Legal Property

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Fiction Friday: One More Time, Chapter 2

CHAPTER 2 - APRIL, 30 CE – THIS IS NO DREAM
Sarah woke the next morning feeling disoriented, wondering where she was. The early morning sun shone through the single window in the house. She pushed her hair out of her eyes and sat up, remembering her “dream” of the night before. Turning her head, she saw Tamara and Pau1. Is this really a dream? If it is, this dream defies anything I’ve ever seen—well, outside of television or books anyway. This really couldn’t be happening, could it?
She rose from her bed and found a carved comb. She kept her hair at shoulder-length, but now it hung to her waist in a long braid. She loosened the hair, combed it, and rebraided it. I could sure use a shower, she thought. Hah! Fat chance of finding a shower here. Maybe a river or something. And again, as she wondered about a particular thing, a “memory” kicked in—this time a path to a beach where the local women went who didn’t have servants to prepare a bath for them. I guess that’s me, she thought ironically.
Softly she touched Paul’s shoulder to wake him. “Mmmppphhh?” he rumbled, and he winced and groaned as he rolled over.
“I have to go prepare the morning meal, Paul. Would you please watch Tamara till I return? She’s still asleep.”
“Of course.” He squinted in the early morning sunshine, yawned, and scratched his head.
She left then, walking hurriedly through the courtyard. A woman walked into the cooking area from the house, and Sarah’s “memory” provided a name. Short, stout, and sixtyish Martha was the housekeeper, a chatty, goodhearted woman. Telling Martha anything was a good way to let the whole city know by the next morning, but she didn’t have a mean bone in her body.
“Good morning, Martha. You’re up early,” Sarah greeted her.
“Good Morning, Sarah. Dorcas asked that I go with you to the market this morning. They—Dorcas and Hamath, that is—are expecting guests later today, her parents, and she wants extra provisions. She—Dorcas—thought you might need help bringing them back from the marketplace. They sent word by her brother, Marcus, who arrived last night.”
Martha raised on her toes to peek through one of the holes in the rock enclosure. “Dorcas’ brother, I mean. Now I need to clean up the guest quarters and tend to the garden in the courtyard. Since Paul can’t work, Hamath expects me to buy glass and have someone replace the broken window there, as well.” She glanced over her shoulder. “I guess I should ask Dorcas to hire another worker or ask Hamath to free up one of the stable slaves to help, since I know nothing about how to replace windows, do you? No, I don’t suppose so.” she nodded her head vigorously. “You’re a woman, too, and besides that you’re a cook, not a maintenance man. Do you...”
“Paul might know of someone,” Sarah interrupted, thinking if she didn’t, it might be next week before she could speak, “or he might be able to instruct you. If you can’t do it by yourself, maybe I could help you. I’ll ask him after the morning meal is finished. By the way, I’m going to the river to bathe,” Sarah added. “Do you want to go, too, or would you rather I came back after you when I’m finished?”
“Today will be much too busy, so if you’d come back after me, I’d appreciate it.” Martha peeked through another hole. “There are so many things to do to get ready for company, you know, air out the rooms, put out clean bed clothes, basins of water in the rooms, flowers in vases, all that sort of thing. Oh, yes, and dusting and sweeping and mopping. Oh, and I should clean the upper guest quarters, too—they might rather sleep up there on top. Oh dear, oh dear, so much to do.”
With that, Martha bustled back into the house. She was really into bustling—she reminded Sarah of a squirrel hurrying here and there in short energetic bursts, stopping to chatter between each burst.
Sarah hurried to finish preparing and serving the meal, cleaning the cooking area after breakfast. She then rushed back to their home. Paul was slicing some cheese for Tamara, who was up and bouncing around like the active three-year-old she normally was, except when one of her fevers came on. “Have you eaten yet? I brought some melon left from this morning.”
“I ate some cheese. I might eat a little melon, though.”
“I thought you might. You’ve always liked them. By the way, I’m going to go to the river to bathe this morning, and I’ll take Tamara with me,” she said.
“Bathe?” he asked, nonplussed. “Why?”
“I—ummm—Dorcas asked me to, because she has visitors coming,” she said quickly. Oh, yeah, wasn’t frequent bathing a thing of the distant future? Except for when women bathed after their monthly cycles, cleansing the body might be considered taboo or something. I guess I could have said something about it being two days since I’ve had a shower, but I don’t suppose that would fly any farther than that heavy wooden pallet we sleep on.
She was curious—it seemed Paul knew nothing about the “other” life. Did Tamara? Today at the river might be a good time to find out.
“By the way, Dorcas wants the window in the guest room repaired. I know you can’t do it yourself, but if you’d direct us, Martha and I can do the work while you provide instructions. Could you do that for us?”
Paul brightened infinitesimally. “Of course,” he said. Sarah suspected that he’d be happy to do anything other than begging. He’d been a strong, able man, and now he was reduced to the life he now lived, a crippled beggar unable to provide for his family. Worse, he was dependent upon his wife—no doubt an emasculating situation in this age and time. No wonder he felt so depressed.
“I’m going to take Tamara to the river now.” She held out her hand to Tamara, who skipped happily beside her. Hm. Skipping? Is skipping part of the distant past, too, or is Tammy remembering how to skip from when I taught her last fall?
The path to the river was a long one, crossing the narrow bridge to the mainland and weaving through trees and rocks alongside a creek to a secluded cove. They walked with two women and four other children to the cove, meeting other women and children along the pathway, too. Several women were there before her, along with several children. Tamara splashed happily with the other young children, totally unconcerned with their nakedness. Sarah wasn’t so uninhibited, and she quickly finished her ablutions and redressed. The place was crowded with other women and children, so there wouldn’t be a chance to talk to Tamara here about her recollections. She allowed Tamara a few more minutes to play, then helped her dress and hurried back up the path. When they arrived back home, she left Tamara with Paul and went after Martha. She crossed the courtyard, and Hamath stopped her as she entered the house.
“I’ve thought about your idea to bring a physician for Paulos, Sarah.” His voice dripped with a forced-sounding magnanimity. “Perhaps we should try to do that. As you said, he is of no use to me they way he is now. I’ll send for a physician to be here tomorrow morning.”
Sarah smiled happily. “Thank you so very much. You are truly an honorable man!” She felt tears sting at the edges of her eyes, even though she suspected Hamath’s generosity had more to do with getting an able-bodied man back out of the deal.
“The physician will examine him in the courtyard rather than in your house. I don’t think he’d be willing to go to your house,” Hamath added, his face echoing the scorn he felt for their dwelling.
Rather paradoxical, if you ask me. He provided the hovel. Sarah didn’t really care how Hamath felt about their little hovel—she was so happy she almost skipped like Tamara as she continued into the house, and found Martha waiting in the hallway. “Martha, you will never guess! Hamath promised to bring a real physician for Paul!” She grabbed Martha’s hands and danced her around the hall.
Martha laughed at Sarah’s exuberance, then sobered. “Child, you shouldn’t get your hopes up too high. Even a physician might not be able to make Paul’s leg straight, and Paul will go through terrible pain while the physician is breaking and resetting the leg. One of my brothers has a friend who died from a resetting a few years ago. Please don’t rush into something that might do more damage than good to Paul.”
Sarah grew serious. “Oh, Martha, I didn’t think of that. Paul is so weak now. What if he died?” Then her resolve strengthened. “No! I refuse to think that way. He hates his life now, and I’m so afraid that if something doesn’t change he might try to take his own life. I’ll take good care of him. I won’t let him die. Let’s go get the provisions for the visitors.”
They made their way to the marketplace, gathered the food they would need at least for the following day and made arrangements for the right size of glass to be delivered to the house. Martha carried the conversation all the way to and from the marketplace, chatting about the lovely spring weather, children playing in the warmth of the sunshine, and anything else that attracted her attention as they walked along. As they returned to the house, they stopped to gather wildflowers to brighten the rooms. Sarah could scarcely wait to tell Paul about Hamath’s willingness to hire a physician to reset his leg, and she hurried from the big house back to their home.
“Paul, I have some good news,” she said, entering the house. Paul still lay on the pallet, Tamara by his side.
“Papa doesn’t feel good, so I’m taking care of him. See? I’ve got some water and aspirins,” she said, showing her mother two small pieces of cheese and a cup of water. “Soon he will feel all better.”
Sarah’s shock must have registered on her face. Paul smiled wanly. “I don’t know what ass-prins are, but Tamara says I’ll feel much better if I take them, so I must swallow this remedy she has for me. What is your good news, wife?”
“Hamath has agreed to bring in a physician for your leg, Paul. You might yet be able to walk again.”
Paul’s smile disappeared, and he blanched even whiter than he already was. “Wife, have you lost your mind? Haven’t I endured enough pain without submitting myself to another so-called healer? Don’t you remember Hamath summoned a drunken sot who set it just the way it laid, and then fed me poison that nearly killed me? Does Hamath hate me so thoroughly that he’d make me go through this again?” He paused, gave Sarah a suspicious look. “Was this your idea, woman? Did you convince Hamath to do this?”
Sarah felt as if he had slapped her. “I was only thinking of you. I know how you hate begging, and you have been so unhappy lately. I just want you to be whole again!”
Paul gave her a withering glance and said, “Or perhaps you wish to be rid of me. I’m sure you have no use for me in this condition, since I’m less than ‘whole.’ Maybe it would be better for you if I were gone.”
“No, no, Paul,” she cried, “Please, listen to me. Hamath will employ a real physician, not another charlatan. He promised.”
“And what did you have to promise him in return?” he demanded. “I’ve seen the way he looks at you!”
Quietly and stonily, she responded to him through clenched teeth. “I promised him nothing more than a whole servant back who could in fact perform work. Believe that or don’t believe it, but quit shouting. Look at Tamara,” she added in a whisper.
Paul glanced over at their daughter cringing in the corner. She looked as though she was expecting them to murder each other. Her eyes were wide, disbelieving, and frightened. Paul was chagrinned. “Forgive me,” he muttered, more to Tamara than to Sarah. After the long silence began to stretch uncomfortably, he mumbled, “Let’s go fix the window.” He gathered up his crutches, rose, and made his way through the doorway, gritted teeth unable to hold back pained groans.
Sarah knelt beside Tamara. “We didn’t mean to frighten you, Tammy.”
“You yelled at Papa, and he yelled at you. Don’t you love Papa? Does he hate you?”
“We were angry, but we’re not angry any more,” Sarah replied with a tender smile, avoiding answering the questions. “Let’s go help Papa, okay?”
“Okay,” Tamara stood solemnly and followed Sarah out the door, sounding as if she might be a little convinced, but before they caught up with Paul, Keddy bounded out to greet her, licking her hands and face and wriggling in his happy puppy way. Soon, Tamara was again skipping, her usual sunny disposition restored.