Abishag says nothing in reply. After a long pause she asks, “Did he invite you to the festivities? I would love to escort you—”
“Festivities?” say I. “No one tells me anything these days, which is why I am becoming so pitifully suspicious.”
“I see him down there,” she says. “His guests are arriving now, gathering around to greet him. They’re laughing. He’s not.”
At that I wave my hand. “Adoniah must be tired. He’s utterly weary of life here, in my palace. Luxury can be such a boring thing when you’re born into it.”
She glances back at me, her eyes wide with disbelief. “Is it, really?”
“It must be,” say I. “Unlike me, he’s never fought for what he has. To entertain him, his mother throws one party after another in his honor.”
“He’s young,” says Abishag. “And so tense. She just wants to make him happy.”
“As you may know, her name, Haggith, stands for celebration, which suited her perfectly well several decades ago, when I first cuddled her in my arms. How eloquently I praised her beauty, back then! Alas, how quickly it has waned! Gone is my delight—”
“That,” says Abishag, in her dreamy voice, “is the nature of it, is it not?”
“Perhaps so,” I say. “But now, in heaven’s name, what is there to celebrate? That, I’m afraid, is yet unclear to me.”
“Does a party need a reason? Sometimes,” she says, “it’s just for fun.”
“Fun? Not at this extravagant cost,” I counter. “My wife thinks I don’t know the extent of her expenses. Lately she’s stopped asking me to authorize them. Instead, she simply acts as if my entire treasure already belongs to her son, simply because.”
“Because he’s entitled. According to her, giving no reason at all for this squandering is much more convincing than the best excuse.”
I prop myself up on my pillows to catch sight of Haggith. There she is, wearing her best winter gown, which is puffy here, tight there, and fleecy all around, elaborately designed to give her flesh a much needed lift in all the right places.
With great jubilation, my wife is chatting about nothing worth mentioning, first with one guest, then another, all the while lavishing rich food upon them. The rest of my wives—Michal, Ahinoam, Abigail, Maachah, Abital, Eglah, and Bathsheba—stay away from her, perhaps in the women’s quarters. She pays no attention to them. After all, her son is next in the line of succession. He is the heir-apparent, now that his elder brothers—my firstborn Amnon and my beloved Absalom—have perished.