The woman was the one who found things, just as the man was the one who named them, and she found the other in the garden with her, the one who was tall and strong and like the man with her skin tawny as a lion's mane and her hair the black of the night before the stars. Her eyes flashed with fire, her hands spoke of strength. The woman looked at her own hands, fragile and nimble for plucking berries from difficult places, and wondered. "Who are you?" She asked.
"I am," the great woman said, and laughed. The woman didn't understand, but was fascinated, and took a step nearer, transfixed by the grace and power of this stranger, female but not female. Woman and more. "Young one. So you have come to me."
"I find things that are lost," the woman said, "and the man Adam names them. Will he name you as well, if I bring you to him?"
"I do not need a name from him," the great stranger said, "My name is already mine. I am Lilith."
"Lilith," said the woman, rolling the name on her tongue, and nodded. "I will tell the man Adam-"
"No," Lilith said, and the fire seemed to leap up in her eyes. "You will not speak of me to the man. I am yours alone."
The woman's eyes, wide and innocent and guileless, looked up into Lilith's, full of knowledge and bitterness and pain. "I've never had a secret before," she said, and giggled. Lilith's smile was gentle and patient.
"Now you do."
iNow the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"/i
"What does it mean," the woman asked. "To know?"
"It means to be like unto God," Lilith said, lounging on the grass as the woman sat crosslegged beside her. "To fathom the mysteries, and no longer live from moment to moment but in the past and the future as well."
"Do you know?" The woman asked, and Lilith seemed faintly amused.
"Yes. That is why I cover myself." She gestured to the loose robes that shielded her lion's skin from the sun, and the woman reached out and touched them again, in wonder and confusion.
"You do not iknow/i, I could not explain it." There was silence, and the woman looked at her feet and wondered what was so terrible about knowledge, that the lord God would keep it from them.
"How did you come to be called Lilith?" The woman asked, and Lilith reached out and ran her fingers through the woman's dark hair, as though soothing a child.
"I named myself," Lilith said, patiently. "When I was free, I gave this name to myself. It is mine alone, for me alone." There was a long silence, and Lilith's long fingers slid out of the woman's hair.
"I don't know my own name," said the woman, and she sounded anguished. "Why have I never had a name? You have a name. Adam has a name, only I don't know my name."
"Do you wish to have a name?" Lilith asked, her voice like the thunderstorms that aren't dangerous from a distance. "If you wish to have a name, woman, then when the time is right I will give you one. When you understand."
"When will I understand?" The woman asked, insistent and stubborn.
"When I show you how," Lilith said, and offered nothing more.
iThe woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "/i
"Now," Lilith said, standing beneath the boughs of the tree in the center of the garden. "Are you truly so afraid? Don't you want to iknow?/i"
The woman trembled, slightly, and held back, quivering like a deer on the verge of flight. "We are walking on forbidden ground-"
Lilith laughed, like the night and the wind. "Forbidden? What is 'forbidden?' What is forbidden to you and I? Nothing. We can do anything we wish."
She reached up and plucked the fruit from the tree with an easy twist of her hand. The woman watched her, transfixed in awe. Lilith smiled, raised the fruit to her mouth and sunk her teeth in deep, letting the juice drip down her chin, closing her eyes at the sweet, almost cloying taste.
"I cannot," said the woman, her brown doe eyes wide. "My Lord-"
"Is merciful, is he not?" Lilith took another bite, the juice dribbling out of her mouth, and lifted her other hand. "Come. Take it. It is yours. Your right."
The woman stepped forward, her face upturned, and Lilith leaned down and kissed her, mouth open, the taste of the fruit still on her tongue as she pressed it over the woman's, the fruit nestling in the woman's palm.
The other woman gasped and shuddered at the taste of knowledge, and her fingers curled around the fruit in her hand. When Lilith drew back, the woman brought the fruit to her mouth, the flesh inside the color of a bruise in the half-dark. "Taste," Lilith hissed. "Know."
The woman bit in deep.
i "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."/i
They ran wild, like madwomen, shrieking among the trees. Lilith tore out the throat of a rat with her teeth and daubed the blood on the woman's face, and the woman laughed and shook her hair and howled like a jackal. They were full of lust and feeling and life.
Lilith caught the woman's hands, and pulled her close, kissed her open-mouthed again. Her voice was dark, a whisper. "You could be like this forever," Lilith said, and the woman trembled, on the verge of crying out.
Pulling away, Lilith flung her robes off and her head back, spreading out her arms. Under the light of the moon, she was splendid in her nakedness, and the woman stood and stared in awe at the perfection of her body, shaped from clay and not from ribs.
"Tonight," Lilith cried, "We are one." The woman fell to her knees, baring her throat in utmost helplessness, and Lilith fell upon her, the warm firmness of her mouth suckling at the woman's neck, hands pressing her back with the gentility of the determined.
Her kisses trailed in a necklace around the woman's throat; another string, lower. The wind seemed to howl through the trees around them, the taste of sweet fruit-flesh still heavy in their mouths. The woman moaned and screamed as though possessed, and Lilith did not relent, would not relent.
Her lips stained red closed over one soft and heady colored nipple, her tongue running deftly in a circle. The woman whimpered again, and Lilith detached her mouth and moved lower, sucking kisses slowly over her abdomen as her deft fingers slid down to the woman's thighs and drew them tenderly apart.
She lowered her mouth against quivering, warm flesh, slipped her tongue out to press between the woman's folds.
iThe woman bit deep into the soft fruit and looked up, her eyes widening. "I know," she said.
"Isn't it beautiful?" Lilith asked, laughing, and her eyes shone as they lay twined together in their nakedness, dark and light./i
They curled up in a copse of trees, huntresses, smeared in blood, naked, glorious, beautiful. "This is what it means," the woman asked. "To know?"
"You are mine, now," Lilith said, her eyes closed to hide the fathomlessness of her being, the emptiness of her soul. "Forevermore." And the woman laughed, and the blood from her lips smeared on Lilith's shoulder as she kissed her. They lay tangled, warm and silent.
And "what is my name?" The woman asked. Lilith smiled.
i When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves./i
Adam shivered in the cold, and the woman smiled her secret smile, full of knowledge and bitterness and mysteries. He looked at her, suddenly, as though only just remembering that she was there at all. The woman felt Lilith's breath, cold as the wind, warm as the sun. "And your name?" Adam asked, an afterthought. "What will I call you?"
She looked up. The woman's mind was calm, her spirit settled, her heart blameless. There was no such thing as guilt.
"Eve," she said.