At 6:30 a.m. the alarm rang as usual, never forgetting to wake Eve. But “sleep” was merely a term, for when her eyes were closed, it didn’t necessarily mean she was sleeping. Eve was always wandering, enacting, searching, and more.
Her day usually began with opening one eye followed by the other, gazing at the clock, turning off the alarm, and contemplating the view out the window for a few seconds while resting on the edge of the bed, trying to recollect her daily agenda yet forgetting most of it. She never succeeded in keeping notes or reminders to guide her through the day. Eventually she would fail to support her frail body and fall back over the wrinkled bed the way a person experiences a free fall from a cliff of a mountain. Gravity is difficult to resist, and in Eve’s case, the body was vulnerable to the pull of the bed. Mornings were always a burden to her soul. Thoughts from everywhere found their way into her mind, creating turbulent emotions and overwhelming her—a state of confusion mixed with weary contemplation.
By the time the second alarm went off, Eve would usually wake from a deeper sleep than her nightly one, her mind filled with dreams and visions, mostly of her parents.
Her morning routine never changed. By the time she set her feet on the cold floor, Koko, her cat, would sense her, jump off the sofa, and start his cuddling ritual. Later, she would stand under the warm shower, a moment when her senses returned to her body from their nightly journey. The warm water harshly striking her face and the flesh of her body provoked a hypnotic, meditative state, a foresight of the soul.
She would peacefully sip her magical concoction of tea with cinnamon by the window overlooking the neighbor’s small yard. Through the semi-closed curtains, she contemplated the morning beauty and allowed the sun’s blossoming rays to permeate her soul.
Then she would have to leave for work, but being a professional photographer, she usually snapped a picture of her everlasting friend Koko, who eventually started posing, aiming for more attention and possibly a few more pictures.
When all was set, and she was ready for departure, Eve resembled a trembling student about to meet her furious school principal. Her life was never easy, her world full of mystery and ambiguity. Despite being well received as a graceful and peaceful person always surrounded by others, they never saw her inner world, which was filled with overwhelming confusion, fear of rejection, sensitivity to criticism, and suspicion that others had contempt for her.
Being aware of this burden intensified her daily suffering because she lived a paradox, careful that no one would ever sense this incongruity. She tried to master concealment, and after prolonged hesitation, she would open the door and leave.
Her steps toward the outside world began frail and slow. She worked just a few days a week, dedicating most of her time to her seclusion. On her way to the train station she walked down a small, empty road that connected her home to the main street lined with trees. The sunlight of the early morning found its way through the branches, creating a marvelous shadow pattern over the ground and triggering a memory from the past, one that never ceased to flood Eve’s soul with nostalgia. It was a game she used to play with her dad when she was a little child, the game of shadows. Eve used to run after her dad’s shadow, trying hard to catch it, but was never able to. And Eve remembered one thing more: she was filled with extreme happiness. Even though she might not have comprehended life back then, she remembered well the smiles she shared with her dad while walking alongside him—before he died.
A few minutes later, she reached the train station, and upon her entry through the gates, she spent a few moments at the top of the stairs contemplating the crowd moving in all directions and to endless destinations. Employees and college students crossing all lanes in a race against time and homeless people lying down at the edges of the pavement, a crowd that depicted nothing but life the way it is, nothing more and nothing less. No one ever expressed an interest in her, and for this reason she felt harmony with the crowd. She never claimed attention, never savored nor sought it.
In the train, the one heading south, Eve chose the last car, the only one with a few single seats at its tail. She rested her head against the window to contemplate the flowing scenery and sometimes her own reflection. Soon, before she drifted off, the train would start to fill up and people would pile up across the aisle. She might give her seat away to a woman with a child and, with no hesitation, join the rest of the passengers on their feet staggering along with the swaying train.
At the agency door, Eve would stop to prepare her camera, lenses, and other photography equipment. There she felt one more tremble, but not for long. She held her camera and looked through its lens, recalling one more memory—a tender one filled with warmth, with passion, with her mother. She recalled when her mother was constantly taking her pictures, often asking her to pose and smile. Yet Eve couldn’t recall her mother’s face. Her mother was always behind the camera, and Eve had no memory of how her eyes looked or how she spoke. She only remembered a feeling, overwhelming tenderness and uninhibited love. While Eve gazed through her camera she regained strength and connected with her mom, with her beloved mother who had died.
By the time Eve stepped into the main office of the prestigious Rinera Images photography company, everything suddenly changed. Serenity suddenly transformed: people shared greetings, chaotic phones rang, piles of papers scattered here and there, and footsteps strode fast over the wooden floors. Clients waited for their turn to collect their portfolios, and others were assigned appointments. It was a popular photography agency sought by many.
Eve herself was transformed with a smile now drawn over her face, a smile that didn’t exist a few minutes before. She was uncertain how genuine this smile seemed yet knew she must enact the posture of a peaceful and confident lady filled with enthusiasm, who emitted a vibe of happiness and peace with not even a single trace of melancholy, though melancholy normally overwhelmed the fabric of Eve.
Eve headed toward the assignment office where projects were delivered to the photographers. Plenty of requests were assigned to Eve, for her talent was exceptional. In the reception area, Eve advanced quickly while nodding to Eleanor, the receptionist, pretending to be in a hurry. But she never was. She was just avoiding conversation. By the stairs, she passed by Nina, her colleague who changed hair color on a weekly basis and who posed to display her new look. Eve responded with a thumbs-up, while her inner voice expressed nothing but disgust, for to Eve Nina was merely a clown.
Charles, Eve’s close friend from college, called to her loudly from his cubicle across the office: “Eve!”
“Hopefully, this is good news,” Eve replied with a gentle smile.
“Well, it all depends on how you see it,” Charles said with a flattering smile in response.
“Nancy and I are getting married next Friday,” he said.
“Congratulations. She is a delightful person.”
“You are on the top of the list of people we are inviting. You ought to attend.”
Eve paused to figure out a way to get out of this invitation. After a few seconds, she replied, “I’m so sorry. I have to make a trip to the suburbs to finish a project.”
“Come on, postpone the shooting. It’s my wedding, Eve,” Charles said with a grimace of disappointment.
“I’ll do my best, but I can’t make any promises.”
“No excuses, Eve. This wouldn’t be the first time you skipped out on an invitation, and I need you there.”
“I’ll do my best, promise.”
“Oh, by the way,” he added, “I need to go over a few pictures with you from the shoot you did last week with my client.”
“Sure, but not now, please.” Eve stopped the flow of the conversation to avoid one of her toughest challenges—criticism. Immediately she turned away in an alleged hurry, heading toward her office, and to her surprise found an old lady waiting for her.
It was Mrs. Claire, Eve’s most compassionate caregiver, the one who was the first to welcome Eve to the orphanage. She was the only one who was like a mother, sister, and friend to Eve. She found in Eve what comforted her soul, and for this reason she used to call her ‘My Solace’. When Eve grew up she embraced the name and kept it as her heritage, Eve Solace.
As Eve greeted the old woman, another transformation took place. Her posture lost its sharpened strength and was replaced by peaceful submission. The shining but fake smile faded away, superseded by a gentler grin. The forceful quick strides gave way to frail shuffles, and the eyes stretched wide to express openness turned tearful. The perfume worn by Mrs. Claire permeated her soul, awakening memories of the distant past, a period long gone, a phase of Eve’s life that had sculpted her existence, a world that had a home, family, and refuge: the orphanage.
Silently, Eve stepped into the office and stood behind the old lady and inhaled a deep breath—not for breathing, but to take in the aura of warmth and tenderness. Then she called softly to Mrs. Claire. “Mom.”
Mrs. Claire’s body trembled, momentarily paused, then she turned with eyes filled with tears. “Daughter.”
Mrs. Claire had come across Eve’s address and decided to pay her a visit, with a mother’s yearning to rejoin her abandoned child. Mrs. Claire was childless but found in Eve the emotional elements she needed to form a mother-and-daughter kind of relationship.
Eve recollected the painful memories and difficulties of surviving her separation from Mrs. Claire, who had left the orphanage when Eve was only sixteen.
The atmosphere was filled with intense emotions, and the two women entered into an embrace that lasted for an eternity, one dissolving into the other. The scene was blessed by tears, surrounded by pain and bereavement, emotions that lost their way out in the world and had evolved into a decade of burdens.
The melancholy but festive meeting paused existing time. Eve’s eyes locked onto Mrs. Claire’s, a melody of gratitude mixed up with bitterness, and it was then when Eve broke this emotional and soulful silence: “Why did you leave me?”
“I had my affairs.”
“And I’m not a valuable affair to you? A daughter in need, a great need?”
“I never had you out of my mind, Eve. I only left because I had to start an intense course of therapy. It was c-cancer,” Mrs. Claire said with a stuttering tone.
Eve remained silent, shocked, and muttered barely audible words, but then threw her body one more time into Mrs. Claire’s arms.
“You still have those beautiful eyes,” Mrs. Claire said, “the ones I still remember from when I first met you years ago. What an alluring lady you have become.” She pushed Eve away and contemplated her tearful face.
“And you are still as warm and tender as you always were,” Eve said with a gentle smile that had started to find its way into her agonized expression.
“You were a soulful little girl. I still remember finding you alone in the garden, gazing across the green fields, pretending you had a camera, trying to picture the horizon,” Mrs. Claire gently whispered while locking her tender, loving eyes onto Eve’s. “I never had doubts you would be a photographer. How are you, my little angel?”
“All is fine,” Eve replied with no hesitation.
Mrs. Claire smiled, nodded her head, and while passing her wrinkled hands through Eve’s hair, she whispered, “Shy girl, you have always been reserved.”
“How did you find me?”
“I gathered information from the orphanage and got in touch with a few of your classmates from college.”
“How long are you staying?” Eve asked.
“I have to fly back this evening. I wanted to see you before I proceed with my last major surgery. My doctor assured me that the odds of success are high, yet I don’t know how this frail body of mine will stand one more operation,” Mrs. Claire said. She paused and then continued. “Despite all this, and for a long time, I have been yearning to see you, and by finally doing this, I now feel so much readier for whatever will come.”
Eve canceled her client appointments that day and decided to spend what was left of it with Mrs. Claire. She took her around the city, walked by her side along a nature trail, and occasionally stopped to sit on a bench for some rest. As they moved from one place to the other, the flow of the conversation never came to a halt.
The reserved and less-talkative Eve was transformed into a garrulous little child, taking advantage of every moment spent with Mrs. Claire, the one who had brought hope back into Eve’s life. She was a shelter and, more importantly, a nurturing warm heart.
Eve grasped her scarf, shifted her gaze toward the endless horizon, and then looked again at Mrs. Claire, who had a dazzling smile. Eve said, “There was a night when I was fourteen that I will never forget, and you were there for me, Mom. I remember how disturbed and worried I was on that day. I felt something was about to happen, I was in deep distress, and I couldn’t even describe it to you. I was trembling all day long. I remember how I sneaked into your room that night. There you were knitting a scarf; the same one I’m wearing now.”
Mrs. Claire smiled tenderly and nodded her head, recalling that specific night, but remained silent to let Eve continue.
“I still remember it so vividly. I was so scared. Death felt so imminent that I lost control, and I needed somewhere to go that was safe. You were there for me, as usual. You held me, and it felt like you were supplying me with power and strength in a way I wasn’t aware of. I felt so peaceful. Tears filled my heart before my eyes, and I let them out just with you. Then I laid my head on your shoulder and slept. I felt something I never had before, something unpleasant, painful, worrisome, and utterly discomforting, but I was still able to sleep. Early in the morning, I felt an extreme aching, like I was terribly ill, and it was then that I was shocked to see blood staining my nightgown. I couldn’t stop crying, but you were there by my side. You were congratulating me, and I couldn’t figure out why. You hugged me and whispered words I will never forget.”
Eve paused, one hand grasping the scarf and the other holding Mrs. Claire’s hand. “You said, ‘Dearest Eve, I congratulate you, for a change has prevailed on your life, one that will mark your history and your future. From this day on, Eve, you are a lady, a princess, a beautiful butterfly that will fly high. From now on, you will be the one looking out for me.’ Then you wrapped me with this scarf you had spent the whole night knitting while nursing me. “It was then you said to me, ‘Eve, life is nothing but a series of changing cycles. We move from one to embrace the other, and change is never predictable. Sometimes it can be painful, like last night’s experience, but the pain is not to torture you. It is there to nurture. Embrace change, accept pain, and see it as an ally, one that will bring transformation and hope for a stronger, more resilient, and tougher you.’” Eve smiled at Mrs. Claire and continued holding her hand and the scarf.
“Let’s take a picture,” Mrs. Claire said.
Eve prepared her camera, set it up on the edge of the adjacent bench, and adjusted the timed shot. She ran toward Mrs. Claire, embraced her, burrowed her face into her chest, and, in few seconds, the camera clicked.