Promise to Protect
“I…” Simay didn’t know what to say. Iskender was a friend – a good friend, but still only a friend. “I need some time.”
“Of course. Take whatever time you need.” Iskender said.
Simay nodded and left feeling awkward and confused. She understood the logic behind Iskender’s thinking, but Malcus‘s death was only five months past… It was so hard to imagine herself as someone else’s wife this soon after losing Malcus.
She shook the thought away; she couldn’t even consider it right now.
She knew she shouldn’t, but she found herself worrying more and more about what would happen to them here in this little forgotten town.
Simay walked slowly back to the place that she was staying, just down the street from Iskender’s rented space. For now their funds were alright, but she and Iskender would not be able to stay here forever. Eventually they would have to find some other place to go. When would the Romans leave Jerusalem? When could she go back to find her lost son and daughter?
“I don’t know what to do… how I should answer him…” Simay prayed silently. “Show me, Lord what You would have me do, and help me to accept it… whatever it may be.”
No instant revelation dawned on her, but she did have a certain sense that all would be made clear in time.
Simay stepped into her tiny living space and sat down in one of the two chairs in the room, relieved to be alone with her thoughts for a while.
Three more months passed this way. Simay did not entirely avoid İskender, but she did not frequent his rented room. She continued to think and pray about the proposal, but as the day of her child’s delivery drew nearer and nearer she began to feel an urgency that had not been there before. She knew that she needed to make a decision one way or the other very soon – before she had this baby.
She remained torn between the two choices – almost at a stalemate with herself. She just needed one push in one direction or the other.
One day, a day just like the many that had preceded it, Simay was returning home from one of her occasional midday meals with Iskender. If she didn’t cook for him once in a while he would eat the same thing every day, so she broke up his monotony sometimes with something other than dried fruit and meat.
The street was dusty and dirty as usual and when she got home she rinsed her feet off in a short water basin that she kept by the door. Then she started more of her everyday duties – mending a few clothes, keeping the dirt at bay, and many other tasks involved in housekeeping.
An hour or so after Simay had started her prescribed chores she was in the small separate bedroom sweeping up dust that had sneaked into the house on shoes and clothes. She continued her way around the room, stopping at the corners and crevices to sweep them clean. She turned around to sweep her dirt pile back out the bedroom door and then out into the street.
A leering face was staring at her through the bedroom door.
Simay had little time to scream before a dirty hand clamped over her mouth and a second rough hand captured her arms behind her. A third stranger appeared behind the man in the bedroom doorway.
Simay bit down hard.
The offender yelped and immediately slapped her.
“What do you want?!” she demanded of the three ruffians that now held her captive in her own home. As she spoke she fought to hide her fear.
“We’re just here to scout out this little town – see what they’ve got to offer us.” Said the obvious leader – the one with the permanent leer on his face.
“There’s food in the other room. And I don’t have any money.” Simay said defiantly.
“Sure you don’t” said Leer-face as his two compatriots – the dirty one holding her arms, and another ugly one with half of his right ear shaved off – laughed at her. “Everybody has money somewhere.” He said before pointing at Ugly and ordering, “Search this place. See where she’s hiding it.”
“I told you, I don’t –” Leer-face slapped her again, silencing her.
“Tie her up.” The leader said to the dirty one.
Without a word the man holding her snatched a rope out from under his robe and looped it around her wrists securely before roughly sitting her down on the floor.
“Nothin’ in here, boss,” said the ugly one.
“Check the other room. And make sure to look everywhere.”
The ugly one obeyed.
“Now.” Said Leer-face, smiling unpleasantly as he knelt down and caught her chin with his hand, forcing her to look at him, “Suppose you tell me your name, pretty one.”
Simay did the only thing she could think of.
“Lord, help me!” she prayed.
Iskender was scribbling away at yet another job that needed to have been done yesterday. Sometimes the customers he was able to get were quite demanding. This one wanted all two hundred copies of his son’s wedding announcement done before the end of the week – tomorrow evening. This was not an impossible task, but it was going to require a lot more time than usual.
Iskender’s hand began to cramp. He set the pen down and shook out his tense muscles. Maybe now was a good time to take a break. A short walk would do him some good right about now.
He left his home and started to head down the street away from the center of the city. After a dozen steps he reconsidered and turned around, heading instead toward Simay’s home.
Within ten minutes Iskender was in sight of Simay’s rented room. He started to walk past the place when he had the urge to stop. As he walked up to the door he noticed that there were several sets of shoe-prints in the dust – all of them much bigger than Simay’s small feet.
Instead of knocking on the door he carefully peeked into the small window situated on the side of the house. Iskender’s eyes widened as he saw a man with half an ear rummaging through Simay’s sparse possessions. Simay was nowhere to be seen from his vantage point. He waited at the window, hoping that the rummager would leave the room long enough for him to get into the house.
“My name is none of your business.” Simay said icily.
“Funny name for a nice girl.” Leer-face said, then asked, “So where’s your husband?”
Simay started to say that her husband was dead, but then thought better of it and instead said defiantly, “That’s none of your business either.”
“Well now, maybe you don’t have one.” He replied.
Simay’s silence condemned her.
“So, whose is the baby? You last guest?”
This angered Simay and she shouted back, “I have never been unfaithful to my husband!”
“What husband?” Leer-face said condescendingly.
Simay glared at the man.
“Oh, I see.” He sneered, “He’s dead, isn’t he. Left you here all alone to make your own way in the world and support that child all by your self.”
“No!” Simay said angrily.
“No to which part, nice girl?” he said with a sick smile.
“Just, no.” Simay said, looking away.
“Boss.” Ugly came back into the bedroom. “There’s nothin’ out there.”
“I told you.” Simay said quietly.
“I think you need to be quiet now.” Leer-face said, as he pulled out a very sharp dagger and started picking at his nails with it.
“So men, what shall we do with her?” the leader addressed Ugly and Dirty.
“She doesn’t have anything to take, boss.” Ugly said.
“True,” Leer-face consented.
“But nobody’s here to say we can’t have some fun before we leave.” Dirty’s guttural voice rumbled into her ear.
“Also true.” The leader said smiling. “Gag her.”
Simay started screaming and fighting as hard as she could to get away from the man trying to silence her. If no one could hear her, no one would know she was in trouble.
“Lord, I need You now!” Simay’s heart cried out to God. “Save me! Save my child!”
She smelled the dirty man’s hands as he finally succeeded in tying the cloth around her face so that she couldn’t scream anymore.
Ugly and Dirty stepped away from Simay and she started to hope that they might just leave her tied up. She hoped in vain.
She could see the blood shot eyes of the leader as he slowly stepped toward her. He grabbed her chin again, keeping her from looking away from him.
Simay squeezed her eyes tightly shut, bracing herself for what she knew would come next.
Suddenly two loud thuds came from behind Leer-face. Simay’s eyes popped open as the man let go of her and whirled around to see what was going on. His face ran right into Iskender’s fist. With a loud crack the leader of the lawless group fell to the floor unconscious.
“Iskender!” Simay tried to say, but it came out as “Skbbbhnmr!”
“Are you alright?!” Iskender knelt down and got rid of the gag before cutting deftly through the rope around her wrists with his knife.
“Yes.” Simay gasped. “Yes, thank God. How did you know to come here?” she said as the tears finally welled up in her eyes.
“I went for a walk. I was going to head out towards the edge of town, but something told me to come this way instead. I’m glad I listened.” Iskender helped Simay to stand and walk slowly over to the small bed. She sat down slowly and breathed out heavily as she came to rest on it. Then she finally let herself cry.
“Simay…” Iskender said gently as he put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Everything’s alright. You’re fine, your child is fine. Those three,” he gestured towards the unconscious men on the floor, “are not going to hurt you.” He assured before retrieving another length of rope from one of the men and unceremoniously tying all three together and dragging them out into the street to sit ludicrously by themselves while he comforted the woman they had almost succeeded in violating.
Iskender quickly shut the door to the house and hurried back to Simay who was still crying.
The big Ephesian silently knelt down beside the bed on which she sat. As he did he looked up at the weeping woman. His big hand took one of her delicate ones. He wanted to say something – anything, but he thought better of it and stayed silent.
That night Simay could not sleep. She kept thinking about what had happened earlier. If it was so easy for strangers to barge in and assault her once, what was to stop them – or anyone who pleased – from doing it again? If she only had to be concerned for herself she would manage somehow, but she was not on her own… She needed someone to watch out for her and her third child – someone she could trust.
The words Iskender had said a while ago echoed in her mind, “There are no accidents in God’s plans.”
“No accidents…” Simay whispered to herself thoughtfully.
In that moment she knew what she should do. She started to resist it, to ask God why He wanted her to do this now, but she stopped herself.
“No accidents.” She nodded and looked heavenward in acceptance. “I don’t know why, but I know You do.”
There was a soft knock at Iskender’s door.
He almost didn’t hear it, it was so light. But the slight sound penetrated his sleep just enough to rouse him.
The knock came again.
“Yes?” He said groggily.
“I’m coming.” Iskender’s gravely voice said.
He threw on the first clothes he could find and went to the door. He opened it and looked out into the darkness.
“Simay? Is that you?”
“Yes.” She said.
“Come in out of the street.” He stepped aside and motioned for her to come in.
“What’s the matter?” Iskender asked when he had closed the door behind Simay. The look on her face didn’t make any sense. She was smiling at him – after a day like today, she was smiling.
“Yes.” Was all she said.
“Yes, what, Simay? I don’t understa – ” Mid sentence Iskender realized what his friend had just told him. “Are you sure?”
Simay nodded. “I’m very sure, Iskender. I trust you to keep your promise to protect me, and I know you’ll never do anything that would break that promise.” She stopped for a moment before sitting down in the same chair she had been in when Iskender first proposed marriage to her three months ago. Then she continued, “This baby,” she laid her hand atop her pregnant belly, “will not grow up without a father. And since Malcus cannot fill that role… I need you to do it instead.”
Iskender looked into Simay’s eyes, “With the help of God, I will do my best for you both. And by God’s grace, nothing like what happened today will ever happen again.”
“I know, Iskender.” She smiled again, “I know.”