The rhythmic cry of the clock sounded raucous, firing a string of protests in between short pauses, stirring the quietness of the room her body was desperately trying to settle in. But failing miserably and her mind was far from it.
Frightful notions about her situation she was forced into hovering over her head like pillows of ominous dark clouds before the storm broke out and drenched her from head to toe.
Eeva was trying to coax herself to calm down before her mind blown into a full-on crazy mode but the problem was there was nothing to console herself with of her pitiful situation.
It was not unusual in their world for girls around her age to marry off to a complete stranger but somehow, in her case, it was entirely different. Rather unexpected. Still, where her father was concerned, everything was possible. He was not the one to pass away any golden opportunities, always sticking out his neck in the hope to earn a seat and share the same meal with the high ranking members of his father’s organization.
And in this case, Eeva was that goose that laid the golden egg.
The night before her wedding, her mother had come into her room after dinner and asked her to sit on the ground as she settled herself down on the couch. For extended minutes, no one had spoken. A thick, heavy silence had stretched between them as her mother was massaging oil in her unruly locks. After her mother had secured the braid with a hair tie, then only she placed her hands on her daughter’s shoulders and spoke tenderly.
“You must be afraid, Eeva, but this is how marriage works in our world rule by allies and enemies. There is no space for love. There is no space for emotions and pity. We — the daughters, sisters and wives of the men in our world— have to be strong enough to swallow down whatever is thrown at our way. Our strength never determines by the bullet we fire and the blood with we wash our hands. Our strength lies within ourselves to survive each day with a smile on our face. You’re not the first girl. And definitely, you will not be the last.”
Her mother had paused briefly, certainly deciding how to pick her next words, then she spoke again with renewed intensity in her voice, “The first night will be difficult... a little uneasy. You will feel a fraction of pain but it can be pleasurable if you don’t resist. Persuade your husband to be gentle.” Her mother murmured softly then her words took on a harsher tone, “Make him listen to you. Shower him with your tender words and loving touches, Eeva. Make him listen.”
Her mother sighed. “Eventually, you will get used to your husband. Everybody does after a while. And somehow, you will develop feelings towards him. Maybe it will never be love. A sense of security. Protection. But it will be enough for your nights to pass by, safe and sound in his home. Away from the danger that comes with this life” Her words seemed genuine as if her mother believed those words and almost living her life through it.
Maybe. Eeva didn’t know and before she had got the chance to ask her mother, she squeezed her shoulders and left the room without another word. But Eeva had felt her mother’s hands were a little shaky and her gaits were a little hasty than usual as if her mother wanted to get away from her without lingering another minute in her presence.
Eeva was stunned and shocked. Her mother rarely flaunted her gentle side. Always strict and devoted to her duties. But she had spilled the truth without actually intended to and the rare flash of honesty her mother admitted, made Eeva realised the harsh reality her mother’s situation she was condemned into.
The sleep didn’t come easily that night. Eeva tossed and turned over her bed and when she had enough, she just laid over her bed staring at nothing but darkness. Her mind went on a rampage, spinning over everything that had been happening so fast all around her since the last week that she wasn’t allowed to take a breath alone.
The sudden news of her marriage — though Eeva begged at first that she wanted to continue her schooling. But the choice was never hers to take. When Eeva showed defiance, her father slapped her hard across her face and locked her in her room the whole day without food and zero human interaction. Took away her phone and laptop, cutting away the outside world. Still, Eeva didn’t stumble over the firmness of her decision. She cried until her eyes resisted and her screams sucked out by the pillows turned to rasp breath.
When her father warned her if she stayed adamant in her decision, he could lock her up till the day of her marriage but nothing could change his decision. And he didn’t want to do that to her during the last few days of her stay in her home. But he will if she forced him to. It was the last straw.
Eeva realised nothing could stir her father’s decision so she suppressed her sentiments and did what was expected from her to make everything less hard on her and acceptable for her family — frequent rounds to the boutiques, salons and everything done to her to polish her from head to toe until she shined to perfection.
Eeva had seen girls of her age gave away to another crime family for maintaining peace and stop the bloody war. No one had been saved before. Now, why she would be treated differently? She was no different.
Just like them. Another fish in the same bowl.
Dolled in pretty dresses, attending rich parties and to behave. Learning to never argue and be compliant how a proper woman should be. Raising to take care of her husband and children.
Those reiterating words of her father always left a bitter taste in her mouth. Sometimes, she remained quiet. Other times a split lip made her silent.
When Eeva felt groggy and exhausted from lack of sleep, the sun had already risen up and filtered through the drapes into her room. The morning hours passed by in a rush with hours of prepping, stressing and other arrangements and before she knew it, her father was escorting her down the aisle.
Eeva was curious to have a glimpse of her soon-to-be husband. She had always been a curious child and that led her into a lot of trouble from her younger age and it never boded well with her father. She couldn’t even count on her fingers how many times her father had raised his hand over her for her smart mouth.
Eeva couldn’t ask outright about the man asked for her hand in marriage when she had opposed to the idea and shown zero interest in the marriage. Still, it spiked her curiosity nonetheless. She could only hope he was a good man as good as a made man can be.
She looked up without further prodding from her inner struggle and peeked through the sheer veil at her soon-to-be husband. The tension humming through her body sizzled and stuck in her gut like a thunderbolt. Fear clenched around her chest, twisted and turned into a dreadful panic.
Her silken bodycon gown felt tighter and her breathing hitched a little.
A man probably in his late forties waiting for her at the end of the aisle. He was tall, a good few inches above six foot. His crisp white shirt tucked over his grey slacks accentuating his lean muscles. He held himself with an air of confidence and arrogance. His dark, greasy hair was slicked back from his broad forehead, making his facial features more prominent and sharp. He cocked an eyebrow, assessing her with an unyielding look like a lion sizing a gazelle before pouncing on it.
Whatever he found, he looked somewhat pleased to let the ceremony continue without any interruptions. Surely, he looked like a man with power fisted in his hands and bent to no one’s will.
Eeva froze as if her legs seemed to have a mind of their own. She didn’t have the strength to cross the remaining distance keeping them apart. If possible she wanted to run away as far as possible, straining their fates so that the gap could never be bridged.
Eeva looked over her father but his calm expression threw her off guard. She was shocked beyond words.
She wanted to ask her father, why? She wanted to scream at him and beg him to tell her why he was marrying her off to a man who could possibly be her father’s age so then at least she could rationalise his unjustifiable action. But her father said nothing and she couldn’t let out a word past her lips. Her father had taught her well. His past lessons were effective, not letting her stand her ground whenever she disagreed and question her father at every chance she got. And definitely not in the presence of outsiders.
Suddenly, her head started to spin, making her dizzy. Maybe due to lack of food in her stomach or her brain just grasped the situation her family thrust her into.
Her father must have sensed her reluctance and her silent protest. And when he leaned down his head toward her and spoke softly, his voice said it all that he didn’t appreciate a bit.
“You have always tried your best to be the daughter that I will accept with my open arms. But despite your efforts, you have failed me on numerous occasions. Now, is your chance to prove me one last time. Be my good girl today, Eeva. That’s all I’m asking.”
Eeva had tried her whole life to be a good daughter. His good girl. His father would be proud of and embraced in his approval. But there was always a hint of criticism in his eyes and she was determined to clear that haze of doubt from his mind. Scoring good marks in her exams, accompanied her parents in various events and behaved accordingly but it was not enough. Never enough.
If it would be another situation, she would slide her hand away from his hold and lurch forward to hug him. She had waited to hear those words from his mouth throughout her entire life and now that he finally said it, Eeva felt nothing. Her previous struggles didn’t evaporate, only replaced by profound numbness.
Her father forced her down the last few steps when he discerned her hesitation restraining her to move ahead. He clutched her hand in his tight grip and tugged her forward. The fight had left her bones and her mind was floating between despair and deadening all she could do follow his father blindly.
His father lifted the veil and stared down at her in displeasure, noticing the fresh tears spilling out of her eyes, smearing her makeup, leaving a wet trail down her cheeks. He shook his head in annoyance, brushing away her tears with his fingertips before planting a kiss on her forehead.
“Smile. It makes you look pretty.”
If anyone witnessed their interactions, nothing would seem out of ordinary. A bride was simply crying at her wedding because she had to leave her family behind and start a new life in a new place. The attendees had seen enough of this drama and somehow this considered to be good luck for the bride. But Eeva knew no luck could prevent her from sinking into the pit, she was already falling in. And she doubted there would be any help if they find out the real reason why her eyes red-rimmed. All they could do was nothing besides feeling pity for the young bride.
When the priest announced us, husband and wife, the man didn’t waste a second before wrapped his sinewy arm around her waist and pulled her towards him. Eeva shut her eyes and her palms instinctively raised to push against his chest. But her husband mistook her protest for some closeness and his approving grunt told her how much he appreciated her willingness.
Her husband eagerly imprisoned her palm under his hand and kissed her greedily, poking his tongue at her closed mouth for entrance. Eeva fought a little before she gave away her control under his persistent, thinking if she surrendered to his demands it will end soon. And luckily, it did.
Her husband abruptly stopped and pulled away, no longer engaging with her as if he got what he wanted, imposing his claim over her. And to let her know who held the power over her body and control her decisions. Her husband no longer seemed interested in her, to linger longer than his need. But his sharp gaze spoke it all, vowing there would be more to come later. And for her more to endure.
Her throat felt constricted and her tongue felt heavy when the vows were exchanged, binding her to her husband.
Once you are married in this life.
You will stay married until your sins wash away with your blood.