AN: The bible account of Ruth is a beautiful true story of friendship and real love. This fanfic is an attempt to follow Ruth's story through her eyes and emotions, but the history remains unchanged. Details are added but nothing that would ruin or confuse the facts. Based on the orignal bible account, here it is, the first chapter of a story written by me about Ruth (oh, and a bit of Boaz, too, LOL). I hope you like it.
It was very hot that day. That, strangely enough, is one of the things I remember most about it. Well, also that it was very quiet. If I'd been a more imaginative person I might have fancied that everyone had forgotten how to talk. Really, though, it was more that there wasn't much left to say. I certainly didn't have a reason to speak. Not anymore.
Not bothering to adjust my brown-and-gray checkered cloth headdress as it slipped slowly towards the back of my head, I turned my attention to the wooden cage at the far side of the house. In it lived a little speckled turtledove with bright eyes, given to me by Mahlon, a sort of marriage gift.
Mahlon, I smiled when I thought about him. He hadn't had to give me anything and yet he had. He was a good man and a kind husband. Handsome, too. Very different eyes than most of the local men, he was an Israelite who's family had come to Moab a while back because of the famine. And now he was dead. Tears pricked my eyes. I fought them back and turned away from my turtledove.
I had never been much of a crier, not like my sister-in-law Orpah. I hadn't known her all that well before my marriage to her husband's brother-unless one counts occasional meetings at the local well to draw water-but I remember thinking that she was a very emotional person even from the first. It wasn't that I was bland and emotionless. Indeed, I was anything but. My emotions were deep enough, I think, there was plenty that could have brought me to tears. Only, I didn't cry at the drop of a nose ring. In Orpah, that quality and ability wouldn't have surprised me. Poor Orpah. Her husband was gone now, too.
How selfish I am being, I thought, shaking my head and gritting my teeth in frustration with myself, I should go and comfort Orpah.
After all, with both my Mahlon and her darling Chilion gone we ought to have plenty to commiserate over. Yes, I would go to her.
She looked too pretty to be a widow, with her copper-coloured headdress and large brown eyes so dark that they looked almost black. Cow eyes, someone unkind had once said about her in my presence. I thought differently. They weren't cow eyes at all. Far more expressive and easily upset than a cow's blank looks. Nicer to look at, as well. More like rippling muddy water-holes if something natural were needed to describe them. A little silver nose-ring twinkled and gleamed in one nostril; she had a little diamond stud in the other. So many women had thrown their arms around her and let her weep into their laps today. A few had embraced me and kissed my cheeks but I started to avoid them after a while. I wanted to be alone.
Strange, I thought, I never realized how little we really have in common other than being married into the same family. Maybe we don't have anything in common.
We'd hardly ever even really talked. I'd said "Pardon me," twice when she was in my way as I was trying to prepare the evening meal, and she'd asked a question about which colour I preferred when she was making a blanket. She did try so hard to be nice in spite of her impulsiveness which made me feel I had to tip-toe around her like an infant. I did love her, she was a sister to me, but I didn't really know her. Even then, I didn't know her. It occurred to me that while I knew her favorite dish and favorite flower (I'd seen Chiliton bring her some once) and that she detested frogs of all sorts, I knew precious little else.
For a moment I envisioned going over to her like I had planned and getting nothing but sobs and feeling even sadder. We'd all cry together, me, her, the other women, my mother, her mother...and would we feel any better afterwards? Probably not. It wasn't going to bring Mahlon back. My family had always been poor comforters, it wasn't their fault, it was just a fact. Besides, I doubted if even the best comforters in the world could have made me feel better.
Supposing I didn't go over to Orpah, supposing I joined a different group of mourners and found someone understanding and knowledgeable to speak with. Someone wiser. It took a moment but I soon found her. Naomi. My mother-in-law.
She sat alone in a corner by the front opening of our family's little mud-brick and tent-cloth house, looking out at the dusty road that, if followed long enough, led out of Moab. Her dress was an old patched grey thing. It looked comfortable even if she did not. On her head she wore a soft, faded green hood covering her long white-as-snow hair.
Creeping up like a mouse, I approached her. "Mother Naomi?"
She turned and looked right at me without blinking. "Ruth,"
I felt sorrier for her than for Orpah. Orpah was a widow, yes, but she'd lost nothing else. Naomi was more alone than anyone I'd ever met. Her husband, Elimelech, had been dead for a while now, and I knew she still missed him and thought of him often. To lose both of her sons on top of that must have been unspeakably hard for her.
"May I sit with you, Mother?"
"My child, sit down," A warm smile graced her lips, pleased with me, but it did not reach her hazel eyes.
I sat beside her, tucking my feet under my bottom. "I miss him," I said after a pause.
"Why do you not go and weep with your sister-in-law?" She wanted to know, placing a withered-looking hand over mine as if to reassure me she wasn't trying to send me away.
I shrugged my shoulders. "I would rather sit with you."
"Very well, then."
"Do you think Jehovah will remember us?" Jehovah was the name of the Israelite god, Mahlon had told me so much about him, and I loved what I had learned.
She didn't answer but her grip on my hand tightened and I knew she had faith, even while she was scared and lonely. And I knew we still had each other, too. From the moment I knew Mahlon and I were to be wed, I had considered his mother one of my dearest friends.
An hour or so later, I left her side, kissed her cheek, and went back to my turtledove. I had made a decision. I would let it go. It was better that the little bird should be free than for it to be sold, tarnishing and tainting the memory I had of my husband-or worse, sacrificed to gods I had never believed in in spite of the fact I had known of them all my life. They didn't feel real to me, they never had. I would have liked to give my turtledove to Jehovah but I didn't know of any alters for him nearby expect for Elimelech's. Part of that one had fallen down and I didn't wish to distress Naomi further with that news. So, lifting the latch and sighing to myself, I let my turtledove fly away.
I had taken the cage outside so as not to disturb anyone with my silly little ceremony. Glancing to the sun beating down on me as my turtledove flew to it, I felt my eyes burning. There were tears again and the sun was scorching them. Still, I was happier than I had been a little while ago.
Two days later Naomi called me, Orpah, and our mothers to her side and spoke to us in hushed tones. She explained that she meant to go back to her homeland. Evidently the famine was over and life could begin anew there. I was heartbroken, there wasn't anyone to really take care of her there, and I didn't want her to go.
For nearly twelve hours Orpah sulked. I think this was how she used to make Chilidon do whatever she wanted, by giving him the silent treatment until he broke. Either his mother was stronger-willed, or Oprah's deeply etched scowls between her otherwise pretty, youthful brows and shinny tears didn't have the same effect on her. Whatever it was, she was still determined to leave us. I didn't sulk, not too much, I shouldn't think, but I did cry a little when no one was looking. Biting my lip until my mouth ached and tasted like metal, I trapped the remaining tears between my closed eyelids. It was okay, I had come to another decision.
I rose at dawn the next day and washed my face in the local well. Then I donned fresh mantels, working, traveling ones with tired-looking fringes and slightly fraying seams under one armpit. I slipped a rag around my dark hair and a winter-green sash across the pale blue, flour-stained tunic I wore over my traveling mantels.
Humming softly to myself, I tied some provisions; rice and grains, and unfermented cakes, and bitter greens, into a faded satchel, slipping four sticky brown rice-cakes left over from the day before into an old dull cloth. I figured it would come in handy on the road should anyone get hungry along the way. It wasn't much, but it was filling enough to hold a person over.
A strange thought struck me as I prepared myself for the trip I meant to take: this was the first time since my husband's death that I had hummed. I'd used to hum all the time, I'd liked to sing, too, before. I hadn't thought I'd ever want to again but I was. Maybe life could be started anew. Naomi, sad, bitter Naomi might be right. At least we'd be with her people again. It had taken a while, but I had finally come to see the matter through her eyes. Moab wasn't her place, it never had been. She deserved to go home. I was cruel to wish she wouldn't leave. I realized that then.
"What are you doing?" Orpah was standing behind me. I had never realized that she was nearly two inches taller than me. A mite thicker, too, actually. Somehow, in spite of her tight expression and height, she managed to look fragile, not imposing.
"Packing," I said shortly. "I am going with Naomi back to her people."
She pursed her lips and considered this. "I'm going, too."
I didn't protest, I was pleased with her resolution. "You had better help me pack then."
She did so, and soon we were walking along with Naomi down that old dusty road. Yet, much to my confusion, she didn't seem at all glad that we were coming along. Didn't she love us? I loved her. I didn't know if Orpah did or not, that wasn't for me to say, but I knew I did. She was my friend, maybe even my best friend. Then, I wasn't being selfish. Not at that moment I wasn't. She was considered, being elderly and everything, someone had to look after her. It wasn't a burden, I wanted to do it. I wanted to help her like I knew she would have readily helped me if the situation was reversed. She was a widow and so was I, we were the same. We were akin.
"Why do you keep walking with me?" Naomi asked us, finally. Her voice was tender but there was no joy in it.
Orpah tossed her long braid over her shoulder and said, "We are coming with you."
Tears sprang up into Naomi's aged eyes. "No, my daughters, go home, to the house of your mothers, go on. And may Jehovah show loving-kindness toward you both, just as you have shown it towards me."
She loved us, she was blessing us. But she was also sending us away.
"No!" Orpah cried so passionately that I thought there wasn't going to be any emotion left in the world when she was done shouting out at the top of her voice. "With you we shall go!"
"May Jehovah give to each of you a resting place, each with a husband."
That was it? She really thought we would be better off staying behind in Moab? Maybe we would be, but I knew it wasn't what I wanted. Not for myself and not for her. She had no sons left, wasn't I good enough to be her daughter? Or at least her friend?
We kept on pleading, and we both cried, even me, but our dear mother-in-law was adamant. She would not let us come. Continually she would urge us to go back. We had to go home, she said.
"No, Mother Naomi," I dared to grab her arm gently to be sure I had her attention. "but with you to your people we shall return."
"We shall be merry," Orpah promised brightly, forcing away her tears and smiling broadly. "You'll see. The three of us-"
"Go back, my daughters, back home to your land and your gods, not with me."
"Don't you love us?" I knew the answer but the question slipped out before I could stop it.
"Of course I do," Naomi said. "But why should you go with me? I am too old to become a husbands, and even if I did-even if a man should have me this very night and I could have sons-would you both wait for them to grow from babes to men in order to marry you? No, it is the bitter truth, my dears, you mustn't come with me."
We wept some more. Especially Orpah, she wailed inconsolably and looked more like a sullen child losing at her own favorite game than a woman honestly concerned about her mother-in-law. I thought nothing would make her stop. However, when Naomi kissed her goodbye, she left!
In disbelief I watched as she turned and walked away, her sandals padding on the ground, her shoulders still shaking with sobs, and still going. Going away. Giving up. Poor Orpah. I hoped she found all she was looking for in Moab.
As for me, I stood still for a moment, thinking though my mind was already made up, my resolve chosen. Then I ran after Naomi.
"Are you still following me, dear?" She asked when she noticed me trotting along at her side.
"Yes," I replied.
"Look, Orpah has gone back." I couldn't help looking over my shoulder again, wondering if I could still see her. I couldn't. She was a speedy young woman, wasn't she? "You, too, go back to your land and your gods and your mother. Go, please."
I couldn't bear this anymore. I threw myself in front of her and got down on my knees. The words poured out of me, "Do not plead with me to abandon you, to turn back from accompanying you; for where you go I shall go, and where you spend the night I shall spend the night. Your people will be my people, and your god my god. Where you die I shall die, and that is where I will be buried. May Jehovah do so to me and add to it if anything but death should make a separation between me and you."
Tears were streaming down my face, I knew how horrible I must have looked. I only half-cared. More than anything I wanted her to understand how much her friendship meant to me. I was blubbering, I became aware, almost as bad as Orpah.
I watched as she stood up and started walking.
Was she leaving me?
Beautiful old eyes smiled at me over a small, slumped shoulder. "I go on, I take it you are coming?"
A cry of joy flew out of my throat and I laughed through my tears as I stood up and positioned myself at her side, putting my arms around her shoulders and giving her a light embrace.
After that, she never again spoke of my going back.
AN: Thoughts on the first chapter please? A good start? What do you think? Please review and let me know!