Trapped The Adulterous Woman
A trap has been set…by her own foolish heart.
A stranger approaches Anna’s house in the oppressive heat of the late afternoon before Sabbath. Shielding her eyes against the penetrating rays of the sun, she recognizes the familiar gait and realizes he is no stranger. Her hand trembles as, in a moment of panic, she fleetingly entertains thoughts of grabbing her baby and running.
But there is no place to run.
Her mind flashes back to the events leading up to the present, and the encounter with Jesus that changed her life and set her on the path of forgiveness.
“Anna! It is you.”
Her hands froze, and she looked up in time to see a man toss the lead for his donkey to the lone tree shading the house and stride toward her.
“I’ve looked everywhere for you. But nobody would talk to me. Nobody would tell me where you were. Nobody would listen when I said I needed to speak with you.”
His deep voice aroused every nerve in her body.
He hesitated, one foot on the stone path leading to her front door and one foot still in the dust. A dog barked in the distance, startling the donkey.
She wavered between Eli and the arched doorway to her modest home, inching backward with each step he took forward. She shook her head.
“Please, don’t be afraid.” His voice softened. “I know seeing me must be a shock. May we speak? Please, don’t turn me away.”
Anna backed against the rough wall, her fingers clawing at the stony surface, searching for the door. “How did you find me? Why…?”
Oppressive, stifling heat hung suspended in the gathering dusk, enveloping her face and sucking the breath out of her. Her tiny house had turned into a sweltering oven. Anna had finished her baking earlier in the day in preparation for the Sabbath, but the heat lingered. She had taken her little Jacob outside where it was cooler to watch the neighborhood children at play. Their laughter as they romped in the distance echoed through the advancing twilight. They chased one another around the small trees down the road. The boys, aggressive and quick, teased their squealing playmates as they tagged each other.
Anna bumped into the toddler at her feet. He kicked at a basket that rolled over as he shoved it again with his foot. It bounced back, coaxing a giggle out of the child. She shifted her gaze from Jacob to the unwelcome visitor. Anna whisked her son up in her arms and stuffed her trembling hands beneath the folds of his blanket.
The handsome visitor moved onto the stone walkway, reaching out with his hand as if to touch her. The familiar scent of exotic spices floated softly around her.
She tried to stem the flood of memories, yet her emotions flared. She could almost feel his caress on her arm once again. Her voice barely above a whisper, she signaled with her hand for him to stop. “Don’t, Eli. Don’t come any closer.”
His shoulders sagged, and his eyes pleaded with her.
She turned, the thought of fleeing with Jacob darted through her mind, but where could she go? She squared her shoulders and faced him.
She wanted him to go, yet she wanted him to stay. How foolish. From the moment she met him at David and Lydia’s wedding in Cana, she was smitten. And it was grief and heartache from the beginning. Had she learned nothing from their association? What could he possibly have to say to her now?
“Anna, I know you are angry with me—and for good reason. How can I make it up to you? Could you ever possibly forgive me?” He paused, his glance sweeping over Anna from her tousled hair to the toddler in her arms.
Anna tightened her arms around Jacob. “Angry? Angry doesn’t begin to describe my feelings toward you. Furious would probably be a more apt description.”
Eli took another step toward her. “Please, I have no excuses. Let me try to explain. Please give me a chance to explain.” He looked to the side of the small house. “Is Jeremiah here? Could I speak with him?”
Anna chewed on the inside of her lip and shook her head. “My husband is not home. Wait here.” Anna motioned him to a rough wooden bench near the door.
Jacob put his head on Anna’s shoulder and stuck his thumb in his mouth as his eyelids fluttered closed. Anna took him inside and laid him on his pallet. The fragrance from the bread cooling on the table lingered in the air. She covered the loaves with a towel. Pulling her stubborn headpiece that insisted on falling around her shoulders over her hair, she peeked through the doorway at Eli. He slumped on the bench, fidgeting with a rock he had plucked from the ground.
Conditioned by years of training to extend hospitality to all guests, Anna poured a cup of water from a jug sitting next to the door, but her mind reeled. She took a deep breath and joined him outside.
“You must be thirsty.” She willed her voice to remain steady, measured, and firm. Not trusting herself to hand the cup of water to Eli directly, she set it on the bench.
“Thank you.” He picked up the clay container as if it were made of gold and traced his fingers around the lip. “I don’t deserve even this small gift from you. I did not cherish the treasure you gave me…before.” He set the cup on the bench and then suddenly stood. The cup tumbled off and broke. The precious liquid splashed on his feet and ran in rivulets around his sandals.
“I’m sorry. I should have been more careful with what you offered.” He bent down and picked up the pieces of the broken vessel. He held the pieces in his hand, staring at them. “What should I…?” His voice trailed off as they stood facing each other on the small porch in the long shadows of the evening. The advancing darkness had not dispelled the heat.
Anna had prepared herself never to see Eli again. For him to be standing in front of her now, at her house, was more than she could absorb. She took the pieces of pottery from him. The sharp edges bit into the palm of her hand. Anna clutched at the neck of her robe—she felt as if she were suffocating. Suffocating under the memory of meeting him that day in Cana. Suffocating from the memory of their relationship.
I loved Joy’s first book, Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations, so I have been anxiously awaiting Weddings, Willows, and Revised…