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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write in the ROMANCE genre (04/19/07)

TITLE: Sand and Stars
By Helen Paynter


Sand and stars.

Rebekah rolled over, flinging a sleep-creased arm onto the cup in Isaac’s hand. It slipped from his fingers, sending a cascade of camels’ milk onto her face. Her eyes snapped open and darted around the tent in bewilderment. Then they alighted on her husband, and her face darkened.

‘Watch out, you clumsy oaf!’ She threw the sodden hair off her face.

‘Well, I thought I’d bring you a drink. Shouldn’t have bothered.’ His bottom lip jutted above his beard.

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘I rather thought you’d be fetching breakfast for me, actually.’ He threw the cup down petulantly.

‘Oh, you did, did you? Well, for your information, I’m your wife, not your maidservant.’

‘If you’re my wife, you might like to try acting like it.’

And what’s that supposed to mean?’ She flung back the bed-covers and groped about for her sandals.

‘A little more submission. A little more… welcome, if you know what I mean.’ His expression was sly.

She flushed. ‘Oh – last night. You got what you wanted, didn’t you?’

‘Barely,’ he grunted.

‘You were drunk.’ She jabbed an angry finger.

‘And you were frigid.’

‘How dare you!’

Outside the tent Yaffa and Tomer, who had plenty of work to be getting on with, were enjoying the entertainment. It didn’t sound as if the master’s wedding night had been a great success. There was the sharp retort of hand on cheek. They grinned at each other, and bent ear to canvas again.

‘If you didn’t want to marry me, why did you come all the way from Chaldea?’

‘I never said I didn’t want to marry you.’

‘Well marriage entails more than just a happy wedding party, you know.’ Isaac spat onto the floor.

‘If I’d known what you were like, I would have stayed in Chaldea.’ Tears began to fill the young woman’s eyes.

‘And if I’d known what you were like, I’d never have let my father send for you.’

‘What sort of man lets his father deal in his affairs like that, anyway?’ There was a catch in her voice.

‘You leave my father out of this,’ he warned.

‘I don’t like him. He scares me.’

She suddenly sounded, Isaac thought, like a small child. He matched his tone to hers. ‘Scares you. Why?’

‘All that talk about the sand on the sea-shore and the stars in the sky. How many children does he expect me to have?’

‘I don’t think the promise is for this generation. As long as we have a few…’

‘Well, you’ll have to be a bit more gentlemanly, then, won’t you?’ Fire flashed from her eyes once more.


‘If you come to my bed drunk again, I’ll...’

But Isaac could see that the fist she raised was trembling. He took her hand in his and gently drew it down. ‘If you must know, I needed those drinks for courage.’

‘Courage? Am I that ugly?’

‘No, you silly girl. But father scares me, too,’ he admitted.

‘Scares you? How?’

‘All that talk about sand on the sea-shore and stars in the sky.’


‘It’s a lot of pressure to put on a chap.’

‘It’s a lot of pressure to put on a girl.’

‘So, not a great start really.’ He led her to a seat.

‘Not quite what I dreamed of.’

‘You dreamed about it, did you?’

‘Well… yes.’ She blushed again. It suited her well.

‘So tell me, what did you dream it would be like?’ His expression was mischievous.

‘Oh, poetry, music...’


‘Well, I was an innocent back then.’

‘I’m afraid poetry’s out. Might tell you a story, though.’

‘Oh yes, I’d like that.’ She met his eyes with a smile.

‘I know a good story about some camels.’

‘Camels, eh? Can’t wait.’


That evening, Yaffer and Tomer were astonished to see the newlyweds lying on their backs gazing at the stars.

‘See that one there?’ Rebekah pointed with a graceful finger.

‘Which one?’

‘The one there, in a pair.’

‘The sparkly one?’

‘Yes, next to the other sparkly one,’ she gestured vaguely.

‘Got it. Well, what about it?’

‘Let’s call him Esau.’

‘And what about the one next to it?’ He turned his head to examine her profile. ‘How do you like Jacob as a name?’

In the light emerging from the nearby tent, he could see her grin. ‘So much for your Dad’s stars. What use can we find for his sand?’

‘How about a spoonful in his wine?’

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Lynda Schultz 04/26/07
I'm not sure about the rather sharp discord between Rebekah and Isaac that you have described, but since we aren't told any more in scripture except that "he loved her," anything is possible, I guess.

But I loved how you brought these two strangers together to share the vision that God had given Abraham. The conclusion of it all was wonderful. Great writing.
Jan Ackerson 04/26/07
Wonderful title--I suspect that marriage was very scary back then, and that love had to grow very gradually. I loved the way you depicted that awakening--quite tender.
Marilee Alvey04/26/07
Sounds like such an ordinary couple, yet, wait! I know them! Innovative. You've captured a young romantic tale of two impetuous young people, back in the days before long engagements. Well done.
Sheri Gordon04/27/07
The harshness at the beginning made me uncomfortable. I don't think the thought of discord bothered me as much as the dialogue. But, I may have unrealistically 'sanitized' all Bible characters.

When I read this a second time, pretending it wasn't about a famous Bible couple, I liked it much better. So, I obviously have a preconceived belief about the actions of Bible characters. (Basically, they're only bad when we're told they are bad. Which probably isn't entirely accurate.)

That being said -- I loved the way you brought them together at the end. And your writing is very good.

And I admire you for taking a risk.
Rita Garcia04/30/07
I was drawn into your creative account of this story! Great writing!
Joanne Sher 04/30/07
LOVED this peak into lives of the patriarchs. Great dialogue.
Betty Castleberry04/30/07
I like this a lot. Bringing real, human emotions into Bible charcters takes guts. Kudos.
Myrna Noyes05/01/07
Loved your title and the way you brought God's promise to Abraham concerning his descendents into this story. This was very interesting and creative. At the beginning, I had a hard time believing it could be THE Isaac and Rebekah of the Bible, but I, too, thought the ending was wonderful! Good writing! :)
Tracy Walshaw05/01/07
One thing I am learning from reading in Masters level is how to perfect description simply with great dialogue; you did an incredible job. You also abided by the cardinal rule of writing which is BE HONEST. Writing is risky business if you do it right, and it takes courage. You have it in spades!
Cheri Hardaway 05/01/07
Very creative. I too had a hard time at the very beginning, but loved how you brought it around. Excellent job. Cheri
Sara Harricharan 05/01/07
Wow, lots going on here! I never quite thought of this story that way. I do imagine that there must have been quite a few times for that scene though, considering all the sudden 'circumstances'. I love the dialouge between them and especially the clip with the sand and stars. It just seemed a little abrupt though in front with the arguement and then switching to having them lying on the sand and looking up at the stars. Just my opinion though. ^_^