It had happened once before, of course. Then it had been my own fault – it had meant so much to me to be noticed, to have attention paid to me, that it had gone to my head and I had acted like a fool. It is humiliating to be a slave, and I was tired of being invisible, tired of waiting on that foolish old woman who still had this crazy dream that one day she would have a child. Anyone could see that she was long past any such hope. The truth was I was jealous – jealous of her wealth and position , everyone in our little world treated her like a princess --- and jealous of her beauty, which even in old age, still had the power to catch you by surprise. I was young and strong and less than half her age, but even my fresh prettiness could not really compete with her, and in a few short years, living and working as a slave, I would be just another withered, shrivelled, invisible woman, eking out my repetitious life on the edge of the desert.
But most of all I was jealous of the love between the Master and the Mistress. All those years, and all her failure to do the one thing that is every wife’s first duty, to give him a son, and still, even now, he would look at her with a kind of wonder in his eyes. No one had ever looked at me like that. My parents had willingly sold me into slavery, and since then I had been loved by no one. So when she sent me to the Master’s bed I completely misunderstood. I started daydreaming that I could replace her in his heart.
What a fool! What a green, love-sick fool of a girl I was! I behaved like a fool, my mistress responded with anger, and I ran away. At least I ran away along the right road, and came to a spring. There I sat in despair; a pregnant woman alone in the desert has neither hope nor future. And there it was that the angel came to me, the Holy messenger of Glory. He confirmed I was bearing a son, and told me to return and bear my child, who had a God-given destiny of his own. I was overwhelmed; the God of my Master had taken notice of me, a mere slave girl! The thirst of my heart for recognition was satisfied, and I knew He was the God who saw me, took notice of me and bid me live!
* * * * * *
This time it is my son’s fault. I suppose I should have taught him better, but what is a woman to do with a boy like that? And I think it may be my jealous heart that he inherited; he could not bear to see his father’s favour turned from him towards that puny infant. It was too much for him, and perhaps that is my fault too. I have not taught my son to have a generous spirit. But I also think that the mistress must share some blame; now she has produced the long awaited son she does not want any reminders around that her husband has another son, or that another woman once shared his bed.
So we were sent away with some food and a skin of water, to wander forth into the desert. What did they suppose would happen to us? I knew what I expected when the water ran out and the hot desert sun beat down on us. This was just a way for us to die, out of sight and out of mind. But again there was an angel. How many women have encountered angels twice in their life, and yet lived? This time I did not thirst for comfort for the torn vanity of my heart; I thirsted simply for water, and that my son might live. And again Abraham’s God heard the cry of my heart and answered. He revealed a well of water, there where no water should have been, and our thirst was slaked. And he has promised to be with my son, and make a nation from him, and my heart is satisfied and my trust restored. Now I have only one thirst left – a thirst for God Himself, that I might know the mighty one who is so compassionate that He would wipe away the tears of the lowliest of slaves.