Yehuda arrives in Jerusalem and sets off on his own. He is hungry, so he trades a special marble that his father had given him for food in the shuk.
* * *
“What did you do?” Sayid’s father blistered with rage. “Why are you trading with the Yahoud?”
“Ow,” Sayid hollered. “That hurts!”
“It will hurt more if you don’t tell me what you are doing!”
Sayid managed to extricate his ear from his father’s pincer grasp, then reached down for the precious box. He opened it reverently and pulled out the recently acquired Flame. “See, Baba, he gave me this.”
Baba grabbed the box from Sayid and flung the marbles with all his strength around the area of the shuk, waving his arm so the marbles would fly all over.
Sayid watched, his mouth open, yet unable to say a word in protest. Then he scrambled under the counter and ran home to the safety of his mother.
Before arriving home, he encountered Yehuda once again, perched on a wall, pita in one hand and halvah in the other. Sayid had never seen a person eat so fast. He wasn’t angry at the Jew; Sayid understood that he had just been hungry. And he wasn’t worried about his marbles very much either — he spent every day at his stall, working together with the other vendors, and they had all seen him perusing and admiring the marbles in his special box. Sayid was almost certain that by the time he returned to the shuk early the next day, the marbles would be collected and stacked neatly as before.
Sayid sat down next to Yehuda and stared. “Why are you here?” he asked.
Yehuda made a sour face. “I’m looking for my brother,” he said, but was it honest to call Kalonymous his brother? What were they to each other, really?
“He is here in the Rova Yehudi?” asked Sayid.
Yehuda shrugged and continued chewing. “I don’t know where he is.”
Sayid was unfazed by Yehuda’s indifference. “What is his name?”
“Why are you nodding?” asked Yehuda. “Do you know where he is?”
“Of course! There is not much that happens here that we don’t know. Our eyes and ears are everywhere.”
“Take me to him,” said Yehuda.
Yehuda packed up the remaining food and followed Sayid through a dizzying maze of streets and alleyways. In moments, they stood in front of the Birenzweig courtyard. Sayid moved behind a tree and waited in the shade.
Unsure what to do, Yehuda sat down next to him, waiting for Kalonymous to appear. He wasn’t sure if Sayid was trustworthy, but he did seem to know exactly where to go. An hour went by and then another, and midway between the third hour of their wait two boys hurried out from the courtyard and dashed down the road.
Sayid tapped Yehuda on the elbow and pointed to the boys. “There,” he said.
All Yehuda saw were peyos and tzitzis and large yarmulkes. “That’s not Kalonymous!”
Sayid’s eyes grew round, but he nodded assertively. “It is him.”
Unsure whether to believe the stranger or his own eyes, he decided there was nothing to lose by approaching the strange-looking boy.
“Hey!” he called, gaining rapidly on them. He was large for his age, and fast, and as soon as Chilik saw him, he started to run away in fear.
When Kalonymous turned around and saw Yehuda chasing him he stopped running immediately. Chilik shouted at him to run, but Kalonymous simply stood, waiting for Yehuda to approach.
Yehuda moved in slowly, staring at Kalonymous and his altered appearance. “What are you doing here? Why are you dressed like that?”
“This is who I am now,” said Kalonymous.
“No, you are a Rothstein. You’re one of us,” said Yehuda, suddenly frightened.
“I was never one of you,” said Kalonymous, mildly, without bitterness. “I am very grateful to your parents for everything they did for me and my brothers, but it was not my place. I have found my place here.”
“Do you know how worried Ima is? Do you have any idea what you’ve done to our family?” Yehuda was shaking and tears were popping from his eyes like little sparks.
Kalonymous was about to respond, but held himself back. There was no point trying to explain himself, so he was surprised when Yehuda came over and held him by the shoulders. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I should have been sent away instead of you. Please, come back.”
Kalonymous smiled sadly and shook his head. “How are my brothers?”
“They miss you terribly,” said Yehuda.
“I’ll come back one day,” said Kalonymous. “You can tell them that.” Chilik was standing a few feet away. Kalonymous quickly caught up with them and the two boys walked away.
Sayid appeared then at Yehuda’s elbow, silent and watchful. “We should go,” he said.
Yehuda followed him in a daze, oblivious to the lefts and rights they were taking to exit the warren of pathways. When he would show up at his Uncle Emanuel’s house, he would be taken to task for not remembering where the house was.
To be continued . . .