I'm sorry this is a day late. Traveled yesterday...
This day, Paul would try standing for the first time since his leg had been set. Mehida fretted, complaining it was still too soon, but Paul wanted to try. Mehida made crutches for him from a poplar growing close to the road, but handed him only one of the sticks.
“I think I’ll need two sticks, Mehida,” Paul said with a grin. “Otherwise, I’d have to put some weight on this leg.”
“Oh—I forgot,” she said, cackling. She scurried out the door and produced the other crutch. “I forgot--I made this one, too.”
A stool made from an old tree stump sat on the floor near the bed. Gingerly, he put his good leg down and added his weight a little at a time to the stool. Balancing on the sticks, he eased the same leg on down to the floor. Dizziness threatened to overcome him, and he leaned on the bed frowning in concentration, breathing deeply. The dizziness passed, and he made his way across the uneven stone floor. Mehida opened the door, and as he passed through he breathed fresh air for the first time in two months, inhaling the smells of the forest and the yard. He stood in wonder for several minutes, gazing at the beauty of the day and laughing at the antics of the kids around the nanny goats.
However, there was only so much of a good thing that his weakened body could stand for this first excursion. Reluctantly he turned and went back into the house to find that Mehida, in the short time he had been outside, had put fresh straw and a clean linen blanket on the bed.
He made his way across the floor to her and hugged her. “Thank you, Mehida. Thank you for saving my life. You have been as good a mother as even my own.”
Mehida burst into tears. “And I love you as a son, Abner.”
“Paulos.” Paul corrected her, but smiled as he did so.
“Abner is a better name. Paulos sounds like a Gentile’s name.”
Two weeks later Paul began putting a small amount of weight on his leg, although still not his full weight.
“Mehida,” he said one morning as they stood outside, looking at Mehida’s garden of vegetables. “Soon it will be time I made my way home. My daughter must be anxious about me, or worse, maybe even forgetting me. Maybe my wife, too. I don’t want my daughter to forget me, or my wife either.”
“No, you can’t go,” wailed Mehida. “You can’t leave me. I’m your mother now.”
Paul smiled. “I wasn’t planning to leave you, Mehida. You can come with me. We will look for your daughter.”
“No, no! I can’t leave my home. Robbers might come and steal all I have.”
“What do you have?” Paul asked, bewildered. “We can lead your goats. A house, a bed, a table, a garden? Are they such treasures that you can’t live without them?”
Mehida narrowed her eyes and glanced around, then smiled. “I have more than you think, my son. I have my goats, yes, and I do have a small treasure here. How do you think I buy our food and wine? Did you think perhaps I sold my beautiful young body for food?” She cackled her old cackle, and Paul had to laugh with her.
“No, son, I can’t leave here,” she said, her smile disappearing. Her rheumy old eyes began tearing up. “This is my home. This has been my home since my husband wed me 50 years ago. This is the place where our sons and daughters were born and where my husband and all of our children but one lie buried. I can’t leave them.”
“Then this is my promise to you: I’ll find your daughter and remind her you will have need of her one day, and I’ll send money to you when I can. If I can’t find her, I’ll somehow make sure someone will take care of you when you can’t take care of yourself any longer.”
“I have no need of money. I have enough to last me the rest of my life. My husband was a successful merchant. I live in this poor house with few furnishings because I choose to live simply, and because few thieves would believe that I have anything to steal. People think I’m a little odd, and perhaps they are right, but no one bothers me.”
“Nevertheless, I owe you my life; therefore, I assure there will be one to care for you when you can’t care for yourself.”
Paul’s brow furrowed. What was that he smelled—flowers? Where were any flowers?
To Mehida’s amazement, Paul’s form flickered and faded from view, and his face as he vanished held a look of unparalleled astonishment.