“I don’t remember any Scriptures that really say who an enemy is. There are those that explain who a neighbor is, but who is an enemy?” Elena pondered.
“Someone you think is wrong?”
“Or more wrong than right.”
“Then who is ever right enough?”
“Those who are justified,” Elena said.
“How does one know who is justified?”
“Their conscience tells them.”
“Some people have more confidence in their conscience discerning such things than others. You seem pretty sure of who you think is right or wrong, and you determine a course of action based on it. That makes everyone sort of under your jurisdiction.”
Elena was surprised by his aggressive tone. “Don’t you do the same thing?”
“Who do you think has determined our current course the most?”
“I have determined mine and you have chosen to walk with me so far. Do you think this is wrong?”
“Everything is always about right and wrong with you. I am going this way because I care what happens to you. If I chose to go a different way I think you would only be concerned about if I had a good enough reason to abandon you.”
“That is true.”
“That makes you Lord Chancellor and me your servant.”
“My valued, caring servant.” Elena smiled, thinking it was an amusing part in a play.
“I don’t want to be that.”
“You don’t think it is right?”
“Blast your rightness. But no, I think the man should be Lord Chancellor.”
“Ok. What do you decree then?”
“Ok? You call all the shots and then give up all at once?”
“I have come to appreciate your help and I respect your judgment.”
“So you have deemed me justified?”
“I suppose so.”
“Shall I bow to your appointment?”
Elena looked at the ground. “No. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was coming across that way.”
“I need to think about things a bit more.”
Pavel sat by the side of the road. Elena walked on, not knowing what else to do. She began to feel afraid. She had gotten used to his company and did not want to lose it, but neither could she go a different way if he decided to, nor did she know if he would want her to go with him. Her steps slowed. Finally she stopped. She decided that maybe he was right that it was wrong for her to be so determined about her direction. That maybe she would wait to see what he decided. She looked back and saw him still sitting beside the road. She sat down where she was to give him space.
As evening approached Pavel rose and walked to where she was sitting. He sat down beside her. “Do you really want to be a solitary?”
“Do you want me to justify myself?”
“I’m just wondering if your waiting here means you’ve changed your mind about being a solitary.”
“Maybe I don’t have what it takes. The thought of you leaving scared me. If I was a solitary I wouldn’t have minded.”
“What do you want to happen if I take you to the caves?”
“You could live in one nearby and we could share things.”
“So you want me to dedicate my life to serving you.”
“You don’t think it would be mutual?”
“Not if it’s your idea.”
“Well, I don’t remember you having a particular destination in mind when I met you.”
Pavel was silent.
“You accepted my decisiveness at first. Now you resent it.”
“I don’t see how I can respect myself or you if this is all your idea.”
“Being on the road was your idea too. It was your idea to find shelter and to find food. The only thing I decided was to go this way. It is a big step, but did you feel strongly about the other way?”
“No. But it was the way I was going and now I’m not anymore because of you.”
“That sounds childish.”
“That sounds disrespectful.”
“I’m really sorry you are so mad at me. I could just tell you to go back to where you were going, but it would be to protect my pride, not because I thought it was right.”
“So it still has to be about what you think is right?”
“I don’t know any other way to operate.”
“I think my anger is because my pride is wounded too. Even so, I don’t want to keep capitulating to you.”
“Ok. What do you want?”
“Do you really want to know? I want you. Body and soul. But I’ll take as much as you want to give. If you don’t give me everything, then you’ll be in charge.”
His words burrowed through her ears to her heart where they sank like a flat, unrolling rock, heavy, and there to stay. The weight of them left her silent.
“You said you want just to be neighbors. Actually, I don’t know if I can be that.”
“I can’t be more than that. Pavel, I’m married.”
Pavel was silenced while the weight of her words sank his heart. Finally he said, “You seemed so available.”
“I am sorry that my heart acts like it is, but legally it is not. I really do believe I have to learn to give it to God. Only then will it learn to be faithful.”
“Why is your heart unfaithful?”
“Because I learned not to trust the ones it gave itself to before. Because I was wrong, and eventually I don’t let myself have what is wrong. Not when the decisive time comes. Up to that point, I blindly let it go where it wants.”
“But right now it wants me?”
“Yes, Pavel. Right now it is yours. And God’s. I trust you, but I won’t if you persist in wanting me to give myself to you.”
“I will always persist.”
“Then I have to go a different way.”
“So you think you can change your heart’s mind?”
“I don’t know. I have grown to respect you. I think you could be mostly right, and therefore justified, even if you are wrong to ask this of me. You are unique in the world. I’m beginning not to trust myself anymore. You could crack my decisiveness. I should go on alone.”
“It is difficult to know what one should do. It is easier to know what one wants,” Pavel said, grabbing her elbow and pulling her close. Elena buried her head in his shoulder and started to cry. Pavel wrapped his other arm around her back, drawing her closer. She sank into him and began to sob. He stroked her hair and started kissing the top of her head. “Shhh. Don’t cry.” He put his finger under her chin to lift it, but she turned her head.
“I can’t kiss you,” she said pulling away. “Please, don’t follow me.”
Elena turned and began walking quickly down the road.