Hopeless The Woman with the Issue of Blood
Children love her. Dinah thought when she married she would have a house full of children. The days melted into weeks and the months sped by with no pregnancy. At last, the long-awaited pregnancy, only to end in bitter disappointment with a late miscarriage. Then another—and another. After that, the hemorrhaging began. No doctors could help. She went to every priest, physician, and charlatan who promised healing, but the bleeding would not stop, nor could she conceive. Years went by. She had given up. She heard about the brash young teacher, making his headquarters in her hometown of Capernaum, who was performing mighty miracles. She was desperate. She heard a commotion in the streets and, unknown to her husband or family, found her way through the crowds to this one who could heal. One touch. One simple, trembling, child-like gesture—reaching out to the Great Physician. Her life is changed forever.
Red. Thick and slimy. Surrounding her. Smothering her. Choking her. Zahava swam her way to consciousness through the red, oozing stream. She sat up and realized she had been moaning in her sleep. The fever made her tremble, and she reached for the blanket bunched at her feet, pulled it to her chin, and continued to shiver underneath the scratchy threads. Her teeth chattered.
Gideon turned over and continued his soft snoring.
Ever since Zahava could remember, fever produced the same dream. It started with a line drawn horizontally across her mind with people walking along it, step by plodding step, their shoulders slumped forward. She watched them as they moved across her mind’s eye from right to left in a clump. Their legs moved, but they never left her sight—always moving, trying to reach something, somewhere in the distance, but never making any progress. A red trickle of blood oozed from the ground and pooled around her. It moved like a living thing toward the people, gaining momentum as it seeped toward them. The whirling, swirling eddy engulfed Zahava’s feet and thrust her toward the people. It swallowed all of them in its sticky grip. If she could just reach that mysterious object in the distance, she knew she could escape the blood. But she never could. She always jolted awake as the suffocating liquid engulfed her.
She lay back on her pillow and covered her face with her arm. Sweat beaded on her lip. She wiped her face with the sleeve of her tunic and ran her hand over her swollen belly. Was their baby well? She prayed this current malady wouldn’t affect the soon-to-arrive infant. This was their firstborn. She didn’t know how she was supposed to feel, couldn’t tell if anything was awry. Her mother and mother-in-law both reassured her everything was fine.
A smile tugged at her lips as she felt the baby move within her. Only a few more weeks, and they would know whether she carried a son or a daughter. She prayed it was a boy. A firstborn son made for a proud father, set the inheritance in good order. Then they could have a daughter later on for her.
As the oldest daughter, Zahava had taken care of little ones all of her growing-up years. Her mother had birthed ten children—a healthy, robust brood from the moment they were born, and they came rapid fire, one after another. By the time her mother got the last one up and walking, along came another little mouth to feed. And Zahava carried the littlest brother or sister on her hip as her mother nursed the newest baby.
She tried to feel her hip bone through her expanding waistline. Still there. Soon she would be hoisting her own little one onto her hip.
She rolled over and watched her husband sleep. Gideon looked more boy than man when he slept. His dark hair curled around his face, thick and shiny. She loved when he wore his hair long, but since they married he’d kept it cut shorter. He was young. Neither of them were twenty yet. But she was certain he would be a good father to their new baby. She brushed his hair away from his face with the tips of her fingers.
The eastern sky displayed soft pink through the archways from the balcony of their quarters in the rear of his parents’ considerable estate. They would add on rooms as their family grew. As soon as the sun rose every morning, so did her husband, with a smile on his face, eager to get to work in his family’s import/export business. Her father had made a good match for her.
Gideon’s eyes fluttered open. He smiled and took her hand, kissing her palm. “Are you feeling better?”
She nodded. “I think so. I felt feverish when I awoke, but I feel better now.”
“Come here.” He pulled her to him in a comforting embrace. Feeling her abdomen, he asked, “Do you think our baby is well?”
“He’s been a bit still, but I’m sure he’s fine. My mother says babies are stronger than we think.” She snuggled close to Gideon’s chest and ran her fingers through his beard—what there was of it. “Do you suppose your beard will thicken up as you get older?”
“My father says it will. His was thin and scraggly like mine when he was young.”
“It may be thin, but it’s not scraggly. You keep it neat and trimmed. Judah’s is scraggly.”
Gideon let go of Zahava and sat up, rubbing his chin. “Yes, my brother’s beard is pretty sparse and thin, that’s for sure. But he’s still young as well. Not much older than I.” He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. He touched her cheek. “Your skin feels clammy. Are you sure you’re better?”
“Mm.” She nodded and gathered the blanket around her shoulders. “I had the dream again.”
Gideon rose from the bed and reached for his robe hanging on a wall peg. “It’s just a dream. Doesn’t mean a thing.” He tied his belt around his waist and picked up a water pitcher from a table beside the bed. “I’ll get you some milk.”
Zahava made a face. “That doesn’t sound good at all. I’m sick of goat’s milk and barley soup.”
He laughed. “I won’t tell my mother. She prides herself on making the best barley soup in the village.”
“I didn’t mean it’s not good. I’ve just had so much of it this week…” Gideon’s mother, Yenta, treated her well enough, including making barley soup for her when she felt ill. Moshe, his father, a large man, maintained a quiet dignity about himself and remained rather distant from her. He seemed not to know what to do with a daughter now in the house. Gideon had only brothers.
“Oh, I know. But Mother is convinced it cures all that ails you. So what does sound good to you?”
“Just a little wine…watered down.”
“I’ll be right back. You stay there and rest.”
“Let the servants get it. Stay here with me for a while.”
Gideon sat on the edge of their bed, turning the clay pitcher round in his hands. He chucked her beneath her chin. “I need to get going. It’s my morning to open the shop.”
“No, stay. I’ve grown too accustomed to having you with me all the time this year following our wedding.” She pulled him down to her and kissed him. He returned the kiss—long, hard and passionate, lingering. Zahava felt her breath quickening as she leaned into him. She whispered in his ear as she pulled his robe off his shoulders. “Stay with me today.”
He groaned, opened his eyes, and sat up. “You are feeling better.”
Patting the bed, she smiled at him. “I hate it that you have to leave every morning.”
Gideon stood, grinning down at her. “But I always come back. And what man wouldn’t want to come home to this?”
He tossed the pitcher in the air and caught it, laughing at Zahava’s gasp. “I’ll send Hasina back with some wine for you.”
“Very well.” Zahava pursed her lips in a mocking pout. “Go on. Leave your poor, sick wife, heavy with your baby, pining away for you. Perhaps that’s all that is wrong with me. I’m simply lovesick for my husband.”
“You wouldn’t be trying to make me feel guilty, now would you?” Gideon returned to the bedside and touched her arm. “You are the love of my life. You know that.”
His touch sent shivers down her back. She covered his hand with her own. “I’m being childish. Go in peace, my husband—I shall await your return this evening.”
He pecked her on the cheek and then stood. “That, my dear, I shall look forward to now that you seem on the road to recovery.” He touched his heart as he left the room—their personal sign of affection to each other. She touched hers in return, smiling as she gathered the blanket around her and lay back on the luxurious pillows. Closing her eyes, she quickly drifted back to sleep.
The increasing pain in her lower back clawed at the edges of her slumber. “Uhh!” She thought she was dreaming about having her baby. Sitting up, she rubbed her belly. It felt hard. Brilliant rays of the mid-morning sun intruding through the archways of the room stabbed at her eyes like the pain that stabbed at her abdomen. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and reached for the pitcher of wine, untouched on the bedside table. The wine splashed over the goblet as vise-like fingers gripped her abdomen and sent her to her knees.