A wind blown leaf landed on Marc’s face waking him up. It was early morning, and everyone was still asleep. He decided to start a fire and see what could be done for breakfast.
They did not have time or money to purchase any food in Wezul. The only eatable substances left were Joel’s spices, that were great when you had food to go along with them. Marc borrowed Joel’s spear and walked toward the lake which they had passed yesterday before stopping for the night.
He found an area where he could sit on a large rock and wait for fish to come by. While he waited, he opened the letter from Joan. He read it slowly, and he read some parts twice. He smiled and said, “I hope you can do it. No, I know you can do it.”
A fish broke water four metres from Marc’s rock. He stood up and dropped a piece of feather on the water’s surface. He then blew on it lightly to give it the appearance of life.
The fish swam up, ate the feather, and was on its way back to deeper water when the spear took hold. Marc brought it up and ended its life quickly so that it would not suffer.
When he returned to the camp he was happy to see that Meribah had kept the fire going. He placed some wild tubers, that he had dug up, into the coals. He gave Joel the fish and a spit that he had cut. Then he went back to sleep.
A wind blown scent floated to Marc’s nostrils waking him up. The fish and potatoes were almost ready and everyone was eyeing them with definite appetite. Marc sat up so that no one would take the sleeping man’s share.
“Maybe we should go back to where you found those spuds and pick up a few more,” said Joel taking in the smell.
Marc dug into an inner pocket of his robe, and emptied its contents on his rug. Twenty four potatoes, already cleaned, sat in front of him. “Ahead of you again, Einstein.”
“No flies on you, earth-angel,” Meribah laughed.
Breakfast was filling, and it gave the day a good start. God knew that they would need a good start.
Their travelling brought them past many homesteads. Large yards, gardens, and livestock surrounded the houses. Canopied stone wells stood close to the houses promising cool water from their depths.
They stopped and asked for water several times. The people were all friendly and always obliged quickly. A little conversation in payment and the travellers were on their way.
Early in the afternoon, they approached a small cottage, where no well could be seen, but the pilgrims were thirsty and dry. Lily volunteered to ask the proprietor for some water.
She walked up the steps and onto the porch, where a porch swing swayed in the breeze, and a knitting basket sat at its side. She gathered her courage and tapped at the frame of the screen door.
A boy, a little younger than her, came to the door. “Can I help you?”
“I hope so.” Lily swallowed. “We’ve been walking most of the day and were hoping that you would have some water to spare.”
He smiled and opened the screen door. He bent down to pick up his boots by the door. “Heck yeah, everyone knows that my water is free for the taking.” He sat on the swing and put his boots on. He then waved to the three others standing in the driveway. “Come on, I’ll bring ya there myself. The name is Don, feel free to use it.”
He led them behind his house where he had his own lake. He opened the gate that kept his animals in, and waited while everyone went through. There were cows, geese, ducks, chickens, and sheep strewn about his field and lake.
“Must be nice having your own lake,” Marc noted.
“It’s not very big. A very small glacier or something must have made it. It has a run off that goes to a much bigger lake.” Don looked very proud as he showed everyone his private piece of wilderness. “But the best part about it, is that it is spring fed. We’ve got the best water in a hundred miles.”
The water definitely was the best that anyone had tasted in heaven, and to Don’s definite delight everyone told him so. They sat at the picnic table, after Don had chased the chickens away and wiped it down. Don asked where they were going, and was interested in their response, and the conversation went on for an hour.
“We had better be going,” said Meribah.
“You can stay the night, if you wish.” Don pointed toward a small house behind the lake. “We’ve just finished building our guest house, and we’re looking for some guinea pigs to try it out.”
“Thank you for the offer, but,” Joel shook his head, “I just don’t feel right unless we put enough miles on the road each day.”
“Okay then, but you’d better be sure to stop in when you come back this way.” Don shook Joel’s then the others’ hands.
Don opened the gate to let them out. Everyone but Joel was through the gate when someone hollered “Joel!”
From out of the trees behind the lake came a girl leading a cow. The mysterious girl had dark brown hair, browner eyes, and freckles. She waved again, left the cow, and began walking toward the gate.
“That’s my wife, Gina, she went looking for Bessy just before you came.” Don closed the gate after everyone had come back in. “I take it you know her from some place?”
“I must,” said Joel, “but I can’t place the face.”
Arriving at the group Gina looked at Joel and said “Well, what do you have to say?”
“Do I know you?” asked Joel.
“Joel, Simon, Henry.” Gina named all of Joel’s earth names. “Or better yet. Cousin, brother, and sometimes lover.”
“Oh, that Gina,” said Joel a little embarrassed.
The two of them just looked at each other, while everyone else looked at them. “Oh, that Gina?” asked Meribah.
“It could be worse, Joel,” said Meribah unpacking. “We could still be in some desert somewhere, instead of in this nice little cabin.”
“It’s not the cabin that bothers me. It’s the fact that we’re going to have to spend the evening with my cousin, sister, and sometimes lover.”
“Oh, don’t be so embarrassed. It was a long time ago, long before you met me. Besides, I was hoping get a little background information on you.”
A knock came from the side wall. “Hey you two, let’s get going or we’ll be late.” Marc knocked again. “Come on we’ll meet you outside.”
“He sure sounds enthusiastic.” Meribah brushed her hair one last time.
“He only wants to see me in an uncomfortable situation.” Joel walked over to the door. “Kind of sadistic if you ask me.”
“Funny you should ask,” Gina touched her napkin to her lips, “We we’re married, but not happily. It was the late eighteen hundreds, and in those days divorce was unheard of. If we could have, we would have gladly left each other. Back then my name was Andrea and I was very outspoken. Probably what caught Joel’s attention to start with, but he had many fights with men who I had insulted or whose wives I had insulted.” Gina smiled and laughed behind her teeth. “Yes, I wasn’t the easiest person to get along with.”
Joel and Don were both looking uncomfortable with the topic. Both shied from Gina’s gaze, and both feigned that their concentration was on their plates. Marc could tell that it was not, Joel and Don were intently listening to what was being said. Meribah was much too curious to be jealous, and Gina was much too open to feel shy or jealous about anything.
“…And then there was the time when Mom got mad at him for taking his young sexually unaware sister with him to mate the cow. It really wasn’t his fault, I would follow my brother anywhere, and when he told me to go home, there was no way I was going to listen. And he wouldn’t tell me what he was going to do with Miss Olivia, so my curiosity was definitely peeked. There was no way I was going to stay home. So Mom was just going berserk and Simon, Joel, says ‘What did you want me to do? Take the harness off Miss Olivia and put it on Shirley?'”
“It sounds like you and Joel, must have got along together pretty good,” Marc chuckled. “Because you kept going back for more.”
“Oh it was wretched,” said Joel. “We were always fighting and trying to out do one another. Except for the last time.”
“Last time?” asked Lily.
“Yes, the last time. We were cousins,” Gina said as she got up with Marc and began to clear the table. “We were both the same age. I had leukemia. Joel would come and play with me and take care of me. He used to read to me from his comic books, and explain the twists in plot. We never fought and he always stood by me.”
“It didn’t last,” Joel said, “she died at the age of ten. I felt abandoned.”
“Sorry cuz,” Gina gave him a smile, “some things you just have no control over. Besides you knew where I was, and I told you we’d meet again.”
“You were right.” Joel stood up and helped them with the dishes. “I’m glad that you were right.”
Gina reached over and gave Joel a kiss on the cheek. “We never did the dishes together before without fighting. Think we can pull it off?”
“I’ll try my best.”
Almost everyone had gone to sleep. Joel and Gina stayed out by the lake to talk, and Don lay in bed waiting anxiously for his wife to return.
“You know, in all our lives our destinies were entangled.” Gina looked up to the stars. “Like trees whose roots grew to close to one another and thereafter share what they are.”
Joel too looked up at the sky, “More like weeds. Growing and growing until they suffocate each other.”
“That’s a good analogy. A little grim, but true enough.” Gina smiled thinly. “I’m glad our destinies have finally grown apart, and we can now be free of each other.”
“And grow.” Joel stopped a moment to think. “But a wise person might say that there is no such thing as destiny. And it was us who chose to be with one another, again and again.”
“Then I’m glad that we finally learned from our mistakes and decided to end the cycle.”
“We had better turn in.” Joel glanced at Don’s bedroom, where his reading light was still lit. “He doesn’t seem to comfortable with us.”
“Oh, he’s just afraid that you’ll offer me the chance to see the world. Poor guy doesn’t understand that I’ve got everything I want right here. How about your friend?” Gina asked.
“From all that I could tell she’s very curious about you, that’s it.” Joel blushed, “But she knows where my heart is.”
“I’m happy for you Joel. Well anyway, I’ll let you go to bed now. Don and I will be out planting tomorrow morning, so I’ll say goodbye now. Just close the gate when you leave tomorrow.”
“Will do, Soggy.” said Joel.
She turned, laughed, and said, “Goodnight Grimpy.”