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A Touch Of Lust

By:Michelle Horst

go back to Mom's house that it makes me feel emotional and exhausted. My stomach is burning from all the tension.

Once we're standing in the sparsely furnished living room, I rub the back of my neck.

"You okay?" I ask Rosie.

She drops her chin to her chest and her shoulders droop. She refuses to make eye contact with me.

"I … " She swallows hard and then just shakes her head. "I just want to be alone for a while. I'm going to go for a walk."

Mark comes into the house with Mom following right behind him. His eyes burn over me and then he looks at Rosie with the same sharp look.

"You're a disgrace to the brotherhood. By refusing us, you have proclaimed yourself as a sinner before all. You're to leave the property. You're banned."

Anger flares hot through me. We'll walk home if we have to, but I'm tired of these people's crazy ways.

"That's just fine by me!" I shout back at Mark. "Come on, Rosie."

As we start to head to the door, Mark says, "Only you, Liam. As a daughter of the brotherhood, Rosie stays. She'll be married to Brother Scott tomorrow and won't be my problem any longer. As a sinner, you are not to have any contact with her or your mother. They are no longer your family. It's a choice you made when you chose the ways of the outside."

My mouth drops open and for a stupid moment, I just stare at the man.

Rosie's face pales and her eyes well with tears. Fear and hopelessness make her look even younger and more vulnerable than ever.

"I won't! I'd rather die a thousand deaths before I let that old man touch me!" Rosie shouts before she takes off running out the front door.

I stare Mark down as I hiss, "Over my dead body will I leave my baby sister here. You're all sick. She's a minor. A little girl! I'm taking my sister and we're leaving. My dad won't let you get away with this." Even as I say the words, I know there's nothing Dad can do. The cult pays the law officials to turn a blind eye to what's happening here.

I rush out the door to go after Rosie, but I'm stopped dead in my tracks by all the men gathered in front of the house.

Damn, it's the holy squad - a bunch of men that act as security for the cult.

One of the men steps right up to me and shoves hard at my chest. I take a few stumbling steps back and try to look for a way around them. I don't have time to fight my way out of this mess. I have to get to Rosie. The nervous tension I've been feeling all night long starts to ache, making my stomach feel like nothing more than a hard lump of coal.

The man that shoved me sneers, "Leave our holy ground, sinner."

"I'll leave as soon as I have my sister," I growl. I will not leave without Rosie.

"You have no family here!" Mark says from the doorway and I can see Mom cowering behind him.

"You're going to let them do this? You're our mother! You're supposed to protect us," I shout at Mom. I can't believe this is the same woman who read us bedtime stories when we were toddlers.

Mark moves to the side so I can clearly see Mom.

She rubs her hands nervously together and her eyes drop shamefully to the ground. Whether it's shame for failing her children or shame because we refuse to join her crazy cult, I'll never know.

"Why couldn't you accept the ways of the brotherhood? You're breaking my heart by shunning us," she whispers submissively.

Her words hit hard. She actually blames me?

I shake my head, not sure how to process any of this. The lump of coal in my stomach sinks into my bones, making my whole body feel heavy with disappointment and frustration.

The holy squad moves in on me and I dart to the side so I can try and pass them. One of them grabs at my arm and I blindly swing a punch at him. My fist slams into the side of his face, and in that moment, I'm thankful for all the garden work I was forced to do. It helped me build muscle. I manage to yank free just as a scream echoes over the property.

Everyone freezes and a wave of shock ripples over my body. What the hell was that? I start to run in the direction the scream came from. Fear starts to claw its way up my legs, making every step feel heavy.

The church comes into view. People are rushing into the building and I quickly follow. I hope Rosie is here so I can just take her and leave this fucked up place.

As I near the front doors to the huge, white building, I hear a little girl's hysterical crying, but I know it's not Rosie's. Rosie has always been a silent crier.

I rush inside, wanting to see if Rosie is here. I need to get her out of here.

"Come down, daughter," Elijah says, and for the first time I hear panic in his voice. "Don't damn your soul with this vile act."

I look up and my blood instantly runs cold. My heartbeat slows down until I feel every heavy pound against my ribs.

Then the hurt comes. It's filled with devastation and it slams into me with the force of a thousand blows.

A raw cry tears from my throat, and my body moves on its own, because my mind is in too much shock to think clearly.

Rosie's body is still swaying but no one is making an effort to help her, to try and save her. They are all focused on the remaining girl still standing with the rope around her neck. There's another girl hanging next to Rosie, but I'm too focused on my sister to care about the others.

I grab Rosie's legs and push her body up in an attempt to stop the rope from strangling her. Another raw cry is torn from somewhere deep inside me.

"Rosie! I've got you. Hold on. I'll get you down." I push her body higher and that's when the first wave of desperation slams into my gut. It makes despair rip through my sanity until it feels as if all hope is lost.

The light dims around me. Darkness creeps in along the edges of my vision. Sorrow fills every crevice of my body.

"Help me!" I scream at the people around us. "Someone cut the rope! Don't just fucking stand there! Help me!"