Samaria 720 BCE
After the wedding ceremony, all the guests gathered in a courtyard. Once the music began, it overpowered the chattering and people started rushing to the dancefloor. Judith tapped Zara on the shoulder.
“You look beautiful,” she said. “That charcoal liner brings out your eyes. Don’t fail me tonight with your bad manners. Promise?”
“Promise,” replied Zara, rolling her eyes.
Judith rushed off with a group of girls around her age to join the dance. Their dresses reminded Zara of wildflowers blowing in the wind. In the center of the circle was Cousin Mary and her new husband. The bride looked beautiful and happy. Despite her discomfort, Zara smiled for a moment at the happy scene. Turning away, she zigzagged through the maze of people until she found an exit that led her to an alley. She took a deep breath of the fresh air and leaned against the side of a building, glancing up at the moon. While she enjoyed the sound of music, having too many people around her was overwhelming. She felt like a different person in her makeup and fancy clothes – one she didn’t want to be.
“I just want to be home,” she sighed.
Judith talked to new people so easily and she already made new friends. It made Zara feel like a strange creature who belonged in another world.
“Too many people in there for you?” asked a familiar voice.
Zara’s jaw dropped when she turned to see the boy walking up to her.
“David!” she gasped. “I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see you again.”
“Oh? I was sure that I’d see you again.”
His blunt statement startled her. He grinned as his dark eyes roved over her. Embarrassment warmed her face; she was grateful that the darkness hid her blush. No one had ever looked at her that way before.
“I needed a breather,” she admitted.
His gaze went to her fidgeting hand; she hadn’t realized she was playing with her hair until that moment.
“I like solitude … most of the time,” he said.
“Do you love shepherding, too?” she asked.
He nodded, walking closer to her. Her heart raced and her body felt oddly warm. Would he kiss her?
“Not to worry, Zara. I won’t kiss you here. Not in an empty alleyway, of all places,” he grinned, seemingly satisfied at being able to read her thoughts.
A strange mix of elation and disappointment washed over her like a warm fog.
“Would you like to dance?” he asked, looking deeply into her eyes.
In the darkness, his irises looked as black as coal, but his smile was like the sun.
“Yes,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
As he led her back to the gathering, loud cheers filled the air. He looked back at her, and they exchanged perplexed looks. As they re-entered the celebration, the bride and groom had both been lifted on chairs by a group of men. People clapped, laughed, and cried gibberish as the young couple was carried by their friends and family. David laughed at the sight. Zara joined him and she marveled at how handsome he was. His face was chiseled like one of the handsome statues she’d seen while browsing through the city earlier. His dark hair was thick with a slight wave and his smile was the most unique one she had ever seen. It was devious and innocent at the same time, hinting at a boy who was smart for his age, but lacking in the wisdom that came with experience.
Once the newlyweds were safely lowered to the ground and the crowd’s laughter died down, David gestured for Zara to follow him.
“How do you know them?” she asked.
“Victor is friends with the groom,” he said, gesturing toward the refreshments table where Victor was talking to a few people.
The music started up again. Men and women of all ages formed a circle and spun around wildly.
“Let’s go!” cried David.
Zara followed him into the circle of dancers, jumping and turning along with the others. They bounced about like children, enjoying the music and movement without caring how they looked. When the music ceased, they stopped to catch their breaths.
“This is so fun,” said Zara. “I didn’t think a wedding would be like this!”
“You haven’t been to one before?” asked David.
“I was too young to go to the last one, or so my parents thought.”
“You’re really sheltered, then.”
“Not anymore! Now that I’m seventeen.”
“Well, would you like to dance with me again?” he asked, smirking in that irresistible way.
“I’d like to. Very much.”
She looked in the direction of the voice. It was her mother who was calling her name. Standing next to her father, they both stared at her with serious expressions. Her heart sank.
“What’s going on?” asked David.
“It looks like I have to go. Papa gets up early in the morning,” she said sadly.
Her gaze dropped to the ground. David gently lifted her chin with his hand until she was looking at him again.
“I’ll see you again,” he said. “Don’t worry.”
There was a twinkle in his eyes as he smiled at her.
“I hope to see you again soon,” she said, gazing at him for a few more seconds so she could etch the sight of him into her memory. He nodded and winked before disappearing into the crowd.
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