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Historical Fiction Writers

Chean’s Story Chpt. 2

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  • #115220
    Kimmi
    @kimlikesart

    @eitan @beth20

    a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted

    II

    Joab ben Elizer, of the tribe of Judah owned a large, one roomed home with a wide guests’ courtyard in Bethlehem. It was a small, though not unimportant town, two miles from Chena’s home. Joab had a wife, named Rachel, and one ten year old son named Ruben ben Joab.

    The ben Elizers were close friends with Jehoshaphat and his family. On hearing rumors of their plight the next day, Joab traveled the few miles quicker than he ever had before on foot. (He had loaned their donkey to friends two days before.) He hoped and prayed the family would be alright…

     

    Chena first became aware that she was moving, then of a bright light, a scratchy beard, and a dirt road. She felt arms encircling her. Then she fully awoke. The child began to struggle, screaming, scratching, trying to bite.

    “Chena,” a soft, but firm voice spoke, and a hand tried to caress her head, “Shh, shh; you’ll be all right child.  I’m taking you home.” He looked down at her with tears glistening on his dark brown beard; his quaky voice tried to assure her, “Can you walk child?”

    Chena licked her lips, eyes still quite big as she nodded. Ben Elizer let her feet grace the dry soil little by little. Her legs were unsteady at first, but soon blood flowed. Chena’s eyes were scared and empty, dark portals to the turmoil in her mind. She kept thinking about everything that had happened. Her mother, Levi, and Malachi were gone. Daddy was dead; and the image of Jehoshaphat’s violated form wouldn’t leave her mind. Tears came; the tiny diamonds gliding down her muddy cheeks in spaced out intervals. She held onto Joab’s legs like she was a house built upon vapor,.. and scared to fall.

    After just a bit Chena’s feet started dragging, then she was stumbling. The child just wanted to sleep. Sleep and never wake up… Joab perceived the need and chose to carry her a while, caressing Chena’s fragile back as he walked. Her small hands clutched his wide back, resting her head on his firm shoulder. Chena bit the inside of her cheeks till they bled, eyes hurting from lack of blinking. The image of her daddy still kept encroaching, creeping, and crawling back away from the recesses of her plagued mind.

    They soon came to Bethlehem. The town was a bustle with people working, selling, cooking, and just wandering around. It smelled of manure, and shop owners haggled over prices, each voice getting louder and louder as they competed for customers and volume.

    Chena looked about. She stared at everyone as a spectator. She wasn’t dancing around the stalls, her mother trying to keep up with the happy young girl, Levi on her hip. Chena who would always spin around, and make any wizened face smile.

    They rounded a corner and walked several more yards until they came to a sign that read, ‘Place to Unharness’. Joab entered his home with Chena now walking close beside him. Rachel came to the door seconds after the squeaking hinges announced their entry.

    The woman was homely, with thick, brown, curly hair, in a single braid down her back. Her figure was fine, and her stomach only showed a little plumpness. Rachel stumbled over her words, confused, as she saw the little girl, “Joab? Chena?” She leaned in close to her husband, and after kissing Joab’s cheek asked something in a whisper. After a few sentences Rachel made a slight gesture to the girl frozen in the entryway.

    Joab’s brows lowered, cheeks puffing out, and his sandaled foot tapped an angry beat, “What did you want me to do Rachel?” His voice cracked like a whip. Rachel straightened, noticing Joab’s red eyes for the first time, “There is nothing left of her home. Jehoshaphat and his youngest are dead, the other boy and Jadon are missing. What did you wish me to do? Leave her there to die?”

    Rachel stood straighter, a frown pinching her usually light-hearted expression. She shook her head, bottom lip beginning to tremble, “I’m sorry Joab.” She placed a hand to the man’s shoulder, trying to give him a hug he pushed away. She retreated, whispering soft words, “Jehosaphat was a good friend to you.”

    Joab swallowed hard, “The best,” Rachel tilted her head, then gently as a whisper wiped a large tear on her husband’s leathered face.

    The mother then looked to the orphan who had been staring up at them with wide eyes. And with a nigh unto invisible sigh, she knelt in front of Chena, “Hello sweetie?” Rachel tried to smile at the child, but Chena’s face didn’t change. Joab’s wife bit her lip and looked up to her short husband, “Has she said anything?”

    Joab shook his head, and Rachel looked back to the child, cocking her head, “Let’s go get you cleaned up.” Rachel rose, knees popping, and she stuck out a hand. Chena obeyed, placing her soft palm into Rachel’s calloused one. “After you are clean, and out of that dirty under-dress, Ruben should be back inside from the animals.”

    Chena nodded, jaw set, and eyes dark portals.

    When Rachel gave Chena a wet rag to clean herself with, the child didn’t know what to do. Rachel had to take charge, putting Chena in a barrel, and scrubbing all the grim, and blood off her.

    After Chena was dried, one of Rachel’s large dresses was slid over the girl’s head. After this, Rachel bid Chena onto the pallet she shared every night with Joab. “Try to get some sleep, while I go fetch Ruben.” Chena nodded to let Rachel know that she had heard. The child felt hot, and dry inside.

    Rachel smiled, her eyes open in their sorrow, yet hopeful as she stared down to the little girl.

    Sleep didn’t come to Chena. She lay staring up to the ceiling.

    After several minutes the curtain separating the master’s pallet from the rest of the home fluttered.  Chena sniffled but didn’t move.

    “Chena?” A boy’s voice spoke as hesitantly as a mouse calling to a feline.

    Chena swallowed hard, and sniffled again.

    Ruben had always been Malachi’s best friend. He was funny, and usually kind to Chena. But the girl didn’t want the regular story or jest. She wanted her mother and brother, wanted to know what had happened to them. She wanted to feel her daddy’s strong arms wrapped about her, his beard to tickle her face, or for his voice to assure her things would be all right in the end.

    “Can I please come in Chena?”

    She wanted to call for him to enter, but she couldn’t will her mouth to open. Then Rachel’s voice reached her ears, and the drape peeled outward. “Go on in Ruben…She won’t bite you.”

    The boy swallowed hard then stepped through, as if not quite sure his mother had told the truth. The wind from Rachel letting the sheet fall shut ruffled the boy’s walnut colored hair, blocking his exit. Ruben sighed, and then waved at Chena from beside the veil. His thin lips twitched in the corner, and he wiped his eyes. Ruben’s lashes were wet.

    She rose up from the mat like the moon from the horizon. Eyes wide, yet hidden.

    “Hello Chena,” Ruben said just above a whisper, “My, my mother told me what happened. And, and even though it won’t help, help what happened… I, I mean.”  The young boy swallowed hard, and looked to the ground. No doubt thinking of Malachi; they had been near to brothers.  “I’m, I’m sorry.”

    Chena’s eyes sparkled a little, as she bounded off the pad and ran to Ruben. Her skinny, six-year-old arms wrapping about the bigger boy. Her tears started to flow again as she pushed her head deep into his upper stomach. She smelled him, and the scent of dust and earth filled her nostrils. So much like Malachi… Ruben probably hurt like her. He had lost her brother too had he not?

    They squeezed each other’s torso so tight that they might have burst like old wine skins with new wine. Chena didn’t care. The only other person she trusted in the world right then, was Malachi’s best friend. Ruben ben Joab. She welcomed every bit of closeness he offered.

    Ruben guided Chena back over to his parent’s mattress, and after a second of panic, let Chena put her head in his lap. Then he began to rub her lower back. Ruben could feel her lungs’ steady release, and fill as she breathed. She almost dropped to sleep. Almost, for she could feel Ruben’s fingers fiddling with her long, soft hair.

    They stayed quiet for about thirty minutes when he asked, “Would, would you tell me what happened?” Her body tensed before the question was over, “You don’t have to.” He rushed on, “Don’t tell me anything if you don’t want to. But, I’m, I, I…want to know.” Then he waited. Time fell into eternity before small tears began to run down Chena’s cheeks and onto Ruben’s knees.

    Then she began talking. It all came out in blubbers, and sounded like the gibberish of a two year old.

    When at the end, she had tears and snot running down her young face, “The soldiers didn’t see me Ruben. Eloha kept me, me safe for some reason?”

    “Are you claiming a miracle Chena?”

    Chena’s dark eyebrows crunched, and she tilted her head up at Ruben.

    “For I believe that is what it was. You were saved indeed Chena. You were saved alive! Hidden in the cleft of the rock as Elias.”

    After a few more minutes Ruben left Chena, saying she needed time to rest. The little girl waited a bit, wanting him to return. Then she gave up, and followed him out the flap.

    ***

    The next morning…

    Rachel smiled at Ruben, as the boy shuffled into the kitchen, bumping into the low table as he sat down for his breakfast. “Good morning Ruben, did you have a good night’s rest?”

    “I, I hope Chena will be alright.” Ruben yawned as he spoke, then used his tanned right hand to rub his baggy eyes. His brows furrowed when he looked down into his bowl. It was filled with mush; just a bunch of soggy left-over’s splattered into the same pot. Yuck! He had to force his tongue from sticking out in disgust.

    “I’m glad you’re being so kind to her.” Rachel went on, leaning closer to Ruben, looking from him, to his food.

    It’s mush. He wanted to scoot from the table, or drop it on the dusty floor when his mother wasn’t looking. But his mind had a bigger problem, Malachi. His brother was likely dead. And what of their oath to always love and protect each other’s family?

    Ruben’s brow set, “Can Chena stay here mama?” The boy’s hard brows lifted with his caramel eyes as they searched Rachel’s face.

    At his mother’s unchanging expression Ruben rocked back and forth on his bum.

    Rachel paused, and lowered her brows. She stared at her son as if he was crazy, and Ruben blushed. “I think you should talk to your father about her staying. I’m sure if she works hard here. Doing chores, helping me with the cooking, cleaning, and picking up after the guests…” Rachel’s eyes began to glitter as she tried to look skeptical. “She would also need to help you with the animals in the stable. If she and your father agree… I think she can stay.”

    “Thank you Mama!” Ruben jumped up, lunged forward, lips pecking her cheek, before bouncing back, “Love ya!” then he was out the back door like a shot to ask his father. Effectively leaving his mother, and (more important) the mush behind.

     

    Rachel chuckled, her chin lifting, and eyes shining as she shook her head, staring after her beautiful boy. Rachel had already known that Chena would be staying with them. Joab and Rachel had decided so last night. Chena would likely stay until the time of her nuptials to Ruben.

    They had been promised by their fathers for two years. The children just didn’t know it yet.

    Rachel’s forehead wrinkled as her mind ran through scenarios. Chena’s parents had been outcasts from their family a few cities north. The couple had moved to Bethlehem to get away. The ben Elizers didn’t even know how to contact them about the deaths. But what if the unknown relatives somehow found the child and took her back?

    Rachel grabbed a rag, sighing to herself. Then she began to chew her cheek as she started to clean the family’s low table.

    Even though Rachel would never have wished for such circumstances, and her heart ached for the girl and her mother. Her chest swelled as she realized she had a daughter.

    Jominkreesa

    Passion = A Willingness To Suffer

    #115268
    Beth Darlene
    @beth20

    Awesome!! Will read this soon!

    Jominkreesa! For the weirdos who know what it means! 😉 I love you guys!

    #115270
    Eitan
    @eitan

    @kimlikesart

    Your prose is great, and the chapter is very good. I think you portrayed the time era very good, and I loved your subtle references to the Bible – The covenant of David and Jonathan, and Boas – the godly, not quite poor man, that take scare of a young woman / girl without a family. Maybe it was totally accidental though, but I still loved it 🙂 And both of those characters are connected to Bethlehem, after all!

     

    My critique:

    Hmm… You use omniscient POV and Hebrew / English terms and names, again…

    It’s not correct to refer to Ben Elizer as a surname, because it’s a patronymic. Maybe you should invent for them a nickname? Maybe they live next to the old oak of the town, so they’re called ”Oldoak”, or something like that? Or just refer to them as ”Joab’s family”? By the way, the correct form of the name is Eliezer.

    The main problem in the chapter is that it seems to end too… closed. Chena receives a home, and we also know that she has a future loving husband – As much as a story about looting, orphanage and death can have a ”happy ever after”, your story has it. There’s no real conflict left, no motivation to continue reading…

     

    That’s everything. In general, the chapter is good, and I’m really sorry if I offended or hurt you in any way.

    You don't need to see the wind itself in order to hear the rustling leaves.

    #115278
    Kimmi
    @kimlikesart

    @eitan

    No, you’re good!

    I’m so sorry about the POV! I tried to put a break whenever it switched, and got rid of a lot of thoughts several people had… Do you think I should just leave out Rachel’s part or something?

    Hebrew words,.. I just changed all Eloha to G-d.

    I like the idea of the nick-name. I will have to think of one. I am embarrassed, (to say the least), that Eliezer is spelt wrong… Just fixed that.

    Thanks for doing this!

    I will try to put in new questions, and such at the end to not make it so closed. (:

    I also feel I should warn you…there are 83 chapters…396 pages. And, well, I’d understand if you didn’t want to critique /all/ of it… or even /most/ of it…

    I loved your subtle references to the Bible – The covenant of David and Jonathan, and Boas – the godly, not quite poor man, that take scare of a young woman / girl without a family. Maybe it was totally accidental though, but I still loved it And both of those characters are connected to Bethlehem, after all!

    That’s so cool! (And it was an accident.) Thanks! (:

    Jominkreesa

    Passion = A Willingness To Suffer

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