Stefan flinched as he saw his dad’s hand head towards his head. At 12 years old, he had had years of practice at dodging his dads wrath. It was usually to his own detriment though as a flinch was a sign of weakness, something that would not be tolerated, and so generally resulted in harsher treatment.
This time however, his dad was just reaching to adjust his sons tie.
‘You need to look extra smart today,’ William said to his son. ‘It’s not every day that you find out who you are going to be marrying.’
Stefan wanted to be anywhere but here and once again he envied his brother Jerry, wherever he may be.
Jerry had been removed his parent’s care in 1958 when he was eight years old. Too many trips to the hospital, courtesy of his dad’s hands, had prompted his removal. Before the authorities had had a chance to take Stefan, William and his wife Vera had packed their bags and left the area.
Stefan didn’t know how it had all happened but they had ended up living here, in Haven, with five other families. Since he had arrived Stefan hadn’t been allowed to leave the grounds in which the large house was set in.
And now today he was meant to get excited about having his future wife chose for him! She was to be picked from the daughters of one of the other families living within the community. All the children were in the same situation; in three years time they were all to be married in a mass ceremony to celebrate ten years or Havens existence.
His dad knew he had always had a soft spot for Harriet so he was confident about that at least, surely his dad would make sure that they got paired up.
Stefan and his parents headed to the communal hall where all the families were meeting for the announcements. As they took their chairs Stefan hunted out Harriet and as their eyes met she returned his smile and held up her crossed fingers.
The six men, head of the households, went to the front so that they could announce their sons chosen bride. William stepped forward first.
‘My son Stefan,’ he started as he looked at his son full in the eye, and as he continued a cruel smirk spread across his face, ‘is to marry Isabella.’
Stefan’s world crumpled as he heard Harriet shout a No! For a minute he couldn’t see, everything went black and his arms and legs started to tingle in shock. When he eventually felt himself again he was a different boy; the last shred of decency and hope had finally been stripped from him.
They will pay for that, and for every hurt I have ever felt and for every hurt that will come in the future, he vowed as he returned his dads stare, now filled with a slow burning hate.