Karima and Melchior arrive home

We said good bye at a caravanserai. We how had become so deeply friends parted knowing we would never meet again.  It was strange, that. But we knew that travelling alone we would attract less attention. Each of us had had troubling dreams. Yet I went on with a light heart. The whole journey had changed me – seeing the Child, and the words of the Mother about my rightness … the Mother of such a Child must hold great wisdom. Her Greek was not that good,  but her words about rightness that been very clear to me.

I arrived home on the hired camel, tired, happy. I strode into the reception room, as the household gathered, and saw my lover at once. I grabbed him in my arms, for the first time kissing him in public, although he was an equal and a grown man. I would have no more shame and guilt. I heard the Mother’s voice in her stilted Greek again, and looking defiantly at the court saw only mild surprise. I realised that all I had done was to move a secret everybody knew, everybody spoke of and tittered over, into the open.

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What had changed? My husband, my lover from childhood, was still dead. The terrible loss was still there. Somewhere over the desert, I had made terms with the pain, and had travelled on with hope, that most painful of afflictions. Hope is something to be dashed, and although I had seen the child, I had come away knowing I could not do what I had longed to do, to share some of my learning with the Child.  The danger of the place, the language barrier, made all that impossible. I should have been even sadder, for I had lost my sense of purpose. Yet I was not. Irrationally, the journey back felt full of excitement. I felt as though there was a purpose, though it was hidden from me. When I got back to the palace, my daughter-in-law came at once to greet me, her little daughter clinging to her hand. I was still travel-stained, had been away for so long, especially to a child, yet the little one flew into my arms. I knew then that I would take all the time I could to teach her the best ways of life, and to do that, I would learn to live again.

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