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Friday, February 24, 2012

Fiction Friday, ONE MORE TIME, Chapter 40A

CHAPTER 40 - AUGUST, 30 CE – THE TREASURE (first piece of a long chapter)

Mehida began fading in and out of consciousness. Joel spent the night sitting by her bedside, hoping and praying. At daylight, when Mehida stirred slightly, Joel took her hand.

“Mehida,” he said softly, “can you hear me?”

“I can hear you, physician.”

“Do you have any words to pass on to your daughter?”

She rolled her head from one side to the other. “I’ll tell her.”

“She is not here, Mehida.”

“Soon,” Mehida murmured, and drifted off again.

Joel shook his head and went out the door. Abidon lay sleeping on the ground next to the building, one goat kid nestled next to him. He woke and, sitting up, scratched his head.

“Any change?”

“She won’t live through the day, Abidon. We can do nothing more than to sit with her and ease her passing. It may be a comfort to her to know she has friends here. And if we can find it, we can place her in the tomb with her husband and children. I don’t know anything else we can do.”

“You should get some sleep, Joel,” Abidon said. “I’ll sit with her.”

“No, my friend. There will be time for sleep after she is gone. I’ll stay awake for that long.”

“At least have something to eat. Here—some cheese and grapes left from last night?”

“Thank you, Abidon. You should eat, too.”

“Should we prepare some crushed fruit or broth for Mehida?”

“I don’t think she will accept it, but you may try.”

Abidon glanced in the direction of the road. “Did you hear a voice?” he asked.

“No—wait, yes, I do.”

A woman, a man, and three children walked wearily from the road to the house leading a donkey with a cart.

“Shalom, friends. May we offer you some of our cheese and grapes?” Joel asked.

“No, but you can tell us what you’re doing here at the house of my mother,” Emma said.

“I’m Joel, a physician and Mehida’s friend, and this is my assistant and apprentice, Abidon. Are you Emma?”

Emma’s eyebrows rose. “Yes. Is my mother here?”

“She is in the house. I fear she doesn’t have long. She is weak. How did you get here so quickly? We only sent the message to you two days ago.”

Emma looked surprised. “We received a message four days ago, but not from any messenger you sent. A small child named Tamara gave us a message from One called Jesus who talks to her in dreams. Tamara said my mother wanted to see me before she died. We have been walking without stopping since then, the children sleeping in the cart. Sometimes either my husband or I also slept, but the poor donkey has not had much rest.”

The donkey had stood with his head down while they talked, but then he wandered to a patch of grass and dropped his nose to graze.

“This Tamara is the child of a man named Paulos. Paulos was rescued by my mother a few months ago.”

Joel smiled. “And so the circle continues. We know Paulos and how Mehida helped him,” he said. “Come, if your mother is awake, I know she wants to see you. The hope of seeing you again is the only thing that kept her alive. Her heart weakens.”

Joel opened the door and he and Emma entered, followed by Ebenezer and the three children. Even though the sun was up the house was dim inside, so Joel pushed the wick higher on one lamp and lit another, placing the lamp stand beside the bed.

“Mehida, are you awake?” he asked.

“Is Emma here?” Despite her weakness, there was a touch of excitement in Mehida’s voice.

“Yes, Ima, I’m here,” Emma replied, a catch in her voice. She stood by the old wooden stool and laid her head on her mother’s shoulder.

“I told him you’d come. I had to see you one more time.”

“I’m so sorry I left in anger. I love you, Ima. I’ve missed you. I was young and too impulsive. I know I hurt you; will you forgive me?”

“No, it’s I who should be sorry. I drove you away.” Mehida coughed. She paused while she caught her breath. “If I hadn’t driven you off, I could have come to see you.” She paused again. “Beloved daughter, I give my blessing on your marriage.” Another pause. “May you live long and have many strong and happy children. Learn from the mistakes of your mother and tell them often how precious they are to you.” Mehida’s voice cracked and fell still, her eyes closing, but tears ran from the corners of her eyes.

“Ima?” Emma cried.

Joel touched Emma’s shoulder. “She is only resting.”

Ebenezer walked up beside his wife and put his arm around her shoulders. She turned and cried against his chest.

“Oh, stop that.” Mehida said, opening her eyes. “Save your tears. I’m not gone yet.” Her voice wavered. “I have a gift for you, my daughter. Is your husband here?”

“I’m here, Mehida,” Ebenezer said.

“Good. Have you been kind and loving to my little one?”

“We share a deep love for each other and for our children,” Ebenezer said. “The One God has blessed us.”

“You have children? Are they here with you?”

“Children, come and greet your grandmother,” Emma said. The three children, ages ten, five, and two, hesitantly came closer. The oldest, a boy, climbed onto the stool and reached for his grandmother’s hand.

“I’m Abner, grandmother. I’m ten years old. I’m the oldest,” he said.

“You are named Abner?” Mehida’s eyes widened and she grinned. “A good name.”

The five-year-old clambered onto the stool. Holding onto her brother with one hand and reaching with her other hand, she patted Mehida.

“I’m Tabitha, grandmother. I’m five.” She held up five fingers sticky with grape juice.

Mehida smiled again. “A girl. Good.”

Ebenezer lifted the youngest, who buried his head in his father’s shoulder. Ebenezer took Mehida’s hand and laid it on the youngest’s head.

“This is Aaron. He is two years old and shy.”

Mehida’s tears flowed without stopping down withered cheeks. “I cheated myself out of getting to know them, and now there will be no time.”

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