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A full moon bathed the Palestinian landscape with light, lessening the stygian darkness of the warm spring night. Its round glowing orb reflected off the surface of the water rushing through the small wadi that wound its way through the countryside. The silence of the night was broken only by crickets chirping their cadences in sporadic communication.
A young woman knelt beside the flowing stream and plunged her shaking hands into its cool water, noting her distorted image reflected in its rippling surface. Blood was still seeping from the cuts on her face, purpling bruises marring what had never been beautiful features. She shivered at the face staring back at her. One eye was already swelling shut, her lips swollen and bruised. The blood from her cuts and scrapes would draw more than one predator, and she trembled at the moving brush around her. Lions were known to roam through this region of Judea.
Gathering her torn robe tightly around her, she curled up next to a large rock, trying not to imagine what might be lurking beneath its stony bottom. She shivered as the cool night air blew gently across her wet skin. Sighing, she leaned her head back against the boulder, allowing her thoughts to wander. Inevitably they turned to her father. Their last conversation still echoed in her mind.
"You will do as you are told!"
Anna had trembled at the look of raw fury in her father's eyes, but she knew that she couldn't give in. Not this time. The marriage he had arranged for her would be no better than trading one life of abuse for another.
"Please, Father. I can't," she pleaded, flinching from the blow she saw coming.
The first blow sent her head spinning, blood spurting from her mouth.
"The arrangements have already been made," he told her coldly. "You will marry Eli Barjonah in one week."
He stood waiting for her to agree. She should do so and avoid the beating she knew was coming, but something inside had finally snapped and she would give in no more. Let him do his worst; she didn't care any longer. Death was preferable to the life she had been leading for the last eighteen years since her mother's death. Let him kill her if he so desired. Better that than a life of fear and heartache. She had had enough of that to last her twenty lifetimes.
She was uncertain what caused her father to hate her so, but hate her he did. She could see it in the dark recesses of his eyes. He seemed to take great pleasure in finding fault with her, allowing him the opportunity to cause her physical pain.
Even though Eli Barjonah was known by all to be a hateful, brutal man, it seemed her father was pleased to be giving her over to him. Two of a kind, both full of malice and evil. What had she ever done to make him hate her so?
"I will not marry Eli, and you cannot make me." Defiance rang clearly in her voice.
Never having been pretty, she had reached twenty-five years of age without anyone ever having offered for her hand. Having no looks was one thing, but having no dowry, as well, had made her undesirable to the few men who might have been willing to overlook her plain appearance. Her father's frustration had grown with each passing year. Had her mother lived, things might have been different, but life was what it was.
For years she had tried to please her irascible father, all to no avail. No matter what she did, she was always wrong in his eyes. How had her mother endured such a man? The circumstances of her death were still a mystery to Anna, but she had her suspicions. Oh, yes. She had her suspicions. And it was those very suspicions that had sent her fleeing into the night regardless of what might be lurking in the darkness, regardless of who might be lurking in the darkness. Only her complete faith in Elohim had given her the courage to make such a move. Had He not sent His only Son to die for her? Such a Father she could love and honor, a Father unlike any she had ever known. It still filled her with awe that He would allow His Son to die for such a one as she. What was even more remarkable was the fact that He had died for her father, as well. Incredible!
Thankfully her father hadn't known of her conversion to the Way or she knew for certain that she wouldn't be alive today. She believed it would have given him great pleasure to see her stoned to death for forsaking her Jewish beliefs. But she hadn't really. Jesus was actually the fulfillment of the Jewish faith. If only more people could understand that.
An owl hooted in the distance, bringing her thoughts back to the matter at hand. She should get moving, but the pain in her side had become more intense as she walked over the rough terrain. It was so hard to breathe. More than likely, her father's last beating had broken a few ribs.
She tried taking a deep breath, but the lancing pain that shot through her chest sent a dizzying wave through her that almost made her pass out. Tears started from dark brown pain-filled eyes as she lifted them heavenward.
"Elohim! Help me!" Her voice was a bare sigh escaping upward on the night wind.
Regardless of the pain, she had to get moving again. She wasn't far enough away from her father's reach. Her defiance of him would not let him rest until she finally subjected herself to his will. He was that kind of man.
She attempted to rise, but the effort was too much. Whimpering in pain, she lay prostrate on the cold sand and, forgetting the faith she had just advocated, she begged for a quick death.
She lay weeping for some time before she realized that something was tickling her hand. Without moving her body, she slowly lifted her face and peered through the darkness. The large black creature crawling across her hand made her forget everythingbroken ribs, pain, cuts and bruises. With a scream that resounded around the surrounding hillsides, she flung the scorpion into the night.