Finally, Sam thought as he leaned forward and laid one hand over hers as he said, “I have searched far and long for you, my lady. I have taken many guises, poor, beggared, lame, sick, and now scarred, and you are one of the few who have looked past that which lives on the surface. Tell me your name.”
The woman sat back into her chair, confusion clearly written across her face, but she did not remove her hand from under his. “My name is Tilde. May I have yours?”
“I have been calling myself Sam, but that is not my name.” As he spoke Sam’s scars began to fade. “In fact I have no name. At least, none that is true and whole. I was never named, for it was I that did the naming.”
Tilde’s confusion was even more obvious now, and she squirmed slightly, but she spoke all the same. “Of what?” She asked, although Sam could see that she already knew the answer.
He played along with the question anyway. Sometimes, the question is important. His scars were now completely gone, and there was a soft echo of light, barely noticeable, shining form his eyes and mouth. “Of everything, Tilde.” Tilde jerked her hand back and shook her head. “No!” She whispered, “No, no, no! You can’t be. I can’t meet you.” Her hands went to her scant dress, and there were tears in her eyes. “Not like this.”
Sam held his open hands on the table, inviting. “Give me your hands, Tilde.” His voice had an air of command to it, something soft, but firm that could not be denied. Tilde reached her hands onto the table, and placed them into his. Sam smiled. “In all of my searching, you are one of the only people to see me.” His gaze flicked to her dress and back. “Do you imagine that I cannot see all that you have done? Do you imagine that, looking at you now, all your life is not laid out before me?”
Tilde tried to pull her hands back, but his grip was firm. Not painful, not the arrogant grasping of her customers, but firm and inescapable. She tried to scream, to yell for the men by the fire to come and help her, but she had no voice. And Sam continued to speak, “Do you think that I have not seen your every thought? But Tilde, I tell you this: You are forgiven.” A soft, warm glow flowed down from Sam’s arms into Tilde’s hands, and she could feel her entire body falling into that glow. “You are made pure, and new, and whole. Tell me Tilde, what is your greatest desire?”
Tilde opened her mouth to scream again, but instead she whispered, “George. I want George back.”
Sam smiled at her, and then shook his head. “Better to ask that you had never lost him, because you never did.”
Tilde frowned at him for a moment, but then memories of her life with her husband filled her mind. Like two sides of a coin, she could remember walking the streets, trying to scrape together enough money to feed herself, and she could remember her home with George, a mere two blocks away, and their three lovely children. Tears rolled across her cheeks as she looked down at her no longer scant clothing. She looked back up at Sam and asked, “Why?”
Sam smiled his half smile, one hand rubbing at the scars that covered half of his face. “Because you believed. You should be getting home now, Tilde. George gets worried when I keep you out too late.”
Tilde smiled shyly, “George doesn’t worry. He knows you too. But it is almost time to put the children to bed.” She leaned across the table to give Sam a delicate peck on the cheek. “Thank you.”
Leaving the coffee house Tilde looked back to see Sam resume his slow trudge down the street, and she wondered how long it would be before he found another who would see him.