Garden of First Fruit
By DeAnna Brooks
Breezes heady with floral fragrance wafted gentle fingers through her hair, kissing lightly along her skin. But they moved, unnoticed. As did the caressing warmth of the sun, lingering lovingly, longing to be gloried in once again, yet now failing to draw even the smallest part of her. Not even the garden canopy's enchanting dance could reach her; though all around, every sight, every sound, every smell called forth her name.
For the first time, each went unheeded. Where only joy had known a home, a new presence was making itself felt, and with it an unknown coldness slithered in, unwelcome to all but her. She sat, eyes immovable, enraptured by thoughts luring her deeper and deeper into uncharted realms.
She seemed to see nothing but the tree. Her gaze fixed unwaveringly upon its form, while she herself remained beyond its reach. Yet something reached forth, drawing, if not her body, her very soul. Its shadow passed across her face changing her beauty into a caricature of its previous radiance.
For a moment she stirred, a new awareness coming over her, but only for a moment. As an uncontrollable shiver passed through her, mocking the comfort of the surrounding warmth, her gaze again sought out the tree, hungrily.
Her thoughts turned back to the first time she stood here, in this place. She was not alone then. In the coolness of the evenings she walked hand in hand with her husband. Their Friend walked with them; His presence filling them with joy and love. He was always near. Many times they walked the garden together, encompassed by the warmth of that Love. Everywhere they looked they beheld more evidence of His constant care and provision. They wanted for nothing. Each tree's abundant fruit in easy reach, often they shared its bounty as they walked and talked. Joyful laughter joined the chorus that already filled the air. Nothing was held back. Every thought, every longing, eagerly shared; drew them closer and closer in oneness. The love of the three grew, knowing no bounds.
Home filled their hearts. Daily the richness of caring for the garden filled them with pleasure. As the day's close drew near, she and her husband eagerly looked toward their favorite moment, uninterrupted time with their Friend.
That day their wanderings led into a part of the garden they had not previously walked. All along the way they had eaten from any tree they desired, every morsel richly satisfying. Now they saw a tree unlike any other in the garden. Abundant fruit hung from every branch. Before they could even reach out to taste of its richness, their Friend spoke, love filling each word.
"Nothing have I withheld from you. No good thing do you lack. Freely from every tree in the Garden you may eat your fill."
Though love still vibrated from each word, a new note entered – a commanding note carrying a demanding obedience.
"From this tree only you may not eat"
"Why not?" immediately flooded into her mind, yet remained unvoiced. It was the first time, though the answer was already in the air.
"This is a different tree. It is the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is not made for you."
"Why isn't it for me? It's beautiful." Again, the thoughts remained unspoken.
"You are made for Life. To eat of this tree will bring only Death. In the day you eat of its fruit you shall surely die."
She looked at the tree. Its fruit forbidden. A strangeness filled her. Questions. So many questions. As she turned, she looked thoughtfully into the eyes of her Friend. He held her gaze, and her thoughts remained unvoiced.
"My love for you is without measure. No good thing have I kept back from you. Nothing. All is yours save this. Eat of every free, but do not eat of this one".
The three continued their walk that evening, but as they moved away, she looked back longingly.
That was the first view she had of the tree, but many times she returned. At first her visits mere snatches, moments stolen from the business of the day. They began with furtive glances as she walked by on other business. But more and more she discovered ways to be in that part of the garden as her thoughts about the tree became a passion within her. She found her evening walks less pleasant now, her mind frequently filled with unvoiced questions. Often she found the eyes of her Friend lovingly fixed upon her, yet she remained silent. In her mind she could always hear His love-filled voice assuring her.
"My love for you is without measure. No good thing have I kept back from you. Nothing! All is yours, save this. You were made for Life."
Here she was again. Time stood still, so fixed she was upon the tree. Every bough hung heavy with fruit, the very air rich with its fragrance.
"It looks so good. So beautiful! Certainly just a small bite wouldn't hurt." These thoughts now ran unchecked through her mind, filling her with longing. "Surely I must have misunderstood Him."
"No good thing have I kept back from you. Nothing!" She remembered His words.
"He said I was made for life. I can't live without food. This is food. It looks like the best food in the Garden," she reasoned. Again, unbidden, His words came back to her.
"To eat of this tree will bring only Death. In the day you eat of its fruit you shall surely die. My love for you is without measure."
"He says He loves me. Love won't let me die," she cried. "Surely I would know if I would die."
"Has your Friend indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the Garden?"' Her thoughts, now given voice, abruptly echoed around her.
"We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the Garden," recognizing a kindred spirit she eagerly replied, "but the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden, my Friend has said, 'You may not eat it."' She hesitated before adding, "'Neither may you touch it, or you will die."'
She shut her heart against the words she heard reverberating in her mind. "In the day you eat of its fruit you shall surely die. My love for you is without measure."
"If only I knew for sure." A niggling uncertainty called to her, but she closed her ears to what she did not want to know.
"You can know!" Again, words were being put to her own unbidden thoughts. "You already know. The fruit will make you just like your Friend. He just wants to keep that all to Himself. What gives Him the right to keep anything from you, anyway? If He really loves you, He will understand. True friends share everything."
Silence hung heavy in the air unmoved by the gentle breezes flowing around her. With eyes locked upon the tree, she remained closed to the lingering warmth of the sun calling her to wakefulness. Voices warred within her. Love did battle with desire. For a fleeting moment she turned away from the tree before longing pulled her back.
As the coolness of the evening gently descended, she reached out, plucking the nearest fruit. Beginnings of a smile passed across her face right before she took a bite. The smile froze, half finished. As the tender morsel touched her tongue, a chilling horror filled her eyes with knowledge. An ever-deepening laughter resonated through the air as a new darkness fell upon the earth.
DeAnna Brooks is a freelance writer currently living in the blessed hill country of Texas. She has written, primarily for her own enjoyment, for over twenty years and is now looking to spread her wings. You can write to DeAnna through the Your Letters page of this Magazine.
LIFE LESSONS FROM 2004:
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