NOTE: I’m giving a trigger warning here, because Sofia has a past that contains trauma which may trigger some people.
Sofia Faith Barton was born into a cult where her parents were enthusiastic about keeping all the rules.
Being a girl, she and her sister suffered under many more of these rules than their brothers. Don’t cut your hair, don’t wear make-up, don’t wear shorts or jeans, only skirts or dresses, no pierced ears, no boyfriends unless they were found by the family, the cult.
She was taught from a young age that women were responsible for men’s arousal. If a woman was raped, she probably asked for it. If a woman was touched at work, she definitely asked for it somehow.
When Sophia got her first job at fifteeen, in a small local cafe, the owner would pinch her bottom each time he walked behind her, which he made sure to do often. Sofia dreaded this, but she didn’t outwardly react, knowing with certainty that this was her fault. After a while, he moved on to holding her hips and pushing himself close to her as he passed behind her. This made Sofia physically sick, and she began to take days off, preferring the unhappy company of her mother to the shame she felt at work.
She finally broke down and quit, and although she was surrounded by family, she felt utterly alone. She had no friends and she could never tell her family what had happened at work, because she knew that they would blame her and probably punish her, and she hadn’t said a word at work, for fear of being ridiculed and shamed.
She told the family that she didn’t know what was wrong with her, she just wasn’t coping. Her father yelled at her for quitting a perfectly good job without consulting him. He soon found a job for her with a friend of his who owned a bookshop.
At first, it seemed as though this would be better than the cafe. At first, the owner of the bookshop didn’t lay a hand on Sofia. But then, a regular delivery man, Adam, became very friendly with Sofia, telling her little jokes. Each visit to the shop, he made a point of getting close to Sofia, and one day he touched her on the forearm, and she felt immediately stressed. She knew she’d done something wrong for this man to touch her.
A touch to the arm turned into a hug when he arrived, a hug when he left, then the seemingly inevitable bottom pinching. Not to be outdone, the shop owner caught onto this and started pinching Sofia as well.
The senior shop assistant was a sour older woman who would frown and sneer at Sofia whenever the men were around. Sofia knew that the woman knew that she was a slut, one of her fathers words for women of loose morals.
Sofia, still in her teens, knew exactly what she was by now. She was a slut, a loose woman, one of those filthy dirty teases her father had been talking about for years. She was deathly afraid she’d be raped next.
Sofia liked the saying that you might as well be hanged for a sheep, as a lamb, and so she made a decision to stop trying to be modest, and dressed as she wanted. She was less careful how she spoke to her parents, and searched for someone to marry, in the hopes she could escape the cult.
A friend of the family had a son, older than Sofia, and not completely ugly. He, Simon, was an accountant in his fathers firm and had liked Sofia since she turned sixteen.
Sofia and Simon sat together at cult functions and family gatherings for six months and then Simon proposed. Sofia quit her job the same day, and the cult approved. A married lady should look after the home, so Sofia ought to be following her mother around, learning how to be a good, virtuous wife.
They married less than a year later and moved into the flat that Simon owned, in the city. Immediately, Sofia spoke to her husband about keeping away from the families, and she was shocked to learn that he agreed completely. He, like she, had no interest in cult life, let alone the families. Simon had his own story of abuse, his by an elder in the cult.
Simons abuse impacted his self worth, to the point that he could barely make a decision in his life. He suffered with untreatable impotence and blamed Sofia entirely.
He told her that he found other women attractive, and they gave him the right feelings, the ones his wife should have given him.
Simon found a new job in a bigger accounts firm, and started hanging around with a few guys from work. They went out evenings, and took weekends away together. Simon always came home so much happier, so Sofia didn’t mind.
Sofia had done some online courses, learning marketing and website design. Simon had helped her to set up a business, and she’d done well. People liked working with her, they found her kind, smart and trustworthy, so word of mouth led to more business than she could handle on her own. She’d employed her first person, Louisa, a woman of course, and together they’d grown the business even more.
When Sofia was twenty five, Simon told her they needed to get a divorce. She wasn’t shocked. When her parents came to the flat howling with rage and disappointment, Sofia told them that Simon was gay and he deserved to have his own happy life. She’d thought her father was going to die on the spot.
They had demanded she come home, so they could all pray over her. Sofia had laughed and reassured them that she had a plan for her life and it didn’t involve any prayer.
Simon had done well in his job, and had played the stock market successfully for a few years. They had lived pretty simply, and had a good amount of money saved, between them, which they split equally.
Sofia looked for an apartment in a city suburb near the beach and found a one bedroom fixer-upper she could afford. Dark wallpaper peeling from the walls, bright orange benchtops in the kitchen, Sofia loved it. She installed air conditioning as a priority, and set up her desk in the living area, looking out through the other buildings for a glance at the blue ocean.
Working hard and renovating the apartment took up all of Sofias time. When it was time to sell and find the next bargain, she was able to move that little bit closer to the beach. Her new disaster of an apartment was on the second from top floor of a solid brick building, and gave her glimpses of actual sand and waves. She felt very grateful, and pleased with herself.
She now had two bedrooms, and after she’d moved in, she set to work on the bigger bedroom, turning it into a nice, spacious office with room for her and Louisa, and a client or two.
She renovated from the front door to the office, and to the guest bathroom, so that clients wouldn’t have to be confronted by the old shag pile carpet and lime green walls.
Sofia’s real success had come from her YouTube channel where she offered business advice, tips and tricks and courses for women. Her long black hair, green eyes and elfin features, the way she spoke clearly and yet without pretension, her happy smile due mostly to her independent life working with only the nicest women.
She wrote a book that had sold well across the world. Then she’d written a book about her life growing up in a cult and it had done even better.
She was prospering, having fun, and yet something was missing. She shrank from the thought that it was a man. Yet, she did feel ready for a relationship. As she’d always done, Sofia thought long and hard about this dilemma.