TITLE: Tearing Down the Wall Ch 1, 09/17/2019
By Will Marler
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Rahab woke to a callused hand, rubbing her naked back. With the number of men in and out of her bed, it took her a while to recall who was lying next to her. Turning, she saw Nebit, a mariner whose visits were becoming more frequent, staring at her with unsettling eyes.
She knew he wanted her as his wife, common within Rahab's extensive clientele. Her stunning beauty helped her lure men for money; some longed to marry her, usually after they had too much to drink. She could manage the situation more often than not; when she couldn't, she summoned Mabou.
Rahab had lost track of time by dozing off. She must wash, dress, and hurry downstairs to the staging area where the girls presented themselves for hire. Not only would customers be waiting at this time of day, but Zurah would wonder why she took so long with Nebit. She sat up, shook her head, causing wavy curls to fall well below her shoulders, slipped her shapely figure into a gown, then moved to a basin on the other side of the room, with the sailor's foul smell followed her there.
"Time to go Nebit, your hour is over."
Nebit didn't move or show any inclination to do so. He was like most sailors, unwashed and salty. His hair was long and mangled, his body marked by the effects of hard labor at sea. But there was something ominous about his expression, causing Rahab to want him gone.
"Hurry up. I have to get downstairs," she prodded.
"You should let me take you away from this filth," said Nebit barely above a whisper.
Rahab laughed as she sponged her neck and under her arms. "Where to. On your boat? Your fellow sailors would love that."
"No, I have land, in Babylon. I'll bring you there."
Rahab needed to hurry him out. She was sure to have a client waiting for her in the lobby, and she didn't want to anger Zurah who treated her bad enough as it was. "No, thank you. You must go now. I need to get back to work."
"I can take you to Babylon. You'll be happy there. Not living in this squalor, up to your armpits in the muck." Nebit got out of the bed.
"Not sure you can afford me. You should think about taking someone else."
"I want you."
"Look, if you want me, you pay for me. You want more of me. You pay more coin. But not today, I have to go." She sensed him getting closer to her, but she was rushing to get dressed. She didn’t know how long they had been up here, plus there may be a better client for her downstairs.
"The thought of you with someone else makes me insane."
Rahab detected ire in his voice, but she tilted her head back and let out a sigh, "I'm sorry, but you've fallen for the wrong girl,” she said sharply. “I'm not interested in tying myself down with a man. Not anymore. I prefer things the way they are."
"What if I don't want to accept that?" he said with an eerie calm.
Rahab cursed under her breath, then turned to face him. He was right there, close, measuring her. His eyes went cold, menacing. He flushed red. Then he struck her on the cheek, rocking her backward into the grungy wall. Dazed, she tried to regain her focus, but he rammed his fist into her belly, dropping her to the earthen floor.
"If I can't have you, maybe no one can, huh my love?” He hovered over her. “You should be begging me to take you away from here. What kind of woman are you?"
As she strained to get up, a blow to her forehead sent her back down. Then Nebit's foot crashed into her ribs. He walked back toward the bed to rummage through his clothing. Rahab screamed.
She was hurting. She struggled to get herself upright. She was not defenseless and managed to grasp a sheathed dagger buried in a pocket inside her robe. But Nebit drew a weapon of his own. He wielded a club, about a cubit in length, common in Ashdod for protection against the dockside gangs. She forgot to search his clothing, a mistake for a harlot in this town. Now Nebit meant to kill her.
Before he could use the club, Mabou came through the draped opening. He was a colossal eunuch employed to keep peace in the brothel and protect its girls. Nebit's rage prevented him from realizing the danger he faced. Mabou closed the distance between them then pounded his fist into the back of Nebit's neck. The blow sent the sailor stumbling off balance toward Rahab. Enraged, she slashed her blade at him, connecting with flesh. He dropped his weapon to clutch his bloodied face.
"You dare hit me you son of a jackal?" she shouted at Nebit as he writhed in the dirt. She staggered trying to get to him and finish what the first strike started, but the agony in her ribs prevented her from continuing the fight.
Mabou moved between her and Nebit to inspect the man's injury. She saw the gash from her vantage; split lips and a nose cut almost in two. Mabou grabbed a blanket, wrapped the sailor's head, and carried him from the room.
Nebit yelled from the hallway outside, "Next time I see you; I will kill you; You whore!"
Rahab collapsed to the floor. The pain in her ribs was unbearable, but she worried more about her face. Her uncommon beauty was essential to her livelihood. She was not the favorite of Zurah, but she was her top earner, allowing for Rahab to be insubordinate from time to time.
She struggled to get to the polished bronze on the bedside table. A marred face could lower her value as a prostitute and eliminate her leverage with the madame.
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