Heavy. That was the only way to describe the atmosphere. As Alexandra walked into the assembly hall, filing in neatly behind her mother, she wondered what had happened. For the government to allow women to attend the meeting, something absolutely horrible must have happened. She kept her head tilted downwards and her arms politely folded in front of her. She quickly lined up against the wall, making sure not to lean. Leaning was bad posture, and bad posture broke rule number six. As she stood there, back straight and head down, she recited the rules of a woman in her head.
Although she was only required to know the first five rules at her age, she had studied them in advance, hoping this extra effort would be noticed and acknowledged by the matchmaker. At twelve, she was supposed to be reaching her rebellious phase, where she started breaking the rules of a woman and acting out.
But her female caretaker, who was assigned to her at birth, had reprimanded her and discouraged her from going into this phase. Meredith had reasoned that she would grow out of it anyways, so why waste so much of her life. Looking back, Alexandra was grateful Meredith had raised her to be a proper lady. All her companions had started doing such crude and unthinkable things, such as gossiping and complaining. They had requested she join them on several occasions, but she always politely refused. They might want to make a fool out of themselves, but Alexandra was very content with being the best woman she could.
She was snapped out of her thoughts and daydreaming by a sharp voice. “Looks like everyone is here. Very well, we can begin.”
Alexandra didn’t look up, as she didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone on accident. But she could tell from the voice that it was the president speaking. She had learned in history class that it was the president’s great grandfather that had founded their society and wrote the rules that they still follow to this day.
“As you may know, our society is built upon peace and order.” The president started. “We have survived for generations, guided by nothing but a few morals and ideals. There have been times of failure and times of success.”
Alexandra had to restrain herself from nodding along. Even at her age, showing her opinions would be considered horribly rude, and not to mention it broke rule eight. She glanced over at Elizabeth and Abigail, two of the three girls she considered to be her friends. They didn’t look like they were listening, instead they were staring at the ground and zoning out. Alexandra internally rolled her eyes. It was just like them to not pay attention. She quickly glanced around for Beatrice. Beatrice would surely be paying attention. She was the most woman-like out of the four. But as Alexandra scanned the room, trying not to get caught performing such an unladylike act, she couldn’t find Beatrice anywhere. It didn’t seem like Beatrice had attended the meeting. This confused her, because the girl was never late to anything. Alexandra was sure she would see Beatrice later on in the day for their literature lesson, so she wasn’t too worried. She assured herself that Beatrice had simply lost track of time and continued to listen to the speech.
“As much as I hate to admit this, today is one of those failures. It has come to my attention that Beatrice Adams, former daughter of the head gardener of Hemmings Estate, has gone missing.”
Suddenly, Alexandra wasn’t very concerned with the literature lesson. Beatrice had gone missing. Where could she have gone? There was a possibility she simply decided to travel outside the community without notifying anyone? That wasn’t likely, considering Beatrice was the most proper woman Alexandra knew. She was so caught up in her thoughts that she barely caught the president’s next words.
“At age fourteen, Beatrice was a remarkable girl. She was on the track to become a very refined woman. It’s truly a shame she had to leave us so soon. Four years before her matchmaking session too.”
Alexandra’s mind raced. Although her face remained as impassive and polite as ever, she was screaming on the inside. This wasn’t possible. The president giving Beatrice a farewell speech, as if she were dead. Didn’t he say she was simply missing? There’s no way Beatrice could be gone. She was the embodiment of a woman and had been Alexandra’s role model since a very young age. She quieted her racing thoughts and once again tapped back into the president’s speech and listened.
“My people, it is clear that Phoenix was responsible for this crime. They are responsible for the death of Beatrice Adams.” At that, Alexandra’s interest was piqued. She had heard about a group named Phoenix before, and if it had something to do with Beatrice she wanted to know.
“From the information I have gathered, it seems that Phoenix is a rogue group consisting only of women. They seem to mainly depend on criminal activity to stay alive.” At this, many of the men in the room gasped. Criminal activity was rarely a threat in their community, so when something like this did come up, it was terrifying to even think about. But what was even more startling to them was the information that the group consisted of only women.
“Yes, I’m afraid it’s true. Phoenix had been feeding Beatrice false information about our society for years now. They planted a seed of false information into Beatrice’s mind and nourished it. Phoenix made her believe that men were cruel, unfair, and evil. They are the reason Beatrice is no longer with us.” As Alexandra saw the president’s gaze start to shift over to the women lined up against the wall, she quickly lowered her gaze before she was noticed. Somewhere during his speech, she had unintentionally lifted her head to watch the president as he talked.
“This just goes to show women can’t function without the strong hand of a man to guide them. This group proves that much. These women have been left to their own devices and look what they’ve become. They’re now more like animals than anything. I pray no more of you shall fall victim to them and their cruel ways. Let Beatrice be a lesson to all of you. Men are always right. Women are weak minded and fragile. They must never rule over themselves.”
At those words, the room burst into applause. As Alexandra looked around, several of the women were clapping as well. She wasn’t sure if they were moved by the speech or by the presence of the president, but either way, they were applauding. She kept her head down and thought about the speech. She registered the words of the president. They were saying that she was weak and useless, that Beatrice was a fool. But as much as Alexandra wanted to object, to disagree with what the president had said, she couldn’t bring herself to. She knew keep down that the president was right. Women were nothing without men. Instead of channeling her frustrations to the men around her, she decided to make better use of those feelings. She channeled them to Phoenix, building a hate for them. She blamed them for taking her best friend, and she vowed from that day forward that she would have nothing to do with them.