A/N: Barb's musings about where she is and how she got there following coming out to Pam.
Disclaimer: I do not own Big Love or the characters or even their motivations.
Inside Her Mind
The party was over. Everyone had gone home. Barb, Nikki, and Margie had cleaned up the food while Bill and Ben had put away the tables and picked up the trash in the yard. For the first time since she'd told Pam the truth about their family, Barb was alone. As she lay in bed, she sifted through her feelings about the day and about her life.
When she had been disqualified from the Beehive Mother of the Year contest, she had thought her life was over. People knew. And not just people from Juniper Creek. People who mattered. Because no matter what she said to Bill or Nikki, in her heart she knew that she would never consider them to be people whose opinions mattered. They lived in a totally different world from the world where she lived in Sandy, Utah.
Ever since then she had wandered in a fog, trying to find an anchor somewhere in the storm and tumult that followed – at least inside her head. She had agreed to polygamy. She had married two sister wives. The choice had ultimately been hers. But other than a select few people, she had never really wanted anyone to know. It was somehow a separate world. A fantasy world. And it needed to stay there. Because if people knew, there would be consequences. Dire consequences. And if she ever needed proof of that, all she had to do was look at her mother and her sister.
Besides, if the polygamy remained hidden from the world, maybe she could hide it from herself as well. Maybe inside her head she would be able to pretend she had kept all of the covenants she had made. Maybe inside her head she could still follow the counsel of a living prophet (which Roman certainly was not). Maybe inside her head she could still pretend that though she hadn't entered a church in years, she still followed all the teachings that she knew in her heart were true. Maybe inside her head she could teach her children right and wrong without being a hypocrite. Maybe….
Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. But during the day it was easy to pretend, at least most of the time. She was first wife after all, which Bill had confirmed tonight in no uncertain terms. And Nikki called her Boss Lady. Nikki might be power hungry, but she wouldn't directly confront that authority. Margie was young. She was almost young enough that Barb forgot she was a peer and treated her like one of her children, needing someone still to watch over her and give her things to do to make her feel valued and important, but nothing too important. She wasn't willing to trust her with the important stuff. At least not yet. She often had to remind herself that while young, Margie really was a grown up. It was just a big family with lots of children. That was normal in Utah.
At night, when she went to bed alone more often than not, it was harder to pretend. She missed cuddling with her husband telling him about the minutia of her day. She missed telling him about her concerns. She missed telling him about the amazing thing one of the kids had done. She missed him. And if she allowed herself to think, she thought about where he was, what he was doing, and who he was with. Picturing that was never good. So she just pretended it didn't happen. Inside her head it never did.
It had all happened so gradually. She grew up in a normal LDS home in the Salt Lake Valley. She graduated from seminary. She went to college. She met a nice young man – a worthy priesthood holder. He had a bizarre background, but that only made him more firmly committed to gospel principles. They married in the temple. They had three children. It was just how she's always imagined it. Then she got sick. And not just a little sick. Deathly ill. She was going to die, leaving Bill without a wife and her children without a mother. The insurance didn't come close to covering the medical costs. Every last cent of their money and their savings was gone. Her family tried to help, but there was only so much they could do without becoming destitute themselves.
Somehow Roman found out. She still didn't know how. But at the time, it had seemed almost a blessing. He offered Bill the money to pay all the medical bills and startup money for a business of his own, for just a share in the business. And he'd be a silent partner. Other than sending him checks, they wouldn't have to deal with him. And to save a little money, there was a young widow on the compound with no children of her own that would help with the housework and the children. It seemed to be an answer to their almost desperate prayers.
That's when Nikki came to stay with them. Nikki was very much a product of the compound. She dressed like she belonged in some sort of a pioneer movie, but there would be no doubt that she'd set a good example for Barb's daughters when it came to modesty. She seemed to sincerely believe that her father, Roman, was a prophet, but Barb's influence, and Bill's would certainly override that. As time passed, Barb grew her to see not just as a capable woman, but as a friend and confidant. There were times she wondered what she'd ever done without her.
Then came an acute crisis in her health. She was certain she was dying. And so was Bill. And she started thinking about him being all alone and lost in the world without her – a ship without an anchor. And she knew he and the children would suffer. So the day Nikki came to her in tears telling her that she was going to have to leave because Roman had decided she needed to marry another man from the compound, one old enough to be her father, Barb knew she had to do something. She couldn't let that happen to her friend. And she couldn't let Bill and the children ever be left alone. But the only way she could see that Roman would let Nikki stay was if she was married to Bill. Of course it wouldn't be legal. Polygamy never is. But if Roman saw it as real, and Nikki saw it as real, that would be enough, wouldn't it? So she proposed the idea to Bill.
She had never expected his reaction. He was so violently opposed to the idea. He'd grown up on the compound. He'd seen what it did to both the women and the men who lived the Principle as they called it. He loved her and only her. He'd made an eternal commitment to her. He couldn't violate that. So she simply told him to pray about it. And to propose a better solution if he could find one.
He struggled with the decision for weeks. She knew she was asking for a lot from him. And she wasn't sure he could give even that much more. Until they day he told her that she was right. He couldn't see another way out either. So he knelt at Nikki's feet, beside Barb's bed, and asked her to become his wife. The look of surprise and joy on Nikki's face was one that Barb would never forget. Just a few days later, she found herself wearing white, leaning on Nikki and Bill at an alter, so different from that in the temple, with her children looking on. It was finished. When she died, Bill and the kids would be taken care of. Nikki would see to that. She was a strong and capable woman. She might feel a bit like a fish out of sea away from Juniper Creek, but she'd learn. And she'd embrace the gospel in its entirety. Barb just knew it.
Then came a huge surprise. Suddenly, instead of getting steadily worse, Barb started feeling a little better each day until the day she went to the doctor and he pronounced that her cancer was gone. Completely gone. Like it had never been there. Except she could no longer have children. This was not something she had ever expected. She was dying. She knew it. Bill knew it. Nikki knew it. And now she was actually part of a polygamous family. What had she done? She loved Nikki, but was she just going to have a younger sister around all the time?
About this time, she realized part of why Bill had been so slow to accept her idea. She'd always envisioned a platonic relationship between Bill and Nikki. She'd never really thought further than that. But Bill knew that if he embraced the Principle in name, he'd have to do so in fact as well. He hadn't agreed to Barb's proposal until he was sure that he could keep the commitments he made to Nikki in fact, as well as in name. So now, she, as first wife, had to set up a schedule for when Bill was going to be in each of their beds. Half the time in hers. Half the time in Nikki's. On the other side of her bedroom wall. Where she could hear everything that was going on. She lost count of how many nights she buried her face in her pillow and cried herself to sleep. She had to put on happy face for Bill and for Nikki and for the kids. They could never know she had agreed to this – had suggested this – without fully realizing the consequences. She was committed. There was no way out. Except inside her head.
She quickly learned that she was really good at pretending. To the outside world, Nikki was just a poor unfortunate woman who was living with her family. And most of the time that's who she was to Barb, too. Even when she sat down with Nikki to make out schedules and shopping lists and to distribute chores, she never allowed herself to think of Nikki as Bill's wife. Her sister was an acceptable label. And close enough to sister wife for both of them to be fooled. It was only when she lay in bed at night, listening to them in the next room, that she even let it enter conscious thought that she was married to a polygamist. The thought that she was a polygamist never really crossed her mind. Bill was. Nikki was. But she was never a polygamist. She was a monogamist. Inside her head.
Then, one day, a few years and a child or two later, Bill brought home a young girl who worked in his store. She was pretty hopeless as an employee. She was young. She was lost. And she wanted to know what it was like to be part of a big family. For some reason completely unfathomable to Barb, he had told her that he had two wives. And still she wanted to know him – to be with him. So he brought her home for lunch with him and with Nikki and with the kids who weren't in school. She fell in love with the chaos. And even though Nikki had expressly told her not to set her cap for Bill, suddenly she was there all the time. Bill had hired her as a babysitter. Evidently, his children were less important than the business she wasn't good enough for. No. That wasn't true. Bill loved his children and Margie was wonderful with them. She actually excelled when taking care of the children in a way she never had at the store.
Then slowly, Barb realized she really liked having Margie around. She was so good with the children. They all loved her. Even Sara loved her. But she was so much more worldly than Barb was comfortable with. Her clothes were clothes her girls would definitely never own. At the same time she was kind and loving and generous. She would give up anything for those kids. She'd even give up her social life to be with the kids when the adults were going to be out for the evening. And it was just sort of a logical progression when she started spending the night instead of someone having to drive her home afterwards because the busses were no longer running.
Barb didn't remember any more who proposed that Margie be made third wife. She only knew that this time it wasn't her. Hearing Bill with Nikki was bad enough. She didn't think she could stand to hear him with HER. She was young. She was pretty. She was everything Barb wasn't anymore. For heaven's sake, she was the BABYSITTER. It was put to a family vote and there was only one dissenter. Guess who. So everyone started convincing her how little it would be different from what was already going on. Except Bill wouldn't have to pay her a salary. She'd still watch the kids. She'd still help with the housework. She'd still sleep in the same bed she was already sleeping in.
Eventually she gave in. And Bill proposed. This time there was no hesitating about fulfilling all his duties as a husband. And even though her room wasn't next to Barb's, Barb could still hear them. Repeatedly. It had been years since it was like that with her. So she went on pretending that Margie really was just the babysitter and she was Bill's only wife. Inside her head, that's how it was. She loved the man and couldn't imagine her life without him. She was willing to pay a hefty price to have him as a dominant force in her life. Obviously. But inside her head, the price was much lower.
It wasn't long until not only could Barb not take hearing it any more, neither could Nikki. And with Margie pregnant, again, it could easily be argued that their home wasn't big enough for everyone. So using the argument of too many people in one house, the three of them persuaded Bill that they all needed their own, separate houses. It didn't take them long to find a new subdivision going in with three houses next door to each other all for sale. They planned a common backyard and each wife in her own house, along with a cover story as to why the three families were so close. No one thought to question which house was Bill's. Margie didn't really care. She just loved being part of a big family. Nikki was used to polygamy and of course they were all Bill's. But in Barb's head, only her house was Bill's. The others were just places he visited his other kids and spent the night.
The only thing she really missed was the spontaneity in her sex life. He was only hers on specific days. There was no accidentally running into each other in the hall in the middle of the day and ending up in the bedroom. There were too many people and too many feelings to hurt. So when she realized he felt the same way, it was nirvana. They snuck out at random times. They met in hotel rooms. They had sex steamier than they'd had in a decade. But in the end, she knew that if the others found out, they'd be hurt, so she ended it. An affair with her husband and she had to be the one to end it. But if she'd known he was doing that with one of them, she couldn't have lived with it. She couldn't do that to someone else. With that resolved, everything was back to normal. And when she felt lonely and belittled, she could always remember those sweetly stolen moments. Inside her head.
Everything was going so well. She ran and organized the family like it was a small business. The other wives let her have the final say in just about everything. For Nikki it was second nature. For Margie, she was an authority figure. So she was the Wife. And they were just wives. Inside her head, they were just close friends, or extended family like cousins or something. She did just fine. She didn't know what to tell her kids when they talked about polygamy or talked like they might want to pursue polygamy. She didn't know what to tell them about gospel principles when they no longer went to church and she no longer qualified for a temple recommend. But inside her head they were still the perfect Mormon family.
Then came the Beehive Mother of the Year contest. She knew she should withdraw her name. She even told Bill to withdraw his name from an honor he really wanted, but put him too much in the spotlight and too much in danger of the polygamy becoming known. But her own daughter thought she was still worthy to be called mother of the year. Besides, inside her head, she still wasn't a polygamist. She was just a member of a really big family. Someone had told the committee that she was a polygamist. And they disqualified her at the presentation ceremony. They didn't talk to her privately. They didn't just give the award to someone else, even if she had won. They told her in front of a room full of people and asked her to leave. Who knows how many of them heard that man tell her that she should talk to her wives about why she was disqualified. It was out in the open.
For quite a while, she was completely distraught. Her whole world came tumbling down. She kept waiting for the call from law enforcement telling her they were going to be prosecuted. She avoided having to dread the confrontation with the principal when she was fired by quitting her job, which she loved. She didn't go anywhere. She didn't do anything. And through it all, Bill was so fixated on blaming someone, he just wasn't there to support her. But Nikki and Margene were. They were there to hold her hand. They were there to let her cry. There were there to make her get out and get on with her life. And surprisingly enough, the sky hadn't fallen. She started taking classes at the U. She started to enjoy life again. And inside her mind, everything was just fine.
However, through it all, she felt disconnected. She looked at Bill and saw a man she hardly knew. His son faced a moral crisis, and instead of education or punishment, or something reasonable to that, he finally got around to ordaining him to the priesthood? Finally? She'd wanted him to do that for years. But he wasn't ready. Now, he commits a sin of morality that could get him excommunicated on his own, without the polygamy issue, and he rewards him? She was falling apart and the family was in fear, and he got fixated on vengeance. Things starting going wrong with the business and he wanted to branch out into gambling. She didn't even know him any more. This was not the man she married. At one point, it had actually gotten so bad that she just left. She didn't know if she even wanted to be married to him any more. Sadly, what she realized in that time away, was that even if she wasn't sure she even liked him any more, she had made a commitment to him, and to her kids, and to Nikki, and even Margie. They were all her family and she couldn't just walk away from that. Even when she wanted to. Or maybe even especially when she wanted to.
When Barb found out that Margie had told the neighbor that she was a surrogate mother, never wondering how she was going to explain keeping the baby, she'd finally forced herself to make a decision. Today she became a polygamist. Even inside her mind. She made sure her position as first wife was reinforced, but she was finally married to Nikki and to Margie just as much if not more so than she was married to Bill. She had found her anchor. Her family was the source of her strength. She was in this for better or for worse. Even inside her mind. Smiling, she drifted off to sleep.