Esther looked stunning in her white dress. The chapel was full of friends and family. She clutched a beautiful bridal bouquet in her hands.
She was terrified.
Her father took her arm and started gently leading her down the aisle.
She looked at him and smiled.
Help me! she thought. Help me please!
From deep inside herself, she tried and tried to force her mouth to form the words. To make her eyes convey her fear. To make her legs stop the slow inexorable march to her fate.
Nothing worked. She was trapped.
As she walked down the aisle, her grandmother reached out to touch her hand briefly. Esther squeezed it. Tears were in both of their eyes.
Esther wished she could cry more. If she could make herself cry just a little more, maybe someone would pull her aside. Maybe someone would wonder if something was wrong. Maybe someone would help her stop this.
Esther felt herself keep walking. When she turned around from the front of the church, she saw a sea of friends and family who had come for her big day. Everyone was smiling. Everyone looked so happy.
She knew then that she was alone. No one could help her. No one could even see her.
Well, maybe one person could.
She finally looked over at her tormentor as the pastor began the ceremony. By the smirk in his eyes, she was pretty sure that he could see. He looked triumphant, like a man about to enjoy a nice big steak. Like a hunter bringing in a kill.
“I do,” he said. He sounded confident. Certainly someone else could hear the mocking in his tone?
The pastor continued to speak. Esther willed herself to yell or to cry or to have a panic attack. Something.
“…as long as you both shall live?” asked the pastor.
No No No! Please stop! Please stop! Please! Esther desperately screamed into the void of her mind.
“I do,” Esther said.
And, like a key clicking into a lock, those words sealed the contract. Quietly and unobserved, what was left of Esther disappeared.