Several weeks after Helki left, Tumu and Rebekah, along with eight-year old Noah, and 19-year old Gabriele, Nara’s younger sister, arrived to visit Thomas and his parents. They had been corresponding since Nara’s death, but had not yet visited in person.
It had been almost a year since Nara’s passing and Thomas continued to feel grief-stricken. He did have many good days, but more than not, days were filled with debilitating depression and anguish to the point where he struggled to arise from bed in the mornings and work in his wood shop. Usually, once he arrived at his wood shop, he lost himself in his work. He genuinely loved carving hardwoods and using his hands to create exquisite works of art. He received many commissions for his carvings and thoroughly enjoyed the creative challenge each commission provided. However, at the end of many of his days, after Thomas left the wood shop, the depression set back in. To see Tumu, Rebekah, Gabriele, and especially Noah was a bright spot in Thomas’s day.
Rebekah was eager to see the exquisite painting given to Thomas by the prophet Sam. As she gazed up it, tears flooded her eyes. She saw her daughter in the little girl that was lovingly surrounded by angels. Tumu put his strong arms around her to love and comfort her as tears also came to his eyes. As soon as Noah saw the painting, he jumped up and down excitedly pointing to the girl and said Nara! He told his parents and Thomas that was Nara in the painting and Nara was standing with them and smiling at them at that very moment. Thomas, wanting to pick Noah up, but knowing that he was now too big, knelt down in front of him and informed him that the girl in the painting was the little sister of the prophet Sam. Noah, knowing the story of the painting, informed Thomas that he knew that, but the girl looked very much like Nara to which Thomas readily agreed.
Thomas asked Noah how he knew that Nara was there. Noah responded as if everyone could see her, and asked Thomas why he did not see her. Tumu explained that Noah was blessed with a gift to see spirits and angels. It was such a common occurrence for Noah to see angels that he easily forgot that most others did not see them. His explanation pricked Thomas’s heart that he could not see he his beloved Nara like Noah did, but was equally touched at the sincerity and love from the young boy.
Tumu then suggested that Gabriele take Noah outside to care for the animals. Noah loved Nara’s animals so he willingly ran outside with Gabriele hurrying to catch up.
Tumu and Rebekah asked Thomas to sit down as they had an important matter that they wanted to discuss with him. They reminded Thomas of their love for him and that he would always be a son to them. They also told him that they wanted him to be happy and have someone to love. They encouraged him to move on with his life and consider marrying again. Thomas hesitantly told them that deep down, he knew he needed to move on, but he still deeply missed Nara and found it hard to accept the possibility that there could be someone else for him to love. Tumu empathized with his feelings then carefully suggested that he contemplate getting to know Gabriele. Thomas looked at him incredulously! Gabriele had always been a cute little sister to him and he was not sure he could think of her in any other way. Tumu informed him that he understood his feelings, and requested that he at least ponder the idea. Thomas assured Tumu and Rebekah that he would give the idea thoughtful consideration.
At that moment, Riporty began barking loudly and intently, so Thomas and Tumu quickly ran outside. Gabriele had been feeding and playing with the goats when suddenly one of the male goats head-butted her and knocked her down. Riporty, acting protective of Gabriele, started to bark. Thomas immediately went to Gabriele, used his right leg to push the billy goat away from her and then gently picked her up and took her into the house. Gabriele, though lightly crying from the pain and embarrassment, also laughed at the situation. She would have a large bruise on the back of her leg, but other than that, she was fine. Thomas asked if she wanted the healer to come look at her leg, but she declined stating that her mother would know exactly what to do. Rebekah announced had brought some herbs with her that she could use on Gabriele’s leg; then laughingly escorted Thomas out of the room.
As Thomas walked out of the house, he reflected on when saw Gabriele on the ground and had carefully picked her up and carried her into his house. He felt incredibly protective of her, but was that because he thought of her as a little sister or maybe because there could be deeper feelings to explore. He was not certain but thought that maybe, just maybe, he could pursue a more romantic relationship with Gabriele; he wondered if would she feel the same way.
Thomas’s parents joined them for their evening meal and they enjoyed their time to catch up on the events in their lives. As they ate, Thomas studied Gabriele. He saw some similarities in her features to Nara, yet she was completely different. Nara was quite adventurous while Gabriele, though somewhat adventurous, enjoyed staying home. Like Nara, she was a master weaver and unlike Nara, she was a master cook.
After the evening meal was cleaned up, the family visited and enjoyed watching Noah’s antics.. After some time passed, Thomas mentioned that he needed to go outside to check on the animals. He invited Gabriele to help him and to make peace with the billy goat. Noah quickly stood up and declared he would go out with them, but Tumu kindly asked him to stay inside and help his mother clean up from the evening meal. Rebekah promised him a delicious treat. Noah begrudgingly complied with his father’s wishes, looking forward to a delicious treat.
Outside, Thomas led Gabriele to the billy goat and safely held his horns so Gabriele could pet him. The goat nudged his nose into her hands, hoping for a treat, but settled for her scratching between his horns and behind his ears. They laughed at the goat’s shenanigans and Gabriele again felt comfortable around him. Thomas hesitantly brought up the conversation that he had with her parents and asked if she would be willing to spend time with him to see if there might be something more in their relationship. Gabriele looked at him in astonishment and informed him that her parents spoke to her about a possible relationship, but she did not think Thomas would ever choose to pursue one with her. She knew how much he had loved, and still loved Nara and expressed that she was not sure he was ready for another relationship. She also told him that he was a great big brother to her and would always love him for that. She indicated that she was unsure if they would be able to put aside their brotherly-sisterly love but informed him that she was willing to explore the possibility.
Since Tumu and Rebekah needed to return to their home in two days, they decided that Gabriele would stay with Thomas’s parents. Noah also wanted to stay, but Tumu reminded him of his responsibilities back at home, part of which was preparing for a bow and arrow competition. Noah argued that the best teacher and coach would be Thomas, but Tumu explained to him that Thomas would be busy and his prized bow and arrow set (made by Thomas) was at their house; Noah reluctantly agreed.
During the next two weeks, Thomas and Gabriele spent as much time together as they could. While Thomas was at work in his wood shop, Gabriele took care of Thomas’s animals, took painting lessons from Mary, and began weaving a beautiful blanket. In the evening, they would talk, ride horses on the trail to the waterfall, target practice with bows and arrow, and enjoyed many other activities while spending time together.
One evening while Thomas and Gabriele were in a field target shooting, Thomas’s cousin, Tadi, who was out for a ride, decided to join them. Tadi was a very handsome 22-year old who was not yet married. He broke many hearts of many girls in the village who would have liked to marry him. Tadi and Thomas were close while growing up. They would often compete in target practice. Thomas loved competing with Tadi because he was almost as good as him. Because of Tadi’s skill, Thomas became a stronger competitor. Thomas usually won, but Tadi was always close behind. They often traveled to shooting competitions together.
When Tadi was introduced to Gabriele, he unexpectedly felt his heart leap in his chest as he was captivated with her deep blue eyes and cheerful smile. He knew he absolutely could not pursue those feelings as he was aware that Thomas and Gabriele were purposely spending time together. However, he could not get her beautiful eyes out of his mind. For the next several days, he purposely stayed away from Thomas and Gabriele, desperately trying to ignore the feelings that had so deeply and suddenly struck him.
Four days after meeting Gabriele, Tadi was in the marketplace to purchase rope. Gabriele happened to be in the marketplace at the same time, a few vendors down looking at yarns. As soon as Tadi saw her, he tried to find a way to quickly escape before she saw him, but was too late. Gabriele called out to him and rushed over to him. Tadi was instantly entranced by her eyes and it took a moment before he could respond to her simple question of how he was doing. He finally responded and they talked for several minutes discussing their plan for their purchases. Gabriele invited him to join she and Thomas for dinner. He regrettably declined stating he had a previous commitment.
At that moment, Thomas came over to them. He hugged Gabriele, then Tadi. He also invited Tadi over for dinner. Gabriele informed Thomas that he had a previous commitment and would not be able to make it. Tadi put an arm around Thomas and Gabriele, told them it was great to see them, but he needed to leave to meet with someone. They expressed their good-byes and Tadi left. Thomas told Gabriele that he enjoyed seeing her at the market and that she looked radiant. He gave her a quick hug and left to return to his wood shop.
That evening, after a meal of beef, vegetables, bread, and cheese at David and Mary’s house, Thomas took Gabriele by the hand and suggested that they go for a walk. Gabriele protested stating that she needed to help Mary clean up from the evening meal. David gave her a big smile and assured her that he would help Mary.
As soon as they walked out the door, they were eagerly greeted by Pipi and Riporty. They laughed and the four of them walked away from the house and towards the creek that flowed close by.
After walking and talking for several minutes, Thomas gazed into Gabriele’s beautiful blue eyes and expressed how much he really did love her, but indicated that the love he felt for her was still just a sisterly love. He assured her that he had thoroughly enjoyed their time together during the last couple weeks. He explained that a part of him that basically died after Nara’s death and that Gabriele helped to bring life into him again for which he would be forever grateful. He expressed how he always wanted to be a part of her life and always be her big brother.
Gabriele, with tears in her eye, told Thomas that she felt the same way. She loved him too, but only as a big brother. She assured him that she tried to love him in a romantic way, but those feelings just did not come.
Thomas, mischievously looked into Gabriele’s eyes and surprised her by informing her that she needed to locate Tadi. She appeared puzzled that he would even bring up Tadi. With a big smile on his face, Thomas explained to her the look he saw in Tadi’s eyes each time he saw her. Then, there was the look he noticed in her eyes when she looked upon Tadi’s handsome body. Gabriele desperately tried denying any type of look or feeling that she had for Tadi, but Thomas, laughingly, would not buy it! Smiling, she finally admitted that she thought Tadi was extremely handsome and would not mind getting acquainted with him. They affectionally hugged for a long while, knowing and accepting that they would be forever brother and sister.
(To be continued…)