The dreams break under the harsh brilliance of the morning sun, but its ire is somewhat deadened, filtered through a palpable aura of contentment that dulls the obvious and blunts the true. Such is the power of human folly, the strength in oblivious disregard for the facts.
Her hand spreads against his chest, fingers running through coiled hair. He breathes deep, smells the tonic in her hair, the oils of her skin weakened by the passage of time, but still remaining in a faint wisp of their former glory. Oil… To anoint royalty, yes? He stifles a laugh, but she feels him shake anyway, raises her head and looks into his softened eyes with hers, likewise healed.
“Yes? A thought you wish to share?”
He smiles, brushes a strand of hair from her forehead and traps it behind her ear, touches his palm to her cheek and brushes it down to her neck.
“Just thinking that I’m not much, so far as royalty is concerned.”
She scrunches her nose and screws up her forehead, then relaxes and laughs. It’s the first time he’s heard one so full-bodied from her. Face buried in his chest, shaking with mirth, fingers coiled against him, pulling at the hairs with each laugh. Uza winces and strokes her neck, gently urging her to face him.
“I mean, on top of it, won’t your father mind? His only daughter, fallen for a wanderer in the wastes, overly indulgent in his kindnesses?”
She continues to laugh for a moment, but soon collects herself and smiles playfully up at him.
“I’m sorry ahuvi, but it’s just so ridiculous that you think I would care about such a thing. Or him, for that matter. A wanderer in the desert… Uza, what is he if not the same? Besides… Why did you think he offered you such boons, if not for my… Our sake?”
He shrugs, but smiles, continues to stroke her neck. He almost doesn’t notice when her eyes grow pensive.
“Tell me though, ahuvi: can you answer, yet? Tell me what you were seeking?”
“I was looking for you, Henya. Ahuvati. We all were.”
“But why? Why here?”
He sits up and she joins him, pulls up the sheet to cover them as his eyes grow distant, misty.
“I said before that there is a difference between naming a place and naming its purpose. We called this land Gehenna from the old idea that, when we die, we are punished. Tested. We must undergo trials and pains, torture, before we can move on into our afterlife, our reward. That reward is said to be divine love. And so we set out into our Gehenna, desolate and endless, in hopes that we would find that very thing. Love.
“I don’t know how the others’ journeys ended. Maybe they, too, found someone and split off to follow the rest of their unique paths. Maybe they died unfulfilled. But I found you, Henya, the reward at the end of Gehenna. And now… Now this is merely Gai Ben-Hinnom, and you are ahuvati.”