During breakfast, Rob had to keep himself from inhaling the tiny bowl of honey he'd been given. He'd started politely enough, spooning a moderate amount into his porridge, but soon he found himself dipping his bread into the sweet stuff, and when Papa slipped some extra honey into Rob's bowl, he didn't even think to protest.
Sweets were hard to come by in this world, and Rob hadn't realized how much he missed them.
"More eggs?" Mama asked Rob from across the table. "The chickens were good to us today."
"I—," Rob started to say before realizing his mouth was too full to talk. He chewed, swallowed, rinsed, repeated. "Yes, please. I didn't think I was hungry until you started cooking."
After some initial wariness upon finding the 'strange naked man' up and about, Papa and Mama had welcomed Rob to their quaint, story-book cottage. Neither batted an eye at the hodgepodge of clothing Rob has taken from their wardrobe, despite the fact that they couldn't just run down to Old Navy to replace the missing items.
"I appreciate your hospitality," he said, absently reaching up to adjust his glasses before remembering they were gone. "But I should be on my way. I think you said we're a good walk from town?"
"We used to live closer to town, where my family had a money-lending business," Mama said. "That was nice for the shops and company, but I suppose Golda explained how the church doesn't exactly welcome our . . . lifestyle."
Papa grunted while rubbing Mama's back in a reassuring, intimate manner. "Let's not bother him with our problems," he said.
"It is lovely out here in the woods," Mama said. "And we're free to be ourselves."
"Mama," Papa growled.
"What?" Mama said. "You think we should be ashamed? I won't be ashamed, not in our own house."
"He's not interested," Papa said, loudly blowing air from his nostrils. "That's all I'm saying."
"I'm not saying he's interested," Mama said. "I'm just saying he doesn't seem like someone who'd care that you and I are—"
"Look, it's totally fine with me," Rob interrupted. "Where I come from, everybody—okay, not everyone, but lots of people—are very tolerant, very supportive of same-sex relationships."
Rob popped the last bit of his honey-swabbed bread in his mouth as the table fell silent. "Still, I know it's not easy. I have gay colleagues at the hospital where I used to work, and they have to put up with varying levels of discrimination, although these days most of it revolves around partner benefits. It's different than your situation, I understand, but I want you to know I'm totally gay-friendly."
Everyone had frozen in horror. Everyone except Rob, who tried to figure out what he'd said that required an apology, and Baby, who looked from Golda to Mama to Papa and asked, "What's 'gay'?"
Golda whisked Baby into the next room with a motherly, "Let's wash your hands." Papa and Mama remained at the table, their bodies as stiff as the wooden benches they sat upon. Papa rose, his huge hands bunched into fists.
At last, Mama spoke. "I meant that we're Jewish," he said in a stunned voice just as a knock sounded at the door.
"Robert," Maggie said, poking her head through the window of the Bears' snug cottage. "What kinds of trouble are you stirring up now?"
* * *
"They are gay, though, right?" Rob asked once he and Maggie were a safe distance away.
Maggie's brow furrowed over over her light hazel eyes. A swath of freckles ran across the bridge of her nose, making her look as if she were wearing a mask. "Yeah, I suppose. It's not really something we talk about. Folks here are okay with Jewish people, though I hear that's not true everywhere. That other thing is tricky."
YOU ARE READING
After an accident strands Dr. Robert Henry Lang in a medieval land without surgical supplies, medicines, or even hot running water, all he wants to do is find a way home to present-day Seattle. But Rob can't ignore the medical needs all around him...