It was the mid-1930’s and much of America had been plagued with drought and dust. It seemed like it would never end and their farming town was on the brink.
Emma and her mother washed the dishes together after a family dinner. It was just the two of them in the kitchen. Although their family couldn’t afford to send her away to college anymore, Emma was always happy to be at home where she could be useful to her parents.
“Do you think that crazy old man could be right?” Emma asked, while putting a plate on a rack.
Her mother gave a smile. “Don’t be silly. How could he possibly be right?”
Earlier that day, while they were leaving church, an old man had stood on a wooden crate and preached about how the severe weather was God’s vengeance. The man, with a bible in one hand and a cross in the other, pleaded for the need of a virgin sacrifice. In particular, he pointed directly at Emma. ‘It’s written in the book!’ the old man had shouted at her, before people quieted him down.
“Look what’s going on outside,” Emma held firm. “It’s not normal.”
“God has a plan for everything. They call this a ‘dust bowl.’ Trust in the Lord, my dear Emma, and we’ll be fine.”
“But what if there are things we can do?” Emma asked. “Like what that old man said about the virgins.”
“Emma, do not speak like that in this household,” her mother said sternly. “Do you understand?”
“It’s inappropriate to speak that way. And it’s perfectly wholesome to be a virgin. That’s the way it should be until you find a suitable husband.”
Emma nodded. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“It’s not me you’re upsetting. It’s the Lord. His plans should never be questioned. It’s not our place.”
“You’re right, mother. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. Just keep things in perspective. You’re a beautiful young woman, and someday, you’ll find a handsome young man to take care of you. Until then, focus on your chores.”
Her mother gave her a kiss on the cheek and told her what a precious daughter she was. Emma always loved hearing nice compliments from her mother. Especially since she always knew that her mother was being honest.
Emma wasn’t ignorant about sex. She knew about all about sexual desires that adults had. She occasionally masturbated. But she tried her best to avoid it because she had been taught that it was a sin.
Sex was something her friends had secretly talked about when no one else was around. Some had even experimented with it. It was an extremely taboo subject in the small religious town where they lived. No one dared speak of it publicly. Even showing skin was considered taboo for women.
In the days that followed, Emma helped with chores around the house. Life was getting slow without school. But she managed.
In that same time, she never forgot the words of the old man. What if he was right? Emma secretly wondered if she was the reason why the town was experiencing an extreme drought. Maybe her virginity was attracting evil spirits? Those thoughts brought guilt and shame. At night, she’d cried in bed.
Then she would begin to wonder about sex again.
The furthest she had ever gone was kissing an 18 year old boy on the lips a few times a few months ago. They never dated. Emma never had a boyfriend before, only because her parents forbade it. But she had plenty of offers.
Many times, when Emma was home alone, she would sift through her father’s medical books. Emma would look at drawings and photographs of nude adults in those books. She learned much about sexual acts there as well.