(2) The Beginning
She was an orphan. Displaced as a child when her parents were killed in a raid. She was only eight years old at the time. She had no siblings; she had never met her grandparents. Her parents had moved a long way from their families to start farming. They had been farming for a few years when thieves raided their home. The crops had been burned and her parents killed. Her mother had screamed at her to run so she had. Thus with tears flooding her tiny face, she ran. She continued to run, and she never looked back. Fear drove her forward. Her tiny heart was broken. She had nothing. The clothes on her back were all she owned. She now had no family, no friends, no connections and no money. She was lost, hungry and scared.
She wondered into a tiny village, and that is when she met him. He was a huge giant of a man. He had a thick black beard that held part of his last meal. He stood close to seven foot tall and probably weighed close to three-hundred and fifty pounds, mostly fat. His teeth were crooked, brown and nasty. He had not seen a tub of bath water in a very long time. His smell was stomach wrenching His robe was filthy, and his hair was wild and bushy. His name was Zeev, which means wolf. She would soon discover that he lived up to his name.
Zeev spotted her in the alley behind the village market rummaging through the garbage. She was eating discarded fruits and vegetables as though she were at a feast. Zeev pulled out his long razor sharp knife and looked about to see if anyone was watching. The alley was empty except for the girl. He walked abruptly behind her, quickly placed his huge hand over her mouth, and snapped her off her feet as if she was a helpless puppy. He whispered in her ear gruffly, “I will cut you in half if you scream!”
Her heart pounded in her chest. She was helpless against the strength of this giant. He hurriedly threw her up on his horse, showing her his twelve-inch knife. He quickly mounted behind her and rode off. He looked behind him a couple of times to make sure he was not being followed.
They rode for several hours. Zeev never loosened his grip. His huge arm held her tight against his chest. She could feel his enormous strength. Every now and again, she could smell his hideous odor. Several times, she thought she was going to throw up her dinner of wilted lettuce and over ripe bananas. They rode into a thicket of pine trees, crossed a small creek, and came to a shack of a house. He brought his horse to a stop, loosened his grip, and pulled her off the horse, snarling, and “Don’t try to run!”
Where would she run? To whom would she run? She had no place to run. She simply froze with fear.
Zeev dismounted his horse, tied the reign to a post, and then ordered the girl to get in the house. He shoved her through the door. She stumbled and fell on her knees skinning them both. The shack was a messy pigsty. The odor was repulsive. This time she did get sick to her stomach. Without warning, everything came up. She vomited until she had the dry heaves. Zeev yelled at her,
“Get that the pail!” Pointing to a pail near the doorway. “Go down to the creek and get some water. Clean this mess up and don’t you dare try to run off!”
She could not run; she could barely walk.
The creek was only about a hundred feet from the shack. She slowly knelt down on her tender knees and dipped the pail into the shallow stream. The water was cool and felt good. She set the pail aside and dipped her hands into the water. She washed her face and arms. Then she gently rubbed her tender knees with the water. Tears began to flow uncontrollably down her face. As she sobbed, her sick body trembled. She wept for her parents. She wept for fear. She wept because she was sick. She wept because she did not know where she was and she wept because she was afraid of Zeev.
Zeev yelled from the doorway of the shack, “Get in here, now, and get this mess cleaned up!” As quickly as she could, she got up, wiped her face on her sleeve, picked up the pail of water, and limped back to the shack.
The floor was packed dirt. She took the pail of water and poured some on the place where she had the accident. She took a towel of sorts and did her best to clean it up. Zeev just watched her as she smeared vomit into the mud. Tears kept coming. She sniffled and wiped her nose on her sleeve. No hope.
Zeev yelled, “Your mine now girl! You will do what I say, and you will not try to run away, if you do, I will kill you and feed you to the hogs!” Zeev’s top lip had a tendency to curl up when he opened his mouth, displaying his crooked brown teeth. His voice had a deep harsh ugly tone.
Zeev asked her, “What’s your name, and why was you alone like that?”
She timidly looked up from the floor, wiped her face again, and said. “My name is Hadara. It means, adorned with beauty.”
Zeev began to laugh, mockingly, “You adorned with beauty? Look at yourself! You are skinny, sick, pale, dirty, and ugly! Your name is not Hadara. I am going to call you Abda. Abda is what you are, a slave! You are my slave!” He shouted. “What happened to your family?”
“They were killed in a raid. Thieves came, burned our fields, and killed my parents. I ran away to the village.”
“Well, I am sorry for your loss, but your mine now. You do as I say and I will not hurt you. But, if you ever try to run away, I will beat you bad! Do you understand?”
Hadara was too frightened to look Zeev in the face, so she shook her head and whispered, “Yes sir.”
“Follow me and I will show you the stables.”
Hadara stood, and followed Zeev outside. They walked around to the back of the shack. About fifty feet from the house were the stables. The stables were in as bad of shape as the shack. One strong gust of wind could cause them to fall over. Inside the stalls, was one scrawny cow, five chickens and a rooster, four skinny hogs, and one goat that appeared to more dead than alive. The smell, like everything else around Zeev, was repulsive. The pens had not been cleaned in months, if not years. Flies by the thousands were having a feast. The hogs were mud-caked and grumpy. Zeev’s horse was off to itself, and appeared to be well taken care of. Hadara loved horses. Back home she and her father would ride horses in the evenings after supper. A flood of memories washed over her and she began to weep again.
“Dry it up girl! Ain’t no need cryin about something that cannot be changed. This is your home now, so get used to it! It is getting dark so we best get some rest. You’re cleaning all this up in the morning!”
They walked back to the shack. Zeev lit a lantern and looked over at Hadara. He could tell that she was scared. She was trembling with fear.
“I ain’t going to touch you. I am not that way. So do not worry none about that. You sleep over there in that corner. I will sleep over here.”
He tossed her an old blanket that had huge holes in it. Like everything else, it was filthy. Hadara walked over to her corner and sat down on the floor. She took her blanket, buried her face in its stench, and cried some more. In just a few minutes, he was snoring. Hadara glanced over at Zeev. He was lying on his back, with his hands folded over his chest. In his right hand, he gripped his knife. She covered her ears to muffle the sound of his snoring and cried herself into a fitful sleep. She woke up long before the sun came up. It was cold! The shack had no shutters, so the wind just blew right through. She was shaking with cold. Clenching her blanket, her teeth chattering, she longed for the sun to come up. She missed the warmth of her home, the thick blankets, and heavy sleeping gowns her mother had made. She thought about how her father had cuddled her and kissed her on the forehead, she was his Hadara.
“You are adorned with beauty,” he would tell her. She remembered how her mother used to brush her hair and sing to her. She remembered sitting at the table and eating fresh bread and lintels. Her stomach growled at the thought. Her nausea had passed. Now she was starving. “Surely he will have some food to eat,” she hoped.
As the sun began to peek over the horizon, Zeev woke up. He sat up and looked around to see if Abda was still there. She was Abda to him; a slave. He grunted as he lifted his huge body from the floor. He disgustingly cleared his throat and spat. Hadara wasn’t quite as hungry as before. Zeev told her to go to the creek and bring back a pail of water. Without hesitation, she picked up the pail and walked slowly to the creek. Her knees were very tender and she grimaced as she knelt down. She washed her face in the cool water. She filled the pail and returned to the shack. She sat the water on a bench against the wall. Zeev splashed the water up into his face and wet his hair. Drying his face on his nasty sleeve, he asked Hadara if she wanted something to eat. Hadara looked up timidly and answered,
Zeev walked over to a cupboard and took out a block of bread that was wrapped with a cloth. Zeev pulled off a chunk of bread and handed it to her. He reached down into a basket and handed her an ear of corn.
“Here, girl, this will have to do ‘til I butcher a hog.”
Hadara walked over to the bench, sat down and began to peel the husk back and remove the silk. She bit into the corn. It was hard, but she was hungry. It was actually pretty good, she thought. She then broke off a piece of bread and put it in her mouth. The bread was dry, stale and old. Again, she was hungry; so she ate everything, including the crumbs.
Zeev ate the same thing, but he ate most of the bread and four ears of corn, snorting and grunting as he did. Hadara thought to herself, that this must be the foulest man in the world! No sooner had she had the thought, than Zeev let out a disgusting belch and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. She glanced up to see pieces of corn and bread left in his beard. Hadara gathered the cornhusks and carried them outside, Zeev watching her every step. He half grinned as she walked back into the shack.
“May I go to the creek and get a drink of water?” She asked.
“Sure you can, girl, drink all you want. We got chores to do.”
After drinking her fill of water, Hadara washed her face again. She was accustomed to bathing often, and it had been three days since she had a bath or changed clothes. She wanted to bathe but how could she with Zeev around? She also wished she had a brush, so she could brush her hair. Hadara’s hair was long and black. When clean and brushed, it was shiny and beautiful. Now it was dirty and tangled. She ran her fingers through her hair trying to get a few tangles out, but soon discovered that it only pulled it. After a few tries, she gave up. Hadara began to weep again. She was missing her parents badly. She pulled her knees up, wrapped her arms around her legs, and rocked back and forth. She wept for a good while.
Zeev walked up behind her. She heard his massive weight braking twigs and crushing leaves. She glanced up just as Zeev was reaching down for her. He grabbed her robe and pulled her up on her feet, shaking her roughly.
“I told you there is no need in crying over something you can’t change!” He yelled.
Her heart felt like it was going to pound out of her chest.
She whimpered, “Yes sir.”
“I do not want to catch you crying again!” Zeev commanded.
Hadara simply gave a scared nod. Zeev finally loosened his grip on Hadara’s robe, and then told her to follow him. She wiped her tears on her sleeve again, and followed him.
When they reached the stables Zeev commanded, “Clean it up!” and walked off.
Hadara stood there looking at the filth of old hay and feces of the animals. She thought to herself, “How am I supposed to clean this up?”
She heard Zeev’s horse whinny and she smiled. Slowly, she approached the horse, holding out her hand. He backed off a little, but Hadara began to talk to the horse in a soft sweet tone.
“It’s alright boy”. She reached up and began to rub his neck, whispering to him how beautiful he was. She loved horses. She missed her horse. Her horse was a small, gentle creature. Zeev’s horse was huge and muscular. He was shiny black, with a white star on his forehead and white socks. He was a beautiful horse. She reached down, pulled up some grass, and fed it to him. She knew she had found a friend.
Out of nowhere, she felt the heavy hand of Zeev slap her down to the ground. A burning pain shot down her shoulder and arm
“Don’t you even think about stealing my horse!”
“I wasn’t,” she argued. “All I was doing was petting him!” Her shoulder ached where Zeev hit her. She was holding her arm, and tears filled her eyes.
He yelled, “Get up, and clean this mess up and leave my horse alone!”
Hadara got up and began gathering up the old matted down hey, grain, and feces. She really did not know what to do with it, so she just carried it out a way from the stable and began piling it up. She had no tools to work with and soon her hands began to ache. She was used to work, just not like this. She would help her father clean out the stables, and help him some out in the fields planting seeds, and during the harvest. She was too small to do much, but she enjoyed helping her father around the farm. She also enjoyed helping her mother bake bread, and cook. However, she was not used to cleaning up a mess like this all by herself.
Out of fear of Zeev, she continued to pile up the old straw, rotted grain, and the animal dung. After about two hours, she was getting tired, and her hands hurt, and her back ached, and her shoulder was throbbing where Zeev slapped her. She rolled up her sleeve and there was a big purple and yellow bruise forming. Hadara had never known what it was to hate someone; she had always been surrounded by love. However, she was learning to hate Zeev very quickly. Why was he so mean? She wondered. She also wondered why he never bathed. She continued to work and as the day wore on it became increasingly hot, beads of sweat began to rundown her back, and run into her eyes. She was tired and miserable, and extremely thirsty.
Zeev was carrying two pales of water up from the creek towards the stable she walked towards him and asked if she could get some water. He gave her permission and she slowly walked towards the creek. She got on her knees and washed her hands best she could and brought the water up to her mouth. It tasted good! She stood up, and returned to the stables that were about half cleaned up.
She began working her way to the dreaded pigsty. It was repulsive with
Hog manure, and beaten down straw. She had no idea how she was going to clean that mess up. By this time, gnats and flies were buzzing around her head, landing constantly on her ears and face. She was continuously swatting at them. She was hot, sweaty, and filthy. She looked over at the hogs that grunted their dislike at her approach. She new that hogs could be mean. So she was a little apprehensive about getting in the pin with them. She looked around and found a dead tree limb. It was about the right size she thought to give a hog a good hit on its snout should one try to hurt her. She was in a good frame of mind to hit something anyway, so it might as well be a hog! Hadara slowly opened the gate, walked in, closing the gate behind her. Grasping the limb, she walked towards the hogs. They were a pitiful sight even for hogs. Nothing worse than a skinny hog. The thought amused her. They were caked with mud, and being eaten up by gnats and flies. They stayed there distance from Abda as if reading her mind, “Get close to me and I will swat you a good one!” Abda used the dried branch to help rake up the feces and whatever else was in that mess. She had no other choice but to pick it up with her hands, carry it over to the railing, and throw it over. On one side of the hog pin was a slope that ran down hill. It came to her that if she threw it on that side she could later take water from the creek and wash it down the hill. Therefore, that is what she did. It took her about two hours to get the hog pin clean, or at least better than it was. After a while, the hogs quit grunting so much, and seemed to appreciate her cleaning up their house.
She was literally covered with dust, mud, and feces. From head to toe, she was filthy. “Smell like Zeev!” She thought to herself. “I will take a bath in the creek, I don’t care what Zeev says, or does!” With the thought of taking a bath, she was in a hurry to get the stable clean. After throwing all the old stuff over the railing of the pigpen, she made several trips to the creek to haul water to wash the pile of mud and feces down the hill. She also made several trips to bring water back to throw on the hogs themselves. They grunted in protest at being dowsed with water. Abda soon realized that it would take a lot more water and a lot of time to get all the caked on mud off them. However, they did look better!
Abda had one more stall to clean out, and it was the one that held the cow, and the old goat. She looked at the goat and wondered how it had the strength to stand. Her heart went out to the poor creature that had been neglected for so long. “What are you good for” she wondered, as she looked into its big bulging eyes, his horns were twisted, and his beard was grey and long. She could easily count his ribs, because they stuck out like sticks. Abda walked closer to the goat and told him, “I am going to fatten you up, you poor thing.” She rubbed his neck, and she could sense that he appreciated the attention. With every move she made around the pen, he was right on her heels. A little too close at times, almost knocking her down. She would push him away but he came right back. The cow just simply starred at her, didn’t move an inch, other than whisking its tail, and shaking her muscles trying to get some relief from the gnats and flies. Other than that, she just stared at Abda.
It was well past five in the afternoon when she finished cleaning the stall. She was miserably tired, and horribly dirty. She looked around and the goat was watching her intently. She went over by the creek and pulled up several handfuls of green grass, walked over to the pen and hand fed the old goat. All of a sudden, the old cow took interest and decided to join in. She was exhausted but made several trips to bring grass to her new interest.
It was nearing six in the afternoon when she walked to the shack. She did not know it but Zeev had been watching her work and feed the animals. When she stepped through the door Zeev told her that she had done well. She half smiled at the compliment. “Bet you’re hungry“, he said somewhat enthusiastically. Hadara simply nodded her head up and down. Zeev went to the cupboard and pulled down the reaming bread, broke it in half and handed to her. Went to the basket and picked up an ear of corn and tossed it to her. She went to the bench and sat down, and ate her supper. She wished for more than stale bread , and hard corn, but she was hungry.
After eating she stood and took a couple of steps towards Zeev, he glanced up, raised an eyebrow and asked, “What?”
“May I go down to the creek and bathe?” She asked.
“Better hurry” Zeev answered, “going to get cool when the sun goes down.”
“Yes sir.” and she was off. She stepped into the water, it was colder than what she expected, and when she sat down it momentarily took her breath away. She did not take her robe off; she figured it needed washing as well. Besides that, she knew Zeev would be watching her. So she did her best to bathe, and wash her robe. She was getting cold , so she got out and squeezed as much water out of her robe as she could. She twisted her long hair trying to squeeze as much water out of it as well. She was chilled, but felt better. She walked back into the shack, found her blanket and wrapped it around her; she sat on the bench shivering wishing Zeev would build a fire.
Zeev walked to the door, opened it and stepped outside. “Going to get cold tonight.” he announced, “Winds picking up out of the north. May be getting a late winter storm. Sure hope not, gets mighty cold in here when the winds out of the north. Better, build us a fire just in case. Help me gather some wood girl, before it gets too late.”
At the thought of having a fire, Hadara jumped to her feet, threw down the blanket and hurried outside. Zeev and Hadara gathered wood for about half an hour, until it was too dark to see. Zeev lit the lamp and drug the big heavy iron kettle to the middle of the room. Placed some dry grass in the middle of the kettle, and a couple of small twigs. He took a twig and held it to the lamp until it caught fire, then placed it in the kettle. Zeev added larger sticks, and it wasn’t long until the pot was ablaze with a good popping hot fire. Zeev took a long branch and reach up to the ceiling pushed back a covering so the smoke could escape.
Hadara, stood close to the fire, holding her hands out to warm them. The fire felt good, and it was helping dry her wet robe and long hair. She starred into the flames and was almost hypnotized. Thoughts of home flooded her mind. She thought about what she would be doing if she were at home? Sitting on her fathers lap? Talking girl talk with her mother? Learning how to read better? Helping her mother mill some corn for bread?
Zeev snapped Abda out of her trance when he told her to, “Best be getting to bed.” With that announcement, Zeev placed a few more branches in the kettle, and lay down on his pallet. Hadara took her blanket and lay down close to the kettle. Zeev told her she better move back some in case an ember pops out and catches her blanket on fire.
“Wouldn’t burn long Hadara thought to herself.” as she scooted back a ways.
It had been a long day and she had worked hard for an eight year old. She was soon fast asleep. She slept well until the fire went out. Sure enough, Zeev was right, that cold front hit with a fury, the wind was blowing hard out of the north. She could hear the tall pine trees swaying back and forth. The wind had blown the lamp out, and it was pitch dark and bitterly cold. She made her way over to her corner and curled up in a ball. She shook so hard her muscles ached, and her head hurt. She thought about the animals, poor Star, that is what she named Zeev’s horse, because of the white star on his forehead. The hogs she didn’t worry about much. The old Billy goat would probably be dead by morning she thought. The Cow would be fine because she was big, and chickens could live through any thing.
Zeev did not even seem to notice that the fire had gone out, he snored and grunted just like he had last night. He was big and burly and covered with hair, plus he had a mat and two blankets. Selfish man! Hadara thought.
Light rain began to fall, and rain began to drip through the holes in the roof. Hadara would move to a dry spot, only to have to scoot over to another dry spot, after a while there were not any dry spots that she could find in the dark. Her body ached from shaking. She looked in the direction of Zeev and hate filled her little heart again. She was cold and miserable and was determined to run away when the Sun came up.
Several hours had past and it had stopped raining, and the wind seemed to die down some. She was thankful for that. Good she thought, “I may not freeze to death after all!” She was sitting up with her back against the wall, with her face buried in her blanket, she began to think how she could escape? She really had no idea which way to run. She remembered crossing the creek when they rode in, and she remembered that they had traveled for quite a while when they left the village and the sun was behind them. “I will not go that way, I will go the other direction. Anything is better than this. She sat there and shook until the Sun began to rise. She stood up, and the floor was covered with puddles of water where the roof had leaked. She walked over to the kettle looked inside and it was almost full of water. So much for a fire she thought.
Zeev must have heard her moving about because he set up, and announced, “Cold ain’t it girl!” She didn’t even look his way. “He went through his routine of grunting, and stretching, and clearing his throat and spitting, walked over to the kettle and picked it up and threw the water out on the floor. “All the wood is wet” he said, Hadara did not reply. She just stood in one spot shaking.
“We better go check on the animals make sure they ain’t all dead.” He looked at Abda and for some reason he grinned. Why would animals freezing to death cause a man to grin?
Zeev pushed open the door and stepped out into the cold air. The wind was still blowing pretty hard, but the clouds were braking up. It was bitterly cold for April. They made their way to the stable and the first thing Hadara saw was the goat laying on its side, sure enough the cold was too much for the poor old thing. “Looks like we are going to have goat meat for supper!” Zeev announced. Hadara, pushed the thought of eating that poor goat out of her mind. “I’m not going to be here to eat any goat!” she thought to herself. They checked on the hogs which were fine, and the cow was alright, the chickens were huddled up in a corner gathering warmth from each other. Star whinnied as they approached. Hadara did not come anywhere near Star, her arm still ached where Zeev hit her.
Zeev walked around to the side of the stable and picked up a rope that was hanging on the wall. Walked into the pen where the goat was and tied the rope around its hind legs and drug it out of the pen. Its head bouncing on the rocks. Hadara turned away, not wanting to watch the animal that she petted yesterday, be butchered today.
“Come on girl!” Zeev demanded. “I am going to teach you how to skin a goat!”
She hesitated, but thought it best to do what Zeev said. She did not want to make him mad. They walked over to a tree that had a branch that hung down low to the ground. He took the free end of the rope and swung it over the branch, and hoisted the goat off the ground, then tied the free end to the branch. Zeev took out his huge knife and told Abda to, “Watch because you’re doing this next time.” “The first thing we got to do is bleed him, and as cold as it is this morning, that may take a while” With that he placed the blade of the knife on the goats throat and sliced him from ear to ear.
Abda turned away, and Zeev snickered, stood up and walked off. Hadara, glanced over at the goat and the pool of warm blood that fell on the cold rocks caused a vapor of steam to rise. Hadara swallowed hard at the sight. She understood that animals were often killed for food, and she knew that her father often hunted, but he never slaughtered the animals in front of her. The sight made her nauseated.
She walked toward the stable cold and sad. She sat down on the cold wet ground, not really caring about anything. She pulled her knees up to her chest, pressed her forehead against her knees and began to weep…again.
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