Banished (Forbidden)(5)

By: Kimberley Griffiths Little

Mounting Shay, I kicked her into a gallop. As a lone rider I wouldn’t be as easily spotted, but I needed to get ahead of the next hill.

After an hour, I slowed and stared behind me. No sign of the riders any longer. Most likely, it was just a traveling family, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

The sun finally broke through one of the dark clouds, making me blink back the easy tears of self-pity.

I turned directly south, skirting the road to Tadmur where my sister Leila lived at the Temple of Ashtoreth. The fertile springs of the summer oasis on the outskirts held harsh memories of Horeb’s attack and sexual rites for the goddess.

I trudged on, but before I could stop for the night, a fierce wind began to blow. Gusts of sand whipped about the dunes like grainy white butter, creating a ghostly moaning in the hollows.

Sand lifted in loops and whirls from the earth as though performing an intricate dance, just before smacking me in the face.

After several hours riding against the battering wind, I finally halted and made camp. When I bent over the beginnings of a fire, trying to keep the flames lit, a blast of cold air instantly erased my work. The night went dead. More layers of sand kicked up, obscuring the stars overhead.

My camel pranced around the campsite like a skittish newborn. I jumped up to hold her halter, afraid she’d run off and get herself lost. But as she reared up, the stirring sand flew like stinging nettles into my eyes. Tiny grains pelted my arms and face, biting my skin as if a cloud of fleas had descended.

“Shay, stop!” I ordered her. “Calm down!”

Then I heard a roar growing in the distance. My heart crashed to the bottom of my gut. I knew that sound.

A sandstorm.

Holding tight to Shay’s halter, I strained to see into the darkness. Dunes lay farther to the south. Now those hills of voluminous sand were being swept toward me. I only had seconds before I would be hit with the full force. With every passing moment, the noise grew more deafening, shutting out the world around me.

I threw my shawl over my face and drove my camel forward to find shelter. Shay spewed forth a series of obnoxious brays, gnashing her teeth, but she plodded forward and then suddenly stopped in her tracks.

“Keep going, girl,” I urged her.

She whined and butted her head into my shoulder. I fell to my knees and patted the ground, crawling blind. The earth began to slope downward.

The slope appeared to run along an edge in the earth. There was just enough depth to take refuge. “Please no animals or scorpions,” I prayed.

Wriggling on my belly, I crawled into the crevice.

After I was down as far as I could get, I covered my head with my arms. The continuous howling overhead was wearing at my nerves.

Shay folded herself next to me, for once staying quiet. The large animal made a shelter of her own and I buried my head into the curve of her neck, throwing my blanket over the both of us.

Hours passed as I hovered in the twilight of wake and sleep, dreaming of Kadesh as we swam together in the Sea of Many Waters. An indigo twilight sky danced on the warm blue waves along the coast of the southern lands. Rugged cliffs overhung the beach, so dazzlingly high they pierced the early pinprick of evening stars.

Groves of frankincense trees grew beyond those cliffs.

Secretive, haunting, and enigmatic as ever.

Kadesh’s arms slipped around my waist as he bent to kiss my neck. His lips were warm, tickling my earlobe. Happiness bubbled up while we jumped wave after wave, splashing as if we were children.

The sea ran in rivulets down his beautiful neck. Drenched hair plastered his face in dark tendrils. I could see my own happiness mirrored in his eyes.

Walking backward, Kadesh pulled me to shore, tucking my hands firmly in his.

The last rays of sunset fell across the perfect white beach, sending sparkles across the sand. My soul ached at the beauty of this land, its languid, spicy air and calm shores.

All at once, my feet slipped and we fell back, laughing as the warm water splashed around us. I floated on my back, catching my breath, and then we pulled ourselves up through the final breaker.

My dress was a sodden tangle around my knees, but the waves receded and the world fell away when I walked toward Kadesh. His arms were around me, his lips tasting mine. “Come with me, Jayden,” he murmured, giving a tug on my hand.

Also By Kimberley Griffiths Little

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