Chapter Twelve

It took three days for Adam and Eve to walk to their new home. As they trudged along carrying their tools and their sons, Eve thought enviously of the animals who could move so quickly. She wished they would carry her and all her loads for her, but the animals outside the Garden wouldn't even be still to be petted. She wished for the serpent's strong back and swift flight, and her eyes suddenly filled with tears. Her serpent… how she wished he could have seen beautiful young Cain, so much taller already, so strong and energetic. But the serpent was gone, forever. She had lost her only friend.

But there was hope, she thought. There was Cain, becoming more like a man every day. Perhaps someday he would become a man much smarter than Adam.

When they reached the place Adam had found, Eve was astounded. He showed her the cave, a deeper, taller one that would need little addition of wooden walls from them, and then pointed to the field that the cliff the cave hid in overlooked. There were dozens of large animals there, all peacefully eating grass. Eve froze, afraid of frightening them away. She looked inquiringly at Adam. Smiling his serene smile, he left the cave's mouth and walked into the field, among the animals. They were slightly similar to some animals she had seen in the Garden, but far more clumsy and unattractive. She waited for them to notice Adam and run away, but they did not even seem to know he was there. When he slapped one of the largest ones on the side, it took a few ponderous steps away and resumed its grazing.

Grinning, Adam climbed back up to her. She was staring at him in bewilderment. "Adam, what are these animals? What's wrong with them?"

He shrugged happily. "They're not afraid of people. I even killed one of those little ones," he pointed to the nimble goats which pranced around the huge cattle, "right where they could all see and hear, and none of them even noticed."

"Are you sure?"

"They all just stood there eating grass."

Eve looked at the cattle and goats. Then she smiled. One of these animals would feed them all for days. There were at least a hundred cattle and a hundred goats, and more would be born. And they never ran away. They would not go hungry any more.

"All right," she said briskly, putting Abel down carefully and beginning to unload her tools, "let's get this cave ready for us to live in." Then, seeing Adam's eyes darken in an ominous way, she straightened. As usual, she marveled that he could not tell that she was pretending as she ordered her mouth to smile and forced herself to say in a cheerful tone, "Oh, this place is wonderful, Adam! Thank God you found it. What would we have done otherwise?"

Hearing her praise, he relaxed and smiled. "Let's prepare this cave," he ordered, and she resumed the work he had interrupted.

***

Cain and Abel both grew strong and healthy with the steady supply of food their parents had found. As Cain learned to talk, he followed Eve around all day, asking questions and getting in her way. He tagged along often when she went to gather the fruits and vegetables, and he kept asking why these didn't grow next to the cave like the goats and cattle did. "Because they don't want to, Cain. The cattle and goats do. I can't make things grow where they don't want to." And Cain would stare at the plants with utter absorption.

Often he would hinder her in her work at the cave, pestering her with questions about cooking and making tools and clothes until she lost patience and told him to go outside. He thought of many questions she could not answer. Soon he only asked her. Whenever he asked Adam anything, Adam would say in an authoritative voice, "Because God made it that way." Eve was pleased, though she no longer dared to say so, that Cain was no more satisfied by that than she had been.

When he went outside, he would climb trees or swim, or explore the forest. When he got tired of this, he would return to Eve and ask more questions without answers, just as she had before. Remembering her own frustration in the Garden, she tried very hard to answer him, and encouraged him to look for the answers she did not know. She now had little time to search for new answers; the only discoveries she had the opportunity to make were of new and faster ways to make the things they needed. These she all showed Cain, and he would do as she told him with rapt attention for a time, until he was satisfied, and then he would demand something else to do. She wished she had as many tasks as he demanded to learn, but all she could teach him was what she herself knew, and she had had so little time. Perhaps someday, there would be more, but now, there was only what she had made herself.

Abel was much easier to care for. As soon as he learned to walk and talk, he was quiet and obedient. He seldom asked questions besides what they were going to eat that evening or if he could play with some tool she was using. Yes, he was much easier to care for — but Eve did not love him as she loved Cain. Cain was her son, he was like her. He gave her hope for all her dreams. Abel was Adam's son. Perhaps it would always be this way: those who led, and those who followed and demanded dominance….

***

Now Eve heard footsteps coming up to the cave, and felt within her the tension which always gripped her in Adam's presence. She avoided him whenever she could, but he sought her out, apparently only for the strange pleasure he derived from ordering her around. She tried to steady her fingers as she made a spearpoint from a pointed stone. Chips of rock fell to the ground. She breathed deeply, hoping to calm herself as Adam came closer.

"Eve!" he demanded.

She looked up, forcing a smile. "Yes, Adam?" she murmured.

"Our son needs a meal."

"Which son?"

"Abel." He said it as if she should have known which son. She had known; she knew he would never have ordered her to do something on Cain's behalf. Although he never said so, she knew he didn't like Cain. The boy, like her, was always careful never to say anything too independent around Adam, but somehow Adam understood that Cain was not like Abel. Abel followed all of Adam's orders without question and gave God credit for everything.

"Where is he?" she asked.

"In the pasture, watching the animals."

"And why can't he come here and get his meal, if he needs it?"

Adam's fist struck her chin. She sprawled backwards, and then, enraged, saw a flash of red.

"He just ate at noon, it hasn't been long, why does he need to eat again already? Why can't he even walk up the side of the cliff to get it?" she threw at him. He took a step forward and slapped her face, then kicked her side.

"And why can't you fulfil your duties as a mother? You're supposed to take care of the boy," Adam demanded. Angry tears welled up in her eyes, hot and stinging. A savage beast inside her was fighting to get out.

He seized her roughly by the arms and pulled her to her feet. "And why can't you fulfil your duties as a wife!" he growled, and dragged her inside the cave.

Usually when he wanted her she lay still, eyes tightly closed, trying to think of other things. This time, she tried to stop him. She flailed and pushed against him and tried to run away, but in the end it did no good. He rose and dressed while she lay sobbing with the pain and fury. Then he turned back to her.

"Get up," he said. "You still have to prepare Abel's meal and bring it to him."

"But I have to finish making the spear now so I can start skinning the goat for supper—"

His fist flew at her again, and this time he was not content with one blow. With every strike her anger grew, but there was nothing she could do but weep. When he was tired of beating her, he said shortly, "Get up and dress."

She rose on trembling legs. He watched her dress with a smirk that made her cringe. Then, weeping, she prepared a meal for Abel and went out into the pasture with it.

Adam followed her, but stayed well behind her, to watch at a distance. She went to Abel and said, "Here, dear, here's some food for you."

He looked up. He was sitting under a tree, watching the cows and goats eat grass. He grinned at her. "Thanks. Taking care of those animals is such hard work." He took the food and began to gobble it, not even getting up to take it from her. In the middle of a bite he stopped. "Why don't you bring me some tomatoes?"

Astonishment and indignation rushed through her. Behind her, Adam cleared his throat. His meaning was crudely obvious. She turned, and he was standing there, feet slightly apart, clenched fists resting on his hips, watching her carefully.

"Of course I'll get you some tomatoes, Abel," she said softly. She walked slowly up to the cave, her heart pounding more fiercely than ever. It seemed she had never been this angry or this frustrated in her life.

***

After giving supper to Adam and the two boys, she left them all and walked into the dark forest, toward the creek. Adam seldom came this way, because of all the snakes which lived here. She thought of the serpent as she walked, honoring his deed by remembering it. She wished she knew of some way to thank him, to repay him. All she could do now was protect his offspring from Adam and Abel. Every time they saw a snake, they wanted to kill it. She always stopped them, but now Adam always took revenge when she did. She didn't care. She would close her eyes against his blows or whatever else he cared to force on her, and would think of all the serpent had suffered on her account. She could do this much for him. If only she could do something more.

She saw a snake in the path ahead of her, and slowed down, watching it. She didn't want to frighten it away. It saw her, and aimed its body at her, crouching. She noted the terrible grace of his crippled form, remembering the splendid body of the serpent.

The snake uncoiled, flashed by her foot, and disappeared. She looked at the ground for the sharp stone or thorns her ankle must have brushed. Strange how the pain was so intense, she thought before she fell to the ground, unconscious.

Adam must have found her, because when she awoke she was in the cave. It seemed strange and distant, however. It kept getting darker, and oddly colored lights flashed. She felt as if she were rising out of some dark oblivion and then sinking into it again, sometimes with sickening speed, and with an increasing sense of chaos. Sometimes the voices of Adam and her sons, looking down at her, sounded as if they were far away; at other times they were loud and clanging. They would look fuzzy, and then oddly clear and sharp. It seemed that their three worried faces were always bent over her in a circle, every time she opened her eyes. Her body ached all over. Even when she was unconscious, she was still aware of it.

When her health was at last restored, she knew with despair that the snake had nearly killed her. Snake bites were more poison than those fruits she and Adam had eaten shortly after leaving the Garden. Now the creature which had been her saviour was nearly her killer as well. She thought of this, and she looked at her irrationally bullying husband and her witless younger son and at her life, which offered no further joy that she could see, and she almost lost all hope.

But there was still hope. There was still Cain.

 

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