“Christians!” said the woman, spitting at the ground. “I thought you people fought for what was right! Don’t you lift a hand to protect others?! Didn’t you ever choose a side in a war?!”
Her husband pulled her close until her rants abated.
“Ease up, Christine,” he said, kissing her forehead.
“I’ll go,” said Brad.
He spoke so softly that it surprised him when all heads turned.
“I’ll bring your daughter back,” he said.
Christine broke from her husband and grabbed hold of Brad’s arms, continually “thanking” him as she dropped to her knees. Heather and two other women, raised her to her feet leading her away with comforting words as her husband followed.
“Ya doon’t huv to go oot therre, Brard. Ya huv nothing te prove,” said Pastor.
“What else should we do?”
Brad took a step forward, facing Pastor. He grabbed the back of the older man’s head and pulled him forward so that their foreheads touched.
“Pray for me,” Brad whispered.
A minute later, they said “amen,” in unison.
Brad went to pull away. He stayed in place with the insistence of Pastor’s firm hand.
“Ii warnt ya to knoo, Ii’m proud of ya.”
In that moment, Brad could never have loved the man more than now. His father would never have said such words to him.
“Pastor… you’re what my dad should’ve been.”
Pastor nodded grimly. Brad had no doubt that the older man detected the finality in his words, but he would never betray his sadness with a sullen face. The man had simply come from a land and a time too hard to do so.
“Open the gates!” Pastor called.
“No; it’s alright,” said Brad running for the wall.
Haven gasped as he leapt for the wall and climbed up one of its crenalations as fluidly as a lizard. It occurred to him that only Pastor had ever seen him climb a sheer wall. He dropped to the ground on the outside and rolled to his feet, breaking into a run along the private road, leading away from the compound. His legs, then lungs laboured long before he met with the main road. Stamina had easily reduced itself to a quarter of what he once knew.
Not good enough! he berated himself.
He prayed for God to restore him. After saying “amen,” he didn’t expect the Lord to instantly return him to his former glory. It would take time, hard work, and persistence… it involved acting in faith.
He gritted his teeth and pushed harder, his lungs burning with the effort. Two minutes on, his legs ached to almost the point of collapse. Gradually the pain and laboured breathing subsided, lending new strength to his legs.
“Thank you, Lord.”
He had not reached his potential. That would take time; weeks, perhaps months of hard work, but it seemed that the Lord had heard him. With aching legs, he reached the section of road with bushland either side. A jump and a skip placed him onto a thick branch where he stopped to plan his movements.