Home > Come Back to Me (Waters of Time #1)(6)

Come Back to Me (Waters of Time #1)(6)
Author: Jody Hedlund

Once the first humans sinned, God banned them from the Garden of Eden and placed an angel with a flaming sword in front of the garden to keep people out. Ever since then, the Garden of Eden had been lost to history. Or at least that’s what most normal, sane people believed.

But not her dad. He wasn’t normal or sane. He’d developed his own theories about what had happened to the mysterious Tree of Life, the tree that was supposed to help humans live forever.

According to Genesis, a river flowed through the Garden of Eden and separated into four headwaters, carrying water away from the garden. Dad speculated that the life-giving qualities of the Tree of Life from its roots, leaves, and seeds had been in that river and its headwaters. As a result, the waters bearing the life-giving residue contributed to the early humans living extraordinarily long lives. The Bible recorded people reaching the ages of seven or eight hundred years. One man, Methuselah, lived to be 969 years old.

Marian couldn’t find fault with her dad’s conjectures about the Tree of Life lengthening life spans. It made about as much sense as other speculations, like the climate theory, which purported that the healthy, wholesome climate of those early centuries extended life expectancies.

Whatever the case, Dad had followed every possible lead to discover what had become of the Tree of Life, had even traveled to remote parts of the world that were rumored to be the original Garden of Eden. He’d eventually concluded the garden had been destroyed by a catastrophic flood and buried under layers of sediment. As a result of the flood, remnants of the life-giving water sources had become so diluted that the average life span had drastically diminished.

If only Dad had stopped at that dead end. Instead, he’d researched every fable and lore regarding the Tree of Life, miraculous healings, and unusual longevity of lives. Some legends claimed that seeds from the Tree of Life had been brought onto Noah’s ark, preserved during the flood, and passed down through generations of protectors. Other legends supported the dispersal theory, which said remnants of the Tree of Life were carried by the floodwaters to various parts of the world.

Her dad had meticulously studied every report including the tales by Herodotus, the mythical exploits of Alexander the Great, the stories of Prester John from the early Crusades, and the claims of Ponce de León during his explorations of Florida. All the accounts had one thing in common—fountains of youth that supposedly restored the life and vitality of anyone who bathed in or drank the water.

Her dad’s library—now in shambles—contained every tale, every mention, every hint of miraculous water and anything else her dad thought pointed back to the Tree of Life.

After Marian started college, she hadn’t kept up with Dad’s research into the tree, hadn’t wanted to anymore. He’d made no secret that he transferred to Mercer’s Research and Development Centre in Canterbury in order to pursue additional leads regarding the Tree of Life in England. By that point, she’d realized his obsession not only had taken him away from her and Ellen but bordered on lunacy.

“At least two seeds from the tree ended up in England, Marian,” he’d told her during one of her early visits after he’d moved to Canterbury. “An account written in Latin by some of the very first priests to arrive in England contains a detailed list of relics brought for safekeeping from barbarians attacking the Roman Empire. Two seeds are a part of that list.”

Britannia—as it was then called—had been on the fringes of the ancient world, a faraway Roman outpost. Even today, Roman ruins were strewn about the country. The seeds on the list archived in the British Museum could have been any type of seed. The idea that they’d been preserved from the fruit that had once hung on the Tree of Life was preposterous and made Marian cringe every time her dad mentioned it.

Now with the safety deposit box in front of her—its steely gray interior containing only heaven knew what—she swallowed the apprehension plaguing her since her talk with Harrison in the hospital.

Marian shook her head. The box wouldn’t contain seeds. It couldn’t.

She lifted her hands to the lid only to realize her fingers were trembling. “Stop it, Marian. Do what you came for.”

Slowly she lifted the top of the box. The chiming trill of her cell phone in her purse startled her. She dropped the lid into place, snatched up her phone, and saw Jasper’s name and number on the screen.

She’d already ignored three of his calls, had let them go to voicemail. But somehow, at this moment, she needed to hear his voice—the voice of reason to ground her in reality, science, and empirical evidence. Jasper was every bit as logical as she was, and talking with him would calm her nerves.

She picked up his call. “Jasper?”

“Hi.” His voice on the other end echoed with relief. “I was beginning to worry something happened to you.”

“No, I’m fine. Everything’s fine.” Except that, really, nothing was fine. A deep part of her suspected nothing would be fine ever again.

“How’s your dad?”

“The same.”

“Have you found out what happened?”

“Not a thing.”

He was silent a moment, and she almost thought she heard an exasperated sigh. “Let me fly over and help you.”

“I can’t let you do that . . .” Giving him permission to come would take their relationship to the next level. And she couldn’t lead him on.

“I know how hard it is to be alone while you watch someone you love suffer.” From everything he’d told her, his mom had run off shortly after his dad had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s. Since then, Jasper had been alone, watching his dad slowly deteriorate, unable to do anything to stop the disease.

“Thank you, Jasper. But you know I’m not alone. I have Harrison.” She fingered the safety deposit box in front of her. She could picture Jasper at his desk, the one across from hers. He’d be leaning back in his chair, his lab coat unbuttoned, his protective eyewear pushed up to the top of his head making his hair stick up.

“You sure?”

About Harrison? She bit back her doubts, knowing they were unfounded. “I’ll be fine.”

Silence spread between them. She hoped she hadn’t hurt Jasper’s feelings. But she’d always been upfront with him that she wasn’t ready for a relationship.

“So . . .” he said. “You don’t sound like you’re at the hospital. Where are you?”

She ought to tell him about the break-ins and the possibility someone was after another one of her dad’s cures. But this was neither the time nor place. “I stopped by Dad’s bank for a minute. Why?”

“No reason.”

“You don’t need to worry about me.”

“Promise you’ll let me know if anything changes?”

“Promise.”

After ending the call, she turned her attention back to the box. She couldn’t stall any longer. Sucking in a fortifying breath, she lifted the cover.

She wasn’t sure what she’d expected—perhaps wads of rolled money or rare family heirlooms or even glittering jewels. Not that her dad had need of a secret stash of money or jewels. His fortune was established, and he had no need to be secretive about it.

Perhaps she really wanted to see the seeds after all. Or dried leaves. Or roots. Or something having to do with the Tree of Life. If Dad had left her tangible evidence, something to prove his life’s work had been worthwhile, maybe she could forgive him for abandoning her and Ellen.

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