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A Mother's Love
Her child is evil. She knows it, even more than she knows her own sins. She can feel the baby, deep in her stomach, turning and kicking against her fragile skin as though it wants to break her from the inside out. But now, she does not have time to think much about her fear for the child. Her body has no use for such an emotion, at least while she's giving birth. Only after the baby has come into the world will she be able to fully register her emotions. Her dread. Her concern. Her hatred.
A fresh wave of agony sweeps over her body, and she cries out, writhing against the thin, dirty blanket as her husband hovers uselessly at her side, staring down at her with a protective look on his face. Anger spikes in her chest at the sight of him. So concerned, so kind, so loving, this husband of hers. And yet he feels nothing, while she is in unspeakable pain. But, on some level, she understands. This is her penance. Her added punishment. He was simply expelled from the Garden. She was expelled from the Garden, will go through the pain of birth, and be forced to watch her son grow into something terrible.
Another contraction, and her body takes over, sweeping thought from her mind as she begins to push. Beads of sweat roll over her face, and she gasps, grunting as her stomach muscles clench one final time. The pain, once so sharp, fades to a dull throb, and a new sound pierces the tent's thin walls. A wail. A heaving, sobbing cry from a newborn's lungs.
Her husband plucks the child from the blanket, his expression a mixture of shocked awe and love as he carries it to her. "It's a boy."
She leans forward, taking her son from her husband's arms and staring down at him. His face is so beautiful, soft and the palest of pinks, like a pearl. Dark, wet strands of thick black hair curl down over closed eyes, and impossibly long lashes flutter against his cheekbones. She can't help but fall in love with him, in spite of the fears churning in the back of her mind. Gently, she rocks the boy back and forth in her arms, brushing an adoring finger over his plump cheek before looking up at her husband.
"What will we call him, Adam?"
He smiles, moving to sit beside her. "Cain. His name is Cain."
* * *
Cain was seven years old when Abel was born. Seven years old, and as beautiful as he'd been the day Eve bore him. But she did not love her beautiful son, not as she loved little Abel. Abel was a kind, sweet child, angelic in every sense of the word. Cain was not. Dark, cruel, and sharp tongued, he instilled in her a sense of fear that she could not explain, and, by the time Abel reached his first year, it was painfully clear who Eve preferred. Cain hated her for it, she knew. Even she despised the fact that she was not being fair or kind to her own flesh and blood, but she couldn't prevent the revulsion that rose in her throat each time she saw her son. She loathed him.
Adam, however, didn't understand her aversion to Cain. How could he? He didn't see the animal skulls Cain hid in the bushes behind their tent, or the way the
boy spent hours obsessing over the blade of a knife. The child surrounded himself with death. It was his temptress, his lover, and he did not resist when it wrapped its cold fingers around him and pulled.
Cain was fifteen when Abel first came home from the fields with a cut on his cheek. It was nothing, a mere scratch that Abel blamed on a branch. Eve believed him. How could she not? Abel had never lied to her in his life. The second time, however, when the eight year old came home with a broken lip, she didn't. She was not blind; she saw the way he looked at his older brother, with oceans of immeasurable fear brimming in his wide brown eyes. It was a look that she knew all too well. She saw it every time she looked at her reflection.
After that, Eve began making excuses to keep Abel away from his sibling. She instead kept him at home, or sent him to help with the flocks of sheep that Adam tended. Two years passed without incident, and Abel took charge of Adam's flocks, while Cain continued his work tending the fields a mile away.
But the peace was too good to last. When the day of offerings came, God, like Eve, preferred Abel to Cain, accepting lambs from Abel's flock and shunning the ripest of Cain's fruits.
The rejection made Cain furious. The anger came off him in cold waves when he returned home that night, and the malice he showed towards his brother was so strong even Adam- blind, innocent Adam- saw it. And then, just as suddenly as the anger had appeared, it was gone. For the first time in a decade, Cain was kind to his brother, loving, the way a sibling should be. Abel saw no danger in Cain. But Eve did. She warned her youngest child to be wary, but Abel laughed away her concerns. He was an innocent boy, a mere ten years old, and he could not fathom that his brother would do anything to hurt him, not now. The pain of Cain's earlier wounds had faded, and Abel forgot- as children do- what his brother was capable of. Eve, however, did not.
It was a peaceful night when Cain came home covered in blood. He was as beautiful as he'd ever been, standing calmly outside the tent, tanned fingers curled around a heavy rock, and coral lips twisted into an amused smile. The dark hair that Eve had adored in his first hours was now drenched in a sheet of crimson that bled down into his golden eyes. He was cloaked in red, the very image of death itself.
Eve was the one that found him first, stepping from the confines of the tent into the star-lit night. He was quiet, a snake slipping through the darkness, but she saw him, saw him even before he intended her too. And when she did, a spike of fear shot through her body like electricity.
"Hello Mother." His voice was soft, almost curious. "Do you love me now?"
Eve ran. She ran to the fields that Cain tended, ran until she saw a dark, thick puddle, spreading out from the other side of a lush apple tree. Gasping, she flew around the dark trunk and fell to her knees. Abel. Sweet, kind little Abel, crumpled in the dust like a puppet with its strings cut. Those gentle brown eyes, the ones she loved so much, staring emptily up at the cloudless sky above.
Her trembling hand reached forward and brushed a strand of his dark hair away from his face, and a broken sob escaped her lips. She lifted Abel's limp body into her lap, holding him tightly against her chest as she cried, lamenting the loss of the son she loved.
Adam found her an hour later, and the horror on his face was amusing, in a twisted way. She'd warned him, hadn't she? She'd said, since the day Cain was born, that he was evil. But Adam hadn't listened. And now look at the price they both paid.
But it was not Adam's fault. Not really. It was hers. After all, she was cursed. Cursed to watch the son she hated murder the one she loved.
When Cain was born, she had known that he was destined to do something terrible. And that's why she had despised him so. Because he was exactly like her. He was the living embodiment of the twisted, oh so human desires that had driven her to eat the forbidden fruit, and it seemed as though he had been born purely to remind her of her mistakes. Abel was the only thing in this world that was truly her own, and Cain- the child that was so like her- gleefully took Abel away the first chance he had. She destroyed the lives of both her children, simply by eating a fruit.
With that knowledge firmly buried in her chest, she looked to the stars, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. "Wasn't casting me out enough? Wasn't Abel's death enough?" Her voice rose, a broken shout meant only for the one who had hurt her, the one Adam called God. "When will my suffering be payment for my mistakes? When will you forgive me for what I did?"
A pause, one so long that she thought He left her, until one word fell like a blade from the stars above, slicing into her body and filling her entire being with immeasurable amounts of pain. "Never."