Mikri hefted the jug to her shoulder. A cool trickle ran down her neck. It felt good. Her eyes were on the narrow path, for one stumble on a loose stone could mean spilled water, perhaps a broken jug, or even a twisted ankle. Her mistress would not be happy if her bath was late – not that she would beat Mikri, but she had her ways of making Mikri feel like dirt. The worst punishment was the day of silence, when not even the other servants were allowed to speak to her. On those days, she felt invisible. On those days, she missed home the most.
Home. Mikri let her mind wander to the little house in Keilah. She imagined being a little girl again, running to meet her father as he returned from the fields. Her mother cooked sweet bread and roasted lamb. Little Simeon was only a toddler then, with short chubby legs and dimpled cheeks. Home seemed like a dream.
Mikri jumped. Some water sloshed onto her arm. Ahead of her on the path, Delina herded a small group of sheep. “Shalom, Delina. You startled me!”
“You were thinking of other things, right?”
“Yes, my thoughts were of home.”
Delina’s face brightened. “It won’t be long now.”
“No, it won’t be long,” Mikri repeated. “God’s blessings on you, my friend.”
Delina scurried after her sheep. “God’s blessing on you, too!”
Mikri smiled as she watched Delina chasing the errant lamb. It won’t be long now. Oh what hope those few words brought to her soul! It had all begun when Papa got sick with the fever, and then the crops were lost in the fire and they couldn’t pay for the oxen. Baroch wouldn’t buy them back, so someone had to become a servant to pay the debt. Papa couldn’t, and Mama had to care for him and little Simeon. It had to be Mikri.
Seven years –a week of years –that was the law. She had been a servant for Baroch for three years with no pay. Normally, she would have had to work for four more years, but the great year of Jubilee would be here soon. Most people only saw one Jubilee in their lifetime. Old Gran-mama, if the Lord God blesses her with health, may live to see a second Jubilee. This Jubilee came at the perfect time for Mikri.
God must like the number seven, Mikri thought. From the time she was a youngster, she had heard the story of Creation, and how that Jehovah created the world in six days and hallowed the seventh day. Many of their feasts lasted seven days. Servants were not held more than seven years. Jubilee was a celebration of seven times seven. The fiftieth year was a time of renewal, a time of freedom, a time of rest. To Mikri, it would also be a time of love.
Jared—Mikri smiled at the thought. Jared would inherit his father’s land at Jubilee. She had already woven and stitched a chest full of sheets and clothes for her dowry. Papa had promised a dozen lambs, and Mama would give her some dishes. She would be the mistress of her own house, and Jared would be the master, with his broad shoulders and muscular chest. “Ouch!” A branch of a thorn bush scraped her arm. She’d better keep her mind more on her job instead of dreaming of her handsome Jared.
The screeching voice of her mistress hastened her steps.
“I swear on the head of my dear mother that you get slower everyday! Now fetch my robe and sandals. I don’t know why Baroch didn’t just buy back those oxen. We would have gotten more work out of them than you!”
Mikri kept her eyes down as she bustled about. Next year, next year, I will be the mistress of my own house. By the time she finished helping her mistress dress and served her supper and straightened the room and fetched more water, it was night. Mikri lay on her cot and watched the flickering shadows on the wall. Her back hurt. Her arm hurt where the thorn bush had scratched her. Her feet hurt. Her head hurt. She turned on her side and touched the markings with her finger. Another week had passed. Soon, soon it will be the time of Jubilee. She made another tiny line on the wall and blew out the light.
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