Hot liquid streamed down my cheeks. Tears, Adam called them. Today was only the second time ever in my whole life I had cried.
I cradled the battered head of my son Abel. Blood no longer oozed from the gaping wound his thick black hair couldn’t conceal. Instead, a crusty rust-colored crown matted his locks.
Grief shone from Adam’s dark eyes as he knelt on the other side of our dead son.
Dead. And it was all my fault.
My mind escaped the horror of the present, returning to the failure of the past.
For all it cost us, the fruit hadn’t even tasted delicious. The sweet tang on my tongue turned bitter when I swallowed. It froze my vocal cords, so I couldn’t stop Adam from taking a man-sized chomp from the fruit I offered him.
Cursed fruit. And I’d let Satan convince me to eat it.
Now, my son had paid the price.
Hands gripped my shoulders. One of my daughters wailed behind me. A smooth cheek rubbed against mine.
“Why?” Adam voiced the question all of us were thinking. If we could form a coherent thought.
“It was Cain.” Benami stepped closer. His fingers balled into a fist. Red seeped into his face. “Let us go after him, Father. We will make him pay for this.”
“By murdering him?” Adam’s jaw hardened. “Will that bring Abel back?”
“Why should he live when our brother is dead?”
“Cain is your brother, too.” My voice was little more than a croak from a frog’s midnight chorus.
Someone brought a wool blanket. Adam and two others lifted Abel onto it. I folded the edges over his destroyed features.
“Lord, I would trade my life for his.” I whispered the prayer, my lips inches from Abel’s unbeaten ear. I kissed him. How many times had I shown my affection in this way? Probably not enough.
That day, I kissed each of my fourty-four children. “I love you,” I said, over and over again. It wasn’t enough to ease the ache deep in my chest.
I loved Cain, too, wherever he had run to in the wake of his vile act. What he had done was wrong – unthinkable. But I had started him along this path all those years ago by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
What sort of mother was I? The mother of a murderer who ran away rather than face consequences for his actions. And I bore the victim of violence in my womb, as well.
Tightness in my chest made breathing nearly impossible. I turned aside into the small hut Adam and I shared when we slept. My weeping caused my daughters to wail and some of my sons to join in the call for retribution against Cain.
Why didn’t they seek retribution against me? I’m the one who started us down this path to death.