Speedier than a hawk eagle launching a flight, Simon initiated the journey. Abi took the place assigned to her in the middle of the caravan. She let her body flow into the rhythm of the ride, but her mind refused the comfort of the rhythmic bumping along.
Simon had another wife . . . or four. Such a man must have a dozen. She’d live in a harem. Some of the women would dress as exotic dancers wearing jewels and smelling like precious incense. The sister-wives would belittle her.
Although Simon had the appearance of a committed son of David, he traveled all over the world. Looking at him, she could see he had all kinds of ancestors. A man like Simon could choose any religion he wanted and still honor his ancestors, still pretend he honored God.
Only yesterday her life turned around. She had studied the odd people. Men who came to her father’s house left after a few hours. Having left with a group of foreign men—these sailors from Cyrene—strange men, surrounding her, she experienced isolation for the first time in her life.
Riding on a camel along an unknown road surrounded by an unintelligible tongue, she averted panic by transporting her reality into another realm—yesterday.
Each moment of the preceding day played before her as a dream. Once again she was back home. She imagined every detail . . . every smell. She’d live in the world of a day ago. No, she wouldn’t give up Melech, her brother and sisters, or the goats.
Not until she could gain an understanding of why she lost all that mattered.
The earthy smell of morning drifted through Abi’s window from the forest, grown lush after weeks of relentless rain. The welcomed dawn would allow Abi to flee from home for the day. She’d go where the demon that dwelled in Papa could not oppress her.
“Papa won’t see me,” she mumbled to the mice scampering about her room. “I can’t afford to fail. If I do, though, how will he damage the day?”
The leather strings obeyed her fingers and made a noise similar to that of the mice squeaking at the bottom of the window.
As she dressed for the day, she suppressed the music coming from within her heart. She had to be careful not to awaken her little brother and sister. They’d beg to go, then Papa wouldn’t allow any of them to leave the house.
Thank you, little mice, for not messing up my basket. She folded her silk scarf and placed it on top.
Through the open window of the stale house, the green mist from the Nile ushered in the nitrogenous odor of the barnyard. Above her, the clucking pigeons seemed to say, “Look. It’s a day to celebrate.”
Dew glistened everywhere. Those wide leaves were little stubs yesterday.
A mouse squeaked.
Melech would arrive soon to herd the little goats outside of the high fence. She’d sneak through the fog over to the pen and file out with them.
The sharp brown eyes of a mouse gazed at something.
Joy is spinning like a soundless whirlwind through me, little mouse.
Could these little creatures know?
She tightened the wrappings around all that was precious inside her. She felt like dancing. Instead, she led her feet in deliberate steps.
Fearless, the mouse scampered back to his companion.
Have a nice day, little mice, playing in our room.
She carried her basket in her hand so it would go unnoticed as she escaped to the outside world.
Failure. Papa had moved quieter and earlier than Abi.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Papa growled.
Silence. The air rushed in and out of her in sharp spurts of panic. Holding her breath so he wouldn’t hear her gasping, she stiffened her shoulders and froze her expression.
“You heard me,” he said.
Dread filled her being.
“To help Melech with the goats.” Ever present was the iron strength of Papa’s cruel hands, but she’d awakened too happy to let him hurt her. Abi shifted fast avoiding his fist. If she could inch out of range without attracting more of his attention . . . .
“I should have dashed your brains from your skull the night you were born.” Rage flashed from his eyes.
“In the wilderness.” She dared mutter the end of his discourse softer than a whisper.
“Don’t mumble. Speak up, I said.” He stepped closer.
She considered running, but she couldn’t go as far as another settlement. Too many dangers loomed in the wilds for an unplanned escape. “Speak? Me?”
The muscles tensed from his neck to his right hand, which clenched in attack mode. He raised his fist.
She backed away, giggling.
“You think it’s funny? I’ll show you funny.”
Having finished chewing, he spit brown nuts toward her, and red juice drizzled over his front. Weaving, he caught himself. Curses against Adonai foamed from his mouth.
Why do you never curse your pagan gods?
“I should have fed you and your sisters to the crocodiles as an offering to the gods of the river.” His diabolic grin displayed orange teeth.
The music within her heart retuned itself while Papa fumed. She’d get through the moment without letting him break her. The rain had stopped and it was a day Papa couldn’t destroy.
Oh, to have been born a slave. Anywhere but here. Some people provided their slaves more kindness than her father gave her.
“Then the female flesh your mother bore me would have served a worthwhile purpose.” Papa continued in his full rant. “As my fourth daughter and a homely one at that, you can bring nothing but shame to the house of Negasi.”
She inched farther from him through the muddy yard.
“Not wealth, social prominence, not fame.” He shook his head and his finger. “You’ve already failed as an archer.”
“Yes sir. Your wrath is justified.” She backed away in a half bow while she nodded. Enough of this tirade. She’d shorten it by agreeing. “You’ve earned it.”
“Our Jewish God mocked me. Five daughters before giving me a son.”
“The only God,” she said under her breath. Before he had a chance to ask her what she said, she nodded again. “You’re a great man. You deserve better.”
“A weasel of a son he is at that.” The massive emerald set in pure gold and attached to the front of his turban accentuated the green flecks in his brown eyes.
“He should have been born before his sisters.” She gave him the words he wanted as she backed closer to the night pen. “Then he would’ve been strong like you.”
He perched on his rock again. “He isn’t the kind of boy that will make me proud.” Folding his catlike body on the rock’s flat top, he stared away from her as he narrowed his eyes. “All my children be cursed.”
(NOTE: The above picture is quoted from Nature Wildlife . The photographer's name appears in the left bottom corner.)