The Pledge (20)

This is the first turning point in the book. After today, the story splits between Judah and Tamar and we begin to see a side of both that was not obvious before. If you’re “tuning in” for the first time, you can click here to read the story from the beginning. And thank you for stopping by my blog. 

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5.

Something jars Tamar out of her sleep. She opens her eyes quickly, but sees only darkness. She is surrounded by the eerie stillness that accompanies night. She tries to remember her dream – something about children, or her family. Or perhaps it was nothing at all. Maybe she wasn’t dreaming. Maybe her nights were as empty as her days.

Tamar closes her eyes.  What reason could her gods have to see her like this – married two years now, without children, her status worse than a slave? She could fill her days with distractions and lies, but at night, when the world grew silent, the truth was apparent for all to see.

Be still, she tells herself and turns around to find a comfortable spot. To her surprise, there is someone beside her. Tamar’s first instinct is to scream – it could only be an intruder, a highwayman come to take her husband’s money and have his way with her. Then she recognizes the man’s scent – alcohol and sex. It is Er.

But why was he in bed with her? They shared few words, much less space: what would possess him to join her now?

Uncertain of what to do, Tamar lies still, wondering if she should acknowledge him. He didn’t like it when she fussed about him – would he show displeasure if she said something about him sleeping off his debauchery in their bedroom? Maybe that’s all it was: he was so drunk, he had lost on his way to the couch in the other room. And if that was the case, then he would not be happy in the morning.

With a sigh, she turns her back to him. She had stopped hoping many months ago, so the rejection was not painful. Still, part of her came alive, being so close to the man she loved. It was strange she had undertaken the task of making the rejections for him – what else could she do, though? It had become the norm in her life now. This was all she could expect from Er and from her gods.

Should she doubt them, though? What if this was Ba’al Mot, changing her status from scorned to beloved? Surely her attitude would only be viewed as contempt for the very being that had shown her their favor? Right?

Tamar peers over her shoulder at the still figure of her husband.

Could it possibly be true?

Slowly, she lies back down, her eyes still on him. Her heart aches to be in his arms, as she was that first night and without a thought, she raises her hand and touches his back. He doesn’t move, nor does he make a sound. He could be asleep, but perhaps if he woke up with her in his arms, he would realize what he had been missing. She releases the breath she has been holding and inches closer to him, her arm wrapping around his back. Tamar closes her eyes and runs her hand up and down his arm, remembering his warm touch.

Er’s skin is cold, though – more so than just the chill of the night. Worried, Tamar opens her eyes and sits up.

“Er,” she says.

He doesn’t respond.

“Er,” she calls again, shaking his shoulder, but again, he says and does nothing.

Worried now, Tamar moves to her knees and pulls Er onto his back. He falls back onto the bed, his face white, with an expression of terror, such that she had never seen before. His eyes are open, his sight cast upon whatever it was that frightened him. His face is sunken and sallow, while his lips are pursed, as if he struggled for breath, a struggle he had lost.

Fighting back tears, she calls his name one last time.

“Er?” Tamar says, willing him to respond. But he doesn’t and she understands then he is gone: her beloved Er is dead.

“No!” she cries, distancing herself from him. She screams, pushing herself against the wall, not wanting to believe any of this was real. She doesn’t notice with Ofra enters the room and rushes over to her to comfort her; she only continues to cry and scream, until she awakens the main household.

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