The Pledge (9)

As I write, one of the things I keep in mind is to be careful that the meaning behind my words are not misconstrued. Not that I don’t want to not offend – I simply want to be sure I’m understood for the sake of the story (ah, human nature). For instance, mixing religion and sex – a modern faux pas, but in this case, in this time, sex was a part of religious expression, and though the Bible is not specific, I believe Judah’s willingness to expose himself to this practice and culture changed him.  

You can click here to read the story from the beginning; and thanks for stopping by my blog. 

* * *

 No promise is made, though it’s obvious Alit is smitten with Judah.

At least that’s what Hirah assures him of on the way home.

“Trust me, my friend,” he says, quietly, as they walk behind his father. “She was taken with you and will be talking to her father about you.”

“So…what do I do?”

“Just wait.”

And indeed, Judah does not have to wait long. The following week, an invitation from Shua is extended to him and he finds himself breaking bread with the man. The conversation is trivial at best, interrupted only by Alit, assisting the servant in bringing in food and drink. Judah’s attention is drawn to her, but she avoids making eye contact, offering only a coy smile here and there.

“You approve of my daughter,” Shua announces.

Alit’s face turns red as she quietly exits the room, while Judah looks down at the bread, trying to still the beating of his heart.

“You said it, she is a rare beauty,” he says nonchalantly. He dips his bread in the olive oil and sits back. “But I would never take advantage of our…newfound friendship here. She is your daughter, after all, and could fetch a substantial bride price.”

“Ah, but none could offer what you do: pedigree, training, favor. The gods smile down upon you, son.”

“You are too kind.”

“Not kind enough. Imagine what alliance between our houses could mean.”

Judah knows. He had pondered the thought in the past week. With Shua’s reputation as a shrewd businessman and Isaac’s name, their fortunes would be infinite. Judah would be his own man and his name would eventually surpass that of his family.

But he had no desire to wed. After watching his father struggle with four women, constantly trying to please the one over the others, Judah knew this was not the path for him. He refused to tie himself down as Jacob did.

This time, Judah’s calm is not forced.

“I will consider the proposal,” he says and continues eating.

Shua smiles broadly and calls in for some music to liven up the event.

He is sure of my acceptance, Judah thinks to himself. And it would be stupid of him to incur the wrath of someone like Shua; but he was not going to repeat his father’s mistakes.

 

Judah has no time to make good on his promise, though, for the next time he sees Alit, it is without her father and they are alone. Still curious about the temple, Judah had gone to… well, to see if what Hirah had said was true. His friend had not lied to him in the brief time he knew him but there was just something about the matter that intrigued him. Judah had brought an offering with him, but his reputation, or rather his familial ties had gone before him and he was allowed entrance. For the temple was only for the most devout worshippers and their priests.

The outside of the building was decorated with ornamental carvings, but the inside was lavish. Judah had never seen anything like it. Inside the sanctuary, there was a large statue of Mot, surrounded by the lesser gods of Canaan. They were overlaid with gold; and offerings of food, grain and precious materials and stones were laid at their feet.

The priests were donned in robes of white and gold; and simply looked at him as he quietly wandered through the dark halls. Candle and torches lit his path, but just barely. Cries echoed past him of priests cutting themselves in the name of their gods. Moans in descript sounds linger in the background.  It is all so strange to Judah, whose worship of Elohim consisted of burnt sacrifices and prayers; and the following of specific statutes – nothing like this.

“You are a follower of Mot?”

The voice pulls Judah out of his thoughts – Alit’s voice. He turns around to see her standing behind him, her back to the fall, the torch above her softly illuminating the features of her face.

“Not, exactly, no,” he replies honestly.

She pushes away from the wall and moves towards him.

“I heard that Isaac worships a nameless god.”

Judah can’t help but look at her body as she approaches him.

“We call him Elohim,” he mutters.

“Ah, the Strong One,” Alit says, pacing her steps. Judah can smell the scent of her perfume as she walks around him then away. “If he is your choice of deity, why are you here?”

She pauses briefly and looks back at him as though waiting for him to follow.

He does.

“Well…,” Judah begins, struggling to remember her question. “Uh…”

“No answer?”

Judah finds his tongue and asks, “Well, why are you here?”

“To worship, of course,” she replies but her tone remains playful.

“Have you…Or did you. I mean, Hirah said…”

Judah wants to ask if she has served her week, if she had given her body in service to her god, but words fail him.

She stops walking and lets him catch up to her.

“Do you want me, Judah ben Isaac?”

Judah is so caught up with her scent, her looks, he doesn’t hear her mistake – or mind her boldness. He draws closer to her; and with no hesitation on her part, she parts her lips and kisses him. Deeply. Judah forgets everything else and allows her to guide him – kissing her back, letting his hands rest on her hips, walking her slowing to a private room in the back. And without argument on his part, Judah takes Alit.

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