“When did you know you were lost?” he asked.
Twelve seconds ago, although I resisted telling him that. Lack of candour was unlike me and I felt unlike myself as I blinked into his wide, dazzling smile. I had always thought of him as a wealthy person, wearing all those jewels that gleamed so brilliantly in the unblemished sun. But I had never once felt at a disadvantage. It was my family that was most favoured here, ever since our arrival. It was us the host looked most kindly on and not him, never him. But that was thirteen seconds ago.
Yes, thirteen seconds ago I was happy. Then twelve seconds ago I knew I was lost. “That’s an impertinent question,” I smiled back at him, awkwardly, hoping against hope that he failed to pick up on how little I believed in that poor, crooked smile of mine. “Aren’t you taking too much for granted?”
“Oh, I think not, woman. I think we both know where this is leading.”
On that account he was mistaken. It was dawning on me as we spoke, intimately together, as I found myself avoiding his penetrating gaze, that there was little he ever mistook in this changeless, bounteous land of ours. (Why had I never noticed before how closely he observed all my comings and goings, how he hung on every word I spoke, seemed to lick it from my lips as I let it slip? How had it escaped me that he was so unlike the others, always weighing moments and outcomes and making decisions?) He was a tactician, I understood now, a person of influence; and he weighed us alongside all the rest of his interests.
But on that one account he was very much mistaken since this scenario was entirely new to me and I lacked any clear idea as to where it was leading. Dimly, and with growing conviction, I understood that I was lost. But that was all. I hardly had any concept of exactly why. Flustered and annoyed, I resorted to bluff. “I still say that you’re impertinent. What’s more, I say that when my husband hears about your attitude today, your uncalled-for familiarity, he will want redress. I believe you would be advised to be elsewhere when that occurs.”
“I should think very carefully about what you tell your husband.”
I knew he was right. Adam would take my side and stand by me, of course he would. I had no doubt of it. But he would simply never understand the perplexities of all I witnessed today. Adam would stride up to me soon with an earthy laugh, as always. But that well-loved, welcoming embrace of his would miss me, this once; it would fail to reach out to me across the chasm I saw rapidly opening between us.
There was a sob at the back of my throat. I stifled it. Seconds passed as I stared at the ground and could barely find the energy to raise my head. How many seconds ago was it now since I realised I was lost? It felt like a few forevers.
I managed to lift up my heavy eyes to meet the slits of my interrogator’s eyes, even though he repelled me. “Can you help?” I pleaded. “You always have so many answers. Can you help me… return?”
“In theory I can, in theory it’s permitted. But first I need to understand precisely where you lost yourself. Look around us and tell me what you see.”
I looked. “I see home.”
“Really? Is that really what you see here? Look again.” Ah no, I saw ramifications. I saw that bounteous home of ours was changing. It grew stormy and harsh, with no part of it at rest. The boundaries crumbled. “Well?” he smiled, his tongue tasting the air that grew salty with my tears. “Describe the pretty scene.” Then I knew he was taunting me, had no wish to help. He wanted grovelling instead. To spite him I took another bite of the ripe and rosy apple that dangled in my hand. It still tasted damn good.
Eve shrugged, gestured at the garden with her free hand. “It looks to me like a fine, wild scene of endless surprises. It looks dramatic and poetic. You did us a favour,” she pouted as she turned her back, walked away with the half-eaten apple; hips wiggling defiance as the lustful serpent watched her go.
“We’ll see,” the serpent nodded.
This story was written in response to the speakeasy writing prompt #168 – You must include the following sentence as the FIRST line in your submission: “When did you know you were lost?” he asked.