“He always does this to me! Everyone does this to me. I’m always left behind while the others go do the fun stuff. I want that dessert, too.” Aviva stopped pacing and looked over the creek. Then she timidly put a bare toe in the water. Cold! She set her jaw and plowed into the gentle current.
She held her breath as the water, which had come up to Bo’s knees, rose to her waist. The pebbles jostled under her feet, and she smirked as the smaller sand sifted through her toes. The water was refreshing. Her knees marched out of the water now, and she sloshed to the shore. Her eyes scanned the horizon looking for, Bo. She went up the bank and straight into the brush. “Bo?” Her whisper barely rose above the creek’s prattle. “Bo? I decided to come hide over here. It’s Aviva. Rachel isn’t here yet.” Her tunic was dripping, and the cool breeze sent a shiver down her spine. “Please come out.” Her whisper turned into a hiss. She plodded further into the tall trees. “Bo?” She said a little louder. She shrugged her shoulders and started skipping through the wooded path searching for the perfect hiding place.
“It’s getting dark. How could you have lost her?”
I stared at the ground. “She--she was just gone.”
“She said she wanted to hide by herself?”
“Yeah.” I looked over at the creek.
“We have to tell her parents.”
“Rachel, will you—it's part of the game. She’s winning.” I shrugged.
“You don’t want to get in trouble.” Rachel said, crossing her arms.
“I’m just saying, let’s look a little longer. Chances are she’ll come out when it’s time to eat because she knows she won your dessert.”
Rachel sighed, contemplating the trouble she would be in as well. “Everyone spread out and call for Aviva—tell her we give up, and she wins.” She swung back toward me. “We better find her—if it gets dark, I’m getting more help.”
“We’ll find her.” I turned and sped toward the creek.
“You found her, right?” The young woman’s eyes were fixed on her husband.
He squinted his eyes. “I told you I’m not a hero in this story.”
“Please don’t tell me about a tragedy. I don’t think I can bear it tonight.”
“I mean, it doesn’t end well. If you want me to stop, I don’t--”
“No, Bo! Why would you tell me this? I thought this was about the cave.”
“It is. Do you want to hear the rest or not? It’s up to you, metuka.”
She lightly put her hand over the baby’s chest, feeling the rise and fall of his breathing. “Well, you have to finish it now,” She said, looking back at her husband.
He smiled. “You always see things through, don’t you?”
We searched for over an hour, the sun went down, and no Aviva. Rachel insisted on telling the adults, and we had a whole search party out looking for her. I was still on the other side of the creek looking through the woods, but I heard grown-up voices shouting Aviva's name. Several of the voices had crossed to my side of the creek.
I pounded my fist to my forehead--still trudging through the thorny forest brush. I tried to keep a careful eye out, but I was so scared about what I would find. Horrible images of Aviva drowned kept popping up in my mind. I shoved them back. I had to find her.
"Aviva?" I couldn't raise my voice above a whisper without my voice cracking. I was hungry, tired, and pretty sure I was a murderer, but before I could succumb to the fear that the entire village would stone me in the street, I saw Aviva--alive and not drowned--standing on the hill looking down at me.
She had found the best hiding place in the history of hiding places. Nestled behind a shield of mulberry bushes was the opening of this very cave. To this day, I don’t know how she found it, but that is where I found her.
“Aviva. You’re okay.” I tossed my head back, so relieved to find her alive.
“It’s so dark.” Aviva’s eyes were brimming with tears. “I want my eema.”
“Everyone is looking for you.”
Aviva wiped her nose and said with a sniffle, “I guess I had the best hiding spot.”
“Aviva!” The voice was still a little distance away.
“Eema!” Aviva leaped up and started to race out of the cave.
“Wait.” I grabbed her arm.
“It’s my Eema, I have to--”
“Aviva, we are going to be in a lot of trouble for this.”
Her arm went limp, and she turned back toward me--tears welling up again.
“You said so yourself, your Eema told you not to cross the creek. “
“Yeah.” She was kicking a dirt clod around with her toe.
“We can’t let them know you are here.”
“No!” Her chin was shaking. “I want to go home.”
“You will go home. I’ll take you home.” I pushed my sleeve up. “If I take you home, and we tell them I found you on the right side of the creek, then we won’t get in trouble. You just found an amazing hiding spot.”
Aviva looked up at me hopefully.
“You'll even get Rachel’s dessert.”
That sealed the deal for her. We snuck out of the cave, bypassing the search party, and we made it across the creek and back home—safe and sound.
The woman’s eyes narrowed. “So you. . .you got away with it?”
Bo ran his fingers over the cool dusty floor. “I thought so at first, but when we returned home and I told Eema the air-tight story I’d come up with, she saw right through it for one simple reason—Aviva and I were both soaked from crossing the creek.” Bo smiled and let out a quick breath. “I got in more trouble for lying than we would have if I’d told the truth.”
“Lying is against God’s law.” The young woman said as if recalling a fact for a test.
“Right. As is dishonoring parents. My parents taught me that lying, and all sins, are ultimately not committed against people, but against God.” His eyes rested on the newborn still sleeping peacefully. “Coming to this cave and remembering that story always reminds me of that truth. It’s a truth I want to make sure we teach our child—our children.”
“It’s so much to learn.” The young woman said. “I want to teach him—but how can I when I’m still learning myself?”
“We will teach him together.”
“But no matter what we teach him, he will break God’s law, too. There is no end to it.”
Bo took a slow breath.“You remember what you told Eema? You know, when you followed her here.”
“How could I forget?”
“I’m amazed by your commitment to this day. ‘Your people will be my people and your God my God.’” Bo stroked his beard, a half-smile barely visible behind the whiskers. “But you have to understand something. Our God is not a god made from stone.” He paused, thinking, “He’s not like other gods who have wooden ears, but cannot hear, ruby eyes, but cannot see, or a stone carved mouth, but cannot speak a word.” He draped an arm around her shoulders. “Our God created sight and sound. I mean, can the God who created ears not hear?”
“My God hears your sorrows, and sees the sorrows of the world.” He turned to face her. “When you say, ‘Your God will be my God’ you are saying you belong to the God of hope. This is what we must teach our child.”
She nodded, forehead wrinkling.
“The rain has stopped. We better get this little guy back to his bed.”
“Do you mind if I stay here a little longer?” She asked.
“Sure, yeah. I can get him.” Bo slid his hand with ease under the baby boy and scooped him up without waking him.
He went around that corner, back to the small house where Eema was no doubt still getting the last minutes of sleep in before sunrise. The gray light didn’t reach into the cave yet. The woman sat in the pitch blackness—drinking in the silence.
Silence. Why is the God who created mouths always so silent? The woman stood and strolled over to the yawning opening of the cave—the whole forest was stretching awake as morning sunbeams peaked in. She closed her eyes and sent another quiet prayer heavenward, and started back down the trail to home.