She wasn’t aware of it, but Acenath inhabited a unique position in Solomon’s harem. He had married her, not out of love, but because her wanted the alliance with her father’s kingdom. She wasn’t beautiful, or even pretty for that matter and most men found her intelligence threatening – but Solomon liked her. Unlike most of the names of his wives or concubines, he remembered her name and rarely a month would go by without them spending some time together. The consummation of their marriage – an awkward embarrassment to the both of them had resulted in the birth of a son they both adored, although Jacob was not a likely candidate for the throne.
Solomon liked Acenath for her mind rather than her body, and she was sensible enough not to mind. There meetings were not of a romantic nature but talk of contracts, alliances and legal contracts. Acenath was one of the few women in the harem who could read or write or had any grasp of politics.
In their last meeting, Solomon had left her with a pile of documents to read through. Just once, she thought, it would be nice to read something that wasn’t dry and dull.
A sheet of parchment, that didn’t belong to the missive, was lodged in the pages. A different colour to the rest of the papers, the lines were written in Solomon’s spidery writing. She had read too much before she realised what it was.
“Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.”
Of course, Acenath knew that Solomon wrote poetry and proverbs. His love notes were not rare items in the harem, the wives and concubines comparing notes and constructing some kind of hierarchy based on how many lines, or the passion contained within them.
Acenath had never been given one of the notes. It never entered her head that this note concealed in the documents was meant for her. He had never said such things to her and would never. Her face with all its odd contours and blemishes was not lovely.
Acenath had never really thought about the notes that much, but holding one in her hands now, she felt an odd stirring inside. It came close to envy. She sometimes imagined what it would be like to read such things and know that Solomon had written them for her, that she inspired him to write poetry. To be his muse, to have him dream of her, for him to be compelled to compose a few lines was something that she had never entertained.
She wondered who the note was meant for. Who was this “rose of Sharon, this lily of the valley” who he invited to “come away” with him? She conjured up faces from the women in the harem, the more recent wives and concubines, lining their features against the poetic lines. All she could know for sure was that it wasn’t her. She was not Solomon’s source of inspiration.
She jumped as she felt someone’s hand on her shoulder. It was Solomon, coming to claim the parchment paper. She was surprised to see that he was embarrassed. She would have liked to have made a joke, but she couldn’t seem to shake the feeling of envy that she had.
“It’s not what you think, Acenath,” Solomon began to stammer, “It’s about a woman…but it isn’t… not really. There is a woman, obviously and…she is beautiful…but.”
“You don’t have to explain,” said Acenath.
“Yes I do,” insisted Solomon, “You know that way things are between a man and a woman…”
She arched an eyebrow inviting him to remember how things were between them the night of their marriage.
“Not us, obviously…other men and other women…the intimacy. I think, Acenath, that God is wanting that kind of intimacy with His people. He want to make extravagant declarations of love, He want to describe to us all the wonderful qualities about us that He loves, he wants to invite us to come away with Him, to be with Him. I was thinking how I could best describe that. It falls short of what I want to convey.
Acenath smiled. This was a note meant for her after all. That the God of the heavens believed her top be beautiful and loved, and that he wanted her to be with Him.
She stood up oh her tip toes and gently kissed Solomon on the cheek and turned back toward the harem.
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