Mary is attentive as Anna closes the Morning Prayer.
“So be it,” Anna says.
“So be it,” Mary, Oprah and Kyla repeat.
Without being told, Mary grabs her veil and covers her head. Then she picks up the water jar and says, “I’ll get the water, Imma.”
Anna nods her head as Oprah and Kyla jump up and down, vying for her attention. Though her mother is distracted this morning, Mary suspects Anna knows why she is so anxious to do her chores – she hopes to see the malakh at the well again. She has been obedient and not brought up the incident in the week since she saw him, but it has constantly been on her mind. And how could it not, when every morning she uttered the same prayer… “I am available to you, G-d, that I might be the mother of your Mashiac.” The prayer held new meaning for her – she was the Chosen One. G-d had regarded her, a lowly maiden; he had favored her and promised a great work, much as he had done for her forefathers. And that was wonderful, until Mary considered her parents’ reactions: perhaps she had imagined the whole incident.
Mary chastises herself as she rushes to the well.
“Did Sarah ask the malakh to return after they announced her pregnancy?”
She tells herself to hope and remember, but when she reaches the well, her heart falls. No malakh, only Rachel. She is older and prettier, but condescending – and envious, since Rachel was not yet betrothed.
“Hello Mary,” Rachel greets her, placing her water pot down to catch her breath.
Mary forces a smile and replies, “Rachel.”
“I heard Joseph came by your house last week.”
“He brought me a gift,” Mary says, nodding, as she places her jar beside Rachel’s.
“That’s so precious.” Mary detects sarcasm in her tone, as Rachel continues. “I had several suitors when I was your age and they often brought me gifts – different kinds. Perfumes, jewels, clothes – oh, one of them even brought me a silk cloth. He said he had traded for it with a man from the Orient. Can you imagine?”
Mary smiles again.
“Of course, the suitors couldn’t come up with a dowry, so my abba turned them away. But that’s alright, because I am more mature now and don’t have to take lessons like you do to prepare for marriage. Any man would be blind to not want to pursue me.”
Any man like Joseph, Mary thinks, knowing Rachel had hoped he would court her, since they were the same age and he was a handsome man. But Joseph didn’t. And Rachel remained unmarried.
“How is your imma?” Rachel asks her.
“She is well. My sisters keep her busy,” Mary responds.
“That is good. I think about her, how she was blessed to find someone and bear children at her age. It’s inspiring to the rest of us.”
“She’s not so old,” Mary says. True, her mother is older, but not as old as Rachel implies.
“Oh, of course not. I didn’t mean to suggest that,” Rachel states, patting Mary’s hand. “I was just saying she is blessed, that’s all. And it’s precious that you defend her like you do. Just like a little child hanging onto her imma’s dress.”
Rachel smiles innocently, but Mary knows she is not.
“Well, let me get back before my imma worries. Be careful; I’ve heard there are strange men hanging around here.”
And with that, Rachel picks up her water pot and heads home, leaving Mary to wonder what her admonition was supposed to mean. Romans? Rogues? The malakh? Mary sighs and decides she doesn’t really want to know. She just wants to get her water and go home.