Madeline Bryan

United States

The Queen

November 19, 2019

My people were under siege. I lived with my cousin, the both of us being orphans. Mordecai’s parents and mine, Esther, had been killed by the Babylon empire when I was six and Mordecai was sixteen. He didn’t want to be rich for fear of people noticing us. The way I saw it, being poor makes you stand out just as much. I wasn’t allowed to leave the house without him. At one point, I thought of him as overprotective. As my life unraveled, my mind began to change. 


    One morning, I woke to the sound of horses. One of the king’s guards stood outside our door. 
    He asked if I fit “the description”. Mordecai nodded. I looked at him with terror. “What’s going on?”
    “You’re going to the palace,” the guard said. 
    Mordecai whispered,  “I know. Just don’t dare tell a soul. Stay under the radar. It’ll be alright. Go.”
    I could feel my heart beating as a got on the horse with the royal guard. We rode to the palace I’d wanted to enter for so long. 
    When we got there, a servant girl led me to a hall where many other girls and female servants were. “This is the hall all of you will be staying in. You’ll be in a room with four other girls.” 
    She left. There were four beds. I went to the one at the back of the room. I decided to avoid the other girls. I wouldn’t be here long anyway. It was nice to be in such a beautiful palace. I ran my fingers over the blanket and sighed. 
    The room was beautiful. I smiled at the sun that shone through the window. I would stay here for awhile, relish in the finery, and then, surely, the king would send me home. 

After a year, I met with Xerxes. Well, “met” wasn’t exactly the right word.    In one night, I’d gone from an innocent virgin to a palace concubine. 
    The new concubines were all placed together in our harem. I just wanted to be alone. I wanted to be back at home with Mordecai taking care of me. But I wasn’t. I was here. 
    After a few more years of this, Xerxes finally made the decision to make me queen. Mordecai told me that this was an amazing honor. I didn’t care. 
   

    My servant finished dressing me and led me out of my room.
“Xerxes just announced that all the Jews will be killed,” she told me. 
She looked at me. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. The dress is a bit tight. Could you loosen it?” 
She untightened the gown. 
Soon, all of my people were wearing sackcloth and ashes, crying on the streets like fools.
I watched with my back straight, trying to determine what to do. I sent for Hathach, one of Xerxes’s eunuchs, and sent him to Mordecai with new clothes to replace his foolish sackcloth. 
Hathach came back and told me that my cousin had refused. I rolled my eyes. “Bring him to me,” I ordered. I was trying to host a banquet and take care of my cousin who was acting like an adolescent. I messaged my temples. 
Hathach brought Mordecai before me. “Why won’t you change your clothes, cousin?” I asked. My voice was cold. 
He looked at me with disdain. “I won’t change my clothes until I know that my people will live.”
“I want my people to live too, but I’m not going to make a fool of myself. Instead I will find an actual solution.”
“Then ask you husband to set us free.”
“And how do you propose I get him to listen?”
As soon as the door shut, Mordecai looked back at me. “Tell Xerxes who you are.”
“I’ll be killed. I’ll be killed for going into his presence and for who I am.”
We stared at each other for a bit. “Do you have a better idea?” he hissed.
“I’m trying to find an actual solution!” I yelled. 

Today would be the day I asked Xerxes. I would. I really would. I would save my people. 
I opened the door as my heart beat out of my chest. Xerxes looked up at me. I stood still in his presence. He held out his golden scepter towards me, signaling for me to come to him. I ded. My heartbeat slowed as he smiled down at me. 
“What do you need, dearest?” he asked. “I would give you half of Babylon if you asked.”
    I requested to meet with him for dinner. I planned on telling him the truth, I really did, but I when he was sitting before me, I was too afraid. I told him to come back the next night. I promised myself that I’d tell him then. 

My servant put me in a blue dress. “Why blue?”
She shrugged. “It resembles hopefulness.” 
I looked down at the soft blue of the gown. There were silver spirals climbing us from the bottom like vines. They stopped as the came below my chest. It was a beautiful dress. I ran my hand over the vines, my fingers climbing along with them. “Hopeful,” I whispered. 
I wanted to be hopeful again. 
That evening, I sat down for the feast with the king. Xerxes took a drink from his wine glass once the meal was completed. He clumsily set it back down. A drop of it spilled onto my dress. It looked like a drop of crimson blood. Have hope
“What is your request, Esther?” Xerxes asked me. 
I took in a deep breath.
I took a deep breath. I began to speak. Words spilled out, but I barely heard them. When I finished, I stared at Xerxes, my chest slowly rising. Xerxes sat silent for a moment. “You’re a Jew?” he asked in almost a whisper.
I sat straighter. “Yes.” 
“Who decided to kill your people?”
“Haman,” I told him.

 

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