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Friday, June 17, 2011

Fiction Friday: One More Time, Chapters 12 and 13


Previous chapters on previous Fridays...

CHAPTER 12 - APRIL, 30 CE – HAMATH’S ACCUSATIONS

Sarah came back from the market place and made her way to the cooking area. To her dismay, Hamath waited there for her, an angry scowl on his face.

“Where have you been?” he demanded.

“I went to the marketplace today. I try to go there every few days to stock up. Food spoils if kept too long.” She tried not to sound sarcastic. At least it spoils without a real refrigerator, she added to herself. The ice in the straw-covered dugout in back of the courtyard was next to her house, and daily she brought forth meat and other chilled food kept there.

“And seeing your ‘friend’ the cloth vendor? One visit from him this morning wasn’t enough?” His upper lip curled over the word “friend.”

Sarah struggled to maintain her temper. “Jonas is indeed a friend. He has contacts with many merchants, and he has been kind enough to try to help me find Paulos, since I can’t go search for him myself.”

“With a little persuasion, I could find myself being kind, too.” Hamath leered and stepped closer. “Although Paulos will never be found. He is, I’m sure, dead, or at least dead to you, as I’ve been trying to tell you. However, my kindness is without boundaries. And as my concubine, you’d be more likely to be a recipient of my kindness. If Paulos were ever found, which is unlikely, of course I’d release you to again be with him.”

“I cannot be your concubine, sir, I’m a married woman, and will continue to be a married woman until or if Paulos is proven to be dead. But I don’t believe Paulos is dead, and I’m sure he will return to us. I wouldn't willingly choose to become an adulterous woman, and I’m sure you wouldn’t choose to be an adulterer either. Would you?”

Hamath appeared to struggle between his sense of honor and his desire for Sarah. Before he could lose the battle, Sarah excused herself to go to the dugout with the day’s purchases. I wonder just long I can fend Hamath off with ploys such as this. He becomes more and more insistent as the days go by.

As she made her way across the courtyard, Sarah wondered how long it would be before she heard back from Paul’s siblings, or from Martha’s sister. Why, oh, why didn’t they invent the telephone centuries before?

Two more weeks passed before Martha received word from her sister Hannah, but the message was disappointing. Hannah and her husband asked several people in Sidon, but no one had seen a crippled man matching Paul’s description, either with the cloth merchant or otherwise. Sarah felt discouraged but not surprised. She refused to get her hopes up too high. At the same time, she refused to let her hopes die, either.

She almost smiled to herself—at least Hamath’s often harassments kept her insisting Paul was alive somewhere and he’d come back. So many repetitions of this little speech actually helped her to continue to believe it herself.

CHAPTER 13 - MAY, 30 CE – A BATTLE WON

Sarah finished with the morning’s chores and decided to go home to change her pomegranate-splattered tunic. She passed through the courtyard gate and Hamath ran in front of her, stopping her.

“Wait, Sarah, I need to talk to you.” He sounded unusually out of breath for such a short run.

Where he had run from, Sarah didn’t know—maybe from the stables. With a certain sense of panic, she realized she should have stayed in the house with Martha instead of hurrying back to her house alone. Tamara played with the other children in the courtyard.

“Dorcas is not here today and I thought you and I might, well, talk for a while. How about in your house?”

“I’d prefer to talk out here, or better yet, in the courtyard, sir.” Sarah backed up.

“I have something for your ears alone.” Hamath stepped closer to her and reached for her arms.

“I see no one around us, sir, you may speak here.” She eluded his grip and grew more uneasy by the second.

“You never know where other ears might be, around a corner of your house, just inside the gate, in the stables—someone else could hear us.” Hamath glowed with sweat, and his eyes darted toward these supposed hiding places. “Let’s go into your house.”

Steeling herself, Sarah squared her shoulders and met him head on. “Sir, I have no wish to anger you, but I don’t think Dorcas would want me to do that, nor would my husband. I won’t enter my house alone with you, nor will I go anywhere else alone with you, and if you force me to do so, I’ll tell her.”

Hamath’s mouth dropped. “Surely you wouldn’t! And if you did, who would she believe, you or me, her husband? And as I keep telling you, your husband is probably dead.”

Sarah eyed him with a steady gaze. “Do you really want to find out who Dorcas would believe...sir?”

“You are a most impertinent and rebellious servant, woman! You are dismissed! Get your belongings and leave. I won’t have you here under my employ for another moment!”

“Very well, sir.” Sarah bowed her head respectfully. “I’ll get my daughter and inform Martha of my dismissal, of course, since she will have to prepare the meals until you find another cook.” She began walking toward the gate into the courtyard.

“Wait!” Hamath’s eyes reflected a certain amount of panic. He sputtered, “You, uh, I, um, perhaps this is a little hasty. Let’s just say you’re, uh, warned, um, not to, uh, treat me with such disrespect in the future.”

“If you say so, sir.” Sarah kept her eyes lowered, oh so respectfully, which was just as well. The smell of triumph put laughter in her eyes and it threatened to spill over and run out of her mouth. “Am I dismissed, sir?”

“No! I mean, you’re not dismissed, but yes, go about your duties. I shall be gone on my morning inspection of the dye plant.” Hamath turned and all but ran in the direction of the stables.

Wow, that was close. It might be well if I spend the rest of the day with Martha. She turned and strode back through the gate to the courtyard.

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