The neighbourhood was still, that hot summer evening, with only the cicadas to fill the silence in the quiet neighborhood. It was a rare time of quiet for the Princess while her children were away on holiday with their father.
The houses were empty on all sides as the neighbours also left for their holidays. Inside, the silence was loud. It wrapped itself around the solitary Princess, who normally breathed a sigh of relief at the peace and quiet.
The Princess sighed now for a different reason as she took her cup of coffee out onto the veranda to soak in the early evening sun. She could have gone away on her own, but there was only one reason she ever went north; to see her best friend. This summer her friend had been silent. There had been no response to her card, the letter she wrote or the message she left.
This had never happened before, and the Princess was left wondering what had happened. Unlike the peaceful silence of the house and neighborhood, the silence of her friend depressed and unnerved her. She felt cut off from the world.
She could not discuss the King or the Kingdom with Nerida or Red, but they could see the changes she was making. She suspected that Liang had told them he had been let go of because of the Lord, and they found that too hard to accept or understand.
Not liking to mope, she kept herself busy, swimming, tending her house and garden, and taking day trips to visit her sisters. New Year was spent alone. ‘Alone’ had become customary for the Princess in the year before the turn of the century.
She walked alone, ate alone, dreamed alone and did not attempt to meet anyone new. Although solitary by nature when she had to be, it was more than that. The Lord had commanded a rebuilt temple, and she calculated the cost. It meant she could never return to the outside world to find a soul-mate, for her soul had changed.
Now she belonged to another Kingdom. There could be months or even years of being without a man. It was possible that alone, she would have to finish the work of raising the children that the King had given her, while working full-time out in the world. There would be no-one to help, and no-one except the children to hold and be held by. There would be the risk of confrontation with others when she enforced the boundaries she had built.
They would not realise that without these boundaries, they would not even be allowed in her world. Her old friendships, lifelong friendships built in her old world were already being irrevocably altered. Her old friends might walk away from her forever. She would be even more alone. Nerida’s friendship mattered most to the Princess. The sisters of the Princess were all fraternal twins, and it had isolated the Princess.
She had grown up feeling alienated. Nerida had spent every school holiday on the farm, becoming part of the family. For the Princess, Nerida became like her own twin sister. Nerida had followed the King in her teenage years, but now did not want to know about Him.
Missing her best friend, she asked the King; “Why do people hate you so much? I try not to even mention you in front of her. If I did, the result would be something like making coffee called ‘Nerida’s instant rejection’. Just add water – cold water. Have you made me so bad?”
She reminded herself of what the King had said; that to live, she must die. “Is this what it is to die?” she asked herself. It felt like it.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
The King, who had heard all her questions, finally spoke. “She grows uncomfortable at my presence. I am the one she can run from but not hide. Write and tell her what I long to say myself; if she would hear me.” “What is that?” she asked. He said “Even though you give up on me, I will never give up on you. The door will always be open.” She carefully wrote that in the letter and posted it.
He added “The Father is watching the road. Return home, prodigal. Hurry, for it grows dark. The time is late. I will leave a light on.”