“It isn’t true! You must be wrong,” Patricia insisted loudly.
“Sh-hh! You’ll have the gossips on us in a hen’s peck!” her friend admonished. Now was when they could draw their water without the raised eyebrows and wagging tongues of other townswomen, but they could never be certain that some outspoken reformer might break from tradition and follow them.
Obediently, Tamara remained silent until they reached the sun-baked cistern, glistening against the horizon. It was miserably hot, so they had shed their veils and heavy jewelry. But, even without their customary enhancements, their seductive saunters announced their identities.
Setting their jars down, the friends sat next to each other on the warm well’s edge.
“It’s the truth—I heard it from Eliza herself! She says he even looked directly into her eyes—without flinching!” Patricia added, continuing their conversation.
“But—they say he’s a JEW!” contradicted Tamara. “You know we’re just cockroaches under their hypocritical feet. That is, unless they sneak in a midnight visit to our quarters,” Tamara added, smirking.
“He’s not like the rest. That’s why Eliza took notice of him. She was hanging in back of the crowd following him up Neptune’s hillside. He’s rumored to perform miracles, you know. Anyway, there she was, trying to be inconspicuous—though, how she expected to do that with her jangling beads and bejeweled robes, I’ll never know—when he suddenly turned around, walked back to where Eliza was, and began to speak with her. She said even the birds grew silent at the sound of his voice.
“What happened then?” Tamara asked breathlessly, dreading expected condemnation.
“She said he asked her why she was lagging behind!”
“He SPOKE to her in FRONT of EVERYONE?” Tamara incredulously asked. “Do you suppose the sun got to him and he didn’t recognize her trade?”
“I don’t think so. Eliza said he put his hand under her chin and lifted her head up, looking INTO her and not AT her. And in a suspended moment of time, all her sins and evil thoughts spun across her mind as he gazed into her eyes.
Transfixed at these revelations her friend shivered in awe.
“Wasn’t she afraid that people would throw stones?
“That’s another odd thing. She said she felt completely calm the second this man, Jesus, asked her a question,” Patricia responded.
“I doubt he asked her the names of her customers,” Tamara sniggered.
Patricia absently stooped down and picked up her vessel. Drawing water from the well, her hardened features softened as she continued.
“Jesus asked her if she believed he was the Messiah. She said she was positive he was from God.” Looking dreamily off into the distance, Patricia, ignoring the beauty of the wildflowers, fig trees and clear blue sky, searched deep within her soul. “I’m wondering if there’s something to it, after all.”
A soft “Shalom” behind them suddenly interrupted the conversation. Startled, Patricia and Tamara turned to find a young woman approaching them. She was dressed simply like the average townswoman, and they wondered that she would address them. She slowly lowered her pitcher to the ground, swinging the folds of her mantle over her shoulders for unrestricted movement.
“ELIZA?!” Patricia squeaked in dawning comprehension, “I hardly recognized you! It’s true, then? You’ve joined that Christian sect?”
“You look so different,” chimed in Tamara. “Why, without your jewelry and face paint you could pass for a Jewish maiden!”
Elizabeth then explained to them how Jesus had forgiven her sins and that she was finally at peace.
“Surely, the Christians don’t know your past,” exclaimed Tamara. “They would never accept you otherwise!”
“These people are the most loving, supportive folks I have ever met. As soon as Jesus forgave me, it was like I instantly belonged! They bustled me to Jacob’s River to join scores of others, where we were each dipped under the water.”
“Whatever for?” her friends asked simultaneously.
“It’s called baptism.” Elizabeth continued. “It signifies the washing away of the old and the proclamation of the new. I feel completely clean for the first time in my life! AND, unlike this well water, Jesus gives us spiritual water that quenches our thirst forever! Why don’t go back with me and meet my new brothers and sisters, and you can see for yourselves?”
And the sun-baked well glistened against the horizon as they departed, the only evidence of their visit the three deserted pitchers still setting on the ground.
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