Updated: Apr 21
Gabriella's head rested in her mother's lap, as the two of them watched a film on the screen. Sofia was idly brushing her daughter's dark brown hair, her eyes fixated on the screen. Gabriella's eyes were also fixated on the screen, but her mind was running laps of the city. It had been a busy few days. Raúl was correct; MACOs did not have to deal with Colombian families. She had tried to visit everyone discretely, so as not to arouse suspicion, but this had failed at the third house. As Gabriella retired home for lunch, she was ambushed by neighbours, coming to say hi to their golden girl. From then, it was a whirlwind of invites and gatherings. Here was her invitation to a Fiesta de Quince, there was her invitation to a lavish garden party. She had even got Senora Díaz' offering the hand of her already married son. And those were just the daytime gatherings. Old friends and companions invited her to parties and dance halls daily, and Gabriella could never say no to a night out. So Gabriella attended these celebrations as best as she could, but it was slowly getting to her. Her mother had stepped in today, taking a day off, and spending the day with her own little girl. Gabriella appreciated the intervention as much as she appreciated having some time with her mother, who she had really come to see. But sitting curled up on the sofa just seemed to give her brain a licence to roam, and roam it did. The more time she spent in the city, she was made aware of how much time had changed its inhabitants. The city itself was the same; same buildings, same streets, same skyline. But the people were not the same. The quince she had been invited to was that of Maria Torrez. Fifteen years ago, Gabriella had been the one who had to take Senora Torrez to the hospital and stand by her as she gave birth. Gabriella had been eleven at the time. And now, she was celebrating the symbolic transition of the girl to a woman, the girl she had once held in her arms. Senora Díaz had been Gabriella's tutor when she was younger. A famed Colombian poet, she had taught Gabriella how to read and write. But a few years ago, after being treated for Alzheimer's, she had displayed symptoms of Edmonton's Syndrome, an advanced form of Alzheimer's discovered in 2213 by Uthbart Edmonton. Though most of the symptoms could be managed, the memory loss couldn't, and Senora Torrez's once perfect memory steadily degenerated. Her son not only had been married, but he had also been killed during the Iconian War. Those had not been the only changes. People who she had once known, had gone; passed away, or moved away. New faces walked down the street outside her house. Children she didn't even recognise played on the dusty, sunbaked field that she used to play on. Time had changed everything. Gabriella nestled in her mother's lap a bit further. Even Sofia had changed. Her face was beginning to show signs of age, her hair laced with strands of grey. Gabriella only knew her mother as an athletic lady, but even she could see the minute signs of age slowing her down and changing her posture. All this scared her. She had come home to refresh and regroup, but she found that Colombia was just as scary as the Endeavour. Gabriella did not like change. Change broke through the status quo. Change took away her ability to keep on top of things. And life had changed drastically in the past year. Falling in love with Diego was just one factor. She tried to keep her feelings under control, tried to keep her exterior solid. But it was affecting her life, and it was affecting her job. She had never been content with being "excellent", she always strived to be better than she was. That's what made her a good MACO; the ability to constantly improve, even when there seemed to be no way of improvement. But her social life had forced her to hit a plateau and for Brie, that was mediocrity. A MACO who can't improve is not a MACO at all. And then, she had faced almost certain death on the Forest Planet. MACOs weren't afraid of death, and neither was Gabriella. Her loss of control was what scared her. They had only survived out of blind luck. Gabriella accepted death as part of life. But she could not accept that she had no control over it. That they would not have died fighting, or died because of a mistake, or died after failing to complete an objective in time. They would have died without a way to overturn the outcome. She could not accept that. She could not accept the fact that there was nothing they could have done, even if that action would have been too late. It was not just a no-win scenario; even the Kobayashi Maru gave you the option of how to fail, even if the outcome was always failure. Here, they had no option. That scared her. "Mami?" "¿Si, Gabriella?" "God knows all, right?" "Si," "So he knows when people will die? There's nothing that can change that, correct?" "Si, Gabriella," Gabriella was quiet for a time. "What's the point of doing anything then, Mami? If God knows all, then he knows how our lives are going to go. Why bother struggling to make a decision, or to take any action?" "Because God has given you free will, Gabriella. If God predetermined salvation and damnation, then what would be the point of creating free will? He would just throw sinners into the fire, and the righteous would be in Paradise from the start. That's not how God works. He is not evil. God gives you power to choose. It's the action of choosing that makes you who you are. Angels are perfect beings, and they cannot do any wrong because they can't choose. They follow God's commands directly. Humans aren't perfect beings Gabriella. By choosing, we are showing if we are open to God's grace. And it's that grace, if we are open to it, that we know will take us to heaven, no matter what. That has been predetermined. Whether or not you are open to that grace, is shown by your actions. God doesn't force you to accept his grace," "So you're saying that I have to try to do things that are accepting of God's grace, just so that I can go to heaven? Mami... you know... I'm not even sure I believe in that stuff," "I know princesa," Sofia smiled, placing her hand on Gabriella's chest, where her heart was. "But faith isn't something that you can force onto someone, mija, because otherwise, it's not faith. Not true faith. If you want to believe, you just need to open your heart, and have trust in God to guide you. Don't be afraid of making mistakes, because God will always steer you back towards his grace, if you accept him," "I can't just have blind faith in something I'm not sure even exists, Mami," she said, looking at the screen. "I can't trust anyone else with my life, or my soul," "Then don't, Gabriella. Trust in yourself. You are God's creation. He won't let you go astray," Sofia looked down at her, stroking her cheek affectionately. "Live your life, Gabriella. Don't try to live the life of anyone else. Not even mine," she said, with a small smile. "You are my beautiful girl. You'll know what's right for you. Don't treat God as a lock and chain on your soul, but treat him as your shield. When all else fails, just know that God is there for you," "And if I don't believe in God, mami?" "God doesn't require your belief to look after you, Gabriella. Just believe in yourself. That's all you ever need to do," Gabriella said nothing for a while. "How do you believe in God, mami? Seriously, how do you put so much faith on something that you can't even prove?" "I don't have all the answers for you, Gabriella. My journey in life has brought me here. My belief in God has brought me here. If religion had all the answers then everyone would believe in religion. If religion didn't have any answers, nobody would believe in it. My religion and belief have given me answers that I'm happy with, which is why I believe. Your own path, and your own belief will guide you to the answers you are looking for. If that is religion and God, then you'll be happy. If it's through other means, then you'll be happy. Whichever path you take, whatever answers you find, as long as you are happy, and I mean truly happy, is the path you should take and stay firm to. Be yourself, Gabriella. That's the only way you'll find the answers, and the only way you'll be happy," Gabriella closed her eyes, and memories projected themselves on the back of her eyelids. She wasn't satisfied with the answers. But she wasn't satisfied with not having answers. She figured she'd have to do has her mother said, and just trust in herself. That way, she could be satisfied. "Te quiero, mama," "Te quiero, mija," Gabriella smiled. As long as she had her mother say those words to her, she knew that someone who cared was always there, whether or not God existed.