Esmeralda was pleasantly surprised by the respite her thing gave her. The wretched priest had not tried to take her for several days now. For once, she prayed It would not take its time in going away. The wretchedness of it was most certainly not enjoyable, but it gave her a break from her captor's unwanted attempts at seduction. That itself made the whole situation desirable to her. Unfortunately, like all good (or bad things), her cycle started to come to an end.

Esmeralda still did not understand where the wretched man's sudden kindness for her came from and she could not make sense of it. The man was so full of contrasting behaviors. She made a mental list of everything that he had done. He ruined my life, blamed me for his faults, turned me over to be tortured and left for dead, hurt me, assaulted me, and humiliated me. After brutalizing me, he turns around and acts gentle and caring, bringing her things to ease my pain. He braided my hair of all things!

The confused girl rubbed her temples. He was truly straining her mind with his conflicting ways. From a roaring lion to a gentle and meek lamb. The man was a mass of contradictions. To make matters worse, she knew that she would have her monthly curse and the thought of what it meant was not lost to her.

Esmeralda knew what happened to women when they reached a certain age and their bodies started to bleed. It meant that they were of marrying age and could produce children. The evil monster's assault of her body made that idea a reality to her for the first time. The thought of that wretched man as a father made her sick.

The possibility of children had occurred to her while she was growing up. She always thought she would find her mother, marry a handsome hero, and take care of him and the children she would give him. The idea stalled for many years due to her priority of surviving until she saw her Sun God. She had dreamed of having many golden-haired sons with Phoebus and apple-cheeked daughters with his eyes and her hair. They would be surrounded by their many children and be happy together.

But that was not to be.

The Wretched Priest had made sure of that when he stabbed her love and left the blame on her. Now she had to fear him fathering children with her. Esmeralda wondered if the thought had ever occurred to him.

She doubted it. He claimed to have prepared everything for them. Obviously not.

His behavior only increased her desire to run. The thought of escape was a near and constant thought for her. Esmeralda promised herself that she would run at the first chance that she could. She could run free and run to her little home where he could not find her ever again. She would be protected by her adopted brother Clopin and his friends and the Goblin Monk would never hurt her.

But she knew that would not be either. Maybe if she didn't tell what had happened to her? The loss of her maidenhead, whether willing or unwilling, would be a source of great shame to her and her family. She also had to worry about the rumors of the Dancer and the Captain. News of their intended meeting was sure to have gotten out.

Esmeralda knew how crucial virginity was with her family. She remembered what happened to her cousin Sabina after her honor was brutally taken by a local boy. She was 10 when she learned why she must never let a man touch her in such a way.

Esmeralda's mother and aunt gathered around the weeping form of Sabina. Her cousin was known to be a great beauty with large dark eyes like a doe and silken black hair that fell to her calves. She had a radiant beauty that caught the eye of everyone she met.

The once beautiful girl had bruised arms, red eyes, and a bloodied lip. She told a horrific story of how some disgusting village man cornered her alone, covered her mouth, and had his way with her. Her mother found the disgusting man assaulting her and beat him with a broom until he was bloodied. Esmeralda looked on in horror as her aunt tried to comfort her daughter. She did not know the strange word "rape" that they spoke of, but she knew it must have been a terrible thing to make her cry so.

Esmeralda's adopted mother Mama Vadoma took her aunt's hand and said "We have to keep this quiet. Such a thing can not EVER be spoken of for her sake and ours". She looked down at Sabina and said "You have to keep what happened to you an absolute secret. It could bring great shame to you and you won't be able to marry. I promise that I won't tell anyone for our sake. Your father would have our hides".

The girl wailed at her "I didn't do anything! I never asked for this! I never wanted him and I told him no. I fought him as hard as I could! He hurt me and brutalized me! Why would I be a source of shame when HE caused this?"

"Because it is our lot. You may not have done anything, but men think you made them do it A glance of a woman's eyes and we are somehow seductresses. A flash of a skirt and we are somehow begging them for kisses. A man has no self control, yet we are to blame. It is our lot in life. Now cry your tears and speak no more of it. Forget it happened. It is the best for everyone".

Mama Vadoma took Esmeralda's hand. She pointed a finger in Esmeralda's face and gave her a stern lecture. "NEVER speak of this to anyone. Your cousin could be thrown out… or worse".

"But Mama, she didn't do anything. Why would she be blamed for something someone else did to her?"

She sighed. "My sweet, there is great many things that don't make sense. It is quite simply the way things are done. Men don't want a woman that isn't a maiden. It's an obsession, but its one that we must live with. If she isn't, it brings shame to her father and a bride could be sent back on her wedding night. She was cast out too and no one knew what happened to her. I have seen such things. My mother's mother lived this way and many mothers before her".

"You must never let a man touch you. Ever. It could bring great shame and your father could cast you out. Your charm would lose its power too". The older woman reached into her skirt and drew out a small blade. It was finely ornamented in the Saracen style. She handed it to the girl.

"With this, you can help protect yourself from those that would harm you in such ways. I have carried to for many years and it has saved me many times. Head my words my daughter. You are too precious to me and there's things even I can't protect you from".

Her cousin was married off shortly after and nothing was ever spoken of it ever again. It stayed with Esmeralda and helped her form how she had to protect herself at all costs until she was married.

She was ready to willingly risk everything when she decided to be with Phoebus. She knew she would lose her family and friends. She didn't care because he would be her family and husband. She wouldn't need a mother, father, or cousins. He would be her everything.

Unfortunately, the Goblin Monk ruined that and her hopes with it. He stepped in, took all choices from her, and took what she didn't want to give. With it, he took away any hope of being accepted by her brother and family ever again. He took her chance of finding her real mother too.

It made her feel sick.

She was truly in a terrible situation.