He (rabbi Dor Ben Habakkuk patterned after Brent Spiner somewhat) exited at Braeswood Blvd. and his shame diminished at the cheerful yellow coneflowers on the spring green slopes of the smaller bayous. The shiny leaved magnolia tree with its cream flowery profusions bloomed into a southern spring. Amber daylilies burst from roadside intersections. Lavender, amber, and orchid dotted the banks; the grass around the jogging trail was immaculate. A honeysuckle fragrance capered through the air. May, his favorite month, filled his heart with promise.
Then he saw a car. It hurled toward him from the opposite direction. He honked. It still hurled. Any minute there would be impact, a head-on collision. He jerked his steering wheel toward a weeping willow. His car whirled over it. A home leered in front of him. He jerked the steering wheel toward a live oak. A rock jolt shook his frame. His face slammed into the wheel. The oak pinned the car, smashed its front end. The home had no damage, it appeared. He strained to look further. Tried to wave for help. Pinned in. Couldn’t move. No one home, it appeared. Oh Brianna, is this where our love has brought us? – Silver Skies by Gabrielle Chana
On Meyerland’s Braeswood Boulevard trail she (Brianna or female lead) jogged on a muggy July day, the temperature was ninety-five; a bench loomed ahead of her, she fell into it, exhausted. The trail’s green expanse of grass soothed her, brought back memories. Images of dreams came to her where Dor kissed and thrilled her. Her eyes closed. Love that beautiful must be done in righteousness and truth, but the New World Order scrutinized them, ready to pounce on their reputations to ruin their credibility–no, she couldn’t live with Dor. It was never right to do wrong in order to do right; she learned this from Aaron’s attempts to win her. God would protect Dor. She rose from the bench to return to her classroom.
Rachel (patterned after Loree McBride) had called her a bitch and since then watched over Brianna and Dor like a mother hen. Because the synagogue saw Rachel as his legal wife, Dor allowed this. Rachel’s presence caused Brianna’s pool sessions with Dor to become uncomfortably restrained. It amazed Brianna that Rachel had nothing better to do. Rachel lounged around the house all day, supposedly to work on her book, but Brianna knew she was dangerous. How Brianna missed the days when Rachel left them alone. What had gotten into her lately? Didn’t she have a management job at the Sheraton? Rachel stopped them from touching each other, but they were still best friends. Brianna still had her times on the phone with Dor; they talked about anything and everything. Dor said that when they talked, Rachel looked like a steamboat. Rachel’s persistence amazed Brianna and made the summer drag.
Still in her jogging shorts, Brianna sat at her school desk, opened a drawer, and removed decorations for this year’s class. The night before, she had cut letters into colonial shapes. She wanted them on the bulletin boards before she went home for the day.” Silver Skies by Gabrielle Chana (Gail Chord Schuler)
She (Brianna) jogged on Braeswood Boulevard’s trail and breathed the Texas air. Yes, how good to be back; Dor’s hometown had become a part of her. She’d found a home to rent right here in Meyerland. One and a half stories with a large formal area, four bedrooms, and a romantic master bedroom. Though the rent exceeded the cost of an apartment, she wanted to be near Dor, who lived only a couple blocks away. Despite the recession, her years of teaching had given her an increase in salary. Few people could afford homes, and home prices declined, so she could afford a house.
Phone service started today. Dor didn’t know she now lived in Meyerland; she couldn’t wait to tell him. She called him and a message said his number had been changed, with no forwarding number given. She called the phone company next. They told her his number was unlisted and they couldn’t give it out. What had happened to him?
Her furniture, left in Houston over the summer, sustained no damage. Dor was somewhere in Houston now. Why wasn’t he here helping her? He should be here; he deserted her. Irritated, her lean, muscular arms arranged chairs, tables, a sofa, bed and other furniture. Though she lacked enough furniture, she preferred sparseness to clutter.
Her office area had a built-in bookcase over a desk. Perfect for her computer and books. The master bedroom’s wallpaper on the walls, and the curtains, with their design of green vines cascading against a white background, made her feel she floated on the French Riviera. The bed’s comforter matched the walls and curtains with romantic, dark rails at its foot and head. These rails twisted and curved as if designed by an exquisite designer. From the wall over the bed’s head, hung a wisp of silk pink roses with bursts of leaves. Brianna imagined she and Dor made love here.
With a palm beside it, her burgundy leather sofa rested in the living room. A reminder of simpler and better days. . .the home’s wooden floors brought warmth. Dor’s evasiveness depressed her. To counteract it, this home needed an airy feel. Where was he? Were his lines tapped? Maybe Rachel had returned. Maybe someone followed Dor from L.A. Her brain pounded with possibilities. So confused about him. . .but she couldn’t forget him, he coursed through her blood. These complications drove her crazy. But if she deserted him, it would devastate him. This tore at her heart!
Though some boxes still needed unpacking, she needed a break. She flung herself out the front door toward the trunk of a live oak and leaned against it. The lawn and shrubs neat and low at the base of pines and oaks and at the home’s entrance, gave her life a sense of order. Anything to feel normal, to forget confusion and pain. Oh, why wouldn’t Dor call? She was listed. What was wrong with him? Maybe she’d write him a letter. . . No, dad said all letters would be intercepted. New World Order, why won’t you die forever. You’re the cause of all this misery. If you didn’t exist, the world would be a better place; and Dor and I would be happy.
She loved him too much to endanger him. Somehow she’d take the loneliness, the uncertainty and torment, the hope and despair, of not knowing and wondering; if it killed her, she wouldn’t let him fall into a trap. Be strong, Brianna. Dor needs you more than ever. You can’t fall apart now when he needs you.
The next morning she went to Beaufort High School (patterned after Bellaire High School near Meyerland where Brent went to school) to get her classroom ready. The history textbooks had been changed—not the ones she wanted. The books they gave her glorified the New World Order. She went to the principal about this. He allowed her to use the textbooks she used before.
“It’s good to have you back,” the principal said. “When I thought I lost you last year, I knew we lost one of our best teachers.”
“I didn’t think I’d come back, but God had other plans. It’s been a crazy summer.”
He extended his hand to her and she grasped it. “We lost the orthodox Jew and the Christian. They’re now attending private schools.”
“I don’t blame them.” She lowered her head. “We should never cater to the rich and powerful, but do right regardless of the consequences.”
“Yes. . .” He evaded her gaze. “I’m sure you have a lot to do. Don’t let me keep you.”
She returned to her classroom and put up bulletin boards, prepared her lesson plans and audio-visuals for the week. Lesson plans out, she scheduled a film for the second day of school, and made sure to have the projector ready. At around dinner time, she drove by Dor’s home; lights flickered from his home. Someone was home. She wouldn’t dare stop. Too dangerous. The safest course . . .visit his synagogue while he conducted services.
Congregation Beth Am’s Saturday Shabbat (patterned after a Houston synagogue that Gail visited to research for Silver Skies, one of the synagogues she visited was where Brent’s mother attended) would begin in minutes. She sat toward the back and hoped no one besides Dor would notice her. The cushioned and comfortable pews reminded her of Dor because he relaxed her; she could let her hair down with him. Navy, azure, and royal blue velvet strips formed a layered cover that guarded the Torah scrolls behind. Stained glass windows reflected her heart that felt sacred here; even Dor seemed to have a halo. She never paid much attention to the interior of Dor’s synagogue before, but today she felt reborn; and like a newborn babe, observed everything. Something significant would happen today, she knew it; so her surroundings seemed wondrous.
Because Dor ignored her when she arrived in Houston, now she had to see what he was made of. Today, in this synagogue, Dor would be forced to acknowledge her. She rarely visited him when he conducted services, because she didn’t want to disrupt his life, but their relationship had come far and it was time. She enjoyed synagogue services and wanted to attend more than she did. Any ways, she gave him strength to live and he seemed ashamed to let anyone know; years of patience wore thin; this charade could go on forever.
Dor read from the Torah in Hebrew. His intelligence awed her. She wished she could attend his services more often. At the bat mitzvah, the girl’s ability to follow the service astounded Brianna. These Jews were truly intelligent people and they trained their children well. Though Brianna struggled to follow the prayer book, she did reasonably well; and a lady came to help her. Dor cracked many jokes and the congregation laughed. Pink, yellow, and white flowers dotted various places throughout the synagogue. They seemed to symbolize their love. The shiny kippahs on men’s and boy’s heads added color.
After the service, she waited for Dor to come to her. Instead, he mingled with the crowd and ignored her.
A lady came. “Would you like to come to my home for Havdalah?”
Brianna smiled, and felt honored this lady would ask. Where was Dor? “What’s Havdalah?”
“It’s a ceremony to end Shabbat with wine and a candle.”
“Do all Jews end Shabbat this way?”
The lady nodded.
Brianna felt irritated with Dor. Why didn’t he invite her to observe Havdalah with him? “Thank you for inviting me, but I’ll have it at home.”
The lady graciously nodded and eased away. A hoard of women gathered around Dor, giggling and flirting. He enjoyed it! Rage rose inside her and she fought back tears. She tried to look at him and he seemed to gaze at every part of the synagogue but her. – Silver Skies by Gabrielle Chana (that’s my PEN NAME).
They (Brianna driving Dor back from the hospital) drove past Beaufort High School where he went to school. He’d try to get a job for her there if any openings came in the history department. How he’d taken Meyerland for granted. Live oaks’ branches curved with soft, green leaves that floated over the streets. Other trees and crape myrtles meshed with the oaks. Home. . .he floated with the branches.
“You live in a lovely part of town. It’s an island of tranquility surrounded by clutter.”
“If it wasn’t for Rachel, I’d be perfectly content here.”
“It seems every other home has a Japanese garden look, the bushes are neatly manicured.”
Dor smiled. “You’ll love my home.”
They turned into Dor’s driveway and Brianna opened the front gates. Her mouth opened wide. It made him appreciate the beauty of his home in a new way, to see it as she did. With every plant he tended, he had thought of her.
Earthy orange pots held plants arranged on a sloping terrace. Airy bursts of olive leaves had various shapes. Tulip leaves, ferns, philodendrons, cabbage shaped leaves, and trails of laciness swirled with other pots that had pink bursts and pink and green mixtures. A variety of pots, plants, textures, and materials mixed with sand colored rocks that undergirded it all like the background of a painting and framed this lush composition. Cicadas buzzed. Perfect temperature outside, air cooled his skin with its breeze. This summer seemed like spring.
Brianna strolled him to his circular driveway. “Your garden has the beauty of your spirit.”
“Only you would say that.”
She looked at him curiously.
“You have the depth to see it.”
Her hand squeezed his shoulder. “Our love is deep.”
“It’s a gift from God.”
She opened the front door of his home. With mouth again opened wide, she stared at Dor in astonishment. “What a gorgeous home. I’m surprised you never spoke of it.”
“I’ve gotten used to it. Most of the design is mine. The architect and I worked on it together.”
“I love your plants.” She pointed to vines that cascaded down the side of a white ledge that protruded slightly over a lagoon, its rippling waters reflected the cascades and light. Flagstone floors bordered the lagoon and steps inclined to a higher level where one could join leafy airiness from an overlook. Brianna brought life and light to his spirit as this place did.
“I thought of you when I planned it.”
“Me?” Her eyes showed amazement.
“This home shows your personality. Notice how natural and free-spirited it is.”
“When did you plan this home?”
“Six years ago.”
“You thought of me when you and Rachel were but newlyweds.”
“Rachel has never taken your place in my heart.” He looked down at the flagstone floor. “I had hoped a home that reminded me of you would fill the loneliness I felt from missing you. It didn’t. Working on this home was my escape, so I poured my heart into it.”
Brianna pointed at two built-in aquariums framed by Rojo alacante marble and laughed. “You thought of me when you built those?” She pursed her mouth continually like a fish.
Dor broke into a wide grin and chuckled. “The fish add color and life, as you do. My home is full of life in plants, fish, paintings, and color.”
“It certainly is.” She wheeled Dor to his swimming pool. “Here is where you’re going to get some exercise. And maybe one of these days you’ll be able to get rid of this wheelchair.” She looked him over. “I don’t think you can swim in that. Do you have trunks anywhere?”
“What do you think of the pool?”
“Stunning.” She knelt and felt the water. “And warm. Heated pool?”
“Warm, like you.”
“You’ve got to be kidding. You went that far to pattern this home after me?”
She stood with her hands on her hips and looked around. Water cascaded down boulders and formed waterfalls that ran together into the pool. The trickling water always soothed his loneliness. It looked like a tropical paradise with hibiscus reds, potted poinsettias, banana trees with dangling fruit and flowers. The scent of ginger and jasmine wafted. Brianna was beauty he could never reach. Lush foliage made the pool a private sanctuary as his feelings for Brianna had been.
“This is a tropical paradise,” she said.
“You’re paradise to me.”
“The physical therapist will be here soon. We need to get dressed.”
“Oh, my trunks. You should find them inside the middle drawers in front of our bed. In fact, just wheel me into the master bedroom.”
She wheeled him to the bedroom. “I’m real curious how you decorate your room.”
“Because bedrooms are so intimate.” She opened the door to the bedroom and gasped. “It’s so bright and breezy.”
“Here is where I dream about our most intimate moments. What I imagine here makes me feel light and free.”
“But darling, we’ve never–”
He clutched her arm. “I know, but to dream of you is freedom.”
“Free. . .you feel like a slave, don’t you?”
Dor nodded and pointed to the drawers. She went to them. How many lonely nights he cried on that bed with the cream and green quilt. The ruffled pillow covers or the philodendrons on the night stand offered no comfort. The bay windows beamed in sunshine filtered by airy drapes, the brightness had mocked him.
But today, she graced his private room. The burst of silk flowers above the bed smiled. The potted palms and fronds harmonized with the cream and white walls and carpet.
There she stood. He thought of her when he designed it. She was this room.
Brianna looked around before handing him his trunks. “You must adore me.” – Silver Skies by Gabrielle Chana (Gail Chord Schuler)
Two days later, she (Brianna) walked the streets of Meyerland and dreamed about Dor. Even though she’d only been gone for the summer, it seemed like an eternity. So much had happened. It’s funny she never noticed before how many live oaks lined Meyerland’s streets. Their curvy branches formed canopies over streets and graced the front lawns of homes. Gentlemen with Southern grace, these live oaks, like Dor. . .endured. Fused in their endurance and magnanimity, Dor and Meyerland meshed together into one essence. It didn’t matter that the air had fumes or that it lacked Seattle’s scenic beauty. Love colored what she perceived. It awed her that despite Dor’s lonely marriage, he rose above it, and gave her a generous helping of his heart.
Cumulus clouds dotted the azure sky. She passed crape myrtle bushes scattered here and there with ruffly pink flowers that bounced with the breeze and delighted at her presence. The cicada’s low pitched tambourine celebrated her return. Meyerland, with its manicured hedges, welcomed her. Colonial homes had columns in front of verandas. Tall, pointed roofs impressed her with their courage on German style homes with lattices and criss crosses. So many trees, wonderful, with heat in the nineties, she stopped underneath and rested. Curved driveways. Even mansions sometimes. Soft, green leaves floated; and dry, brittle leaves crunched on the ground. Trees of all kinds. Trees. Trees.
She jogged on Braeswood Boulevard’s trail and breathed the Texas air. Yes, how good to be back; Dor’s hometown had become a part of her. She’d found a home to rent right here in Meyerland. One and a half stories with a large formal area, four bedrooms, and a romantic master bedroom. Though the rent exceeded the cost of an apartment, she wanted to be near Dor, who lived only a couple blocks away. Despite the recession, her years of teaching had given her an increase in salary. Few people could afford homes, and home prices declined, so she could afford a house.
His plane touched down at Houston’s Hobby airport. He (Dor Ben Habakkuk) had to try to convince Rachel of the virtues of his militia.
His wife wasn’t at the airport. He hadn’t told her exactly when he’d arrive, just said sometime today. He’d take a taxi home.
The iron-grilled gates around his Meyerland home loomed before him along with the potted plants that ornamented his front lawn in a cascading terrace. It looked like a nature preserve. The taxi dropped him off. Thoughts of Eva comforted him and he looked forward to seeing Eva.
His key wouldn’t work on the entrance gate lock to his home. How funny that it worked before. Rachel must have hired a locksmith. She sat on the porch’s garden chair with her arms lounging about.
“Would you like to go to Kingwood with me tomorrow?” His (Dor Ben Habakkuk) spirits seemed to have perked up.
“Yes! Yes!” she (Brianna) said. “Oh Dor, yes!”
The drive to Kingwood with Dor seemed like a dream from heaven. Live oaks, proud at the approach of winter, kept their leaves. Dor walked beside her, his steps a soft crinkle on the leaves. Most men would dump her, but not Dor, who, like the leaves of the live oak, stuck with her through everything. He reached for her hand and warmth permeated her.
“I’m lucky to have you,” he said.
“You don’t know how bad I wanted to call you when I got back.”
“It’s only fair you gave me silence. I didn’t call you for a month when Rabbi Cowan gave me trouble.”
“Why were you so depressed yesterday on the phone?”
“That’s because of how you acted when you left for Seattle. It seemed so cold and abrupt. And then when you came back and didn’t call me, I feared the worst.” He grinned. “Our imaginations do go overboard, don’t they?”
Live oaks surrounded them. Air streamed by, moist and crisp, and magnolia trees had shiny, big leaves. The tall pine trees danced while a breeze rustled through their leaves in the heights. Different sizes and shapes of brown and yellow leaves blanketed the ground, some with five prongs, some long and oblong, and some seven pronged. All the shallow promises lovers made to each other, the broken hearts, lay on the ground; but she and Dor were the leaves of the live oak.
She observed her bosom friend. “Do you think we’ll go on forever? I mean you and I, as a couple.”
Dor laughed and squeezed her hand harder. “I hope so.” He turned and faced her, his eyes deep into hers, a certainty to his voice. “Yes. . .we’ll go on forever. . .you and I, together. . .”
The leaves rustled and the wind blew her hair straight back so that it whipped around her face. The ground kicked up its leaves, but the leaves of the live oak stuck to their branches. She and Dor were those leaves. Had God spoken to them? “We’ve never kissed.”
With his warm hand on hers, the leaves crinkled as he walked. “We will.”
“My dad will investigate for Stephen Tischler. He’s taken his case.”
As though he’d devour her to keep her forever, his eyes pierced hers. He had prepared for drought, and joyous water had come to him. “That’s why you went to Seattle, isn’t it?”
“I won’t ever forget your kindness. . .your dad’s a brave man.” He looked up at the sky and sighed. “Oh, I wish I could marry you. . .but my wife. . .and I’m a rabbi. . .”
Through the setting sun, she now saw the bloodshot in his eyes. She had done that to him because she didn’t call him. Funny how she never noticed it until now. The glow of his countenance at her presence covered the weariness of his eyes. – Silver Skies by Gabrielle Chana (Gail Chord Schuler)
Another hard choice loomed before Brianna. Should she choose Christ or Dor? Could she spit on Christ’s blood and renounce her Christianity? If she chose Dor and became a Jew, then she must renounce her Christianity. This abhorred her. She knew Dor wouldn’t want her to do that. He adored her as the Christian she was, and though a Jew, wanted to marry her. But those around him, tried to hinder him. She then remembered the live oak; their love was like the live oak. Content with their friendship as it was, she would enjoy this moment to reflect upon Dor. Only six months before she had walked this path with him. Now she walked it alone. This spot in Kingwood was their sanctuary. Here away from prying eyes, she could think. Today had enough troubles, tomorrow was not in their hands. The fresh, moist air brought back memories and their love mingled with the air and the sage green leaves. Why did she drive here? And without him? Because she needed to be alone with only God for company, yet wanted to sense Dor’s presence as she prayed. A live oak loomed before her. She sat and leaned her back against the scaly bark of its trunk. Its leaves reminded her of Dor.
Her eyes swelled with tears until they trickled down her face. The past couple weeks crashed through her brain. It all started with the visit to the Reformation Center. The government messed with Ruth’s brain to the point that she exhibited symptoms of dementia. Ruth did not appear to have cancer, but she either had Alzheimer’s or was on the verge of it. Of course, Ruth mentioned to Brianna her plan of how Brianna and Dor could marry. But Brianna and Dor could never agree to betray Israel and that’s what they’d do if they went along with Ruth’s plan. It sickened Brianna to think of how much Ruth had changed. She remembered Ruth at the hospital when Dor lay near death and remembered a woman with the courage of her convictions, and an intelligent, sharp mind. Now she responded to stimuli weak, like a robot, and worst of all had become a different person, like a politician and slick operator. In short, Ruth was dead; only her body lived, but she was dead. What if they got Dor and did this to him? She thought of all the technical wizardry they had. If they got Dor, they’d change him, put electrodes or something in his brain and he’d be another Ruth. She brought her hands to her face and cried into her fists. How could she stop this? Could she stop it? She always tried to change the world, but how could she change a world like this?
Though she let her class know that she sided with Joe and Martha against Jeff Sullivan, the Sullivan kid won because he was the mayor’s son. The school principal seemed more concerned about the mayor’s disapproval than in what was right. Martha could no longer bring her Bible to school and Joe could no longer wear his kippah. Jeff had accused Joe and Martha of religious proselytizing, that they forced their religion down everyone’s throat, but everyone knew he lied. Brianna overheard Jeff tell a girl that he got Joe and Martha into trouble just to get his dad’s attention. Why couldn’t she influence the principal? Why couldn’t she stop the concentration camp as it destroyed Ruth? Why was it that all those under her care suffered? When Dor saw her at the watershed in Seattle, he ended up in a car accident that almost killed him. She spoke aloud to God and asked forgiveness for the times when she failed Dor and her two students, Joe Rosenthal and Martha Sloane.
The wind gusted through the trees and the leaves rustled. They shook themselves at her as if to say, “All those you love, you hurt.”
“No! No!” she screamed into the air. Her voice echoed on the surrounding houses. “It’s not my fault, it just happened!” This time nothing echoed, her life seemed a thud. The springtime greenery mocked her. All around her, the earth vibrated, full of new life. Yes, everything new happened, like Stephen Tischler in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Maybe they wouldn’t have chosen Stephen for their scapegoat if they didn’t hate her so much. Her love for Dor brought all this ill fortune to Dor and his family.
She remembered the Dor of eight years ago, confident, with a radiant smile, as happy as the springtime that surrounded her. Only friends then, he dated Rachel later. Oh, so much had happened since then. If only those carefree times would return. Dor never worried about government oppression then, never felt the need to belong to a militia.
No, Brianna, those times have vanished, and will never return. The government killed his dad, unalterably changed his mother, and harassed his sister’s family. And now they tried to destroy her relationship with Dor. Why? Why? She only loved him, but could never support the wicked ones in power and Dor tried to fight them. Maybe that was it. She encouraged him to fight them.
She knew Stephen would die. They had him framed, sealed, and delivered. Ruth would not last long. They still hadn’t gotten Dor, though they tried. And they wouldn’t give up! What could she do to stop them? If Dor became another Ruth she’d go insane. No, it won’t happen! She wouldn’t let it happen.
Brianna promised Joe and Martha that Jeff wouldn’t bully them in her class and he did. She had failed them. They lost their rights and became victims of slander and a spoiled brat bully, so Joe Rosenthal and Martha Sloane would no longer attend Beaufort High in the fall. She decided not to teach at Beaufort next year, she couldn’t teach at a school with inconsistent standards. A Seattle Christian school offered her a position with a salary almost as good as Beaufort’s. Oh, how she’d miss Dor! She envisioned herself as she ministered happily to her students, while she missed Dor and wept for him, but she had to do this because duty called her. She must do what was best for Dor and for the kids under her care. At this Christian school a kid like Jeff Sullivan would receive prompt punishment. And if she stayed away from Dor, perhaps the government would leave him alone. It seemed all his trouble started when she came into his life. They hated her, and so they hated Dor. If she abandoned his life, he’d finally have some peace. Though she’d miss him terribly, the vision of him in freedom, with no hindrances, gave her such happiness that she felt an inward glow. “Yes!” She gleamed. “My darling Dor, you’ll finally be free!” It didn’t matter that he may end up with another woman; all that mattered was that he’d be free and happy. But what if Rachel came back? Could he be happy with her? The answer was ‘no’. This disturbed her. God, intervene for him, and I promise you I’ll always pray for him. I’ll love him for the rest of my life.
She made up her mind; she’d leave Houston and Dor. As she drove towards Dor’s home, the springtime loveliness mocked her. She felt so good about this decision before, why did the trees laugh at her? The live oaks stood firm and she remembered Dor as he looked into her eyes. “Yes. . .we’ll go on forever. . .you and I, together. . .” No, I can’t do this to him! But you must, because if you don’t, he’ll become another Ruth. The drive flew by like a flood and before she knew it, she landed in Dor’s driveway. She steadied her hands, which trembled, and finally composed herself enough to knock on his door. He opened the door and extended his arms to her.
“Brianna! It’s great to see you. Please, come in.”
She wouldn’t look at him and hid her face against a wall.
He embraced her from behind and kissed her hair. Oh, it would be hard to say goodbye to him. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
She finally had the nerve to look at him. “Dor, I came to say goodbye.”
“I won’t be seeing you anymore.”
He whirled her around to face him and observed her eyes. “You still love me; I can see it in your eyes.”
“Of course I love you, that has nothing to do with it.”
“Then why are you leaving me?”
“Because I want to save you.”
“Save me! Only God can save me. You aren’t God.”
“I don’t want you to end up like Ruth.”
Understanding warmed his eyes. “My dear, noble girl.” Tears went to the brink of his eyes and fell over. “Why do you think that if you leave me, you’ll save me? I would have gone crazy if I didn’t have you for comfort all these years.”
“That’s just it. You’ll go crazy if I stay. They’ll put electrodes in your brain and you won’t be my Dor anymore. You’ll become like Ruth! Maybe they’ll leave you alone if I go away, because they don’t want us together.”
“But I don’t want you to leave.”
“I won’t be teaching at Beaufort High next year. I resigned.”
“Where will you go?”
“They’ve offered me a position at a Christian school in Seattle.”
“Brianna, please stay. I don’t know what I’ll do without you.”
“You won’t be without me, because I’ll pray for you every day for the rest of my life. I’ll set aside a special prayer spot just for you. I promise.” Brianna wrenched herself free from him and gave him one last look and let her eyes show all the love she felt for him. Out his door she went, as fast as she could go. The drive to her apartment didn’t turn out as noble as she expected. Instead of the feeling that she had made a great sacrifice for Dor, she sensed she’d left him bleeding all over the floor.
She didn’t want Dor unhappy. And she bled, too. She packed her bags and boxes. Her lease would be up tomorrow. The furniture she put in storage until she knew where she’d live in August. Moving dragged by like a chore and it echoed her spirits. She could have asked for his help, but didn’t want to make the separation harder for him. The phone rang until it seemed to jump from its spot. Her answering machine did the job. Any call from Dor, she didn’t answer. But every phone call from him sent a jab through her. How many times she longed to pick up that phone and talk to him. How her heart pined for him, but she only needed to remind herself of what happened to Ruth and she cemented herself to her goal. When the jet flew high in the air, she knew she left her heart in Houston, and that she’d never come back.
To her amazement, when she arrived in Seattle, Dor didn’t call her, even though he knew her dad’s phone number. She sulked her way to her room and dropped onto her bed. A throb ached in her heart that only Dor could fill. Her childhood room’s cream eyelet and lace curtains mocked her. Outside her window she observed an apple blossom tree in a flurry of white. The sight of the tree full of promise somehow reminded her of Dor again. Her chest heaved and tears flowed like a fountain. She slunk her way to her bed and sobbed on it. “Oh, Dor. . .I never knew I could love anyone like this.”
The door to her room flung open. Franz stood and stared at her. “Daughter, I know why you’re like this.”
Brianna lifted her face to her dad, she wished so desperately she could hide her swollen eyelids. She had fought tears constantly on the jet.
“You must go back to Dor.”
“Don’t you realize he’s married?” she mumbled.
“Rachel has gotten a legal separation. As far as I’m concerned, he isn’t married.”
“If I go to him, they’ll put electrodes in his brain.”
Franz looked at her quizzically. “How do you know this, daughter?”
“I saw Ruth, Dor’s mother, in the camp—they changed her. She wasn’t at all like the Ruth I met at the hospital when Dor had that awful accident. She was horrible. She was on their side—on the side of our enemies—on the side of those who want to kill us.” Brianna blew her nose. Suddenly, her eyes were full of fire. “They killed her! Her body was alive, but her mind—it wasn’t Ruth!”
Franz came to her and put his arm around her shoulders. “I’m proud of you. I know why you left him now.”
“It was the hardest thing I ever did.”
“Most women couldn’t do it. God has blessed me with two outstanding children.”
Brianna’s face lit up. “Did you say God?”
“It’s just a habit. Really I meant whatever higher powers may be around us.”
Her hopes for her dad crashed against the wall. He still clung to New Age ideas, full of ideas about ghosts and nature-gods. Some of his advice might be questionable. How would he know what was best for her life? “So you think I should go back to Dor?”
“My philosophy of life is very simple. Do what makes you happy.”
“What about long-term happiness? What about right and wrong?”
“That’s out of our control. Live for today.”
She knew that a verse in the Bible seemed to agree with him, but she couldn’t recall it just now. “I’ll think about it, dad.” She reached for him and hugged him. New Ager or not, he was her dad and she loved him.
Franz left her and when he opened her door, the scent of incense drifted into her room. He apparently tried to call up his ghost, Siegfried. Brianna felt disgusted and it seemed she should do the opposite of anything he advised, so if he advised her to go to Dor, she must never go to him. Franz was a great dad in many ways, but she distrusted his New Age, devil-worshipping practices.
It was funny that Dor never called her here in Seattle and in a perverse way she resented him for it, while the ache in her heart deepened. Everywhere she walked, she dragged her heart behind her. Of course, she could call him and went to a phone to think about it.
Her mom called her.
“Are you okay? I’m worried about you. Here, have a cookie. I made them yesterday.”
Brianna pushed it away with her hand. “I’m not hungry. Thanks.”
“Why did you leave Houston?”
“Dad knows. Why don’t you talk to him?”
Paula turned her around and Brianna caught herself staring straight into her mom’s eyes. “I don’t want to hear it from Franz. I want to hear it from you.”
“Oh, mom. It’s nothing!” Brianna cried and ran from her.
She realized that if she didn’t start acting happier, her parents would never leave her alone. Dor, Dor, I never knew how much I love you. It took this to make me appreciate you to the fullest. She locked her door and wailed on her bed in peace. Things couldn’t get much worse than this, but when she remembered the Ruth she saw at the Reformation Center, her resolve hardened. No! Never will I allow them to do that to you. If it should happen, I’d never forgive myself. Because I love you more than anything on this earth, I must never ever do anything less than what’s best for you. You’ll always be a beautiful memory. Every day, I’ll look out the window at this apple tree and pray for you. I’ll pray every day from this spot, while I observe this misty white apple tree as the symbol of our love.
That evening for dinner, Brianna had composed herself. Franz and Paula mentioned they were glad to see her looking better.
Franz cleared his throat. “I’ve invited Dor to our home. He hasn’t given us an answer yet, but he wanted me to tell you that he misses you.”
Brianna’s head jerked up from her meal. “How’s he doing?”
“He sounded well enough to me. I think it heartened him that I invited him here.”
The pot roast looked inviting, but her hands shook as she tried to eat. Out of embarrassment, she placed her hands on her lap. “Don’t you care about him? If he comes here, they’ll go after him harder.”
“Who’ll go after him?” Paula asked.
“The New World Order.”
Franz’s eyes pierced hers. “Daughter, your heart is good, but your mind is kinky.”
Brianna’s feathers ruffled. How would he know? With all the calling of ghosts he did, his mind was worse than hers. “Mom, do you think my mind is kinky?”
“I think you’re hurting yourself and that fine man who loves you a great deal. And for what? For a delusion that if he becomes brainwashed it’s somehow your fault. Hogwash! What the New World Order does to him is no more your fault than if Martians land on the moon. Why worry about things you can’t control? They may brainwash him yet when you aren’t there to comfort him.”
“Please stop!” Brianna pushed her dinner plate away. “Do you think it was easy for me to leave him? You didn’t see his mom at that Reformation Center like I did, and what they did to her—all because of me. I had to leave him, for his own good—and when I did; I took my heart and served it for dinner.”
Paula came and embraced her. “I know. I know. You’re the bravest, noblest girl in the world. Just make sure you’ve truly thought through your decision. What if they get him and you’re not there? Will you be able to live with yourself then?” – Silver Skies by Gabrielle Chana (Gail Chord Schuler)