Joseph waited all day, but Kalona never came to challenge him. He didn’t even glimpse either of his new acquisitions, though every so often Leah or Martha or Isaac would find him and say they were doing well. He held his breath around prayer time, hoping that there wouldn’t be another scene, but it passed quietly and Martha reported that Kalona had behaved herself. For a fraction of a second he allowed himself to think that she was coming around, but he didn’t really believe it. She was too tough. Safram, on the other hand, would be easy to get at. The confrontation earlier had proved it.
It was getting dark now, the city purring into life, and he could hear the other Sinnites preparing to leave on their mission. He was wondering whether to go out himself one last time or whether to stay in and apprehend Kalona and Safram when Mark, clutching his cross like always, announced the arrival of Michael. He stood quickly and bowed as the old man shuffled in. “Grandfather,” he muttered respectfully, “It is good to see you well.”
As if to make a point, the old man coughed, the convulsions wracking his body and practically bending him double.
“And you, my boy, and you. God bless. Mark, you may leave us. Joseph will assist me for now,” he croaked, his voice catching on the back of his throat. Mark bowed deeply, mumbled a blessing while fumbling with the cross, and scampered out, his robes swinging behind him. Michael chuckled. “Oh to be young,” he mused quietly, as Joseph helped him into a cushion before sitting next to him, ankles crossed under his thick robes.
“To what do I owe this honour, grandfather?”
“Patience, Joseph. I will tell you when I am ready.” Joseph blushed, angry at his impatience, and waited.
“Do you not wonder sometimes, my boy, about what happened to the others?”
“What others, grandfather?” Joseph assumed that they were talking about the few Sinnites who had left. He wouldn’t say he never thought about them but they rarely crossed his mind. They didn’t matter anymore.
“Your family. Your parents and brothers and cousins.”
“They are no family of mine,” he responded bitterly. His family were here. His family weren’t blind or sinful. The others were just people. Michael tutted and placed a wrinkled hand on Joseph’s knee.
“Maybe not, my boy, but God gave you from them for a reason. If they are not family, they are something.” His words, said with real gravitas, failed to strike a chord with Joseph. Many here had ‘family’. Michael noted the reluctance sadly, but he wasn’t surprised. Joseph had always been a visionary. He was already starting to see small changes in the routine that he had established years ago, tiny tweaks that meant nothing and everything. They meant nothing because they made no difference; they meant everything because they meant Joseph already starting to lose sight of his principles. It wasn’t what he had wanted. He had made Joseph his successor because of the strength of blood relations, because of his calm manner and his steadfast beliefs. Now he wasn’t so sure.
“Grandfather, my spiritual family are here,” Joseph explained, “I am certain that the others are getting what they deserve.” Hardship and pain and toil. Why hadn’t they realised the brilliance of his grandfather’s vision? Even his own brother...but he wasn’t his brother any more.
“God will ensure it,” Michael agreed, though it made him uneasy, “Now we will move on. That isn’t what I wanted to talk to you about,” Joseph waited patiently for him to explain, listening to his own breathing. It was something he did when he was being patient.
“Your new converts...” Michael began, but Joseph cut across.
“They aren’t converted yet.”
“Do you believe they will?” Michael’s tone had changed from friendly to sharp so quickly that it took Joseph by surprise and he stuttered as he answered “Yes, yes of course.”
“Kalona? I’m certain, grandfather.”
Michael could see that. Confidence shone from the boy’s eyes. Joseph knew that she would, in the end, no matter how hard the struggle. She would be worth it. She was destined for great things.
“And the boy?”
“Safram,” Joseph’s face darkened a little, “I am not sure. He is lying to us about who he is, or at least deliberately concealing it. I’m sure he is also lying to Kalona. He seems easy to break down but Kalona always holds him up. Even when they are separate he keeps strong, most of the time. I can’t judge when he is close to breaking or not.”