Seriah's home country has been taken over by some religious extremists, who have imposed some very outrageous laws on the citizens. The marriage laws state that the age difference between a married couple can't exceed two years, but this becomes a serious problem when Seriah falls in love with a young man that is four years older.
Honestly, if Seriah had known how much trouble it would cause, she would have done something. She wouldn't have let herself get caught up in her own dreams and desires. Of course, there was good that came from this tragedy. But for Seriah, there was only one thing that could heal the wounds this catastrophe caused.
Seriah was very small when the invasion happened. But she still had a vague notion of what life was like without the dictators that now governed her country. Being ruled by dictators who strictly follow a religion that had few followers in the country was definitely not the life she had hoped for. She didn't appreciate the soldiers that stayed in every village, checking for people breaking any of the many laws they imposed. The laws covered everything from how to speak, what to eat, and even marriage was strictly controlled. Punishments were far too severe for breaking these laws, ranging from large fines to all forms of execution (left for the soldiers to decide most of the time). Seriah had seen so many people die for petty crimes against the government's overbearing laws, she didn't even flinch when she saw corpses lying on the side of the road. However, the soldeirs that were supposed to oversee the towns and villages were very corrupt. The violence was so bad that there was an unwritten rule amoung the citizens that no one was allowed to walk the streets after 7 pm.
She was sixteen, so she was now no longer allowed to attend school. She now spent her days wandering around, dreaming of a life without limitations. She missed going to church with her parents and friends. She wanted to fall in love without having to worry about the man meeting the requirements. She didn't want to have ten children because all forms of birth control were outlawed. Most of all, she wanted to have the ability to express her views. But being a woman, her opinion was considered worthless.
While walking home from a long day of helping at her uncle's farm, Seriah couldn't help walking a bit faster than normal. It was getting dark, and she was still quite far from her house. The summer air was humid, and the warm breeze on the back of her neck made her more nervous. Her older sister had been abducted by soldiers a few years ago, and when she returned she was so traumatized she couldn't speak for a month.
Suddenly, Seriah heard the sound of shuffling footsteps behind her. She viciously fought her urge to scream, but she couldn't stop herself from running. She threw her backpack away from her, and sprinted down the road as fast as she could. A voice called to her, "Hey wench! Don't run from me, I order you to stop!" Seriah dashed into the forest near the road, hoping the soldier wouldn't follow. She gasped for breath as she dodged branches and tree roots, not daring to look back. She didn't slow down as the branches tore her her jeans and scratched at her legs. Her vision started to blur with tears of fear, and as she tripped on a falled tree, she cried out in pain. Seriah clawed furiously at the dirt, trying to get enough grip to pull herself up.
She heard yelling behind her, and Seriah wailed desprately, "Please, leave me alone!" She didn't even know which direction she was running anymore, not thinking of anything but getting away from that droning laughter and crude insults. Suddenly, she felt two hands grip her arms and drag her out of sight. She instinctively started writhing frantically and trying to pull away from the person holding her. A deep voice hissed in her ear, "Hold still or he'll hear you! I won't hurt you." Seriah stopped struggling, but her whole body was shaking uncontrollably with utter terror. She started to fall to the ground, but the hands pulled her back up, and she felt the person pull her close and wrap their arms around her.
She heard the laughter pass by, then grow fainter until there was no sound but her gasping breath. She hadn't dared to open her eyes the whole time, afraid of what she might see. But as she started to regain her composure, she wimpered through her tears, "Thank you." She opened her eyes, and saw she was standing inside a hollow tree. The man holding her looked to be a bit older than herself, with long dark hair that nearly hid his bright green eyes. He was very handsome, with a muscular build and dressed in farmer's clothes. Then she realized she had seen him working on the farm next to her uncle's. He must be the farmer's son.
She was still shaking a bit, but she could stand on her own feet again. He let go of her, and Seriah slowly lowered herself to a stump and sat on it. He pulled another stump next to hers and sat next to her. She asked with a quivering voice, "What's your name?"
The man replied in a deep, gentle voice, "I'm Rasmus. What's your name?"
"Seriah." She swallowed the lump in her throat, and stuttered, "What are you doing in the forest so late?"
"My father sent me here to get some firewood, and when I heard the noise I figured it would be something like this." Rasmus put his arm around Seriah, and she leaned on him unconciously. Rasmus paused, then asked, "Have I seen you around here before? You seem familiar."
Her voice still shook as she replied, "I help at my uncle's farm during the week, you may have seen me around. I live with my stepmother in town." She wiped the tears from her cheeks, then she just blurted her entire life story to Rasmus. He listened patiently, not saying anything as she wailed about the death of her parents, her brother and his wife, her sister's abduction, and all the fear she felt daily just trying to stay alive. She took a few deep breaths, then realized she had wrapped her arms around Rasmus and was nearly squeezing the life out of him.