Friday, November 14, 2014

I have a catch in my throat as I tell her, “I’m so glad you came.”

Wrapped in a long, flowing fabric that creates countless folds around her curves, she loosens just the top of it and lets it slide off her head—only to reveal a blush, and mischievous glint, shining in her eye. It is over that sparkle that I catch a sudden reflection, coming from the back window, of a full moon. 
Looking left, right, and down the staircase, to make sure no one is lurking outside my chamber door, I let her in. Then I lock it behind her, so no one may intrude upon us. 
In a manner of greeting I raise my goblet. It is a gift from my supplier, Hiram king of Tyre, and unlike the other goblets I have in my possession, this one is made of fine glass, with minute air bubbles floating in it. With a big splash I fill it up to the rim with red, aromatic wine. In it I dip a glistening, ruddy cherry, and offer it to her, with a flowery toast. 
“For you,” I say. “With my everlasting love!”
Bathsheba takes the goblet from my hand, and raises it to her lips. “Love, everlasting?” she says, raising an eyebrow. “What does that mean, in this place?”
I hesitate to ask, “What place is that?”
“This court,” she says, with a slight curtsy, “where the signature feature is a harem, which is as big as the king is endowed with glory.”
“Glory is a good thing,” say I, lowering my voice. “But sometimes it is better to meet in the shadows.”
“Especially,” she says, matching her voice to mine, “when there are so many others.”
“Here we are,” say I. “It’s just us.”
“Really,” says Bathsheba, sipping her wine and ever so delightfully, licking her lips. “It must be a special night, then! Just you and me, and no one else, no one else at all.”
Yet I cannot avoid feeling the presence of someone other than me in her thoughts, perhaps her husband, Uriah, who is one of my mighty soldiers and the most trusty of them. Earlier today he must have received his transfer orders to join the cavalry in the eastern hills, where he would be stationed outside the city of Rabbah. 
I refuse to imagine him pressing her to his heart, kissing her goodbye before a long departure. Am I merely a distraction? I wonder if she misses him already, if she thinks of the dangers he would face. 
I have a catch in my throat as I tell her, “I’m so glad you came.” 
Bathsheba lifts her eyes and looks straight at me. 
“Really,” she says, in her most velvety tone. “You mean, I had a choice in this matter?”
Her question stumps me at first, because how can I admit that she  is right, so right in asking it? Instead I just shrug. 
“You do have a choice,” I say at last. “And I hope you’ll make it.”
“I’m so glad to hear that,” says Bathsheba. “With that ape, I mean, that bodyguard of yours knocking so loudly, so rudely, and for such a long time at my door, I had my doubts about it.”
“You can go, if you wish,” I stress, with a reluctant tone. “But I wish you wouldn’t. Stay with me, tonight.”
Bathsheba picks the stem of the red cherry, and takes little bites out of it. In her pleasure she hums, and smacks her lips. Then she raises the goblet to my lips, letting me take in the aroma. I do, and then I take a long gulp.
With a slight sway of her hips Bathsheba walks past me, knowing I cannot take my eyes off of her. She wanders about my chamber as if she were the one owning it. 
“You’ve been brought here by my order,” I whisper to her, across the space. “But I am the one held captive.”

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