CHAPTER FOUR - A TEST OF FAITH
Over the next week my father’s revelation played on my mind. Something didn't sit well with me, whether it was that I was to have a child, or that Tommy would be my first husband I wasn't sure. It was a battle between my head and my heart. My head told me it was gods will, it was what the world needed to be saved. My heart doubted my teachings.
Tommy and I rode the horses down to the dam. This was fast becoming my favourite pastime. It was peaceful at the edge of the community. It was just Tommy and me, I felt calmer and relaxed.
I knew Tommy was curious about what was on my mind. My mood was low and I was quieter than usual. He had been very patient with me over the week, he didn't push me to speak, but I knew he was starting to get irritated.
We dismounted the horses and sat down in the grass before he spoke
“Something's bothering you.” He stated. I simply nod and let out a sigh. Tommy is my most trusted friend, if I could not talk to him who could I? I look down at the grass and pick a piece, playing with it in my hand.
“Did you know we are to be married in a year?” I ask him. Tommy sighs and lays back on his elbows.
“I suspected that would be the case.” He says, I nod and swallow the lump in my throat.
“Is that what you want?” my voice is soft as I peer down at him through my lashes. Tommy looks at me curiously.
“It's gods will... right?” I feel like the question is to test me. Is he testing to see if I doubt my faith? Or, is he not as devout as the rest of us?
“Right...” I say. I hate the doubt that's plaguing me. I hate that I'm doubting the world I live in, my place in it, my father, and Tommy. But I need answers. I need to know for sure. I lay back on the ground, mimicking Tommy. “Tell me about outside...”
Tommy eyes me, he studies my features as I plead with him with my eyes to be honest with me. He sighs then looks away.
“It's not really engulfed in flames as you had imagined.” He says. I furrow my brows.
“But, I saw the flames.... February 2 years ago.” I say. I remember that time well. I was kept inside for days, as the air was thick with smoke. Spot fires appeared in the community everywhere and the men rushed to put them out. Tommy nods his head in understanding.
“Black Saturday.” He states. “It was what they called a code red day... extremely hot with dry wind. Bushfires were ravishing the countryside, fire fighters were doing everything they could but they couldn't get it under control. Hundreds of people died, thousands lost their homes.” He explains. I nod and swallow the lump in my throat.
“That sounds bad.” I whisper. He looks over to me
“It was... but out of tragedy, you see the good in people, in humanity.” He says. How can there be any good in the devil? In the evil that surrounds us. “Volunteer fire fighters from all over the country came to help, other countries showed their support, all of Australia rallied together to help the victims. Strangers opened up their homes to others.” Tommy shrugs his shoulders.
“There is bad in the world, but there is a lot of good too.” I let Tommy's words sink in. My father had only ever preached the evil that surrounds us, he painted a picture of darkness and pain. Tommy didn't deny the darkness and pain, he didn't try to tell me the world was perfect and my father was wrong. He told me the good and the bad. The delicate balance between good and evil.
As winter comes and slowly turns into spring, Tommy and I spend our days together, talking about the outside world. He teaches me about our country, our history and about the world. He tells me about the small historic town not far from the community called Beechworth, and about the larger twin cities, he grew up in known as Albury/Wodonga. I laughed at some of his stories from being at school, he told me of his family and friends.
It was becoming more than obvious that Tommy didn't believe in anything my father preached, and I was starting to realize that I didn't believe it as much as I once did either. It was one day when Tommy was teaching me about money; I'd seen it before as my father used it to buy safe passage when he went out to save those who could be saved, that I got confirmation of Tommy's beliefs.
“Why did you move here?” I interrupted Tommy as he spoke about banks and jobs. He looks at me curiously, trying to determine the meaning behind my question. He could always read me well, and he answered me honestly.
“My mum was 16 when she had me. I never met my father; he was the same age and wanted nothing to do with me.” He shrugs, but I know by the tone of his voice that his father’s rejection stings. “It was just me and mum until I was 11, then mum met Daniel.... Daniel was kind at first, but soon he started to yell at mum and me, he started to hit us.” I reached over and placed my hand on his, he flipped his hand on and entwined our fingers together, squeezing my hand in gratitude.
“Your father came and got us away from him. He would come and visit us often and I could see mum was falling for him... but mum started to change, she started to lose who she was and I realised he was brainwashing her.” I gasp and Tommy squeezes my hand. “I'm sorry Gen, it's just how I see it.”
I nod and Tommy continues
“I tried to get through to mum but I couldn't. So, I played along, that way I could stay with mum and protect her.” He states. I nod as tears pool in my eyes. Is that true? Is my father brainwashing his wives? Did he brainwash me? A small part of me wonders if Tommy has been touched by the devil and is trying to turn me to evil, but my heart tells me that's not true.
Tommy reaches out and wipes the tears from my cheeks with his thumbs
“I'm sorry Gen, that must be hard to hear about your father.” He says softly.
I simply nod my head.
He pulled me into his arms and I rested my head on his chest as tears continued
When we reached the main community that afternoon, my father was back from his mission. He came in with a new wife, number 15. This one was heavily pregnant with two small children in tow. I looked her over as fathers 14 other wives came to greet her and fuss over the children. She was short with dark hair. I could see that before the protruding baby belly she was quite slim with a petite figure.
I took in the rest of his wives, their long dark hair falling to down their shoulders, their petite figures hidden under their long dresses. Tommy had spoken of the different cultures and ethnicities in Australia. How it was a multicultural country with people of all different shapes, colours and sizes. You could not see that here. Everyone looked alike and I questioned whether god would really only save the souls of those with certain features.
For the first time I saw my world in a new light. And, I didn't like it.