13

The Secret Hideaway

Not many months had passed before all of the outside slaves were placed under Malchusís supervision. Malchus had heard through Ruth that Caiaphas considered him a natural leader. Malchus knew his father would be proud of him.

Eventually the harvest season came, and everyone worked from dawn to dusk. After the crops had been gathered, the fields had to be tilled before the winter rains. Some of the grain was placed in storage bins next to the kitchen for use by the cooks. Other crops were stockpiled in the stable, since the animals depended on the men for their food in the winter.

Soon the short days lengthened into spring, and new crops were planted. Malchus was enjoying the company of his cousin from Gaul. Hans didnít know a stranger and always seemed to be so happy. Malchus, on the other hand, was extremely busy and sometimes forgot to take out time for himself to enjoy life. Every now and then, he would think back on his growing up years and remember with longing the times that he used to spend alone on the Mediterranean beach.

Then one day as Malchus was checking the stone wall along the southwest corner of the compound for needed repairs, his attention was drawn to a lizard that was running along the ground, before it disappeared behind the twisted trunk of one of the olive trees. As Malchus moved closer to see where the lizard had gone, he discovered a secluded space on the far side of the trees where large flat rocks were embedded in the hillside. Each rock formed a step in a stairway that led down to the edge of the upper city. Further out was the valley of Hinnom. This was the kind of hideaway he had been longing for, one that gave him privacy and solitude.

As he sat down on one of the flat rocks, he could feel the warmth of the noonday sun rising up out of it, and a peace settled on him that he hadnít felt since he had arrived in Jerusalem. When he leaned back on his elbows, his thoughts trailed back to Rome where he had said good-bye to his father. He wondered if his father was still stationed there, or if he had returned to Spain. If he was still in Rome, he hoped that his mother had not become too lonely without either of them with her.

In another year, his time as an indentured servant would be drawing to a close, and he could return to Spain. He wondered what his father and mother would think about his work in Judea and looked forward to seeing what their reaction would be. As he thought about it some more, he began to drift off, feeling a bit drowsy from the warmth of the sun. But just as his head was beginning to nod, he remembered that he must finish checking the stone wall along the boundary of the compound and that he still had some distance to traverse. So he roused himself from his complete relaxation, brushed the dust off the back of his tunic, then headed back to the wall with the thought, "Iíll come back to this place soon."

Early that evening, shortly after dinner but before the sun set, Malchus found his way back to the grove of olive trees. Everything was just as he had left it. The rock looked inviting as its warmth from the day still radiated up from it. As he settled down to watch the sun sink into the hillside, his thoughts drifted back to Rachel. Her presence was always refreshing to him. After a hard dayís work, just the sight of her made him feel better. He hadnít seen her this evening at dinner but hoped that she would be there to greet him at breakfast.

Maybe it was her smile or quick wit that seemed to continually intrigue him. Or maybe it was those coal black eyes and long black hair that fascinated him. Whatever it was, he certainly was attracted to her and wished sometimes that they could be more than just friends of the heart, maybe they could be ¬Ö No! He shook his head.

To pursue a relationship with Rachel beyond friendship was futile. She was Jewish, and he was a Gentile. It simply wasnít possible. Besides that, Caiaphas would never allow it. For the moment, Malchus wasnít feeling too good. Maybe Justin was right when he said that feeling good about life was more than feeling good for the moment. This was one of those times that he would do well to remember his fatherís advice.

Malchus wondered if he should try not to think about Rachel so much and concentrate more on his work. After all, at the end of the year his indentured service would be finished, and he would be returning to Spain anyway. Whatever investment he would make in developing his skill as a yeoman, he could take with him, but there would be no possibility of taking Rachel with him.

"Yes," Malchus thought, "I shall return to this place again tomorrow and the next night and the night after that. It is good for me to have time to think things through a little more. I believe the time alone will help me to be more logical and keep me from letting my emotions control my actions."

Return he did, evening after evening, to watch the sun set and to reflect. Yet inside, there was something inexplicable tugging at his heart, and no matter how hard he tried to convince himself otherwise, his feelings for Rachel wouldnít go away.

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