I first noticed his sneer and his eyes, those wolf-like eyes, as Arham walked me home one day. I was to marry Arham in two months, and we were giggling as young sweethearts do. I shuddered, and turned my head so that my long, dark hair whipped like a horse’s tail. Those eyes made me feel exposed, violated.
It was the first time, but not the last. When I told Arham, he laughed, mocking me. “You’re a silly girl, Sylba. Beautiful, but silly. He’s a powerful man, one of the wealthiest. He has no interest in a poor carpenter’s daughter.”
Arham’s words stung. Perhaps he was right. My father was a poor carpenter, and not a very skilled one, either. We often went hungry. We were of no importance in the community. Yet I found myself hurrying past whenever I saw those eyes staring at me like a hungry wolf.
My father called me into his shop one day, his cackling merriment puzzling me. Father had always been a sour, bitter man. “Sylba, I received word that Sargon has requested I make a gift for his wife. From me! Can you believe a man like Sargon has a request for my craft? You must hurry, before he changes his mind.”
My heart plummeted to my feet. “Me, Father? Why must I go? Send one of my brothers. Or you go. Why doesn’t he send a servant here?”
A scowl replaced the joyful expression on Father’s face. “Because he has asked that you come to his house to take his order. Go now, Sylba. Do not dare to disobey me.”
I slunk away like a wounded animal, fear gripping my heart. My fear mounted with each step. A servant took me to Sargon’s chambers. He smiled, his teeth glistening like a tiger’s. “Come closer,” be beckoned, holding out a small bit of paper.
He tore at my clothing, exposing my innocence. Bile arose in my throat. Horror pulled at me. Afterward, he laughed, tossing the bit of paper at me. “Don’t forget this,” he chuckled.
I tried to stay in the lengthening shadows as I clutched my torn clothing, trudging the least traveled pathway home. Shamed, disgraced, damaged. Arham would not want me now. No one would want me.
I heard voices then. My shame drove me to hide behind a tree. I could see them, a small group of men. In the middle was the one they called Healer, Teacher. I thought surely my eyes were deceiving me. Had he not died? Did they not crucify him? He held his hand up then. “Stop,” he said to his companions.
He turned in my direction. I shrank further into the shadows, my heart thundering in my chest. “Wait,” he said to them as he stepped toward me. “Come, child,” he said, his hand outstretched, beckoning me.
I wanted to run, but felt compelled to step forward, my head bowed in shame and misery. That voice! It drew me closer. “Look at me,” he commanded, yet it seemed like the sweetest invitation to partake of a tasty morsel.
I raised my eyes – eyes red and swollen from crying. “Tell me,” he said.
I spoke not a word, yet those eyes penetrated into my very soul – knowing, exposing my secret, exposing my every thought and deed.
“My daughter.” His voice resonated like music from an angel’s harp. The love and compassion contained in those words caressed me, soothing my wounded heart. I dropped to my knees. If only I could stay near him, look into those eyes and hear that voice. Then he was gone – he and his companions.
When I arrived home, Father snatched the paper from my hand, never noticing my torn clothing. “This is it?” he snarled. “A small perfume shelf? You should have charmed him for a bigger order. Never mind, it’ll be the grandest shelf in Jerusalem. Sargon and his friends will be buying from me in the future.”
Although I pleaded, Father sent me the next day to deliver the shelf. Sargon leered, licking his lips. Afterwards he kicked me, pushing me into the street, shouting, “Harlot. Stone her.”
Mocking laughter followed by rocks raining down. Suddenly silence, except for the rusting of a robe. He stood in their midst, those eyes exposing their sins, his gaze, knowing and accusing, settling on Sargon.
His hands raised me to my feet. The crowd parted. “Follow me, daughter,” he whispered. For the rest of my life, I followed.
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