It was a beautiful clear morning and a sweet scent of mountain pine lingered in the air. The cool crisp spring had not given way to the warmth of summer and a light fog hovered over the damp grass outside her door. He lingered just outside the door, slightly cracked open. “You shouldn’t be here”, she whispered. I had to see you”, he replied, “its cold outside, can I come in?” “You should go”, she insisted, “What if my father sees you?”
Her father had always been short tempered, but she had never seen him in a state of rage as he was this morning. She heard him coming, stomping down the hallway in his heavy work boots. From the corner of her eye she saw him, his rifle in hand. His face, hot and red with anger. Pushing her aside he lifted the gun to the young man’s head. He yelled, thunder in his voice, “You get the hell away from my daughter, and stay away”. The boy stumbled, and then ran. Not looking back.
She stood in the doorway watching him disappear from her life. Her long auburn hair and tall thin figure silhouetted against the morning sun. Tears rolling down her face. “How could you do this to me?” she cried, looking up at her father. She turned, and walked silently down the hallway to her bedroom, closing the door gently behind her. A slamming door would only enrage him further. But walls could not hide the grief and anger. She lay on her bed sobbing, in the way that only a young girl with a breaking heart can. Using her pillow to stifle the sounds. Her heart screaming out to be heard.
She would be married in a few hours in an unceremonious ceremony. A plain white dress, borrowed from church storage. No frills, no lace. The long straight dress covering her ankles, her wrists, her décolleté. A woman’s body a sacred place, never to be seen or touched before her wedding night. Her bouquet would be one of fresh wildflowers, picked from the forest floor near her home. Soft hues of yellow, white and lavender, held together with a strip of lace found in her mother’s sewing box.
Her husband-to-be was twice her age and nothing to look at. In fact, he was one of the most unattractive men in that small community nestled quietly in the hills. He came from the right family, one any woman would want to be a part of. She should consider herself lucky he had agreed to take her. She had been given to him by her parents, as was custom. And she, simple and obliging, would do as she was told. She would grow to love him, she had heard. But how could she? Her heart ached for the arms of another. A love that could never be.
She had always known she would share her husband. There was never a doubt in that. But not this man, not this way. His first wife would get everything. His name, his possessions and his public life. She would get nothing but the baby growing in her belly and the shame of a bastard child. Such would be her life as a plural wife.
A different kind of shotgun wedding.