The Pledge (31)

Even when I’m not writing, my brain is, and while I’d like to say The Pledge is complete, this is a truth that is mostly in my head. I’m busier than ever, but it’s a good kind of busy. I have added another writing project to the queue and will be working on that one simultaneously, until then, I am posting another installment of The Pledge that I have managed to move from my head to my computer. Enjoy. 

If you want to read the story from the beginning, you can click here.

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The Pledge

While Alit chats with her friends, Judah prepares to leave. He had caught only snippets of Alit’s conversation, but it is enough to know he doesn’t want to be with them. He notes how her spirit is seemingly lifted in Tamar’s departure. In fact, the whole tone of the household had changed, as if they had returned to normal.

Without a word to his driver, he mounts the wagon and sits back as they head to the fields where his sheep graze. The ride would be a long one, so Judah decides to focus on his affairs.  He had been lax in including Shelah on anything, but he couldn’t do that any longer. As primogenitor and sole heir, Shelah would have to be knowledgeable about the business; and he would have to develop a backbone to match his father’s, otherwise the boy would be taken advantage of. And after all these years of amassing his wealth, Judah was not going to let it dwindle away. Deciding it best to bring the boy with him the following week, Judah reviews his ledgers and makes plans for the shearing of the sheep. There would be a festival and plenty of celebration.

With the business side of things taken care of, Judah relaxes and lets his thoughts linger on the women who would be at the festival, ready to serve his needs. This is enough to take his mind from the present and before he knows it, they have arrived at the fields.

Leaning on his staff, Judah steps down from the carriage and looks around. His servants are tending the livestock, but there are others there too, his brothers watching over his father’s sheep. Jacob had moved his camp to Hebron, where he resided with his father Isaac, who had lost his sight, but was still strong for a centenarian. The lands around Hebron were adequate for grazing, but with the addition of Jacob’s flocks to Isaac’s, it was necessary to find other grounds that could sustain them all. And when his brothers were in the area, it was almost requisite for the brothers to visit. And as of lately, it was a welcome distraction.

“Brother!” Reuben greets him with a hug and a kiss.

Judah reciprocates the gesture and they join the others beneath a nearby tree. It is midday and the sun is hot. Most of the sheep are resting in whatever shade they can find, no different than their shepherds.

“How is our father?” Judah inquires. It had been some time since Judah had seen his brothers last and though there were travelers who could relay news of the house of Isaac, Judah always waited to hear it from the mouth of his brothers.

But none offer any news. Usually the vocal one, Simeon sits in silence, looking down at his hands. Levi stands behind him, looking down at Simeon. The sons of the concubines say nothing, avoiding eye contact as well. Only Reuben responds.

“Even after all these years, he still mourns for his son, Joseph.”

No guilt had ever struck Judah for his part in Joseph’s sale, but today is different. In the past he could remove himself from the situation, but not this time.

“It’s like he waits to die,” Asher adds, the sorrow in his voice unmistakable.

Judah listens, but finds his heart weighing heavier than before.

“Would he mourn our passing like that?” Zebulon wonders out loud.

They all know the answer to that, but none respond, each lost in his own thoughts. Judah, for his part, finds himself thinking about his boys, Er and Onan. The sons of his loins, both dead. Watchful and Strong, both dead; leaving only Shelah. His name meant resignation, to send, send away, let go, but Alit’s people defined it as ‘request’ – it was her resignation that named the boy, after all, his absence, his preferences, this favoritism, despite his pledge, that made this situation what it was. He had become the father he had left behind, allowing Alit to fill her life with the boys and their needs; and Shelah to play the role of savior, while he sat back and watched.

But this is a truth Judah doesn’t like dwell on. He can’t change the past, any more than he can go back and ‘unsell’ Joseph to the Midinites. What was done was done and like him, Jacob would have to learn to live with that. He brought it on himself and for that, Judah would not apologize.

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