The Defenestration of Jezebel
by Jack Somers
The queen wore her finest on the morning of her death. The lotus silk gown, pale as the blanched beaches of Sidon. The damask linen stole, soft as moth wings, green as the Cyprian Sea. On her head rested the royal diadem, a filigreed band of pure gold, Ahab’s mother’s before it was hers, an heirloom of incalculable value, the greatest treasure in all of Samaria. Seven strings of lapis encircled her stately neck, a collar of sparkling cobalt that covered the crescent moon birthmark at the top of her jugular notch, her one physical imperfection. It was later said she donned a wig that morning, but that isn’t true. The cascades of russet curls were her own. I had washed them many times myself, marveled at the amount of water required to flatten them out—five full pitchers. When at last the hair did go limp, it spread over her breasts in dark tendrils, unfurled just below the surface of the verbena-scented bath water like long, slender fingers, reaching, searching.
I saw her unclothed each day for eight years, but not once did I desire her. Not once did I yearn to hold her, to feel her warmth against me. My duty was to serve, not to desire. When I entered her employ, I renounced the pleasures of the flesh, refashioned my body and mind to ensure my chastity, banished carnal cravings without reservation or regret. I did not swear off love, though. And I loved her truly. I loved the way she spoke up at assemblies and silenced squabbling men with her cool-headed appraisals. I loved the easy way she wielded a bow on the hunt and brought down her quarry with a single shot while her heavy-gutted entourage gaped in wonder. I loved the sorrowful, wordless melodies she hummed in her bedchamber at night as the king snored, his gray beard purpled with wine. I loved the way she pulled the bedsheet up over his broad chest and kissed his shining scalp before putting out her taper. She was good to him, I thought, though I knew she felt nothing for him. After he died, she brought no other man to their bed.
On the morning of her death, she blackened her eyes with a burnt match and rouged her lips with mulberry paste. She strode to the window of the high tower, her head held high, and regarded the restless army in the courtyard with steely, imperious eyes.
“Have you come to beg for peace?” she called to Jehu, the mounted ruffian at the army’s head. Even at the end, her wit did not fail her.
“Cast her down!” he called back. “Cast down the Witch of Baal!”
She turned to me and smiled quietly. “Lift me,” she said.
“Your majesty,” I protested.
“Lift me, and cast me down,” she said. “I am not afraid.”
And with trembling arms and trembling heart, I took her up and set her in the air.