The next morning, Ron awakened suddenly to the sound of a rushing wind and a girl’s voice muttering something incoherently. Looking over where Shararah slept, he spotted an empty space and a rolled up blanket. Her sleeping mat was gone. Startled, Ron jumped up and looked frantically for his weapon. He found it right where he left it. A fire flickered to his right side, emitting some warmth. Snatching up his rifle, he moved toward the cave entrance stealthily.
Shararah, kneeling on her mat, bowed with her nose to the ground and then rose slowly while facing toward Mecca. Then she repeated the process while praying in Persian.
Ron set down his weapon and watched briefly. Her soft voice had a melodious tone to it. He watched her from a short distance, entranced with her motions, voice, and the golden rays of the sun beginning to peak from the east, casting a tint of orange on the cave wall on the left side. He did not want to be caught staring at her, so he picked up his gun quietly and went back to the ongoing fire.
After another five minutes, Shararah returned with a slight limp and sat down next to him.
“Can I have a look at your foot?” Ron said.
“It is fine. I already changed the dressing.”
“You must have been up quite early.” Ron gave her the look, indicating that he should not have been surprised. “How did you sleep?”
“What do you mean? I lay down on the—”
“I meant, did you sleep well?”
Shararah smiled, the pretty smile that Ron enjoyed becoming accustomed to watching. Ron even thought of ways that could possibly make her smile just so he could see her display that soft gentle warmth of happiness.
“Yes, I slept very well, thank you. And you? You did too,” she added quickly.
“How do you know?”
“Because you were making a sound like a bear.”
They both laughed together at his expense.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“It is good that you help Masood and my uncle Abdul fight the Taliban.”
“We would help anybody who fought the Taliban.”
“You Americans? My uncle said you would never come to help us.”
“Well, we are here. Yes, the mighty army from America!” Ron said proudly as he flexed his two biceps like the Hulk.
Shara laughed happily, an emotion Ron enjoyed triggering.
“Ah, look, a righteous king is coming. And honest princes will rule under him.”
“What? Where did you hear that?” Ron asked chuckling.
“Well, that’s what you act like. Those young American girls who lived in our village were right about you American guys,” Shara commented.
“You had American girls here?”
“Before the Taliban ravaged all of the people for everything—paintings, photographs, rosebushes, life—they were here.”
Ron sought understanding. “So what you said before, it sounds like a verse from the Bible, maybe Isaiah?”
“Yes, from the Bible. The girls were missionaries.”
Ron just watched her a moment, wondering if she had anything to add. She continued. “The girls said the king is Jesus. We believe in such a person, but not as a king. He was only a prophet.”
Ron choked on his tea. “Yes, Christians believe he is the son of God.”
“How could Isaiah tell about Jesus when he lived long before him?”
“Isaiah was a prophet,” Ron answered curtly.
“But how could you be sure it is Jesus he spoke about?”
Ron gave it some thought before he answered deliberately. “Because Isaiah described in detail about his crucifixion in one of the chapters. Fifty-three, I think.”
“You seem to know the Bible,” Shararah remarked.
“Some. I grew up a Christian.”
“What does fifty-three say?”
“Chapter fifty-three?” Ron pulled out his journal, flipped through some pages and began to cite. ‘He suffered and carried our weaknesses and sorrows,’” he recited. “That the people thought it was a punishment from God for his own sins, but instead, he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins, beaten so we could be whole, and flogged so we could be healed.”
“We? You mean Christians?”
“Everybody who believes. It is for the whole world.”
“If Jesus is God’s son, why would a father let his son be scourged like that?” she asked inquisitively.
“To redeem us, by his love and grace.”
Shararah just stared at him, a little bewildered. “You believe this?”
“And honest princes will rule under him,’Shara recited.
“The rest of the verse.”
“Oh, yeah,” Ron answered. “How did…”
“I know? So, if you believe, this means you are one of those princes?”
Ron laughed wryly. “Do I look like a prince to you?”
She surveyed him over from head to toe. “Maybe. One can always hope so.”
Ron noticed a pleading look in her eyes.