The tears stung her eyes, mingling with the dust in the dry, raw wind as she stumbled down the road. She wiped them away with the back of her hand, smearing a thin film of mud across her cheeks. The hasty gesture brushed back the hair from her face, bringing a fresh rain of dust down from the top of her head, and she stifled another sob to avoid choking on it. She cast a glance back over her shoulder. The sprawling cluster of tents had dwindled in the distance, but she could still pick out her husband’s from among them. He no longer stood outside it, but since she had so far successfully willed herself to not look back, she could not tell how long he had watched her before returning inside. Wishing once more that she could also have willed herself to restrain her tears until she was out of earshot, she shook her head. No, he should know how he has wounded me.
Turning the thought into a prayer mid-sentence, she wished it away to the ears of whatever god was listening, but then she could not help recalling how her husband had lain next to her that morning, his body warm and firm and strong against hers in the last few minutes before dawn. He had kissed her twice before he departed to his day’s work, and the memory of his lips against hers dragged a fresh sob from deep within her chest. She wailed aloud as memory turned, against her own will, to that last kiss he had bestowed upon her only moments before—cold, regretful, and pitying—but wrung with the lingering and muted pain of a wounded animal in its death throes.
“You bring disgrace on me and all our household!” He had paced the length her tent, pulling at his beard and not troubling to keep his voice quiet. “How could you treat a guest this way—and one so favored among our allies?”
“His exalted position would avail us little if the enemies of your allies held us to account for our part in his escape,” she had said, keeping a level tone of voice.
“Always with you it is ‘your, your, your’!” he had cried. “‘Your’ kinsmen, ‘your’ herds, ‘your’ household, ‘your’ allies.’ Never ‘our’ family, ‘our’ allies.”
“You know what I am,” she had replied, feeling the blood begin to rush to her face. “I have bound myself to you as long as you shall live, but a man’s days are short. And you stray from the deed at hand. Is one lapse in hospitality a greater matter than the lives of you and me and all our house?”
“How can you be so certain of our destruction? The men of Hazor are many, and strong. None can withstand them. But you would throw our lot in with this little people, these dead dogs.”
“I tell you, your allies have already been defeated. Why else would he be here, weary and bloodied and stinking of fear?”
“And you have Seen this?” he asked, doubt creeping into his eyes for the first time.
She stiffened. “You know it is not like that.”