Honor

by JLynn Marshall

The flowers that wreath my head are white. They smell of life and  honey and summer rain.  But they make my stomach sick.  The gown that drapes over my figure is light and soft.  It gently brushes against my skin.  But I feel naked.  The ropes around my wrists are tight.  They tug and snarl at my skin.  They remind me that I am alive.  The usher puts his hand on my elbow and pushes.  I lift my foot and begin to ascend the stairs in front of me.

It will only hurt for a moment.

The people crowded at the base of the steps are silent as they watch.  Their reassurances are spent.  Before now, they talked of purity and honor.  They talked of life and necessity.  Of water and crops.  Gods and blood.  Now their voices are gone and their lips are still.  They wait and they hope.

It will only hurt for a moment.

My uncle talked of purity when he went to the priests.  He talked of honor when he came home.  But the jingle of gold was in his voice as he explained about water and crops and necessity.  I tried to throw my purity away.  I sneaked out of my uncle’s house and went to the market intending to barter my honor.  But no man would touch me.  They were all too thirsty.  Too worried about their crops.  I was sacred.  My uncle’s money will buy him many things.  But what has my honor bought me?

It will only hurt for a moment.

The sound of my heart pounds the air.  My legs ache as I climb.  But I try not to listen or feel.  I want the comfort of the sun on my face and the breeze against my skin.  But the sun brings out beads of sweat on my forehead and intensifies the sickening scent of the flowers.  The breeze reminds me of the flimsy material that only pretends to cover my body.  There is no comfort left.  No joy.  Only honor and aching legs and a heart that counts the passing of time.

It will only hurt for a moment.

I stand up straight as I reach the platform at the top, refusing to show that I am tired and sore.  The priest stands behind the altar, blood lust behind his stern expression.  I know what will happen next.  The ushers will guide me across the platform and place me on the altar.  The priest will rip the fabric of my gown and stare at me with thirsty eyes.   He will bring his knife down, burying its blade to the hilt in my chest.  Cheers will rise from the crowd below as he lifts my still beating heart towards the midday sun and squeezes.  He will drink my blood and complete the connection between the gods and their children on earth.

Then everyone will go home expecting rain.  But I will stay here, in this place of honor.

It will only hurt for a moment.

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JLynn Marshall’s favorite pastimes include writing, shopping for handbags and shoes, having her nails done, and dominating the competition in her fantasy football league.
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