Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Bathsheba: harlot or innocent?

My husband is dead.

Is there nothing the king will not do for me?

They say he died a hero’s death, at the head of his troops; they say I can be proud of him. Proud of him? Proud of that fool? Who preferred the company of his men to mine. Who has been oblivious to my needs. Others have noticed my loneliness. Many men have tried to seduce me with their sympathy and false words, but I had eyes for one prize only.

I will, of course, mourn my loss as a grieving widow should but when the due time has passed the king will take me as his own – his preferred – wife, and my child –our child – his son – for surely this is a son I carry in my womb – we will take our place at his side.

You look surprised. Surely you do not believe – as I feel sure the king does – that this story is of his making? As if a mere man can outwit or stand against the plans of woman. Was it coincidence did you think that the King should chance to see me bathing? Did you imagine that I had not watched him for long nights until I was sure that he would be on the roof when I took my bath? And did I not choose the perfect place where the light of the moon reflected giving my skin a honeyed glow, and my silhouette was crisp against the wall? As I brushed my hair, didn’t each long slow stroke draw him ever closer into my web?

Of course I resisted. When he sent for me I tarried and played the coy maiden. See, how easy it is with a sweep of my shawl to become demure. ‘What am I that your Lord should honour me thus?’ And when I succumbed - finally - and we fell into his bed, I sighed and moaned and said those things that men like to hear before I allowed my desire to be sated. Always allowing him to think that he is in control. That is the secret.

The king, of course, thought he could resolve the situation; he could solve ‘the problem’ by having Uriah brought home on a pretext. I hadn’t expected him to come up with that idea but Uriah was easily persuaded that a good soldier would not enjoy the pleasure of his wife while his men continued to suffer hardship on the battleground. The stupid fool. He could have saved his life he had but known.

But now the King has walked on the dark side. And only he and I know. He is mine. Our futures are linked irrevocably. And my child will be raised in the royal household as befits the king’s own, and I will teach him the ways of the world that he must understand so he can make real my - his - dream. For it will be to the child of mine that the kingdom of David will pass.

My husband is dead. My husband is dead. Even though I am told it over and over again I cannot believe it. They say he died a hero’s death, on the front line. And I fear …

He was a fine warrior; so how then did he find himself at the front with no defence? He wouldn’t have been there unless he’d been ordered and who could have issued that order?

You are surprised. You don’t expect me to mourn for my husband? He may not have been the best but he was gentle and good. He deserved better. Better than this death. Better than me.

I see you look at me with doubtful eyes; you know the secrets of my heart; I cannot be false with you. So surely you will believe me when I say I mourn for his loss. And I am so fearful.
Fearful for what will become of me, of us, now that he is dead. Will I be left widowed and my unborn child shamed? Will he – the father of my child – help us? Or has he already done as much as he thinks needed?

But they say he is man after God’s own heart. Surely a man, a king such as he would not risk the damage to his soul, the price that playing with the life of another would cost. Yet are we not both guilty of breaking the laws laid down by God? If he would break one law, why baulk at another?

If I had known that first evening when he sent for me what would be the result … would I still have gone? For surely I was flattered by the attention of a man such as he. And my husband has given me little enough attention over the years. You know how lonely I have been. While he has been the perfect soldier, always thinking first of his men and later of me.

But he, he seemed to understand my yearning for a touch, to feel another’s skin upon my own. He who had brought a giant to his feet now knelt at my feet and stroked them, his fingers long and tender. He whispered and smiled at my shyness, bringing his hand up to raise my chin so that I was looking into his eyes, and seeing in them my own longing reflected back at me.

It wasn’t his good looks that softened my heart though doubtless many will say it was. No, it was the words that he spoke. Words of pure golden nectar that touched me deep in my soul. And the songs he sang as I sat back, eyes closed just so I could listen with my everything. So that when we finally lay together, just the touch of his fingertips alighted in me a flame of love so powerful that nothing or nobody could have kept us apart. Where I had been numb I was alive. I shiver with longing even now as I recall those precious moments when he and I were as one.

But now the shiver turns to one of fear and dread as I remember my dead husband and my unborn child. And I weep.