That ineloquently epitomises my current state of mind.
How else can I describe it? I’m not scared—I don’t think—but my nerves are frayed, like the edge of an abused flax leaf. It’s time to leave home, off to pursue my own adventures in the abundantly wide world. Well, that’s what Dad tells me every time I start getting cold feet. He makes leaving sound like a grand adventure, unpredictable, eye-opening, but above all exciting. Whenever I contemplate what’s before me—when his words of whimsy aren’t around to concrete my spine and elevate my senses—my heart thunders and hands moisten, as dread seeps through every speck of space I occupy.
It is too late for second guessing, I remind myself while wiping my palms on anything absorbent within reach. I take a deep, steadying breath, and rise to my feet, taking more time than I have ever bothered to straighten my bed. Only then do I seek my father out. Goodbyes are a sorrow given only to the privileged who know love. And yet knowing this does not make this evolution any easier to bear.
“There you are,” my father declares, seemingly catching a glimpse of my presence from the corner of his vision. His eyes swell with pride and a broad smile widens his face.
We haven’t known each other long. I was never that red-cheeked baby cooing in his arms, nor did he rock me to sleep singing sweet lullaby’s, as I will do for my children. But he is my father, the only father I will ever know, and I love him.
“Here I am,” I reply, holding back my tears. Thankfully my voice doesn’t wobble with the effort.
Father envelopes me in his strong arms. The wiry bristles of his beard brush my cheek on their way past, as I attempt to bury my face in his broad shoulder. I inhale deeply. Who knows when I will see him next—he promises soon, but there is no way of telling. I attempt to memorise his distinctive smell, it’s a mix of musk and florals and perhaps even an earthy note.
He eases me from his chest, holding on to my shoulders, looking me over at arm’s length.
“Is that what you’re wearing?” His brow furrows as he asks.
All I can do is laugh.
“But you might get cold?” It sounds more of a grumble than an actual question.
“If I do, I’ll just pick something up when I get there,” I reply, a jovial tone masking my nerves.
Father sighs, one of those long deep soughs, like the weight of the world is on his shoulders.
“You look tired,” I say.
“It’s been an extremely long week. A rewarding one—but arduous.”
“You need to rest.” I try to sound authoritative, but worry taints my tone. He works so hard, so much of it to make sure I will never want for anything. “Promise me you’ll take tomorrow off.”
“But there is still so much to do,” he replies.
“Father,” I admonish. “You need to rest. There are too many who rely on you. If something were to happen, what would we do without you?”
That is the problem with trying to retain the monopoly in any endeavour—the work is ceaseless.
“Fine,” he concedes. “I’ll take tomorrow off.”
Another sigh. “I promise.”
Father’s forehead wrinkles and his brow furrows. I bet he is contemplating of all those tasks he still has waiting; the creases deepen. I meet them with a kiss in a vain attempt to chase them off. It works—if only momentarily.
He turns from me, towards the window and we stand in silence, his arm draped around my shoulders. We gaze upon the vista. Before us, a lake brimming with clear water stretches out, vast and blue, a stage for the sun to dance upon. The wind scuttles across its surface, gently tousling the water into small peaks. Shards of light twinkle from wavetops, mesmerising me. On the surrounding slopes, green native grasses have taken root, randomly scattered like the beard of a boy who has just reached puberty.
What a view from up here.
I have heard my new home is just as beautiful. I’m not sure that’s possible.
“Thank you for organising everything,” I say to father.
“I’m sorry I have to send you away. But there is no one else I can ask to do this for me.”
Is that a tinge of guilt I hear? It makes me love him all the more. I understand why I must go, why it has to be me.
“It’s okay, father. We all have to make sacrifices.”
“It is hard to ask it of your own child. I was so sure this was the best way. Now the time has come, my conviction is wavering,” he says.
“It is the best way. You know it is.” My voice is filled with mettle.
“At least you will have Gary to look after you.” He gives me a gentle nudge.
“His name’s Adam, father. You know that,” I scorn.
Father laughs a hearty chortle that warms me to my bones.
“You’re just ribbing me,” I shake my head at him.
What a joker. The exuberance doesn’t last long enough, his smile exchanged for a stern countenance. He turns to face me again.
“I don’t care what he’s called, as long as he takes care of you, my dear,” he says.
“He will. Adam loves me as much as I love him.” I feel my cheeks warm, saying it out for the first time, and with such unequivocal certainty.
“If that boy mistreats you in any way, you tell him there is nowhere on this earth he can hide from me.” His eyebrows rise to punctuate the point.
“I think you have made that fact crystal clear. You need to give him a break.”
“Is that so?”
“He would never let me down. I fear he would follow me into hell if I asked him to.”
“That worries me more.”
“I will look after him, and he after me. Stop worrying. We were made for each other.”
“Yes, you were.” Father cups my cheeks, patting at my soft pale skin. “The quintessential.”
“You’re just making words up as you go,” I roll my eyes, making him laugh once more.
“There’s one more promise I want from you.” Father’s face has become serious again and his gaze is concentrated. “Make sure you take care of our assets.”
“You know I will, Dad. You have told me time and time again how you built it all from practically nothing. I wouldn’t dream of jeopardising all your hard work.”
“Yes, but you’re careless sometimes, and you don’t consider the consequences of your actions. Be young, have fun, but please, be sensible.”
A noise behind us disrupts the moment. We turn to find Joph standing there, having cleared his throat to gain our attention. He’s so light on his feet, I never hear him arrive. He seemingly glides wherever he goes. It’s surprising given the size of him. Tall, muscular, with a chest like a shaved bear’s. Joph’s personality matches his appearance, he is vehement, always on guard, always ruffled.
Joph’s eyes salute our father before flitting onto me. Resentment, arrogance, disgust, his scrutiny is filled with them, obvious to anyone but Dad. He loves Joph, as much as he does me, trusts him with things most precious—and that includes me.
I’ve done nothing to deserve Joph’s blatant dislike other than existing. He resents my parentage, it’s different to his and somehow that makes me less. After early attempts to change his mind, I have come to accept I never will. I can still recall the smile that lit Joph’s face like a beacon when he heard I was leaving. It’s that sort of sentiment that makes me stop making any effort to be accepted.
“Hello, little sister.” Contempt laces Joph’s words. He looks furious. It makes no sense, he should be elated. He will soon be rid of me.
“Jophiel.” I incline my head towards him. “Didn’t want me to leave without saying one final goodbye?” Sarcasm rolls off my tongue, making him bristle.
“If only that were true,” he replies.
There is a long silence before father takes pity on our predicament. “I have asked Joph to keep an eye on you, at least for a short time, while you settle in.”
In response to my gawping, Father adds, “you won’t even know he’s there.” He pauses before appending, “Unless you do something silly.”
No wonder Joph looks like he’s been betrayed. He is being sent away too. It isn’t worth another thought; I couldn’t change father’s mind even if I wanted to—and I do, I mean, anyone but Joph. But when Father has his mind set on something, he will move heaven and earth to make it happen.
It’s time I left.
“I’m scared Father.” I don’t mean to say it, it just falls from my mouth. I am unable to bear his look in response. Shifting my stare around the room, I accidently meeting Joph’s eye, only to be greeted by a contemptuous frown.
“Everything is going to be fine.” The pledge parts Father’s lips, a mere whisper for my ears only.
In my heart, those words resonate like a rupturing volcano, marching me forward. Father knows all, he wouldn’t lie.
I wrap my arms around the man who gave me life and hold him as tightly as I can. Warm tears threaten to streak my cheeks.
Not wanting him to see my weakness, I turn on my heels and take my first steps towards a new home, a new life. A deep breath steadies my emotions.
“And Eve,” Father calls out, as my foot sinks into terra firma for the very first time.
Perhaps he will call me back. I glance back at heaven. “Yes Father?”
“Don’t eat any strange apples.” He waggles his fore finger.
“Why not?” I grump.
He shakes his head at my petulance. “Because I said so.”
“I’ll deal with it if she does,” Joph says, before stretching his wings and taking flight, leaving us alone once more.
“I love you, Father.” My eyes well with tears. I can’t hold them back any longer. They streak my cheeks.
“How glorious it is to see the lakes of this world mirrored in your eyes, and its rivers echoed in the tracks of your tears. True beauty.”
Smiling makes those rivers surge, the rampant droplets finding their return to the earth at my feet.
“I look like you. A true image,” I say.
“Give my love to Adam.”
“I will.” I wave to him.
“Begat me some grandchildren,” his words linger for a second on the air before they and Yahweh are gone.