Greetings! It was a lovely, lovely day here in North Carolina, the type of which is usually best spent under a large oak tree with a good book, as cool breezes blow by you. Alas, that’s not quite how I spent my day, but one day… In the meantime, I am posting the next part of Full of Grace. If you’re new to the story, you can click here to read from the start; and if you’re enjoying the tale, please share it with a friend. As always, thanks for stopping by.

* * *

Sivan

With her head covered and eyes down, Mary follows her doda into the synagogue. Because her family made the trek to Jerusalem once a year for the Passover Festival and worshipped in the Temple, Mary was familiar with the house and the order. Women were allowed inside, but were separated from the men, so they might not distract them from their devotion to God.

Elizabeth winds her way through the halls into the overflow room in the back of the sanctuary. Mary follows her aunt, noting how small and dim the room is; and the air is stuffy. There is a buzz of conversation in the room and several women stare at them as they enter, but mostly, the chatter continues. A woman approaches them. She is younger than Elizabeth and shares the same facial features. The two women hug.

“Elizabeth! How are you feeling?”

Elizabeth lays her hand on her belly.

“Big, but well,” she says with a chuckle and deliberately motions to Mary. “Rona, you remember Mary, don’t you?”

“Anna’s Mary?” Rona asks, astonished. She looks her up and down, before hugging her as well. “You’ve grown up.”

Mary blushes. She didn’t particularly feel grown up.

“She’s expecting her first child,” Elizabeth adds.

Mary gives her a cautious look, but her aunt only offers her a ‘don’t worry’ smile.

“That’s wonderful!” Rona exclaims, putting her arm around her. “And your husband…”

Before Mary can even begin to work on an excuse for her situation, Elizabeth confidently states, “He’s back in Nazareth. Mary is staying with me for a short time so I can teach her and prepare her for childbirth.”

Rona raises an eyebrow.

“Aren’t you getting ahead of yourself? You’ve not had your first yet.”

“I raised you, didn’t I, cousin?”

Rona puts her arm around Mary “She’d like to think she did. In fact, she’d take credit for raising most of the young ones here in the hill country if we let her.” She steers her towards the wall of women, facing the latticed framework that separates them from the main room, where the men are located.

Elizabeth follows them.

“Stop telling the girl lies, especially in the house of G-d,” she laughs.

Rona doesn’t acknowledge her, but quietly adds, “You couldn’t have a better teacher, but don’t tell her that.”

Mary follows her through the crowd and finds a spot between her aunt and her cousin. Silence falls over the room, as the priest starts lighting the incense. Mary realizes the man is her uncle, Zechariah. She hadn’t seen much of him since arriving in Hebron, but the glimpses she did catch were of an old man, hunched over scrolls, praying, seeking redemption. Now, though, he is absorbed in his task, with an energy that betrays his earlier stature. Mary turns to Elizabeth and notes the tenderness on her face as she watches her husband. Her love for him is obvious and Mary’s face warms at the thought of having caught her doda in an intimate moment. She brings her attention back to the front and listens as the men begins their prayers.

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