They huddled around each other, mumbling in low tones. They dared not tell anyone. This had never happened in all their years of serving. How come nobody checked the supplies? Was it pilfered? Did someone make away with some of the stock? Surely they had enough to begin with, right? The questions went on and on. No answers.
T, the most reserved of the lot, broke away from the group, hissed and was beginning to walk away. He hated such situations, he hated undue pressure.
“Excuse me?” An elderly woman beckoned to him, she had come out the reception area and looked like she was looking for something.
“Yes.” T answered, hardly interested in whatever she had to say.
“I just wanted to let you know that the refreshment hasn’t gone round. There are still some groups in that corner without anything to drink.” Her voice was so soft and gentle that T actually had to look at her. He recognised her immediately, he’d seen her before. Wasn’t she around yesterday when arrangements were being made with the couple’s parents? She was probably family.
He debated whether to tell her about the little situation at hand. He shrugged and said, “Huh ma’am, the thing is,” he looked around and moved closer, “we ran out of wine, you know.”
At the look of surprise on her face, he quickly added, “We came prepared, really. Something must have happened. Seriously, we did.” He swallowed hard and was about to return to his whining friends.
“Wait.” He stopped at the gentle command, “wait here, I’ll be back.” The lady walked back inside, her steps light but sure.
He followed her with his eyes. She walked towards a group of people seated at a table. She bent and spoke into the ears of one of the men. They both looked toward him at the entrance of the large room. He looked away, clenching his fist. What had this woman done? Tell everyone they ran out of wine? Right In the middle of a wedding ceremony? Tough luck, he had already told her.
Out of curiosity he looked their way again and saw them walking towards him. The lady and the man she had spoken to. He looked at the man as he walked towards him, his eyes were a cool blue but sharp and piercing. His gait was confident, almost regal. The muscles in his neck blended smoothly into his shoulders, the much he could see through his simple white cloak. He looked down at his hands. They were large and hardly what you would call smooth. This man must be a hard worker. Either a farmer or blacksmith. Maybe even a carpenter. He looked at his own hands and hurriedly hid them in his cloak as he looked up into the lady’s eyes. They were right in front of him now.
She smiled and touched his shoulder. She looked at the man and said. “Like I said, there’s a little situation here. The ceremony is hardly over but they’ve run out of wine. Please help.”
The man looked from T to the lady and said calmly, “Mother, why do you involve me? It’s not time yet.”
T felt uneasy now. This was her son? He didn’t have much time to think ‘cos she simply looked at him and P, who had come to listen in on the conversation and said, “Do whatever he tells you to do.” She gave them a stern look before she turned and walked away.
T shifted on his feet and cleared his throat noisily. He felt tongue-tied in the presence of this man.
“What’s going on?’ P said, nudging him. He shook his head and continued looking at his toes.
The man looked around the open space where they stood. They were six stone pots on both sides of the entrance. Large stone pots used for the ceremonial washing.
“Fill the pots with water.” His voice was clear as a gong, but T seemed to have developed hearing difficulties.
“Huh…you said?” he cocked his head to the right, sure as his name was T, he had heard him wrong.
P’s shoulders were heaving with quiet laughter. He tried hard to restrain himself. What had this man said? Fetch water for the pots? When there were more pressing matters at hand? For heaven’s sake they were about to ruin the fun for some good old folks here and all he wanted was water? It would have been funny, if it wasn’t so ridiculous.
“Fill the pots with water,” came the firm reply, and T was off, all he needed was to be sure he had heard right. This man had to know what he was doing. P dashed after him, wondering what he was up to.
“Hold up, T! Where are you going?” he asked catching up with him. T was short and pudgy but make no mistake about it; he was nimble on his feet.
“You heard him.” T ground out, reaching for the clay pitchers used to draw water from the well.
Some of their fellow servers had joined him, grabbing pitchers and heading to the well. He only told them they needed to go get water, they didn’t know why, and it was just as well.
“And off you go? Fetching water? For heaven’s sake we don’t have wine. We could lose this job, you know?”
“Well, deal with it!” he snapped. He had to do something. He was getting pensive now. Fetching water was better than moping around waiting for the ‘appreciation for a job well done’. Whoever heard of a party without wine?
They moved back and forth from the well to the pots, and in no time the pots were filled. Panting and puffing, they wiped their brows and waited.
What now? The pots are filled with water, big deal. They were still short of wine.
P chuckled wickedly, his signature smirk lifting the sides of his mouth. He was watching what seemed to him like a display of foolishness.
He watched T move slowly and methodically to the tall, muscled man who was no leaning on the wall, taking in the scene before him. T wiped his brow for the umpteenth time and managed to speak, “We’re done, sir.”
The man nodded and looked around, “Where’s the master of ceremony?”
Before T could answer, there was a little rumpus a few feet away. The master of ceremony, a short balding man, wanted to know why his guests hadn’t been served. P was trying to calm him down, struggling to let him know that they had run out of wine and there was no way to replenish their supply until the next day.
“And you expect the guests to wait till then? Who is this joker? I want to speak to your boss!”
The MC bellowed, clearly upset.
T pointed to the fuming man and said, “That’s him.”
“Now, fill your pitchers and take them to him. He might want to have a taste.”
Three pitchers were hurriedly filled and hauled to the MC. T tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to the pitcher he was carrying. The man’s face lit up at the sight of the liquid spilling from the pitcher.
“Wine?” he smiled broadly as T nodded. He poured some for himself and took a sip. His eyes brightened and he took another sip. “What?” he said to no one in particular before taking a very healthy gulp.
“This is great! So you were kidding me, huh?’ He laughed, punching P lightly on the shoulder. He motioned for T to follow him. “This is great wine. The best!” He turned and walked back in, his huge midsection moving rhythmically with his quick steps.
They made for the reception area. “I must commend the groom for this. He’s saved the best for last! Ha!” he said, laughing heartily. T nodded, not knowing what to make of this development.
Outside, P hadn’t rallied. He was in shock.
It had been water. He’d seen it, good old water! But how? How did it happen?
The thoughts chased themselves around in his head.
He looked back and caught a pair of piercing blue eyes staring back at him; they seemed to see down to his very soul.
He leaned back on the wall and held his head in his hands.
“Who is this man?” was all he could whisper…