27

The Reunion Goes On

Malchus, Justin, and Brigitte turned to walk back to the cart. "Well, now that you have met the man in charge," Malchus said, "why donít we retire to my house for a while." It isnít quite as large as this, but I have a place where we can sit down and visit. Everyone agreed, so they got in the cart and traversed the paved road lined with vineyards on either side filling the valleys and stretching part way up the hillsides. Clumps of red and purple were hanging from the rows of green.

After they had ridden a short distance, Justin turned to Malchus and asked, "So you oversee the workers on all of these vineyards?"

"Yes," Malchus replied as he waved to one of the men picking grapes in a nearby row in the vineyard, "but, of course, I learned all I know from you, Father." Then Malchus grinned one of his big grins and winked at his mother. Justin just chuckled as he roughly tousled Malchusí hair.

They traveled a bit further, then Malchus pulled back on the reins and called out to the donkey, "Whoa, boy. Weíre home now." Then Malchus turned to Brigitte and asked, "Well, what do you think?"

Brigitte, still amazed that her son had done so well on his own, looked over the little stone cottage and nodded as if to give her approval, "It looks awfully nice to me."

"Well, then," Malchus replied, "letís not waste any more time. You can look around outside while I put the donkey in his pen."

Malchus was the first one off of the cart, and he held the donkey while Justin helped Brigitte down. After Malchus had given the donkey some water from the well, he called out, "Letís all go inside."

Standing in the yard, Justinís eyes scanned the walls with stones closely fit together to minimize the amount of mortar. He estimated the length of the beam spanning the width of the roof and wondered if these timbers had to be imported.

Inside her sonís home, Brigitte could see a simple table with a bench on either side across from a raised hearth where an open fire could vent out of an opening in the roof that could be closed when the fire was out. In the far corner of the one room house was a bed, and across from that was a couch overlaid with a blue and green linen cloth. Brigitte smiled approvingly to herself as she realized that her son had chosen her colors. The bed covering she had labored over so long in his absence would blend in nicely.

During these moments of assessing their sonís home, Malchus had stirred the fire and added some dry branches that had been pruned from the grapevines. He hung the bronze kettle of soup, left from last nightís supper, over the fire. He set a jug of wine and a loaf of bread on the table.

By now Brigitte was by his side asking, "May I put the cups, bowls, and spoons on the table?"

Malchus smiled as he said, "When I was a boy, I set the table and you prepared the meal."

After the three were seated, Brigitte was the first to begin asking questions. Soon they found themselves so excited to catch up that they were interrupting each other. They answered each otherís rapid-fire questions and asked them almost simultaneously. Time seemed so short, and they had so much to catch up on that they couldnít be bothered with formalities.

A couple of hours had passed before they realized that the sun had set while they continued to sit at the table. "Why donít we move to the back. You can sit on the couch, and Iíll sit across from you on the bed."

Justin and Brigitte willingly obliged, while Malchus cleared the bowls from the table and lit an olive oil lamp that was on the hearth. Taking a seat across from his parents, he asked, "How did you two ever find out that I was here on this island?"

Brigitte began with the story of weeks of fruitless searching, then advanced quickly to the story of a Jewish maid who knew that Malchus was on Patmos. Malchus, looking at his father, asked, "What did she look like?"

Justin, not having noted too many details, shrugged his shoulders and said, "Just a Jewish girl."

Brigitte surprised by his nondescript response, nudged him on the elbow as if to say, "Come on, how could you say, `Just a Jewish girl!í" Then she started in, "Actually, she was a beautiful Jewish girl. She had a warm smile and long, dark, silky hair. Her complexion was smooth, and her dark eyes sparkled."

"What was she doing when you met her?"

"Oh, she worked in the kitchen at the inn where we stayed," Brigitte replied.

"I didnít know a girl working at an inn. Did she tell you her name?"

"Yes, she said her name was Rachel, and her motherís name was Ruth."

At the sound of Rachelís name, Malchusí eyes lit up and color rushed to his face. He looked heavenward as he prayed out loud, "Thank you Jehovah, Rachelís God, for keeping her safe and leading my parents to her and Ruth." His gratitude expressed, Malchus turned his gaze towards his mother. His eyes beseeched hers for more information regarding Rachel.

"Rachel did say she knew you, but as we hurried to find you, we didnít ask many questions."

"It has to be my Rachel," concluded Malchus, "but what is she doing working in the kitchen at an inn?"

"We donít know. We didnít ask her. Why donít you tell us more about her," Brigitte prodded, "and how you met her."

Malchus began to tell them the story. First of all, he told about meeting Ruth then about meeting her daughter, Rachel. He reminisced about Rachelís teasing way and how she never really let on about her fondness towards him until she met him outside the gate of Caiaphasís compound on that fateful night.

"This was the night that a group of Caiaphasís men arrested a man named Jesus. I even got my ear cut off by one of Jesusí men," Malchus exclaimed, "but Jesus healed it almost immediately."

Sensing Brigitteís shock at the incident, Malchus pulled forward his ear and showed his mother that his ear was whole. "I know itís hard to comprehend," he continued, "but believe it or not, it really and truly happened."

Then Malchus went on to tell about how Rachel had waited for his return at the gate after hearing about his ear and how she had abandoned all precaution to greet him when he arrived. "Of course, as fate would have it," Malchusí lowered his voice, "one of Caiaphasís men saw us together and reported it to her uncle, and that was it. The next day I was on a ship to this place, and Iíve been here ever since."

Not wanting to get too emotional about the whole situation, Malchus slapped his hands on his knees and stood to his feet to add a few more branches to the fire. Brigitte, feeling the intense disappointment of her son, interrupted the awkwardness of the silence, "Would you like for your father and me to return to Bethany and see if we can find this girl again?"

With a slight quiver in his voice, Malchus turned his face away from the fire, "You would be willing to do that?"

"If it is important to you, I think your father and I would be willing, wouldnít we, Justin," Brigitte prompted.

Taking her cue, Justin cleared his throat, "Of course, we would, son."

Malchus, a bit more hopeful, looked both of them squarely in the eyes and instructed them saying, "If she is married, tell her that you found me well. But if not, bring her and her mother back with you to Patmos." Then he added on a more tentative note, "Do you think you could do that for me?"

Both Justin and Brigitte nodded "yes" slowly, fervently hoping that Rachel hadnít married, as they knew how difficult it would be to tell their son of such news.

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