Chapter 4

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    At 7:15, I am walking down the creaky steps of the loft, the heel on my shoes clicking playfully on the wood. I see the Colonel standing patiently at the bottom of the stairs, checking his watch to make sure I hold my end of the agreement. He looks at me as I reach the bottom step. I can almost see the corner of his mouth twitch upward as he looks me over and his eyes look slightly less cruel. "Let's go."

I follow him to the car, holding my dress down against the wind. I can feel my hair brush against my cheeks and it makes me shiver. The car smells of cherries and the seats are still warm from the light of the setting sun. The engine purrs as my husband turns the key and slowly pulls out of the driveway. I watch out the window as we drive, as buildings and parking garages turn into grass and hills.

The house where we are to have dinner is large, a fountain in front and white columns that line the exterior. It belongs to no one in particular. It is just a house that the military hosts their parties at. The Colonel parks, and a man comes to his door immediately.

"Good evening, sir. I am here to park your car." The man says, staring straight ahead. He is elderly, much like the woman in the shops, and I try not to notice the scars and wounds on his arms and neck that are unmistakably from a bull whip. My breath hitches in my throat as I watch the Colonel get out and begin walking inside without a second look at me. I open my own door as the man takes his seat in the other side, and follow my husband through the glass doors of the house.

The atmosphere inside is eerie. There is no music; just the sounds of voices fill the still air with vibrations. My husband gestures toward a table of women, wives, where I am to take my place. They smile the same empty smiles we all wear, and one of them has a manicured hand on an extended belly. I recognize her as the mayor's wife, one of the few women given the blessing to bear children.

We are all fertile, all able to have children, but only the men of the highest rank and their wives are given the blessing. The mayor's wife clears her throat and I tear my eyes from her stomach. "Sit. We don't bite." The wife's voice is soft and motherly. I sit, my eyes gazing the faces of the other dozen or so women. A few of them begin speaking to one another, and I make sure to keep my mouth full of food at all times.

I can hear noises in the distance, like gunfire. I shake my head and pass it off as nothing. "...iving with the Colonel?" I look up to see all of the women looking to me with wide eyes. I make a face and the voice speaks again. "I said, 'what's it like living with the Colonel?'"

"Oh, yes, it's lovely."

"You've lasted longer than the last one." The mayor's wife speaks. "She was only there for a month before the hauled her off. Have her propped up in front of Bucky & Barnes, they have. Poor girl."

"'Poor girl", ha! She knew better than to seduce him like she did, whorish woman." An older woman is speaking now. I swallow a lump in my throat, nodding slightly. "I don't know how he could have been expected not to be tempted by a woman so possessed by the Devil. She deserved what she got." The other women of the table mutter their agreement.

The conversation does not last too much longer. The sound of an explosion and the smell of smoke and rubble come from the other side of the house. Within seconds, servant women are on either side of the mayor's wife. "It's the rebels, missus. We need to get you out." They tell the wife, helping to lead her out the door. With one look at each other, the wives scatter in an attempt to find their husbands.

My heart pounds in my chest as the gunfire grows louder and the screaming begins. The Colonel finds me first, his once brown hair covered in a layer of white sheetrock and dust. He shoves a card into my hand; it is the valet card from earlier that night. "Are you okay? Are you hurt?" I don't have time to answer before he begins speaking, yelling again. "You need to go. Get the car and go home. I'll see you there." Then, he does the unspeakable. His hand grabs mine, and I feel him squeeze my fingers tightly.

Before I can react, he is disappeared behind the cloud of dust. I pull my dress up over my knees and make my way over to the doors. I try to ignore the worried wrenching in my gut as I hand the valet parker my card and he heads off to get the car. I'm not sure why I am worried. For my husband, who does not care for me, or for myself, whom I do not care about. For now, I will count down the seconds until my husband is safe at home.

A/N Sorry it has taken me so long to post this. I'm going to try and stick to a strict uploading schedule so there are no more long periods of waiting. Thank you!

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