The Angels Saga: Terra Chronicles
Daniel Thomas Andrew Daly
I was ready. As ready as I could be. All summer long I had been studying the textbooks for the classes I would be attending. My attitude was this – the early bird catches the worm – so if I was going to pass the extremely challenging ‘Law Degree’ at the Australian National University, I would have to be as prepared and as knowledgeable as possible.
By early February, when classes were about to begin, I felt I was already practically a lawyer. How wrong I was. I was about to meet someone – my first boyfriend – who would change how I saw the law, and life, and love, forever.
‘So you see,’ continued David, ‘the whole purpose of law is to protect us from harm. The fundamental basis rooted in the idea of law is that, if something causes harm to your fellow neighbour, then it is deemed unlawful.’ David was cute, and as I looked at him I thought on an idea I would challenge him with. ‘Then why do we have drug laws? I mean, if they are for personal use, and you are not harming anyone, only yourself, then why are they illegal?’ David looked at me, smiled that cute smile he has, and said. ‘Does anyone have an answer for Justine?’ Charlie spoke up. ‘David has basically spoken of the foundation of what law is supposed to be about. But the reality of Australian legislation, and much international as well, is that not every law is based on the same sound set of principles. In fact, a draft proposed in Parliament can come from any sort of direction, and does not have to explicitly state its basis in legal ruling or precedent. In that sense, law is still random.’
‘But isn’t the constitution supposed to define what laws can and cannot be made?’ I asked innocently. David spoke up. ‘The constitution defines what type of laws the federal government can make. Or what areas they are allowed to legislate upon. It does not state the nature of the laws they can pass, or give a basis for what constitutes correct or acceptable law. Now as it stands, in Parliament, the assembly debates wether they will accept a piece of legislation or not. Yet the moral foundation for all of their judgements on the proposed bills is, unfortunately, the whim of the moment. With all their current life problems, moral crises, biases, prejudices and human influences. In the end, I am afraid, the law we have inherited as a nation is far to ‘human’ and by that I mean far to ‘fallible’ in nature.’
I looked at him and asked the obvious question. ‘So what can we do about that?’ He continued, smiling at me, ‘We need a benchmark for law. We need an act or a constitution of the legal process itself which defines what is acceptable law and what isn’t. In essence, this nation needs to define the foundation of what it believes is morally right and morally wrong. Until it does we go on with this patchwork set of supposedly moral laws, which nobody is really satisfied with anyway.’
I looked at him, quite impressed. ‘You’re a genius,’ I whispered to him under my breath and, the way he looked at me in response, I knew he heard me.
* * * * *
‘So do you think he is cute?’ Gemma asked me, about the guy we were all interested in. ‘Justine doesn’t like boys, Gemma. You should know that. She is probably a lesbian who needs to come out.’ I looked at Frances with daggers in my eyes, but said nothing. ‘Go on. Do you like him?’ persisted Gemma Watkins. ‘I could tell, you know. By the way you were looking at him.’ ‘He’s ok,’ I finally said. ‘I still can’t believe you’re still a virgin, Justine,’ said Frances Jones. I mean, come on girl. Time to get busy. It’s not like we live in the 1940s, you know. We are liberated now.’ ‘Liberated from what, exactly?’ I asked Frances, biting my tongue straight away, as I should have known better. ‘From the bondage of centuries of doctrinal brainwashing by the corrupt clerics of Christendom.’ I nodded. It was the usual thing she would say – as anti religious and pro feminist as ever. She continued. ‘You know, they used to actually kill people for claiming to be witches. I mean, if you practiced a little magic – pow! That was it. They would dunk you under the water until you were dead. Or some other horrible fate. And you know, my great grandmother used to wear a chastity belt. We still have it in the family as a memento. A big horrible metal thing, with just enough room to pee, but sure as hell not enough room to fuck.’ ‘Frances, watch your language,’ interrupted Gemma. ‘Go to hell Gemm. I am not a stuck up snob, like I think you are becoming.’ ‘I resent that. I just think we could all act a little more maturely. Not so childish. We are Uni girls now. Not like we were in high school. Society expects more of us.’ Frances attacked her on that point. ‘It was society’s expectations which drowned witches. Which invented horrible things like chastity belts. As far as I am concerned, fuck society.’ ‘Then why on earth would you want to become a lawyer? That seems like the last thing you would want to do.’ ‘To fight for peoples rights. People need all the help they can get in what is still a patriarchal authoritarian society. It will be a lifetime before we get the real changes we still need.’ I shrugged. Since about late year nine in high school, Frances had been on her feminist crusade. I think she had seen some of her mother’s pro-feminist videotapes and decided that she would likewise follow in her footsteps. I thought on the chastity belt she mentioned. Frances had actually shown it to me the year before and it had made me grimace. It was a big, heavy metal thing, which would have been horrible to wear, with a thick metal band circling the waist and a band running from the back to the front, with small holes to go to the toilet with. As Frances said, it would have been impossible to have sex with it, which was its whole purpose anyway.
I had been raised in a conservative Baptist home, used to a strong sense of sexual purity and morality. I still attend Hughes Baptist church every Sunday, often twice on Sunday and go to various other church gatherings and bible studies. These days, in the modern 21st century, my mother continues to tell me that the times are not like they used to be. As Baptists we had long been brought up with the belief that Jesus would one day come back for his bride – the church – and then Judgement day would begin. My mother constantly warned me that, the way the world was heading, his return could be soon. It really made me think, often, about what life was supposed to be about. I guess, in reflection, I Have basically accepted the religion of my upbringing. I like church, the people who go there, and the sermons help you to focus on a positive life, which is important to me. I often think our pastor, in his sermons, is a bit hard on the rest of society in the way he seems to often condemn their ungodly lifestyles. For example, Frances my friend is a Catholic by birth, but never goes to church these days. My mother tells me she is basically ‘of the world’ and should probably be avoided. But she leaves that choice up to me in the end. Apparently I am now old enough to find my own way through life.
Frances often tells me that the conservative platform of the fundamentalists is ‘unrealistic’ and out of touch with human nature. Carnality is part of us, she maintains. Better to accept it and live with it, with a basic sense of law and justice in civil society, then to lose sleep over how holy you are. She tells me that there have been sinners since Adam and Eve, which surprised me inasmuch as she said she did believe in Adam and Eve, which I thought no Catholics really did anymore. But the point that sin was not exactly something new, as she put it, and her idea of a comfortable level of sin to ‘not piss God off to much’ sort of did have its carnal appeal. Of course, with my strict upbringing I should have rebuked her as a heretic, but her happy go lucky nature, and the fact that she was generally quite a kind person once you got to know her, taught me that there was perhaps some wisdom in what she had to say. As she would put it ‘We are human – we are prone to fucking up. If we can accept that part of ourselves, and get over our sense of being super people, we will be much happier in life.’ And of course she continued to maintain that ‘holy rollers’ simply kissed each others asses in their assemblies, telling each other how holy and godly they were, as if they were all beloved children of God. Frances was, in truth, the tonic to my conservative upbringing that, in my tryhard rebellious teens I guess I needed to hear.
On the other hand, Gemma Watkins, while basically of the world like Frances, was as much a ‘Queen of Babylon’ as you can possibly get. She tried to have sex with every cute guy that came her way. She maintained to me that she had lost her virginity at 13, which I did not doubt, and that she had now slept with over 50 different guys and done everything imaginable in the bedroom. I guess if there was such a thing as a female ‘stud’ she would be it.
‘Which one of us do you think he likes the most?’ asked Gemma. Frances looked at her, considering her answer. ‘David seems to be a clean cut kind of guy, Gemma. I don’t think he will go for a harlot like you.’ Gemma gave her a sly look from the corner of her eye. ‘You know, Francine. Men, really, when it comes right down to it, are all the same. If the chick is hot, and she puts out, they will fuck her if she flirts. They nearly always do. Trust me on this. Experience talking.’ ‘Yeah, whatever,’ replied Frances, very used to such statements of female wisdom from Gemma.
‘You know, Francine, if it wasn’t for the fact that I know you had sex with Freddie back in year 12, I would probably think it was you who was the lesbian, and not Justine as you suggested.’ ‘Fuck you,’ said Frances in response. But Gemma persisted anyway. ‘I mean, come on. You were the major femmo in year 10 – all the class thought so – and we figured you would not be into blokes. But Freddie maintains he scored with you.’ Francine, despite the liberal stance she supposedly maintained, blushed a little. ‘Yes, it is true Gemma. Freddie took my virginity. But he wore a condom, ok. Something which I am sure you have never heard of.’ ‘Oh, I use them alright. Don’t you worry about that. A modern 21st century girl can never be too careful in this day and age – what, with the umpteen trillion VDs you can get nowadays. Really, it is scary out there.’ I interrupted. ‘Then why do you have sex with so many boys? Aren’t you afraid you will catch something.’ Gemma looked at me and, what turned out to be quite surprising, made a confession. ‘If you really must know, most of the time I simply pash the guy and occasionally jerk him off. I am not a virgin, that is true. But I have only been really sexually close to a few guys, and we always practiced safe sex. You know, he would come on my tits or on my face. I have only swallowed a load once. It tasted interesting. But I am a lot more cautious than you girls know, ok. What? Do you think I am stupid, or something? I know the real problems with promiscuity. It’s what killed so many of the gay men back in the early 1980s, when Aids first came out.’ I spoke up on this subject, reflecting some of my pastor’s teachings. ‘My pastor says God sent Aids to punish sexual sinners. The bible is supposed to be clear that God expects abstinence until marriage. If you play around with fire, you will eventually get burned.’ ‘Fundie!’, exclaimed Frances, with a sarcastic smile on her face. I grimaced. I hate being called a Fundie, which was Frances cute term for a religious fundamentalist believer. ‘Well that is what my pastor says. I didn’t say I agreed with him. I didn’t say I disagreed either. It is just an interesting perspective.’ Frances spoke up. ‘When Columbus discovered America, the men on the ship when they got to land had sex with Lamas, and got syphilis. So what you are saying, in a sense, is true. Truly deviant sexuality can bring to it sickness. I think that, maybe, Aids came the same way. People probably had sex with African monkeys which is how Aids came to us. And the way Aids and other VDs are in the world these days, you either practice safe sex or play Russian roulette. Eventually you will crash and burn.’ I nodded. Frances’ words, while harsh, were inevitably true on the issue we were discussing. I silently thanked God I was still a virgin, free and apart from all those problems.
‘Anyway, girls. David and Charlie and the others will be having their informal law chat again tomorrow at lunch time in the canteen. Shall we go along again then?’ I looked at Gemma, a little nervous. It was true. I did have the beginnings of a crush on David, and did want to see him again. But I was not expecting it to be so soon. I needed a little time to get my thoughts together. Too think on what I would say. Perhaps I should pull out, I thought. But, no. It was an opportunity best taken when it presented itself. ‘Yes, alright. I will be there,’ I replied. ‘You can count me in too,’ responded Frances. ‘Catch you then,’ said Gemma, waving her hand at us, and making her way out of the canteen and off to her next class. ‘I should probably get going as well, Justine,’ said Frances. ‘I need to study a lot when I get home. I have my first essay already, and it is going to need a lot of research.’ ‘Good luck,’ I said. ‘Thanks. I’ll need it. Seeya,’ she said, and made her way off.
I sat there in the canteen, thinking on life and love. It had been an interesting and absorbing first couple of weeks at uni. And I really looked forward to what lay ahead.
‘Hi everyone,’ said David, arriving at the same place we all were hanging yesterday, towards the end of the Canteen. ‘This is Karenina, a friend of mine,’ he said, introducing an Asian girl with a headdress on, who seemed to be a Muslim. ‘Karenina is a new student, who has been studying with me to catch up on missed lessons. But she is very bright and is learning quickly.’ ‘Are you a Muslim?’ asked Frances. Karenina nodded quietly, but did not speak. ‘My name is Frances,’ said Ms Jones, introducing herself. ‘Hi. I’m Gemma Watkins,’ said Gemma. ‘You know Charlie, Frank and Irene of course Karenina,’ said David, referring to the other main law students who hung together in the small group. He looked at me. ‘This is Justine. You had better watch her. I get a feeling she will try to steal everyone’s tutorial marks opportunities in the lessons feedback presentation.’ I smiled at David, flattered at being thought so intelligent. I noticed, though, that David seemed to have something of a cap on his head and, out of curiousity, I asked him what it was. ‘Oh. This is a kippot. It is a head covering that Jewish men sometimes wear, especially at synagogue or in prayer. Karenina and I were praying in the prayer room. It was why I was wearing it,’ he said, then removing his kippot. I looked at him, stunned. ‘I didn’t know you were Jewish.’
‘What do you expect with a surname like ‘Rothchild?’ he responded. ‘Oh,’ I said, slightly surprised. ‘I had actually thought it was British or French or something like that. ‘No. Quite Jewish.’
He began his discussion that day, as usual talking about a new area of law which was sometimes relevant to what we had been speaking about in our classes, but sometimes on a vague, unconnected area. It was, so he said, his purpose to try and give the little group a wide ranging view on issues not always addressed in class. He said something when we were first beginning. ‘They are not going to do everything for us, you know. Our teachers. Our lecturers. To be a true success – to be a true contributor to the lawyers of our society – we need to make our own mark, in a sense. We have to have our own ideas and our own sense of passion. If we simply follow what has gone on before, we simply get what we always got. That is fine if you like what we have already, but I think we can do better.’
They were words which had stayed with me. Positive, inspiring words. Words, almost, to live by.
‘Well the Australia Act, essentially, took away any real power of the Monarchy over Australian citizens. All the Queen has, in any real sense, is the right to be regarded as something of a symbolic head of state. There is now no course of repeal to the Privy Council so, in the practical world of real life, Australia runs its own affairs completely.’ ‘Then why do we need the Monarchy at all? Wouldn’t it be better if we simply did away with an outdated system which exalts one individual?’ asked Frances.
I looked at David, very curious to hear his answer.
‘I think I will be very honest in my answer. What the Monarchy currently provides for with Australia is a united Commonwealth in which we enjoy the fruits of unity with each other. I know, in the Cricket especially, Australia has a great rivalry with Britain, but perhaps a real truth is that, as we are both commonwealth nations, with a similar type of government, and the same constitutional head of state and, because of that, we have a greater sense of togetherness and friendliness, which we perhaps only enjoy more greatly with our Anzac friends from New Zealand. Aussies love to have a go at the Pommies, but they also like to get along with them in a pub or after a game as well. I think a truth is that this culture – this English Speaking world Culture – is very united now. With the internet, countries like Canada and the USA, as well as New Zealand, Ireland, Australia and Britain are really becoming very close friends in a global village with a lot of competitors. My belief is that the more unity we can have, especially with English speaking nations, is ultimately in our best interests. For me remaining in the Commonwealth, like Canada chose a few years back when they had a referendum on the issue, seems to be a very sensible decision. I know we are located in the Asia-Pacific region, but the loyalties of blood and family which are in these six nations in particular run deeper, I feel, than linking ourselves more to the Asian region. My belief is that, eventually, like pre-Babel days, we will speak one language on planet earth one day. And I assume that due to the stronger power structures within the English speaking world and the stronger economies that it will likely end up being English. They are a stubborn people, the Brits, and I think the language of Shakespeare and Austen, Tolkien, Lewis and Rowling will eventually rule the world. It will likely be the lasting influence of the British Empire. Rome gave us its letters and many other inventions. It built roads and paved the way for much of what followed. Arab empires gave us advances in science. I think, for the Brits, there sports will endure forever, just like their language.’
I looked at him and asked a question I felt I already knew the answer to. ‘And what of Israel? What is their eternal legacy?’ ‘With respect to my Muslim friend, who may disagree with me in some ways, I feel we have left an eternal legacy of spiritual and religious thought for mankind. I mean Jesus was actually a Jew and the way I view things these days is basically accepting Unitarian Christianity as a valid Jewish sect. The Apostles Peter and Paul were Jewish. In fact, most of the early church was Jewish. While some of the older generation may disagree with me on this, I actually take a little pride in the fact that Christianity is essentially a Jewish religion in its origin and that the most popular person who has ever lived is Jewish.’
I looked at him and smiled, quite happily at the last comment. ‘Yes, David, Jesus was Jewish.’ He smiled at me in response, a little bit of a grin on his face.
* * * * *
Later on, I and Frances and Gemma were again in conversation. ‘He is, really, pretty smart,’ said Gemma. ‘And boy, is he cute.’ ‘Isn’t he too religious for you,’ asked Frances. ‘Oh, I don’t know. I kind of like that in some ways. It usually means a guy is stable – settled. I have found, especially from my experience with Justine here, that religious people, despite the hypocrisy you often accuse them of Frances, are usually peaceful and honest or lawful type of people. They do seem to be honest in that sense, which is, I guess, a positive of religion. Of course, I couldn’t care less if he was Christian or Jewish or Muslim – maybe not Muslim – I don’t think they treat their women well enough – too restrictive and controlling – but him being Jewish is fine by me. I think, going way back on my mothers side, we actually have a little Jewish blood in us anyway.’ I looked at her, slightly curious. ‘You have Jewish blood.’ ‘I think mum said, when I was a bit younger, that her great grandmother was Jewish – her mother’s father’s mother. So that makes me a little bit Jewish, doesn’t it? I might tell that to David. He might like me because of it.’
Frances looked at me. ‘Are you going to let Gemma steal him then. Steal your ‘Jesus boy’. I looked at her with a glare at the comment Jesus boy. ‘And with a name like David as well. You know what, you could convert him to your church. That is what you fundies like to do, isn’t it? God knows, I have seen them often enough in Civic on Friday nights. Handing out their bloody flyers and even preaching occasionally. I think they really think they are saving our souls. I am sure God loves them but, forgive me, they really need a good rethink. Surely by now they would get the point that people don’t really give a fuck.’ I looked at her, and decided to respond to that point. ‘Actually, while our church doesn’t really do street preaching, we do get quite a number of new visitors to our church. In fact, in Australia it is really only the fundamentalist churches, as you put it, that are actually growing. The older churches who have given up the commission are slowly declining. It is precisely because they don’t care about peoples souls that they are growing cold and old.’
Frances looked at me. ‘Is that right then? The older churches are declining?’ ‘Look at your church. You can hardly find any new priests these days. Catholicism doesn’t really inspire Australians. Our church and many other Evangelical and Pentecostal churches at least hold peoples interest and excite them a little. Not old and boring. Old and religious.’ ‘Bloody hell, Justine. Don’t mention the Pentecostals. Those tongue-speaking freaks. They are the absolute worst of your sort. Heck, some of them even believe you are damned if you are not in their church.’ I nodded to myself on that point. It was, actually true. The Oneness Pentecostal church in Chifley generally viewed themselves as the only true church in Canberra and the only ones who were saved because they were baptized the proper way. Frances had had a run in with one of the Oneness Christians – a young lady of about 20, all with long dress, long hair, and no makeup. It was the rule in their church that women could not dress like men, and had to have long hair and no makeup. My Baptist church, I guess, in a strange way was a lot more liberal on that issue, not that I really viewed myself as liberal. Yet, if that is how Jesus wanted that part of the Body of Christ to function, then he must know what he was doing. Perhaps that type of lifestyle – the very puritanical one – appealed to some people. Perhaps they simply liked it that way.
‘I think he likes me. I think he does,’ said Gemma, playing with her hair. I looked at her. ‘David, you mean?’ ‘Who else, silly,’ responded Gemma. Frances looked at Gemma. ‘I think, Gem, that David, knowing what Jews are like, will only be interested in a Jewish girl. That is their culture – their law practically. To only marry their own.’
I looked at her, nodding. I was familiar through my studies of some of the old testament passages which generally separated Israel from the rest of mankind. But I thought on one book to share with my friends.
‘Actually, King David’s grand-father Boaz – or was that great-grandfather – I can never remember. Anyway, Boaz was from Bethlehem, were Jesus was born, and he married ‘Ruth’, who the biblical book in the old testament is named after. Ruth was a Moabite, who were not Jewish. So, I think, while their general rule is to marry amongst themselves, they can marry people outside of the faith if the match is, I guess, holy and godly like Ruth was.’
‘That is interesting,’ said Gemma. ‘So Jews really like holiness, do they? I guess that is why they pray like they do, at the wall in Jerusalem. Bowing back and forwards. Because they are trying to be really holy and all that.’ I nodded. ‘Yes, I guess, religious Jews are still sort of interested in that. Our pastor generally thinks, though, that most modern Jews are way to humanistic and practically anti-religious. But the Ultra Orthodox are still quite religious and probably follow the old rules to a degree still.’
‘The diehards, you mean,’ said Frances. ‘But don’t they all wear beards? David doesn’t have a beard.’
‘Yes, I noticed,’ I replied. ‘Perhaps he is not that overly religious in the end?’
‘Which will be perfect for me,’ said Gemma, happy at that point. ‘If he is only a little religious he will probably like me quite a lot. Especially if I tell him I am practically Jewish?’ Frances stared at Gemma, a queried look on her face. ‘Practically Jewish? How the hell did you make that leap?’
Gemma blushed, a little embarrassed.
‘Oh, you know. Oh, ok. Sorry. I was just hopeful. But I am, sort of Jewish. And if he is only a little bit religious, maybe that will be enough for him.’
‘Maybe,’ responded Frances.
I looked at Gemma. She really did seem quite keen on David. I think, perhaps, she knew how intelligent the guy was and how successful he would likely become. I think, perhaps, because of that she knew a good catch when she saw one and in that femme fatale mind of her she was already making plans for husband number one. I thought on him for that, embarrassingly so, myself. It was true. He probably would be a good catch. Perhaps, as Frances said, if I converted him to my church he would end up marrying me. But, no, I thought, kicking myself. That was not the ethical way towards making a marriage partner, and I could hardly think I would necessarily convert him anyway. He might actually have quite deep Jewish beliefs. And, of course, despite the fact that I didn’t really want to be held to it, the bible generally forbade Christians who were not married from marrying someone outside of the church. Still, thinking on David, and the fact that he was Jewish, I wondered if such a reality could ever be an exception. It was, perhaps, something to quietly ponder over the weeks ahead.
‘Seriously. You DON’T believe in UFOs and Aliens?’ Frances was quite stunned by David’s frank confession that he was not a grand believer in life on other planets. She decided to persist on this point, confidently armed with her mother’s encounter of a few years back. ‘So tell me then, Davy boy, how do you explain crop circles? How do you explain countless sightings of craft to difficult to explain any other way? How do you explain all the ‘taken’ encounters with aliens?’ David considered his words, quite carefully. ‘Well, I don’t think you will like what I have to say about the latter two. Unless you can take a challenge to your view, I would rather not say. It might offend you.’ I looked at David, a little alarmed at what he might be thinking. ‘Go ahead,’ said Frances. ‘I’m a big girl. I can handle it.’ David responded. ‘Well, I believe that Schizophrenia is a myth. It is not a disease at all. Schizophrenics are simply the more sensitive among us to the spiritual realm. And the voices they hear and the hallucinations they see are nothing more than manifestations in the spirit realm.’ ‘Interesting,’ responded Frances. ‘I don’t really know much about schizos, but I will take your word for it. How does that connect?’ ‘People who see aliens and UFOs, really, are just seeing demonic delusions. Demons playing tricks on humans.’ Frances was a little upset in having her mother’s encounter reduced to a demonic delusion in front of her friends, but thought it did actually sound like an interesting idea. ‘So you actually believe in Demons?’
‘Why is it so hard to believe in spiritual beings? If you believe in God, why can’t you believe in angels and demons?’
‘God can be believed on in rational argument. Yet demons and angels – that is just archaic religion?’ David looked at her, and thought on a clever response. ‘Ok. How about this. A demon is just a spiritualized human.’
Yeh? Your point?’
‘Now pretend he is Adolph Hitler as a spiritualized human. Or better yet, Charlie Manson.’ Frances looked at her, and seemed to concede the point. ‘Evil spiritual beings, basically, is what you are saying then.’ ‘Spirits who reject God’s authority and practice as much evil as they can or want to. Totally self willed and totally rebellious. Extremely viscious and evil spoiled brats. That is what a demon is Frances.’
‘Yeh, well when you put it like that it doesn’t sound too hard to believe in.’
‘You know Fatima? Where the crowd all saw the Sun dance.’ Frances nodded. She was familiar with the catholic revelation which took place there. ‘Demons at work. Why is it nobody else in Spain saw the Sun dance, but at Fatima they all did? It was simply a massive delusion of Demonic forces at work.’
‘You know, I am a Catholic David.’ ‘But you’re not into Mary, are you.’
‘No, not really,’ responded Frances. ‘I prayed those prayers when I was younger, but don’t bother with them now. So you are saying the Fatima experience was all a demonic delusion? Why not a divine encounter?’
‘To what purpose would God or Angels have in making all those people see the sun move, yet have it only be a delusion. We know for a fact that the Sun really didn’t dance, as throughout that part of the world there were no universal reports of it doing as such. It was demons simply promoting their Catholic heresy.’ ‘Catholic heresy, David? That is not very nice of you. I thought you respected other people’s religions.’ He looked at her, and nodded. ‘Well, let us put it this way. I respect the people within those religions a great deal. They are all children of Noah and all loved by God. But I think much of supposed monotheistic religions are really just heretical and are only popular due to populist teachings. Catholics call Mary the Queen of Heaven. In Ezekiel the Israelites were rebuked by the prophet and condemned for worshipping the Queen of Heaven. You see, Mary is not Hashem’s queen. Really, she was just a simple Jewish peasant girl.’
I looked at him, a question having arisen. ‘Who is Hashem?’ He smiled. ‘I probably should remember that most westerners are not familiar with the term. Hashem is Hebrew for ‘The Name’. It is our polite way of referring to God, so as to not commit the sin of blasphemy. ‘You mean Yahweh, don’t you,’ I asked innocently. He gritted his teeth. ‘Yeh. But, so you will know, in Jewish tradition only the High Priest is supposed to say that name, and only once a year on the day of atonement.’ Frances looked at him strangely. ‘You can’t even say God’s name? Mmm. Maybe that is why Christians are supposed to be children of God. We use his name and know him as our father. A father doesn’t treat his children like that, you know. A great, big, impersonal beast who must be obeyed.’ David looked at her, and paused for a moment. ‘Yeh. Yeh, that is how you Christians do view God, isn’t it? As your own father?’ I spoke up, ‘You do remember that Jesus taught the church to pray the ‘Our Father’ don’t you? I am sure most Jews have heard of that prayer.’ ‘Yes, I have heard of it. But it is not usually the way we view God. To us he is God most high. To be feared and respected.’ ‘I looked at him and decided to quote the old testament prophet Malachi. ‘Did not Malachi say, have we not one father? One God who created us all?’ David looked at her strangely. ‘Malachi said that? That’s interesting.’ I thought on another scripture which should definitely prove the point being made. ‘Actually, as far as I can remember, Exodus 4:22 says Israel is the firstborn SON of God. So you see, God is supposed to be your father as an Israelite. And a father is supposed to have a personal relationship with his children.’ David looked at her, and went to his bag. He pulled out a book with Hebrew writing on it. ‘What is that?’ asked Frances. ‘It is the Torah in Hebrew. The Pentateuch. You know, the first five books of the Bible. I want to check the passage Justine mentioned.’ He turned to the page and, after a few moments, closed the book. I looked at him. He had a slightly different look on his face than usual. ‘Well? Was I right?’ He looked at me and smiled. ‘Yeh. You were right. It was sort of puzzling reading that verse, but yeh, you were right.’ I nodded, always happy to be of help.
We talked then, that lunchtime, for quite a while. It was just the four of us, as the others had classes that day. We talked for a solid hour, each of us getting to know David Rothchild on a more personal level, learning just what made our fascination tick. Just before he left us, he took me aside. ‘Justine. This may sound a bit forward, but would you like to do a bible study with me sometime. Perhaps you could come over to my family’s home in Forrest, and you could meet my parents, and we could talk about your church and our synagogue. You know, exchange some ideas.’ I looked at him, trying my best to hide my excitement, but ever so happy that such a wonderful request had been made. ‘Yes, David. That would be great. When do you want to meet up?’ ‘Are you busy Friday afternoon? From about 2.00 onwards?’ ‘That is study time for me, but I can take the time out. It will be ok.’ He scratched out his address on a piece of paper, with his email address, and handed it to me. ‘If you need someone to pick you up, my brother Daniel should be able to. One final thing. My family is actually basically a Messianic family. I am the only one who is traditional Jewish. They pretty much all accept Yeshua as the Messiah, Daniel included. So you will probably all get along.’ I looked at him, quite stunned. ‘You mean…. They are Christians?’ He looked at me, a little relieved at my comment. ‘Well, basically, yes. You see, I was baptized and brought up Messianic, but generally don’t accept Yeshua in a divine or Messiah type of sense. Really, I only basically accept the Torah as from God. I think the ancient prophets mostly invented their words. They are not God’s words to me. Because of that the issue of Jesus and Messiah is, strangely enough, a non issue for me. To me he was just another Jewish teacher, who went out, even possibly, on a God ordained mission to bring Torah principle to the Gentiles. And because of that, I don’t really have the hang-ups that other Jewish movements do. Jesus, really, to me, was just another Jewish Rabbi or teacher. He just became incredibly popular.’
I took all of that in, and thought on how I might respond to his views. They were certainly original. I had never really thought on just a ‘human’ Jesus who people could accept on his own human terms. It seemed to be the perspective that David had on my saviour and, quite strangely, it was one I actually had a little interest in learning more about.
* * * * *
Daniel Rothchild sat with his wife Jessica Rothchild in his parent’s new home in Forrest, the family having recently moved up from Macarthur in Tuggeranong. David was the younger brother of Daniel, a later addition to the family, who had been away at boarding school for years, but had recently returned home. The Rothchild’s, as a family, had grown up as Anglican’s, but Daniel had been the first to show strong links to Messianic Christian faith, which was essentially the Christian faith for Jews who were not part of mainstream churches. And Daniel’s father, Alexander, had gradually likewise come towards Messianic faith gradually, through Daniel’s constant talk on the subject.
David and a very nervous Justine sat opposite Daniel and Jessica in the large living room, while Alexander and his wife Rose finally returned.
Justine had been finding Alexander and Daniel oh so friendly, just like David, and while still a little nervous, felt oh so at home amongst this very dedicated Christian family.
Rose, handing Justine her cup of tea, spoke to Justine. ‘Alexander has retired recently, Justine. He worked in the Public Service here in Canberra for many years, and when the home was payed off we both concentrated heavily on putting as much money into superannuation as possible so that, when we recently retired and claimed our super, we had reaped such a nice return that we were able to by this wonderful house in Forrest. It came through hard work, dear. Hard work and dedicated saving in our latter years. Alexander was never that high up in the service, nor myself, yet we found that if you work to a strict budget, it is actually quite possible to further your own situation and gain a greater blessing. I think sacrifice is the key word in this situation.’
Justine nodded, happy to learn of David’s family success. Alexander spoke up, ‘I guess like most modern Australian families, those of us who have had success in gaining home ownership in our lifetimes, a real key we have learned as a family is that God blesses hard work and hard effort. I really believe he will make opportunities for you in your life if you completely dedicate yourself, work hard and persevere, taking your chances when they come along. It may sound strange, but like Amy Grant sings ‘Love will find a way’. If you live in love, and accept our great God, he will make a way for you in life, and open all the doors for you. He is a very loving creator. But of course, you grew up Baptist, didn’t you. I guess, like we have grown into over many years, you would have been raised with a strong Christian faith.’
Justine nodded politely.
Alexander looked at David, thinking on his Jewishness, and asked a question he had been thinking of.
‘Justine. Do you know the song ‘The way we were?’
Rose pushed Alexander. ‘A bit obvious, love.’
Alexander grinned softly to himself, responding, ‘I guess so.’
David was a little embarrassed, and Justine asked him, ‘What?’
David responded. ‘The way we were is father’s favourite record album. It is the story of a Jewish man and a protestant girl in America finding love against the odds.’
‘Oh,’ said Justine, blushing slightly.
‘Are you planning on going to synagogue tonight, David? Asked Daniel, curious about David’s possible response, in relation to a subject of the validity of actually going anywhere on Sabbath, which seemed to be, to David’s possible new position, against Torah teaching.
‘For tonight, yes,’ replied David. ‘At this stage the synagogue is still in walking distance from home, and I have not reached any definitive conclusion on the type of rest required on the Sabbath yet. How absolute it is supposed to be. You see, the priesthood are supposed to work on the Sabbath, so I assume that interaction with a synagogue is perhaps appropriate. But it really should be close to home, so as not to strain any effort on Sabbath.’ Daniel nodded, taking that news in. The two of them had been slowly debating through the issue, gradually coming to their conclusions.’
David spoke, turning to Justine, ‘I had actually hoped that you would come to the synagogue with me tonight. To partake of the Progressive service. It is not long, about 40 minutes. There is no real preaching in Canberra, as we don’t have a Progressive Rabbi, but there will be a basic ritual.’
I looked at David and nodded implicitly. In a strange way, I had already known that it was probably the main reason he had invited me to come along that night. And in my new curiousity about Jewish type of faith I felt almost compelled to come along.
‘When do we go?’ I asked.
‘A little later on. It is not a far walk. Have you ever been to the synagogue?’
‘I have seen it many times over my life, driving past, but no. I have never been there.’
‘I hope you will enjoy your time there tonight. I think you will like the Progressive community. They may not speak to you a great deal, as you are new. And they will be cautious about the Christian connection. But they will say hello.’
I nodded. ‘I understand.’
‘Good,’ said David. ‘Good. Well, until then, if it is ok by you Justine, I would like to do that bible study. I would really like to talk about the Christian doctrine – or I guess I should say Christian doctrines – about God, as there are more than one.
I nodded, happy enough to discuss biblical subjects.
We talked then, for a couple of hours, and later on, as the afternoon waned, made our way over to the synagogue. The service indeed was quite basic, and the people were not overly welcoming, but because I was with David, I think they accepted me a bit more so. But one thing stood out. Although the service was quite basic, mixed with Hebrew and English, my sense of the long history of the Jewish people and their relationship with God was spoken to my heart by the Spirit constantly while I was there. It was as if God had known this people for so much longer than any other people, which I guessed was historically correct, and that God wanted me to know this chosen people of his. It was, that night, really an unforgettable experience.
Gemma Watkins sat in front of the university, down a side street on some grass, listening to her MP3 player. Anastacia was playing on the headset, the song ‘Left outside alone.’ Gemma was thinking on life. Thinking, today, on life very seriously. Last night she had broken down and cried. Cried ever so much. It was, in the end, a hollow lifestyle. Simply carnal sex, while ever so tasty and nice to feel, and ever so addictive, left you hollow in the end. It left you hollow if it was just the carnal sex you were after. All the boys she had known simply wanted her for her body and her good looks. They loved fucking, her, so they claimed, and always complimented on her looks. Yet, something was missing. Something that Gemma knew, really, in her heart of hearts that she needed. Perhaps as much as oxygen. If it was sex without love – it was sex without love. But of course, in the words of her favourite band Van Halen, the real thing was poundcake. If you found ‘real love’, then sex became beautiful. It became an enhancement, a glorious addition to a beautiful romance. In real love sexual fulfilment found its home.
She listened to the song. ‘And I wonder if you know, how it really feels, to be left outside alone, when its cold out here, well maybe you should know, just how it feels, to be left outside alone, to be left outside alone.’ And then she heard those words, ‘heavenly father, please, save me.’
She sat there. She sat there, relating to Anastacia. She had seen the video for the song. It was actually one of her favourites. She thought on Justine and the fact that Justine believed she was ‘saved’. Technically Frances sort of claimed the same thing indirectly herself, occasionally saying, ‘yeh, I am saved too.’
Perhaps that was it. Perhaps she needed to be saved.
And then the next song, ‘Get ready’, came along, and in her tears she burst into joy. Something had happened in her heart and, suddenly, she felt better. As if that ‘God thing’ had touched her. And she started singing the song along with Anastacia, ‘Ooh get ready!’
* * * * *
Frances Jones sat on the opposite side of the university grounds to were Gemma was seated, just near her university flat were she studied. She had a copy of the Bible which she had borrowed from the university library. She wanted to look at this Pentateuch David had gone on about. She was, just a little, riled by David. In a way, while she was still attracted to him, he now got under her skin a little with the things he had said against her church. Frances, as strange as it may have sounded, had a belief about Christian faith. And, while she was ever so aware that Justine was sort of trying to get her saved and into her Baptist church, Frances in her heart believed what the Pope usually said. There was really only one church. One true church, the Catholic one. And that salvation, ultimately, only lied in this church. She really believed that Jesus was a friend of sinners. That was her Catholic faith. He cared for the poor, the lost, the broken hearted. Those who were ‘Poor in Spirit’. She didn’t go to church, but knew she didn’t need to. She knew that her faith was all she needed. And she believed something about being baptized a Catholic. Once you were baptized in the Catholic Church, you were eternally saved. It was impossible for your salvation to be lost, as the Catholic Church was the bride of Christ, and Jesus would inevitably found the 100th lost sheep when he needed to. She believed, in what Protestantism called lukewarmness, was Catholic reality. Catholics, she felt, were far more honest about the human condition. They didn’t pretend to be super spiritual people. Really, most of them did sort of know that the fundies were more puritanical and tried harder on that issue than Catholics generally did. But, she so often thought, they were trying to save themselves. She believed that God was saviour. He did the work to save his church. Catholics didn’t need to try to be holy, from her experience. She had observed for many years that, slowly, inevitably, no matter how carnal they were at times, the spirit of God slowly and carefully sanctified the bride of Christ as they grew in age. And because of that she had faith that salvation wasn’t by her own efforts, and that the simple philosophy of try not to piss God off to much worked in a practical sense in harmony with God as he went about his business of salvation for Christ’s bride.
* * * * *
Karenina looked up at the menu and ordered a chicken pie and an apple juice, paid the money, and took a seat in the canteen. One of her Muslim female friends waved to her, but continued on walking to her next lecture.
She started eating the pie and drinking the juice. She thought on David. Some of the things he had said to her about Jewish faith had challenged her beliefs just a little. But in no real great way. She felt that perhaps Allah was now softening David’s heart to bring him to salvation as a Muslim. Allah was always happy when men’s hearts were soft towards Muslims. The Christian girl, Justine, had seemed one of the more devoted of the Christians. One of the biblical kind, those who actually tried to please God. Karenina felt, perhaps, with her witness of holiness, some of her new friends might take an interest in Islam. She felt, very often, looking at this western world that, as her Imam had told her, they had forgotten about serving God and trying to be holy. It was almost as if the western world had given up on the idea. Yet, that was to be expected. If you rejected Allah and Muslim faith, God would likely reject you. It was their punishment for their religious pride.
She finished her pie, and swallowed the last of her juice. She looked out the window as the students went about their lives. In her heart, Karenina was at peace. There was a very true and quiet peace – a peace from God which honoured holiness, his greatest desire in the hearts of the children of men. It seemed that Karenina, whatever the truth of salvation, rested in the glory of peace from a heart that had simply ‘submitted’ to God and not exalted itself in arrogance against the will of the most high. But one, who in quiet gentle feminine peace and servitude, accepted the yoke of obedience to God’s holy laws. It was through such submission to God, that the peace in Karenina’s heart lived and remained.
* * * * *
I looked into the mirror, brushing my hair, staring at my face considering my looks. I guess, in the end, I was basically pretty. Not a stunner, but still a bit above average. Of that I assumed to God I should be thankful, but it had never really concerned me a great deal. Yet, today, I was cautious with my makeup as I wanted to look very pretty for David as he had asked the three of us out to a restaurant in Tuggeranong, to have, of all things, supposedly the best pizza in town.
I looked myself over before leaving and, finally happy with how I looked, crossed my fingers and wished for the best.
I picked up Gemma and then Frances, as I drove a small hatchback having just got my license, which the other two girls hadn’t got yet.
We made our way through Canberra down south, going past the hospital and up the incline till we arrived in Tuggeranong valley. David’s family used to live in Macarthur, which is just near the Chisholm shops were the Pizza place was.
We arrived a little after 7.00 pm, a little late, but we weren’t really that worried.
Coming inside we found David at a table, with a Coke, looking through his Hebrew Torah. Noticing us he got to his feet and greeted us, giving each of us a kiss on the cheek, upon which the three of us blushed.
‘Here is the menu. I really recommend the Pizzas, but the pasta is good as well.’
‘What sort of Pizza do you like, David’, Gemma asked.
‘All sorts, I guess. Mexicano and Meateaters are perhaps my favourites, though.’
‘Then I will have a Mexicano,’ responded Gemma.
‘You would,’ said Frances. I smiled nervously, and looked through the menu.
‘I think I will have pasta. The lasagne should be fine.’
‘Then lasagne it is. And you Frances?’ he asked of Ms Jones.
‘Oh, whatever you think is best,’ she said.
Gemma gave her a funny look, and Frances returned it, as if to suggest they were both trying to get David’s attention.
David, while not being noticed by either in how he was aware of this, did in fact notice but was well hidden in that – but I noticed.
After the meals arrived, I slowly sipped on my mineral water, and with the fork toyed with my lasagne. I wasn’t that hungry, but knew I had to keep up appearances.
‘So tell me, David. What do you look for in a woman?’ Gemma asked oh so sincerely, staring into his eyes. Frances looked at her in a way which was suggesting she was oh so obvious.
I just continued with my lasagne.
‘In a woman?’ started David, in response. He finished his mouthful of pizza, and answered. ‘I guess, what I would look for in a wife is faithfulness. I am not really interested in marrying someone if she wants to divorce me later on – somewere down the road. I am old fashioned, in a sense. If we take vows, I would hope that the vows would be sincere.’
I noted that. Very much did I note what he said, but I kept my thoughts to myself. He was, though, a man of integrity I felt.
‘Oh, I feel absolutely the same way, David. Absolutely the same way,’ responded Gemma. Under her breath Frances whispered ‘yeh right.’
‘So tell me, Justine. What do you look for in a man?’ David asked, turning his attention to me. I blushed a little, not ready for such a question, and my two best friends stared at me as if I was the world’s biggest harlot. But I managed to respond.
‘Well, normally I would look for a man who was totally dedicated to Christ and living for God. But, I guess, I could make exceptions if the man was of high moral fibre otherwise. I guess how moral he is will probably be the most important thing, in the end.’ Of course, I wasn’t being truthful. I wasn’t being truthful at all. But, again perhaps I was. Perhaps I was so entranced by this David fellow that I was willing to compromise what had become a certainty in my marriage partner – that of a committed Christian – for the vain hope that he might take an interest in me because, well, he was really a very fine catch.
David responded. ‘I know full well how faith and love can be very difficult to balance, at times. But perhaps, as the apostle Paul might say, love is the greatest of all.’
I smiled a little at him then, but kept my thoughts to myself. He was quoting Corinthians 13, and in a way which was very profound in the current circumstances. In truth, I was impressed.
We continued that night, chatting on this and that, eating a lot of pizza, despite ourselves, and feeling fat by 10.00pm, which was closing time. David, so generous, paid the entire bill, and we really felt like we were in the company of an old fashioned gentleman. It was really quite different to the usual modern type of Canberra guy.
Again he kissed each of us goodnight with a peck on the cheek, and as we drove back up north the three of us had our eyes and our hearts firmly set on catching the love of Mr David Rothchild.
I put my hand up quickly, trying to make sure I was first to answer the teachers question. He chose me and I started my response. ‘The Constitution of Australia impacts on Australian life in this manner. Firstly, it defines what areas the Federal Government can make law about and, were it is silent on this issue, it is assumed that the remaining areas are the privilege of the States to make law about. Secondly, law passed within the Parliaments of Australia are required to be constitutional in nature. This means that if any element of a proposed bill is deemed as unconstitutional, it should necessarily be rejected. And if this is not done immediately, it can be repealed at a later date. Finally, the overall impact of the constitution is that through such establishment within it of the principles of everyday life which our Governments can make law for society, implicit within it is a sense of our rights as a nation. We understand what our Governments can and can not do, and what rights we have as a result of that.’
Mr Smith looked at me smiling, responding. ‘An excellent answer Justine. Very good.’
David, sitting next to me, looked at me and smiled. ‘Good answer, Justine,’ he said, and I mildly blushed at the comment.
Later on, after class, the 3 of us girls, with David and Karenina were sitting in the Canteen, discussing various things.
David was, in fact, mildly flirting with all 3 of us, which suggested to me that he was being circumspect in any attractions that he possibly felt to any of us. Perhaps he was just being cautious.
After we had eaten and the other girls had left, David asked me if I would like to go out to the movies on Saturday night with him. He told me he had something to share with me, if it would be alright. I, without hesitation, agreed.
* * * * *
I was nervous. Dad was sitting opposite me, having just given me a conversation about Jews. We, as Baptists, felt we had a very good reputation with the Jewish people in as much as we were not largely responsible for the many centuries of persecution other Christian churches had perpetuated against them as a people. He told me very firmly, though, that Jewish leaders resented strongly Christian evangelists trying to convert them to Christianity and warned me that in discussing these issues with David to remain polite, very ethical, and mainly responsive to his questions if he had any so as to not appear forcing or zealous. As Baptists, so he claimed, we were trying to have a reputation of a loving, merciful and kind people. Something that people might like to join because of our love for each other, he firmly taught me.
When David arrived I invited him in and we had a discussion for a little while on various small-talk issues, before Dad said David was welcome to come visit me whenever he liked, to which David seemed quite appreciative.
As we left, David commented to me that he liked my father, and that I obviously had been brought up well, which I took as a very kind compliment.
We drove through the streets of my suburb, heading for the movie theatre at Manuka. Tonight was showing ‘Lethal Assassin’, a new thriller with Angelina Jolie as a female hit-lady for hire.
Watching the movie, I found it incredibly exciting and a little scary at times, all the time, though, hoping and perhaps expecting David to put his arm around my shoulder, which unfortunately never eventuated.
In the foyer, after the movie, we were sitting eating up the last of the popcorn and drinking coke when David made the announcement which, after weeks of worry and concern about my love life for Mr David Rothchild, put an end to the matter once and for all.
Looking at me he spoke. ‘You know, Justine. Over the last few weeks I have found myself incredibly drawn to you. You are bright, intelligent, loving and beautiful.’ I blushed strongly at being called beautiful. ‘But, there is something I haven’t told you.’ I looked at him, then, a little worried about the ‘but’, but I was sure it would be nothing. How wrong I was.
‘You see, Justine. For me, for me being Jewish, it really is important that, unless the circumstances are exceptional, that I marry a Jewish girl. And, because of that, while I know she is only a little Jewish, but because she does have some Jewish blood in her and because that is important to me, I have decided to start dating Gemma as she has expressed an interest in me for doing so. So that is the real reason I wanted to ask you here tonight. To share with you that me and Gemma will now be dating. I am really sorry if that has disappointed you, but that is the way it is.’
I looked at him and, right then, an arrow pierced my heart. An arrow with ‘Cupid always shoots the OTHER girl written on it.’ Really, I was heartbroken. I was heartbroken, and lost for words. David was still talking, mumbling something about Gemma and being Jewish, but I wasn’t listening. My world had turned upside down, and nothing made sense right then. What I thought on love and commitment had turned on itself, and in a way I felt betrayed.
As he drove me home there was silence in the car. We go to my place, I thanked him curtly, and while he was looking a little embarrassed, I walked up to my door and went inside.
It was the end of my uni love, that summer. It was a love I had only begun to taste, but one which had been taken away from me as soon as it had begun. I was disappointed but, in my room, listening to a Christian CD, I concluded that, in the end, such was life. It did not always take the road most expected but, and while I wanted to not believe what the singer was singing, it always worked out for the best for those who loved God.
But, oh how I didn’t want to believe those words just then. And then I started crying.
I sat in my new Porsche, looking at the ATM, with the rain pouring down outside. I was contemplating wether or not I really wanted to get wet and get the cash out to go to the nightclub, or to instead go home and simply veg out as I usually did on Friday nights. It was a tough decision, but driving along, my purse only containing the small change which had lasted the week, I decided yet again to catch up on some work and leave the nightclub scene well enough alone.
Gemma had introduced me to the club last year when she was in town for a visit. She and David had still been an item at that stage, as far as I knew it, but they were yet to wed. In truth, while I had tried my very best to put memories of David Rothchild behind me, especially during our many embarrassing encounters in university with Gemma and myself after he had declared his love for Gemma and not me and, then, finally graduating with honours and getting the job with the Sydney firm, in living in Sydney my heart still from time to time longed after David. I think, in truth, despite what I told my heart time and time again should not be so – I think in truth I loved David. I loved him purely, honestly and truly. Perhaps as the bride of Christ ought to love her lord did I love David. Yet he had not chosen me. In all our time in university he had been devoted to Gemma and they had usually been inseparable. I assumed, despite the vanity in my heart that my love for him would one day win out, that the two of them would eventually get married. How wrong I was.
‘Shut up, ok. Just shut up. You know……………………’. It was about then, 20 minutes into the movie, filled with swearing and violence like so many modern flicks were, that I’d had enough. I had rented the DVD as a last resort to abstaining from the club scene, but had found it so much like the rest of them. It seemed to me that so many new movies were soul-less – full of violence, cheek and profanity, not too mention the immoral sex, that I was almost only really comfortable with the old 1980s movies my mother and I watched together. It seemed to me that movies like ‘The Man from Snowy River’ were becoming rarer, most movie makers going for the motto ‘Sex Sells’ rather than traditional values. My brother Peter, who had never been into church that much, seemed to like all the new modern movies, suiting his taste, but for my conservative self they were too tasteless and indecent to watch. I was almost to the point that unless it was an historical drama set in days long ago then it was probably not worth watching. Still, many of the superhero movies which Peter also liked were still suitable for children, with positive morals and nothing to profane within them, and things like Spiderman and Batman and others I watched quite a bit. And some of the bigger blockbusters still had a standard of decency. But so many of the other films really were tasteless and classless these days. It really seemed that that was the way the world was heading.
The Baptist church I attended in Balmain emphasized that Jesus second coming was indeed now approaching. The world was progressively all the time accepting more and more sinful behaviour into its living standards. ‘God will soon not tolerate it any more, church. Soon he will judge.’ And, while I had drifted away from Christian fundamentalism during my uni years, having gotten used to university rationalist thinking, and generally rejected the fundamentalist approach to biblical thinking, I could not deny the basic truth that the lifestyles of so many peoples these days really seemed to fit the biblical description of a ‘Sinner’. The world, in truth, was not as holy as it once was. It was now so much more carnal, and perhaps Hollywood and movies like the one I had just rented had been such a major reason for this.
It was late. Around 1.30. I had finished most of my weekend work and had decided that I deserved a movie. The one I rented was no good, so I put on a classic – ‘Titanic’. Jack Dawson – now he was every girl’s dream. Mr perfection was Jack. A guy to die for.
With the music ‘My Heart will go on’, coming from my expensive LCD Set, there was a knock at the door. A faint knock, but I heard it. ‘Who could it be at this hour, I thought to myself?’
I got up, went to the door, and looked through the peephole. The face seemed familiar, but I was not sure who it was. I kept the chain on, and opened the door. The man spoke. ‘Justine. It’s David. Can I come in?’ My heart froze. DAVID! David Rothchild! I couldn’t believe it. ‘Just a sec, David. I undid the chain, and opened the door. Indeed, standing before me, wearing a beard so that I didn’t recognize him, was my long lost love, mr David Rothchild. He looked at me and smiled. ‘Hey Justine. You look…. You look as pretty as I remember you.’ I blushed.
‘Well, come in then. Your hair is saturated.’
‘Oh yeh. I was standing out front of the flats, not sure if I should come in or not. Really, I am not sure if I should even be here.’
I looked at him, not wanting to dispute what he had said, but not caring anyway. I was just glad to see my love again.
‘Why are you here David?’
‘It’s me and Gemma. We have split up.’
Those words, while they would have in normal circumstances brought concern for my best friend Gemma’s circumstances, were actually words of hope to me just then.
‘You’ve split up? But why? How? Don’t you love her?’
‘Loving her is not really the problem, Justine. It’s not that I don’t love her – it’s not that at all. It’s just that, well, you know. She is Gemma. And despite the fact that she also managed to get the law degree, and that she really is smart but doesn’t show it, she is, well, how do I say it.’
‘She’s a bimbo,’ I offered.
He looked at me with a guilty look and after a few moments nodded softly.
‘The question is – why have you come to me? I can understand that things didn’t work out between you and Gemma, but why come and see me?’
‘Because….. Well. Really, I needed to talk to someone – someone who could understand my situation. My family is pretty close to Gemma, now. But you knew us from the start, and I feel you are almost an impartial voice. But there was another reason.’
‘And that reason?’ I asked, not sure if I should.
‘I wanted to see you again. The truth is for a while now, since you left Canberra, I have been thinking of you. I have been thinking of Gemma and that, in the end, it probably won’t work between me and Gem and that my first choice, you, may have been the best.’
‘I was your first choice? Really?’
‘Pretty much. It is still very important to me that my wife have a Jewish connection, and I know you are a Baptist. But I still care for you Justine, despite myself.’
‘The mystery of love, huh?’
‘You could say that.’
‘Well,’ I continued. ‘Do you need somewere to stay tonight? You can stay in the other room if you want to.’
‘Uh, well, yeah. I had not really thought about that, but yes. I am getting tired, and if I could get some sleep in your spare room I would appreciate it.’
I showed him to my spare room which had a bed made up.
‘Fortunately, being a lawyer, as you would probably know I am on a good wage. I can afford this two bedroom place and don’t need to share. Look, David. I haven’t seen you for so long and, if you want to spend a few days to catch up, it might be good for both of us. Do you want to?’
He looked at me and smiled.
‘I actually asked work for a week off – leave without pay. So, yes. If you don’t mind, I will spend the week.’
I nodded, silently very pleased to have some company.
‘Good. We can discuss work as well. I would like to hear about your work in the Public Service.’
‘And you can tell me about the private sector.’
‘Ever so happy to.’
I gave him a towel and showed him were the shower and toilet were, and gave him a kiss on the forehead. Just before leaving him alone he said to me,
‘You know, it really is good to see you Justine. I have missed you.’ I nodded.
Sitting in front of the Titanic, watching it but not watching it, hearing the shower going, I was in my own little piece of heaven. Somehow, perhaps, hopefully perhaps, all my hard work in life, finishing my degree, getting my job and apartment – all of that had hopefully prepared the way for the love of my life, David Rothchild, to now share his life with me. I could only hope.
* * * * *
He sat on the stool of my kitchen table, looking at the morning paper, chewing on the toast with vegemite I had given him, sipping on some orange juice. ‘The Raiders won,’ he stated. ‘Football!’ I exclaimed. ‘And here I was thinking you were a serious lawyer and all.’
‘Gemma put me on to the footie. She has a former friend who played reserve grade for the raiders. I even collect the football cards now. Just as a minor hobby.’
‘Aren’t you a little bit old for football cards, David?’
‘Oh, mainly just the chase cards.’
‘Chase cards? What are they?’
‘The Valuable ones. The special insert cards. You know, foil, chromium, and so on. Rare ones which are worth more.’
‘Oh. So it’s an investment thing then?’
‘Something like that.’
‘Then that is ok then. Actually, I have some you may be interested in. Some 1980s raiders trading cards. My dad gave them to me when I was very young, mainly as an investment. But you can have them if you are in to that sort of thing.’
‘1980s? Seriously? They are practically impossible to get these days, the market now booming for collectibles.’
‘Really? Well perhaps I should keep them, then.’
‘Yes, you should.’
‘I’m kidding. I would love you to have them. In fact, I know just were they are. Hold on a sec.’ I disappeared into my room and found a box with some personal possessions which I kept, opened it and fished around and found some cards in plastic sleeves, surrounded by a rubber band. I fished them out and went back to show them to David.
He looked over them, seeming quite excited.
‘Ricky Stuart. Bradley Clyde. Mal Meninga. Laurie Daley. Hey, Justine, You’ve got all the good ones. And these ones are worth heaps now. I mean, not much for a lawyer on your wage, but really they are now worth a few thousand some of those ones.’
‘Really? That much?’
‘Oh yeah. Since the early 21st century collectibles have risen up and up in value. There are now so many people in a higher bracket of income looking for a good investment that collectables of all sorts, especially limited edition stuff which many of these cards are, are in huge demand. If it is old, and was valuable, than it is worth heaps these days. In fact, on older cards, the market was out of control for the 2020s. Everyone wanted 20th century cards and would pay top dollar. The 20th century had become the golden age – the first century of all that collectible stuff – just like comics – and everyone wanted a piece of it for a while. I am so grateful my parents kept so much of that stuff and never sold it.’
‘Tell me, why the fuss?’
‘To tell you the truth, while I am pretty happy as a lawyer, and feel like I am contributing to society working at AQIS in their legal department, I think I would be happier opening the store me and my brother Daniel have dreamt of. 20th Century collectibles. We really think it could be a major success, especially as we have a large amount of stock to contribute to it, and a huge number of connections to source supply.’
‘20th Century Collectibles? That sounds like a good idea, actually. I wish you luck.’
‘Thanks Justine. Anyway, what do you want to do today? It’s Saturday, so I’m assuming you probably don’t have to be in the office.’
‘No, I have the day off. I will probably need to work a little later on – some minor work stuff. But they don’t give me cases that often, and mostly minor things. Apart from that it is routine research for one of the partners in their cases. Actually, the work is pretty good. It allows me to show my talent, and contribute, but is not too difficult. Really, it is a good introduction to law were I work. I’m really happy with it.’
‘That is great to hear.’
‘Ok. What to do? Mmmm. Sydney is a big place, and I still don’t know my way around that well, but why don’t we go into Darling Harbour, have some lunch, and just sightsee around the Rocks and do not much. Maybe a movie later on in the afternoon, followed by dinner, and then we can come back here and have coffee and bikkies.’
‘Sounds wonderful, sweetie.’
I smiled. I smiled, ever so happy and pleased to be called sweetie, and ever so happy that life, with all its ups and downs, finally seemed to be working out.
Monday morning. Monday morning, such a sweet day. The weekend with David had been bliss and, now, sitting at my desk, staring out the window of the office, not really concentrating on my work, I was alive with hope for the future between myself and Mr David Rothchild that I at first failed to notice the new man which was about to come into my life.
‘Justine. Justine. Hello. Earth to Justine. Anyone home?’ I listened to my supervisor, Jason Stevenson, a partner in the firm, talk but just stared out the window, nodding obliviously. Suddenly I came to myself.
‘Oh, shit. Sorry Jason. I was miles away.’
‘Obviously. Anyway, as brought up in Friday’s meeting, I would like to introduce you to the newest partner in our firm. Justine Atkinson – this is Robert Davies – newest partner in our firm.’
I turned to the figure he introduced and, suddenly, my heart melted. There before me was Adonis himself, long blonde hair, divine looks, well built, and dressed to kill. And his smile was simply from heaven. He took my hand, and giving it a kiss, said.
‘Justine. The pleasure is all mine. Believe me.’
I just looked at him, to overcome by his presence to be able to speak. I just stared at him for a few moments, before coming back to myself.
‘Oh, yes. I’m Justine. Justine Atkinson. And, oh, the pleasure really is mine Robert. It really is mine.’
‘Great to hear, sweetie. Great to hear.’
Jason continued. ‘Justine really is hard to live without now, Robert. Simply put, she is competent. We can rely on her to do a thoroughly professional job and if she stays with us partnership will undoubtedly be hers one day. But don’t tell anyone I said so, ok Justine. But yes, you have been noticed.’
‘I smiled at Jason, quite pleased at that news, but couldn’t take my eyes off Robert.’
Jason made as to leave, but Robert turned to me.
‘Tell you what, Justine. Seeing as I am new, how about you take me out to lunch and give me some idea of the firm – from a grassroots perspective that you handle. Ok. It will be illuminating, I am sure of it.’
‘Oh, sure. I can hardly wait.’
And although I had a lunch date with David, he had completely slipped my mind.
* * * * *
‘Your kidding me, aren’t you? You’re a Baptist as well?’
‘I sort of have been all my life. I was baptized at 7 having made the commitment very young. For me, Justine, Jesus is everything. The centre of my life. What it is all about.’
I nodded. I nodded, simply in heaven. The man of my dreams was sitting with me, here in a café at the shops near the law firm, telling me he had been a Baptist all his life, had successfully studied law at the University of Sydney, and was now, having just turned 31, in the prime of his law life, ready to reach for the sky. Really, if there was ever a man with ‘Mr Right’ written all over him, Robert Davies was him 100%.
We sat there that lunch time and well into the afternoon. We sat there, Robert assuring me that the firm would not mind him stealing all of my time, as he was now a partner and had a say in what went on. When we returned to the office, nobody batted an eyelid, and when Robert asked me out to dinner that night, I could hardly say no. I was absolutely smitten. There were no other words to describe it. And when I was driving home that night, looking forward to Robert picking me up at 7.00, I had no other thoughts than about the Adonis who I was to spend time with. And then it hit me. David. I had completely forgotten all about David, had missed our lunch date, and was now bringing home another guy when I had promised to spend the week with Mr Rothchild. Oh, what was I to do now. What the heck was I to do now. I had heard of love triangles, but they were certainly for other women, not conservative me. In fact, only a few days ago I could have only dreamed of being asked out by a guy, and now there were two of them calling. What on earth was I to do.
* * * * *
Coming through the doorway, I heard them instantly. Two voices – David’s and, I was quite sure, Francine Jones, my other best friend from high school and uni days. I came into my living room and the two of them were sitting on the floor, my coffee table between them, drinking coffee, looking through my picture album and chatting happily. When Francine spied me she got off her feet and came over to hug me.
‘Justine! It’s awesome to see you.’
‘It’s lovely to see you to Francine. But what are you doing here? I thought you were busy in Perth now?’
‘That contract came to an end. They offered me a renewal, but I felt I would come back home to mum for a while and see what was happening in Canberra. This is where my friends are, you know, and it is the place I am happiest. I am happier, I think, on the east coast than the west.’
I nodded, understanding were she was coming from. But I anxiously turned to David.
‘Dear David, I am so sorry I missed our lunch date. Can you ever forgive me?’
‘That’s ok. Think nothing of it. I just assumed something came up at work and left after about an hour. Really, I know you are busy with your work Justine. I don’t expect all your time, you know.’
‘But I am glad you found some company with Francine. You two seem to be getting along like a house on fire.’
‘We have had the time of our lives,’ responded Francine.
‘Good to hear.’
I turned to David, trying my best to break the news I had without hurting his feelings.
‘David, I know you are going to hate me, but I am having dinner with one of the partners at work tonight. He is a new partner and needs help in adjusting to our office. So if it is ok can we call off our plans for tonight? Really, I am terribly sorry. I know it is such short notice, but it couldn’t be helped. Really.’
David nodded, calmly. He seemed a little disappointed, but the presence of Francine perhaps consoled him somewhat.
‘That’s ok Justine. I know you have your work responsibilities.’ He turned to Francine. ‘It looks like it is just you and me, sweetheart,’ he said with his best Casablanca accent. ‘Shall we hit the town?’
‘Love to,’ replied Francine. She seemed, although she would not say so, but she seemed ever so happy to see me caught up with other work, so that she could spend some time with Mr David Rothchild. She, like me and Gemma, had always fancied him anyway.
David looked at me, and kissed me on the cheek.
‘Well, Justine. We will see you when you get back. We can talk then, ok.’
I nodded, staring at him, but my mind caught up on my quandary. He was leaving now, it seemed, which was perhaps for the best. Perhaps best for him not to see Robert. Perhaps best, all things considered.
* * * * *
‘So when dad died, it was up to me to help out most of the time as mum couldn’t work due to her back problems, and it was left up to me to help raise Hyacinth.’
I nodded sympathetically, taking in Robert’s story of how he help raised his sister Hyacinth since he was a teenager. It showed how good his heart was, I felt, even though he stressed it was his Christian obligation given the circumstances.
‘So where is Hyacinth now?’
‘She works in a boutique clothes store in the city. She is now full time and the pay is pretty good. Not as good as a lawyer, but she has all she needs, so she tells me. If you would like to meet her I could invite her to church this Sunday. You could meet her and we could have lunch at my place. What do you say?’
‘Sounds wonderful. I can hardly wait.’
Robert Davies had related to me much of his life story. He had been raised in a Baptist home, one of the older ones of the Sydney community going back many generations. And while he had been mostly responsible for helping raise his sister Hyacinth when his father had died, they did have an extensive family in the Canterbury region of Sydney and throughout much of South Sydney. He had told me, now that he had gotten a flat not far from mine in Balmain, that he would be likely attending the Balmain Baptist church. It was the church I regularly attended and it seemed, now that I had a new male friend of similar age to go to church with, as if all things were turning out as I perhaps should only have dreamed of. Yet, while I was sitting there, occasionally taking a sip of wine, my heart was with David Rothchild. The fascination of meeting Robert Davies – the simple overwhelming experience of it all – was now passing, and I was accepting Robert more on his own terms. And while I could not fault him in any way – indeed I felt as if I was falling for him – my heart had been knit to David Rothchild for so long now that I felt compelled to think on him while dining with this new gentleman.
We drank wine late – until 11 – and then, he assuring me he had drunk slowly and was well under the limit, we made our way back to my place.
Arriving at my flat I noticed that the light was on. Robert asked me if I was interested in a nightcap and, although I was nervous to introduce him to David, I felt obliged. Coming into my flat, David and Francine were sitting next to each other, looking very comfortable with each other, watching Titanic. They both looked up as I entered the room.
‘David, Francine. This is Robert. A new workmate of mine. Actually, he is a new partner at the firm and we spent the night getting to know each other.’
Robert waved to David and Francine, smiling, and saying,
David waved back, likewise smiled nervously, and Francine waved but returned her gaze to Titanic.
‘Shall we?’ I asked Robert, leading the way into the kitchen, while David stared after us, but didn’t move from his couch with Francine.
I put the kettle on, and asked him wether he would like tea or coffee. He opted for an earl grey, and I decided to have a lady grey to match him.
We sat there for half an hour, getting to know each other more, eating some Cadbury’s chocolate, and it really was a blissful time. I thought on David in the other room often, but he never came in to bother us. Perhaps he was content with Francine. Perhaps he trusted me. Perhaps he should, I thought to myself. Yet, perhaps he shouldn’t.
Eventually, a little after midnight, Robert left, and I came into the room with David and Francine. Francine was asleep, lying on David’s legs, while David was watching the ending of Titanic. He looked at me.
‘Excellent. Robert is a wonderful man. He is a Baptist, you know. He will be going to my church in Balmain soon.’
David nodded. He nodded and, in his eyes, I saw as if he had made a quick conclusion. A conclusion on what perhaps life had brought him – how it had answered some of his questions.
‘I am happy for you, Justine. Perhaps he is Mr Right.’
I looked at him. I looked straight at him, into his eyes.
‘David. I don’t know if there really is a Mr Right. I think, really, there are so many suitable partners for each and every one of us. But when it’s love. When it’s love, then it means something. Ya know.’
He stared at me briefly, and nodded. And then he returned to Titanic.
I lay in bed that night, David sleeping on the couch and Francine resting in the bed in the spare room where David had laid her. I laid there staring up at the ceiling. ‘Yes, when it’s love it means something. When its love.’
The following morning me and David and Francine were at breakfast in the small café near where I live, having croissants and coffee. I was chatting with Francine idly, while David was occasionally staring at me, trying to be subtle, but I noticed him every time. I told Francine all about Robert and she listened intently. She asked me if Robert was the one for me, and my silence only suggested that I was dead keen, something which David noted. But I noticed, sitting there, David was quiet, and looked mildly depressed. I loved him. So much did I love him, yet my heart was leading me towards Roberts. Perhaps, inevitably so, towards Robert Davies. And if that was what was meant to be, David Rothchild would ultimately have to live with the consequences.
I left for work, kissing David on the cheek, and Francine said she would now be heading back for Canberra. I left for work, thinking on David and his heart, but nevertheless smitten by Mr Robert Davies.
* * * * *
I sat at my desk, while Robert was leaning over my shoulder, talking with me about a paper I had researched. I could smell his aftershave, which was an alluring smell. I almost wanted to reach out and grab him – almost let primal instincts take over, but I controlled myself. When he was about finished he whispered in my ear that I looked stunning that morning, and that he would be at church on the weekend with his sister Hyacinth. I could hardly wait.
* * * * *
I sat in between Hyacinth and Robert, listening to the Sermon on forgiveness. The pastor emphasized that God’s love was so great for us that he would not leave us in a state of sin, but had given the life of his beloved son Jesus to reconcile us to himself and through the blood of Christ forgive us our sins. It was really the central message of the Christian faith, a reaffirmation of what we believed as Christians, and the whole congregation listened intently. I felt our particular pastor was quite skilled in his work, now, having apparently pastored this church for the last 15 years. He was warm, very good with people, and people genuinely liked him. His preaching was nothing really out of the ordinary – the usual stuff – but he delivered sermons competently and nobody really complained. I introduced Robert to him at the end of the service, but he already knew Robert quite well as Robert’s family had been well established in the Baptist community for many years.
There was a small after church tea service, and we enjoyed ourselves, sipping on tea, eating scones and biscuits, and hearing a talk on the mission’s field in Africa were revival was currently taking place. Or, perhaps to be more precise, given my knowledge of Baptist affairs, were revival had been taken place for years. In truth I felt it was just the ongoing work of the church, but would not say so. They liked to emphasize that they were doing something for the commission, but it was mostly the steady everyday work of evangelism. Nothing greatly new, but not that it worried the congregation too much.
We left for Robert’s place about 11.00, Robert telling me that his mother may be able to join them perhaps another time. She was really looking forward to meeting me, so she said, and it seemed that while Robert Davies was the man of my dreams, perhaps I was the missing piece in his life which had fallen into place. I seemed to sense that from some of the things that Hyacinth had been saying.
‘So tell me, Justine. Do you really like my brother?’
Robert was in the kitchen, preparing the lunch, while myself and Hyacinth were in the main living room of his flat, drinking Cola and watching the television.
‘I think Robert is a wonderful guy, Hyacinth. Really, he is a gem. There are not many like him.’
‘I have always thought so. Has he told you that he mostly raised me when dad died. And he did an awesome job. Never complaining and putting up with all my crap. He’s the best brother I could possibly have hoped for, you know. Really, he’s awesome.’
I nodded. The things she was saying really were hitting home and I was starting to get the impression that God had led me directly to Mr Davies. Directly to him to satisfy that old longing of my heart for the perfect match.
‘He likes you, you know. He could not stop talking about you over the phone. It was Justine this and Justine that. You know, I think he’s that keen on you.’
I blushed a little. I had already gotten that impression. From some of the ways he had already complimented me I knew that Mr Robert Davies was perhaps already looking at me for marriage. Perhaps he was the one, as my mother would put it.
Robert came into the room, carrying a large silver tray filled with Chinese spring rolls and other Chinese dim sum assortments. They looked ever so tasty.
‘Dig in,’ he said. ‘And there are plenty more if we need them. I love this kind of food – snacky sort of stuff – and it doesn’t take long to cook. So eat up.’
I reached for a spring roll, dipped it into the sauce and took a bite. It was as delicious as it looked, and Robert smiled at me, and tucked in.
We spent the rest of that afternoon watching some old movies, even some preaching tapes, and we played on Robert’s copy of ‘Space Invaders’ for 2 hours, which was the genuine old sit down arcade machine which he had in the corner of his room. It was strangely addictive, and Robert challenged each of us, but inevitably came out on top. I told him he had more experience and that I could defeat him with a little practice, to which he just grinned.
We went out for dinner that night, going to a nearby restaurant in Balmain, one which I had occasionally been to myself. The topic turned to romance, of all things. Hyacinth informed us that she was now dating a guy who worked in the shoe shop opposite her shop. He was an Anglican who went to church regularly, which was naturally important to Hyacinth. Strangely enough, the conversation turned to what was important in a marriage partner, and Hyacinth asked me a crucial question.
‘Do you think you could marry outside of the faith, Justine. Do you think you could marry a non-Christian? Really I don’t think I could. The bible is clear on the issue – not to mix dark with light. But I know some people do. Sometimes it works out alright, but often it really doesn’t, you know. Often it is the biggest mistake of their life.’
I sat there listening to what she had to say. Very carefully listening, as I had a well developed perspective on that particular issue, for obvious reasons.
‘I know the Apostle Paul said that, but I know he also said Love conquers all. If the other person is a decent person, love can conquer all divides.’
Robert looked at me and nodded.
‘But it is usually for the best when love doesn’t have to be tested as such, and that someone who is made for you fits right into your life, don’t you think Justine? When the match is perfect?’
I looked at him, and nodded softly. I looked at him, understanding what he had just said, it hitting home strongly. Yes, it was true. Sometimes there were matches made in heaven. And shouldn’t they, after all, be the ones were our heart has its best home?
We continued to again chat the night away, each of us learning more about the other, before Robert said he should be getting me home.
We drove through Balmain that night, and I sat in Robert’s car thinking of the words he had said. I sat there thinking on the anxiety which had come into my heart because of those words. There was a love in my life. Yet a love which was of a world and a people foreign to my own, and what was supposed to be, if I were to believe what my church taught, an eternal separation. And there was another love. A perfect love, so it would seem. A love almost made for me. The choice, it seemed, was no choice. As if it had already been made.
Robert and Hyacinth bid me farewell when we reached my flat, and Robert kissed me goodnight. The kiss, really, was wonderful, and my heart fluttered.
Coming into the flat, Robert driving away with Hyacinth, I knew that David was waiting for me inside. I knew he was waiting, would be anxious, and I wasn’t quite sure I knew what to say. I had fallen for Robert Davies. I had fallen for Mr Davies and knew, now, that I would have to break it off with David.
David was sitting on the couch, drinking a mug of coffee, and looked up at me as I entered.
‘Hi, Justine. Your back then.’
‘Yes, I’m back.’
‘Did you have a good time?’
‘Really, it was wonderful. In fact it was the time of my life. I have never been so happy. Hyacinth, Robert’s sister, is awesome. So positive and really beautiful. And Robert is pure charm once you get to know him better.’
David looked at me, anxious. He looked at me and I sensed something important was about to come forth.
‘Well. Do you have feelings for him? Do you have feelings for Robert?’
I looked at David. I looked at him, the anxiety in my heart having reached its climax.
‘I can’t lie to you David. I won’t do that – I care for you too much. But, yes. I care for Robert. In fact I think I am falling for him, if you really must know.’
David looked at me. He began to say something. He began to speak, but stopped. He stopped and just looked at me, almost as if he were defeated.
‘It’s funny, love. You know. Funny how it works. I kind of thought it was supreme, and I guess it really is. But it is funny the way it works in reality.’
I knew he was judging me. I knew, right then, he was judging me, perhaps in the same way I used to judge him. And I knew he was judging me for choosing a Baptist instead of what love was supposed to be about – free love – to chose who your heart really yearned for, and not simply Mr Right – Mr Convenient. I didn’t know what to say to David just then. I was lost for words. He had judged me, and my heart felt condemned. Yet, before I could say anything he had risen to his feet and picked up his backpack and other minor possessions and walked to the door.
‘I am going now, Justine. I know you will be happy with Robert. In fact I think I knew that the first time I saw you two together. I guess I have stayed around because, well, you know. But I guess not. I guess not.’
He took one last look at me. He took one, long, last look, and I could tell his heart was broken. And then he was gone. And I would not see David Rothchild again for over 5 years.
I and Robert Davies wed in Balmain Baptist church on the 7th of September, 2038. My whole family and extended family was there, as well as the Davies Clan. It was really a huge affair, and we went all out in every aspect. The honeymoon was bliss, being in Hawaii were I had always wanted to go, and Robert and learnt surfing while we were there. In truth, it was the time of my life and life never felt better. It seemed as if everything was turning to gold for me, as Keith Green might sing, and my life was bliss. Everything seemed to have fallen into place. Nearly everything.
* * * * *
6010 - 6015 SC
When our first child died of cot death, everyone assured us that God would give me another. That he does, at time, put people to the test and that his ways are too difficult to understand. Yet after the accident at the laboratory were Robert was a guest, investigating the scene for a claim against a client – a claim which should have been taken much more seriously – and the resulting sterility which came to Robert – I knew then that I may never have children. And my heart broke.
All of my life I had dreamed of children. It was, in a way for me, the whole purpose of being alive. Children were a large point of what we were on earth for, and without them I would be an empty womb like Rachel in the Bible.
Robert suggested we could adopt but my heart was not in it. I could not bear the thought of having another family’s child.
We went on like that, then, for another three years, until 2043, when Robert reached a conclusion. He knew I should marry again because of my overwhelming desire to have children, and because I wouldn’t adopt and surrogacy was out of the question, he would have to divorce me.
I struggled with the issue for months, in the first instance refusing. My faith taught me, generally, that divorce was wrong. Yet the New Testament permitted it in extreme circumstances. And, ultimately, I saw the wisdom in Roberts words, so that at 32 years of age we separated and divorced a year later. We remained good friends, but it was over. The sterility had killed our relationship, and I was on the dating sites trying to again find Mr Right. I knew, perhaps, that God would not provide for me again. That he had found the right person and that I would not be shown the grace to again meet the perfect guy.
I thought, funnily enough, on David Rothchild from time to time. I rang his home, once, but his father told me David was now in Israel, involved with the military in the new war against Lebanon. Strangely, I found myself praying for him each night – praying that God would keep him safe and one day lead him back to Canberra. His father Alexander told me that David was still single, yet he would never again consider a gentile wife, firmly committed to the people of Israel and their defence. Of course, I knew he couldn’t consider me. I had perhaps broken his heart, and didn’t deserve another chance. Yet against hope I prayed for him and silently wished he would one day be mine.
But, life goes on. I stayed with my firm, did my work, and attended church. I was, in truth, apart from my constant longing for children, happy enough. God had blessed me financially and I didn’t have to do much more than show up to work each week to know that my life would be looked after.
Robert went to another church in Sydney now, and was now in discussions with another man to form a new firm. We had a final dinner together, and then I didn’t see him again for over a decade. Life had taken Robert Davies into my life and then away. Perhaps there had been a divine mystery to it – perhaps something I didn’t understand – but he had been with me and then he had gone.
It was New Years Eve 2044, when the big 2045 celebration was anticipated. I was in front of my TV in my new flat which I had gotten a loan for, listening to auld lang syne. Old acquaintances. I thought on that, and then I thought on David. And then I thought to myself, ‘Life, girl, has opportunities. If you really want what is best for you, sometimes you have to do the hard miles and go out and get what you need. Cause if you don’t, girl, someone else will.’ And then I knew what I had to do. Then I knew, for my ultimate dreams to come true, that I had to take the risk and go out and get the man I loved. And nothing would now stop me.
‘Well, Puteri. Do you still want to come down and visit Canberra?’ My work colleague, Puteri Naibaho, the Indonesian Accountant at our firm, looked at me momentarily, before returning to her pasta.
‘Sure, Justine,’ she replied, gazing at her computer screen. ‘It should be a fun time. I have only been down there once, you know.’
‘Ok then. If you meet me at my flat on Friday night around 7, we will leave then and return late on Sunday. Ok.’
I returned to my desk, happy enough to have a friend accompany me on my visit down to Canberra, having not been for 3 years now, so caught up with my work I had been. I was now 37 years old, and would now be visiting Canberra, firstly to seem Mum and Dad and Peter my brother, but with one other main objective. I would spend some time with the Rothchild’s, mainly David’s brother Daniel, to see if I could get information on were David was staying in Israel – information they had been very reluctant to give over so far. But I was now determined. Completely determined to see David, no matter the cost. In the 5 years of separation from Robert, my heart had yearned and continued to yearn for David Rothchild. When I met him again – when I met him, with the purest love to show him that I possibly could, I would never lose him again. I would show my dearest David that I was certain – oh so certain – that we belonged together and that if he could ever forgive me for choosing Robert and not him, I would love him forever.
We left, myself and Puteri, Friday, travelling down from Sydney in my Porsche. It was a good trip, stopping at Mittagong and Goulburn for some meal breaks, and I got to know Puteri, the new accountant at our firm, even better. Her name, Puteri, meant Princess in Indonesian. I guess she was pretty, looking a lot like any one from south east Asia, but I thought she looked particularly Chinese.
When we arrived in Canberra, we came to my parent’s place first, and spent a few hours until around midnight, before we both left for the clubs. I had not really planned on going, but I didn’t want to disappoint Puteri who was in a real clubbing mood, being young and full of lust.
We got home around 4 in the morning, and I slept like a log. It was the following day I was really anticipating, hoping to do my very best to gain the information from Daniel that I needed.
* * * * *
Alexander Rothchild directed me to Daniel Rothchild that day, who was spending time with a certain Daniel Daly in the small Torah fellowship they had started in Macarthur. Mr Daly lived on the same crescent the Rothchild’s had once lived on, at number 29. Mr Daly was now in his late 70s’, yet still looked in his 40s, something often remarked on, but Puteri, in her early 30s, struck up an instant liking for him, and they had arranged to have dinner together only an hour after meeting. Puteri told me that she found Mr Daly cute and as he was single she felt he might be worth chasing.
‘Secure and stable,’ she told me, sensing these qualities in Daniel Rothchild’s best friend.
Late Saturday, having spent much of the day at number 29 reading Torah and watching various Rabbis speak on Torah issues on DVDs in Mr Daly’s collection, the small fellowship of about 7 people disbanded for the day, each heading their own way. Only Daniel Rothchild was Jewish in the assembly, the remainder being Gentile believers in God. They had initially come from a Noahide perspective, but had drifted away from the Rabbinic perspective on Gentiles, towards a more torahically accurate view which embraced Genesis 1:26-27 with the notion of different ‘families’ created in the beginning, with the idea that all mankind being descended from Adam and Eve and subsequently Noah as well being now rejected. Those patriarchs were, apparently, the fathers of the middle eastern families – not all humanity.
Ultimately, Mr Daly explained to me that Torah faith was simply a witness of a God who taught meekness, like Moses was meek, humility and gentleness, and that the apparent savageness in the Torah which so many modern people rejected was like the way it was due to how sinful mankind was capable of becoming. Mr Daly had said something to me. ‘When man is wicked, God will punish us savagely. Yet with the merciful he shows himself merciful, and allows great leniencies to excuse much of our callous behaviour in such circumstances.’
I thought on his words later on, thinking perhaps that his perspective may have been unbiblical, yet I thought on many Old Testament passages which did justify his statements. It made me think for a while that perhaps the Torah was indeed a workable document and that the Apostle Paul’s teaching on its inadequacies perhaps reflected more his passion for Jesus rather than and limitations in the nature of the first covenants. Perhaps Torah could work. Perhaps that was why Israel had upheld it for so long. Perhaps.
Around 6, the four of us were having dinner at the pizza restaurant near Macarthur, in Chisholm. It was the same place David had taken me, Gemma and Frances a number of years ago when he was first getting to know us. Jessica, Daniel Rothchild’s wife, left for home, but Daniel Rothchild came with us. Mr Daly spent most of the night chatting with Puteri, and I left the two of them alone to learn about each other. My focus was on getting the information I needed from Mr Rothchild.
* * * * *
‘I love him Daniel. I love him purely and with all my heart. If that is not enough, in the end, what possibly can be?’
Daniel looked at me and I sensed he was almost persuaded. Almost ready to tell me were David was, if I just pushed him a little further.
‘I can tell you this, Justine. He left Israel just last month. The war with Lebanon ended a few months ago, and his time in the army has been served. He is in Canberra now – I will tell you that – but I won’t tell you were he is apart from that. I guess, if your love is true, you will find him. You will have to be satisfied with that.’
I nodded, totally dissatisfied, but accepting. That was Daniel Rothchild’s way, in a sense. A deep thinker with a flair for the dramatic in life.
‘I will find him, Daniel. Believe me. I will find him.’
* * * * *
The following weekend me and Puteri came down again, but she spend the whole weekend with Mr Daly – but that didn’t really bother me. I sat in the food court in Woden that Saturday. I sat there from 10am till 4pm – 6 hours. I knew David visited the place often, and I sat there all that time looking to see if I could spot my beloved. I sat, drinking diet coke, and eating garlic bread, my thoughts occasionally scattered, but concerned with finding my beloved.
I knew that Robert had, perhaps, cost me my future. Perhaps – perhaps – and only perhaps – but perhaps it had been lust, not in the sexual sense – yet maybe a little – but mainly lust in the personal sense of what Robert was as a person and what he could offer me that had attracted me to him. He was the ideal catch. The best any godfearing Baptist Christian girl could hopefully hope for. Yet, perhaps, in the lust for him – in the coveting of him I felt – perhaps he himself – the person who he actually was, was perhaps a little lost on me. Perhaps it had not really been the person who Robert was that had attracted me to him, but all that he could offer me. And, ultimately, if that was true, then the loss of our child had been the wisdom of God. And I reflected on that. Perhaps part of me wanted to justify that idea so much, as to justify my love for David, but despite the hypocrisy I felt Jesus might accuse me of in my heart for thinking this, I felt it was likely correct. In truth, I had been attracted to WHAT Robert was – not WHO Robert was. And because of that the marriage had ultimately failed. Yet with David – with my beloved David – it had never been the case. Perhaps in truth a little to start with. But with David, in reflection, the love I had first felt for him was greater than that I had felt for Robert, and with David it had truly become genuine and sincere. I loved him purely and was prepared to devote myself to him and his heart. It was, I think, in the end the simple fact that the right chemistry existed between me and David Rothchild. I had loved Robert, but ultimately the child of Israel had enraptured my heart in a pure fashion with Robert had been unable to achieve. Perhaps that was the mystery of love.
I sat there, contemplating such things, oblivious to my surroundings, looking out the window at the carpark in the Woden food court. I sat there, vaguely aware that for about 3 minutes someone had been sitting opposite me, but not paying attention to who it was.
And then I looked at the person. And he looked at me.
And Mr David Rothchild was in my heart again.
‘Yes Justine, your repeating yourself.’
I stared at him, hardly believing my beloved was in my presence. He spoke.
‘Daniel told me that you were looking for me. Puteri told me that you would be here in the food court. I had made up my mind, though, that I wouldn’t come along. I really had. In fact determinedly so. But. Well. You know. What can I say? What can I really say? I needed to see you, in the end. You broke my heart, Justine. You broke my heart, and it still hasn’t mended. But now you’re here, aren’t you? And your heart? Your heart? What does it seek, Justine? What does it seek?’
I was ready to respond. For 5 years I had been ready to respond, and I knew what I was prepared to commit to.
‘David. Me and Robert are divorced. We had a child, but it died of cot death. God took it from us. I know what you want in your wife – a Jewish wife. I know that is so very important to you. In truth, I love Jesus. I always have and, I guess, I always will. But the issue of ‘Christ’ is not an issue to me. Since university it has meant less and less. It doesn’t really matter – only love matters. But for my love for you, if you will have me, I will convert to Judaism. I will become Jewish. I will keep Kosher. I will observe Sabbath. I will keep the festivals. I will do all these things, David, for you. If you will love me again, and take me back. For my love for you is pure – it is true – and it won’t change.’
David looked at me, silent for a moment, and then looked out the window. He began as if to speak, then left off. He looked at me, then stood up and walked off a few metres, looking upwards. He turned to me and spoke.
‘You would do that? You would become Jewish.’
‘David, if my Christian faith taught me anything, it was this. Be a fundamentalist on LOVE. Love will serve and obey because it loves. And I will serve God and Torah and obey you because I love you.’
He nodded. He nodded, and smiled a little. And he came over to me, placed his arms around me, and whispered in my ears,
‘I love you Justine.’
And then my life was complete.
* * * * *
We married in the synagogue in Canberra, in the progressive service. It was not an enormous gathering – I had already had that, and didn’t need a repeat. But before the people of Israel, I took my vows of devotion, and I promised the whole assembly I would be a faithful Jewish wife, devoted to her husband, living in the fear of God. And they accepted me. And all was good in the world.
Life with Mr David Rothchild was good. Every year that passed was good and a blessing of peace, joy and love to my soul. After the fifth and final child, young Daniel, I was at peace in a way I had never known. Israel became my people. The synagogue became my church. And even Jesus remained close, in a way, in a peculiarly ‘Jewish’ way as if to tell me this was HIS people and I was now of his own blood. As if I was his own personal family. I was not estranged from my lord. In fact the opposite. I was closer to him than ever. And I found, in his spirit which was with me often, that it was indeed the God of Israel who was the true God and that the Trinity notion was not the way of things, in truth, that God was indeed one, as a Unitarian Christian would say, and that I had, in a way, come home to him. And because of this, my life, truly, was perfect. Nothing more could I hope to ask of my heavenly father. Nothing more.