Before I can go back to my writing, my other wife, Ahinoam of Jezreel, leans over my desk with her newborn baby. With motherly pride she bounces him this way and that in her arms.
“You know me,” she says. “Unlike that other wife of yours I’m modest, much too modest to ask anything for myself.”
“Thank goodness,” say I, with a sigh of relief.
“But then again, what about your son, Amnon?”
“What about him?”
“He’s your first born, dear, the fruit of your loins,” she says, with a sudden blush.
“I suppose he is,” say I. “So?”
Ahinoam puts Amnon in my arms, wanting me to coo at him. “I don’t want to put any ideas in your head,” she says, “but—”
“But, but won’t he look adorable, and ever so princely, in a cute little purplish suit?”
“I’m too busy for chitchat, don’t you see?” I tell her, trying to subdue the tone of complaint in my voice.
“And,” I go on to say, “adorable as he may be, I’m not going to squander my hard earned booty, and on top of it let tens of thousands of sea snails be crushed into extinction, just for a trifle, for a baby suit, which he’ll soon outgrow.”
“That would be such a waste,” says Abigail, nudging Ahinoam, ever so gently, away from me. “On the other hand, if you’d find it in your heart to buy your servant a new gown, I promise: I’m never going to outgrow it!”
“Oh darling,” says Ahinoam, under her breath. “It would be quite a challenge to get any bigger than you already are.”
Which Abigail pretends not to hear. Batting her eyelashes, she blows a little kiss in my direction and says, “The expense is well worth it, my lord. Really, it’s just like saving money.”
Meanwhile, my new bride, Maacha, elbows her way between both of them. “Splurging is something I truly appreciate,” she says, “but why would you do it for simple women, women who don’t have a drop of royal blood flowing in their veins? They’re commoners. I’m not!”
To which I say, “I have nothing against commoners. I’m one of them.”
Abigail smiles. “Thank you, my lord.”
At that, Maacha stamps her foot. “Did you hear that? She admits being a maid. I’m a princess!”
And Ahinoam jeers at her, “Who cares? You’re not even one of us, are you?”
“Enough already,” say I. “Take leave of me, all of you.”
Instead, Maacha makes her way into my arms and from here, she hisses at the other two, long and hard, in a manner that is questionably regal.
To placate her I try murmuring sweet nothings in her ear. “Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride, milk and honey are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.”
“Forget milk and honey,” she bristles at me. “And forgive me for saying so, I don’t care much for poetry, either.”
“Really? You don’t? That,” I say, “is a problem. Any wife of mine must appreciate the finer things in life—”
“What I really need right now is one thing,” says Maacha. “A purple veil for the upcoming wedding. I want to look mysterious.”
I hesitate to refuse her, so she presses on. “Need I say the obvious? By marrying me, you’re about to gain an important political ally. My father, the honorable king Talmai of Geshur, will be ready to attack your enemies from their back when you face them in battle.”
“My enemies,” say I, “are my brethren.”
“Even so. Ours is a union of mutually calculated benefits. You give, I take.”
“Is that how it works?”
“It is,” she replies. “So why not treat me in the manner to which I’m accustomed? Spoil me, David, with your gifts, your little tokens of luxury.”
I shake my head in dismay. “Why, no! I’m not going to ask for your father’s help to spill the blood of my brethren, just so you can dye your veil purple.”
“Soldiers are expendable,” says Maacha, in a perfectly calm voice. “Not so us women.”
“My lord,” says Abigail, “if you don’t treat us with proper care, we may start suspecting that the rumors are true.”
Noting that the three of them are exchanging glances I take a step back. “Rumors?”
“Dear,” says Ahinoam, “are you cheating on us?”
“Tell us the truth,” she demands. “Are you having an affair? Tongues are wagging all over town, about those two new girls next door, Abital and Eglah.”
So what choice do I have but to swear, “In heaven’s name, what are you suggesting?”
“I’m not suggesting,” says she. “I’m just saying.”
“I would never betray my wives!”
“Wouldn't you, dear?”
I clap my hand over my heart, most earnestly, and in an offended tone I say, “Of course not! Which is why I’ve already proposed to both of them.”
“I see,” says Maacha.
Abigail giggles. “I can just imagine, my lord, what words you used.”
“Yeah,” says Ahinoam, and with a hint of mockery in her tone she quotes the line I once whispered in her ear, and in the ear of any other girl I knew, “Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats, descending from the hills of Gilead.”
Taking a cue from her, Abigail goes on to quote my next line, “Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon. Your mouth is lovely. Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate.”
And Maacha says, “I don’t really care for all that agricultural talk. A purple veil is what I want. Give it to me and then, who cares? You can describe me as any kind of fruit you wish.”
David in A Peek at Bathsheba
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