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A Touch Of Lust

By:Michelle Horst

and it's sickening.

"Just one more week," I whisper as I hold Rosie closer to my side. It's my duty to keep her safe.

I take a deep breath and then I turn to Dad. "Seven days."

His sad eyes meet mine and I see the tears shimmer in them. It's hard for him to let us go. This is so unfair.

"I'll see you both in seven days."

I'm sitting in front of the bathroom while Rosie is taking a quick bath.

I stare at the watermarks on the ceiling, dreading the dance we have to go to.

The door to the bathroom opens and Rosie comes out. She's dressed in the stupid blue dress. Her lips are blue from the cold and it makes anger explode in my chest.

I quickly get up and take hold of her, hugging her tightly to my chest. I rub her back, trying to get some warmth into her body.

The women aren't allowed any luxuries. No hot water, nothing that can be seen as a comfort.

They have to be punished in this life so they may enter heaven's gates. It's stupid, and these people are all crazy for believing that crap.

"Let's go," Mark snaps. I've never seen the man smile, and he especially looks upset every time he has to look at me. I'm the son of an outsider and that has to be a thorn in his side.

Mom is Mark's fifth wife. I still don't understand how Mom could give up being Dad's only wife just to become one of many to a man who doesn't seem to care much about her.

Because Mom hasn't given any children to Mark, she's been given the smallest house. It's only got one bedroom. Rosie and I sleep on the floor in the living room when we come over. There's just one couch and we can't both fit on it. That's also the reason we have to work all day long. We have to pay for the food we eat. Rosie works in the kitchen from six in the morning until nine at night, tending to whoever might need something, unless she's at the church repenting.

I, on the other hand, make sure to take my time weeding and cutting grass. If I finish early, they'll just give me more work. I have to carry all the trash to the big dumpster by the gate on a daily basis and then clean the ones located all over the property.

I take comfort in the fact that Rosie isn't alone during the day. Most of the young girls work in the kitchen. They have to all learn how to be the perfect wife so they can be a blessing to their future husbands.

I don't know any of the other kids. The girls are taught to view boys as snakes until the day of their marriage. I'm just glad that Rosie isn't alone during the day.

Mark never arrives at a dance or a service with one of his wives, unless there's a reason.

I scowl at him as he leers at Rosie.

I make sure to take Rosie's hand and pull her shivering body behind mine.

As we walk out of the house, Mom falls into step behind Mark.

I take in the slender frame of Mom and once again wonder where it all went so horribly wrong. There's nothing left of the Mom I grew up loving and that's so sad. I can't even mourn her because she's still alive.

As we near the hall where the dance is being held, Mark stops to greet Allen. They call each other brothers and sisters – one huge fucked up family.

They both look at Rosie and it makes me walk faster.

We walk into the hall and I keep going until we reach the far corner, away from the tables where the food and drinks are.

"I'm scared," Rosie whispers as she comes to stand half behind me. We both know what's coming. They're going to try and court Rosie tonight. Things are going to get ugly. I can just feel it in my gut.

"Just stay with me," I tell her. I scowl at every person who dares to look in our direction so they'll know to not even try.

It's going to be a long night and I'm already tired.

The music starts and I watch as old men dance with little girls. Everything about it is wrong and it makes me feel sick. I swallow down the hatred that's making my breaths come hard and fast. Every muscle in my body is wound tight.

The first dance comes to an end and I watch with overwhelming disgust as an old man grins greedily at the little girl standing closest to us. She looks to be a few years younger than Rosie. I'm sure it's one of the girls that work at the kitchen with Rosie.

The old man takes the little girl's arm and pulls her into a dancing stance. She smiles with quivering lips and dances with the old man. She has no choice – none of them do.

When the song ends, the old man lets go of the little girl, and then he looks in our direction. I grind my teeth, challenging him with a dark look.

The leader of the cult, Prophet Elijah, comes into the hall and everybody smiles as they watch him with reverence. I can't believe he's fooled so many people.

Mark comes to stand near us and he gives me a disapproving look. He can go to hell, for all I care.

I'm surprised when Elijah comes over to us. He holds his hand out to me and patiently waits for me to take it. The others see it as a great honor to talk with Elijah, but not me.

"Brother Liam, how are you?"

I ignore his hand and grind out, "I'm not your brother."

Elijah nods and then he watches me with a somber look.

"You would've made a fine contribution to the brotherhood. You're a hard worker. It's such a pity."

I just snort in contempt.

Elijah gives me a sharp look that means nothing good for me. He walks over to the small podium and clears his throat. It's all it takes for everyone to keep quiet. I'm just glad he's done talking with me.

He starts to drone on and on about the importance of the brotherhood and then his eyes fall on Rosie and he says, "It's an honor for a woman to be chosen by a brother. By being a sweet and dutiful wife, she is a blessing to her family."

I pull Rosie totally behind me and almost growl at Elijah. His mind tricks won't work on us.

I just keep scowling at everyone and praying that the night will come to an end. I'm so relieved when we get to