Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Escape (01/02/06)
TITLE: The Death of the Upper Hand
By Catherine Craig
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The woman looked feverishly around her. She scanned the sky for signs of clouds, for the smallest hope of water to relieve her unrelenting thirst. There were none. If it weren’t for her broken heart, she would be able to bear anything. But the pain in her spirit and heart was embodied in the weeping child lying in the dust just a few feet away.
A bitter laugh escaped her dry cracked lips. The boy’s father was strong, but yes, like so many other men weak when it came to women. She’d been so confident hers was the upper hand. For years the “other woman” had been the inferior one; her own position had been secure and unchallenged. The “wife” might have had the title, but she….it was she herself who had the child, the boy that the husband wanted.
With tired vacant eyes, the woman again scanned the horizon, this time looking for help. It was useless, hopeless. Just like her life, devoid of hope and meaning. It hadn’t always been that way.
There’d been a time when from behind the veil of her ma’aphoret, her own dark eyes had crinkled with laughter, her own feet lifted to the dances of joy, her own voice in song. True, she’d mocked the woman. How many times had she reduced the “wife” to tears with just a look; a simple sideways glance of pity?
He’d given gifts, both to her and his son. Never had they had to worry about clothes on their backs or shoes on their feet. A very generous man had he been to both she and the boy all these years…and kind too. It hurt her for his sake to see the strife between the two women that he cared for.
Deep in her heart she always knew that the “wife” would win. Had she herself been of different descent or born to a higher position in life, then she and the child she’d birthed would have claimed the man both husband and father. True, the Upper Hand might have been hers over the years due to her son, but the smell of fear and the bittersweet tang of jealousy had been her constant companions.
Then it had happened. All her fears were realized. The ”wife” had gotten pregnant. In a land and in an age that had no tolerance for fatherless boys or husbandless women, she herself was now an outcast…an undesirable. Cast out like a sack of flour with vermin, he’d left her. True his eyes had been sad, but he’d done the unthinkable anyway.
Sitting so far away from her son with a bush between him, only his cries of hunger, pain and thirst reached her. But there was also another sound, barely a whisper above the weeping.
“Woman, take your son by the hand and…”Perplexed and astonished, with her hand holding her son’s, she looked in the same direction as just moments before. She rubbed her hurting eyes…once…. then twice. This time a well appeared as if out of nowhere.
Rushing forward without hesitation, both felt the well to see if it was real. It was. After drinking deeply, they sat down in the shade of the well while she told her son, “And the Voice said, ‘I will make a great Nation of him.’. That’s you my son.” He looked at her with his beautiful dark eyes, so full of anger…and her heart melted.
At last they could leave that household; finally the two of them could lead lives of their own…but what would that mean…and where would the One who spoke from the heavens lead them? Only time would tell…she could wait. She would.
With eyes raised to the skies above, a glimmer of tears glistened in the merciless sun. This time they were tears of joy….not pain. Hope birthed yet once again made her face shine and drew a the beginnings of a smile to her thin lips.
The two stood up, turned toward the sun and began their journey toward the future.
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