Authors: Melissa Brown
his only wife
by Melissa Brown
Copyright © 2015 by Melissa Brown
All Rights Reserved
His Only Wife
Copyright © 2015 Melissa Brown
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
who formally requested that I write this for her.
In this moment,
I want you to take it to Portland,
I always knew I would fall in love.
Not the kind of love that I feel for Brin; that was something I never predicted. I never would have guessed that I’d love someone more than I love myself, that I’d do anything for just one person. In fact, I was taught that the concept of “one person” was ludicrous, insane, and not at all in God’s plan for me or any other member of our polygamous community. What I expected was a quiet love, a calm and muted love. A love of mutual respect, a friendship with the first woman who was assigned to me. And then the next. And the next.
Because that was what I learned in childhood. You didn’t have one wife; you had as many as the prophet would offer. Period. A single wife would get you a one-way ticket straight to hell when you died. That’s right—eternal fucking damnation.
Like my father, I assumed that I’d have several wives, probably six. For some reason, that was the number in my head for years. And like most men in our compound, I’d take on even more wives if I aspired to more status in the community. Just like dear old Dad who, I’d been told, now had nine. Yep, nine. Nine wives and dozens of children. Let that soak in for a moment.
Nine fucking wives. How could you possibly love and desire nine different women? How could you give each wife an equal amount of your time, of your heart? Someone was bound to get lost in the shuffle.
My mother, for example, was that wife. She was the one overlooked in the drudgery of day-to-day life, the one my father ignored. When I was young, there were only three wives. And Mommy Dearest, Alice Hammond, was the second spouse of Ron Hammond. When I was young, I felt bad for her. She was the unappreciated middle wife who was stuck between the respect and regard reserved for the first wife, and the lust and amorous attention showered upon the third.
What was her role? She filled in the blanks. She gave him children…several, actually. She washed his clothes, hung on his every word, and continuously went above and beyond the expectations set for her, all to win a place in his heart.
From what I could see, it made no difference.
Then there was the asshole better known as my father. I’d watched my father like a hawk. I studied his interactions with his wives, his children, his community. That was what was expected of me, and of all the boys. We studied our fathers in the hope of being just like them.
In doing so, I knew he loved Mother Rachel in a way that he didn’t love my mother or Mother Judith, his first wife. Rachel was wife number three, and clearly, the most beautiful of the bunch. She had the brightest green eyes of anyone I’d met. And even though she wasn’t allowed to wear makeup, her smile lit up the room. And Dad noticed. Oh, did he notice. He was playful with Rachel and showed an obvious preference for her. She was given more attention, more time with him than the other wives, her children more allowances and second chances when they made mistakes.
I’ll never forget the year he and Rachel disappeared for a weekend. My mother and Mother Judith were frantic, searching for them only to find a simple note on Rachel’s bed. They had slipped away for a short vacation, just the two of them, a getaway almost unheard of in our community. A getaway my mother would have killed for.
Oh, and that getaway happened to fall on my birthday. My thirteenth birthday. The day that I supposedly became a man in the eyes of the prophet. I was my father’s oldest son, and yet my father was nowhere to be found. There was no special day for me. I sat in my room for hours, missing my father and wondering why he’d chosen to skip my birthday, and wondering if maybe it wasn’t even important enough for him to remember. And instead of attempting to soften the blow or to make up for his absence, my mother avoided my eyes the entire day while insisting I keep sweet. That was the day I woke up, the day I stopped caring, stopped obsessing, and stopped scrounging for his love.
And so, as my formative years continued and my father hinted about marriage and wives and being a member of the priesthood, I found myself rebelling. Could you blame me? Negative attention was better than none at all.
The list of my sins stretched for miles. When I was fifteen, I convinced Louisa Timpson to let me feel her up inside her family’s tool shed. She was one of the first girls my age on the compound to get breasts, and I was eager to touch them. It was a pain in the ass to get my hand under her dress and long underwear, but it was fucking worth it. She never looked at me again after that day, which didn’t really bother me. I mean, it wasn’t like I was looking to fall in love. My guess was she told one of her catty sisters who prayed for my soul and threatened to shun her if she saw me ever again. I can still feel the shovel wedged into my ass as my fingers roamed beneath the layers of starchy fabric that clung to her body.
At sixteen, I stole my father’s keys and took his truck for a joyride outside the compound. My buddy, Samuel, and I tore out in that motherfucker so fast, the dust was flying behind us. We didn’t have a care in the world as we drove through town, stopping at a gas station to load up on Mountain Dew and candy bars. Samuel even tried to buy one of those scratch-off lottery tickets, but when the store clerk asked for ID, Samuel couldn’t deliver. I laughed at his ass the whole way home.
When I found my mother waiting for me on the porch, I didn’t even care. That night was worth it. It was worth the sharp sting of the old wooden paddle against my calloused ass. It was worth the lashing of her words. It was worth it all.
“You’ll never amount to anything,” she said as she drew her arm back with the paddle.
“You’re an embarrassment to your father and me.”
“When will you learn, Porter? The world is not for your enjoyment. There are rules you must follow.”
I thought. I knew there was more to life than falling in line at every turn, restricting every freaking pleasure this world had to offer, and having more children than you could count. The outside world fascinated me. I craved it, wanted more of it. But I wasn’t thinking about love, so I didn’t think I’d ever want to devote my life to someone.
Until I found Brin.
I was twenty-six years old the day she re-entered my life, just when I’d given up hope. Just when I’d completely given up on having any shred of happiness in my pathetic excuse for a life. After years of my indecision, self-destruction, and soul-searching,
. She stood puffed up with bravado in my apartment, staring me down while my arms were soaked in soapy suds, demanding I return her purse. She impressed me that day, more than any other person ever had. Because, let’s face it, for most of my life, people did nothing but disappoint.
But not Brin…no.
She challenged everything I
I knew. She proved that goodness could still come from that hellish compound. Goodness, bravery, and love. She changed everything the moment she knocked on the door of my apartment, acting as brave as a lion, even though she was shaking like a terrified mouse.
And now, three years later, I’ve never wanted anything more than I want her as my wife.
Till death do us part.
My only wife.
Our first summer living together in Porter’s house, he introduced me to drive-in movies. Well, he introduced me to a bunch of things I’d never experienced before: movie theaters, miniature golf, rock climbing, fast food drive-throughs. and picnics in the field near our house. But my favorite, by far, was the drive-in movie theater.
I’ll never forget that first night when Porter introduced me to the concept. I was new to living in the outside world. Movies and television, on the whole, were still new to me, but the idea of watching a movie outside was almost impossible to imagine.
When we’d first arrived, I hadn’t been sure what to expect. The drive-in was out in the middle of nowhere, next to a shallow canyon. Dust flew inside the cab of Porter’s truck as we approached the ticket taker. The booth was rusted and painted an odd pistachio green. I eyed Porter, wondering just how long the drive-in had been in business. If the dilapidated state of the booth was any indication, it had been quite a while.
“It’s vintage.” He laughed as he pulled the truck away from the booth and approached the enormous movie screen.
“Kinda like me?” I teased, looking down at my modest outfit. Until recently, I’d only worn old-fashioned clothes and my hair in a long blond braid down my back.
“Nah, you’re classic, Brin. Classic.”
They were playing a marathon of old movies, the black-and-white kind. Honestly, I didn’t really understand the difference all that much until Porter explained that Clark Gable’s expressions and slang in
It Happened One Night
no longer translated in the modern world. I was captivated by the actor’s handsome, debonair onscreen persona. And I was equally fascinated by the hairstyles and costumes of his leading lady—the glamour of the actress, her perfectly made-up face and flawless skin. But most of all, I was entranced by the entire experience of watching a movie on a larger-than-life screen all from the bed of Porter’s truck, salt and butter from the freshly made popcorn lingering on my fingers.
The stars were bright above us as we lay in the bed of the truck. Fleece blankets softened the unyielding metal beneath us, and pillows cradled us comfortably as we lounged. Candy of all kinds and giant convenience-store sodas kept our bellies full and satisfied as we snuggled up together, my legs draped over his, and his arm resting comfortably beneath the small of my back.
In a word, it was heavenly. And I don’t take that word lightly.
“That was romantic,” I said with a yawn on our drive back to the house.
Porter laughed. “You think so? Even though the place is falling apart?”
The wind blew through my hair and I nodded. “Yes. Thank you for taking me.” I slid closer to him and he wrapped his arm around me, placing a kiss on the top of my head.
“I love introducing you to stuff like this. Your expressions make it totally worth it.”
That comment made me self-conscious, knowing that in the grand scheme of things, I was still quite a fish out of water. I fidgeted with my hair and shifted in my seat. “I must look ridiculous.”
“Never,” he insisted, his voice serious. “It’s sweet. It’s like this look of wonder, ya know? You’re experiencing so many things for the first time, and I get to be there for it. Makes me feel really lucky.”
My nose had wrinkled in disbelief. “Really? Lucky?”
Porter had kissed my head again. “Every single day.”
It’s amazing that you can live somewhere for twenty-two years and never feel like you fit in, like you’re home. That night in his truck, I’d known I was finally home. Porter was the home I’d dreamed about for years.
And nearly three years after that night, I feel exactly the same way. Which was why it was so odd that my muscles tensed and my heart raced when Tiffany asked me a simple question. So simple, so basic, and yet so surprising that a lump immediately formed in my throat.
What was this daunting question, you might ask?
“What kind of wedding do you want, Brinley?”
My cousin and I were browsing in a boutique near her apartment in Colorado City. I avoided being in proximity to the compound where I’d lived for the majority of my years, but my cousin was an important part of this second phase of my life, and I knew it wasn’t exactly fair to expect her to travel an hour to see me whenever we spent time together. So as a compromise, I would visit Tiffany, and she in turn would make a point to choose cafés, restaurants, and shops as far away from the polygamous compound as possible. Aside from the occasional sighting of those I used to regard as distant friends and neighbors, I had yet to interact with anyone from the Cluff family or that of the prophet. For that, I was exceedingly grateful.
Perhaps it was the closeness of the compound I’d left behind just years before that caused me to panic at Tiffany’s benign question. Or maybe it was the flashbacks of my wedding night to Lehi Cluff or the “marriage” that was forced upon me that caused splotches to form on my skin at the very mention of being legally bound to another person.
It was also possible that I was simply taken aback. Porter and I had yet to discuss marriage in our years of being a couple. We lived together and we were content, stronger than ever. So, why was I reacting this way?
Tiffany’s eyes grew wide as she shook her head briskly back and forth. “Oh, wow. I’m sorry. You just…you were looking at that picture frame and the thought popped into my head. I just assumed—”
“No, it’s okay.” My fingers trembled as I placed the crystal frame back on the shelf. The black-and-white photo of the bride and groom within it stared back at me. “I just…I don’t know. We’ve never discussed it.”
“Is it Lehi?” she asked.
I loved my cousin and respected her straightforward nature. She and Porter had that in common, as did many other converted polygamists. Many, like Tiffany, had always planned to leave the polygamist lifestyle, but I hadn’t. She was never one to fall in line, unlike me.
“Maybe. It’s hard to separate the idea of marriage from what I had.”
“I understand.” Her face had paled, and I felt terrible for the obvious stress I was bringing her. She probably regretted asking the question at all.
“I know it would never be like that with Porter. Never.”
My fingers brushed over a plaid fleece blanket wrapped with ribbon, and memories swept over me of being back in the bed of Porter’s truck, wrapped in that blanket, engrossed in another romantic film with the man I loved so very much. My heart rate slowed, my breathing leveled out, and instinctively I smiled as I placed the rolled-up blanket in my small wire basket.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything,” Tiffany said, her expression contrite. “Let’s drop it.”
We browsed for several more minutes, ending at the cash register where I paid for the soft blanket, craving Porter’s arms and chastising myself for my overreaction to Tiffany’s curiosity. After all, it wasn’t like I’d never thought of marrying Porter. Of course I had. But after my experience on the compound, it wasn’t something I dreamed about, ached for, desired. I knew I wanted Porter and no one else. And after years together, that still felt like enough.
But I couldn’t help but wonder if he felt the same.
After saying good-bye to Tiffany, I drove back to our cottage, excited to share my purchase with Porter, and hoping to revisit the drive-in theater as soon as possible.