The high priest is now looking at me and his attention is unnerving. It feels as if his gaze is piercing into my very soul, seeing all the dark things hidden there.
“You stand beside the Penance as his Helpmeet, his right hand. What do you ask for in return?”
It takes me a beat to realise that his question is different. What do I ask for in return? I don’t know. I’d come into this expecting only to give. I have nothing in mind, and I almost say so, but even before I do, the word feels false on my tongue. “What should I ask for?”
The priest smiles. “What do you long for?”
Absolution. But I don’t know if I can ask for that, so I keep silent.
“Ask, Helpmeet. No matter what it is.”
So I do. What I get in response is a contemplative nod.
“Is that wrong?”
“There is no right or wrong, my child. But I sense that there is more.”
More? “I would… I would rather he not die. I would ask for his life.”
“Do you ask for nothing for yourself?”
“I thought I had.”
Holy Father Farouk opens his mouth but snaps it shut almost immediately. I wonder what he was about to say. He shakes his head and instead asks, “Why are you here?”
I want to reply it’s what must be done, as I so glibly had the day before, but I know what the priest will say in return to that. I steal a glance at Adam’s unmoving body and bite back a sigh. The truth had been demanded so I will give it. I hope that he’s unconscious, or at least so deep in his own thoughts that he doesn’t hear my answer.
“It’s for him. I’m doing this for him.”
“Because I love him?” It comes out like a question, my voice rising in pitch and in uncertainty.
He doesn’t comment on that. Doesn’t rebut, doesn’t press further.
Here’s another snippet from Absolution.
As you can now tell, Absolution jumps between various POVs, beginning with the first part as an almost second person epistle, moving into third person in the second part and then ending with the third part written in first person, from Tulen’s POV. It was a risk I was willing to take earlier on, but is now one of the reasons I’m really itching to edit and restructure everything.
The Helpmeet is a concept that came up during the writing process. I started off with the Penance carrying the main role of redemption, but later I needed it to be a collaborative effort and I needed a name for the role. The Helpmeet concept will also appear in Secretkeeper—Rahsia’s quest as a Secretkeeper is to rediscover the ancient rituals, eg Berith Melach, that make up the bulk of Absolution, and the concept of the Helpmeet is one of them.