Ashia is the handmaiden to a princess - and not just any princess. Michal, daughter of King Saul of Israel, is her master. But Ashia and her family have secrets - including one that could cause Ashia and her family's destruction, not to mention a threat to the house of Israel's king.
Ashia rose, the lily in one hand and knife in the other. Inhaling, she surveyed the nearby flower beds, watching for a bloom to complement the one she'd already chosen. Perhaps another red and yellow flower. Or maybe just one of those colors.
She released the air from her lungs as a tall hyacinth, the same shade of crimson as the lily, caught her eye. She raced toward it and dropped to her knees in front of the multi-flowered blossom. Holding the lily up beside it, she smiled. “Perfect.”
Something brushed against her shoulder. “Those do complement each other beautifully. You really do have an eye for color and beauty.” Nahum's voice made her look up. His brown wavy hair covered his right eye. She resisted the urge to brush it away from his face.
She smiled at him, then returned to the flower. After cutting it from the stem, she rose. “Thank you, Nahum. I do enjoy all that grows here. A touch of beauty in a frightening, uncertain place.”
“That it is.” He beckoned her toward a small bench not far away. They both sat.
“And the Lord said that it was good.” Nahum stretched his arms out and extended them from in front of him to his sides. “My scriptures say that Yahweh made all of this: every tree, plant, mountain, hill, person, star in the sky. And that it is good.”
Ashia fidgeted in her chair. “If this is true, I wonder why he made the nettle? Or the mosquito?” She lowered her voice and head. “Or the madman.”
Nahum raised his eyebrows. “Or war. Or death. But He is sovereign. And much of what he did create is lovely. Especially in this garden.” He leaned to the side and picked a daisy from the ground. “For you. A bit of beauty to take with you into the cruel world.”
She grinned, stifling a chuckle. “My god would ask for this flower as a sacrifice, perhaps. He would demand I focus on pleasing him, rather than lightening my mood. To him, beauty is useless unless it is benefiting him.”
Nahum's brow crinkled. “My God also desires sacrifice. He is a just God, who does not take our transgressions against Him lightly. Yet, He also blesses those who love Him and gives us beauty to appreciate. He values nothing more than devotion to Him, and truth.”
She snickered. “And mine values gold, silver, and spices. He gives us nothing unless we beg, and even then there is no guarantee. We must please him, or face his wrath.”
Nahum sighed. “And yet you worship him. You sacrifice to him.” He looked into Ashia's eyes. “Forgive me for my questions, and do not answer if it makes you uncomfortable, but I'm curious. Do you believe your God created the world? Why do you sacrifice to him? What makes him worthy of your worship?”
Ashia's insides tightened and she felt her face pale. “I really don't know what to say. I know he has kept me and my family safe. And the rituals are so important to Mama. I guess I never really thought about it before.” She forced a smile. “But I will.”
She stood, looking out toward the east, where the sun continued its crawl up the sky. She licked her lips. “I must get back to my mistress. It is getting near time for her morning meal.”
Nahum rose as well, nodding. “Thank you for the talk.”
She slid the daisy behind her ear. “Thank you as well. Have a lovely day.” Michal's two flowers in hand, she scurried from the garden, not daring to look back. She knew her cheeks were pomegranate-red. Her head spun with confusion as she pondered the words she and Nahum had shared.
She'd never seen him so introspective, nor as apparently interested in her god. Or so attentive.