She blinks back tears as the sneers and jeers gather momentum. The women gathered at the well would make trouble for her yet again. She knows this as well as she knows the back of her scarred hands. Photinee trudges on, her legs taking shorter and shorter steps as she nears her destination. Her heart wonders if the humiliation is worth it, her mind urges her to be strong. No malcontent set of housewives is going to stop her from fetching from the well. They envied and hated her in equal doses. Her lustrous hair, her upright bosom and her pouting lips. They envied her voluptous beauty and hated her brazen guts.
Just as the jeers reaches a crescendo, her courage fails her and she makes a quick turn, wincing at the laughter that follows, shamed that she let them triumph again. There was no help for it, she would wait till noon when they had retreated from the blazing heat of the sun. Or better yet she thinks, she would walk the miles to the outskirts and fetch unencumbered.
Off she goes, bypassing the main streets that would mean a likely collision with her foes and meandering her way through the city. She espies Silas and calls out a meek greeting. He stares at her cautiously as one would regard an untamed animal and raises a hand in silent acknowledgement. He was her third husband. Jarvis the man who had replaced him now lived a mere 10 blocks away.
Photinee continues her journey, heavy water pot in tow as she begins to resent the women who have forced her to make this choice. It wasn’t her fault, was it that Hanani her first husband had been a brutal wife beater. Though she had been counselled to endure his heavy hand, she fled after he used a whip on her for smiling at Zeka, and tore the delicate flesh on her hands.
Whether out of pity, for there was certainly no love, Zeka married her, but she bore him no children and she soon tired of his constant reminder that she was a barren whore.
Silas, son of Gotad married her because his father’s land was adjoined to her father’s land; he hoped the marriage would mean the union of their lands and holdings. She almost clawed his eyes out when she discovered he had a penchant for other men.
Jarvis, dear Jarvis. He married her in the face of fierce disapproval from his family, but the union could not withstand the constant battering and he sorrowfully bowed out, weak and defeated.
Her path took her through the cemetery, the unfortunate residence of Khaleesi. The apple of her eye. She still wept whenever she chanced upon his resting place, even with the passage of time. He had come into her life when she was at her lowest ebb, and made her his wife amidst great reproach and derision. He had proudly introduced her to his friends, which greatly increased her legend amongst the women folk who avoided her like the plague. He was her soul mate and he died of the gout. Grieving and broken, she had vowed never to re marry.
As she nears the well, weary and thirsty, she swipes her forehead and gazes at the bangles clanging on her slender wrists. Dontiel her protector had gifted her these. Following Khaleesi’s death, she had been besieged and oppressed, until Dontiel, a member of Khaleesi’s brotherhood had declared himself her keeper. She was grateful for his generosity, but guilty that she was keeping him from proceeding with his life in a manner expected of him.
She awakens from her reverie as her sandalled feet strike the little rocks that are strewn about. Her eyes immediately fasten on the strange man seated therein. ‘Strange’ because she does not know him, the reason for which the women of her town derisively named her “friend of men.” Upon close examination, she notes that he is strange indeed. Photinee quickly averts her gaze and peers into the well.
Then the man speaks to her and changes her life forever. He tells her everything she has ever done and offers her forgiveness. He is Jesus of Nazareth, and she is Photinee, the Samaritan and friend of men.
When she returns to spread the news of salvation, the women turn up their noses. What good can Photinee bring? How can salvation come through one so defiled, so unclean? But Photinee is ashamed no more, and her voice rings through the streets of Samaria.
Her past has become of no consequence, but her message is.
Sinners all we were,
No one sin greater than the other
For all He came
For all He died
Redemption’s call for yay & nay
So spend your judging money
Where you may.