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Paul held hands with Sarah and Tamara all the way back to the house and into the cooking area, earning stares from passers. Sarah began preparations for the evening meal while she talked to Paul about lessons for the children, telling him they had already learned this, or that the boys could do that while the girls hadn’t progressed that far. Dorcas had been gone when they returned from the marketplace, but came out to the cooking area while they talked.
“Hello, Madam,” Sarah said. “We went to see Jonas, and we can send word by way of Jonas’s contacts to find Hamath and tell him to come home.”
“Thank you.” Dorcas rubbed her forehead. “I have a few contacts, too, and I hope Hamath will receive the word to come home. I should never have told him he couldn’t come home without Paulos, but what’s done is done and cannot be retrieved.” She turned and walked back into the house, shoulders slumped.
Tamara clung to Paul the entire day. She hadn’t let him out of her sight since he showed up that morning. She even wanted to sleep with him on his pallet, but Paul laughed and put her down on her own pallet. Once Tamara was asleep, he turned to Sarah.
“Sarah, there is something I promised the old woman named Mehida—the one who saved my life. Ah—one of my lives? Anyway, I promised her I’d try to find her daughter, Emma, who’s married to a fisherman named Ebenezer. Apparently they live somewhere on the coast, but Mehida didn’t know if it was Ptolemais, Tyre, Sidon, or some other coastal village. Maybe Jonas can help us find her. I thought about it briefly while we were talking today, but all of the memory didn’t come into my head until later. I’ll talk to him again tomorrow.”
They talked of other things for awhile, catching up and rejoicing over Tamara being there with them. Paul gathered Sarah in his arms. “I’ve missed you so much, Sarah. Before you disappeared, you didn’t matter to me at all—how I hate to admit that!—and I thought you felt the same. But after you were gone, the hole in my life was just too huge to bear. I don’t want to ever be that distant from you ever again.”
Sarah nodded, and she murmured, “I felt the same way when you disappeared from here. I existed from one day till the next, hoping against hope you’d return. I don’t know if you remember, but we had a big fight that morning. I was afraid you had left because you were angry or because you were unwilling to have your leg reset. Sometimes, I even worried that you might have done away with yourself. I’m so thankful you’re back. I mean, that you came here from the future, too. Or whatever. Please don’t ever leave me again, physically or mentally.”
“I’ll never leave you. Never. We have this one more chance to do things right. Let’s not mess it up again.” He pulled her closer, tipped up her chin, and kissed her.
The next afternoon, Paulos began teaching the children. Sarah sat in with them for awhile, filling him in on what he needed to know about what the children already knew. About half-way through the planned lesson, Dorcas came in the room, her greeting taking in both children and adults.
Paulos looked up at Dorcas from where he was sitting cross-legged with the children on the floor. “Dorcas—I mean Madam—the children also need to learn mathematics and a few other disciplines. If I taught them also in the mornings, we could work in these other lessons. Would that be acceptable to you?”
“Yes, and more. First,” Dorcas said, “I’ve been considering your status here, and I think it’s time you and Sarah began calling me Dorcas. Let’s just say you have reached the level of privileged servants. I realize this probably doesn’t make up for your loss of status in your other life, but perhaps it’s a small step, true?” Paul and Sarah both nodded.
“Second, yes, it sounds to me like a good idea to teach the children more. The children will need to learn to become good stewards of their inheritance. Even though she is a girl, I also want Orphah to also learn these things. She might not be able to do as much because she will be a woman, but she will be responsible for a household when she is grown and married. And who knows, she might even be as I am, the one who needs to manage the money because her husband can’t or won’t. And of course, Tamara may sit in with her.”
“Third, I’ve decided to promote one of the slaves to the position Paul used to hold. I’ve been watching a young man named Amad; he is faithful in his duties and works without being told to. He finds things to do or asks for work when he could be doing nothing. You, Paulos, will just tutor the children. I think we can come up with a better place for you to live than that hovel by the stables. I think perhaps Amad’s first task will be to build something for you, perhaps next to the street rather than where you now are.”
“Oh, Madam—I mean Dorcas—this means so much to us,” Sarah said. “We talked last night, and I told Paulos how much you’ve done for us. We both think that even living in a one-room house with dirt floors wouldn’t make us want to go back to where we were before. Your generosity with this promotion makes us feel even more welcome in this ancient world, right, Paul?”
“One hundred percent right.” Paul agreed. “We’re deeply in your debt, Dorcas. Any favor or task you ask of us will never be too much.”
“Nonsense! This is to our benefit much more than it is to yours,” Dorcas said. “Now, I must be about my own business.”