Around Eureka, people rise to leave.*
Her head bowed in prayer, Eureka ignored them.
She heard the voices coming from the foyer begin to fade. She heard the priest close the foyer doors. She heard nothing from the priest as he returned to his changing room behind the altar. She saw the church’s lights shut off.
Rising, Eureka left the pew, walking to the foyer’s double doors. Opening the door on the right, she took a right across the foyer, to the bathroom. Seeing that the bathroom door was partially open, she opened it farther before slipping inside, turning on the light, and closing it behind her.
Eureka undressed. In her underwear, as she was folding her pants, she remembered the paper. Pausing to make sure the folded piece of sketchbook paper was still in her right pocket, she resumed folding her pants. Finishing undressing, her folded clothes in a pile in the middle of the floor, she went to the door.
Opening the door an inch in order to make sure that there was no one in the foyer, Eureka opened the door all the way once she saw that the coast was clear. Turning off the bathroom light before crossing the foyer once again, opening the door on the right once again, and entering the church once again.
Naked and alone, Eureka walked down the aisle.
Her bare feet on marble was the only sound.
Shaking as much from fear as from the cold, Eureka took slow, deep breaths in order to calm herself. She could just make out the painting, illuminated by candles, above the altar. A painting of the three aspects of God. Eureka imagined they were speaking to her.
Father: “How dare you!”
Not slowing, stopping, or turning around, Eureka made it to the pew closest to the altar. Gingerly easing herself into the pew in order to not touch a surface with her butt, Eureka knelt, putting her elbows on the low wooden wall that separated the altar from the congregation, bowing her head, and clasping her hands in prayer.
“God…” she whispered. “See me. Just. See me. I know you must not like this, but… I wanted to do this. I felt I needed to do this. Even if you hated me, I needed you to see me. And I… I needed to see you.”
Eureka sat in a booth, enjoying the bar food that was her father’s gift on her 21st birthday. Giving her a moment to think about it as she took a drink of her water, he asked a question.
“Are you ready for your last final?”
Eureka answered. “As ready as I can be. Now I feel like all I can do is roll the dice.”
Her father smiled. “You’ll do great. Your mother and I are proud of you.”
“Thanks. I’m glad for this opportunity — to be here. I’ve learned a lot about myself.”
“Being an editor is hard. It’s nothing like I thought it would be.”
Her father took a drink of his beer, steeling himself for the question he dreaded. “You have a back-up plan?”
“I’m working on it.”
Putting his left hand on the table, Eureka grasped it.
She was looking him in the eye when he said: “Your mother and I are thankful you waited. I know it must not have been easy living at home while your brother finished school.”
Eureka shook her head, appalled. “No. I knew you and mom could only do so much. I didn’t want to put pressure on you. Plus, I needed time. I wasn’t ready to make the leap from high school to college yet.”
“Thank you for thinking of us.”
“Yeah. You’ve done so much for me, and I want to do what I can for you.”
“No matter what, Eureka, you’ll always be our miracle child.”
She withdrew her hand.
“Really. The doctors told us you wouldn’t make it. For the longest time, we couldn’t decide on a name. But when the doctors found that you would make it, as the saying goes: ‘The rest is history.’”
“‘You’ve been given a second chance,’ you’d say when I was younger. And I want to be worthy of that second chance.”
Eureka’s father could see that his daughter still had a habit of absentmindedly rubbing the inside of her forearms.
“I know you and mom say I have nothing to prove. But I wouldn’t be much of a ‘miracle child’ if I disappointed you, would I?”
“Eureka… I have to ask: How do you think you did this semester?”
The first awake that day in her on-campus apartment, Eureka sat on the floor in her pajamas just outside her open bedroom door with her arms wrapped around her legs and her head against her knees….
Eureka sat at her desk in her bedroom, her eyes widening in shock when she realized that the letter she had received was from her academic adviser….
Not looking him in the eye, Eureka answered her father’s question.
Eureka sat at the dinner table, frowning at her laptop.
On the laptop’s screen was the Employment page on the public library’s website. This summer, there were no positions currently available.
Next to Eureka stood her mother, reading a letter. A letter from Eureka’s college.
“Seven thousand dollars, Eureka! How do you expect to pay this? Because there’s only so much your father and I can do now.”
Despite a gesture at her laptop, Eureka refused to blame technology. “I’m doing everything I can! You know that!”
Not wanting to hear any more, with a shake of her head, Eureka’s mother walked away.
In shock at seeing her so upset, Eureka reached into her right pants pocket and pulled out her cell phone.
Scrolling through her contact list, Eureka abruptly stopped as she came to a name: Theo.
“…it must not have been easy living at home while your brother finished school.”
She resumed scrolling.
She called a number.
“Lyra? It’s Eureka.”
Eureka raised her bowed head, trying to see, through her tears, the painted faces of the Father, Mother, and Child.
“I want to know that I’m enough,” she whispered. “I want to know that I was worth it to you. That I was worth saving.”
Sniffling, Eureka unclasped her hands and looked at the scars on the inside of her forearms.
Nude, Eureka sat in a chair in the middle of Lyra’s living room.
Across from her, on the couch, clothed, sat Lyra. Drawing.*
Tightening her grip on the chair armrests, Eureka fought the urge to flinch.
Eureka imagined that every time Lyra’s pencil made contact with paper, she was being cut with a knife. The knife exposing Eureka’s regret and fear as it lay her bare.
Glancing down at her front, Eureka imagined herself covered in bleeding cuts.
The blood turning her white skin red, Eureka remembered her father’s words to her.
The blood running down her skin made Eureka think of worms.* Worms crawling out of an open grave.
Eureka imagined worms crawling out of her cuts and, in horror, drew in her breath sharply.
“Eureka, please don’t move.”
Eureka re-focused on Lyra, who continued drawing.
Narrowing her eyes, putting the pencil’s eraser to her lips and holding her sketchbook in front of her at arm’s length, Lyra was silent as Eureka sat still.
A moment later, she lowered her pencil and sketchbook.
“All done,” Lyra said with a smile.
Eureka sighed with relief.
“Thank you for allowing me to draw you. My Best Friend. That’s what I’m calling it. I think it turned out good.”
“Can I see it?”
Tears drying on her cheeks, Eureka stood, in order to try and see God’s faces more clearly.
Feeling exposed, she took a step backward and, with the wood of the pew against her skin, was comforted by the knowledge that there was something solid at her back.
Suddenly, Eureka felt lips close around her right nipple.
Looking down, Eureka saw a naked little girl standing on her tiptoes, nursing. The girl’s hands on her for balance.*
Their eyes meeting, the girl pulled away. She burped and giggled.
Staring at the girl licking her lips, then at her wet breast, Eureka uttered the first word that came to mind: “What…?”
Bright eyes found Eureka’s blushing face once again.
“Go- goo- good,” the girl said.
Recoiling, Eureka pointed to herself. “M-me?”
Beaming, the girl nodded.
Eureka got up from the chair to come and see Lyra’s drawing of her.
“One look at you today and I thought I’ve found it! And now you can keep ‘it.’”
Bending over, Eureka looked at the drawing.
She was speechless.
The drawing’s face radiated an inner peace Eureka did not believe that she herself had. On the drawing’s face was an expression that said “This will all be over soon.”
“What do you think?”
“It’s me…. It’s just not my life.”*
“What do you mean?” said Lyra, concerned.
Eureka tapped the paper and looked at her.
“I haven’t found what you saw.”
*One of the inspirations for Eureka was the character of the same name in the anime Eureka Seven.
*The character of Lyra was inspired by Ursula from Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989).
*The words “The blood running down her skin made Eureka think of worms,” were inspired by these words in George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords: “Slow red worms crawled along her arms and under her clothes.”
*The Child nursing was inspired by the story of Saint Anthony of Padua holding the baby Jesus.
*The words “It’s me…. It’s just not my life,” were inspired by these words in the novel Armor by John Steakley: “It was her. It just wasn’t her life.”
Thank you to the woman whose photo I used in this post.