The Woman in Red--Part I

“You are dying,” the young girl shouted. She split the bushes and bolted through. Gestured wildly at the wet, red rush. “It’s like when God turned the rivers of Egypt to blood!”
            The woman in the stream startled. Spun around, searching. When she spotted the girl alone, she relaxed. Splashed water between her legs. Rinsed red to pink to clear. She bunched her tunic between her knees with one hand. Held out her other for balance. Picked her way carefully among the slick stones at the stream’s edge.  In the grass she stood with her back to the girl. Let her garment fall.
            “You must go,” she said. “Have you not heard? I am unclean.”
            Behind her, she heard the girl take a step closer. “But you are not so very old,” she said. “And you are beautiful. Surely someone—”
            The woman spoke over her shoulder. “There is no one.” She swept her hair up. “I have tried every . . . ” Twisted it, secured it with a wooden pick. “For years.” She stooped for her headcovering. “There is no one able.” Patted it in place. “Now go.”
            The girl darted forward. Laid a bundle swaddled in cloth on a nearby stone.
            “This is for you,” she said. “From my mother.”
            The woman gripped her ribcage with her forearms. “Who is?”
            “Ada.”
            She nodded. “A good woman.” Married to the man I loved, but good nonetheless. “Give her my thanks. And . . . tell her Shalom.”
            The woman felt the girl’s gaze on her back. Its intensity faded along with her footsteps. When the wood was silent, she turned. Knelt for the package. Held it up and inhaled. Meat. Always meat. For some reason everyone seemed to believe flesh would, could, cure her.
            She felt the trickle, the omnipresent flow, warm her inner thighs yet again so she pressed her thighs together. Squeezed her eyes shut but not before tears ran hot.
            As she approached her house she noticed the stack of cloths, browns and blacks neatly folded, on the ground by the door. She sighed.
            “And rags. To staunch the infinite ebb. Surely, meat and rags will improve my lot in life.”
            She lifted her face to the sky. So the sun would dry it. Extended her arms so its shine might warm her through. Spoke to the only one who listened to her, besides curious girls.
            “Forgive me, Jehovah-Jireh. They mean well. Surely they do. Thank you for your provision.”

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