Miri opened her eyes. A shaft of sunlight illuminated their bower. A small bat crawled across the rock ceiling above her head.
Yeshua was already awake.
“Good morning,” he whispered, “How did you sleep?”
Though they still lay together, Miri realized they were both dressed.
“Did we?” she began, then stopped. She remembered making love to him, but she had sworn they had lain naked together. She sat up as Yehsuah arose, and ran her fingers over her dress. Everything was in its place.
Yeshua smiled, “To think is to do. The mind is a slave to the heart, and the heart to the Soul. What do you think?”
He extended a hand to her. She took it and he pulled her to her feet.
“I could have sworn-“
He kissed her cheek. And led her into the light.
Outside the cave, Ishtar’s twinkling welcomed the dawn sky flavoured pink and gold by the creeping approach of the face of her brother Shemmesh.
“I forgot my basket!” cried Miri.
“I'll get it!” In the blink of an eye, Yeshua disappeared into the cave to retrieve the basket they had carried to give to Eli. She wondered how her brother had fared in the storm. As if in answer, she heard Eli calling her name. He appeared above her on the mountain, a small lamb on his shoulders.
“You are up early!” he cried as he scrambled down the craggy slope.
“We were caught in the storm last night.” replied Miri as Eli came closer. “We were bringing you your supper.”
“We?” asked Eli, “Who else came with you?”
Yeshua slipped form the cleft in the rock. “I have it!” he declared, and stopped as he caught sight of young Eli. “Hello, we seemed to have missed you! Are you hungry?”
“I would not say no to anything you have to offer,” replied Eli. “How did you spend the night?” Eli asked Yeshua but he was pointedly focusing his question on Miri, who just as pointedly stared away at the hills across the valley.
“Very well, Eleazar,” replied Yeshua, “And you?”
“Cold and wet,” replied Eli, “and Israel here was not good company.”
“This wayward lamb. She earned her nickname last night. No matter how kindly I act towards her, she cannot stay true to me.”
Yeshua petted the lamb around Eli's shoulder. Her wool was still a little damp.
“You had no shelter,” he said.
“I had my back to the wind, my face to the mountain and my heart in the hands of God.”
“Let's eat,” said Miri and sat upon a large flat rock. She opened the basket and stared into it. A large round loaf of bread. She handed it to Eli, who immediately became occupied with keeping Israel from nibbling the loaf. Yeshua laughed and took the lamb from Eli. Miri reached into the basket and produced enough for all four to share a good breakfast. A fine wrapped piece of mutton, a full wineskin, a linen-wrapped cheese and yogurt in a sealed jar. Israel seemed to like Yeshua and settled into his lap. They sat cross-legged on the rock outcrop and enjoyed the food and the freshness of the morning air.
“This is one of the best breakfasts I have ever eaten,” declared Yeshua, though he had not drunk the wine. “ I cannot imagine a better moment!”
Eli made no comment, but now that Yeshua had brought the feeling into the open, Eli suddenly melted into a complete contentment. “No king could ever dine in such a wonderful place.”
“My father was a shepherd,” he said suddenly.
Miri glanced at her brother in surprise. Eli rarely mentioned David.
Eli caught her look. “I can’t help but think of him up here. Martha won't speak of him. She says it was a long time ago, and there is enough to keep busy without moping over the past. Sister Miriam speaks as if he was a Rabbi, but then everything she says relates to the sacred scrolls.”
He sighed. “I wish I could have known him longer.”
“He is within you, Eli,” replied Miri quietly. “You carry everything he was within your heart. It is he who touches you when he is brought to mind.”
Yeshua gestured at the valley below him. “I am certain up here is where your Father will make himself known. His love of this place is your love, there is a psalm, I am sure you know it, and you should sing it when he inspires you. Say it to your father, and he will hear you.”
Yeshua recited the psalm for the young lad.
“Lord, thou art my Shepherd, I shall not want,
You lay with me in green pastures, and lead me to still waters.
Yeah, though I walk through the Valley of Death,
I shall fear no evil
For you are with me.
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
In the presence of those who would harm me.
You anoint my head with fragrant oils.
My cup runneth over.
Shall follow me all the days of my Life,
And I shall dwell in thy House forever.”
Eli paused for a moment to contemplate the Psalm. “I had not thought to speak to my father like that. But that was written for God.”
“The part of your father David you love so much is that part that touches God where you touch God. God lives within your heart, and it is his presence there that allows you to recognize him without. You can pray to your father as you pray to God. Neither will be offended.”
“You'd find argument there from the priests in Yerushalayim,”
Yeshua smiled. “No doubt, but that is their job,” He stood up. “We should go, my family will wonder what has happened to me.”
“And ours no doubt,” replied Miri.
The memory of lovemaking passed between Miri and Yeshua, though it now seemed to be a dream. Eli caught the brief glance between them, and his look told them he had seen it. As the three of them made their way back down the mountain, Eli grasped Miri’s hand.
“I can say we three all slept together last night,” he offered, “You know what the girls are like.”
“Thank you, Eli,” replied Miri, “but that is not necessary. I am more than capable of defending my own honour. I would not have you lie.”
She ruffled his hair.
“I will not mention it again,” he said. “But if I am asked, I shall lie for it will be for the best!”
The camp was up and busy when they arrived. Rebecca and Martha were tending the oven in the c, and Yusef was chipping away at some stone to shape it to fit into a breach in the wall that held the flock in their place. Judith was splitting wood to fit the campfire. Neighbours were pausing to chat and inspect the new guests. The entire courtyard buzzed as though a festival were approaching.
Just as Miri, Yeshua and Eli entered the campground, Yohanna returned from doing the laundry. “So, how was your night?” she asked Miri, “You slept well?”
“Very well,” replied Miri, and the emphasis she placed on the word “very” told Yohanna the answer to the question she had really been asking. She looked at Eli.
“And you young man?”
“Very, very, well,” Eli emphasized the first “very” as strongly as Miri had, and emphasized the second even more to counteract the effect of Miri's use of the word. Yohanna frowned and then stared at Yeshua.
He smiled but betrayed nothing but innocent affection.
Yohanna frowned at Miri, shook her head, and carried the laundry under the porch to sort it.
“I'll give you a hand,” Miri said brightly,