In the years after the Final War, the Council of Women decide to secede from men. They create a world of their own away from men, where they can raise their children without fear. Once a year men may visit briefly to procreate. Boys are sent to the Land of Men when they reach puberty.
At eleven, Bergman was sent across the sea and placed with his fathers, Spencer and Harris. Years later, he meets Hastings at the Beach Festival, an annual event for young men. It’s love at first sight for Bergman.
But the course of true love never runs smoothly. In time Hastings desires a son, a subject Bergman paid little thought to. Yet their son Taylor brings great joy to their lives.
Life is further complicated when Hastings is chosen to travel to the Land of Women to father children. He wants to accept, but Bergman can’t understand why he would consider going. Isn’t he happy with what he already has? If he goes, what will that do to their relationship? To their future? Is this a betrayal, or is it something else?
Another year came and went. Another year of planting and harvesting, of mending and building. Sometimes I moaned about having to get out of bed, but I much preferred our way of doing things to the pre-war mode. Those poor sods had to work for someone else, doing jobs they hated to buy things they didn’t need. At least I got the benefit of every scrap of work I did. The more I did, the more I benefitted. The less I did, the less comfortable I was. It seemed so simple the pre-war ways baffled me.
I looked forward to the Beach Festival with incredible enthusiasm now that I knew what to expect.
I arrived and quickly found some friends.
“I’ve been waiting all year,” said Baker, who lived on the property on the far side of mine.
“I missed last year,” said Murray, who worked in the open air markets and purchased much of my excess produce. “I was ill. I could’ve have kicked myself. I’m usually as healthy as a horse and then bang! Right before the Beach Festival, I go down with the flu.”
“Well you’re looking healthier than ever,” I said.
“Just as you are,” he said.
It was a slightly overcast day and a light breeze was blowing in from the water. Our sarongs were being blown open so we had to conduct out conversation with one hand holding the fabric in place.
By chance I happened to notice a large muscular man I had never seen before.
“Who’s that?” I asked nodding in the general direction of the muscled vision standing by himself.
Baker shrugged. Like only a handful of men I’d known of, he wasn’t interested in men. “It’s just not in me,” he’d say. To which someone would invariably reply, “But it could be.” In the Land of Men, a heterosexual was doomed to live a lonely life. Many co-habited purely for the company.
“Never seen him before,” said Murray. “And believe me when I say, I’d never forget him if I had.”
I couldn’t have agreed more. He was the most handsome man I’d ever seen. He had a black moustache and a small tuft of dark hair beneath his bottom lip. His shoulders were broad and his chest, well-developed. Of course, all men were fit. Working the land honed and sculpted everyone’s body, though some were slender and toned, others more athletic. Some men went a little further and worked their bodies even harder to produce muscular works of art. This man was one of those.
I bid good bye to my friends. “I don’t want to lose him,” I said with a wink.