"You’re just being silly", I said.
"I’m not!" protested Yanie. "I’m NOT being silly!"
But she was, of course. She was always being silly.
"But I’ve invited him and he’ll come." and she started crying. "He’ll come." She sobbed.
I gave up.
"Yes, dear. Ok, he’ll come. Now go and wash your hands, dinner is nearly ready."
She dried her eyes and disappeared, presumably to wash her hands as directed.
Little sisters can be such a trial They were so immature. So silly. They imagine all sorts of things when they’re playing and get so cross when you don’t join in. And when you’re thirteen, well you don’t WANT to join in - you’re too old for that kid stuff; too old for imaginary friends. And what an imagination Yanie has! Her bed is a ship; her room a pirate’s cave. But it gets worse! Last week (according to Yanie!) the King of England was coming to lunch. The week before, it was Captain Prince. We actually had to set an extra place, and Yanie kept sneaking pieces of food onto her plate, so as to make out that Captain Prince was eating his. It was so embarrassing!
"I’ve washed my hands. Is he here yet?" came the voice of enthusiasm. She was back again.
"No, now go and sit down at the table", I said. "or else you’ll be in big trouble".
She sighed and shuffled off into the dining room.
This week is the silliest of the lot. You’d never guess who she says is coming to dinner today. Only Jesus. She reckons that she sent Jesus an invitation to dinner in a prayer. Talk about dumb. I’m glad I’m not still seven. Was I ever that stupid? Not that it’s all her fault - too much going to sunday school, that’s the problem. It puts ideas into their heads - and Yanie is silly enough without all that God rubbish. I’ve got better things to do with my Sundays now.
Thank goodness I am so much older and more sensible. Being thirteen, I am really an adult. Like I said, I’ve out-grown kids stuff, like princes, kings, and god.
I made to follow her into the dining room, when the door bell sounded.
"Its him!" I could hear Yanie squealing.
"I’ll go", I called, and went out of the living room into the hall. I didn’t rush. We weren’t expecting anyone, so it wouldn’t be anyone important. Probably just a ’Jovial Witness’ or something. Bible bashers or tin rattlers always come at meal times - Dad reckons they sniff out the smell of the food, like dogs.
The door bell sounded again. What a cheek. I decided to walk even slower.
Eventually, after the slowest walk I’d ever made, I reached the front door. Opening it, I peered out.
A man stood at the door. I tried to see his face, but it seemed very sunny outside, and the brightness hurt my eyes. I shaded my eyes with my hands.
"Yes." I said as flatly and as uninvitingly as I could. "Whadya want."
"Miss Yanie?" he inquired. "I have an invitation to lunch".
"Oh god", I thought. "She’s invited some total stranger." It was probably an axe murderer, or druggie, or one of those sleezers that watch us when we leave school.
I thought about lying, and shutting the door, but I heard footsteps behind me. It was, of course, Yanie. She pushed passed me before I could even begin to close the door.
"It’s him! It’s HIM!" she shouted, and hopped excitedly up and down, first on one foot, then the next. Before I could stop her, she’d opened the door and invited - practically dragged - him in.
I followed closely, as she led him out of the hall, and through the living room towards the dinning room.
"He’s here!" I could hear Yanie calling, as she led him into the dining room. Again, I dragged my heels. Let her get the blame for letting him in, not me. She’d get ’what for’ from Mum and Dad.
But when I got to the dinning room, my parents were just standing there. Mouths open. Eyes wide. Whoever our unexpected visitor was, he certainly seemed to making an impression. Perhaps he was a policeman. Had she invited the local cop to dinner? Better than a tramp I suppose. Or some religious freak.
"I think we had all better sit down", said the stranger. My father sat down at one end of the table, and mother followed suit, sitting next to him. Yanie was already sitting opposite mother. I stood by the dining room door. The stranger sat down at the head of the table. For the first time, I could see him clearly. He didn’t LOOK like a cop. More like an insurance agent.
"Could you," began my father, "Could you tell me your name again?"
"Did you not hear me?" asked the man. "Or did you not believe me?"
"Well, er yes" said father. "But, we didn’t sort of, er, expect you. I mean, we..."
"You’re daughter invited me", said the stranger, and smiled at Yanie. Yanie smiled back, jubilantly.
"Yes," said mother. "She did say she had invited Jesus, but"
"But you didn’t think I’d come?" interrupted the man.
I couldn’t believe his nerve. I wasn’t going to be taken for a ride.
"Look, you’re not Jesus. No one is Jesus." I said. I couldn’t help it. Yanie had obviously invited a madman. "Jesus is a pretend person in a book."
"Manny!" warned Mother. "You are being rude to our guest".
"No," said the stranger. "She is entitled to speak".
Somehow, his words irritated me. What right did he have to defend me?
"You see", began my father, "it’s just that anyone can say ...". He didn’t finish, but he didn’t have to. Anyone can say they’re Jesus. Like anyone can say they’re Albert the Great or Tarzan.
"Yanie", said the stranger. "Can you fetch me some napkins from the kitchen".
Yanie obediently got off her chair and went into the kitchen. I could hear her opening draws and cupboards, in search of some napkins.
The stranger then held up the palms of his hands to my parents, who gasped in astonishment.
Red stuff had appeared on his hands. Blood! There was blood forming in the centre of each palm, which ran down his wrists and dripped onto the table. It was horrible. Little holes formed, growing steadily bigger until you could just see through one of them. And when I looked at his face, little spots appeared on his forehead - small beads of blood.
My mother put her hand to her mouth, as if she might scream, but she didn’t. My father stared, his eyes almost popping out of his head. I couldn’t say or do anything. I kept looking at the droplets on his forehead. Like the marks from needles, or - or from thorns.
Then, Yanie came back into the room. I didn’t see her - but I heard her. She gave a gasp - almost a little scream.
"It’s all right Yanie", said the stranger. "It’s just tomato sauce".
She giggled and took him the napkins. He first wiped his hands and forehead, and then cleaned up the few drops of the blood that had dripped onto the table. He held the soiled napkins out to Yanie. I was shocked. How COULD he! I remembered endless lectures at school about AIDS and other diseases. He might have ANYTHING wrong with him. Protectively - without thinking - I snatched them away before she could take them.
But then I realized what I’d done. Now, I had his blood on my hands. I looked at them, horrified.
Only, they weren’t covered in blood, at least, they WERE, but suddenly, they WEREN’T. They were covered in - tomato sauce! Either he was the world’s best magician, or - I looked up from my hands, and at his face, startled. He looked back at me, smiling, his eyes almost burning right into mine. And suddenly I recognized him.
Yanie was right.
Jesus HAD come for tea.