Simon stood underneath the canopy. It was a sacred moment.
With her stepmother on her right and Hadassah on her left, Abi glided into the yard. According to tradition the women walked around Simon seven times before going toward the chairs.
Simon had an expression Abi couldn’t read. Would she ever understand the man’s unspoken language?
As they stood in their ceremony, he looked down for a moment and then at Abi.
“One question.” He spoke in a slow distinct tone in Meroitic. “Do you have the courage to travel to a new land?”
Melech, her beloved friend—could she leave him? From the place where Melech stood in the yard, his eyes penetrated her soul.
The face of each sister flashed before Abi. As her eyes locked with those of her brother, all that was familiar raced through her. What her father would do if she somehow failed outweighed all her other concerns. Facing the unknown would require less courage than facing Papa Negasi.
“I and my men will honor you as we travel.”
Sitting across from the stranger, she waited as her father poured wine. They drank, and Abi of Meroe was betrothed to Simon of Cyrene.
When would she ever see her family again? Forbidding the tears to flow from her eyes, she shared quick hugs as the foreign traders stood nearby. Among the travelers no other women were in the company. Discomfort awaited her, and she would violate social customs.
“Enough of sad looks.” Melech served hibiscus tea to Abi, Simon, and Negasi’s family.
While the men finished their preparations, she ran inside, her sister following. “You will always be in my heart, my dear little one. If I never see you on this earth again, I will know you in Paradise.”
“Go with God.” Hadassah reached out to Abi in a final embrace.
Simon emitted impersonal commands. “You . . . uh, Abi, give your belongings to Dahnay. He’ll guard them for you and let you have them as you need.”
For the moment Abi wore all her jewelry. The one Simon called Dahnay, a eunuch, busied with his master’s commands. After she handed her few precious possessions to him, he placed them in a secure location.
“If it pleases you, sir, let me keep my weapons near my person.”
“As you wish.” Simon reached into his pouch. “Take these.”
He folded her hands around gold coins. “Tradition would have me present you some gifts of value. Here are seven aurei.”
She leaned toward him with a smile of gratitude. He bolted away.
First, she studied each aureus so she could memorize the picture on it. Then she handed them to Dahnay. “Keep these safe with my other belongings.”
She pulled the bottom of her garment from the back through her legs and secured it under her leather sash to cover her legs but allow freedom for her ride. Then she mounted a camel.
(Map: Public Domain)