Morning sun warmed Rachab’s toes as if nothing had ever changed. She sat up quickly and pushed herself away from the reed mat. She never enjoyed the pleasure. Instead, she brushed away the stain from her arms, her face. No matter how she hid behind her veil, though, she still felt the tatoo of lust and shame burning on her skin. On that reed mat, behind the patched red curtain, she gave and gave and gave beyond empty every day, always waiting for love to return.
She kicked the greed-worn mat and walked to the shuttered windows. It was the one place she felt hope in this prison. The window where she had escaped last year to find love. He would be back. Tumaini had promised her that night when the guards had ripped her away from him and forced her by sword-point back to the city.
She hung on to the window like she clung to hope. He lives. He'll return. It’s what she lived for, it was the opium that blurred her guilt and pain and that awakened her each moring to hope again.
“Rachab! You have a guest!” hollered Abigail her servant girl.
Rachab pounded the stone wall with her first. So early in the morning? Usually they come after their supper beer.
"Rachab?" repeated Abigail in her sing-song voice.
“Abigail,” called Rachab, “Instruct Sophia to handle the drunken jackal."
A pause. The flip-flop of Abigail’s sandals echoed up the stone stairway. She folded her thick round arms to her ample chest and bowed. “My lady, he insists on your pleasure. He won’t even darken the lintel unless I promise him the company of Rachab, the King's favourite."
Rachab exhaled. She had been hoping for a walk in the orchards today. The olives would be harvested soon and she liked the sound of the children jumping in the oil press. Their giggles, though they stabbed her heart with longing, always cheered her spirit. And most of them only stared. Some even smiled at her wave. Only occasionally they ran to their mothers when they saw her. It was the one place she could walk and enjoy the fresh air without chick peas being hurled at the back of her legs, or insults flung at her tender heart.
“I’ll bring you pomegranate tea,” said Abigail, as if reading her thoughts. Not all people of Yerach were unkind. Why Abigail wanted to leave her adoring parents and serve Rachab, she would never know, but she thanked the heavens every day.
Rachab opened her cedar chest, a present from a wealthy ship owner. He had delivered it just as he promised, after Rachab had delivered herself to him. The cedar fragrance soothed her. This was one gift for her alone, not the King. There were a few hidden gifts already, a set of gold anklets from the Black Land, which she never wore because the engraving on it reminded her too much of her love, Tumaini. “Gem of the Kinahu,” it read. And she had been given perfume in a blue alabaster from Cyprus, and a purple robe from Shinar. But they did not fill the longing in her heart to be held.
Oh, she was held often enough, but not merely held. Ravaged, licked, consumed. She wondered if she would have anything left for Tumaini when he returned. If he returned.
The armed soldier had escorted him to the desert. She hadn't seen the sword on its return. Was it blood stained? She shivered, though the early morning sun already warmed her room. She must remember that some soldiers knew mercy. Her brother Yacob was one of them. A smile lifted her spirit. Perhaps it was her brother Yacob who had escorted Tumaini away. Maybe someday he would bring secret news of Tumaini's escape.
Today she would close her eyes and while her guest enjoyed her, she would remember Tumaini's words: "Wait for me, Rachab.”
Until then she would serve the King with secrets. Hunger never left her alone for long. She must entertain this guest today to keep the King’s tray of fruit and grain on her doorstep. Perhaps this mysterious morning customer would have an exotic morsel to pass on to the King. Of course, she would have to lure it from him. So, she pulled a clean red robe from the chest and sat facing the window, facing hope, as Abigail fastened the robe at her neck and brushed her long black hair. The pomegranate tea soothed her restless thoughts.
The red curtain parted and Abigail ushered in her next guest. Rachab gripped the rough limestone around her window and focused on the hills to the west. That is where her love left and where he would certainly return. She heard the man behind her kick off his sandals, and toss his outer robe on her reed chair. Large hands squeezed her waist and slid up her back. When his calloused fingers stroked the back of her neck, she tensed. It was time to get to work.
She turned to face him and didn’t know if she should sing praises to the gods or throw her tea at him. Her brother, her own dear brother Yacob, raised his eyebrows and wove his teasing laughter into hers.
a scene from the middle of a someday-I'll-finish-it-novel