Her father raised his head over a partition. “Milkah?” In one firm stride, he stood facing them in the aisle. “Who’s that with you?”
Tishbe, Gilead, Israel, 871? BC [New born lamb noises? Ewe noises? Songbird in pasture?]]
1 Kings 17:1?
Elijah stretched his hands out wide then released. ‘Who’s that standing by this beautiful woman? Nobody. Just a boy who used to visit but disappeared in some far off place he doesn’t want to talk about. He came to ask for your daughter in marriage, but he’ll go home now.’
Elijah pinched his lips together. Why had he left Nathan and his stick fighting story in the pasture?
“It’s my Lijah, Daddy.” Milkah retrieved his hand and entwined her fingers in his. “He’s come home to me.”
Elijah edged forward and lifted his chin. “It…it’s me, sir. I’ve—”
Milkah’s father shut the door to the lambing stall and strode up to them. With one hand he touched Milkah’s elbow and with the other he seized Elijah’s bicep. He led him out the door, turned him to face the morning sun, and pinned both arms in a grip of steel. [sky? Birdsong? Breeze? ]
Milkah followed and stood close, her gaze moving from Elijah to her father and back again.
Elijah opened his mouth. “Sir—”
The pain in his wings closed his mouth. His shoulders sagged. Why was this fierce man holding him prisoner? Was he going to pound his head in for deserting his daughter?
Milkah’s father held Elijah at arm’s length and inspected his face. “You’ve been gone a long time.”
“Yes, I—” Elijah flinched from the pressure on his arms.
Her father’s brow furrowed. “My daughter wept her eyes out.”
Did he hope Elijah brought a sack of silver to pay for Milkah’s tears? Elijah took a quick breath. “I have no—”
Her father tightened his grip and scowled. “Men from Jabesh. From villages. She’s made me turn them all away.” He flexed his jaw muscles. “Said you’d come back.”
Elijah bowed his head. He had been such a fool to leave. And a perfect blithering idiot to go without a word. But he had returned like he knew he would. “I’m back, sir. Back to stay. And I’ve come—”
Milkah’s father released him. “I understand, son. You’re like Abraham’s servant. ‘Tell me yes or tell me no, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.’”i
Elijah’s jaw dropped open. The executioner was resting his bloody ax head on the ground and waving him away from the block. “Not your turn yet.”
Her father inhaled sharply. His scowl melted, and his lips parted. A tear rested at the edge of one eyelid. He faced Milkah and touched his finger under her chin. “My daughter, I borrow the words of our ancestor Laban, ‘Wilt thou go with this man?’”ii
She replied with Rebecca’s ancient phrase. “I will go.” Milkah leaned into Elijah and grinned up at his quivering face. “Yes, Father, I will go with this man.”
Milkah’s father patted Elijah’s cheeks. “Stand straight, son. I’ll expect you back here before the sun is high, with three donkeys to carry my daughter’s belongings.”
“Oh, Daddy. I haven’t got that many things.”
“Your mother has boxes full, child. Every week she tucks in another plate or cup. A rug, a robe. ‘For Milkah and Elijah.’ Our grandchildren will not lack for clothing.”
Elijah hesitated. “Sir, you mean—”
Milkah’s father turned Elijah toward the open pasture. “I mean close your mouth and go, son. The Lord bless you, and don’t get lost on the ridge. Three donkeys. The sun is climbing, my boy.”
Milkah took the brick of figs from Elijah and plopped them into her father’s hands. “From Elijah’s mother.” She clung to Elijah’s arm and marched him into the pasture. “I’m going with you.”
Walking in silence with Milkah beside him, Elijah set off for the ridge but glanced back.
The hands of steel were waving. Milkah’s father was smiling.
Elijah laid his hand on Milkah’s, tipped his head back for a moment and closed his eyes. The Lord had given his errands to Elisha. Mother and Dad were home and well. Sheerah and Rocky had beautiful little girls. Bernice had married a local boy. Milkah had welcomed Elijah back into her arms. Her father had blessed him and was talking about ‘our grandchildren.’ “Thank you, Lord.”
“Great is the Lord.” Milkah murmured.
“And greatly to be praised.”
Nathan waved, left Milkah’s cousins at the boulder, and jogged toward Elijah and Milkah across the pasture. [movement of the flock? Sheep chewing on grass? Sheep bleating?]
Elijah’s stride faltered. It was time for Nathan to go back to Neetz.
“Contented faces and no figs.” Nathan grinned. “You didn’t need the Great Kofi?”
Elijah forced a smile then looked down. [Sky? hawk or kite sailing? ]
Milkah squeezed his arm. “Come help us, Nathan. We’re going for donkeys to bring my things.” She glanced up. “What’s wrong, Lijah?”
i Genesis 24:49