her, almost twinkling in various pictures, her mind easily pulling astronomy and mingling it with the remnants of her high. Her hand stretched out to Amber, pulling the girl tight into her side as both gazed up at the stars curled together in the grass, others slowly being forgotten and unnoticed.
Amber shuttered in Lilly’s arms, knowing her wrongs and her awaiting discipline. Josiah was shamed by her, she knew – but she didn’t know he would do that, she had never witnessed a wedding ceremony to any but the first wife and he had taken her into his own arms during theirs. She had been unprepared, overwhelmed. A sob escaped her lips and Lilly started to hum a hymn from the back of her mind. The hand that reached out to the stars fell and wiped Ambers tears away.
Suddenly Lilly remembered something Adam had told her once. She didn’t understand why the thought came to mind, that her subconscious was trying to explain what all she had seen moments before. “Hold fast your sorrow, rejoice through this pain. You weather the storm now, for bountiful harvest tomorrow.”
Amber stilled in Lilly’s side, her head lifting to look down at the smiling girl. “He blessed them, didn’t he? He gave them a gift and I was ungrateful.” Amber wept again, but this time she wept for Josiah, for she knew she had wronged him.
Lilly lifted her own head from the ground and took both Amber’s palms against hers as they kneeled together, mirroring one another as tears fell from Lilly’s eyes now and a smile came to Amber’s face. At the same time, a wolf howled in the far distance and nature seemed to spring alive with sound. [right [pic https://i.imgur.com/q7JNles.jpg]]
Matthew had admittedly been very surprised to find Lilly rushing into his arms. He took it as a good sign though and it seemed to have released whatever tension Olivia held in her shoulders before he arrived. He gently smoothed Lilly’s hair, pulling back to look at her. Her cheeks were still red, but she was calming down he could tell. He knew the high had worn off by now, but he could see her slowly falling in and he knew she was meant to join them.
“Remember my commandment, be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for I will be with you wherever you go.” He watched as the corner of her lips lifted into a small smile. Matthew had turned to Olivia then. She seemed to be more at ease with Matthew there, as though knowing Diana not dare cross her before a Brother.
“Everything alright?” Josiah asked as he walked over, he could sense the tension in the air and the women were unusually quiet, not as chattery or happy as they had been just moments before. In contrast to Ember’s bright grin, they seemed a bit dark and moody.
“Everything is fine,” Diana quickly said, stepping close to Josiah. She looked over her shoulder at Faith who she knew would always have her back. “Isn’t that right?” Faith nodded then, giving a small smile so as to further convince Josiah. He trusted them not to lie and whatever the situation as, it had been handled. He smiled toward Diana and gently caressed her cheek. He could always count hon her to keep the order. That was why she was his first wife. He did care for her, he loved her in fact, but he knew that had he been anyone else, he could easily cast her out of his home for being unable to bear his child. As leader it was shameful, but Diana was dependable and strong lie a loyal workhorse. He was a fool to keep her, but would be an even bigger one if he were to let her go.
“Good, let’s begin then.” He said. Diana had soon began to gather the women into a chorus, a soft hum evading from them then. They all were to hold hands, the new comers perfectly at front and in the center.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/VOhMFnM.png?1]] Ember honestly had been nervous about this day. She’d only found solace and peace in Julie who promised her that she would be alright. It all seemed to make sense once she’d seen Carlisle, beaming at her. He was a tall man, their lead carpenter. She knew that beneath his shirt were bruises still healing. He’d fought so hard for her; what was there to be nervous about?
At the end of the aisle was Carlisle and Ember, Julie stayed behind at first, as it was her duty as first wife t welcome Ember into their home and in doing so, began to sing as she walked behind them, trailing behind to leave flowers in their path. Finally they reached the altar, where Diana’s wives stood behind him, their hums the foundation for the chorus as the women had joined in singing the words along with Julie as a sign of solidarity as the women of their community.. Matthew stood on his left, releasing his hold of their sacred text which he handed over to Josiah before joining the men, their thunderous voices somehow only heightening the sound of the women as they sang louder until finally they had come to a unified hum at the end.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/6lAIdRG.png]] Julie took her place then. She truly adored Ember and felt like Carlisle had made a good decision in bringing her into their family. “My beautiful congregation, it is with great pleasure this night that we are joined here in the presence of our divine God to solidify the union between Brother Carlisle an Sister Ember. We ask you God as we honor our Mother Earth for this marriage to be abundant, and that there will be no storm that that they can’t weather. May like a nurturing fire, this union create a union that is warm and glowing, with the intense promise to protect one another always.” Josiah paused to look toward Brother Matthew which quickly came over with a wooden box which upon a velvet pillow held the two rings. Carlisle removed one and reached for Ember’s hand. [right [pic https://i.imgur.com/itqZ8JX.png]]
"In the presence of God and these our friends I take thee, Amber, to be my wife. promising with Divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful husband.” He kissed her knuckles before slipping the ring onto her finger. It was then Ember’s turn. She came to her knees then, Julie behind her and gathering the train of Ember’s dress in her hands. Ember reached up for the ring and looked up to Carlisle with teary eyes.
"In the presence of God and these our friends I take thee, my protector, Carlisle, to be my husband. promising with Divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful wife. I promise to submit to you and to forever provide love and to always take care of you and our home.” Julie then bent Ember’s head back and leaned in to kiss her on her forehead, her closed eyelids, and her lips finally.
“Now you will feel no rain, for you will be shelter to each other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there is no more loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.” Josiah said.
"I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine." The three of them stated. It was then the singing began once more as Ember was drawn to her feet and embraced by Carlisle. Soon the women had surrounded Ember, drawing her in and hugging her tightly. It was then her eyes met Josiah’s, a small smile on her lips as she knew what was to come. It was then she was led to part of the field which had a bed of pulled flowers, totem poles lit on either side. The singing had begun again then, the members creating a circle around the bed of flowers.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/ZXm5RPh.jpg]] Matthew had sought out Olivia and Lilly, just wanting to make sure they were okay considering this could be overwhelming. He knew that all would make sense come the time they sipped the pressure nectar. For now, despite them not officially being his wife, he like the others, kept them at his side and in his sights. He watched as Josiah kissed his wives foreheads, noticing the small look of confusion in Ember’s eyes as Josiah had begun to undress, much the same as Carlisle as the women laid back. The fire illuminated their skin, soft underneath the sheer gowns that took very little effort in removing. Amber had tried not to show her confusion, knowing that as Josiah’s wife it would not be a good look, but she couldn’t help it. What was going on.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/3P83ySX.jpg]] Her hand gripped Faith’s tighter, watching as Josiah’s gently stroked Ember’s cheeks. His movements were almost one with Carlisle, all Ember could think was how blessed she was to be touched by Josiah himself on his birthday, on a day she had given herself to her now husband. There was the cheerful sound of the others singing in celebration, like small little chimes going off, but in Amber’s head they sounded like a thousand alarms going off at once.
Faith looked to Amber then and with a bit of harsh strength pulled her back in line. She sang louder and stared Amber in the eyes, reciting the words to the song. Amber felt lost and trapped, forced to watch as Josiah’s hands roamed the plains of Ember’s milky skin. A sound came out of her, and she stirred again, this time getting a look out of Diana that had made her freeze. She could see the smile in her eyes, the woman taking pleasure out of this.
She could barely feel her legs. She closed her eyes tight, the tears falling then. Somehow Ember’s gasps and moans of pleasure rivaled the sound of the singing and before long the women had join in chorus as in orgasm Ember cried out.
[I “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.”
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” ]
She tried to relish in Josiah’s words for calmness until finally there was silence, nothing but the soft labored breathing, Josiah’s seed sprayed across Ember’s belly like spilled milk. She couldn’t take it anymore and when free had broken into a run from the crowd, heading toward the house. Diana smirked, knowing if earlier she wouldn’t be punished, she surely would be now.
[right [b [h3 Across the Ocean in New York City]]]
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/AWLUjJt.jpg]] His eyes were narrowed on the mess that once was his office space. Papers were strewn everywhere, a crystal paperweight had been smashed through an expensive flat screen television. Everything was falling slowly into ruin and it was all because of that woman.
His hands clenched as he felt his body heat up just thinking about her escaping his watchful eye. She thought he was never around, that he stayed clear across the country, but it wasn’t completely true. Even now he had flown home to find her gone, staying in his private residence he had bought as soon as he had planned out his future revolving her. And now his home office was in complete disarray, the maid trembling by the door in fear.
His lip pulled up into an almost animalistic snarl at her whimpering form, a strong hand reached out to jerk her up by her hair. Human rights didn’t mean anything to someone of his caliber, his class. This woman was nothing, just something he paid to play with whenever he wanted.
Yet before anything could escalade, the familiar ring tone began to fill the room, distracting him. Letting the woman fall back to the floor, he pulled the phone from his back pocket and answered it, a smile touching his face making him appear softer than moments ago.
“Darling,” He called into the receiver, his eyes on the maid still in front of him.
A purring seductive voice responded on the other line, “My world, how are you? I feel as though you’re in need of me. Let me come to you and ease your distress-“ The sounds of clothing rustled on the other end, a clear snap of what would be shirt buttons purposely sounding in his ear. “If you can’t, I can simply,” a low moan sounded then, followed by another and more clothing rustling.
When he heard the sound of clothing being torn off followed by a sultry wail, he could no longer contain himself. Instead he placed his phone on speaker, laying it on his desk, and then grabbed hold of the maid. He would give as good as he got to the woman on the other end of the line, her phone soon filled with the sounds of flesh against flesh and pleading cries turn into begging moans of carnal delight.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/IDIzjfM.jpg]] The world was small despite the vastness of everything. Only true believers could be real, could be saved and pulled from the pits of hell. He needed to redeem all who he could, bringing them into the fold as his flock to care for and raise proper. All who did not see enlightenment were nothing but sacrifice for the greater good, given to God in hopes of being reborn true.
Adam knew his work was important, his calling the true righteous leader of the Faith. His mother had assured him, guided him, growing up to know the truth behind his stepfather’s teachings. His was the virtuous teachings, the true leading of the Faith unlike that watered down and tainted version that desecrated his homeland.
The Culling of the impure, flayed and burned in offering to God in hopes they would be given a second chance in the world to choose the Faith. It was a blessed thing he did. So as blood splattered his hands, drops of it staining his white cotton attire, Adam felt only pure joy for his assistance in this person’s possible ascension. “The lord take you as you have taken from the lord. Find peace Brother by following the right path this next time and come home to the fold.”
As the man, fainted from shock, was hoisted up onto the pyre, the women of the flock came forward and stroked his bare flesh, each giving him a goodbye kiss before finally Adam stepped forward. A torch was lit, given over to him and he gave the man a last loving smile as the poor soul stared back at him. “The Culling is your right, a gift from the lord. I give you back to Him in hopes you are reborn.”
The torch fell onto the pyre, fire quickly licking at the tender there and catching the piled wood and hay. The man burning alive gave out soundless screams, throat raw from being flayed alive earlier that day. Those in attendance raised their hands to the sky and wailed out with him, their voices expressing mocked pain. Tears fell down Adam’s face as he cried out for the man as well, though an eerie smile still held to his lips.
When the ceremony was finished, the women gathered around Adam, stroking his arms, back and chest. They left ghost kisses on his cheeks and returned to the men who called them their wives. Adam knew it was time then, the feeling of the hands of all the First Wives reminding him that he needed to return and bring home his own wife.
Truly if it hadn’t been for dealing with those heretics of the Faith entering his territory trying to infect others with his teachings, his wife would have been there with him. No matter, he would bring her home where she belonged. For now he could only wash away the sin of the dead man from his body.
Turning he gazed out to his third in command. “Is it done? Did you get them in easy enough?” When the man nodded, assuring Adam his seed of Holy Flame had been successfully planted to cleanse his homeland. “Good. Bring me Rebecca, she can assist me in cleaning away this and offer her duty as a second wife. Give her the drink again, it is not time for my child to breathe life just yet.”
[left [b [h3 Takern]]]
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/q7JNles.jpg]] Lilly found that she and Oliva were not the only new guests as Diana and Faith moved them to where a bunch of other women stood. There at least three other new comers who had been invited, obvious by the lacking matching dresses the rest were sporting. They were all very beautiful in Lilly’s eyes, even if she hadn’t been a bit high from earlier. She felt as though the women formed a garden like looking at Eden from the bible.
Faith smiled at Lilly as she and Diana placed delicate flower crowns on their brows – nothing as vibrant as Ember’s, but still they were flower wreaths made for bringing them into the fold. Lilly gave a weak smile to the women, immediately receiving a reaction from Diana that Olivia didn’t like, stepping between the two women when Diana’s welcoming expression turned hostile. Lilly felt the urge to look for Matthew then, feeling connected to him ever since they left the birthday party.
She had no idea that he had spoken to her as she sat in the back of the car, no idea how he had already began her pull into the fold by training her mind to seek him out as her guide. All she knew was that for a brief moment, she had been frightened of Diana, whose face had taken on an expression her stepmother often had with her. She needed comfort from that look, her eyes glazing as fear took her chest, her breathing turning into panicked gasps.
Faith didn’t know what to do, the men were busy preparing and the gentle ginger who had been introduced as Lilly was suddenly having a panic attack after dealing with Diana. The only thing she could think to do was run to Amber. Lilly reminded her of Amber in a sense that they had both had hard lives and were in different stages of fragile mindsets. Though Lilly had come with Olivia, Faith knew Amber would be the right choice for this as Diana and Olivia seemed to be squaring off in staring match for dominance.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/3P83ySX.jpg]] Amber happily smiled and chatted with Ember, proud and elated for her and Carlisle to join in loving bliss. She remembered when Josiah had taken her as his third wife, of their ceremony and his gentle caresses binding them for eternity. Though it seemed wrong in comparison to what she had learned growing up, she had also learned life on the streets. It was easier for Amber to accept what Carlisle and Ember would do once they said their vows. Besides she would have Josiah to lean on during, no need to be awkward about it all.
Then Faith was there, pulling Amber away from the bride to be. She was quickly dragging her over to Lilly’s side, the girl bent over as her hands fisted against her stomach as though she would throw up. Immediately Amber took Lilly in her arms, an unknown force pushing her to sooth the other woman. Together they touched their foreheads together and took slow steady breaths until Lilly was alright again.
“Sister Lilly, are you better,” Amber whispered to the other, noticing how hazy her eyes were and understanding that the Lord was truly calling Lilly home to them and trying to help her purge away her past fears. “There is nothing to fear, you are home now,” Amber mumbled wrapping her arms around Lilly before straightening her back out.
Olivia moved, pushing between Amber and Lilly to grasp her friends face with both her hands and examine her. She had seen those attacks before, but in the end only Adam had been able to push through them. He had held her just like Amber had done in those days. It was a shame he had to return to his home just when Olivia had hoped Lilly would break up with Randy and start fresh.
“Where is Matthew,” Lilly sniffled to Olivia, her eyes flashing wild a moment as she looked beyond her friend towards where the men had slowly begun to trickle back into view. There she spotted Matthew standing next to Josiah, his face giving her a concerned look as he started to swiftly walk towards her. A smile bloomed on her face as she saw him, her eyes turning to glance at Josiah briefly before moving back to Matthew.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/C7rZbfW.jpg]]Faith moved to Olivia’s side, quietly handing the woman a small dixie cup. Inside was wine from dinner, the foundation of opening one’s mind before the holy nectar was given. Without thinking, Olivia downed it in one gulp, her vision wavering only a minute after as her mind began to swirl. Faith caught Olivia as she fell and gently laid her in the grass off to the side before glancing from Lilly to Diana, hoping Josiah wouldn’t know what had been the catalyst for Lilly’s state of mind.
Faith knew better then to come out right away. Honestly, she was still recovering from what had happened between her and Diana. She was different this time, rougher than usual Her eyes scanned the bruise on her neck and she touched it gently. The skin was very much tender. With a sigh she left to head to her own room to get a bit more made up and take care of getting it covered. When finished she had made her way to Josiah’s room to help with getting him dressed. Seeing Josiah always calmed her down but some part of her felt guilty about what went on in Diana’s bedroom. She was sworn to secrecy of course. What would it look like be for the first wife to do such a thing with her? Though did Diana care for her the same as Faith cared about her?
“Tonight will be grand,” Faith said as she started to grab his robe from the closet. It was already a special nigh considering it was Josias’s birthday, but the wedding ceremony was always exciting. It was a beautiful experience to welcome in new soul willing to give themselves to the Faith. Ember had assimilated so well into their community and she knew would be a good wife for brother Carlisle.
“It will be perfect,” Josiah said as he caught her eye in the mirror. She smiled, straightening out any wrinkles by brushing them.
“It will be perfect,” she repeated with a smile. Josiah had kissed her forehead then.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/3P83ySX.jpg]]
Amber had tried not to show the smirk that played on her face as she watched Diana catch another glimpse at her before storming off. It was not right to be greedy nor gloat and she didn’t want to upset her God. She was very grateful for the chance to give Josiah the child he wanted and rightfully deserved. She knew she couldn’t spend too much time getting ready and it was against their religion to put so much energy into their looks. After fixing her hair, she soon left to join the others and they soon made their way toward the ceremonial field. There were already decorations put up and the guests were arriving.
“Take care of them,” she heard Josiah whisper to Diana, his hand at the small of her back as he kissed her cheek before leaving to join the men. Amber searched for Ember, she had been nice to her and accepted what little information that Amber could provide. Though, brother Carlisle’s first wife did well she was sure in teaching her all she needed to know to be an excellent second wife. She spotted Ember, of course being cooed over considering this being such a special night for her. She was dressed in beautiful sheer gown, a flower crown placed on her head. She remembered her own wedding with Josiah, it was the happiest moment of her life when he placed that ring on her finger. She looked down at it then, smiling brightly.
“Are you enjoying your visit so far?” Amber could overhear Faith asking Olivia and Lilly.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/ZXm5RPh.jpg]] Josiah was busy talking with brother Carlisle about his family. The man was clearly happy that his fight had not gone unnoticed and profusely thanked Josiah for allowing him to be married on his special day. How blessed he was. Matthew had soon joined the men.
“Josiah can I have a moment?” Josiah could tell there was something on his mind.
“Of course.” He turned to Carlisle, “Why don’t you say your final prayer and we will start shortly.” He started to walk with Matthew toward the arch where underneath he would read off the vows. Eventually they would indulge in the nectar in which the night would then end in the finality of the wedding ceremony which would officially make Ember Carlisle’s second wife as decreed by him and God.
“What is it? Are the girls having a good first day?”
‘Oh yes, I think Olivia really likes it here.”
“And Lilly?” They had stopped walking then, Josiah looking to his right to see Lilly and the other women.
“There is a man from her past. He won’t let her go, I didn’t expect Olivia to bring her, but.”
“But you want to help her? To guide her.” Matthew had nodded. It certainly wasn’t the norm for two wives to be married at once, but Josiah had faith in Matthew. He would be a great leader of his house.
“There’s something else. On the drive here she said something to me, something about the Faith. I mean, well I don’t think she knows, but she recited our vows word for word.” Josiah hid his concern well, though he was suspicious. He only smiled larger
‘That is simply a sign then. God is speaking through her Matthew. This was meant to be.” He patted him gently om the back. “Come on, let’s get started.” Soon there was the sound of the horns going off and everyone was taking their places and clearing an aisle for the couple to walk down. Josiah couldn’t help but steal another glance at Lilly though.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/kQvNOmO.jpg]] Olivia twisted in her seat a little to look back at Lilly, checking on her. It was the third time she had done so, but the feeling Randy’s words left in her still caused her to worry for her friend. Matthew had noticed the fretting Olivia was doing and realized two things. Olivia didn’t drink the wine at Josiah’s birthday party and something was off about her constant checking on Lilly.
“Everything alright, Olivia?” Matthew asked as he continued to drive out to the part of the lake where Josiah performed ceremonies. It was also where the Heart stone rested and the scarce alter for marriage bindings.
Olivia sighed and leaned back in her seat. “Do you remember me telling you about Lilly’s awful boyfriend in my letters?”
Matthew vaguely remembered them, but again his focus had solely been on Olivia before she arrived with Lilly in-tow. Now both women had his attention. “Did something happen,” Matthew asked, pushing Olivia further as to not admit he didn’t recall all she had written.
“While I was changing, Randy called demanding to talk to Lils. I’m afraid he plans on following us here to take her back.” Her shoulders slumped and she bit her bottom lip. It was a more submissive gesture, one she didn’t do too often and only when she felt weak. “He’s going to hurt her this time, really hurt her.”
The last was just a whisper, but Matthew had caught it anyway. His heart constricted at thinking someone as fragile as Lilly getting abused by an unworthy man. Sure, the Faith spoke of a woman’s place and a man’s discipline, however women were bore of man and therefore man’s responsibility. In Matthew’s eyes Randy had forfeit his right to be responsible for Lilly long ago.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/q7JNles.jpg]] “Have Faith and hold true for my hand is yours to hold in times of darkness and my strength yours to wield in times of war.” It was a simple scripture of the Faith, one that spoke of a man’s responsibility. It rolled off of Matthew’s tongue instantly as his free hand grasped onto Olivia’s in reassurance.
Suddenly they heard Lilly speak up from the backseat. “Hold fast my hands as I give my heart. Body bare life, soul bare love. From man came woman and from woman came the lord. Hold to the Faith, a man is the head, the woman is the support.”
Matthew froze a moment, his eyes flickering to the review mirror. He recognized what Lilly had said, is was woman’s scripture, a wedding vow of the Faith’s. But what he didn’t understand was how she knew something like that.
“Sorry,” Lilly mumbled, her hazy eyes meeting Matthew’s gaze and noticing his strange look. “I seem to be a bit silly since earlier.” Her eye lids fluttered to half mass and she felt her toes curl again at that warm feeling as Olivia turned in her seat to check on her.
Lilly hadn’t heard them speak about Randy, of course. No she had caught the end of Matthew’s scripture and it reminded her someone she had met once. That person had also said such religious things on numerous occasions. Oddly she had found herself memorizing them, each one giving her a nudging feeling in the back of her mind.
Olivia chuckled. “Lilly has always had a way with poetry. She must have drank too much wine at dinner and not enough food. Don’t mind her, she’ll sober up at the ceremony. And if she doesn’t, Lils is really quiet so I know she won’t interfere.”
Matthew wasn’t worried. Both Olivia and Lilly would be given the scarce nectar and brought into the fold. He also knew at some point he would have to tell Josiah about the scripture Lilly had said while already within the foundation of initiation. He couldn’t understand how she would know something like that, but again he took it as a sign from God. These women were bound to be his and help him establish a family line of his own. He was very thankful to Josiah for encouraging him to become a pen pal to Olivia.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/awUqaS2.jpg]]
Diana slammed the door shut, blocking Amber’s view of Faith. She may have to share Josiah with Amber, but Faith belonged to her to do with what she wished. As Faith couldn’t deny Diana, neither could Amber step on her head just because she was in Josiah’s bed. Amber had no say when it came to the wives, she was the third wife and therefore a lesser wife in Diana’s eyes.
Diana had also been the daughter of the first wife though she and her mother had joined when Diana was older. Her mother had been friends with Josiah’s stepmother and both women taught Diana what it meant to be the first wife, the pressure and pleasure of it. And on top of being the first wife, she had the blessed honor to be Josiah’s wife!
Yet being his wife was terribly painful, the memory of when Faith joined taunting her every time she looked at Amber. Would it be worse than then? Would Josiah forget who has been by his side since the beginning? The pain they had shared all for this mousey girl?
Diana turned then to stare at Amber, a quick look to see if she could guess what the shy woman was thinking. The sight of the girl resting her hand on her stomach with a goofy smile pulling to her face was enough to make Diana feel bile rise up her throat. No, she needed to get away and prepare for the ceremony. With new members and Brother Carlisle’s wedding to his second wife, Diana would have to fall in line and show Josiah that only she could be his equal footing.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/4cYxZeI.jpg]] Brother Carlisle was a determined man. This would be his second attempt at marrying a second wife. Weeks before he had entered the Cage of Truth and showed his dominance to enter this marriage. His performance was so profound, through strength and Faith, the Josiah had even blessed him a marriage on their leader’s very birthday. It was a great honor, only under having a child born on the same day.
His intended second wife was already initiated into the community and had taken to the Faith well. His first wife, Julie, had taken it upon herself to guide the young woman in the ways of a woman’s place. Ember was doing so well, she even interacted with his three year old daughter as though the girl was her own. He was proud of his choice and determined to keep this woman by his side this time.
“It’s almost time for everyone to arrive, Brother Carlisle, and then ceremonies will begin.”
Carlisle looked up to who spoke out to him, smiling. There stood Matthew, Josiah’s second hand man. Behind him were two beautiful young women, both of whom seemed to have taken to holding of Matthew’s hands each.
“It is a wonderfully blessed night, Brother Matthew,” Carlisle spoke out, his eyes moving from one woman to the other, lingering a moment on the woman with dark framed glasses who sported vivid green-blue eyes.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/ZXm5RPh.jpg]] Matthew nodded before leading Lilly and Olivia towards a large wooden carved table where drinks sat lined up waiting to be taken. He explained that when Josiah was ready, everyone would get a cup and they would begin. Then Matthew found Josiah’s wives and left the women in their care while he sought out Josiah.
Faith knew better than to protest. She also knew there was no use. There was no I in team after all and if Diana wanted her, it was her right. There was no sin when it came to the body and sexuality. For once she had found a place, a religion where your sexual behavior wasn’t monitored. It was accepted, though she was the small few that strayed away from the heteronormative. She cried out a little as Diana kissed her, though what would it matter considering Josiah was not paying attention to them. Diana only knew two feelings sometimes: pain and joy and when there was no joy from being with her husband, then there was pain. Sometimes so unbearable that she couldn’t hold onto it. Diana closed her eyes tight, Josiah was gentle and kind, opposite if Diana. Though she figured that came with the pain of having to lend your husband to other women. She gasped at her hands tugging at the thin fabric of her undergarments before bracing through. Diana’s hand gripping her by the wrists. All she could do was lay there before she climbed on top. She couldn’t tell if Diana’s moans were of pleasure or pain, by now it had become hard to distinct between the two.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/3P83ySX.jpg]] Amber was homeless when Josiah found her. She was walking through the aisles of the grocery store, eyes trying to not meet the security officer that had been trailing her for the last fifteen minutes. She’d literally bumped into Josiah, the bag of chips she clutched to her chest falling to the floor.
“I’m sorry,” she said quickly as she bent down to retrieve them, Josiah quicker than her though. Their hands touched and she looked up at him with big doe eyes. She felt like he could see her, really see her. So often she was used to being walked pass on the street as if she were a nobody. With the way her life had been set up, abandoned by her mother at three, she might as well had been. It was a miracle though, to not be seen when in foster care. Though beaten, she thankfully escaped the worst of abuse. Still, it had left her confused in life and she was unsure who to be if she wasn’t told how to act. After missing a night at the shelter, she had lost her spot and for two weeks had been sleeping wherever she could.
Amber had been intimidated by Josiah. He was there with two others from the community, who she would come to know as his wife Diana and a man named brother Carlisle. “Sorry, again.” She said before grabbing the bag and hurrying pass. She was just outside of the grocery store when she felt the strong hand of the guard grip her by the elbow.
“You going to pay for those?” he had asked her. Her mouth made a small ‘o’ and as if God himself had come to her rescue, she heard Josiah’s voice in the distance.
“There you are,” he said. There she was, as if he had been searching for her all his life. It felt that way when Josiah had met Amber. “Sorry officer, she must have lost us in the store.” He reached his hand out for Amber’s and without a second thought she took it, following him back in. Her head was held low and she stayed quiet as she watched him pay for a few items. She wondered what he did for a living, the wad of cash barely held by a gold clip which he had removed and placed back into his pockets. She had looked toward the red haired woman, Diana, who seemed a bit put off by her presence, as though Amber disrupted the balance.
She followed after them as they left the store, heading toward an old beige Toyota. She could see the eyes of passersby on them. Admittedly, they did look a bit out of place now that she thought about it, but somehow she had felt okay. Josiah had invited her for to stay with them, just until she was back on her feet. That was nearly six months ago.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/itqZ8JX.png ]] Josiah grunted in release against Amber’s neck, his muscles flexed as he held onto her tightly. The feeling was still new to her he knew, Amber’s cry always. Surprise. Josiah kissed her neck then, toward her chest and perky rounded mounds before looking up at her. Amber raised her hand to brush back a strand of his hair.
“Be quick to get dressed,” he stated then simply. She nodded before removing herself. She gathered her clothing then, exiting the room to head to the bathroom to rinse off. She paused when Diana came out of her room, her eyes catching sight of Faith in the background, readjusting her dress. Diana slammed the door then and walked pass her. She wanted to make sure the others had done good in cleaning knowing that chores had to be finished if they were going to enjoy themselves at the after party.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/ZXm5RPh.jpg]]Matthew felt uneasy for some reason. He knew right away as they were leaving that Josiah was upset with Amber. He hoped Josiah would forgive her though, not wanting to bring the women back to see a lumbering woman. He personally was upset that Amber had rushed over and spilt a drink on Olivia, and if it had been his place and his guests were accustomed to their group, he would have lashed out accordingly.
He never explained how his faith viewed the place and duties of women to Olivia. When asking for advice from women in the community, they warned him against the more strict statues that are placed once a woman becomes married. Not that he had offered marriage, but it was obvious he planned to if Olivia could find her place in the Faith.
Luckily Josiah was a good leader, a man truly blessed by God. He was their messiah in this dark world and led them to both embrace their primal nature as well as grow in what made them humble servants of the lord. Matthew knew he had to catch up to Josiah, had to prove he was the right pick to be the second hand man, to be Josiah’s first disciple. He could prove it among the men, his strength and conviction keeping his place at Josiah’s side, but the community saw his lack of a wife or wives something keen to weakness.
Matthew was resting his life in Olivia’s hands, though she didn’t know it. He was nearing that age, the age men should have at least two wives let alone one. If he didn’t get married soon, the next grand celebration a year after he would have to pay the price of vow betrayal. All men, at age sixteen vowed by their twenty-sixth birthday they would have brought growth to the community. This didn’t have to be in children, but it did have to be in bloodlines.
Driving the two back to their cabin so Olivia could change, Matthew felt the effects of the wine touch his mind. The drink was a special mix of herbs that allowed the mind to open. Everyone drank it before ceremonies. It wasn’t a strong change of the mind, a mere foundation for what would be served at the ceremony later, but he could see through the review mirror that Lilly was reacting to it a little more so than some. This was a good sign, it met that she was already blessed for her reaction to be heightened.
As Olivia went in to change, Matthew turned in his seat and put a hand on Lilly’s knee, peering into her face. Olivia had told her to stay in the car, forbidding her from going into the cabin to retrieve her phone. He remembered form the letters that Olivia had mentioned Lilly a couple of times, though the young woman hadn’t been his focus when reading them. He recalled that Lilly was chaste, but had a long distance boyfriend that Olivia hated.
[i ‘It doesn’t matter now. You’ll forget about that darkness in your life, I’ll help you.’] Matthew thought, watching as the girl fell back against the seat, her eyes fluttering closed for a moment as her chest rose and fell sucking air into her lungs. She really was this fragile creature that stirred Josiah’s fathers teachings in Matthew. Truly a wonderful surprise to have her there with them.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/kQvNOmO.jpg]] Olivia hurried to change, looking for a warm sweater to put on, her skin chilled as the sun slowly set. The sticky blouse abandoned on the floor as she heard Lilly’s phone ring. “For heaven’s sake,” Olivia grumbled, grabbing the phone and answering it.
“Lilly’s phone-“ Oliva began to say.
“Put Lilly on now, Olivia,” Randy’s cold tone greeted her.
Oliva rolled her eyes. She wasn’t scared of Randy. “She isn’t available at the moment and I don’t really want to take a message.”
“You better make her available, Olivia! This is all your fault. I’ve been calling all day, why isn’t her phone with her? Her mother got a hold of me trying to find her, why didn’t you tell them you were going out of the damn country?!”
Olivia scowled. “I don’t answer to you, Randy – or that overpriced plastic witch who claims to be Lilly’s loving mother. Lilly probably forgot, I sprung this on her suddenly. Now get over yourself, it’s not like you visit her anyway. You won’t have anything to miss for a month.”
She heard Randy break something on the other side of the call, his screaming voice at some poor maid in his father’s house muffled a bit as if his hand was over the receiver. When he came back on, his heavy breathing sent chills along her neck.
“When I figure out exactly where in Sweden you’ve gone with my Lilly, Olivia, there will be hell to pay. And after, I’m going to drag her back here kicking and screaming.”
With that, Randy hung up on Olivia causing her to shutter a little. She may not be afraid of Randy for herself, but for Lilly, for her Randy was very dangerous. As far as Olivia knew, Randy was Lilly’s biggest demon in her life. She would realize later that in truth Randy was just a minor devil and she had brought her best friend to the true king of hell.
Once she was done getting ready, Olivia headed back out to the car. Matthew had turned back to staring out the windshield waiting patiently for her. Lilly’s eyes were open again now, her breathing mellowed out and her previous quick reaction to the now settling drugs in her system entering the second stage of laying the foundation for a different kind of mind altering experience.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/q7JNles.jpg]] Though Lilly didn’t know what transpired between Olivia and Randy – something Olivia had no intention of sharing either – Lilly vaguely remembered Matthew putting his hand on her knee and giving her a gentle almost loving expression. She should be worried, and if she wasn’t altered already, she might have felt badly for Olivia, but the way she was now, she couldn’t help but give a small smile when she saw Matthew give Olivia the same loving expression. A warm sense of home in that moment made her toes curl and her overly tense shoulders to relax as Matthew drove them out to the ceremony location.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/awUqaS2.jpg]] Diana held onto Faith like a lifeline as she sat on her bed, listening to Amber and Josiah. Her nails bit into Faith’s skin and her chest constricted. Was the night before not enough for Josiah? Did he have to take Amber to bed again even with what she did?
Diana hated it all, hated it! She couldn’t accept Amber’s fragile nature and timid face. The girl was a walking perfection to Josiah. Young, sweet, submissive, and capable of bringing his children into the world. Children that should have been in Diana’s womb, which should have been the first wife’s honor to give.
A sob fell from her lips as Amber called out Josiah’s name lovingly. It crushed her, everything did. All she could do was turn to Faith for some form of comfort, even if she was using the woman to substitute for Josiah. Diana felt no guilt in leaving clean up to the lesser women of the community.
They were the wives of their leader, it was their right to leave trash pickup for others. Instead she grabbed hold of Faith’s hair and kissed her harshly as if she could kiss away the pain Josiah was causing her. There would be bruises, but Faith had grown use to covering them up after Diana expressed her pain.
Josiah was glad to know that Olivia and Lily were willing to join them for his ceremony. Though, he could sense some kind of resistance in Olivia. Matthew must’ve known as he gave Josiah an apologetic look. Though, he knew that Olivia was open to their ways of life, save for the sister wife situation which he hadn’t mentioned. He was worried. How would she take it? Would she try to abandon him and embarrass him in front of the others; in front of Josiah? That thought made him nervous and he hoped no one noticed how quick his gulps of the wine had been. As the night wore on, the sun began to set and the children were soon being sent home.
Josiah had wanted children the minute he and Diana had married. Diana had moved with her mother to the commune around the same time as him. She was just a few months shy of being older than him, but they had an eye for one another and when his time as leader came, he did right in marrying her. They’d learned of her inability to carry children after their second miscarriage to which was around the time he brought Faith in. He’d met her on the college campus where they had started sending recruiters. Faith was from Boston and had sought out a chance to travel. When she was awarded a scholarship to fund her study abroad, it almost seemed too good to be true. Now she was happy, at peace with herself, and able to experience things that no one in her family ever had before.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/C7rZbfW.jpg]] She’d given up on her studies, but truly believed that Josiah and the others could teach her more than she could ever imagine in university. She could sense that Diana was unhappy and she knew that it had to do with the new women. It was not right to bring it up though and she would rather not deal with a lashing lecture from her in front of guests. Josiah hated when the women fought. She remembered how angry he had been when they first had their altercation when Faith moved in. Sometimes she thought about the look in his eyes when he had left their bedroom and instructed her to clean Diana up. They’d argued for hours it felt like, Diana begging him to get rid of Faith. Diana had refused to meet her eyes, her cheeks red and swollen and stinging as the tears fell over them.
Faith had tried her hardest to stay in the background. She loved Josiah and she knew her duty as his wife was to make sure he was happy and cared for. Her duty to her sisters was to make their lives easier and so, Faith spent most of her time trying to keep peace in their home, taking on the extra burden when needed. Diana felt special and in times she would make Faith feel special too. Still, faith knew that Diana would never love her the same and she often prayed that her feelings for the woman would never rival those of Josiah.
“Well I hope to see you tonight,” Josiah said. Matthew had noticed his gaze lingering on Lilly. Had she said something that had disturbed him during their time alone? He knew as Josiah’s right hand man how important it was for him to marry. He hoped that he too could live up to what was expected of him as a leader. Matthew had looked toward the women then.
“Guess we should get you back?” He was a bit nervous of course, having not been with a woman since joining. He didn’t want to give Olivia the wrong impression of him, despite the deceit she knew nothing about regarding their correspondence.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/3P83ySX.jpg ]] “It was pleasure meeting you,” Amber said. Josiah had called for her and she knew not to keep him waiting. Faith looked to Diana, who was trying hard not to show her disapproval and busying herself with clearing up. Some part of her was grateful to remain outside and nether part of her truly hoping that Josiah would punish Amber for her clumsiness.
Amber was slow as she walked into the cabin, following Josiah as he whistled a hymn. She was considered his priority as of now as it was important for him to conceive a child; the rightful heir to his throne. No matter how much she wanted to give him child, it wouldn’t cure the nervousness in her as they entered the bedroom. She’d not been taught much when it came to pleasing a man.
He’d closed the door and locked it, Amber taking it as a sign and starting to undo the zipper on the side of her dress.
“Amber, have you been paying attention to your teachings – with Diana?” he asked as he undid his shirt. His back was to her which she was thankful for and yet foolishly she still nodded. It wasn’t until he looked over his shoulder at her did she speak.
“Then you should know not to speak unless I speak first. Correct?”
“Yes, but I mean I.” She paused, trying to collect her thoughts. She had upset him. “it will not happen again. I am truly sorry.” She had walked over to him, her dress now lying on the ground, bare underneath as requested. She had started to help him with removing his pants. He’d made sure they were married just around her ovulation with the hopes it would bring promising results, which meant there was no ‘when I'm in the mood’ moment allowed.
Josiah trapped her shaking hands in his and forced her to look up at him.
“And why is that?” he asked her. His soft voice was calming and she could feel herself relax some as she closed her eyes and rested her head against his chest. He was sparing her.
“For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.”
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Josiah responded.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/kQvNOmO.jpg]] Olivia had been prepared for the religious side of the community. Writing back and forth with Matthew had given her the insight and knowledge that this place was rather off the grid. A sane person may have been weary of going to such a place, but Olivia and Matthew had been pen pals for over two years. They had been each other’s rock in a hard place. Matthew had even given her spiritual advice more than once in regards to her life and the choices she made. His advice was never wrong and something she could simply put to the back of her mind.
In a way Matthew had gotten Olivia to see things a little differently than what any twenty-four year old woman in modern times should be seeing the world. She had never been particularly religious herself, growing up in a one-parent household that relied more on the makings of the American dollar than nurturing the soul. Some could say she had been rather cynical when it came to thoughts of a higher power at work.
Yet Matthew had influenced her over the two years, sending her pictures of smiling faces of women dancing, children living without bullying, and people living their best. Of course she didn’t know every photo had been chosen by a council of men, Josiah at the head. She had no idea her private thoughts were known by the community members in power – that Matthew had often been assisted by one or more of the women in the community on how to write to her.
What she did know, or thought she knew, was that Matthew lived in a community built on a mutual faith and a simpler outlook on life. When he invited her to come, she had been frightful – not wanting to go all the way to Sweden alone. However the urge to meet the man behind all those kind letters drove her to accepting the invitation after a rather rough date gone badly.
She had not seen it coming, but it appeared that fate was on her side when Lilly called her up saying her loft was unlivable for the next month and she needed a place to stay. Jumping at the chance to go on vacation and take her best friend with her, she coaxed Lilly into agreeing. After all, she couldn’t wouldn’t be putting her friend at risk in a community of peaceful hippies.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/q7JNles.jpg]]Lilly, on the other hand, was raised by strict Catholic parents after being left to her father. Though he was a hypocrite, it never took away from his forced Wednesday and Sunday mass. She had never missed a service and still didn’t after moving into her loft. In fact it was at such a gathering she had met Randy through her stepmother.
As Josiah spoke a prayer, perhaps even part of scripture they taught in the community after they had all seated, Lilly thought back to what he had told her moments before. Had he seen her distress in her face, trying to encourage her to see the beauty that lay beneath the filth of the world? She couldn’t fathom the deep meaning of his words, of his seemingly selfless need to reassure her. They were strangers after all.
A woman placed food and a glass of what looked like tea or juice in front of her, giving her a gentle smile before returning to her place at the table. People had begun eating as soon as Josiah had finished and Lilly couldn’t help but stare at the lovely arrangement the food had, like a picture. A ghost of a smile touched her lips as she nudged a tomato like a child around the strange creamy pasta sauce.
Olivia looked up from her own plate when Josiah spoke to her, offering to allow them to stay for a ceremony of some sort. She was slightly skeptical about it – they had just gotten there and this was the first time he was meeting them. She wasn’t sure if he should be offering such a thing until they had interacted a little bit more.
Matthew had said something in her invitation letter that halfway through the month there would be a big celebration they held with friends they met outside the community. He had asked her to come earlier before it though, wanting to get her accustomed to the community without the rush of others. She had thought it sweet of him, and now she felt that Josiah was nudging them a little too soon. She didn’t want to be abrasive, however, it was his birthday after all.
“I don’t mind, but I should really head back to the cabin then so I could change. I think Lilly might be getting tired –“ Olivia had noticed Lilly had stopped touching the food in front of her when Josiah had spoken up. There was a weary expression on her friend’s face she knew all too well. “If Matthew could take us back, I would love to return and attend.”
Lilly’s gaze had dropped back to the plate of food in front of her. The strange childish joy it had inspired a moment ago gone in an instant. She was now thinking of home, well of her parents. She hadn’t really told them anything about coming to Sweden and realized she needed to give them a ring and let them know. She was also sure Randy had no doubt called and left messages on her phone – something Olivia had talked her into leaving at the cabin.
Shoulders drooping, she felt a strange sense of dissatisfaction thinking of what he had to say. No doubt it was going to be a long-winded lecture on her ability to make choices for herself. Reaching forward, Lilly grabbed the glass, her slender fingers holding the thin wine-base tightly as she tilted the contents into her mouth, gulping it down in hopes of chasing away the lump that had started to form.
“It’s alright, Liv,” Lilly said softly, leaning into her friend’s side. “I’ll stay with you.” With that, Lilly smiled at Josiah, though it never reached her eyes, and thanked him silently with a nod.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/3P83ySX.jpg]]Amber sat next to Faith, watching shyly as the two guests Brother Matthew had brought spoke. She noticed the girl she spilt the drink on she had intended to give to Josiah had the same air Diana seemed to possess. The woman was a bit frightening to Amber, but the woman next to her felt like a kindred spirit.
Amber felt as though Brother Matthew was truly touched by the faith, not noticing the way Josiah had directly interacted with Lilly. She, as many of the wives and young women, assumed that both the guests – to have come so early – were without a doubt going to join the community as Brother Matthew’s wives. It was truly a wonderful day to celebrate so many things.
Without realizing it, Amber placed a hand on her stomach. She had finally spent the night with her husband and had high hopes for the first time in her life. Josiah had no children yet, and she knew he adored them, wanted them. She wanted to be the one to give him his heart’s desire the most. He had saved her after all. Time and time again he saved her and now he had chosen her as his. It was her duty to see him happy.
Her eyes found their way to Josiah then, a blush filling her cheeks as she thought about the night before and her desires to give him children. She could never say such things out loud, she was much too timid for that, but she wished she could tell him everything she held in her heart. He was simply too perfect to be real, a child of the lord. He was her Savior.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/awUqaS2.jpg]]Diana, however, was staring at the guests, her eyes slightly narrowed. The community already had plenty of women – and though she knew her duty, knew the right path, she couldn’t help but feel that stagnant hole in her abdomen. Brother Matthew needed to quickly marry in these new soon to be Sisters of the Faith. Only when they danced the ring three times and joined hand in hand in the heart stone with a drop of blood would she feel secure again. Amber was enough to deal with as a new wife who took all of Josiah’s kind heart to help heal her wounds from before.
Josiah could only assume that his intent was to bring Lily and Olivia into their society. Though this was a decision that. Could not be solely made by him. Of course with outsiders, one had to be careful when it came to letting them in. They practices often could be misconstrued when not explained of the importance of them. Josiah had known since his youth that his connection to God was of divine will and he was to lead an army against the evil of the world. They were meant to change the minds of others in order to prevent destruction to human kind.
Josiah had always been raised in a religious home. Though his upbringings may have come off a tad unconventional. He lived with his father, who could barely keep a job but always made sure they had just enough to eat and paid their tithes in church. His mother had died during child birth and Josiah felt that his farther had resented modern technology and those who lost themselves in it for the loss of his wife. He soon came to remarry Adeline, a women he had met at church who too came from Sweden around the same time his father and his family had.
Around the first year of their marriage, his father had started to lose his faith in the church as well, finding their teachings didn’t quite match his own interpretation of the word and what God spoke to him. Upon finding a small group of likeminded individuals, he decided on finally returning back to Sweden to take ownership of the farmland that was left to him and his parents. Josiah was only sixteen around that time and like the other children, pulled form any public schooling and formally taught by the others.
Things didn’t seem to go so well for so long and when Josiah turned twenty, the role of being a leader of the Nation was left to him as his father and stepmother were sent to prison in the case of a missing woman. It had been a big responsibility thrown onto him, but in a way it seemed as though his father had been preparing him for this. Honestly, Diana had been of great help as well.
Josiah could see the way she nervously twirled her hair, her voice just shy of a whisper. She was much more withdrawn than her friend and he could feel how heavy the air around her was, like a thick bubble of despair that could swallow anyone she came near. He knew that look well enough, he’d see it in Amber and she still had trouble with not allowing herself victim to such thoughts.
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” He told her, placing a hand on her shoulder if only for a second as he gave her a smile. He’d led them to a long table, where he took a seat at the head, Diana to his right, Faith to his left and Amber at the far end next to Faith. The others were making their way to their seats then, food already placed on plates and in front of the guests. Josiah waited for everyone to quiet down before he decided to give a small speech.
“I would like to thank you all for coming to celebrate our savior allowing me to see another day. I would also like to introduce guests of brother Matthew, Olivia and Lilly and appreciate you for being here. As always, there is a scripture that befits every moment of our lives.” He made sure to look toward Lily then.
[I “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.] So, with that said, I hope to live long enough to be here to see you hopeful and beautiful people.”
[I Amen]. The others said before they had started to eat.
“There will be a small ceremony after, when night falls if you’re not too tired to attend?” He asked Olivia.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/ZXm5RPh.jpg]] Matthew was slightly curious as to why Josiah would announce Amber was his wife like that, but he didn’t mind it. He hadn’t told Olivia about the ways they lived in the community, that they practiced polygamy according to their faith and laws. He thought it would scare her away before they would ever get to meet in person. If she and Lilly believed Josiah was unavailable at the moment his friend wouldn’t draw them in like the others.
Now that she had arrived, he felt doubly blessed that Lilly had tagged along. Matthew hadn’t taken even a first wife, his hopes on the woman whose written words had played at his heartstrings. That she brought a friend, a beautiful young woman, it was as if fate was on his side. But Lilly was a surprise he had not been able to warn Josiah about. He knew he had to find time to rectify that, and swiftly before anyone else tried to step past the invisible line drawn around the visiting women.
At this time, though, he had to focus on Olivia, her first impression with his community already looking rather sticky so to speak. She no doubt wanted to rush back to their cabin to change and he couldn’t have that. She needed to be there, it was important to associate his guests now on Josiah’s birthday rather than after. By doing so they had a better chance of acceptance.
Matthew was thankful in that aspect of Diana’s presence. She offered a way in keeping the two women at the party and gave the women an impression of the others so that they could determine themselves on how to interact. Though the faith taught the right way in communicating, sharing, and giving freely, outsiders first had to remove the stain of their old lives and the demons that pestered them.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/kQvNOmO.jpg]]Olivia, however, hadn’t missed the interactions, her eyes glinting with a keen sense of detecting female rivalry. The woman who had walked up on them was different than the one before. The other had been young, brunette, and submissive in terms of personality. The auburn-haired woman on the other hand put authority in her voice, held her head high and stared at them as though they were interfering with her life work at the moment.
When she called for the boy by name, Olivia raised an eyebrow wondering if this woman was his mother. She surely acted as though she was, patting him on the backside and sending him on his way. Olivia’s eyes flickered to Lilly, standing lost once more as though she were on the outside looking in at them all. The boy had made her smile and Diana had taken him away quick enough.
When Diana offered to wash her shirt, Olivia was a little thankful for it. However they were guests and the day was already entering a darker sky. Or it should have been, but for some reason it was still rather bright out. Jet lag was going to wear on her inner time schedule.
Luckily Josiah stepped in, as though he knew how to handle the awkward situation. Offering food and rest so that there wasn’t a large disturbance.
Matthew was quick to lead Olivia towards a place to sit, he had even glanced back towards Lilly as if to offer her his other hand but saw Josiah step into place with her as they walked. She was still an unknown, Matthew understood. He had no letters between them for Josiah to read over and make a verdict on her presence in the community.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/q7JNles.jpg]]
Lilly stroked the top of the little boy’s head, watching as the loud cries became sniffles and then sniffles became a tooth gapped smile. She barely even noticed the arrival of a different woman or the words from Josiah as she did what she could to make the little one calm down. Her attention was so directed, one could almost think she had forgotten she was in a stranger’s yard half way across the world from home.
Lilly had watched Carter swiftly return to the other children after Diana had come. With his smiling face gone, that sadness bubbled in that invisible pit behind her navel. It threatened to crawl up her throat and would have if she wasn’t distracted. The man she barely registered before had fallen into step with her, his voice penetrating the rattling of her mind.
Was she good with children? She had never thought of it before. She just knew that children were innocent fragile beings. They deserved care and love, they deserved patience. She hadn’t gotten any of those things and when she saw a child in distress she instinctively reached out to make it better.
“Maybe,” she said in a soft shy voice, her hand reaching to knot the ends of her hair, nervous. “Children are innocent of the darkness that consumes the adult mind.”
It was a strange thing to say, she knew, but it was something she had read once on a child’s tombstone and it never left her. She resonated with it, unknowingly.
Briefly her gaze flickered to Josiah’s face, the dark circles under her eyes and pallor of her skin unable to take away from the dimming flickering light in her eyes.
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