|Lady of Scarlet
Author: lili brik PM
Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute, is obsessed with the mythos growing around a band of escaped Egyptian slaves, even as she plies her trade among the land's most affluent princes. Will her obsession lead to ruin or salvation?Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Spiritual - Chapters: 4 - Words: 4,735 - Reviews: 14 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 12-19-07 - Published: 05-25-06 - id: 2180920
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
As Rahab listened to the purchased wails of beggar-women mourning her father's death, she numbly wished for the most selfish of reasons that he had not died. For now, his tenuous manner of existence which had so effectively held his family at poverty's edge for years, had snapped completely, leaving nearly fifteen people (Rahab's oldest brother, Amisshtamru, was expecting his second child) falling hopelessly towards indebted ruin. This was frightening enough, but now, at fourteen, Rahab—the eldest of her mother's daughters—was being given away in marriage to another merchant that her father had owed some money to. At twenty eight years of age, he was not too terribly frightful, but he had already another wife and a concubine. Despite having four sisters, Rahab was not fond of other women. There was too much bickering and petty complaints among girl-children sharing ratty dresses and broken toys; sharing a husband seemed unfathomable. Besides this fact, she was a bit hurt at being sold with so little emotion—after throughly perusing household accounts and expenses, Amisshtamru had decided that it was well worth it to pay the one-time fee of Rahab's dowry, rather than keep an extra mouth around that needed to be fed.
And besides, Rahab admitted, as she dimly surveyed the fine weave of her father's dark-colored shroud, she had precious little to recommend herself as a useful attachment to the household. Her wandering fingers, forever fumbling when working with cloth and thread, could never hope to replicate the intricate patterns that had been formed by her ten-year old sister Hurriya. In this way, she inherited her father's curse—an intelligence sharply devoted to that which was useless, but interesting. Rahab had a sense of people, and thus, of history and politics—she absorbed everything she saw and was told, often without any outward sign of doing so. It would be a useful talent for a man involved in business or in government, but she was a woman without any access to either field. Thus, the girl had hoped to become a priestess in the temple of Asherah, but that solution to the problem of her necessary absence was not as prudent of a business decision. Temples required donations which were not entirely optional from the families of priestesses.
So, Rahab watched the funerary process with a sense of deep disappointment weighing too heavily on her heart to feel any real sorrow. She fully realized how selfish she was being, but her father had never cared for her individually. Offspring were something which he dutifully produced as was expected of him as a man—certainly nothing worth getting personally attached to. This attitude had somehow gotten transferred to Mother, too, Rahab thought as she watched her mother—clinging onto Amisshmtamru's arm with the her last child, a son too young to be named, who was in turn clutching at her dusty skirts. Years of managing a household so tightly that the smallest bit of copper was not spent without some consideration had made Mother view children as a troublesome, somewhat unwelcome investment in an unglamorous future. Even now, she was likely planning ways to marry off the other four girls, and likely apprentice out whichever of the boys she could. A troublesome investment, indeed.
Rahab turned away as she heard the earth smoothed over her father's corpse, feeling crowded and dizzy from the crowd of people standing so near her, underneath so warm a sky. For it was summer, and humid at this time of day. Walking out unnoticed in robes the same mud-color she'd worn as a small child, Rahab slipped past the group of mourners at the edge of her father's plot, choosing to walk back to the city through his vineyard rather than along the main path the procession had taken.
Fruit still grew here, despite years of neglect. Rahab plucked a handful of grapes and continued on, her lips stained dark with the juice that was just a shade deeper than their natural color. Rahab too had thrived well enough despite receiving the same sort of intermittent, unskilled nurturing as her father's vines—her skin was smooth and well-guarded from the sun, her hair neat and a shiny nut-brown. And though her body, curving and tight against the child's lines of her garment, spoke arrogantly of maturity, she was thoughtful and restrained beneath—hardly a trusting innocent, but neither much hardened against all future possibilities. The one she faced now was difficult, if not appalling, but even beneath her bitterness, Rahab had had a sense since that day, four years ago, that there was a reward—no, not a reward, but a gift, if only she had the clarity of vision to see it when it was offered. Somehow, she had been offered that gift on that day, by the Hebrew's elusive words—and though she hadn't accepted it, there'd been no outright rejection on her part, either. There would come another day, and then, she could receive the mystery she'd sensed—
Rahab walked slowly on, towards the immediate future she'd have to be satisfied with, for the time.