“Mistress Bowson, how are you, your son, the Yazidi girl? Are you still content where you are staying? Have you been studying the books I lent you?”
“So many questions at once.”
He smiled again in apology.
“Yes, everything’s fine, and yes, I am studying as you asked. I still worry about my husband, and about Sam too now, but thank you for asking.”
“Good, good. One of my brothers here,” he gestured to one of the nearby monks, “will give you your stipend for this month; I hope it is fair recompense for your labours for the commune. He will also spend this afternoon with you explaining the protocols of such events as this embassy. We will keep your duties to a minimum, just those in the daytime so that you can return each evening to your son. You will mainly be attending the open meetings with the envoys, just listening to the discussions, being introduced to them, so you gain experience of their thinking, their attitudes, understand more about their approach to the Vatican. They are not as formal, dignified, as they sometimes strive to seem, but please wear those beautiful robes with which you graced us on the day of Our Lord’s Rising, they will be pleased. And, also, please bring the girl Narin on Saturday. I wish her to meet the Byzantines and Armenians, to raise the subject of her safe return to her people with them. If He himself can be troubled with the fate of a small sparrow, how can we not be by that of a young girl?”
“But Father, may I call you that? I’m not sure she wants to go, she may refuse until Sam returns. She has grown very attached to him, Martha fears for it, them both. Narin says all her family are dead, and she will only go if Sam takes her.”
“His Will is ineffable and shall prevail. If it be so, it must be, but even so she must see her homeland again for, if she stays here, in time she may grow to regret it. It might eat away at her and whatever happiness, a new life, she has built here. We will consider this. You say Martha worries what is between them now? But she is still a young girl, fearfully abused by men, what can she truly know of such things?”
“Father, I’m sorry, but you may not understand the mind of a girl becoming a young woman. That she is very determined you must know by the fact that she survived at all and she is learning English so she can talk to him. I and Martha believe she knows her mind and the more we oppose it the stronger it will grow. I know she is not of our faith…”
He was smiling again.
“I stand corrected in my ignorance and presumption of wisdom in such matters; thank you for correcting me so gently. As for the faith, if she stays how can she not believe when it is all around her? His Will is evident by our very presence, the existence of our allies. He has spared her for a reason, that is clear, fortified her; it is not for me, for any of us to doubt. Her people may be in error, but they are not the enemies of our faith; they have lived alongside Christians for over a millennia, intermarried on occasion, they are not of the darkness no matter how outlandish some of their beliefs. Do you know they undergo baptism? Perhaps that is enough; it is for Him to judge. If she wishes to return here after going home, I will bid her welcome, support her, as will the Brothers and Sisters. In the meantime, we must find young Samson, make him realise his sins can be forgiven. He should not think himself an exile; if there is any sin it is more on we who sent him, myself, for not seeing the risks we asked him to bear on our behalf.”
“Father, you amaze me sometimes.”
“Why my child? I listen, I observe, and then I consider, that is all; that takes no special wisdom? This land of ours, of His, sometimes it surprises me still, how new possibilities for joy emerge from two young refugees from different sides of the world thrown together in the most brutal circumstances. After all, even that troubled American girl seems to be finding happiness and peace with that young fisherman who dragged her out of a moorland stream in the middle of the night only a few days ago. It reanimates my old, dry heart sometimes, reminds me why we do what we do.”
“Thank you, Father.”
As she followed the hovering Brother away, she overheard her own sub-conscious, ‘Old dry heart, my eye. I feel entirely better just because of those few words of his. If there’s anyone here who will get Andy back for me, it’s him, not a shadow of a doubt.’
Out in the bay on his family’s small fishing smack Art lay back against the stern, one hand on the tiller, listening to the sound of the low swell lapping against the wooden hull, calm waters restoring his mind from the horrors of recent weeks. It was lovely out here, reminding him of his boyhood on the boats after school, hard lives, but somehow peaceful. Sometimes over recent weeks he had wondered silently why he’d volunteered to step into the darkness and dangers of working in the outside: had it just been a young man’s bravado? But now he knew why; those they had brought back, given a new home, that’s why Sam was still out there he was sure, still fighting against them, for the others who needed them. Well he would go back to help him when the time was right.
She was watching the huge young man, just easing back there, so at home on the water. Lena had never lived by the sea, London was just a land-locked metropolis to her, and she was still adjusting to the constant motion of the water. He didn’t use many words, but then, over the years on her own, she had lost all faith in them so it wasn’t much of an absence to be missed. She had come down to live in St Josephs with a younger couple, more at home for her than that old couple’s village and nearer to him. He had come around to see her, invited her to dinner with his family who lived in a warren of interconnected cottages on the shore. He had his own small annex almost, but ate with his parents and extended family. They had welcomed her, fitted her in somehow and not asked too many questions. He’d then offered her a trip on the boat around some of the islands the following day, and here she was.
This place was only just starting to sink in; it overturned all her assumptions, if even half what they had told her was true… Her old life was already starting to feel distant, as if belonging to someone else she had once known quite well.
Now she was getting used to the swell, she was relaxing, it was just so easy; he was so at home here. What to make of him? On pure impulse she came and sat on the stern bench beside him, his steady grey eyes were on her, no words, she was getting used to that now. She reached out and touched his curly blondish hair, he smiled, just looking at her, she smiled back, and that was it, if not before.
Later, as they sailed back to the shore, he went red and looked at her, “You’ll have to marry me now, you see?”
“I guess. Happy?”
His grin was answer enough. She was home.
She put the phone down from talking to her cousin; the usual questions about his health, state of mind, and yes, she would love to come around on Monday for supper if he were discharged. What was she so keen to tell him? Hesitation, revelation, shock, and then, as the handset touched the receiver, the third beast was howling with fury, foaming at the mouth, its prey identified, the hunt could begin.
“Sam, can you put the kettle on? We need to talk?”
Helena would tell him after the event; this was personal.
© 1642again 2018