He took in a sharp breath. She was even more beautiful than he remembered her. Without her heavy kohl makeup, her deep brown eyes seemed to take up her whole face, though they still radiated sadness.
Bezalel’s mouth went dry. He started to speak but no words came out. He felt like a fish that had landed on the bank gasping for air, his mouth opening and closing. The closer she got, the more stupid he felt.
Her long, black hair fell straight this time—no fancy pins or flowers. Her new tunic was not torn as before, and made of the silkiest linen, not rough and coarse like his. It skimmed her body perfectly, and when she walked it swayed and made his head spin. Three vertical rows of tiny blue-black dots ran down each arm from just below the shoulder to above the elbow: the mark of a concubine.
“Excuse me.” She stepped closer. She was about a head shorter than he was.
That same scent of jasmine. Much as he wanted to, he tried not to close his eyes and drink it in. “Y-yes.” He surprised himself by managing to get the word out and then keeping his mouth closed.
“I wanted to thank you for your kindnesses to me … uh … before.” She came even closer and reached up to touch his neck but stopped just short. “I see your bruise healed nicely.”
His breath came faster. “Yes, it did. And you’re welcome.” His heart beat wildly, and he could barely hear his own voice over the pounding in his ears. He hoped his cheeks didn’t look as red as they felt.
“My name is Meri.” Her voice sounded like honey tasted. “I’m Bezalel.” She was so close—he just wanted to touch her. He smiled, and the smile he received in return sent a wave of warmth pulsing through his body. “Why aren’t you with the others?”
She waved her hand toward the river. “They’re out teaching their children. I don’t have any, obviously. Besides, I hate it here. I don’t belong. Everyone else wanted to be his concubine. I didn’t. There hasn’t been a new girl around in several years and I’ve upset things. They don’t like me, and I’m not too fond of any of them, either.” She paused, and let out a deep breath. “That sounds awful, doesn’t it?”
A smile spread across his face. “No.” He chuckled as he saw her frown. “Not at all.”