I love reading and writing. I came to writing late in life and discovered a world where I feel like a fish in the water.
The Meeting Day
The next day, Maren and Simon left the hotel after breakfast. They made sure people at the reception knew they were going to spend the day sight-seeing.
As dinner time came, they went back to the hotel to shower and change their clothes.
Simon tried to discourage Maren from going with him. “Maren, this could be seriously dangerous. I will go alone to our ten o’clock appointment with the stranger and will update you after I come back. Wait for me in our suite and do not open the door to anyone other than to me.”
“Out of the question,” replied Maren. “We‘re stronger as a team and we‘re in this together. As long as we‘re in Turkey, we‘ll stay together as much as possible and protect each other.”
Her determined tone surprised Simon. He looked at her in a way that spoke volumes of wanting to take her into his arms. Over the past several weeks, he had come to appreciate her as a person and as an assistant. But he knew he had to keep boundaries in their relationship.
From the first time he met her, he was impressed by her intellect and her keen sense of observation. He had come to admire her and even care for her. Since Elie was arrested for theft from the parish treasury, he had been in daily contact with her to update each other on their research and findings.
His integrity and the oath he swore as a priest to live a celibate life stopped him from acting on his feelings, but it was becoming quite challenging to deny the attraction he felt for her.
He decided that once their trip was over and their mission completed, he would go on a spiritual retreat and discuss with his spiritual director the attraction he felt for her.
“Ok but promise me that you’ll be extra careful. Your safety is important, and we do not want to risk anything happening to you,” said Simon.
“Do not worry; nothing bad will happen to me. Once this is over, we will celebrate.”
“Maren, once we bring this mission to completion, I will be leaving the parish. I am going on another assignment.” Simon said.
She lowered her head and pressed her lips tight as she felt a pang of disappointment overcome her. The fact that she might never see him again after their trip was over made her heart ache.
“Let’s do this as a team and finish fast then.” She hid her ache and was even more determined to help him. By bringing this mission to a successful completion, she would show him how deeply she cared for him. At that moment, helping him was more important to her than helping a community get back an ancient artifact that testified to their long history in their land.
At nine o’clock in the evening, they went for a drink at a restaurant located near the columns. They tried their best to look like a couple enjoying drinks on a beautiful spring evening. They then went for a walk to kill time until their appointment.
A few minutes before ten o’clock, Simon and Maren stood near the third column pretending to read a brochure about the lieu and admiring the view. The view was in fact gorgeous.
A man approached them and said in a whisper, “The man who spoke to you yesterday by the water fountain sent me. You must follow me. I will take you to the location where Evran is waiting for you.”
“Describe Evran for us,” said Simon. Fearing a trap, he wanted to make sure that they were thinking of the same man. Upon hearing an exact description of the physical appearance of Evran, the man they met a day earlier, Simon was confident enough to follow him.
The three of them walked to one of the inns in the village. The stranger seated them at a table in the corner and left them to talk to the woman at reception. A few minutes later, Evran came out from one of the rooms, and walked to their table.
He greeted them with a smile, sat at one of the chairs left vacant, and said in a whisper, “I have the item you’re looking for. I’ve been informed of your visit and was told to have it ready for you so you can return it where it belongs. My family has guarded this treasure for an awfully long time, and I am relieved to hand it over to you. The sacred mission that I inherited from my family has been completed.”
He continued, “I will take you now to the European borders where a car is waiting for you. You will have to trek a few miles on foot from Turkey's borders to Greece. The driver will be with you all the way. You can trust him. He has been instructed to make sure that you arrive safely in Europe. Once in Europe, you can fly back to the Americas.”
Maren teared up at his loyalty and devotion. “Simon has to travel to Lebanon first to hand deliver the package to the Patriarch.”
In a voice choked with emotion, Simon said, “The Maronite community in Lebanon and the diaspora appreciate your family’s dedicated efforts in safeguarding this treasure until it can be returned to its rightful owners. On behalf of the Patriarch, I present you with this ecclesiastical decoration in gratitude to you and to your family for your faithfulness to our faith and our community.”
He took a small box from his pocket and handed it to Evran who opened it with reverence. He swiftly closed it without saying a word and placed it with care in the pocket of his jacket. In turn, he took a package that made a small bulge inside his jacket and gave it to Simon.
Evran and Maren stood around Simon as he opened the package. They stood in a way to protect him from curious eyes. He opened the top of the package to peek inside.
An old copy of the Peshitta, the standard version of the Syriac Bible used by the Maronite Church of older times, was protectively placed in an upright position. This protective measure was meant to avoid having the pages pull away from the binding as the cover was slightly larger than the pages.
Simon gently pushed two pages with his fingers to steal a look. He saw an illustration of the Peshitta text of Exodus 13:14–16 known to be produced in Amida in the year 464[i]. He took a few deep breaths to calm his excitement.
The Peshitta had from the fifth century onward a wide circulation in the East and was honored by a variety of sects of Syriac Christianity. The famed Nestorian tablet of Chang'an attested to the presence of the Syriac scriptures in the heart of China in the eighth century[ii].
“My ancestors made sure to protect this copy of our bible over the years. Down the generations, the eldest male in my family was responsible for protecting it until we could give it back to our church,” said Evran.
Maren looked with wonder at an object that survived the passage of time thanks to the loyalty and devotion of one family. God knows what sacrifices he and his family have had to make to protect an ancient manuscript and keep it a secret.
She promised herself, one day, I will be back and will talk to Evran about the history of his family. She wanted to hear of their efforts in safeguarding this valuable item.
- Short Fiction: The Standard Version (3 of 5)
Work of fiction. Two sisters assisting in the search for an old manuscript.
- Short Fiction: The Standard Version (5 of 5)
A work of fiction. Two sisters helping a community locate an ancient manuscript. Did Maren unite with her soul mate?
© 2020 Liliane Najm