“Hey, look!” Eliza nodded to the large black ship looming just a few feet from their tiny boat. Sebastian turned quickly, following her gaze to the Marianna. It floated gently on the rippling ocean, despite its cumbersome size.
“Faster!” Sebastian urged, pushing the oars behind him with more force. The boat groaned forward, resisting the pull of the waves. “We’re almost there!” Eliza paid no attention to the blonde strands of hair whipping about her face, instead she stared intently at the vessel ahead. The closer they came to ship, the more they could make out the people waving at them from the deck.
Suddenly a flash of green eyes caught her eye, was that? It couldn’t be…
Eliza leaned further in her seat, trying to study the robust young woman with green eyes. “Hello! Hello!” Sebastian was standing now, waving to the people standing on the deck. He then turned and lifted the blanket off the children, who were of course eager to get away from the cramped space.
Eliza herded the children up the tiny ladder, and then took the babies from their place underneath the seats, wrapped in soft fleece. She handed the very youngest to Rebecca and her two sisters, Mariella and Connie. Finally, after all the children were placed but Asher, she took the little handsome boy by the hand to someone she knew would take care him very well.
The young woman whirled around, her green eyes sad. Once she recognized who she was looking at, she screeched. “Oh Eliza!” Olivia wrapped her in a tight hug, eyes brimming with happy tears. “Olivia,” Eliza smiled, her face resting on her friend’s shoulder. “I brought you someone.”
Olivia looked over her shoulder, “Where are the others?”
Eliza’s expression must’ve gave her away because Olivia cried out, “Not them too?”
“What do you mean?” It was Eliza’s turn to ask a question.
Olivia sighed before putting her face in her hands, “When I went missing, I was kidnapped by a soldier. This soldier took me to the headquarters, where I was interrogated for a day. It was terrible. The living conditions, the men. However, a kind lady, a cook, smuggled me out using her food wagon. So then I traveled to the shore, where I found this ship docked. I decided to try and see if the people would take me, and they did, telling me that they didn’t really care what religion I had. That’s when I realized some of the people from our village were here. “
“Liv…” Eliza hugged her again, “Lily went looking for you, but Jane was taken, along with Rebekah and Levi.”
“Dear Lily? The poor girl is probably lost, maybe even in prison!”
“She wanted to find you, Jane tried to talk her out of it, but I told Lily she was old enough to make her own decisions. So she went, but I gave her a switch blade, for protection.” Eliza shook her head, remembering the night.
“Well hopefully she hasn’t gotten far.” Olivia looked wistful, her red waves floating about her pale freckled face.
“I’m going to look for her, which is why…” Eliza leaned down and picked up Asher, handing him to Olivia. Asher giggled and patted Olivia’s cheek, settling nicely in her arms.
“Ohhhh!” Olivia grinned at the little boy, who now lay his head on her shoulder. “I love you, baby boy.”
Eliza smiled at the two of them, so safe and protected from the troubles of the world. “I must be going now, goodbye Olivia and Asher.”
“Goodbye Eliza.” Olivia grabbed her arm, “Remember, Yahweh is stronger than you are hon.
Eliza smiled, “Thank you.”
The sky was nearly dark as the small boat pulled ashore. “There, we’re back, miss–” Sebastian paused and looked Eliza in the eye.
“Eliza.” She thought to tell him her surname but decided against it. The corners of Sebastian’s lips curved into a slight smirk as he realized she wasn’t going to tell him her last name.
“Alright then, Eliza, we’re back.”
Eliza pursed her lips and stared at the purple-gray sky and nodded as the small boat bobbed near shore. The man stepped out and onto the dry land just ahead, pulling the tether of the boat toward him and extending a hand to Eliza, guiding her onto stable ground. The two shared a smile for a second before awkwardly looking away, letting go of each other’s hands.
“Err, thank you kindly, Sebastian.” Eliza gushed. She gathered the skirt’s of her dress and climbed a little ways up the hill, turning abruptly. “May the Father bless you greatly for your bravery.” She bowed her head slightly and Sebastian nodded, though his eyes were serious. “Be safe, Eliza.” He turned his back to her but secretly he was smiling widely.
The cold forest air whipped around Eliza’s hair, tossing loose strands in the wind as she tucked down the edges of her dress, pressing forcefully forward as the turbulent wind shoved her back. Rain pelted down on the trees, causing her to shiver. Though the girl had her shawl pulled tightly about her shoulders, she couldn’t help but feel the frigid air in her bones. “Please, Father, keep me safe.” She whispered, pleading to the angry black skies.
“Eliza! Eliza, wait!” Came a sudden shout from behind her.
The young woman’s heart nearly stopped in her chest as she stopped suddenly and turned around. “Who’s there?” Her voice was shaky and could barely be heard above the storm. What if it was a solider?
But, they wouldn’t know my name, she reasoned. Eliza saw a figure approaching quickly, running toward her.
“Eliza, thank goodness.” Sebastian breathed, brushing his wet hair away from his face, smiling at her, “I thought you were lost.”
“You…chased me here?” The curiosity in Eliza’s voice was poignant, she was utterly surprised the young man had followed her through the storm all this way.
“Well…something like that,” Sebastian chuckled, scratching the back of his head, “More like followed you.” He shrugged, “I was worried about you when it started raining.”
Eliza didn’t quite know what to say but she nodded, laughing a little under her breath. “Well then, I’m grateful for your concern.” She smiled. Sebastian frowned, looking worried, “You’re going to send me back now, aren’t you?”
“Nonsense!” Eliza was laughing now. “The storm was scaring me as well, and as much as I would be obliged to go on my own, obviously you were sent here for a reason.” She tucked her hair behind one ear and nodded to the sky, “I’m thankful you came then.”
Sebastian didn’t know what to make of her little rant, so he nodded. “Shall we go? I know a place we could wait out the storm.”
It was a cave. A dark, wet cave. Eliza looked around for a stream but saw none. “Cold isn’t it?” Sebastian questioned, folding his arms as he stood in front of Eliza, staring at her.
“Certainly.” Eliza agreed, “Is there water in here?”
“I do believe so.” The man nodded, gesturing toward a dry spot to sit in the darkness of the large rock formation.
Eliza could see icicles hanging dangerously low from the roof of the cave but she ignored the thought to break them off as she used to as a child, knowing that a piece of ice that heavy could hurt someone.
“Do you come here a lot?” She asked Sebastian, cautiously sitting down on the chilly ground with her legs close to her body, pulling down her skirt. He nodded, leaning against the rock, still standing, “Very much so. It is a very nice place to think. In the summer it’s better, still wet but not so cold as during winter.”
Eliza nodded, slipping off her gloves and breathing warm air onto her hands. “Could you not just live here?” Sebastian seemed wistful as he gestured to the empty cave. Eliza raised her eyebrows uncertainly and glanced around. What he found comforting about a cold cave, she was unsure but maybe, just maybe, Eliza felt it too, the serene quality of being at one with nature. Nothing to distract you but the sound of the wind.
“I could.” Eliza nodded. She smiled. In her mind, the young woman could picture sitting here on a cold night, just pondering life and asking questions of her Father. “Most certainly.”
Sebastian glanced over at the girl and chuckled. She was staring into the cave with a thoughtful look crossing her pale face, hair blowing across her bright eyes.
There was definitely something different about this young woman, he thought to himself. Her intriguing faith was certainly one of great interest to him. Someday when they weren’t shivering in a dark cave, he would ask her in greater detail about this religion her people called their own. Someday, he thought to himself, what if I never see her again? But that was something Sebastian did not resign himself to. He was sure that, if this Father that she prayed to was in control, he would surely see the beautiful girl again.
Eliza was thinking about her friends, her community. She wondered about Jane and Lily, dear Leandra and kind, sweet Olivia.
It had been so long, yes, since she last saw Leandra. She knew that the girl was far away in the care of the king’s soldiers. Still, Eliza had a sure faith that she would most certainly see her friend again. And the children, they would be just fine, right? She couldn’t promise but she knew that she had a promise she could count on.
1John 5: 3-4 For this is the love for Elohim, that we guard His commands, and His commands are not heavy, because everyone having been born of Elohim overcomes the world. And this is the overcoming that has overcome the world: our belief.
At that, a smile covered Eliza’s face. Remembering ever she had been brought through, Eliza knew it was true. Without her belief, where would she be?
“Looks like the rain stopped for now.” Sebastian’s voice brought Eliza from her thoughts. He was standing near the entrance of the cave, looking back at her.
“Already?” It had seemed like merely a few minutes since they had arrived her, when the rain had just began.
“It would seem so.” Stepping outside, Sebastian reached a hand out and turned back inside. Nodding, he spoke, “Yep, clear and dry out there, it is.” Eliza stood and she too looked outside. The raindrops had stopped by now and the only noise was that of the wind blowing calmly, knocking the occasional shower of water of a tree branch.
“Should we continue on or stay here the night?” Eliza questioned, unsure of which to choose. “Stay here is what my choice would be, unless that is, you would know of another place to sleep nearby.”
“No, no, you’re right, this is the closest thing to a shelter I can think of near here.” Eliza nodded. Sebastian stood at the opening of the cave for a moment more before turning back. “Well.” He spoke, “I’ll sleep here. Keep watch. You should stay farther back.” Eliza smiled gratefully as he offered the girl his coat. “Here,” he nodded, “You can sleep on this.”
“Thank you ever so much for this, Sebastian,” Eliza said earnestly, “I mean it. You’ve gone out of your way to help me and I’m very grateful.”
“Of course.” The young man smiled, he nodded slightly to her. Eliza walked back toward the further corner of the cave and laid down the coat, pulling her shawl to wrap around her. Thankful for the coat and her warm clothes, Eliza closed her eyes and laid her head on the soft fabric, sleep taking over her swiftly.