Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Feel (emotions) (08/26/10)
By Rachel Phelps
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The man rolled away and stood, fumbling with his tunic and belt in the uncertain light of the guttering oil lamp.
“You were not worth the two gerahs I paid.”
He spat at the edge of the pallet where they had lain.
She merely shifted to claim the space he had taken up, eyes on the opposite wall. The words were like the spittle on the ground, absorbed without a mark. They touched her heart no more than his groping hands had.
She was glad he was gone. The heat of drought lay in the air. The clouds had danced over Jerusalem by day, flirting, teasing with their dark, billowing forms and promise of refreshment in the darkness. She knew better. The clouds were but amateurs at her trade. They would tease hope from the soul, then vanish.
The dust was enough to choke her. She stifled a cough and continued her perusal of the wall. The indistinct shadows were just interesting enough that she need not think. Thinking did her as little good as feeling the insults of her customers. The slaver she had given herself to made it clear that thinking was not expected. She welcomed his words – and the lifestyle he represented. Surely this would keep him at bay.
Nothing else had worked. She had left him before. Flaunted her lovers before him. Boasted that the children he called his own were another man’s. Anything to keep the holy man from coming back. She didn’t want his love or his God.
The heaviness in her chest insisted this was an old argument, as worn out as the rags that covered her. She had run, and for once, he had not followed. Anger flared. Brief. Lacking the fire that had sustained her for so long. Lust. Revenge. They lay flat and dead in her heart, like the dust that coated her skin.
Footsteps. Voices in the hallway – two men, from the sound. She sat up, ready to refill the lamp if need be. She recognized the voice of her master, sounding pleased, for once. The other voice was low, indistinct. Thunder obscured the words. With a spiritless curse at the tantalizing sound, she leaned forward, waiting. The lamp caught their long shadows in the doorway, obscuring their faces.
“You’re sure this is the girl you want?” It was the voice of her master, incredulous.
She recoiled at the sound. Only one word, but she recognized the voice. She groped around for something to throw.
He stepped into the room, keeping to the wall, giving her room.
“Hosea,” she spat back, still feeling for something, anything.
“I have redeemed you,” he said softly. “You are free to return home.”
“I didn’t ask you to come,” she hissed. “I don’t want you or your God.”
The dead anger rekindled, She hadn’t asked for him to save her.
“Your children still cry for you.”
She laughed, bitterness spilling out like vomit. “They drove me out. They didn’t want me as their mother. I was too wicked for them.” Her eyes narrowed on his shadowed face. “Too wicked for you.”
She couldn’t identify the new feeling in her stomach. It was fear – but not of him. He came closer. Her grasping hand found the lamp and hurled it at him, missing by more than a hand’s breadth. The light extinguished. Tears spilled down her cheeks, catching on the dust.
“Stay back. You don’t want me. I am unclean.”
He knelt by the pallet, reaching out. She slapped his hand away. He couldn’t, wouldn’t forgive this time. It was a painful certainty. The feeling spread to her chest.
“Not in my eyes. Come home. We will begin again.”
“I’ll never be what you want, holy man,” she hissed, but her voice cracked. Now she knew the feeling. She feared herself – feared what she was and could not be. “You do not want to take me back.”
“Try me,” he whispered, reaching out again. This time she did not shy away.
His touch was gentle, respectful. Loving, if she dared admit it. And suddenly, she yearned for it. Longing pushed at the deadness, awakening her heart. He had always been true.
“I am no holy woman yet, Hosea.”
He held out her robe. “You’re free to come home.”
As they stepped into the street, thunder rolled once again. He drew her close as the rain began to fall.
Author’s Note: The story of Hosea and Gomer can be found in Hosea chapters 1-3
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