from his work and stole an involuntary glance at the
windows of Elizabeth's room. She was never far from his thoughts, and over
the weeks he found himself more and more unable to look at her solely
through the eyes of friendship. He had tasted her closeness, her touch, and
he found it increasingly difficult to settle for anything less. Resolutely
returning his attention to the piece of wood before him, he struggled to
push away the memory of her scent, the feel of her palm on his heated face,
the softness of her embrace.
"Josiah?" her voice drifted over to him and it took him a moment to
comprehend that it was real and not simply an errant piece of memory.
He turned and met her smiling eyes. "Elizabeth," he greeted her softly. "Do
you need my help?"
She shook her head and his gaze dropped to the basket full of freshly dried
laundry she was carrying. The piece on top struck him as hauntingly familiar
and he recognized it as the nightgown she had worn when she had come to him
after his nightmare. Slowly he returned his gaze to hers, noticing that she
was aware of his memory.
"Can we talk?" she asked, her expression completely serious, and he nodded
"Let's walk," he suggested, glad when she agreed.
"Just let me return this to my house", she said, indicating the basket with a
gesture of her head.
Josiah waited in front of her door, suddenly nervous as to where their
conversation might lead, but he knew very well that it was necessary, that
they were both treading dangerous ground and that something had to be done
She returned to his side and they set off together, leaving the town behind.
For a while they simply walked on in companionable silence, but then
Elizabeth stopped and turned to face him.
"Something is troubling you," she stated, searching for his eyes. "What is
He expelled a quick breath and dropped his gaze for a second to collect his
thoughts. She waited patiently for him to speak, and when he finally looked
at her again, his heart constricted with longing to simply cradle her to his
chest and confess his love to her. Just as a whisper against her ear without
having to meet the unsettling depth of her green eyes, he thought wistfully.
Instead he turned to walk on, and she followed, linking her arm through his.
The contact was comforting and reassuring, and he smiled to himself, amazed
at how she always seemed to know what to do to make him feel better.
"Has it got to do with your dreams?" she nudged gently.
Her question surprised him a bit. He had been certain she was aware of the
current flowing between them, of the attraction that had been building from
the moment they had met. But now he wasn't so sure anymore that he hadn't
imagined it, that it wasn't merely wishful thinking on his part.
Finally he nodded. What he wanted to tell her, did have to do with a dream
of his after all. A dream hauntingly beautiful despite all the
impossibilities inherent to it.
Elizabeth stopped again, taking his hands as she scanned his face for any
clue as to what he was feeling.
"What is it, Josiah? What's so terrible that you can't tell me about it?"
To his dismay he felt his eyes mist with tears and he quickly looked away,
but she brought back his gaze with gentle insistence by guiding him with a
soft touch of her hand. He met her imploring gaze for a long, endless moment
and then he sighed, sitting down on a log beside the path.
"Let me tell you a story," he suggested at last, pulling her down to sit
next to him.
"I always enjoy listening to you," she said, half turning in order to watch
his face while he spoke.
He inhaled briefly, uncertain if he wasn't pressing on too fast, but finally
he began to speak.
"In the Zohar, a Kabbalistic text dating back to the Middle ages, a mystical
version of the story of Adam is told. According to this story, the first
human being was androgynous, but had two faces: one male, the other female.
The Causal Will behind existence saw fit to separate this double-faced being
into two entities. Throughout life, each searches to find the other. The
circle completes itself when they come together again, but this time, face
"Oh God," she breathed, "this is so beautiful. Josiah, I...."
With a swift motion he touched his fingers to her lips, stilling her words.
He knew the gesture was audacious, as was this entire situation, but he
didn't have the heart to hear what he believed she had been about to say.
"Now you are probably wondering why I'm telling you this story," he said,
the softness of her lips burning beneath his fingertips.
Very slowly she shook her head. Reluctantly he withdrew his hand, waiting
breathlessly for her response.
"I've never heard this story before," she began, "and yet it sounds so
familiar as if I had always known it. It lived inside me like a promise that
has shaped my life."
Josiah felt his heart leap in his chest. She was speaking his soul and he
was dying for her to continue.
"How so?" he prompted gently.
"I believe that it may be the reason why I never wanted to remarry," she
confessed quietly, and for a moment he thought his heart was going to stop
beating altogether. Gradually he became aware of the way he was staring at
her, so he cast down his gaze. "What about you?" she asked.
"Priests of my creed weren't supposed to be married," he said. "You know
She shook her head with something akin to impatience. "Neither are teachers.
That doesn't mean you couldn't have wanted to marry," she insisted.
He shook his head. "I don't think I ever met anyone who would have been
She remained quiet for so long that he looked up to gauge her expression.
The grin he encountered was almost mischievous.
"You don't strike me as a naturally celibate man," she remarked.
He swallowed, suddenly at a loss for words. By now he should be used to her
candor, but she still managed to catch him off guard many a time, and this
was certainly one of them.