By often sleeping during the day, Mary avoided seeing the other women at the town well. The gossips and village crones had orchestrated and expanded the details of her harlotry so that her reputation spread far outside the boundaries of her district. What they didn't know, and obviously didn't care to know, was that she had entered that life through desperation. When younger, she had spent all of her meager earnings as a servant, seeking relief from the dreams, by visiting various physicians and religious practitioners. For all this expenditure, she had gained nothing.
Finally, yes, she resorted to prostitution. She already had the reputation for it ... she had heard the whispers ... so, in angriness, bitterness, and resentment toward God and, basically, all people, she decided to live up to her name and reputation. She reasoned cynically that it kept her from relying on the charity of others and it gave her something to do with her nights.
In spite of her flippancy towards men and her brazen manners, she had no disillusions about men. They were dishonest and unfaithful, and without honor. She knew this, because, although she was the "harlot", they were partnered to that lifestyle. She often knew much about the wives and children of the men who came to her. She kept the secrets ... but these men never thanked her for her discretion. They hated and feared her, because her presence was a reminder of their sin.
And then Jesus came. Jesus, the teacher from Nazareth, the Healer, the rumored restorer of Israel and awaited Messiah. Not only was he strong and handsome, taller than King Saul must have been, a true seed of King David, but he was the first man she'd ever seen who was not afraid to be tender. When he held babies in his arms, or touched people with his calloused carpenter hands, he was gentle as a summer breeze.
the first time in many years she was challenged to care ... to consider
opening her life to others, to grow beyond the walls of her
self-imposed prison. She wasn't free -- yet -- but there was a sun of hope, a spark of hope, burning, flashing.
She wasn't free, either, from the nighttime attacks. If anything, they were worse, even frenzied. And, although she had not changed her decision about death, and fully intended to end her life, a shaft of light seemed to block her from dwelling on it, and, instead, made her wonder if life could exist without torment, without fear ... and without sin.