The Red Tent
Part Three, Chapter 2
Dinah feels terribly lonely with Re-mose away at school. She makes a home for herself in the garden shed and toils among the flowers and fruit to earn her keep. Re-mose does well at school and is kept away from home with trips to visit his friends’ families. Time passes, and Dinah and Meryt become close friends. They spend hours together talking and laughing, discussing their experiences as midwives. Meryt’s husband has long been dead, and she has two adopted sons who lived on the west bank of the river. Though Dinah refuses to attend any births with her, she teaches Meryt all she knows of herbs and tricks for bringing healthy babies into the world.
Four years after Re-mose leaves, Dinah is summoned to attend a difficult birth with Meryt. Though the mother dies, Dinah saves one of the two babies. From then on various houses in Thebes call upon Dinah to attend births. She and Meryt work together and accumulate gifts of jewelry and linens. One day, they go to the market to buy a box to hold Dinah’s new belongings. There they meet a carpenter named Benia, who has an open face and cannot take his eyes off of Dinah. He offers her a beautiful box. Meryt tells him to bring the box to Nakht-re’s home the next day, since he is moving shortly to the Valley of Kings. Dinah feels something in his gaze but says nothing. They arrive home to an uproar, for Re-mose has returned.
Dinah has not seen Re-mose in five years, and in that time he has grown into a young man. Their meeting feels forced, since he is a prince of Egypt and she merely his nurse. Re-mose has been asked to learn the duties of a vizier. A great banquet is held that night in his honor, and a veiled singer appears with the band. She sings a song of lost love that sounds familiar to Dinah. After the festivities die down, she makes her way over to the band and addresses the singer by her name. The singer turns out to be Werenro, the messenger of her grandmother with the red hair who was thought to have been murdered years before.
Werenro lifts her veil and shows Dinah how her face is torn and scarred, with her nose broken and her eyes gouged out. Werenro relates her story to Dinah. While leaving Tyre to return to Mamre, she was attacked by the side of the road by three Canaanite men. They raped her, beat her, and left her for dead. A boy found her and called for his mother, who took her in and healed her. Rather than return to Mamre as a slave, Werenro decided to let everyone think she was murdered and placed sheep’s bones along the road with locks of her hair before joining a caravan of singers. Dinah tells her story, relieved to at last recount what has happened to her. She begins to remember the woman she was as she tells her story. Werenro declares that she might as well be dead, but Dinah still has life in her yet.
Dinah confronts her memories when she reclaims her role as a midwife and encounters Werenro at Re-mose’s feast. Forced back into the practice and life of a midwife, she reconnects with her memories of Rachel, Inna, and the powerful world of women in which she was raised. When Dinah helps to deliver the twins and succeeds where Meryt could not, she remembers her own skill and usefulness. The feeling of being useful again brings tremendous relief after years of solitude and lethargy in the garden. She knows from her upbringing that such a gift is not to be taken lightly. Her presence of mind during her own birthing experience stands as proof that Dinah’s abilities as a midwife are impressive. Though she has no mothers or daughters to serve, there are other women who need her. By resuming the life of a midwife, Dinah reclaims a sense of self that she thought that she had lost.
Dinah reclaims her own history when she reunites with Werenro and hears her terrible story. Werenro offers Dinah the third prophecy of her life, and the only one of the three that has any effect on Dinah’s actions. Zilpah’s prophecy of finding happiness near a river rings false, and while Rebecca’s prophecy of unspeakable grief came true, Dinah never acknowledges the prediction again. In contrast, Werenro’s words shoot directly to Dinah’s heart. Dinah can finally relate her sorrow after hearing the torment that Werenro endured and understanding how Werenro equates her current existence with a living death. Relief floods her body as she unburdens her secrets to Werenro and cries on her shoulder. Werenro tells her that her grief shines from her heart but that the flame of love still burns strong, explaining that Dinah’s story is not yet finished. Dinah feels greatly affected by unloading her tragic story, while Werenro’s declaration that she must live out her destiny without her family moves her greatly. At long last, she weeps for the memories of her mothers and feels some relief.
The brief reappearance of Re-mose, now nearly an adult, further strengthens Dinah’s resolve to take action in her life. She sees in his mature face how many years she has spent hiding in her garden and realizes that she must face her life. Re-mose has grown up and learned the ways of a vizier, which draws attention to Dinah’s own intertia. Her relationship with Re-nefer, which has always been cordial, has become nearly nonexistent. Dinah comes and goes from her home in the garden shed and feels no attachment to anyone other than Meryt. Since she has no family in Thebes, there is no reason to call it home. She realizes that others like Werenro have lived through suffering—and found the strength to go on with their lives. Dinah is no longer bound to her son’s life, for he will not be coming home to see his mother again, so she must find her own way.
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