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Friday, May 4, 2012

Fiction Friday - ONE MORE TIME, Chapter 45B - A Changed Man

“Hamath,” Sarah called.

He turned back toward her.

“Let’s start out with a clean slate—ah, start all over again. As though the past never happened.”

“Yes, that would be my hope as well, Sarah. Now please excuse me. I’ll see you at breakfast. Is Paulos inside?”

“He and Tamara are resting. Tamara had a fever most of the night, and we were both up all night trying to cool her off. This morning after breakfast, I’ll take the children for a hike. Paulos will be here after the mid-day meal. He will continue their lessons then.”

“I want to talk to him about Bildad, to understand what he did to make that evil man give up his slaves.”

“It makes a good story, sir. He will enjoy telling you about it.”

He looked down at his scabbed feet. “Would you mind if I kept the children today, instead of you taking them on a hike? I’m not quite ready to walk far yet, but I’d like very much to have them around me. I have missed them.”

“No, not at all.” She shook her head as he turned away. This was the first time she had seen Hamath show much interest in the children. Maybe this amazing change in him was real. But only time would tell if the change were anything more than temporary.

Hamath turned and went back into the house, whistling for Keddy.

Sarah continued to stare after him. What a difference! I hope for Dorcas’ sake it isn’t all an act.

Once breakfast was out of the way, Sarah walked to the marketplace. She needed some spices, and with Hamath back and Benoni and his teenage appetite now with them, they would need a few more supplies. Besides, she should let Jonas know one more of Bildad’s slaves had returned and ask if he had word yet of Mariah.

A light breeze blew from the sea, heavy with moisture and the smell of fish. Clouds were gathering, and rain could happen this day.

When she arrived at the marketplace, she noticed Jonas’ drawn face, and his eyes which used to sparkle with humor and goodwill instead appeared haunted and unhappy. Dark circles attested to the fact that he wasn’t sleeping well, and new lines around his eyes and mouth revealed the stress he felt. So many people had been returning, but Sarah guessed that Mariah still wasn’t one of them.

“Good morning, Jonas.” She glanced around for Dathan. He must already be headed for the morning lessons. She had hoped to catch him before he went to let him know there would be no lessons this morning. “Has Dathan already left for his lessons?”

“Shalom, Sarah. No, Dathan stayed home this morning. My sister Miriam is fevered this morning, and Dathan stayed to help her. If Paul will bring the day’s lessons to me, I’ll assure that he completes them.”

“Actually, I’m glad he hasn’t gone. Paul is getting some rest this morning. Tamara, too. She had a particularly bad bout with fever last night, and none of us got much sleep.”

“Ah, that explains the dark circles under your eyes, then, my friend.”

“My eyes have dark circles?” she said. “You should see your own, Jonas.”

“Is it so obvious, then?”

“I’m afraid so. I’m interpreting your dark circles as an indication that you haven’t heard from Mariah, then.”

“True. I fear for her life. Sometimes slave masters can be cruel, and lives are cheap. Especially if that slave master got her for free.” His mouth twisted down.

“I know you’re worried, Jonas, but we won’t give up hope. Are there others still waiting?”

“Yes, but very few. Most have returned. There are a few that perhaps wouldn’t wish to return, and some that their spouses don’t want them back. Their husbands didn’t much care that they were gone and have since remarried. Then again, if slaves are well-treated, they might choose not to leave their masters even if an opportunity comes to be freed. Some become wives of their masters. Maybe that’s what happened with Mariah. Did she choose to stay with a new master? I might never know.” He covered his face with his hands.

Sarah remained silent, letting him regain control of himself.

He took a deep breath. “If that’s what’s happened, I want her to be happy. I don’t want her to be sorrowful.”

“I know how hard this is for you, Jonas. I wish I could help, but I don’t know how. If it helps to know that someone grieves with you, please know that we do, Paul and I. I also came this morning to let you know Hamath has returned. He’s acting different. He even apologized for the way he treated me and for selling Paul into slavery.”

“Hamath apologizing? Somehow, this doesn’t seem like something Hamath would do, no matter how offensively he behaved. Are you sure he was serious, or are you even positive it was him?” Jonas asked.

“He looks like a thin version of Hamath, but his voice is the same. Whether words will be matched by actions is yet to be seen.” She lifted her hand to push hair out of her eyes. Well, I need to get back. Dorcas will be trying to feed Hamath back to his old corpulent self. He must have literally starved during his absence.”

“Hamath, thin? That’s hard to picture in my mind, especially in view of the relatively short time he was gone. Be well, Sarah. And be wary of Hamath. I have trouble believing he changed so completely. Especially once he fattens up again, I suspect he will be back to the old Hamath.
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