Leah watched helplessly as Chloe got in the basket and swung out over the high stone wall.
“Don’t go.” Leah reached out to her friend. “It’s not right.”
“Come with me,” Chloe called, slowing lowering herself to the world below. “You can’t stay locked up here forever.”
“I can’t throw away all I believe, either.”
Chloe’s reply was lost as the distance between them grew. Leah feared it was a distance that could never be repaired. There were so few who remained pure, staying behind the protective walls of the compound.
With a heavy heart, she returned to the rooms she shared with her mother and father. The familiar clink of chains followed Leah down the stone passage. Leah walked into her apartment and found her mother sitting by the window, reading.
Rebekah looked up from the book’s pages. “You appear weary.”
“Chloe went over the wall.”
“Then we shall have to pray she returns to us.” The sadness in Rebekah’s eyes mirrored Leah’s thoughts. Rebekah stood and opened her arms. Leah slipped into the familiar embrace. The chains under Leah’s white robe pressed into her shoulder.
“She won’t be the same.” Leah blinked back moisture. She pulled away from Rebekah and gestured to her mother’s robe. Despite the mending and bleaching, Rebekah’s white gown still bore the marks of her reckless youth. No one went into the world and came away unsoiled.
“Her knowledge of the truth will bring her back to us. Isn’t that why we bind the locks to us?” Rebekah pulled back the edge of her robe, revealing the chain she wore. Almost every link carried a lock. Once a principle was learned, a lock was clicked into place, never to be removed.
Leah’s own chains weighed on her, a constant reminder to do right. She must remain spotless until the King returned.
Two days later, Leah was sitting on the wall reviewing the lessons of her locks when the workmen returned after their day’s labor. These brave men spent their days outside of the wall, working in the world, trying hard not to soil themselves in the mire. In the middle of these men, with their balky robes, thick chains, and countless locks, stood Chloe. The girl looked up to Leah’s perch and waved her hand in greeting. Leah nearly ran down the stairs, but the lock on her hip reminded her not to rush headlong, but to walk circumspectly.
With even, unhurried steps, Leah Finally reached the compound courtyard. Chloe stood beside the ancient lighthouse, her smile and gown sparkling in the sun. Leah had expected her friend to be different, but this was not what she had imagined.
Chloe rushed forward and hugged her. It was then that Leah realized the real difference. Her friend’s chains were gone. Leah pulled away and looked at her in concern. Chloe’s robes had no rips, no stains. If anything, they were whiter than ever.
“I don’t understand.” Leah said quietly. No one ever went out of the compound and came back clean. It wasn’t done. “How?” She touched her friend’s shoulder curiously. What would it feel like to be unbound?
“I’ve met the King.” Chloe’s eyes shone bright.
“But that’s impossible.” Leah said. “He’s not returned. He would have come here first.” Isn’t that what she had always been told? Isn’t that why she remained pure?
“He’s been here.” Chloe said. “We missed him. We were too busy with our chains and locks; we didn’t notice him.”
“That can’t be true.”
“Look at me, Leah.” Chloe held out her arms and turned in a circle. Her robe glimmered in the sun. She looked so free without the binding chains. She looked almost as if she could fly. “Can you think of any other explanation?”
Leah shook her head. It didn’t make sense. “But your chains? Did He have the key for the locks?”
Chloe shook her head. “No. Leah we’ve had the key the whole time. The King doesn’t want us to be bound with chains, but with our love for him.”
“Bound by love?”
“His love for us bound him to redeem us. Our love for Him, binds us to do right. No chains involved.”
It sounded so freeing. So scary. “But how?” Leah whispered.
“Believe the truth. The truth will set you free.”
Leah looked at her friend and nodded. “I believe,” she proclaimed.
The chains fell off.
Leah’s laughter bubbled out, bright as the sunshine.
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