by Andy Martin
sweet wineThere's always a danger in prostitution, but I'd experienced nothing like this before. The aggressiveness of the blow took me by surprise. My dress fell off my shoulder, and I threw out my arms to catch my fall.
As if in slow motion, the stony ground beneath me inched into vision. Closer and closer. And then I hit the floor.
My arm felt the impact. Scraped skin. Possibly a broken bone.
Before I had a chance to think, David's foot flashed before my eyes and rammed into my stomach, stealing my breath.
His wife found out he'd been buying my favours, and his response was to take it out on me. He claimed I had tempted him away from the sanctity of marriage.
"Whore!" David spat at me. I looked up. His piercing eyes full of venom; nose scrunched, lips curled in hatred. "We all know the punishment for adultery, don't we!"
Being stoned to death was one of the most brutal things I'd witnessed, and I'd seen my fair share of violence. An alcoholic dad set me up with a thorough knowledge of what men were capable of. I'd felt the back of his hand across my face on many occasions. And worse.
A kick to my mouth split open my lip and a fountain of blood sprayed across the gravelly road. I lay there, too scared to move.
I could hear the movement of footsteps around me; the muttering of male voices, condemning, judging, hating. Then it went quiet.
I heard the accusing voice of one of the religious leaders: "So what should we do with her? This woman has been caught committing adultery!"
I turned to see what was happening and another man stepped closer towards me. Someone I didn't recognise. He moved slowly. His hair was long and dark, his beard thick, his eyes looking down in a thoughtful expression. He bent down next to me and put his finger to the ground. Small stones and dust leapt upwards as he moved his hand through the sandy ground, writing something. In the quietness, the crunch of this motion was deafening.
Then he stood up.
He spoke in a quiet, low voice: "Whoever is without sin, throw the first stone."
A small rock landed with a thud on the ground nearby.
Lots of stones dropping onto the harsh gravel path. And then the sound of footsteps, walking away.
I looked up through swollen eyes. The man's hand was reaching towards me. A strong hand, covered in scars; small cuts that you might see on a carpenter. I raised mine towards his and felt the touch.
Effortlessly and gently, he pulled me to my feet.
His hazel eyes glistened with life; serene; divine.
"Where are your accusers? Has no-one condemned you?"
The street was empty.
"No-one." I managed to whisper.
"Then neither do I."
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