28

A Long Wait

After meeting Malchusí parents, Flavius realized that his agreement of indentured servitude with Malchus was null and void, since Malchus was a Roman citizen. Flavius therefore offered Malchus the opportunity to stay on as his yeoman with a handsome salary. Malchus, after giving it some consideration, decided to accept the offer. Justin and Brigitte, realizing that their son had decided to stay on the island, discussed the possibility of joining him as well. This would be the first time in their married life that they could actually pick where they wanted to live, rather than receiving military orders.

While Justin and Flavius looked over some land for a site to build a home, Flaviusí wife, Claire, hosted a simple party for Brigitte to meet some of the women on the island. Flavius was more than accommodating in offering land as he had significant respect for Justin and considered him to be a worthy advisor to him and his staff in regard to military activity, trade, and the development of the island. Flavius even offered Justin the opportunity to become a member of his staff as time might allow.

Justin, after talking it over with Brigitte, thought this might be one way that he could utilize the expertise that he had gained over the years in the military and decided to make the move to the island. Since their home in Spain was a military home, all they needed to do was to return to Spain, pack up their belongings, and say good-bye to friends.

It would be a harder transition for Brigitte as she was more attached to her friends than Justin had been. Nevertheless, she trusted her husbandís judgment and went along with what he felt would be in their best interest for their future. Besides, she had been separated two years too many from her son and could hardly bear the thought of leaving him behind once again.

So Justin and Brigitte decided to make the move. But before leaving Patmos, they wanted to secure a piece of land so that they could build a proper home in which they could comfortably live out their remaining years.

One afternoon Justin showed Brigitte the various properties available. They agreed on a lot that sloped up one of the hillsides and overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. Here they felt that they would be sufficiently removed from the day-to-day work of those in the vineyards and the hustle and bustle of those in the town. This, they determined, would be a place that they could relax, have visitors, and enjoy life in general.

On the first day that Flavius and Justin had talked, Flavius had told Justin about Stacius, a volunteer harbormaster who kept track of ship arrivals and departures. Stacius had moved from Rome to Patmos many years ago and opened a shop that imported tools for those working in the vineyards and the gear used by fishermen. His shop was not far from the shipsí landing.

Each day Justin would walk down to Staciusí shop to see if a ship was departing in the direction of Spain. A week had passed when Stacius greeted Justin with the news that a ship had just arrived that was scheduled to leave in two days for Rome and Spain.

Justin booked passage. On the day to leave, Justin and Brigitte arrived early at the landing with Malchus, who gave them a final reminder to find Rachel and Ruth on the way back. With a smile, Brigitte said, "How could we possibly forget?" Before the small boat left the ship to pick up passengers, Flavius and Claire arrived to wish their new friends a safe journey.

After watching the ship that carried his parents disappear over the horizon, Malchus returned to his work as overseer of the vineyards. It wasnít quite the same as when his parents were there. Now his house seemed too quiet when he returned from the vineyards. Soon he found that his working days were getting even longer as he worked from sunup to sundown. He was glad to have his work, because then he didnít have so much time to think about whether or not his parents would be able to locate Rachel and whether or not she was already betrothed or married to another.

In the midst of trying to live with all of the unknowns, Malchus found himself in the vineyards praying almost continually to Rachelís God, Jehovah. He wanted so much for everything to work out the way that he had hoped in his heart, and even though he didnít know her God, he thought that possibly her God would hear his desperate cry.

After two months had passed, Malchus began to take a daily walk down to Staciusí shop to see what ships had arrived that day. Day after day, there was no ship from Caesarea to be found. How much longer would he have to wait? As far as Malchus was concerned, this period in his life was as close as he wanted to come to experiencing eternity on earth. Two more weeks had now passed, and, with the coming of fall, the nights had grown as long as the days.

At noon the next day as Malchus walked into Staciusí shop, he could see a smile on Staciusí face as he said, "A captain of a ship that just arrived from Cyprus said that a ship had arrived in Cyprus from Caesarea the day before he left Cyprus for Patmos. This ship was also headed for Patmos and was to leave a couple of days later."

From the top of the hills in the vineyard, Malchus could look out over the sea to the east. As he directed the efforts of the workers attending the grapes, he kept looking over his shoulder at the blue-gray water hoping to spot a white sail.

On the third day, soon after the morning work began, Malchus could see a speck of white on the horizon. After quickly harnessing his donkey to the cart, Malchus leaped into his cart and hurried to the governorís house to tell Flavius and Claire, "I am going to the landing to see if the ship on the horizon is the one for which I have been patiently waiting."

With a warm smile, Claire asked, "Patiently?"

But Malchus was already running down the steps. At the landing he found Stacius gazing intently at the top of the sails, as they grew larger and larger. The weeks of watchful waiting had given Stacius and Malchus a chance to become good friends. Stacius said, "For all of our sakes, I hope this one is carrying your loved ones."

As the two men stood together, the ship slowly glided across the waters, getting bigger and more distinguishable as it moved away from the horizon. Soon, Malchus could see the masts. Stacius seemed certain that this one was indeed from Palestine, but Malchus wouldnít allow himself to be hopeful until he knew for sure that his father and mother were on board. It was difficult to squelch his most fervent hope that Rachel would be accompanying them.

As the ship approached the anchoring area, Malchus could make out four people waving from the forecastle, so he waved wildly back. Soon a small boat was lowered. Malchus could see that his parents and Rachel and Ruth were among the first passengers to disembark. Seeing Rachel was enough for Malchus to throw all caution to the wind as he tore off his cloak and sandals, leaving only his tunic and loincloth, and dove straight into the water.

Malchus, with heart pounding, swam swiftly toward the incoming boat. As he neared the side of the boat, he called out, "Rachel!"

"Malchus," she said as she flung her arms around his neck nearly tipping over the boat. The seaman who was rowing smiled and motioned to Malchus to come on board.

The boat tilted again as Malchus pulled himself up over the side. "Son," his father said as he reached out to help him into the boat, "we are so glad to see you."

"And I to see you," replied Malchus as he kissed his mother on both cheeks. "It has seemed so long since you left. For weeks I have come to the landing looking for your return, but not until today have I been rewarded. And what a reward!" he exclaimed as he took both of Rachelís hands in his.

Rachel, in her usual teasing way, said, "Why, Malchus, were you afraid that I may have married?"

Malchus, knowing how close she was to the truth, felt his face flush with warmth and reached into the water, cupping his hand in such a way that he could splash some water on her.

"All right, you two," Justin said, "is that any way to greet a long lost friend?"

Both Malchus and Rachel began to laugh. It felt so good to be together. "Hopefully," Malchus thought to himself, "we will never have to be separated again."

Malchus hadnít noticed Ruth sitting quietly in the back of the boat, beside a Jewish man. When Malchus saw her, he moved to Ruthís side and kissed both her cheeks, just as he had his motherís. Ruth said, "Malchus, this is Rachelís Uncle Seth."

As Malchus looked into the face of Seth, he could see a friendly smile surrounded by a neatly trimmed beard. Seth took Malchusí right hand in his and covered it with his left hand and said, "Shalom." Malchus greeted Seth with "Shalom" before turning to Ruth to say, "Thanks for coming. I have missed you almost as much as your daughter. You helped me have a wonderful two years, and I didnít even get to say good-bye. Thanks for taking good care of your little girl."

Rachel piped up, "A little girl? Why, Iím a woman now and have had at least one offer of marriage."

The seamen, who had rowed steadily while enjoying the banter between the young couple, pulled alongside the landing. Justin took the elbow, first of Ruth, then of Brigitte, to help them onto the wooden landing. Malchus bent down from the landing and took Rachelís hand. As she stepped out of the boat, he said, "Welcome to Patmos."

The seamen offloaded two large chests that Justin and Brigitte had brought from Spain and leather tote bags in which Ruth, Rachel, and Seth carried their possessions. Justin and Malchus loaded the cargo on the cart behind the donkey. Justin suggested that Malchus and Rachel ride the loaded cart while the other travelers walk to adjust their sea legs to the land. As soon as they were down the path a short distance, Malchus held the reins in his right hand and took Rachelís hand in his left. As Malchus watched the path and the donkey, Rachel squeezed his hand with both of hers and stared quietly at this face that had so filled her mind for the past two years.

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