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Friday, May 13, 2011

FICTION FRIDAY: One More Time, Chapter 8B

For previous chapters, see previous Friday blogs...

After the meal, Sarah followed Dorcas down the hall. “Madam, would you help me send word to Paulos’ kin to see if perhaps he’s gone to them? I have little to give you in return, except for the pittance that Paulos earned on the streets, but perhaps I could perform extra work in return.”

Dorcas smiled at her. “I’d be happy to provide help to find him. Despite my Hamath’s wandering ways, I’m fond of him. And it may sound incredible to you, but I wish to keep him for myself. If we find Paulos, he’ll leave you alone and I’ll be rewarded for my efforts. You owe me nothing. And come to me if he gives you further trouble. As you might have noticed from his reaction, he holds me in some awe—perhaps because I come from such a wealthy family. Most of our wealth came from my dowry. Hamath has his purple dye production here in Tyre thanks to me.”

Sarah bowed her head. “I did notice his reaction. You appeared at the right moment. Thank you.”

Dorcas nodded and lead Sarah into an airy room with several glass windows. The windows reminded her of the frosted ones in the bathrooms of their real home. The sun had a hard time shining through them. Gideon, Orphah, and Tamara played there with Keddy, who gamboled after the stick they threw for him.

Meanwhile, Sarah wondered how on earth she was supposed to teach these children Greek when she’d never been proficient with the language herself. That she came from a Greek household, her new memory provided, but her Canaanite parents spoke Aramaic at home. She “remembered” she’d been 14 when Paul and she married. Fourteen? Married at fourteen? That’s obscene.

She wished again that Paul was there—as a Greek, he could teach the children without a problem. Even in the 21st century, his mother and he switched back and forth between Greek and English as the mood struck them. He taught Greek, French, and English at Arizona State University. I’d give my eyeteeth for a computer and the internet.

She taught Tamara the ABC song when she was only two, and he taught both of them the Greek alphabet with a song at the same time. That's it--I can start with the alphabet. Now if I can find a teacher for myself.

Dorcas brought them wax tablets, and Sarah found quill feathers dropped by the resident rooster. She began to show the children how to make the letters. Oh, for some paper and pencils. Tamara and Orphah were still too young to be able to form perfect letters, but they showed her their efforts, proud as punch. The boys formed the letters with a little more dexterity. She glanced up, startled, when Tamara began to hum the ABC song as she scribbled on her wax tablet.

The children only progressed as far as the sixth letter, zeta, when the time came for Sarah to begin the evening meal. There wouldn’t be any more lessons until tomorrow afternoon, and she could go see Jonas in the morning. He should be able to help.

Sarah wanted to find out what Tamara knew about their other lives. She hoped the child didn’t talk about her knowledge to any others, although her tales would probably be interpreted as childish pretenses to adults. After all, children often invent play worlds in their own time, and Sarah thought they must here, too.

After the evening meal was served and cleaned up, Sarah made her way back to their home, leading Tamara by the hand. Once they were inside the house, Sarah knelt in front of Tammy and hugged her. “I need to talk to you about something, Tammy.”

“‘Kay. What?” Tamara squeezed Sarah’s neck.

“How do you know the ABC song?”

“You and Papa taught me, don’t you ‘member? I sang it to Grandma. She was so s’prised!”

“That’s right. How did you come here?” She hoped Tamara would understand what “here” she meant.

“This place is on the other side of a windy net that smells like flowers. I can’t find the net again, though. You and Papa are here, though, so here is okay. Do you know ‘bout the windy net now? You didn’t use to know. Papa doesn’t know either. I asked him.”

Sarah nodded. “I came through the windy net, too, but not very long ago. Have you been here a long time?”

“No, not very long. Do you know where the windy net is? I thought it might be under my bed, but there isn’t an ‘under’ there ‘cause it’s on the floor, and anyway, I looked last time you lifted it up. I want to go see Grandma. But I don’t want to go back to the hospital, even if that’s where Jesus took me through the windy net.”

Sarah’s eyebrows lifted and she caught her breath. Where had Tamara learned about Jesus? Jesus hadn’t been a topic of discussion in their household because they didn’t want to teach their daughter that myths like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or religion were real. “W-Who?” she stuttered. “What do you mean, ‘Jesus?’ Has someone been talking to you about Jesus?”

“He did.” Tamara lifted her doll and brushed the real hair back from it’s face.

“He who?”

“Jesus did,” Tamara said. “You know, that Man in the hospital room Who said it would be okay to go away from the hospital with Him. He was nice, and when He hugged me, I felt warm, instead of so freezy.”

Sarah couldn’t believe her ears. Tamara must have been hallucinating—yes, that would explain it. Her little teeth had chattered with the fever chills that shook her even when she wasn’t having seizures.

“We didn’t see Him, Tammy.”

Tamara tilted her head to the side. “Don’t you ‘member? He picked me up off the bed and held me when you and Papa and Grandma were crying. Then He took me out the door and through the windy net and laid me on this bed,” she said, pointing to the pallet she slept on. “I felt lots better, just sleepy. He said He’d see me later, and then He went away, but I haven’t seen Him again.”

Sarah’s hands shook. She fought back tears and hugged Tamara tightly. “If He said you’d see Him again, then surely you will. It’s time to go to sleep, now, sweetheart.”

“Where’s Papa? I want to kiss him goodnight.” Tammy looked at the door as though she expected him to walk through.

Sarah shook her head. “I don’t know, Tammy. He isn’t here, and I don’t know where he is. He must have taken a trip or something, but I’m sure he will come back.” She brushed Tammy’s hair out of her eyes.

“Maybe he’s with Jesus,” Tamara speculated.

Sarah blanched at the idea generated by Tamara’s innocent words, but didn’t want to convey her fears to Tamara. “I don’t know.” She leaned over and hugged her daughter, kissing her on her forehead. Tamara felt a little warm, but maybe it was just the excitement of the conversation that made it appear so. She tucked the soft lamb’s wool blanket up around Tamara’s shoulders. “Goodnight, sleep tight.”

“‘Night, Mama. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” Tamara yawned, rolled over, and closed her eyes.

Sarah blew out the lamp and almost smiled—in their “real” world, bedbugs were almost a thing of the past, due to the dawn of bug bombs and exterminators, but here, vermin in the beds were a fact of life, even in wealthy households.

She lay down on her own pallet. In the darkness, she allowed her thoughts free rein. Was Jesus real? Was Tamara hallucinating, or did she actually see Jesus? I guess Jesus really existed, at least historically and at least in this ancient world, because Ben-Oni had seen Him. Why would He take Tamara through “the windy net that smells like flowers?”

It must have happened at the time Tamara died, because that’s the only time Sarah could think of when she, Paul, and Halena had all been crying at the same time. But if Jesus really does exist, and if He really does care, and if He really is superhuman—or maybe the proper term is omnipotent—would He be willing to help her now? Sarah decided she had to at least ask. After all, if He didn’t exist, nobody would know that she spoke to Him, and if He did exist, well, maybe He might help.

She took a deep breath. Okay, Jesus, if You really are there, please take care of my husband, wherever he is. I do love him, even though we have been at odds. Please help us find him, please! If he comes back, I promise I’ll start the communication again—and good communication, not just when we have to. Tears stung at the corners of her eyes. And I’m sorry I didn’t believe in You before. I thought You were a myth. A sense of peace filled Sarah, and she fell asleep in an instant.
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