Berl and Fisch arrive at the the home of Motti and Breindl Rothstein, where they reunite with Hershel and Dovid’l. Kalonymous has been brought in as well, unwillingly, by Yehudah.
* * *
While Motti and Breindl were absorbing the sight of Kalonymous, Berl and Fisch received him wholeheartedly, without a thought of his drastic appearance. There was another round of hugging and crying, even louder than the first.
Yehudah, redeemed, stood off to the side with a lopsided grin on his face: half smirk and half genuine happiness, proud of his bold accomplishment. He had simply retraced his steps, asking around to find out who would be traveling to Yerushalayim, trading Sami four marbles in the shuk, and, upon finding Kalonymous, actually grabbing him and starting to run.
Sami led them back to the waiting wagon. Before Kalonymous could say a word they were already on the way. Kalonymous kept trying to jump out but Yehudah was steadfast and determined — and strong. The younger, weaker boy was simply no match for him. When they climbed out of the wagon, Kalonymous tried to run off to Zayit, when Yehudha got the better of him once again.
All was forgiven between the two boys, Kalonymous throwing Yehudah a look of begrudging gratitude as he basked in the warmth of his brothers. Breindl put out comfortable pillows for them all to rest against, and stepped back as the reunion continued long into the night. Fisch was so animated and happy that if anyone noticed his weakened condition, no one mentioned it. Berl casually took the lead, but both of them listened avidly as the boys filled them in on all their adventures.
It was Hershel who finally piped up with the unasked question. “We thought you were dead! We saw you laying down on the ground, remember? How did you get up?”
“With much effort! It’s a long, long story. The most important thing is that you should be happy we are alive and well, dear Hersheleh! If it weren’t for you and your brothers, I’m not sure we would have bothered, but all we could see were your sweet little faces, urging us to keep moving.”
“We did that?” said Hershel. “But we weren’t even there!” Everyone laughed at Hershel’s sweet innocence as Breindl brought out cup after cup of steaming tea and plate after plate of sweet cakes, fruit, and nuts. The food was disappearing almost as quickly as she could serve it, but she would have kept going forever if only to keep the smiles on all of their faces.
She yearned to have a word with Kalonymous, but he was either too wrapped up in the joyous surprise or purposely avoiding her. She, Motti and Yehudah sat silently at the table, engrossed in the marvelous scene unfolding in front of them.
After a long while the guests grew drowsy, and soon they huddled together like a kindle of kittens and fell asleep — all except Kalonymous.
After assuring himself that everyone was asleep, he disentangled himself and went looking for Motti and Breindl. Finding them still sitting at the table, he sat down silently, waiting for them to address him.
Instead of scolding, he received another glass of tea from Breindl and a questioning glance from Motti. “It’s good to see you,” said Breindl. “We’ve missed you.”
“I know,” said Kalonymous. “I received Fetter Motti’s message.” He looked at Motti gratefully. “Thank you.”
“You could have told us what you wanted, Kalonymous. We would have given you whatever you needed. You didn’t have to run away,” said Breindl.
“But I didn’t know what I wanted until I ran away! I would have stayed at Fetter Emanuel’s but I got so scared there! Tanta Esther told me I couldn’t read in the library, and I didn’t know what else bad I would do. Once I started running I couldn’t stop. And then I met Chilik.”
“Chilik?” asked Motti.
“He’s the boy who found me and brought me back to his house. I live with them now. It’s not that I don’t like it here, or that I don’t miss my brothers, because I do. But Chilik’s family has what I didn’t even know I needed, and they are happy to give it to me. I feel good there, like it’s where I’m supposed to be.”
“I see,” said Breindl. She looked at Motti to see if he wanted to add anything, and he gestured for her to continue. “We’re very happy for you, and we will leave the future up to you. If you prefer to remain out of contact with us, we’ll have to accept that, but we would love to see you, Kalonymous, and so would Hershel and Dovid’l.”
“How did you find Berl and Fisch?” he asked. “Now that they are here I want to be with them. I want to be in both places at one time.”
“We don’t need to decide right now,” said Motti. “Enjoy your visit, and we’ll talk again when you’re ready. How does that sound?”
“Okay, I guess.” He got up and started walking toward the door.
“Where are you going?” asked Breindl.
“There’s something I need to do,” said Kalonymous. “I’ll be back soon.”
To be continued . . .