The voice was Sheerah’s. But where was Elijah?
I’m going to build us a house right at the top, Milkah. And nobody will think we’re kids.”
The figure coming down the ridge showed no bobbing Adam’s apple. No gangling knees or elbows.
Milkah met Sheerah at the edge of the pasture. Sheerah’s shoulders drooped. She stared at her hands.
“Are you all right? Your mother? Your father? Nathan? Elijah?” Milkah forced herself to say the names at a normal pace. Why did Elijah’s name have to be so far down the list?
Sheerah sniffed and wiped at her nose. “Mother and Father are fine.” Sheerah choked. “But Elijah and Nathan…” She fell on Milkah’s shoulders and sobbed. “Oh, Milkah!”
Milkah stiffened and cuddled Sheerah.
Sheerah laid a bag into Milkah’s hands. “Mother sent figs.”
Milkah held her and stroked her arms. “Tell me, Sheerah, please.” She pushed her out at arm’s length. “Tell me what happened to the boys.” To Elijah.
Sheerah thrust back her shoulders and wiped at her face. She gulped and took a deep breath. “Elijah went to Fort Jezreel. We think Nathan followed him, and they haven’t come home.”
Milkah sat Sheerah on a rock and tugged pieces of the story from her. The failed rescue. Their mother’s sobs and their father’s blessing. The old goatskin.
After Sheerah finally pulled away and climbed the ridge, Milkah stood and whispered over the sheep, I love you, Elijah.
A week later, Milkah’s father came out to the pasture.
[Flesh this out. Something like: Milkah lifted herself from tending the fire when she spotted her father crossing the pasture. His robe blew in the warm breeze that brought flies. She slapped at one on her arm.]
“The captain of the king’s bodyguard is looking for Elijah.”
“I was selling five sheep to the Jabesh butcher, and he was about to agree to my price when the captain came in. He wanted to talk to a tall farm boy from these parts. Said the boy had a big nose and elbows and knees that stick out like this.”
Her father spread his elbows. “Said his Adams apple bounced way up and he wore a beat-up old goatskin.”
Milkah’s knees threatened to buckle. She backed up to a rock and sat down. “Wha…?” The ridge swayed, and she steadied her head with both hands.
I want kids…so many we can’t count them. We’ll have to start our own village.
Her father sat beside her. “Nobody seemed to know who the captain wanted, so he left. But on my way out of town I passed little knots of people talking about the goatskin boy. That’s what they called him. They said he was getting up an army to overthrow our king – everybody was careful to say ‘our king.’”
He put his arm around her. “Cry, my child. It’s okay. That boy talks crazy about a house on a ridge, but he’s a good boy.”
She put her face on his shoulder and wept. “Lijah. Lijah. Please come home.”
“No, dear. Not if you want him to live a while.” He pulled her close. “Ask the Lord to send him far away.”