Five hundred years from now, the necessity of population control and a preference for male children has resulted in a shortage of women. Down from the Appalachian Mountains, comes Tory White, an unusually tall and muscular young woman. Unable to read, she is deceived into signing a lifelong contract as a concubine. Entirely unsuitable for the position, she soon finds herself slotted for the ‘beds,’ where few girls live beyond a month. Yet, her honest and forthright manner charms the head of security into saving her and sets her upon a path in which she becomes the ‘heart’ of the world and the savior of man’s future.
As Tory entered the dreary grey building, she asked the man guarding the door where she could find Miss Dunbery. He pointed to the first door down the dark hall.
She knocked on the door and waited until she heard someone call out ‘enter’. She had barely passed through the door when a young woman seated at a desk, with a weird black beehive hairdo, screamed upon sight of her. That wasn’t the first time it had happened since she’d come down the mountain, but she thought it damn rude, and wished city people had better manners.
“I was told to see a Miss Dunbery. Would that be you?” She hoped it wasn’t. The girl didn’t look old enough to be in charge of nothing. But her narrow face was pinched, and her body tensed, like Mrs. Mayfair would get every year when she planned the canning schedule, so Tory wasn’t sure.
The woman shook her head, giving Tory a moment of relief. Then she ruined it by saying, “Jack must be on the bottle again, hiring the likes of this.” Frantically patting her beehive, she stood up and her eyes widened in horror, as she had to look up a good foot to meet Tory’s eyes. “Dear God, what a disaster.” She stormed from the room and then stopped. “Well, come along! I haven’t got all day.”
Miss Dunbery showed Tory to her assigned bed. It was the third bunk on a rack, only two feet beneath the ceiling. The mattress looked to be only five-feet long and two-feet wide.
“You’re kidding right?” Tory asked the prune-faced young woman.
“That’s your assigned bed. It’s not my fault if you don’t fit it. And I hope you have your own clothes, because I’ve nothing in giant size.”
“I’ve got my own clothes,” Tory snapped. “And I’ll find my own place to sleep.”
The woman laughed with scorn. “You think any of the band or security is going to take you on?”
Tory was ready to take her on. “Don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself.” She pulled the blanket from the bed. Noticing she had no pillow, but all the other beds had one, except for the first bed, which had two, she reached down, took one of the two, and headed outside.
“Where are you going?” Miss Dunbery demanded. She followed behind Tory, yapping at her heels like a shrill mouse-dog. “There’s a curfew you know. You have to be in your bed at curfew or I’ll report you and then you’ll be in trouble.”
Tory turned and yelled. “Don’t have to wait ‘til curfew. Report me now, because there is no way I’m sleeping in that bed.”
“You don’t have a choice in this matter!”
“You’re right, I don’t, because it’s not possible for me to get in that bed.”
“Is there a problem?” Link Taylor asked, suddenly appearing beside her.
“This new girl is the problem,” Miss Dunbery said in a less shrill voice, all the while patting her silly beehive. “She hasn’t been here five minutes, and she thinks that she’s too good to sleep in the dorm rooms. Her! As if she’ll receive offers to sleep elsewhere.”
Taylor turned to Tory to hear her side of the story.
“The bed isn’t going to work for me. I’m too big. So, I’ll just sleep outside somewhere.”
“No,” Taylor replied with a stern tone. He took her arm and escorted her into the dorm room. “Which is her bed?”
When he saw where Miss Dunbery intended her to sleep, he remained quiet for several minutes.
At first, Tory thought he was angry, for his body was tense and he turned his face to the wall. But then as his shoulders jerked up and down, she realized he was laughing. Laughing!
“If you think it’s so damn funny, why don’t you climb up there and show me how it’s done,” Tory suggested.
Miss Dunbery’s gasp of horror alerted her to the possibility that maybe Mr. Taylor was an important man, and she’d just made a dangerous enemy.
Her comment stopped his laughter and he nailed her with a very impressive ‘don’t give me any shit’ glare. She thought it more frightening than even her Pa’s.
“Forgive my rudeness,” she said and bowed her head.
She sensed by his silence that her apology had surprised him. Daring a peek, she was relieved he wasn’t glaring at her anymore.
About the Author
Liza O’Connor lives in Denville, NJ with her dog Jess. They hike in fabulous woods every day, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Having an adventurous nature, she learned to fly small Cessnas in NJ, hang-glide in New Zealand, kayak in Pennsylvania, ski in New York, scuba dive with great white sharks in Australia, dig up dinosaur bones in Montana, sky dive in Indiana, and raft a class four river in Tasmania. She’s an avid gardener, amateur photographer, and dabbler in watercolors and graphic arts. Yet through her entire life, her first love has and always will be writing novels.
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