Happy birthday, Theia!
And thanks to all who have kept up with her journey so far. You are about to read my personal favorite volume of the series. You will notice it is quite different from the others. Now, without further adieu, on to Relics!
As she rested there, head against her father’s chest and eyes closed, she was brought peace by the sounds of all she was amongst. Harmonically joined with the wind, the seagulls, and the rolling waves, was the calm pace of her father’s beating heart. Theia could absorb them for days, years. Such peace; a transcendent feeling. Finally, they were away from it all, and could start again.
For only a moment, she opened her eyes. She beheld the outstretched sands, the residents enjoying serene walks with their loved ones, Haystack to her left, and the Pacific horizon beyond. The sun was nearly set, the clouds’ pink glow becoming faint. Even with her father’s body heat, she was getting cold, but didn’t care. The sights, the sounds, this otherworldly feeling … it was paradise for a moment. Though she could not see the stars, though she knew the horizon did not truly stretch into eternity, she imagined walking on the waters, toward the heavens until the end of time.
In truth, the setting sun meant this new life of theirs was about to begin. The other refugees would be arriving any moment. Change was upon everyone, including the native residents of Cannon Beach. Am I ready? she asked herself relentlessly. A new home, a new environment, and a new people… Only her father was familiar. “I’m not ready,” she told him.
With his left hand, Ethan stroked her hair. “The color used to be so bright,” he said. A long moment later, he asked, “Think it will change to brown like mine?”
Ethan squeezed. “I heard you, baby. Was just observing a slight change is all. I intended to segue into how our lives are changing, but it fell flat. Your mother always had the right words, not me.” Theia leaned her head back, looking into his eyes as he resumed. “We’re all afraid of change. Sometimes, it’s necessary. Not everything has to change, though. We still have each other, we still have our memories, our dreams, our talents… That reminds me: A long time ago, I promised to continue teaching you guitar. We can play music together like we used to, we can spar like we used to…” She lowered her head, closing her eyes again. “I prefer what we had just two years ago, but I’ll take this change over what we’ve had lately.”
“Will they separate us?”
“Of course not.” His reply soothed her soul. She could relax again, listening to the tranquility of nature. Unfortunately, it was cut short. “Sleepy?” he asked.
Theia shook her head. “Thinking.”
“Yeah? What about?”
Seeming to understand, her father replied, “As with most things, it’s scarier when you worry about it than when you experience it.”
Theia clenched her hands. “So, it’ll be easier to move on without Mercy than I think?”
Her father paused; his heart and his breathing slowed. “Would you hate me if I said yes?” Theia did not reply or react. Her father hummed, turning his gaze toward the ocean. “It’s healthy to miss the people you lose, but you can’t allow grief to become you.”
“What if you can’t live without them? What if you don’t want to go on without them?”
Ethan watched her blonde hair reflect in the dimming sunlight. “You hardly knew Mercy. Are you giving up on life because we’ve lost her.”
“I loved her.”
“Then, don’t forget her.”
Theia pondered her father’s words for a short while. “It’s… It’s not just Mercy, Dad. It’s everybody. Why did so many people die? People keep dying.”
“We all die, baby.” He kissed her head.
True, she acknowledged internally, but it was not comforting. Her fist clenched tighter. “I hate Aunt Lilith!”
“I sympathize, but anger won’t undo what’s been done. Live on. Find new people to love, new ways to love. Never stop.” He wiped the tear falling down her cheek, and held her a little tighter. “You know, if it means anything to you, I wished you missed your mother, too.”
Theia adjusted to a more comfortable position, though remained wrapped in her father’s embrace. “Mom wouldn’t miss me if I died.”
“She would, Theia.”
“She hated me!”
“Your mother…” he began. “Your mother envied you. You had everything she wanted as a child: A loving father, a family with which to spend time with and celebrate occasions… She envied your intelligence, too. You were smart without being weighed down by what you learned and observed. On the flipside, though, your mother blamed… Never mind.”
“Blamed what? Blamed me for something?”
“Forget I said that. It’s not important.”
By that moment, the sun was nearly concealed, and the cold winds quickly became unbearable. “Maybe we should go back,” she said like admitting a guilt.
“Ready to live again?”
“…Maybe things won’t be so bad.”
Her father kissed her head then whispered, “They won’t be.”
Both stood, brushing the sand off themselves. Theia turned, lifting her arms, and her father picked her up. She stared at the horizon a bit longer as her father carried her.
“You don’t have to be afraid anymore, baby.”
“There’s always something to be afraid of,” she said.