Kalonymous cries out in shock the first time he sees Zayit, a family friend of the Rothstein’s. The farmer vividly resembles the peasant farmer who saved him and his brothers the day they hid in the shack.
* * *
Zayit saw the boy’s face when he looked up to see who was coming. His stunned expression and startled cry caused Zayit to stop and wait until the boy had calmed down.
“Yannick?” said Kalonymous, knowing it couldn’t be him, but saying the name anyway.
“No. I am Zayit, the neighbor.” He pointed in the direction of his house and held out his hand for Kalonymous to shake. The boy backed away.
Zayit pulled a large orange, ripe to bursting, out of his pocket, wrapped in a clean handkerchief, and held it out for Kalonymous to take. Kalonymous drew close, unable to contain his curiosity. He had never seen the fruit before, and he grabbed it rudely from Zayit’s hand.
He started to bite into it, unaware that it needed to be peeled first, and when Zayit reached out to take it, to show him how it was eaten, he swatted his hand away and pulled the orange close to his chest. Zayit understood then what Motti had been telling him. This boy was so skittish it made the progress that the Rothsteins had made that much more commendable.
Breindl had taken the children out for a walk to the grocers. Kalonymous had refused to go along and she’d reluctantly left him behind, and now he deeply regretted it. He felt trapped, feeling the warmth emanating from Zayit, but unable to trust his feelings.
Zayit waited patiently as the boy considered his options. His heart went out to Kalonymous. He’d seen boys like this wandering around the countryside after the pogrom in Chevron in 1929, their eyes flat and bewildered. He’d tried to take them in but was warned off by the British soldiers, who rounded them up and deposited them in orphanages around the country.
“Do you want to eat it?” asked Zayit. “I will peel it for you.” He held out his hand again, his movements slow and gentle, until the boy deposited the orange into Zayit’s waiting hand. Zayit quickly peeled the orange and divided it into sections, handing Kalonymous a small piece.
Kalonymous took it quickly and put it into his mouth. Zayit wondered if he had even tasted it, then got the answer from the expression on the boy’s face. The flavor had exploded in Kalonymous’s mouth in a delayed reaction, and he threw his head back in surprise. He couldn’t hide the gleam of pleasure from Zayit, who gave him the rest of the sections. Instead of eating them one by one, Kalonymous stuffed the whole handful into his mouth, and was surprised again when juice poured down his chin.
He looked at Zayit and stuck out his hand for another orange, and Zayit turned his pockets inside out to show Kalonymous he didn’t have any more. He considered bringing Kalonymous over to the orchard but decided to take it slowly. There would be time, and he didn’t want to scare him away.
He patted Kalonymous lightly on the shoulder and turned to go. As he was walking away, he heard light footsteps traipsing along behind him. He said nothing and continued on, wondering how far he would be followed. It wasn’t for long, but Zayit was satisfied nonetheless. He’d broken the ice. Now he would have to wait for it to thaw.
* * *
After he brought them the tea, Yannick returned with a few small rolls and a plate of pale cheese, cut into thin slices. It looked nothing like the cheese they had at home, purchased directly from a dairy farm. It came in a round block which their mother would cut into small squares, doling out the pieces as if they were gold nuggets.
Yannick noticed the expression on Kalonymous’s face and made a click sound of disapproval, picking up the plate of cheese and turning to bring it back into the kitchen. Kalonymous shouted after him then to bring it back. Yannick lifted the plate high above Kalonymous’s head, looking down at him from a great height.
“I’m sorry,” said Kalonymous. He knew Yannick wouldn’t understand, but luckily for him, actions spoke louder than words. Kalonymous first made little sandwiches for his brothers and got up to bring them over, but Yannick shook his head and tapped his finger on the table. Kalonymous didn’t know what to do — defy Yannick or force his brothers to sit at the table. Hershel sensed his dilemma and pulled Dovid’l up by his elbow, shuffling them both over to the table. Kalonymous arranged the chairs for them, and when they were seated, he put the bread and cheese down in front of them. Yannick nodded with satisfaction as the boys dived into the food, Kalonymous glowering at him between bites.
They finished all the food but still hungered for more. They sat in silence at the table while Yannick looked them over. Kalonymous could not yet tell if Yannick was a friend or an enemy. The only enemy Kalonymous had ever seen was the traitor Franz. Kalonymous tried to recall the look in his eyes to see if it matched Yannick’s, but he could not remember it at all.
Yannick stood up finally, leaving them there at the table as he retreated once again to the back room. The hot tea and the strange but filling meal had made them drowsy, and despite his worry over Yannick’s intentions, he couldn’t fight the clouds of fatigue enveloping him in cottonwool. The three boys lay down together on one of the mattresses, covered themselves with all three blankets, and fell into a deep sleep.
To be continued . . .