Standing in the large central plaza, Julia Maciel led a training of about fifty residents of New Dagreb. The trainees stood in formation doing various lifts, turns, parries, sweeps, and swings with their bodies. They, and Julia, were using bamboo sticks instead of real bos.
Julia was exhilarated. Sure, picking fruit and clearing fields was all right, but this was the kind of thing she really enjoyed. She would probably have enjoyed it more but for the presence of Kenyatta. He barely needed bojutsu training, but he hadn’t yet missed a minute of it. It was the most time they’d spent together since they’d broken up.
Seeing sweat drip off of Kenyatta’s perfectly sculpted abs, their old arguments came unbidden into Julia’s mind:
“When you pushed me down that hole, I was about to grab a ring out of the plane, send out the beacon, return to New Jerusalem.”
“Jules, you weren’t thinking that at the time.”
“You don’t know what I was thinking at the time!”
“You wanted to come here. Part of you wanted to see this, to meet Aquinas.”
“My mother wouldn’t take me back now. Without you here I have nothing, you know that?”
“Then don’t leave!”
“That’s what you’re counting on! So you can have me and her and who knows what else…”
“It’s over, Jules! Bridget threw herself at me, I swear!”
“Part of you wanted that, encouraged it.”
“I’ll admit that when you admit that part of you wanted to meet Aquinas.”
“…I need to be alone for a while.”
“How is that possible here?”
“I’m going to find a way.”
“Jules, you deserve peace. That comes from loving the leader.”
Julia remembered thinking, well, he’s right about the first part. She watched her bojutsu trainees. They were impressively disciplined, for rookies. Perhaps that came from the leader. Perhaps that was…Julia didn’t want to call it good or bad.
After the falling out with Kenyatta, Julia was permitted to transfer to another farm. For a while, Julia reminded herself that she liked being an independent person. Her thoughts drifted to her family, especially her eternally forgiving father, Pablo. After a few weeks, Julia bonded with two beatific, bearded men, Ezekiel and Schlomo. They and their friends were faithful adherents, yet such calm, normal people! Not like Kenyatta had become. And the leader would come to their farm and exert such a graceful, peaceful presence. The few times his eyes alighted on Julia’s, she felt…something that had to be similar to what Ezekiel and Schlomo described.
Julia wondered: had she been jealous of Aquinas’ hold over her boyfriend? Without that jealousy, was she finally seeing the leader for who he really was? But then, why didn’t he seem…even slightly interested in her?
At some point during bojutsu training, Julia noticed that off to one side, on the edge of the plaza, Godfrey was watching the Dagrebians as they ahhhhed and arrrred. Julia thought: Godfrey is of age and of reasonable health, so why isn’t he part of the group? His hard expression reminded Julia of his father’s similar, but far softer one. Julia recalled Aquinas saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; in fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Ah, his speeches were beautiful truths.
After training was completed for the day, as the trainees dispersed, Godfrey approached Julia. He wore his serious expression, though he tried to make light of it by saying, “Another great training session, eh?”
“They’re doing all right,” said Julia, “for amateurs.”
Godfrey laughed at this, though Julia hadn’t meant to be funny. “Come on,” Godfrey told Julia, stepping away as though she should follow.
“Uh, where are we going?” Julia asked.
“Just…over to Pacific Lake.” It was a few meters away.
“All right.” Julia and Godfrey left the square together and walked to New Dagreb’s central lake. Godfrey said, “You know, Julia, you’ve impressed me.”
“You’ve also surprised me.”
Godfrey smiled in the manner of someone who thinks the other person has something to hide. “When did you first want to come here, to Olympus Mons?”
“I’ve always loved Olympus Mons…in photos and holos.”
“When did you first want to meet Dr. Aquinas?”
Now Julia smiled, because she didn’t consider this a big deal. “I’ll admit, when Kenyatta first told me about Aquinas, I was skeptical. Even when we first arrived, I had my doubts.”
She paused. He finally said, “I noticed.”
“But my eyes have opened. New Dagreb is paradise, it really is. That’s the real reason I jog it; I love looking at the colors reflecting off of the churning lava onto the rock walls.”
“And what do you think of Dr. Aquinas?”
“The leader has changed my life…all to the better. I feel…less lost when I listen to him.” Julia amazed herself; she wouldn’t have sounded like this even a month before.
“What has he said that has stuck with you the most?”
Julia laughed. “Just…peace. Peace and love and understanding. I wish my family understood that…uh, understanding.” Julia was unsure about continuing this conversation. If this were someone else, she might have said so what do you want?
Godfrey gave Julia a sideways look, as though he had been waiting to say something in particular. “Julia, do I look…familiar to you?”
“…I don’t understand. Of course you do.”
“I mean, from before you came to New Dagreb.”
“…Maybe I saw your face on the website?”
They stopped as a gaggle of geese waddled by. Godfrey turned his intense gaze on her. “No, Julia. We met when we were kids.”
“We did?” Julia said in her most flabbergasted voice. She had no memory of it.
“It was one of those ridiculous governmental socials, you know, at the Jupiter Center. It was almost 20 E-years ago. I was 6 and I think you were 4. We played hide-and-seek near the gazebo, do you remember now?”
Julia really didn’t. She was caught by the phrase ridiculous government socials. They continued to circumnavigate the lake. “Uh, I guess I went to a lot of those…can’t remember this one.”
“Yeah, you would have, with your mother,” Godfrey replied. “Well, Dad almost never went to those sorts of federal affairs, if he could help it. Maybe that’s why it stands out better in my mind. You were dressed in this yellow sundress and you looked…well, very nice. Anyway, we played hide-and-seek, and I was hiding, waiting for you to find me. Know how long I waited?”
Julia had no idea what he was talking about. “No.”
“Almost thirty minutes. Well, it felt that way. But when I finally gave up and came back to the main reception room, Dad was furious with me. He said he’d had people searching for me. I had to admit to him that I’d heard them calling my name, but I didn’t come out, because I was waiting for you.”
Julia wanted to laugh at this little story, but something about his tone didn’t really suggest humor.
“Dad said that I’d caused a huge ruckus. I remember him using the word ruckus. And we had to leave immediately. I said that wasn’t fair. I noticed that a lot of people in that big room were staring at us, including you and your mom. Well, I broke away from Dad and ran over to you and slapped you hard across the face.”
Julia did not like where this was going. Godfrey paused, then continued, “Do you know what you did?”
“No.” She still didn’t recall any of this.
“You punched me right back.” Julia brightened at this – then tried not to smile. “Not exactly peaceful, was it?”
“Uh, no,” said Julia, trying to think of the right words. “My sister taught me that. I mean, any weakness around her…”
“You’re calling me weak?”
“No, no, not at all. I’m saying if I was weak…well, I learned to react to slaps like that.”
“Well, I learned not to trust girls like you. Dad dragged me away before I could hit you again. I remember looking back at you. You weren’t looking. You didn’t care.”
What did he want her to say? “Uh, Godfrey, I was four years old. I must have forgotten the hide-and-seek game. I’m sorry…”
Godfrey suddenly laughed loudly enough to scatter a few ducks on the lake. “Oh, please, Julia, I don’t care about that! I just thought it was funny that we met before. And that it wasn’t so peaceful.”
“Uh, I agree. It’s funny.”
“But those were our old lives, not the same as our lives now.”
“Not at all.” Julia brightened – and this time she let herself show it.
“Here, if you live your life in peace and follow our leader – you never need be left behind.”
“This is paradise, all right.”
As they came to a lakeside gazebo, Julia realized how closely it resembled the one at the Jupiter Center that Godfrey had just mentioned. “You know, paradise doesn’t just happen,” Godfrey said, strolling into the gazebo. “You need strong people, disciplined people, to maintain it.”
“That’s true,” said Julia, stepping into the gazebo as well.
“My father won’t live forever.”
“Oh, that’s sad. I don’t want to think about that.”
“It doesn’t have to be sad. After he dies, I’ll take over New Dagreb.”
“Wow,” said Julia. She was thinking, uh-oh.
“I probably won’t want to run it alone. If you look at history…every king does better with a queen.”
Didn’t history disprove the need for kings and queens? Julia thought. And what can I do right now? He’s hitting on me, and saying yes entails serious risks, as does saying no.
“Julia, you have certain…qualities that I consider…advantageous. You’re beautiful, you’re smart, you seem organized, your sister bred two children.”
“What did you just say?”
Godfrey coughed, as though he knew he’d said something wrong. “Now Julia, let’s get real. I’ve caught you looking at me out of the corner of your eye.”
Yes, Julia thought, that’s what you do when there’s a crazy person staring at you all the time.
“Oh, Julia, I’m not as doctrinaire as you think. My life, my soul is about more than just finding peace and finding yourself. I also want to find…romance.” He took her hand. “Kiss me.”
Julia backed up. “Godfrey, I am so flattered but…”
“Be very careful what you say next, Julia. Be very careful.”
“I’m…I’m still getting over Kenyatta.” Not a lie. She thought: what the wángbā can I do? There’s no escaping New Dagreb. If I refuse, he could destroy me…
Godfrey turned away from her then, and seemed to look at the lake. In a few seconds, he turned back. “Julia, I’ve been…a total fool. Sorry. Can you forgive me?”
“Of course! And no, you haven’t.” Now she took his hand. “I’d love us to be friends. Friends and fellow New Dagrebians.”
“Of course,” he said in a settled tone. “Let me walk you home.”
Walking with Godfrey, Julia wondered how Godfrey could be so creepy while his father was so…much better. Suddenly, Julia felt like the unluckiest person on two worlds.