The gathering darkness of the warm spring day took the edge off the heat in the small room. The guest had honored the host with his presence. As he reclined, the few others who were invited joined him at the table.
The people of the community, as was their custom, began to slip in the door and take their places around the perimeter. Some stood, others squatted on the floor. Occasionally a child would shoulder in, often being shushed by its father.
As the light waned, the burning lamps started making their presence known. They added heat with their light and this increased the closeness of the air. It didn't matter, though. Every eye and ear was focused on the unfolding conversation at the low table.
The finer points. The technicalities. The thrusts and parries of argument. These were the issues that brought people to this little room. On this night. The drama was too interesting to pay much attention to the heat. Would this be the night someone would finally stump him with a question? Would he have a response none of them had ever imagined, but, when considered, made perfect sense?
They listened and pondered, when, from somewhere back in the crowd, she slipped forward. She was right next to him by the time they noticed. What was she doing here anyway? Didn't she know her place?
He didn't say anything about her standing there. He looked on with apparent tenderness as she began to weep, but he said nothing to her. As she looked into his eyes, her body started convulsing with deep sobs. Her tears splashed onto his feet and she quickly dried them with her long, unbraided hair.
As she gained control of her weeping, she reached into the folds of her garment and pulled out a small vial. Alabaster. She broke the small neck on the vial and the fragrance overtook the room. Pure nard. Expensive enough to cost a year's pay for some of the poor farmworkers in the area.
For her, it was part of the dowry she never used. Instead of a husband, she had chosen a life of pleasure. The parade of men never stopped. Rich, poor, young, old. From miles away, they all knew the road to her house.
And every day, another small part of her died inside.
He had said few words, but she knew he forgave her.
What could she give in return? Her most valuable possession.