Elena looked down to avoid Pavel’s eyes. “Your eyes are the perfect shape,” he said.

“You shouldn’t say such things to me.”

“I can’t help thinking it. I am supposed to be with you every day and know more and more of you and respond to you only up to a certain point?”

“Brothers and sisters live together and do not consider that there is only one road to go down.”

“But when they grow up they distance themselves and find another with whom they can go down that road.”

“Usually they do.”

“I think it is unnatural if they don’t.”

“Do we have to keep discussing this?”

“I’m sorry it makes you so sad. So continuous distraction is your answer?”

“What if your affections are the distraction?”

“How can they be? My love for you is the deepest part of my being. Like you said, the heavy stone at the bottom. All else are little schools of fish flitting about and disappearing downstream.”

“God should be the heaviest stone at the bottom.”

“Maybe he is underneath it, but yours is hitting a nerve.”

“Interesting. That must mean something is wrong.” Elena looked up at him evenly.

“How can love be wrong?”

“Many times it seems that the type of nervy love you are describing is either new and still in the exciting conquest stage, or is forbidden.”

“You are cheapening it.”

“They way you say ‘it’ sounds like it is something you cherish, something apart from me as a person. You love your love, or the warm feeling of it. You love what it does for you.”

“I don’t think you understand communion or relationship. They are things between people, rightly called ‘it’. Isn’t there something between us?”

“Yes, my husband.”

“You are deflecting. Our relationship isn’t only defined by him.”

“You are right. Our relationship is practical and a source of companionship.”

“Companionship is such a diluted, unnervy word.”

“Besides lust, anger is an intense feeling.”

“Yes, some people indulge in anger and arguing and violence to get that feeling. Or strenuous labor or exercise.  I don’t like that you mentioned lust. How about desire?”

“Why can’t desire for God be stronger?”

“Not all are fit to be monastics.”

“But some are monastics by choice, and for them it is harder, but not impossible.”

“Especially if they are young and living alone with a beautiful woman.”

Elena looked down again. A tear fell down her cheek and onto her lap.

“Do you really want me not to tell you these things?”

“I don’t know.”

Pavel grabbed her cold, trembling hand as another tear fell on his.

“I can’t hide how I feel. I will live with the pain of it, which may also have something to do with the pain in you and not just some sordid lust. I will try not to define it as leading to an inevitable end. I will leave you your privacy.”

“Thank you.”

“I think I will need to find a separate cave, though.”

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