Victory's Secret: Chapter Two

Rachael Tamayo
Cynthia Austin


I was supposed to have been spending the last three months preparing a special location where we are to have one night alone before being thrust together into the family home where there are three of us until Victory is with child.  Instead, I prepared to bring her to the home of my youth. The home that normally would have been surrendered to the council. Instead, I retain my home with special permissions of the director. I walk side by side with her, the woman I never thought would be my bride. Her normally unruly red curls pulled into a neat bun beneath a short veil that matches the simple linen wedding gown adorned only with the freshwater pearls around her neck. She doesn’t need more than that. She’s beautiful.
She stops and turns bright, nervous brown eyes on me when I open the door to my truck. I washed it, did a special detail job on the inside and everything. Coming to and from construction sites, my truck is usually full of dirt and paperwork, and more often than not, I sit in it and eat my lunch. Now, it’s as clean as any brand new truck. I hold my breath as she peers inside, then glances over at me with a small smile as she reaches for the handle. I help her up and shut the door. What will she think when she sees my motorcycle?
Excitement flashes through my veins like lightning. I’ve never understood how I can feel this way for a woman I’ve never even talked to, but here I am. Most of us don’t believe in love now, not really. Too many go a lifetime without ever finding it. My parents used to tell me that many years ago, the stars chose your lovers. They called it fate. Now the stars have burned out and left puffs of black smoke in the sky. Our destiny is now planned by the Council.
There’s no point in fighting it. Not when everything can be taken away in a moment. Not when you can be killed.
The Brotherhood dictates we are a family, one complete, happy unit. But the whispers you hear when no one is listening tell another story. While our laws dictate a woman’s life, there are no such laws to ensure protections. There aren’t consequences for abuse some women endure, because The Brotherhood, in all its wisdom, turns a blind eye, as long as they can still bear children. And as long as a male can impregnate a female, he can do no wrong. I clear my throat.
“So, tell me about yourself.” She says as I drive. Her voice trembles softly, but also holds the façade of a happy, lilting tone to disquiet her fear.
“Well, you know my name,” I begin. I grip the steering wheel. “Um… I’m a contractor. I build homes and barns and all kinds of stuff. In the cold months when there is no building, I do the handy-man thing, so I’m employed year-round.”  I sneak a look at her. She’s biting her bottom lip. It’s a cute nervous tic. My heart races. “I build furniture too,” I add quickly. “I’ve lived alone since I was eighteen. I have a dog named Duke.”
“That’s it?”
I nod. “I’m a simple guy.”
She’ll never know what I really do. Nobody does.
“What about your family? Why are you living alone?” 
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice how she keeps smoothing invisible wrinkles in the bright, white dress.
“My parents died in a crash when I was eighteen. I have family out of state, but my home is here.”
At the light, I turn my head and note her reaction. Our eyes meet in the span of a second and my heart thunders so loudly in my ears I’m sure she can hear it, so I turn away and grip the wheel.
“Oh, that’s so sad. You didn’t mind living alone?”
“I have plenty of work to keep me busy.”
And now, there’s her. Ironic, really. In my line of work, alone is best. But here I am, no one can escape the long, gnarled arm of The Brotherhood. I reach for my pack of cigarettes on the dash, but the disapproving look from my new wife causes me to hesitate. I sit back and continue driving. I’ve been meaning to quit; I suppose now is as good a time as any.
“I suppose so.” She mutters.
“And you?”
“Me?” Her voice tells me the question surprises her, which pisses me off, leads me to think William, the other husband, never asked her about herself, never bothered to try to get to know her yesterday.
“Of course, you. I want to know you.” 
“You do?”
I don’t elaborate. I can’t. I can’t possibly tell her I’ve been watching her for years. That I know she walks to the library every Thursday afternoon to read to Mrs. Applegate, who is an invalid. Or how she leaves the library and then goes to Mr. Barrister’s home to help feed his animals. I can’t tell her any of this; she’ll think I’m crazy.
Maybe I am, but I can’t stop myself.
Since I first laid my eyes on her, I wanted to know more. Something about her drew me in. There’s a gravity about her, at least where I’m concerned. I’ve spent years torturing myself with a woman I was so sure would never be mine. Now, she is.
Well, partly.
It kills me that I can’t tell her half the stuff I want to say, or ever be completely open and honest. It must always remain a secret. Hidden. My own personal burden to bear. Because if she discovers what I am, she will certainly hate me.

He listens in stone silence; my life story pours out of me while he drives. Liam turns onto a dirt road and drives for what seems like ages before we turn again. My heart thunders in my chest, and I hear myself babbling but can’t think about what I’m saying.
There’s a duality to him that pulls me in. He’s so stunningly attractive yet seems so cold. Hardly a smile and still, the way he looks at me... My mind goes blank with each steely gaze.
We turn into a driveway. It’s long, and in the distance sits a modest-sized farmhouse on acres that at one time may have been cropland but are now forested.
Interesting. He’s not a farmer, he told me as much. But the home is lovely, painted white with happy yellow shutters and a manicured yard with pink roses surrounding the porch. His basset hound sits fat and happy on the porch with his tongue hanging out in a slow, lazy pant.
Liam shuts off the truck and it dawns on me that he’s brought me home. To his home. I press my lips together. I’m sure my forehead is creased with wrinkles. He’s not supposed to do that. His home should’ve been turned over to The Council. The husbands are to create a new place to bed their new wife. Most go to hotels. Or rent a place. Certainly not home.
“You’ve brought me to your house?” I stutter.
He sits back, pulling the keys and holding them in his hand. He’s so physically big, he takes up nearly all the space in the cab. His cologne permeates everything in this truck, and it smells musky and delicious.
“I have special permission.” He looks me directly in the eyes, creating that heavy sense of anticipation. The words are matter of fact, no hint at elaboration. It’s as if I should just accept it and leave it at that. I don’t want to, but I gulp, swallowing my lingering curiosity.
Special permission? I’ve never heard of that. The Brotherhood doesn’t bend the laws. Not for anyone.
“The home is still yours?” I bite my lip after asking. I’m not supposed to question things like this. Not supposed to question my husband, but I can’t help it. A panic flits through my head. I should’ve just commented on the shutters or something.
“I’m sorry it’s not fancy or anything. If you want to go somewhere else…”
I surprise myself and graze my fingers across the top of his hand. My touch draws his eye, first to my hand, then to my face. My heart skips two beats.
“No, it’s… it’s perfect. I really think it’s lovely. Please, let’s stay.” 
His hard stare grows soft before he looks away, toward the house. I don’t know where the home is that The Brotherhood chose for our trio, but it won’t be like this. It won’t be this... perfect. It’s the kind of place I dreamed of all my life. The kind of home I’ll never have; a pretty little country home that I could live forever in, happily.
In the yard the dog comes waddling up to us, sniffing my feet and wiggling his happy butt at me.
“Victory, this is Duke.” 
“He doesn’t run away when you leave him outside?” 
“No, there’s nowhere to go, even if he wasn’t the laziest dog ever, eh Duke?”  Liam laughs for the first time all day. The sound makes me smile.
“Will he come to live with us?”
“Yes, I already told William about him. Do you mind?” 
Do I mind? I blanch. He’s asking me? In our society, women have no say in the run of the house. The men run the home. We follow.
Until one of them fathers the firstborn, the men will decide together. It isn’t until the firstborn comes that everything will change. Well, except the fact that I will never have any say. In anything. You would think women would be more revered in a place where they possess the sole ability to birth new life into a long-dead nation. But no, we are given only two choices; to create life or die. There is no room for anything else.
But my rights are of little concern to me right now, because when they discover I’m not able to reproduce, The Brotherhood’s men will come for me. No one talks about it, no one says what happens, but somehow everyone knows.
I swallow that down and hope it will work itself out, maybe these men will grow to love me, and the lack of children won’t matter. Maybe I won’t be reported.
Yeah, right.
And maybe I'll become the high grand poohbah of The Brotherhood. Even if my husbands didn’t report me, someone would. Hope is futile. My future is pretty certain.
“Do I mind?” I ask, repeating the question as if I couldn’t have possibly heard it correctly.
He smiles at me. “Of course. What you want matters to me.” 
Warmth spreads across my chest. “Oh, well… no, I don’t mind. I love animals.” 
The inside of the house is immaculate. He opens the plain, white curtains, letting light into the small space. There is a black couch with matching chairs in the front room, everything else is wood. It is gorgeously carved and looks like it was done by hand. Fresh flowers sit in the center of a maple table with ornate carvings all around the edge. I sit in a chair and touch the table, tracing the curve of the wood.
“This is stunning, where did you get this?”
“I made it.”
I look up suddenly. I don’t know why, but I’m shocked. I find him watching me with a dark intensity that sends a chill down my back.
“It’s amazing.”
He holds my gaze steady. “Thank you. Um, your bag arrived yesterday, do you want to unpack or…” He leaves the question hanging.
“You didn’t unpack it?” 
 He frowns at me. “Why would I do that? It’s not my stuff.”
“Oh, well I just assumed because William had gone through my bag when I got there.”
He frowns and runs his hand through his hair, leaving soft dark curls going every which way. “Victory, don’t compare me to him. Don’t assume I’ll do something just because he does, okay?”
His tone is harsh, and his eyes are hard as stone. An alarm blares in my head, telling me I’ve upset him, and I remember my mom’s words when she sat me down to prepare me to be a wife.
I stand up and walk to him. Only a breath away, I feel my lungs catch when his angry eyes dissolve into something sultry as he looks down on me. “Liam, please don’t be angry with me. I didn’t know. I’m sorry.” 
I put my hand on his chest and feel his heart beating hard and fast. He glances down at me. “I’m not mad at you.”
“But you are mad?”
“At whom?”
He can’t be mad at William, can he? The husbands are supposed to reach an agreement before the wedding ever starts. Both men are to look at their wife as a vessel to deliver babies only. Jealousy and anger are not supposed to happen.
“It doesn't matter. Go unpack, I’ll make us some lunch.”
I nod, heading in the direction he points, bewildered. Nothing about Liam is what I had expected. He’s not like the others. He respects my space, my opinions. I shake my head. Maybe he’s just trying to be nice.