Here is the last free installment of “The Days of Eliora“. Please feel free to comment and if you like purchase in the next few weeks. It will soon be found on amazon along with “The Times of Kerim“, the first book in the Remnant series (the first three chapters of which can be found in earlier posts).
The fish dinner tasted good. Eliora was hungry after her tiring day.
She sat at the table with her mother and grandmother. It had been a few years since her grandmother had worked at the palace, but she too had endured the hardship of being different.
‘So tell me, Elli, how did you like the cats?’ her grandmother asked.
‘Not very much.’ She said sulkily, turning to her mother. ‘I don’t like the work mother. Please don’t make me go back.’
‘I am sorry, but I have no choice.’ Simra replied.
‘It was what was destined for you.’ Her grandmother said sadly.
Eliora picked a small roll from the plate and began to pick at it.
‘How is it fair? Reuben got to work in the pits, why can’t I?’
‘Eliora!’ her mother frowned. ‘How can you want to work there? Have you not seen? Have you not experienced the torture our people go through?’
‘You didn’t see the cats!’ she huffed.
‘Cats are nothing compared to the whips.’ She tutted. ‘Be grateful you have been chosen. Surely even you have heard their complaints.’
‘I don’t want to be chosen mama.’ Eliora crumbled the crust into her plate. ‘I want to be like everyone else.’
‘Your uncle Aaron will be here soon.’ Her mother said, seemingly ignoring her plea. ‘Wash up so that he will be welcome.’
‘Uncle Aaron has a place in his team. Martha is not well. I heard it in the market. He needs someone else to help meet his quota. Please mama, can I join his team?’
‘I wouldn’t want that kind of work for anyone Elli.’ Her grandmother said. ‘Please, be grateful that you have a few scratches and not a back covered in lashes.’
Eliora knew that her grandmother’s words were final and that the queen’s words were the law. She would be going back to her own kind of torture in the palace.
Uncle Aaron arrived shortly after. He was old, Eliora’s great uncle, but his face was so lined by the years in the baking sun he bore the signs of a greater age. He stooped as he walked as if burdened with the days quota of bricks. He lit the lamp and sat by the fire barely saying a word.
‘Ithamar and Beth are expecting again.’ He finally said as he sipped from the cup her mother, his niece, had given him.
‘Oh Aaron, what wonderful news!’
‘No, not really.’
‘But all children are a gift from God. And more grandchildren for you!’
‘How can they be a gift if they are born into this slavery? Another will be bought to this burdensome life. I didn’t want this for my children and definitely not for my children’s children. What a life!’ He sighed.
There was little to say. Eliora was certain that now was not the time to ask her Uncle about working with him. She kissed him gently on the cheek.
‘Congratulations Uncle. Please tell Auntie Beth I will pop in to see her soon.’ And she left the darkened atmosphere.
The evening air was cool and crisp. Eliora thought about visiting Martha but then remembered her encounter with Kenaz and decided it wasn’t worth the risk of bumping into him again. Instead, she considered meeting up with her friends at the well.
The streets were not busy. The occasional open doorway bathed the dusty pavement with light and homely chatter. The well was situated in the middle of the Levite settlement and would often be the place where groups gathered. Tonight was no different.
Eliora recognised the girlish giggle of Dinah, her best friend. Even in the dim evening, lit by the flickering torches, Eliora could see the brightly dressed, and soft curved form of her friend. She had gathered a group of three around her.
‘Elli! How was the fish?’
Eliora turned. Caleb sat with a group of his old cronies also enjoying the still evening.
‘Oh! Good thanks.’ She laughed as she strolled past him.
As Dinah turned her head to the sound of Eliora’s voice, her head scarf fell away and Eliora thought she saw a flicker of annoyance flit across her face.
‘Hello. How are you?’ Eliora asked.
The girls had stopped talking.
‘What were you talking about?’
‘Nothing much,’ said Dinah. Eliora felt unsure of her friend. There was something different about her.
‘Oh, nothing of importance.’
‘My auntie Beth is having another baby,’ Eliora offered.
‘That’s nice.’ One of the other girls said smirking then raising her eyebrows at Dinah.
‘Is something the matter Dinah?’
‘Eliora, we are a bit busy tonight,’ Dinah said and turned her back.
‘Busy doing what?’ she asked, but none of them even acknowledged that she had spoken.
Eliora just stood for a moment, not really understanding what was happening. Then confusion gave way, they were busy doing anything as long as it was without her.
It seemed a harsh reality. She no longer fitted in anywhere. The people in the palace hated her or thought she was crazy, except maybe that old man, and her now her own friends no longer wanted to be with her. Ebonee was a curse in this settlement.
Eliora could feel the prickling of tears pooling in her eyes. She turned from her lost friends and hurried away, head bowed.
The scene has not gone unnoticed. Caleb has seen the anguish in Eliora’s eyes as she turned away. He scowls at the girls as they whisper and giggle to one another.
I do not understand. Humankind have a narrow view of life. Eliora longs to be included but she will never quite fit in. The plan for her is quite different. Each lesson she learns builds character, and it is her character that will be tested in the end.
She needs a friend.
I see Caleb. He sits with friends yet is not really part of who they are either. He has known such sorrow already yet he burns with gold at times. I have seen it. I have witnessed his faith even when others deny it.
That is why I have named myself Faithful for this mission.
Caleb will follow her. He will know what to say. He hears things whispered in his heart.
‘I’m going to head home now.’ he says casually to his friends as he gets up and stretches. ‘Busy day and everything. I’m tired.’
They wave him on and continue to chat.
Caleb walks in the direction of his house but as soon as he is out of sight from his friends he doubles back to the path Eliora had escaped on. He thinks he knows where she would go. He quickens his stride, and sure enough, there she is ahead of him. Her pace is slow and almost aimless. Perhaps her feet were taking her to her quiet place without her even thinking about it.
The tightly packed houses are thinning a little now, and the way is only intermittently lit by household lamps. A large area of darkness patches the horizon. Caleb continues to follow, trying to think of something to say to her. But every formula sounds wrong to him.
Eliora bent low to pick a few flowers from a plant, and crushed it between her palms. The sweet smell of lavender saturated the air. She moved slowly through the carefully planted rows of vegetation and stepped over the irrigation channels, squinting in the star light, until she reached the boulder that marked another family plot. Dropping the used stalks to the ground, she turned and sat on the rock with a sigh. Hearing someone approach, she wiped her eyes and looked up.
‘Oh, what are you doing here?’
Caleb shrugged. ‘Not really sure.’
‘You didn’t need to check on me.’ Eliora began, ‘I am alright you know.’
Eliora looked down to her feet and started to draw patterns in the dirt. She felt Caleb sit beside her.
‘So,’ Caleb said after a few moments silence, ‘The fish was good then.’
‘It was alright.’
‘You are chatty tonight!’
Eliora looked up at him and smiled sarcastically before returning to her patterns.
Caleb laughed quietly.
‘So,’ he tried again. ‘Ithamar and Beth are having another baby.’
‘Yes.’ Eliora said confused. ‘How did you know?’
‘Overheard your conversation by the well.’
‘Conversation!’ Eliora shook her head. ‘It wasn’t a conversation. To have a conversation you need two people talking.’
‘You’ve not had a good day have you?’
‘Do you want to tell me about it?’
‘Fine.’ Caleb sighed staring up at the myriad of stars above him.
Eliora took a quick sideways glance at him. Caleb had a contented smile.
‘Why are you smiling? Are you laughing at me too?’
‘No, I was just thinking that it is really peaceful here that’s all.’
‘I haven’t been here for a while. I forgot what it was like.’
Eliora sighed again. ‘She called me Ebonee.’
‘Who did?’ Caleb asked casually.
‘What did you do to earn that?’
‘You knew that they gave out names?’
‘Sure. Why would they make do with our names when they have the power to do what they like and call you whatever they like?’ Caleb said with a hint of bitterness.
‘Do you have a name that they have given you?’
‘No. I am just a number.’
‘So what did you do?’
‘I smudged my make up over my eyes, so she called me Ebonee, it means black.’
‘Oh dear.’ Caleb puffed. ‘She didn’t get that right then did she?’ he murmured.
‘What do you mean?’
‘You are far from black, Elli.’
‘Oh, right,’ she said confused.
Caleb laughed at his own embarrassment. ‘You are more like a star in the night sky. A bright light against the black.’
‘Thanks!’ Eliora said resting her head on his shoulder. ‘That’s a really nice thing to say.’
Caleb laughed a little. ‘That’s alright squirt!’
‘And then you have to spoil it!’ Eliora laughed with him. The laughing felt good. It chased away the mess of the day.
‘What are you going to do about Dinah?’ Caleb finally asked.
‘You heard that too then.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Do you know what I think?’
Caleb smiled, ‘I think she will come round eventually.’
‘I don’t even know what I have done.’ Eliora said peering up at him.
‘It isn’t something you have done.’ He looked down at her and sighed. ‘I think she would like to work at the palace too.’
‘I would happily trade with her!’
‘It can’t be that bad.’
‘I have been given the honour to look after the cats,’ she said sarcastically. ‘I hate cats.’
‘Well, maybe the job isn’t to your liking, but I think that she thinks, your job is better than hers.’
‘It probably is.’
‘I’m glad you see it that way Elli, because I think it is too.’
Eliora returned to drawing patterns in the dirt.
‘Doesn’t mean I have to like it though,’ she said sulkily.
‘No.’ Caleb puffed.
‘But, you should be grateful for it.’
Eliora looked up at the stars and smiled. She was like a star. That was a warm thought. Tomorrow, when her name was called she would think of that.
‘What are you thinking about?’ Caleb asked as he saw her genuine smile.
‘Oh nothing.’ She looked at him. ‘So, how is Kenaz?’
‘He has a nasty bruise.’ Caleb said nodding.
‘Really!’ Eliora said shaking her head. ‘Why’s that?’
‘He fell off a chair!’ Caleb winked.
‘Excellent. I would have liked to have seen that happen!’
And they were laughing again.
‘Thanks for coming to find me Caleb, that is the second time you have rescued me today.’
‘You are welcome,’ Caleb said getting to his feet. ‘Squirt!’ and he ruffled her hair.
‘Oi! It took me ages to get it looking like this.’
They stepped over the plants and headed in the direction of the glowing lamps.
‘What’s that supposed to mean? “Hmm”’
‘Just be yourself. You don’t need to impress anyone.’
‘Yeah. I made a great impression on the queen already!’
‘What’s done is done. Tomorrow is a fresh day.’
‘With a whole new set of hazards!’
The full book can be found here.