Full of Grace (21 and 22)

Today was a productive day. I watched The Help, ate more food than anyone should be allowed to eat in a day and wrote. Obviously I’m not too proud of the second accomplishment, and the first was an entertaining distraction, but as a result of the third, I am posting two installments of Full of Grace since I will be away from my computer for the latter part of the week. 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.

* * *

21.

Sivan

Elizabeth pauses to take in the warmth of the sun. A cool breeze tempers the heat and she is able to enjoy the moment, despite her discomfort. The child within her kicks her, hard. It seems he is ready to be born and on days like this, she is ready to welcome him, to greet him into the world and care for him as G-d intended. She desires for him to meet his father and the rest of his family – especially his cousin, Mary and her child…

Speaking of which, where is Mary?

Elizabeth looks up and around. She is at the river, washing clothes. It is a twenty-minute walk from her house, made difficult in her condition when she is carrying a basket filled with clothes. Rona had sent her daughter to help her, but Elizabeth had her go home, figuring Mary would be available to assist her. It was now mid-morning, though, and Mary was nowhere to be seen.

With a sigh, Elizabeth stands up and waddles up the path to her house. It is quiet, as always. Zechariah, she knows, is studying, but Mary is not in the main room, eating, as she supposed she might be. She finds her in her room, lying down, her back to the door. The sun is streaming in through the window, illuminating her small figure.

“Are we going to rest all day?” Elizabeth asks, keeping her tone light so Mary knows she is not chiding her.

Mary rolls over and looks at her for a moment, before dropping her gaze. Elizabeth notes how red and swollen her eyes are. She walks over to Mary.

“What’s wrong?”

Mary shakes her head. Elizabeth lowers uneasily lowers herself onto the mat, unable to find a comfortable spot. She ignores her body for a moment and turns her attention to Mary, wiping a tear as it falls from her eye.

“Tell me what’s wrong, child,” she softly pleads. Though she bore no children of her own, she had always felt a motherly connection to her sister’s children. And even now, with Mary being as old as she was, expecting her first child, the sentiment was no different. “Are you ill?”

Mary shakes her head again.

“No more than usual,” she quietly states.

She had excused herself from dinner the previous evening after throwing up the contents of her stomach. Elizabeth knew she was embarrassed, but it was all a part of the process. The child within her was growing. Her body was getting accommodating itself for him.

Still, it had to be hard on her, doing things outside the specified order of things. Elizabeth strokes her hair back.

“Talk to me, nechadnit, niece.”

Mary lifts her head and lies back on the mat.

Doda, I am grateful you’ve opened your home to me, but I’m supposed to be home, getting ready for Joseph, not hiding from him.”

Elizabeth hears the hurt in her voice and wants only to make her feel better.

“I know things seem out of order now, Mary, but believe me, they will work out.” When Mary doesn’t respond, Elizabeth continues. “My sister was only doing what she and Heli thought best for you. They love you. They were just trying to protect you.”

“By keeping me from Joseph?”

“By keeping you safe.”

“Joseph would keep me safe.”

Elizabeth sits back to relax the muscles in her back. She appreciates the simplicity of Mary thoughts and doesn’t doubt the boy would protect her, but she knows the situation is more complicated than that. It would not be solved right then and there.

“We’ll write to your imma; perhaps she’ll listen to reason. But even if she does not, G-d can fix this situation. If he can do what he has done with you and me, then he can certainly fix this. You just need to focus on you and the child.”

Mary takes a moment before she nods in agreement.

“Good. Now help me up; we have clothes to wash.”

22.

15 Sivan

Anna balances the jug on her hip, as Kyla and Oprah run ahead of her. Getting water from the well often proved challenging. The girls either ran off or got into a fight, causing her to momentarily abandon her task to deal with them. Today wasn’t so bad and Anna was thankful to be headed back home.

Oprah runs ahead, leaving Kyla behind her. The little girl tries to keep up, but she cannot, her little legs able to carry her only so far. She stops and turns back to her mother, tears in her eyes. Anna is glad for a break and sets the jar down. She offers her arms to the youngster and picks her up. Kyla wraps her arms her neck. Anna feels the wet, warm tears trickle down her shoulder and can’t help but feel hurt for her.

“Did Oprah leave you all alone?”

Kyla nods her head.

Anna rubs her daughter’s back, remembering when she was the younger sister, running after Elizabeth the way Kyla ran after Oprah. It seemed the cycle never ended.

She turns Kyla’s face to hers, peering into her teary, black eyes.

“Let’s get home before your abba and achichem, your brother get there and you can help me make sweet bread.”

Kyla’s face brightens up just momentarily, before she asks, “And not Oprah?”

Anna laughs.

“This time it will be just you and me, okay?”

“Okay,” Kyla agrees and wipes her face with the back of her hand. Anna sets her down on her feet and picks up the water jar. They begin walking back, keeping a steady pace until they reach the house. Anna stops when she sees Oprah standing there, her gaze fixed on the stranger waiting at their door. Still several feet from him, Anna sets the jar down beside Oprah, quietly instructing her to watch her sister and approaches cautiously. Going by his dress, he is not Roman, but that was not always the case. Anna clears her throat and gets his attention. He turns towards her and smiles. He is young and bears a kind face. Anna doesn’t recognize him, but is calmed by his disposition.

“I am looking for Anna, wife of Heli ben Matthat,” he says simply.

“I am she.”

He pulls a letter from his cloak and hands it to her.

“Elizabeth asked me to get it to you since I was passing through Nazareth.”

Anna looks down at the letter. She knows it’s from Mary, but she doesn’t want to read it; she doesn’t want to feel guilt for sending oldest away, the one she prayed for, the one who opened her womb. It was for her own sake she did it and she didn’t regret her decision. The busybodies would have gladly seen Mary die for her indiscretion and there was no way she was going to allow that. She gave her life almost thirteen years earlier; now she was making sure she had a life to live.

“Well, Shalom. Peace to you and your house,” the stranger offers, turning to leave.

Anna breaks away from her thoughts.

“Forgive me. I am not being hospitable. Can I get water for your animal? For you?”

He shakes his head.

“I am just passing through. I was glad to bring the letter.”

“How is Elizabeth?”

“She is well.”

“Thank you…for bringing this.”

Shalom.”

Shalom,” she reiterates as the stranger leaves, her gaze following him. Oprah and Kyla approach her and take her hand.

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