For the beginning of this story, please click here. Below is the 2nd installment of The Taken.
One by one, each guy wrote their name on a piece of paper and dropped it into a hat that was held studiously in George’s meaty hands. His smug look grew bigger with each name submitted. His idea for a dating raffle was received surprisingly well among the boys I’d be forced to date, and it was only because of a late-night meeting between my parents and George that I even found out what to expect today. And it was only because of my parents’ insistence that the age-range for my dating pool was limited so I wouldn’t be forced to go out with anyone’s dads, or any boys much younger than me.
And since George, Mom, Dad, and I were the only ones “in the know” on the old man’s conniving plan, my nervousness over what was coming put me even more on edge as understanding dawned on everyone’s faces. This business of utmost importance had delayed everyone’s chores for the day, and even today’s classes were even being put off until this little matter could be decided.
Each and every name had been dropped into the hat, and Mr. Matthews called me to stand beside him in the center of the commons. As the raffle prize each day, I was expected to draw today’s lucky first winner. Mom and Dad stood by my side, each of them rested a hand on my shoulder in support. We were a family unit, the strongest in our Haven, and as long as we were together, nothing could rattle us too much.
“Is everyone’s name in?” George asked, though it was obvious that every name was entered. “Very good,” he continued. “As I said earlier, Emalee will choose a name every day and spend time with that man that day. Outside of classes and chores, of course.”
That had been yet another stipulation Mom had opted for in hopes that it would get me out of this mess. And even though it didn’t get me out of anything, I’d never been so grateful for school and work until now.
“Whoever is drawn will have their name immediately placed back in the hat so that he has an equal chance as the rest of you each day,” George continued, not allowing me time for my internal rambling.
That hadn’t seemed fair to any of the boys because it meant that some could spend time with me more than once, while some may not get the chance for a while—if at all. But, there was no use arguing with George, especially after he’d been forced to give in on some of his ideas.
George shook the hat in his hands. “Emalee?”
Giving a mental sigh, I reached over and stirred my hand around in all the folded papers before drawing one out. Unfolding it, I looked down at the name as my stomach lurched.
“Well?” Mr. Matthews asked, setting the hat down on the boulder beside him.
“Can I draw another one?” I asked. “This one is blank.”
“No, it isn’t,” he replied monotonously. “I thought you’d be a better sport than this.” He snatched the paper out of my hand. Grinning widely, he looked up into the crowd of boys and men who were watching in rapt anticipation. “Well well,” he said.
Please don’t say it. Please let me draw another name.
Any other name.
Of all the freaking luck. Seriously? Billy Matthews. George’s oldest son.
Once his name was read, he flashed that half grin that I hated more than anything else in this world. Billy was a cocky son of a gun that had gone out of his way to make my life a living hell for as long as I could remember. More than any of the others, he’d teased me and pulled my hair, spilled water on me, and, and… the list just goes on and on!
I hated Billy Matthews!
George seemed more than pleased with the outcome of his drawing, and I briefly wondered if he’d rigged it. Not that I’d put it past him. I wasn’t the only one angered by the results. Other guys started muttering things under their breath, and even my mom had gasped at my first would-be date.
“No, not him,” she warned the old man beside me. “Em can’t stand him.”
“That was not a requirement, last I checked,” George replied with that stupid wide grin. “And you failed to make that a stipulation in this drawing.”
“Because no one can make any restrictions when it’s something you want,” Mom hissed.
“Well,” he huffed. “I can see where Emalee’s lack of sportsmanship comes from.”
Mom took a step closer to him and I reached out, stopping her. “Don’t,” I said, not wanting to make this situation any worse than it already was. “It’s okay Mom. I can handle one date with him.”
It was easy to tell she was unconvinced, but she nodded anyway. George, still donning that ridiculous grin, refolded the paper and dropped it in the hat.
“Enjoy,” he said, in a singsong voice. Then he walked away, hat in hand.
Everyone dispersed then, the commons area clearing out except for a few people who lingered along with my parents and me. I guess George’s acceptance of the date was enough to call our little meeting to an end.
Mom pulled me in for a hug. “We’ll talk later, honey. Go on and get to class.”
Dad once again put his hand on my shoulder, letting me know in his own way that he was 100% behind me. I turned on my heels and followed the winding hallway until I reached my room. I’d already laid my books on my bed, and I quickly grabbed them before heading back in the direction I’d come from. Crossing through the commons, I followed another pathway and slipped into the classroom. Every eye was on me as I took my seat.
Copyright © 2014 Katalyn Sage
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