"You should tell her," Amatiah said, forming flat loaves between her palms, and setting them aside for Tamet to place, one by one on the stone in the fire.
"Tell who what?" Tamet said, keeping her eyes on the bread already baking.
"You're starting to show," Amatiah said. "And you might go to the mikveh with me, but you never actually get in."
Tamet flipped one loaf from the fire and replaced it with a fresh, uncooked one. "Do you think she'll beat me?" she asked.
"She'd be within her rights," Amatiah said, "but I'd doubt she will." She watched Tamet turn the bread and flip it out, cooked, then put her hand on her wrist. "Come on. I'll go with you."
It was, Tamet thought, terrible. Yehoishema stared at her, shifting on the cushions as she tried to ease her sore back.
"Was the thought of being a rich man's woman so terrible to you?" she said at last. "Did my husband not agree to give you time to become accustomed to us?"
"I thought he had changed his mind," Tamet said weakly, trying not to look at Yehoishema's face. "I thought that I was far from his thoughts since you have been blessed, Lady -"
"You thought you would fall for the smooth lies of a seducer!" Yehoishema snapped. "Three months, girl? Have you even seen this liar since you lay down for him?"
"Every day!" Tamet cried, stung. "I am his wife and he is my husband!" She reached out and clung to Yehoishema's hand. "Lady, don't be angry, haven't you been a mother to me? Doesn't a mother rejoice if her daughter's husband loves her?"
"How is he a husband if he has not asked for you?" Yehoishema said. "What is this supposed husband's name, Tamet?"
"Anani the son of Azariah," she said. "He is a servitor in the temple of the Lord Yau. He can read, and he has a birthmark above his elbow, and -"
"And can he support you?" Yehoishema said. "How old is this prince among men?"
"About seventeen," Tamet whispered. Yehoishema shifted uncomfortably, a hand under her belly, and shook her head.
"I will speak to my husband. You will go and do the work Amatiah gives you, and will serve me until your own belly is too big to let you aid me. Go now, and leave me to rest. Amatiah, don't let her out of your sight."
"No, Lady," Amatiah said, and pulled Tamet back to the kitchen.
Meshullam shouted, and broke a wine cup, and the servants prudently stayed out of their master and mistress' sight. When Meshullam's anger was spent, and he no longer used harsh words about Tamet, he called for her to bring him bread and beer. He looked at her once and then fixed his eyes upon his bread.
"You will not leave the house," he said. "If this man wants you, let him come and speak to me."
"My lord, how will he know to come if I can't tell him?" she asked, but Meshullam just waved her away, his face set.
When Tamet was six months pregnant, the time came for Yehoishema to be delivered. The midwives set her to sweeping the house, and in due time Amatiah came to her smiling, for Yehoishema had borne a son, whom she named Zakkur, for her husband's father.
"It'll be your turn soon enough," she said. "The Lord Yau has blessed this house, that it will be full of children."
"I should be in my husband's house," Tamet said.
"Does your Anani have a house? If he did, does he care to have you in it?" Amatiah said. "Tamet, perhaps you should be content here. I went up to the temple, and asked for Anani the son of Azariah. He knows you are here and that you are forbidden to leave the house, and yet he has not come. It may be our master will forgive you; be happy, and don't think about Anani. The hearts of the young change easily, even when they think they are fixed forever."
"No," Tamet said, though she found it hard not to weep at Amatiah's words. "He will come for me." She turned away, and swept the whole house again, though it was clean from beams to floor.
When the midwife was called for her, Tamet wept, and cursed the name of Anani the son of Azariah, and called for her mother while Yehoishema and Amatiah held her hands as she strained and cried out and brought her son into the world.
"Another boy for the house," the midwife said. "Lucky girl!"
"Should I call him Pethu, for my father?" Tamet said, lying upon the mat Yehoishema had straightened for her with her own hands.
"Do you not go to the Lord Yau's temple?" Yehoishema said, drying the sweat from Tamet's face and holding a cup of wine to her lips. "Will your son not be raised as a Judean? I had a brother called Piltiel – it is a good name and he had no children to carry it after him, for he died young. It would be a kindness in you to call your son by my brother's name."
"Piltiel," Tamet said in weary agreement, holding the baby to her. Pilti, she thought as she slipped towards sleep.
"We must find this young man for her," she heard Yehoishema say as dreams took her. "I will make my husband make him see sense."
In the days after she gave birth, Tamet heard Yehoishema's voice elsewhere in the house growing louder, and Meshullam's growing weaker, until finally only Yehoishema's voice was left.
"I have sent my husband to the house of Azariah the father of Anani," Yehoishema said one evening as she fed Zakkur her son while Tamet fed Pilti. "He said at first it was foolish, and that we should tell you that he would adopt Pilti, for a house with two sons is more blessed than a house with one, and you would be glad to have your child raised free and rich," She smiled as Tamet clutched Pilti to her. "Child," she said, "I thought of your face when the midwife laid him in your arms and of how my own heart would break if a rich man kindly took Zakkur from me. I would not give him up even to be the King of Persia's son. I told Meshullam I would not stand for it and that he must make Anani ask for you properly." She pushed a plate of her favourite dates, plump and sweet over to Tamet. "He will come in a little to tell you what he has learnt."
Meshullam came in so quickly that Tamet felt he must have been hiding behind the door. He sat and looked first at the face of his wife and then at the face of Pilti and last at Tamet herself.
"I have spoken to Anani the son of Azariah," he said. "His father says he is a fool and a wayward boy, who does not take advice. He has been trying to earn money to support you and has taken work as a hired labourer all the hours he is not employed in the temple. His father says he wants nothing more than to buy your freedom, but being a foolish boy had never thought to tell you this and so left you wondering all this time."
Tamet found herself grinning as broadly as a frog that she was not forgotten, and bowed her head first to Meshullam and then to Yehoishema, who sat shaking her head over the foolishness of men. "When will my husband come for me, my lord?" she asked.
"Are you sure you want such a husband?" Meshullam said. "One who forgets to send word for so long? Come now, you have lived in my house all this time, no one would ever think it strange if I acknowledged Pilti as my son -"
"But he is not your son," Tamet said as he reached out to touch Pilti's cheek.
" - No," Meshullam said, letting his hand fall back to his side. "No. Tamet, Anani is as bad at moving stones as he is at sending word. He has made very little coin and cannot buy your freedom." He pulled out a roll of papyrus from his clothes as her face fell. "Do not despair. Has not Yehoishema my wife made it clear how she will speak to me if I did not do her will? This is how it shall be – you will be my maidservant still, but you will live with Anani. You will come to this house on the days Yehoishema has need of you and for this you will be paid as a hired servant. See here – this is a document of marriage, for Azariah the father of Anani and I felt we could not let your young man from our sight without drawing this up. I would have given you more to take with you, but Anani is proud with the silliness of youth and would not hear of it." He paused, then pointed at a line of writing. "If you are divorced, you and Pilti will have a place to come back to, here in this house, but for Pilti it will not be as a bondservant. It says here that if I try to reclaim him in any other circumstance but that I must pay his worth to Anani, five karsh of silver."
"But that is a free boy's worth," Tamet said.
"Yes," Meshullam said, and looked relived at Yehoishema's smile. "Your son is free, Tamet. You are a married woman of Judah, the mother of one of the people of Judah and he is free."
"Thank you, my lord," Tamet said, "thank you, my lady."
"I would have been a good husband to you," Meshullam said suddenly and quietly, "and Yehoishema would not have resented you. You would have lacked nothing."
"Anani is the man of my heart," Tamet said. "I am sorry."
Meshullam smiled a little as if thinking What a foolish boy I, too, am, and stood. "The other women of my house tell me I must arrange for gifts to be sent to your parents and for a celebration to be held," he said. "Take counsel from them, Tamet, and learn how a man of Judah should obey his wife and I think you will do well enough."
He walked away, leaving her smiling at Yehoishema, two married women of Judah, holding their free-born sons.
The marriage contract of Anani and Tamet, made between Ananiah ben Azariah and Meshullam ben Zakkur