The Bedwarmer

To lie by his side, to keep him warm.
—1 Kings 1:2

I had in my care that year so many little ones. Bantam creatures. All delightful. Though they were not mine, I looked after them in the courtyard while their mothers rested in the shade. They did not seem to mind that I was lame on one side, that my smile was kinked. I took them into my good arm and kept them in my lap and kissed them as though I had brought them into this world. I would tell them the whole story, just as I am telling you.

It begins like this. There was a girl in some remote place. News had spread: There is a suitable girl for the job, young, precocious in body. They took her from her family and placed her in the bed of an old, dying man. He recovered in time to name an heir. I could leave it there. It is all true, I suppose.

Would you believe, when I go back to the beginning, I still miss my family, as if I have become that girl again? I should have been allowed to walk backward when your father’s men came for me, like a real bride, weeping for home.

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