"I was wondering what was taking you so long."
At the sound of her husband's quiet voice, Cecily's head snapped in that direction. Her hands shot up to cover her body; one arm across her breasts and the other over her pubic area. The tip of her fingers accidentally touched Nardo's penis, and she snatched her hand back as if she'd been burned, then glanced longingly at her robe, still on the counter. Although she knew she'd done nothing wrong, it didn't stop her from feeling guilty. The feel of Nardo sliding out of her body brought her eyes back around to him.
"I had something that needed taking care of before I returned," Nardo said calmly as he shrugged his shoulders back into the jumpsuit.
Cecily watched, unable to drag her eyes away as he tucked his flaccid penis inside and fastened his suit. The jumpsuits they wore were protection from the conditions in the mines, where both of the men worked.
When he was dressed, he took the hand she had clutched against her stomach and brought it to his mouth, pressing a soft kiss to her palm. "Thank you," he mouthed. Then he gave her body one last lingering look before turning back to his brother. "I'm finished, for now."
Billy didn't react to his comment. Instead, he walked over to Cecily, reached out to touch her check, pausing when she flinched. "It's okay." He leaned forward and kissed her gently, signaling that all was well between them. As he raised his head, he told her softly, "I'll see you when I get off."
Looking once more at Nardo, he said, "Let's go. They're waiting for us. We're moving to a new sector."
She watched as they both turned and walked out the door, wondering how her life had become this tangled mess, although she knew very well how it had happened. She thought back to that day, four months ago, in the agent's office. She'd been ecstatic. Billy had proposed, but wouldn't let her answer until she knew what she was endorsing.
"Ms. Ryan, has Mr. Mateo explained exactly what you'll be agreeing to if you sign these papers?"
Billy sat forward in his seat. "I told her what I knew from my brother Renardo, who's already there, which isn't much. That's why I brought her to you."
"I see." The agent rubbed his chin. "Very well, then. Ms. Ryan. The Company requires all of their miners to live in family groupings. No singles allowed. It's common for three or more brothers or close friends to share the same family unit. All families live in units that house a minimum of two, but no more than three, families."
He pushed a button and a small, 3-D holovid appeared above his desk, rotating for a view from all angles. "As you can see, the quarters are spacious, even though they are located underground within the asteroid. Conditions above ground, on the asteroid, are not conducive to human living, so I hope you're not claustrophobic." Another push of the button and the image changed to a surface view of the asteroid. It looked harsh and forbidding like some of Ancient Earth's desert wastelands before technology found away to revitalize them.
"The Company expects their workers to work, not spend their time socializing. There are no clubs, bars, restaurants, stores, or anything of that nature. The hours the miners work are long and the labor is hard and dangerous. Your husband, should you marry him, will spend most of his time working or sleeping. You'll get whatever time and attention he manages to squeeze in."
What about the other wives? Surely, I wouldn't be the only non-miner on the asteroid. Cecily desperately wanted to know but was too afraid to ask.
"If you get there and decide you don't like it, you won't be able to just return to Earth. Travel to Earth is restricted to once a year, unless there's an extreme emergency, and The Company rarely classifies anything as an emergency. If you do decide to leave, not only will you void your contract but your husband's as well. Neither of you will be allowed to return."
They'd make Billy leave too? She turned stricken eyes to Billy. He smiled reassuringly and discreetly motioned for her to pay attention.
"The population on Asteroid 4239 is small, maybe 200 people. Ninety-five percent of that population consists of workers, including many of the women. Other than those who share your family unit, you'll rarely be in contact with the others. In fact, The Company frowns on socializing outside of the units. There is less capacity for interpersonal conflicts that way. Nothing that disrupts the workflow will be tolerated, and that includes people who can't get along. If you and your husband start having problems, keep it to yourselves. Domestic disturbances will not be tolerated either and will result in immediate termination and subsequent return to Earth." He paused and took a breath. The holovid disappeared from view.
"Do you understand the terms I've outlined for you thus far?"
"Yes, sir." The restrictive environment he was describing intimidated her a bit, but as long as she was with Billy, nothing else mattered.