I’m finding it hard to focus today–I keep thinking of the family whose two-year-old boy was snatched by a gator last night at Disney. We Floridians are used to gators, and we know to beware of them, especially after dark. But this family is from Nebraska, and one wouldn’t expect a gator to be lurking at the “happiest place on earth.”
My prayers are with them.
I’m working on EGYPT’S SISTER, a historical set in the Intertestamental Period, the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. I thought I’d share my opening and ask for your comments–good, bad, and indifferent; I’d love to hear them.
Here we go!
Though I was often as close as a shadow to many of the greatest names in human history, history never recorded my name. Though I walked down marble hallways and dined regularly with princes and princesses, no one ever thought my presence significant. And though I influenced a woman who molded the hearts of formidable men, I am never mentioned in their biographies.
My mother died the day she birthed me, but my weeping father took me from the midwife, then stepped out onto the street and held me aloft, publicly acknowledging me as his daughter. A nurse chewed my food until I sprouted teeth, and a slave steadied my footsteps as I learned to walk. I lived in a palatial home only a short distance from the royal palace, so perhaps it was only natural that my father took me to the palace where I played with other noble children. Only when I reached maturity did I realize that he did so not for my sake, but to benefit another child, one who could not leave the palace at the end of the day. Her family called her Urbi, and I called her friend.
Out of all the honored foster siblings who were privileged to be the princess’s playmates, Urbi loved me most. We came into the world only weeks apart, we grew at the same pace, and when we were old enough to learn, we sat before the same tutors. After class, we scampered through crowds of officials and hairless white-robed priests as we played tag in the royal gardens. In Urbi’s chamber we played knucklebones and gave voices to terra-cotta dolls, then hid from the nursemaids until they cursed our mischievousness and sent for reinforcements. In the royal menagerie, we held hands and gazed at giraffes, bears, and snakes—one of them as long as a ship!—and felt ourselves small . . . but safe.
Only when the sun set did my father arrive at Urbi’s chamber to take me home. Back in our house, my older brother Asher looked up from his studies with jealous scorn as I recounted the day’s adventures. Father listened quietly while I babbled about strangers who spoke odd languages and flattened themselves on the ground when they chanced to meet us in the hallway.
“Why do they do that?” I asked.
Father ignored the question and offered advice: “You should watch, listen, and learn, Chava. Not every girl has the opportunities HaShem has given you.”
Yet while I loved playing, I did not care much for learning. My heart yearned for frivolity, beautiful gowns, and polished jewelry from Urbi’s treasure box. I could have happily spent the day playing in her royal apartment, reveling in her massive collection of fine linen tunics and ornate headdresses . . .
If I had been wiser, I would have heeded my father’s words. But as a child I had no idea how swiftly life could change.