“We have to do something,” Betty said. “He’s taking our children. He keeps us prisoner, breeds us, then takes our children.”
“We’re not prisoners,” Tallulah said. “We can go outside.”
The other girls nodded their heads, murmured words of agreement while casting furtive glances toward the door.
Betty snorted. “Oh, for the love of God!”
“They’re not really children,” Tallulah said. “Why, they haven’t even been named yet, so how can they possibly be children?” More nodding of heads.
Tallulah might be the oldest and most opinionated among them, but Betty thought she certainly wasn’t the wisest. She refused to see what was going on right in front of her face.
Betty approached from another front. “You’re getting old, Tallulah. It won’t be long before you’re too old to bear children. You know what happens then…”
“I’m not old!” Tallulah stood to her full height, thrust her magnificent chest forward. “And besides, I’m his favorite; He won’t hurt me.”
Betty laughed. “Yeah, just keep telling yourself that.” She turned her back on Tallulah, faced the others. “Even if you don’t care about your children, even if you don’t care that you’re not allowed outside the damned fence, don’t you even care whether or not you live?” She tried to meet their eyes; all looked away. “Have you forgotten Shirley and Margaret, and the others, how He strangled them right in front of us—and God knows what He did with their bodies?” Wanting to scream in frustration, she drew in a ragged breath. How could she get through to them?
From the back of the group, a small voice spoke, “He has a gun.” The girls parted, and Katie, the youngest and newest addition to their prison stepped forward out of the gloom. “And we have nothing.”
“We have ourselves.”
“But what are we against a gun?” Fear shone bright in Katie’s eyes.
“We have strength in numbers,” Betty said. “He can’t shoot more than one of us at a time. If we all attack at once, probably only a couple of us will be shot. We can bring Him down. We, all of us, can be free.”
Tallulah smirked, “And of course you’ll be right out in front to take the first bullet.”
Betty sighed. “Yes, I will.”
“You’d have me believe that you’ll give up your life for…for us?”
“We’re all going to be killed anyway.” Betty paused, and one at a time, met the eyes of every fearful girl. “And except for Tallulah, I’m the oldest one here. I don’t have much time left anyway. I might as well put what I do have to good use.”
“I’m not old, I tell you, you just—”
“Shut the hell up, Tallulah!”
“Why, I never…” Tallulah stalked away.
Betty glared at her retreating form, then Katie spoke, pulling her eyes back to the huddled girls. “I don’t want to die…and…and I want to raise my children.”
A chorus of whispered me too’s filled the small, dim room.
Thank God, it’s finally sinking in. Betty said, “This is what we’ll do…”
The following morning when He opened the door, Betty launched herself at Him, striking his broad chest. He pushed her away. She fell back onto the dirt floor, scrabbled around and gained her footing, and readied herself for another attack. She expected to see the other girls rushing in from all directions, expected to feel a bullet tear into her breast, but instead there was…nothing. No movement. Not a sound except for a startled curse from Him.
A hand circled her neck, jerked her upward, shook, squeezed. And she couldn’t breathe! She tried to fight, struck out again and again with her feet, but not a single kick touched Him.
The last thing Betty saw, before darkness stole her vision, was all the girls piled into the far corner, their faces to the wall—except for Tallulah. She stood in front of the others, calmly preening her snow-white feathers.