“Ouch!” I yelped grabbing my hair and turning around to scowl at the hair dresser; she only shot an icy glare, rolling her eyes before tugging at my hair again. This is a day girls’ dream about, counting the nights until it is their turn, but to me it’s nothing more than a nightmare I can’t seem to wake up from. As law states, every girl must get married at age 18 to a man of best suite, chosen by the government. Married!? More like sold off!
After the Third World War completely destroyed our home, the city’s new government decided that they needed to lead with a more strict hand. The rules “tightened” to say the least. Nobody has a say in anything, everyone is too afraid to stand up or voice out against the government; at this point ‘democracy’ is no longer a word in anyone’s vocabulary. Our lives are planned out minute by minute starting from the day we are born. From the schools we go to, to the activities we partake in, to who we marry, the government makes all the decisions. It’s simple, if the government has complete control over everyone and everything, they have no need to worry about another rebellion. There’ve been people who test the limits, and push the boundaries, but those are all the people who have seemed to forgotten you only have two options here: follow the rules, or die.
Suddenly my dressing room door opened and in she stormed. Wearing a silk, burgundy, spaghetti strap dress, and her hair neatly fastened with elegant, rhinestone hairpins, my mother looked gorgeous. I might have told her so too, if it weren’t for the gaze she was giving me, fiery enough to take out an entire forest.
“Hurry up! Your groom is waiting the wedding must be good and over by three.” My mother scolded as she walked towards me. She shooed off the hair dresser and started fiddling with my hair instead. I looked at our reflections side by side in the mirror, the resemblance was uncanny. I shared her auburn hair and olive green eyes, had she been ten years younger we could have been sisters.
“There, all done, now go get into your wedding dress I’ll be outside the door.” She said as she stalked off. I sighed getting up and turning to look at my wedding dress. More like jail suit.
I felt the material underneath my fingertips. It was a beautiful gown, fit for a fairy tale, had it been any other girl she’d have been imagining herself dancing in it, twirling like a princess; sadly, I wasn’t any other girl, and the thought of myself walking down the aisle in that dress made me sick.
“Elizabeth, hurry up!” I heard my mother yell at the other side of the door. God how I loathe that woman, she expects me to be the perfect child in her perfect little world. Reality check, nothing is perfect.
I unzipped the wedding dress and stepped into it. I turn to look at my reflection. I was beautiful to say the least. My hair flowed down my back into beautiful curls. My makeup was done simple to show off my natural beauty. Yet, I looked at the reflection of a girl that was not me. I was not meant to be perfect, I was not meant to be in this wedding dress, I was not meant to be in these heels, I was not meant for any of this.
“Elizabeth, I’m coming in!” Yelling once more as she barged back in. I turned to face her.
“Oh my, you look stunning.” She said in awe. Tears stung my eyes. Instead of a comforting hug, I was greeted with a scowl when my mother noticed.
“Stop crying you are going to ruin your makeup!” She scolded.
“Mother please don’t make me do this.” My voice trembled.
“It was never a choice Elizabeth! Now stop this nonsense and come outside, everyone has been waiting for over an hour.”
I couldn’t do this. I had to do something, anything, to stop this wedding. I quickly wiped my eyes before calling out to my mother.
“What is it now?” She turned back giving me a tired look.
“C-can I go to the washroom?” I ask looking down at my feet like a child.
“Really Elizabeth, really? This is not the time for games.” My mother grimaced.
“Please! I will be quick.” I began begging.
“Fine. You have five minutes. Go. Hurry.” She stalked off to join the guests, as I turned the opposite direction, down a narrow corridor to the washroom.
I made it to the washroom, walk right passed it and straight through the back door. I step into the fresh air, and without a second doubt I start sprinting straight towards the woods.
I hear yelling behind me.
Crap, they noticed I was gone; I thought I’d have more time. I had no idea where I was going, I was just getting as far away as possible. I kept going until the voices faded, falling to my knees in a clearing, gasping for air. The panting very quickly changed into crying. I couldn’t do anything besides sit there and sob. Why am I such an idiot? Why can’t I just do what I’m supposed to and live a safe life?
“Well look what we have here! A runaway bride not something you see everyday!”
I jump, quickly turning to see a boy standing behind me. When had he gotten there? How had I not heard him? None of that mattered, I’d just gotten caught.
“P-please don’t report me! I swear I didn’t do anythin-” I started.
“Report you? Well that wasn’t my first thought, but now that you say it, it sounds like a good idea. Imagine how much they will reward me.” He said staring off into the distance. I took the opportunity to exam him, his rough cut, shaggy, mahogany hair fell over his pale blue eyes. My gaze dropped, landing on his arm, that’s when I finally noticed the tattoo. A government mandated branding given to the families of all those involved in bringing about the war. Any person branded was considered property of the government.
“Wait a minute, you’re branded.” I said walking closer to the boy. He takes a step back, his smug smile immediately drops, replaced by a scowl tinted with fear.
“Last time I checked, isn’t it against the law for someone with a branding to be past town lines and after five thirty” I say backing him up to a tree, “Ooo I could report you, imagine how much they will reward me!” I spit his words back at him. The boy regained this posture and stood two inches taller.
“Well then, it looks as though we’ve reached an ultimatum. I help you and you help me. Easy. Though to be honest, it seems like you’re getting the better end of the bargain.” he said, practically bursting with overconfidence. I was about to respond with some less than ladylike words when I heard voices in the distance again.
“Run.” The word slipped from my mouth before I could tell what was going on. “Run.” With that I was off, flying past trees, ducking under branches, hurdling over rocks, everything but stopping.
“Why are we running?” The boy. Oh right, I forgot about him, but at this point there was no leaving him so I went with it.
“You said it yourself, runaway bride. A missing bride at a wedding is not something that takes people very long to notice. ” I say not looking at him.
We ran for a while longer, until the shouting died off; then stopped and leaned against a tree, wheezing, gasping for air.
“So tell me your story?” He asks. I look at him in pure confusion. He lets out an audible, exasperated sighs before repeating, “Why are you running away from your wedding?”
“I don’t want to get married, isn’t it obvious? ” I state. The boy looks as though he wants to ask more, but thinks better of it and just nods.
“What’s yours?” I ask.
“My parents were rebels during the war. They died in combat, leaving my sister and I to reap the consequences of their actions.” He pulled up his sleeve, completely revealing the branding, “She was eight, my sister, when they took her to the orphanage. I haven’t seen her since.” He stared down at his feet. Not knowing how to respond, I just looked at him for a while, desperately trying to find something to say, to break the awkward silence.
“I’m Elizabeth by the way,” I said, trying to completely change the subject.
“Nice to meet you Grayson” I smile, hopefully coming off as somewhat friendly.
“Pleasure is all mine Elizabeth;” he laughs “so what’s the plan?”
“We’re both technically fugitives now, so I doubt we’ll be able to just walk on home.”
“Okay the plan. There is a railway station that leads to the neighbour city; it is a few miles ahead. They make it a point not to interfere with our matters over, so they most likely will have no idea who we are.” I say. It seemed like a good plan and it was simple.
“Won’t we get recognized at the station? .” Grayson says standing up.
“Unlikely, after the war it was abandoned. It’s only used to move cargo now.” I gesture for him to start walking. “After you.”
We trudged on, every passing hour felt like an entire day. At this point, my dress was fully torn apart, my hair was tangled, and face was covered on dirt . Grayson on the other hand, besides a little dirt, didn’t look as though he had broken a sweat; to be fair, he wasn’t the one in a ten pound wedding gown.
“Look! I see the railway station.” I say pointing straight ahead of us.
“We’re almost there.”
This is what I’ve always wanted. Freedom. But it didn’t feel right? This felt too easy. Ominous gray clouds started to cover the sky, suggesting a storm was on the way.
“Grayson wait. I’m getting a bad feeling about this.”
“Why? This railway station is used only for cargo, you said so yourself. We won’t be seen here.”
“I guess you’re right let’s go.”
“We made it!”
“Okay, if we hide in one of these cargo carts, they will take us to the next city hopefully by tomorrow.” I was beaming, we’d done it! I could practically taste freedom. My smile immediately fell when I saw the expression on Grayson’s face; he was looking over my shoulder. I turn my head the slightest to catch a glimpse of five soldiers standing there, guns pointed.
Grayson grabbed my hand and pulled me behind me.
“When I say run, you run. Understand?” He whispered to me.
I grab his hand and sprint .
I hear a gun click.
I jolt awake and look at the black cell door slamming open. I wipe the hot tears from my eyes and look at the prison guard standing there.
“Time to go sweetheart.” The guard says.
I stood up, never meeting the guard’s gaze and slowly limp towards the door. He grabs my arm and starts walking down the hall. As we walk by a window, I catch my reflection. My hair was knotted, I had mascara running down my face, my lipstick was smudged and my dress was torn. I was not the beautiful girl I saw on my wedding day. Instead I was a reminder of what had happened. Had I been given a second chance to go back and change what had happened, I wouldn’t take it. If I go down I want to be known as someone who fought against the crowd, not just another generic name in sea of nothingness, eventually floating away with the hands of time. I may have lost everything, but what does that matter when everything I had meant nothing at all. The one person who could have changed that, given my life new meaning was gone, and I was about to join him. I would get my freedom. Death would be my freedom.