No, it wasn't like a 24 hour dinner. It was a series of plan changes. [In this post, I cheat by having my characters discuss something I actually know very well about. Hope it doesn't feel forced].
Nic felt the eye-contact at the same time. He turned back to the fire, but it hardly lessened the awkwardness. Nic made a joke of the situation, "Don't worry, it isn't Hell. I know that it is dark, and there is a fire, and I am here, but that doesn't make it Hell. If I remember right, Hell has something about dragons and sulfur and stuff."
Philadelphia just stood in the semi-dark in the same clothes she had worn since she escaped from her own prison. That wasn't the same Nic she had dealt with before.
I honestly didn't know what to do. In the months following Mars, I had tried to think as little as possible about Doctor Nic. I had tried to pray for him, but I didn't know how and wasn't sure what to pray for anyway. God's justice? God's mercy? He wasn't super evil on the inside, but what he had done to my family, taking Ephesus, I was pretty sure I was close to hating him.
But here he was, sitting in a pitch black room with me. The firelight wasn't helping his appearance either. My dad's shirt, well worn now, with the face and mustache of that far-off, cold, Martian governor that had tried as hard as he could to tear apart my family.
And now he was talking about Hell. I formulated a response, "Thanks for..." I couldn't even finish it. Somehow he wasn't impressive to me anymore. He had no authority for me to respect. But I was still afraid. I didn't want to say anything.
"That's right, Philadelphia. I'm back. You thought you had seen the last of me, didn't you? Well, I thought the same of you. And if I had known escaping meant meeting you again, I think I might have stayed in prison."
Was he afraid of me, too?
"You summoned my father and brother for a second time. You should have known our family doesn't separate easily."
"Well it seems that whether I summon you or not, you still show up with them, so I will never doubt that ability again."
I sat down where I had been sleeping, receding into the dark again. I could hear my daddy snoring. He had fallen asleep in prayer. I didn't find that surprising considering what he must have gone through to get to this little hole.
I asked the smartest waking individual in the room, "Do you know what the plan is now, Doctor?"
A grim rumble of laughter bounced out of the corner near the fire. "Doctor?" His voice climbed as he said it back to himself, "Doctor! Here we both sit in a dark hole burning cheap literature, and you call me doctor." I wasn't sure if he was laughing at me, or was just a little insane. Insanity did seem like a possible excuse for his actions. "Well, little girl, you have asked the wrong genius. I wasn't the one who said we should hide in an illegally constructed basement." He tore off a slip of paper and tossed it on the fire casually. "You'll have to ask the man upstairs what we are going to do."
"Wait, what are you burning?"
"The white ones with words on them."
I resisted the flare of anger that would have shown in my eyes if it wasn't so dark. I rushed over by the fire and grabbed the bunch of papers he had been tearing up. It was.
"You're burning the book I was reading."
I wasn't sure if he bristled in indignation or in genuine apology. "Oops."
"And you started at the end..." I flipped through the pages to where I could find my spot. I had been only about two pages from the end when they had all come inside. "Well, you tore off all that was left for me to read." I instantly regretted saying that. I didn't mean to make a big deal out of it.
I could only see one side of Doctor Nic's face. From his eerie half-visibility he said, "Well, if it's any comfort, I still remember the last line."
"It was something about, 'the story of the King, who died for a people not his own.'"
I sighed almost happily. "So he did die for all of them. How sad."
"Was it something about Jesus?"
I laughed. "No. Well, kinda maybe I guess."
"Obviously science didn't rub off on all of you. That answer was not nearly exact enough for it to be of any use."
"I mean the story wasn't about Jesus. But I guess you could interpret it that way. The main character gives us a happy quiet life for someone he loves, even though the people all hate him for trying to be kind to them."
"What's the character's name?"
"Caesar," I replied. It felt odd to talk to Doctor Nic this way. But he really wasn't so bad in this setting. And because I couldn't see him maybe. And everyone else was asleep anyway.
"Caesar is a fool," Nic pronounced.
I stared at Nic sitting there with a smug expression on his face, his eyes poised like fists ready for a little boxing. "Of course it would seem so to you, Doctor. You don't have any experience in the 'sacrificing for other people' department."
"Ooh, you have the theology of your father and the wit of your brother."
I didn't respond right away. So he just fired again, "I'd hate to have had to deal with your mother. She was probably the worst of all of you."
And right then and there I started crying.