Prompt: Since you’ve been going out for quite some time, your boyfriend/girlfriend arranges for you to meet his/her parents. When you get to his/her house and enter the front door, you hear him/her say “I’m sorry” as the door closes behind you.
You turn to face him, but he seems to have vanished. Before you, you see an old living room with furniture dating back to the Victorian era or earlier. There are an assortment of people sitting on the sofas and armchairs, as if frozen in time. It was as if you have stepped into Madame Tussaud’s , to a moment forever preserved, like page from a Jane Austen novel. You swallow, the blood slowing in your veins, turning cold as your heart beats faster. Your breathing has become so shallow, you’re not even sure how your cells are getting enough oxygen.
“What is this?” you wonder to yourself.
Then the room springs to life.
“So you’re the new girl.”
“Pretty young thing, isn’t she?”
“Almost too young for our Thomas.”
“But he chose her.”
“Did he now?”
“She looks just like-”
“But doesn’t she?”
“Don’t say that. Thomas won’t like it.”
“Oh, we mustn’t be rude. Come in, come in child, welcome to our home. Please, sit!”
You are immediately swarmed by six or seven women, ushering you towards the sofa. As you sit, Thomas reappears with a tray of tea.
“Sorry about that…” he said sheepishly.
“Don’t ever do that to me again!”
“I didn’t mean to…well, when I mentioned that we had been dating and…well they all wanted to meet you. I din’t know what to do but to bring you by…so this is my family…all of them.”
“You really scared me, you know, vanishing like that.”
You sigh, taking the final cup of tea from Thomas, as he joins you on the sofa. One by one, he introduces you to each of his family members. There are aunts and great aunts, cousins and second cousins, his mother, his sisters, and grandmother, but something is odd. There are no men, no fathers, brother, uncles…
“This is your whole family?”
You bite your tongue. It might be rude to ask. Whenever he had talked about his family, he had only mentioned his female relatives, but only now did it really sink in how strange that really was. Maybe a few would make sense, but could all of them be unmarried, divorced, or widowed? That seemed too much of a coincidence.
“Something troubling you, my dear?”
“No…I’m sorry. I can be a little spacey at times.”
His mother smiled and the rest smiled in sync.
“Are you hungry, dear? Thomas, why don’t you fetch the cakes?”
“Let me come with you,” you say, quickly following him to the kitchen.
“You didn’t have to.”
“I know, but I wanted to ask…”
“Why there are no men?”
You look away awkwardly, giving him the answer he needed.
“I’m the first male born in this family in over four centuries…my family is…special.”
“It cannot be explained by science or any manner of natural law.”
“How are we making out in here?”
“Excellently, mother. ”
“Yes, Elsie’s just a curious soul, that’s all.”
His mother smiles at you again, “Dear, what is it you want to know? We have no secrets between us here.”
“I…just didn’t want to be rude.”
“Why-How can there be no males in the family, with the exception of Thomas?”
Each of his mother’s smiles grew more and more unsettling.
“Come, sit, and enjoy Thomas’ cakes. We’ll tell you the story of our family.”
Reluctantly, you follow his mother back to the living room, with Thomas bringing up the rear.
“Elsie, do you love Thomas?”
“Enough to be with him forever?”
“Well…I-I would, if he’d have me.”
“I think he would. Isn’t that so, Thomas?”
“Yes, Aunt Beryl.”
“Shall we tell her? What you think, Grandma Edith?”
“Do you think she’ll react as badly as the last one?”
“What do you mean the last one?”
“Thomas’ previous girlfriend.”
“Are you sure you want to know?”
“Alright then, but we must warn you, once you go forward, you cannot go back.”
“Logically, yes, that would be true…”
“Very well. But before we proceed, we must know, how important it is for you to have a man in your life.”
You stare at them blankly, trying to understand what this has to do with anything. On the one hand, this is a family consisting of only women…could that have something to do with everything?
“I…It’s not absolutely necessary, I suppose. It’d be nice to be in a relationship with one before I have his child, but…there are other ways to have children.”
“True. And what do you think about the roles men and women play in society, generally?”
“Well, I believe that a man and woman can be equal in skill and ability, if afforded the same opportunities. There are, of course, physiological adaptations that have made men stronger than women, so in that instance, they would be better suited for the task. So roles should be assigned based on what each individual can do best rather than by gender.”
“Well, I like you more than I liked his ex already.”
You laugh nervously, unsure what to expect next.
“We are the women of all time. From past, present, and future.”
“What does that even mean?”
“We are not born, but created.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“It means, out of all the women in history, we were chosen, melded together into one family through interweaving our DNA with one another.”
“You see, Thomas didn’t fit into his role in life as a “man” in his time. The first of many. Thomas could have been any one of them, but the choosing is always random.”
“So…were each of you…conceived?”
“We were once and we are in the sense that we are born from a womb again into this life, but we are, as Grandma Edith said, created, not born.”
“So…your purpose is?”
“To show the world that these gender norms are outdated and need to change…but we’ve never been able to change the outside world…we are confined here.”
“Because we cannot step foot into a world that isn’t ours…we must be invited to.”
“Is that why I’m here?”
“What do you mean sort of? Am I or am I not?”
“You’re here because Thomas loves you and wanted to introduce you to us. He said you were strong and opinionated. A breath of fresh air out in the stifled world. That you would, if you could, bring about change. And he thought maybe we could help each other.”
“What do you mean?
“You’re young and there are consequences to your actions. How it will reflect on you, your family, and anyone affiliated with you, is something you constantly worry about. Well, we thought, perhaps, together, we could come up with a safe platform and location to initiate change. You are not the only one in the world who believes what they believe. We want to help.”
You look at them hopefully. For the first time, you see your dreams coming true. Everything you worked so hard for coming to life. You nod and smile.
Today is the beginning of everything.