Rasmus pulled her close, not wanting to let the moment end. He could hardly believe he was actually kissing her, the girl of his dreams. Seriah was very shocked, and her emotions were changing so fast she couldn't keep track of them. She let her hands rest on his shoulders, enjoying the moment. His lips were warm and soft, and she wished she could stay here forever.
Rasmus pulled away first, and waited to see what she would say. Seriah looked up at him with an expression of shock, but she quickly asked, "So... what does this mean?"
Rasmus whispered in her ear, "I love you Seriah." She gasped, and whispered back, "... really?" He laughed, then nodded. Seriah's whole face lit up, and she threw her arms around his neck and exclaimed, "I love you too!" Rasmus wrapped his arms around her waist, and let himself forget his problems in her gentle embrace.
After a long time, Rasmus pulled away and held her shoulders at arms length away. He looked at her with a serious expression and said, "Ok, now that we've established that we care for each other, what do you think we should do?" Seriah looked at him in utter bewilderment, and he explained, "Well, we can't exactly tell anyone about us. We don't know who we can trust, and if the wrong person finds out, we could get arrested. The punishment for violating marriage laws can range from 40 lashes to banishment, and I don't want to put you at risk like that."
Seriah blinked a few times, still not really absorbing what he was saying. She was still not quite believing she was actually in this situation. She replied slowly, "Um, I don't know. What do you think?"
Rasmus' anxiety was starting to show on his face. Seriah waited to hear his thoughts, and he finally said with a sigh, "Well, we only have a couple options. We could get married secretly, and either try and flee the country or live off the grid. Or, we could not get married, and just stay together anyway. Seperating isn't an option, so don't even consider that." He gazed at her expectantly, waiting for her reaction.
Seriah stopped to give this some serious thought. She knew if they got caught Rasmus would get the worst of the punishment, since he was the older one. She didn't want to even imagine harm coming to him, but she knew it was too late to forget the entire thing. She breathed deeply, and sighed, "Well, I think we shouldn't rush into anything, so maybe just see each other for a while and see what happens. Besides, who would marry us anyway?"
Rasmus actually had an answer to that question. He explained, "Well, you remember the church that used to hold worship services in town? After the crazy extremists took over, they were forced to shut down the church and the pastor was executed for 'false teachings'. Well, the associate pastor of that church is still holding underground worship services for the devoted followers. I know this because they use our barn as a sanctuary. The pastor is close to my family, and would definitely be willing to marry us."
Seriah was glad to hear this, but she immediately noticed a growing feeling of dread behind her happiness. She dismissed it as nothing, and exclaimed, "Well, that's good news! But I still think we should give it at least a few more months before we make our final decision. Maybe talk to your parents about this, see what they think. I know your dad likes me, so it shouldn't be a problem." Rasmus agreed, then after a long hug he headed home. As Seriah watched him leave in the light of the sunset, she again felt a sense that something terrible was going to happen. But she was still in a bit of a daze, so she dismissed the feeling again and closed the front door behind her as she returned to the house.
The next three months flew by so quickly Seriah could barely keep up. She and Rasmus grew closer as they spent more and more time together. His parents had been delighted to hear the news, and insisted they spend as much time as possible together. They would often send Rasmus over to ask her for the silliest things, like two eggs or a few apples. Seriah and Rasmus didn't mind in the slightest, loving the excuse to see each other more. Seriah started going to the underground worship meetings on Rasmus' farm, finding the pastor and the congregation very friendly and accepting compared to the people living in town.
Rasmus' parents invited her over for dinner, and while they were eating Rasmus' mother cleared her throat and asked cheerfully, "Do you and Rasmus want to get married?"
Seriah had been drinking some water, and she nearly spewed it all over her food. Her face turned red, as did Rasmus'. She stammered, "Um, why do you ask?"
His father blurted, "Well, we have been thinking of a way to sneak you two out of the country." He held up his hand as Rasmus opened his mouth to interupt, "Don't start Rasmus, you two don't belong here. The government is getting more and more tired of us citizens trying to get our rights back, and it sounds like there might be some serious action taken soon. You could start a new life in the country to the east, they've got a democracy."
His mother nodded and added, "We've found a way to get you over there: there's a shipment of trade goods leaving town this weekend, and if you stow away in one of the wagons, you could escape. We know one of the drivers, and he is willing to hide you in his cargo. He says the journey will only take about two days, so we'll give you some food and other stuff you'll need. Don't worry, eveything will be fine!"