Full of Grace (11)

The house is unusually quiet. At one time, Joachim would have relished the silence, but this morning it is agonizing. It had been an hour since he and Nathan arrived home from the synagogue, an hour since Mary revealed her…condition, one hour since their lives changed.

With the children waiting in their room, he and Anna consider what to do now.

But Joachim finds it difficult to put two thoughts together, much less grasp the reality of the moment: his Mary, pregnant?

“This is unlike her,” he states, more to himself.

Anna paces the floor, as she had been doing now for half-an-hour.

“That’s what I don’t understand. She just isn’t the type to sneak around. She seemed to genuinely care for Joseph. Why this? Why now?”

Joachim hears the desperation in her voice, but he does not respond. Her questions, as much as his observations, are rhetorical. Or at least they appear to be. He has no answer to give her, no response to offer that would alleviate her concerns. The hush surrounds them again. Unable to stand it, he asks, “What if she’s telling the truth?”

He’s not sure he does, but there has to be an explanation.

“That is not possible,” Anna insists.

“But it was prophesied.”

“G-d has not spoken to his people in four hundred years. Is this now how he does it? By condemning a young, innocent woman to death? Who will believe her? Joseph? That mother of his? Will they believe G-d did this? Or that she was unfaithful to Joseph? You know what they will do then: the priest will pass judgment and they’ll stone her to death.”

Anna tries to keep her composure, but it’s too much. One tear escapes and she loses that battle. Tear after tear stream down her face as her lips tremble. Joachim stands and takes her into his arms to comfort her. She is not normally emotional, neither is she so cynical, but he understood why she behaved as she did. Mary was their miracle, the child that barren Anna was never supposed to have. He knew the jeers and spiteful words she had to endure when they were first wed. Nothing he said could ease her pain then and now as he considered his family’s future.

He tightens his hold on Anna, letting her cry, ready to cry with her. What were they going to do?

As if Anna could read his mind, she pulls from him and replies, “We have to send her away now before she begins to show.”

Releasing her completely, he asks, “What?”

“We have to send her away before she starts showing,” she repeats.

Joachim finds his way to his chair, exhausted and hungry. He sighs.

“Where are we going to send her?”

Anna sits beside him, suddenly energized.

“To my sister, in Hebron. Mary was a small child last time she was there. They won’t remember her.”

Joachim shakes his head. While there was some merit to her idea, there is one detail Anna is forgetting.

“Her husband is a priest. He has served G-d since boyhood. Do you really think he will disregard the law for family?”

“It doesn’t matter; he has gone senile,” Anna replies, as she hurries to their bedroom. Joachim watches her go, fearing she is just grasping for hope now. She returns quickly, holding a letter.

“He was serving in the temple in Jerusalem in Elul, in September,” Anna explains. “He was in the Holy Place when he was struck deaf and dumb. He does not speak, cannot hear and no longer travels to Jerusalem to serve. He is senile. He would pose no problem for Mary.”

Joachim skims the letter. He recognizes Elizabeth’s handwriting and sadly considers the fate that had befallen his brother-in-law – a fate that now serves them.

“So we send her to Elizabeth. What then? What do we tell Joseph?” he asks, tossing the letter onto the table.

“We tell him the truth – she went to her aunt’s home. The day of their nissuin is still some time away.”

“And the child?”

There is no hesitation in her voice as Anna suggests, “Elizabeth’s wanted to be a mother for a long time.”

Oh, this was not good. They were treading on lies now.

“Anna, think this through,” he pleads with her. Though the words pain him, he knows they must be spoken. “What happens when Mary returns? Will she hide the truth from Joseph? Will he marry her under false pretenses? Will there be blood on the night of her nissuin to show she is a virgin? What if there’s not?”

Anna looks at him with the big, brown eyes he fell in love with. But there is no mirth, no joy in them – only pain and determination. Disconcertingly calm, she states, “I will not lose my daughter.”

Joachim knows there is no arguing with her. With quiet resignation, he takes a deep breath and says, “Alright.”

* * *

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