I was awoken early by loud voices outside. My fears of being robbed, or worse, by hostile Samaritans returned, and I huddled up in my blanket. One of the voices sounded vaguely familiar, but it had a harsh Samaritan accent and couldn’t be anyone I knew.
“Hey, Mary! You up there? Are you all right hon?”
Hon??? I quickly recognised the voice as coming from my good friend Cyrus, which was an enormous and very welcome surprise, but he had never spoken to me in such a familiar way before. I quickly ran my fingers through my hair to make sure I didn’t look a complete mess, and struggled to the small opening in the wall of my room that overlooked the courtyard. He saw me straight away and beamed his biggest smile. I couldn’t help grinning back like a twenty-years-younger version of myself.
“Get yourself ready and have something to eat, then come and find me outside,” he said. “You’re travelling with me today. And if you’ve any complaints about the service round here, let me know and I’ll deal with it.”
He winked at the landlord as he said this and punched him manfully on the shoulder. I felt completely relaxed and safe again, as well as strangely elated at being tracked down by my good friend and business partner in this strange land.
Tom was just finishing breakfast when I got down. He had already met Cyrus and was headed back to Nazareth with my donkey in tow, which he said he would take care of till I next passed their way. He hadn’t particularly wanted to follow Jesus to Jerusalem and was pleased to be able to return to Hannah so soon. He went to pay our bills but discovered that Cyrus had settled up already.
When I went outside with my small bag I was greeted by Cyrus standing by the side of the smart new camel he had acquired just prior to leaving Magdala. He helped me up into the grand-looking seat which had been moved towards the back of the hump, then clambered up and sat on a blanket in front of me. I was about to ask if he was all right sitting there when he shouted ‘hold tight’ to me and ‘yallah’ to the camel, whereupon we took off at great speed. I have never experienced a faster or smoother mode of transport. It was breathtaking. We passed the time catching up on events.
Cyrus turned out to be a brother of the innkeeper, who had worked out who we were and had sent word to the town of Shiloh where Cyrus lived. We went through Shiloh on our journey and saw his house, but didn’t stop at all. Cyrus said he had been planning to travel up to Magdala very soon, having allowed a few days for everyone to get over the world not having ended, to help get my farm and the surrounding land back into order and encourage the followers to give up and go home. Our arrival near his home had been a complete surprise, but he was excited by the prospect of an unplanned trip and being able to see me and Jesus.
We soon arrived in Bethany, a village just outside Jerusalem where Lazarus and his family had lived before they moved to Galilee. While his younger sister Martha had moved north with him and the family, his older sister Mary had stayed behind to get married, and I had only met her once before, at our wedding. Cyrus was fine about stopping to drop in on her, but became embarrassed and impatient when I started asking locals for directions, even though we had no address or map. When we found the house, Mary was outside, dressed in black.
Cyrus helped me down and, after I had reminded her who I was, Mary and I kissed in greeting. Then she invited us indoors to get out of the sun and invited us to have dinner and stay the night. Cyrus wanted to find an inn so he could leave us to talk alone, or more likely so he could drink and share stories with other men, but Mary said she had a spare room he could use and insisted he stayed.
We chatted for hours but the main news was that her husband had died a few weeks ago from a heart attack while working outside. She had the house and some savings so she wouldn’t become destitute, but it had still been a huge shock. I felt guilty that I hadn’t gone to the funeral or been around to help her, but Mary said it was her fault for not getting in touch. She’d had so much to do and Galilee was so far away that the funeral would have been over anyway before we received news of it. I promised I would let Martha and Lazarus know as soon as I got back.
The other news was that after not having seen any of us for years, she had met Jesus only an hour or so earlier. Our high speed camel had almost caught him up. Mary said Jesus seemed concerned about having missed the beginning of the Booths celebrations and wanted to get to Jerusalem before he missed any more, otherwise he would have stayed longer. He obviously wasn’t aware that I had followed him.
We ate outside where Mary had constructed an awning of greenery for the festivities. It wasn’t a full scale wooden booth with a roof of greenery that you could actually live in, like some people make, to commemorate the booths the Israelites built in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt, but it was a nice touch. When bed time came round, Cyrus said he would like to sleep outside under the awning, as it was a lovely cool night. Mary and I retreated indoors where we continued chatting until she fell asleep. I’m getting as bad as Tom, scratching away into the night with my quill, but some impulse is driving me to record what is happening in these eventful times, and I don’t suppose Tom will be bothering any more.