“I just felt comforted by you and now you’re going to leave again.” Philothea stared at her cup as she spoke. It was morning. Her child cried in the background. The king was leaving. She stared at her cup, this teacup and saucer from the palace. As she stared visions rose up in her mind of taking that cup by the silver-lined rim in her right hand and smashing it across the wall. She stared at that gold-rimmed cup. At least the force of imagination placated her thoughts. It relaxed her.

Standing at the doorway, she turned her face from that cup and wonderful fantasy to the world beyond.

It was more a haze than fog. Philothea peered past the king and the people at the gate, some distance from her house. There was little she could see beyond the gate. The large blank walls encircled the village. Her home was not far from the gate. Outside the gate, at some distance stood that magnificent castle. For some reason, unknown to her, this little village was separate. They lived in the shadow the palace, but could see it. The walls were too tall and too thick. They could leave any time. They could simply walk out and see the grandeur of that place, but rarely ever did. Rather they ran about their market place, drew water from their wells, and went about their business.

So had her life become. What a long time it was since she stood with her king in those halls, in those glory days. Age and time wore rough on her face as she peered through the dust and doldrum of another afternoon. These days were too hot to work. And so they did nothing.

“You will go now…and then what? I don’t think we shall see you again.” Ever the provocateur, she plied for reassurance. The king denied her desire. He stood beside her, just past the threshold. The knight stood ready to leave.

Opening his hands, the king said, “What would you like me to say?”

The thoughts raced then through her mind like throwing a teacup. Say you will come back. Say you will never leave. Say you will rescue me from this terrible place. Say you will free me from these shadows of dust and sun and take me to where it is beautiful. Say you will restore the riches we lost to poverty, the health we lost to sickness, the freedom we knew when we knew no suffering. You have given me everything; say you will give me these things.

All she could do was stare at him. Standing before her, he felt so far away.

This was the way now. Some days were close; some days far. There was little consistency in her heart.

“Why don’t you let me come?” Philothea asked. A child screamed in the background for want of some shoe or trinket or toy. It is foolish even to ask, her thoughts rebuked her. Still the vision remained: the jewels, the gowns, the gold, the glory. What is the point of being here? The peace, the pride, the comfort. If she left there would be so much more. What is to be gained?

Since the king would not answer, Philothea continued, “I see the goodness here; I know there was beauty. But remember the battlefield. I felt such purpose then. The mission was clear. The goal was clear. I understood what you wanted me to be—“

The sweet king denies her now, “yet did you, my Philothea? Did you really know what I wanted you to be? Because over and over again, we talked and discussed and you heard me say I had plans for you, things you could not imagine. And that has remained. Yes, I have plans and they have none of the romance or glory you once imagined. Yet they are art, and they are beautiful, and they are for you and you alone to become the bride of my heart, my daughter and disciple. It is only through this path that you can learn the way. You would never know it had I sheltered you in my palace, as I may have often wanted to do. You know well that even my mother spent her years here in the village ministering to those around you, your neighbors and your friends. Do you need to speak with her to remind you of those stories she once told when you stayed in the palace at her side those many nights? Have you forgotten?”

“I have not forgotten.” Defiance mounted. It was a defiance conflicted with the passion seeking answers she had long walked without. “I have not forgotten, but I cannot see what the two have in common. She did not grow up here. She spoke with angels. What have we here? It is not the same.”

The king shook his head. “Then you have made up your mind.” Tilting his head he studied her look, the pressed countenance of her confusion. “I cannot tell you more than what you willing to hear. You will have to be open again.”

“I have been nothing but open—“

“No, my girl. You have accepted; it is true. But there is more for you here. I cannot tell you now, because I do not think you want to listen. It is all darkness before you. There will be other sandstorms and you must prepare. Each time you will grow stronger and at times you will be weaker. Still, know that I am near. I am not in the palace but walk among you and your kin. I will visit. You will not be alone. And when you are ready, we will speak again.”

He left her then, walking away from her home and around the corner, with his knight by her side. It was not long before she was left with her thoughts. It was not as bad she made it out to be in those lonely moments. It was only when she was alone. The flow of her emotions made her feel foolish. It was the ebb that made her feel empty. When everything left her and she stood alone. The time for this was passed. She returned to her duties and to her children. These questions were too big to answer in the kitchen of her home.