"The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might." (Deuteronomy 6:4–8)
"Girl, you are to come with us, by command of the King Xerces."
Esther froze in horror, watching the three warriors. They stood at ease around her, loosely holding their weapons, but she sensed in them a careful watching, a sharpness of sight that shook her foundations and left the impression they expected her to run. And they would catch her, without any trouble.
"But if something happens, my dear, remember that it is in the eyes of the One God, and let that be of a comfort to you."
It was as though her beloved cousin spoke right into her ear. The though gave her courage, and she stood upright, shoulders back, the might of the One God straightening her spine and hardening her eyes.
"My foster father Mordechai is a very important man in the palace, and he is in need of his garments, which I have just cleaned. If you wish to take me to the palace, you must await my delivery of his clothing back to his home."
The guards looked shocked. Before they could respond, Esther turned on her heel, and holding the basket close, made her slow way back to the beloved mud colored home with the tiny back yard, which she loved so much.
After a moment, she heard the guards fall in step behind her, uncertain, but she paid them no mind. 'What would the king want with me?' She wondered, her shoes kicking up red dust in their wake. She walked through the gate, holding the door for her three would-be kidnappers, her face calm as though her insides weren't screaming for her to run.
"Foster father? Memur?" She called, her voice only shaking a little. Memur joined her first, her eyes widening at the sight of her escort. "Will you please take this basket, Memur, and bring me my shawl. These gentlemen are going to escort me to the palace." The old woman moved with surprising haste, taking the basket and shuffling inside, only moments before her beloved cousin glanced out of the doorway.
"Foster father. These men come to bring me to the palace; come and tell me goodbye before I go."
Shocked and wide eyed, sweating from the heat and moment, Mordechai stepped forward, grabbing both of her hands in his.
"Cousin, what goes on here?" She whispered, leaning in as though she were kissing his cheek.
"What I'd hoped to avoid with you, my dear," Mordechai looked sadly at his feet. "Xerces looks for a new bride, and he gathers the beautiful girls of his kingdom to join the harem."
Esther's heart sank to her feet, the color draining from her cheeks, leaving her cold and shaking. "What do I do, cousin? What do I do?"
"Trust in the One God," he said, helpless, as Memur returned with her scarf. She snuck in a hug as the guards began to shift with impatience.
"I am ready now, gentlemen. Forgive me the interruption." She felt Memur behind her, slipping something into the back of her dress. It settled, cold and solid, against her back. "Goodbye, foster father." She waved as she walked, trying to look brave.
"Trust, my dear." He mouthed, standing, lonely and vulnerable, in the dust of his front yard, his expression repeated on the face of his servant. They watched her leave, straight-backed, toward the stunningly beautiful halls of her nightmares.
To the Palace of the King God.
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5