As the Dawn Comes

AS CLEAR AS SKY

THREE

Lake Tions – Penville

It was a two hours drive to Lake Tions from North Dock. Dalia slept most of the journey and Grace prayed from fear and anxiety. She prayed hard that Luke would agree and understand why she was about to do what shed do. She looked at her sleeping daughter, removed the strand of brown hair that settled on her eyelids and closed her eyes. She had another problem. She hoped she remembered where he lived. Shed visited him once with Victor and that was the end. There had been words said that couldn be taken back.

”If you
e ever planning to come to visit me with him, then don bother Grace. I won entertain the likes of him when all I see is pain in your eyes, ” Luke spat out.

”Why can you be happy for me? You have no right to judge or criticize my husband without knowing him, ” Grace retorted and pushed the dining chair with force as she stood up. ”You know how to contact me when you
e ready to apologize and acknowledge us as a couple, ” she walked towards the door with Victor when Luke dropped his fork.

”I hope for the sake of your so-called better judgment of men that he is the right man for you. We are all disappointed; this hurts papa and he might not tell you but if anything happens to him from worrying about you, I will never forgive you. ”

She laughed at her words and bit her lips so hard they blistered and she tasted her blood. Everything she said to him, she was more certain that he wouldn want to see her, more or less the child she had for Victor. She pushed the thoughts aside and tried to rely on her prayers to save her.

The journey came to a stop and she got out. She helped Dalia down and took her bags from the seat beside her. Lake Tions wasn how shed last seen it. There were taller buildings. Most local houses were replaced with more beautiful houses. The streets were busy with people and there were more beetle cars on the road and shops to purchase food or clothes. The median strips were adorned with neatly trimmed grasses and amur maple trees whose leaves were glossy dark green in summer, and scarlet in fall. This was the fall and they glowed beautifully as the sun shone on them.

Grace held Dalia in one hand and their bags in the other. She stopped a taxi and gave directions to Lukes house. When Grace stopped at her brothers house, her heart started beating uncontrollably. She paid the taxi man and stood looking at the gate. After taking a deep breath, she summoned courage and knocked on the gate. She waited before she heard a sign of someone coming. A young girl about the age of fifteen peeped and opened the gate.

”How may I help you? ” She asked, looking at Grace and Dalia and their luggage.

Grace cleared her throat, realizing that she had been staring at the largeness of the compound behind the gate. A lot had changed since she last saw his house. ”Im here to see Luke Cherington. Is he home? ” She asked as politely as possible, trying not to scare the young girl.

”Whom should I say is asking for him? ”

”Tell him Grace, ” she smiled. The girl nodded, seeing the resemblance between Luke and the strange lady.

”Ill be right back, ” she locked the gate. Grace waited ten minutes before the young girl opened the gate again. She had a weary face and Grace read her expression and understood what it meant. Somehow, she waited for the girl to drop the bomb on her. She didn bring herself to say the message properly out of politeness.

”He won see you, ” she lowered her head. Grace smiled to hide her hurt. Her father was wrong. Luke didn love her. Luke didn care about her. Certainly, Luke didn want to see her again. Whose fault is that, aye?

”Thank you…. ” She waited for the young girls name.

”Amber Maam. ”

”Thank you, Amber. ” Grace walked away with her bags and Grace. She took the next taxi and headed for the train station. On her way back to North Dock, Grace cried again. She should have known that after Victor was out of her life, the consequences of her last conversation with her brother would play out. Dalia stared at her mother and touched her hand as a sign of care and concern and Grace squeezed her palms with a smile.

”Why are you, sad mother? Who is Luke? ” She asked like she hadn been told before and Grace smiled and reminded her again without anger in her voice.

”Im fine honey. Luke is your uncle. Your first uncle. He wasn home so we
e headed back to grandpa Samuels house. ”

North Dock

”He hates me, papa. Luke hates me. ” Grace sat with her father outside that evening while Dalia slept. She fondled her nails.

”He doesn hate you, Grace. Hes merely upset about a lot of things. I believe hell come around when he is calm. You should understand him. ”

”I understand him too well papa. Hes angry with me. How long will he stay angry? When Im dead from grief or pain? ” Grace raised her voice, her brows furrowed.

”I won blame you Grace but I think I understand how Luke feels. For some reason, he saw what you couldn see because love blinded you not that Im guilt-tripping you. He loves you but he wants you to understand his pain. Don worry about Luke. Hell come around when hes ready. ”

Grace smiled and her father walked inside the house. She wasn to blame. Victor was to blame for all her problems and drift. He watched her destroy her relationship with her family and didn say anything. She cursed him as the tears dropped from her eyes. You know its not just him; you are to blame too Grace.

”The lady at the gate, ” Luke prepared to get to work as he spoke with Amber, ”did she say anything else before leaving? ”

”No sir. She only smiled in a sad way and walked away. ”

Luke raised his brow. ”Did she say where she was headed or where shell be? ”

”Nothing. She took a taxi in front of the house. ”

Luke started to leave, then turned to Amber again. ”Was she with anyone? ”

”Yes. A little girl, not more than five years old. ”

”Thatll be all Amber. Thank you. ”

Amber curtsied and walked away. On his way to work, Luke called his wife, Judith.

”Please Judith, if my younger sister Grace comes back, let her in. Ill see her when Im back. Thank you. ”

”You know you can live without me, Grace. I am your life, the very air you breathe. I will always find you, no matter where you hide. You and Dalia belong to me… ”

Grace woke up, her heart pounding faster than a running hare. Sweat broke from her face, her hair sticking to her cheek. She cleaned her forehead with the back of her palm and cleaned it on her nightwear. The night was still young as she could tell from its quietness. The moon wasn full but it still shone. The wind whistled softly, drying the sweat from her face. Grace took the glass of water from the nightstand and drank and laid her head back on the pillow. It wasn the first time shed dreamt of Victor since she left his house but this one was terrifying. She had dreaded the day Victor would come looking for her but now the reality was hitting her hard. What if Victor came looking for her? What if he tried taking Dalia away from her? What if he tried to kill her? What if…what if? Grace nodded her head in a no and pushed the thought away. Hes still your husband, after all, the voice in her head said.

”Mother, ” Dalia walked up to Grace in the morning. She was washed and dressed in a blue satin dress, a light lace sewn around from the waist and a medium-sized sky blue ribbon attached to it. The back of the gown had a belt to hold the dress fit for her small stature. Her hair was tied into a ponytail with a blue ribbon. ”When will we see father again? ” She innocently asked her. Grace picked her up and feigned a smile.

”You
e so big. Mother will have a waist problem picking you up next time, ” she teased the child and she laughed. ”We will see father soon. Hes just so busy at the moment to be here. Hell come. You have to be patient with him, okay? ” Dalia nodded and hugged her mother tight. You just lied to your daughter, the voice said. Grace closed her eyes and fought the tears that wanted to form in her eyes. She had to stop crying and living in fear of Victor coming to find her.

”Please don ask that of me, father. I can go back there. I was highly embarrassed last time. I don think Luke wants to see me and I have to respect his decision. ” Grace paced the room as Samuel watched her aimless panic. She walked to the window and spotted Victor standing and watching Dalia. Grace ran out of the room at speed and called to her daughter. The little girl got up and walked to her mother. Samuel walked slowly to see what the problem was and saw Victor. Grace looked back at Victor as he took slow, content strides towards them. Grace sent Dalia inside and promised to come to get her as soon as she was done.

”What are you doing here? ” She asked boldly, trying to hide the fear in her voice. Why are you so afraid of him?

”Im here to see my wife. You left without a word or a letter and Leah won tell me of your where-about. I was worried, Grace. Thank God you
e okay. ”

”You need to leave right now Victor. Leave or Ill cause a scene. ”

”We can work this out as a couple. I need to be around my child. She needs her father. Come back with me Grace. What can I do or say to make you believe I really need you back in my life? ” He asked. Samuel sat and watched the drama between his daughter and her husband play out. He wanted Grace to fight for what was right for her marriage if she still considered herself a married woman.

”She needs her mother and thats who I am Victor. I won go back with you and Im certainly not letting my child go with you. You didn want kids, remember and last I recalled, you weren there when I gave birth to her. You helped bring her into the world but you haven shown her that you
e her father. Please go home, Victor. Let this not come up again because Im not going with you. ” She exhaled the air of fear she had reserved inside her. You
e still holding back so much from him. What are you really afraid of? Victor looked at Samuel for support but the look in his eyes showed that Grace was fighting for herself. Dalia wriggled out of Samuels grasp and ran out of the room to hug her father.

”Father, ” she opened her arms wide and Victor raised her up and threw her in the air and she laughed. Grace watched the happiness in her daughter and wished above all things that Victors words were true and genuine.

”Thats enough Dalia. Go inside and wait for me. ”

”Mother, can I stay here with you and papa? I want us to go home. I miss Aunt Leah. ”

”Dalia, go inside with grandpa. Daddy and mummy have to talk for a while and Ill come to get you, ” she spoke calmly but with authority in her voice. Dalia looked at her father again.

”Its okay dear. Mummy will come to get you. ”

She smiled and bounced inside as Samuel stood up and touched Graces shoulder, a touch of encouragement she presumed. Grace closed her eyes and rounded her palm into a fist.

”You won come between my family and me, Victor. We
e not going with you, not today or ever. You made it clear from the way you behaved that we were a thorn in your flesh and your life would be better without us. I have given you your freedom Victor. Enjoy it and let us be. ”

”You heard her Grace. She needs her father and her mother. She needs us as a family. Why won you give her that? Not for me or you but for her. We could be happy. ”

”That wasn happiness. That was me not complaining of how sick and tired I was of your ill-treatment towards our daughter and me. I had to endure a lot for her. We can keep doing this to each other. Itll affect her in the end. ”

Victor lowered his face and Grace smiled, hoping his defeat meant that hell go and not return but what he said next gave her shock.

”Think about it, Grace. Ill give you one week. If you decide then that you can be with me or put your selfish thoughts aside for our child, then so be it. When she grows up, pray she won hate you for keeping her away from me. ” He walked away. He has the nerve to call me selfish, she thought to herself and laughed. Her laughter died down when she realized that perhaps, Victor was right about doing what was best for their daughter. She sat down, defeated. She couldn imagine Dalia growing up to hate her for separating her father from her. When she walked inside, Dalia had slept and her father was sitting down, watching her sleep with a sad smile on his face.

”You don have to tell me anything from the look on your face, ” he beckoned her to come to him. She went and sat down beside him. He tapped her shoulder again as he did before and she broke down.

”I don want to go, papa but he makes an annoying point for his dubious reasons. Im so torn right now and I feel I won be able to breathe unless he says so. ”

”I know you, Grace. I know youd do anything for this little princess. I know you look defeated but Im proud of you nonetheless. You
e a stronger woman and I know you can handle anything he does and come out better. ”

”I don know if I can be papa. My strength fails me with each passing day. When it comes to Victor, I feel like an insect he can crush when he wants to. I melt at the sound of his voice and his very presence strikes fear in me. I don want to live under his shadow. ”

”Grace, you must be strong for your daughter cause shell need her mother to be there for her and you
e no use to her weary or half dead. Come, you must rest. I know you
e exhausted. ”

Grace studied the room she once spent her whole life in. She had arranged her clothes and that of her daughters. She sat down, rubbing the pattern of the red, blue, green and yellow quilt her mother had made from wool for her. It was her fourteenth birthday gift and the last one her mother ever made for her. She closed her eyes and exhaled ”Lord if you can hear me, I need strength right now to fight for my child. I am so weak and I fear I will faint along the way and leave her alone. ” She wasn the religious type; her parents were. They went to church every Sunday and she tagged along until she got used to it. She had watched her family crumble at the death of their mother and soon after, Martha died from yellow fever. Her father had withdrawn and she believed God wasn interested in the suffering of her dear papa. Now she prayed to the same God and she couldn stop wondering why hed let her make this decision without giving her an escape route. So much for being all-knowing she sighed and got up. Walking up to her fathers room, she could hear him sob hard. She tried to listen and found out that he was praying. She pinned her ears hard to the door.

”Father, she needs you. She needs strength for the troubled times shes going through. You know how Grace is and you know her weakness. Please be a guide and shining light to her when her strength fails and her vision becomes blurry. Show her you still love her. I leave her in your care, Amen. ”

Grace turned back to her room and sat down, her heart pounding so fast, it could burst from her chest. She wasn ready to go back. She didn have the strength to fight for herself or her child. Her head started pounding and she stretched out by the door, backing it. It was one week already and Dalia had been asking for her father. What are you afraid of? The voice asked again. That had been her tormenting question since she left Victors house a month ago. What was she afraid of?

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