"T here is no one else who will listen.”

Aster has gently steered Clara back to bed, and now she sits by the light of the candle, her head in her hands.

She sighs and rubs her eyes. Clara, being taught by the stranger. Talking to the stranger. Giving him her precious amulet. Her mind is tired, weary, and she struggles to make sense of this.

She hauls herself to her feet and returns to Papa’s study, where she scans the bookshelves.

She pulls out a volume of Al Ma’ari, opens at random, and reads:

If you do some deed before you die,

Remember not this caravan of death,

But have belief that every little breath

Will stay with you for an eternity.

She closes it with a bang. Small comfort.

She reaches for another tome, flips through the pages until her eyes rest on something familiar, a poem by Shlomo Ibn Gavirol.

With the ink of its showers and rains,

With the quill of its lightning,

With the hand of its clouds,

Winter wrote a letter upon the garden, in purple and blue.

No artist could ever conceive the like of that.

And this is why the earth, grown jealous of the sky,

embroidered stars in the folds of the flower-bed.

Stars. Her mind slips back to Jocef.

Where is he? Does the parchment he penned show that he is alive and well, able to think of scholarship? Or has he faced some peril, where he was forced to throw his work out of the window? Off a boat into the ocean? Why would he do that?

Papa always says that the more you conjecture, the less you know. And the more you know, the more there is to find out. Who knows where Jocef is?

She closes the book, thinks of the parchment. The only thing she does know is that Heaven wanted Jocef’s strange work to come to her hands.

Again, her hands stray across the shelf of books, stopping at a thin volume, and pulling it from between its neighbors. She looks at the cover: The Epic Poem of El Cid. She gives a wry smile. It has been years since she saw this poem, about the Spanish knight during the Reconquista, when the Christians were taking Spain over from the Moors.

Gladly would they have sheltered him, but none dared, so fearful were they of the great wrath of Don Alfonso the King…

She closes the volume, returns it to its place, and sinks down into Papa’s chair.

She should have known better than to turn to the works of men for solace and understanding.

Clara’s words return to her: There is no one else who will listen.

She has tried, she has tried so hard, but she has failed Clara. Failed Papa. All she has tried to do over the years is maintain their little family, gather in the remnant, and hold it safe. But it seems that the more she holds them close, the more they slip away. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 586)