All of this had been for her.
Already stunningly beautiful, Hadassah stood before him, her head slightly titled to one side. Her dark hair fell in waves to her waist, pinned in a tight, black braid. Her skin was flawless, her body, still youthful, was slowly beginning to turn into a woman's. It wouldn't be long now.
The older man sighed, heavily, his fingers, running over the hard, grizzled skin of his face, lined and weathered by many summers in the desert. Hadassah had kept him young, his beautiful little cousin, but now he felt older than ever.
The pretty expression of curiosity slowly faded into worry as he watched her, silently, the only noise between them the whisper of the wind through the open window and the racing of Hadassah's heart. Perhaps now... perhaps now they would discuss their future, their betrothal, as her father had wished.
Memur stepped into the room behind her, standing at attention. Her grizzled old form was swathed in natural white linen. Mordechai's wealth even reflected on his servants.
"Is everything all right?"
He smiled, sadly, his eyes wrinkling. "Of course, my dear. Only, things have... happened in court, as of late. I worry for your safety, and I need you to do something for me." Still a child in his eyes, Mordechai was shocked to see the darling little girl he'd been raising was nigh on fourteen, and blooming into a real woman. A very beautiful one, at that. Her beauty was no longer a gift, but seemed a curse.
"Anything you ask!" Haddassah's heart fluttered frantically in her chest.
"As of this day forth, you will answer only to Ether, the Babylonian. I fear Hadassah is no longer a name safe for this city."
Confused, Hadassah's heart shuttered and hiccuped in her chest. No longer safe? It was a name, only, the legacy her parent's handed down to her. A show of her past and her religion, her connection to the One God. "Esther, my lord?"
"Aye, my dear. A name of Babylon. You must forget, my darling, where you come from. It is time for you to forget your heritage. It is no longer safe to be Jewish inside of this city." Worry pressed his brows together.
Hadassah blinked at him, feeling as though her heart were ready to burst from the pain. Forget the One God of her father? She couldn't dream... but her beloved had asked. And she had promised him anything.
"As you wish; what has been happening at court, my lord?"
Mordechai smiled. "I hope, my dear, that news of what goes on at court never reaches your ears, and you may remain just as you are." He held out his hands to grasp hers, his eyes filled with love and worry. "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."
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5