Keeping Sweet by Alexis Weiss

Keeping Sweet 

Her breasts sag; they’re sore, stale, and over-sucked for a girl the age of fifteen. Her eyes droop, drag, and drop against her lids as she prays she will stay awake long enough for her child to be sleeping, while she is still only a child herself. 

She had always dreamt of being a mother, she didn’t know she was capable of having a child of her own just yet, or even how babies were made for that matter. Yet there she’d been, summoned one day to marry the Prophet and driven to the Caliente motel for the ceremony the next. She didn’t want to be married, but she did as she was told. 

That night, she had been called to his bed. His white linen sheets had been tucked along the edges, smelling a mixture of old textbooks and rosé, white curtains drawn, the white carpet archaic, his night dress outdated. He told her it was her job to multiply and replenish the earth. His voice had been more soothing than it was earlier that day, more hushed, and more threatening against hers – sweet, timid, and obedient. His skin felt prickly against her young cheeks when he yanked on her hair, leaned in, and forced his lips on hers. 

He grabbed her ass, groped her waist, bit at her neck. He pushed down into her until she quivered. Then he told her to keep sweet, that this is what the Lord wanted; if she wanted to obey God, she would obey Him.

She silenced her worries and hushed her mind. Forcing a smile, she whispered so sweetly, yes Father. 

She lives on the Prophet’s land, farmland lined with obedient wives and minds full of lies. Women in pastel dresses like in Little House on the Prairie, hair in identical braids combed back and cinched, always singing the song keep sweet, keep sweet. Men hovering over boundary lines, hands worn out from forced labor day and night, heads full of ideas that should only belong to themselves. 

She had been born into this life, surrounded by twenty-four siblings and five mothers. It was all she’d ever known; the way to braid your hair in a manner that would please God, and to never show skin. She’d only ever known marriage as young as the age of thirteen, and that marriage was arranged by the Prophet; it did not matter who you loved. She’d only ever known “no” as a bad word. She was to be blindly obedient, and to be worthy enough for God through payments to Father, complying with his rules, and asking no questions. 

What she didn’t know was that her life was under close watch. The Prophet, the father to her daughter, was raping young girls consistently; her religion was all a lie. The man they knew to be the Prophet had just made it up—that there was a big world out there that they had never been told about. 

And what she didn’t know, she never knew to ask.

When she would bring home books from the library, she would notice pages missing, like someone had taken a razor blade to the spine and cut them out. She’d always wondered about that. She also never understood why every house was only allowed one landline, and cell phones were banned. Words were monitored, and no calls were allowed to be made out of the county lines. Cameras were everywhere – every room in every house, every dusty street corner, every dining hall. All police and authorities had been sworn in by the Prophet. Every home and every bit of land of their development belonged to the church, making it simple for the Prophet to control every aspect of the culture she was raised in. 

None of this she knew. 

Tomorrow would be trimming day. For young boys, tonight was a night of fear. There were too many of them to each have many wives and the Prophet had said that the social architecture needed to be fixed. Boys would be banished from the land and deemed unworthy of God. For mothers, tonight was a night of worry. Worry that their little ones would be the ones chosen to be ripped from their mother’s arms in the dead of night and given away, never to be seen or heard from again. With husbands exiled, wives and children would be reassigned to other men to be husbands and fathers. As a member of the community, no one had any control over themselves or a say in how things went. All control was handed over to God, and destiny was in the hands of the Prophet. 

For the men, spending their days building communities and sending away their money, this was a life they’d always had and a life they believed in. The world outside was a bad place, everyone

was out there to harm or to hurt, and certainly not to trust. They trusted that the Prophet was a man of God, inspired by God, and everything he said was the word of God. 

For the women, your job was to get married to a man with many wives and carry their children. They were to never leave the dusty plains of the plantation and hold onto their innocence as long as they could. They believed that they must follow the rules. They knew no differently. 

And for the fifteen-year-old girl, cradling her newborn baby, wiping away a tear, and shoving her emotions away, knew she had to keep sweet, pray, and obey the Prophet’s commands

Until the next time he raped her, he whispered in her ear: Men love women and power, but they love power more.