Peer Review by Aarushikrishnan (United States)

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#firstraycontest ARISE

By: valentina


Luke 8:40-56

    I was twelve years old. I remember it so well...

    The pang in my chest would not flee. I gathered water from the well, carrying the clay bowl barefoot through the dusty paths home. Exhaustion seeped down to my bones, like precious water. The wind picked up, and water washed over the sides of the bowl. My white skirt swirled around my feet, my hair around my head. The cold chilled my arms. I tried to hurry the rest of my way home, but I was too tired to make it. My arms felt like leaden weights hanging from my shoulders. My chest burned, my legs ached. Beads of sweat gathered on my forehead. I dropped the bowl. It had grown too heavy for my pained arms. The well water that I had walked so far for spilled out onto the ground. It turned to mud that dried so quickly. Tears stung my eyes. A whole day's worth of water, sunken into the ground. It probably fell so far, it quenched the thirsts of the demons. My father always warned me that was what would happen if I dropped the bowl. The world tilted beneath my feet. I plummeted to the ground as if I were a raindrop flung from a storm cloud. My illness kept me there, bound to the earth, tasting dust.

    It was another hour before they found me. The sun was high and hot. The wind was gone. They had been searching for me, Malai, daughter of Jairus, leader of the synagogue, for a time. My father was well known and respected in the city, and he lavished love upon me. I was his only child, and though I was not the son he had once wanted, I was the pride of his life. My mother, Anneli, had died when I was born, and I reminded Jairus of his first beloved. My father's friend found me there. I was barely awake. He cradled me in his arms as if I were but an infant. I remember asking him about the bowl. He said I was more beloved than mere clay, and he would come back for it later. I was carried, half-alive, all the rest of the path home. My father wept when he saw me and laid me in his own bed. My fever was high. The world seemed more vivid, brighter than ever before. Colors sharpened. My vision swam and dove and sunk to the ground. My father kept worried vigil beside me. Crowds of people came and went, already dressed in mourning clothes, but I cared only for my father. He had lost my mother, and if he lost me too, his heart would be broken beyond repair.

    I was deep into my sickness, and drawing near to death, when I remembered the miracle worker. Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He had turned plain water into the most delicious wine, cast demons out of a man, and healed scores of the hurt and sick.     Whispered tales of his miracles and teachings traveled down to me by my father's friends, my neighbors, and Elisaveta, the older, engaged,  fancy-sandaled girl from down the path. I knew that Jesus would heal me, for my father. My father was a good and faithful man, and he showed kindness to all he met. He led the people in worship at the synagogue. If he tugged on the miracle-worker's clothes, and believed the Christ could heal me, then it would be so. With deep, sudden certainty I reached a trembling hand to my father. He startled, surprised by my movement. "
    Father," I said, my voice rough. He touched my face tenderly. 
   "My beloved Malai, whatever you would ask."
    "Go to the Christ, and say for him to come forth and heal me. Lead him down the path where which you found me. If he can only lay his hands on me then I will be healed."
    My father began to cry. "My daughter, such faith you have. I fear I cannot say the same of myself. But I will find the Christ and bring him here, for you, my love." He held my face in his hands one more time and then left my side, casting a last sorrowed look at me. Many of my father's friends and the people who worked in my home crowded around my bed, but without my father to hold my hand I fell asleep. It was a light sleep, as if I was floating above the bed. I dreamed of my father, sandals beating the path, rushing to find the Christ Jesus.

    The Christ had the strangest eyes. Sometimes they were brown, like mine, like most eyes, but when they caught the light just the right way they glowed green and blue. He truly was a miracle. His face beckoned sinners, and his hands spoke of love, power, and mercy. My father Jairus called out to the Christ. His breath was short. Dust stirred around his feet. His face was desperate and pleading. He dropped to the ground, humbling himself in front of the miracle-worker. "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live." The Christ turned without a word, people pressing into him, and followed my father towards the path home.

    From that moment on I was aware of nothing else. I could feel my heart slow in my chest, then stop. I was feverishly aware of every breath and knew the moment when they ended. Of what happened when my heartbeat vanished I cannot say. It is too beautiful, wild and precious for me to share. I hold my secret close to me like a perfect treasure. Soon, I returned from heaven in the sky.

I    n my bed I dreamed of everything as it occurred. I watched as Lael, my father's attendant, and six of my father's friends and servants came towards him. Their faces were distraught and weeping echoed from my household. Lael delivered the news with a grim voice. He did not meet my father's eyes. No one did. With a respectful nod towards Christ Jesus, he said, "My lord, your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more."
    Father stood, shocked, his body a portrait of grief. He did not cry, but his expression told me he surely would, and soon. Once the shock wore off.
    Jesus put a firm hand upon his shoulder. "Do not fear, only believe, and she will be well." My father gazed up at Jesus, and he was full of hope and sorrow at the same time. Somehow, I knew what he truly was feeling in that moment. I simply knew.

    Christ set towards my household, three of his followers at his side. He radiated peace and strength, two sides of a golden coin, shining against the dirt. From my home great wails could be heard.
    "A child has died! A child has died! Why must be the world so cruel, as to take away a girl, so young?" Keziah, the wife of my father's dearest friend, and whom I was so fond of, cried out those words into the world. My heart grew for her in that moment. I was not sad. I was simply content, covered in peace and love and understanding. For I knew the miracle worker would heal me. My faith was assured. I would see Keziah again.
    Christ approached them and asked, "Why are you crying? The child is not dead but only sleeping." And the people laughed at him, but they were sad laughs.

    Christ asked the mourners to leave from the house of Jairus, my father. Only Father was allowed to enter, and Jesus' disciples. Christ's followers and my father were weeping for me, for I was laying, as if I were sleeping, but I was growing cold on the bed. Christ took me by the hand and said, "Little girl, I say to you, arise."

    I awoke from my dreaming and smiled at the Christ Jesus. His eyes shone with God's light, and I marveled, at eyes the color of the sea but dark as night at the same time.
    The morning's first ray beamed through the window and illuminated His face. My heart bloomed with the joy of a new dawn.     He smiled back at me. Jesus loves the children. I arose from my bed and began to walk. My legs felt stronger than they ever had before. The followers were amazed and immediately began praising the Christ.  
    My father was simply overwhelmed. Tears flowed freely from his eyes. I ran to him and hugged him. He stroked my hair. "My beloved, my daughter, my child..." He laughed and wept at the same time. I took his hands in mine and we danced. I had never felt so alive as when we rejoiced together.

    Christ told us firmly that we were never to speak of what had happened. Then he told my father to give me something to eat, and just that moment, he was gone. I was never able to thank him for what he had done for me. Not until, many years later, as a very old woman with silver hair, seven children and a joyful heart, I returned to the Heaven in the skies.


Message to Readers

This is my entry to the #firstraycontest

Peer Review

I really liked how you incorporated religion into this, it gave it a fresh edge, and was wonderful to read. I like the pieces of imagery too, it brought your piece to life!

If you described the healing process in better detail it can really help your writing shine! It's a very nice piece as it is though, don't change it if you don't want to.

Reviewer Comments

Thank you so much for participating in my contest, I really loved your piece and am looking forward to reading more!