Love is a taboo, a mere fantasy— foreign, unreachable, and dangerous.
Raised in a society where women have no rights, seventeen-year-old Thia Clay holds little hope for a bright future. When her parents sell her into marriage to elite member William Fox, Thia slowly gives in to despair. William is nothing but a cruel, selfish young man with no other interest than to serve his own.
Born illegally and forced to hide from the authorities his entire life, nineteen-year-old Chi Richards is an active member of the Underground—a rebellious group seeking to overthrow the government.
Chi only has one goal—to rescue his parents from the work camp they were forced into.
Meeting Thia was never part of the plan, and neither was falling in love with her.
If caught in their forbidden relationship, Thia and Chi could face a death sentence, and when devastating secrets surface from Chi’s past, Thia has to rely on her instincts to make a choice that could save her or destroy her forever.
“So, Thia, what skills have you been learning at school?” Mrs.Fox asks. “Your mother just told me you’re good at writing. Quite a useless ability to have if you ask me! What’s the point of writing? Just filling our young girls’ minds with idle thoughts and beliefs.”
I didn’t hear my mother refer to my writing, and I’m not sure how to respond to such a condescending comment. Is she expecting me to agree with her and acknowledge how worthless my skills are?
Writing makes me feel good. It’s the only escape I have from this place. In my verses, women are free. They can make a life for themselves. I can live vicariously through them and imagine my future the way I’d want it to be. Of course, no one has ever read those poems. I only show my family and teachers the sonnets that fit our society’s narrow-minded beliefs.
“Thia writes poetry,” my mother interjects, trying to save face, but burying me deeper instead. “It is quite good. Though writing may seem useless, poems can brighten a tedious evening and help entertain guests.”
I wish she would just shut up, but she just plunges the nail deeper, striking me like a hammer, as she speaks the words I’ve been fearing, “Thia, why don’t you read us one of your poems?”
I want to turn into a rodent right now, go hide, and never come out again. What is my mother thinking? I’ll just humiliate myself even more than I already have. I nod gracefully anyway and ask to be excused from the table. I stand up and try to act normally in spite of my quivering. I walk to my bedroom, grab my notepad, and head back to the dining room as smoothly as I can.
My hands are shaking. I brush them against my dress in a quick gesture to stabilize them. I breathe deeply a few times, praying for the hundredth time tonight that I won’t faint.
I hold myself straight, open the pad, and look for the best sonnet
I have. I start reading the rhymes. My voice is shaky with tears threatening to emerge. I hope they’ll blame my emotions on the nature of the poem. I chose an ode to my grandfather who passed away a few months ago. It’s beautiful, I think, and I’m quite proud of it.
When I’m done, I hold the pad between my hands and stare at my feet. I’m too scared to confront the looks on their faces.
“Well, I do hope you’ll have other ways to distract William’s guests once you two are married,” Mrs. Fox says with a snort.
Her comment doesn’t hurt my feelings though; it infuriates me. I hold the papers more tightly, out of anger, while trying to hide the frown forming on my face. Who is this woman to dare judge the poem I wrote in honor of my late grandfather? I hold the pad tighter and tighter until it twists between my fingers and my knuckles turn white.
I look up. My brother rolls his eyes at Mrs. Fox, just once, before winking at me. Mrs. Fox has returned to her meal and so have her husband and my father. My mother though is staring at me with profound pity. There is something else hiding in her eyes too, pride maybe? She throws Mrs. Fox one quick look of disdain, so fast it almost never was. I’m both surprised and shocked by it. My mother is not one to be sentimental—especially not toward me. The disgust she just expressed for Mrs. Fox, no matter how swift it was, is quite unsettling. It’s such a small act of defiance, but the soothing effect on my heart is strong all the same.
When I turn toward William, his eyes meet mine. He’s actually looking at me for once, and delight flickers through his gaze swiftly—there one second, gone the next—as if he were proud of me. Then his eyes shift to his mother, and a frosty spark of irritation shines through them before he looks back at his plate.
I resume my place next to my mother, and Mrs. Fox’s snotty comments never stop. William ignores me for the majority of the evening, but his eyes keep on narrowing a little bit more each time his mother throws a demeaning remark at me, and the hope that he might like me is now growing inside my heart.