Good morning, afternoon, evening. Below is the next installment of Full of Grace, a little overdue, but right on time. I feel as though I’m back on track, after stumbling around for a couple of weeks – all part of the process. In any case, if you’re new to the story, you can click here to read from the beginning; and if you’re enjoying the tale, please share it with a friend. As always, thanks for stopping by.

* * *

Tammuz (July)

As the time for her aunt’s delivery draws near, Mary helps the other family members with the preparation. Her uncle continues his studies, though he remains close to the house, for Elizabeth’s sake. And just as Elizabeth’s love is evident in her face, so is his love for her. Mary finds herself contemplating that kind of love, allowing herself to think about Joseph, to imagine him as Zechariah, still in love with the wife of his youth after thirty years of marriage. And even though her mother has repeatedly denied her permission to return home, Mary hopes on the love she knows Joseph has for her.

“Mary.”

She looks up, aware she has been daydreaming again. The house is full of women, fussing over the very pregnant Elizabeth. Rona has taken charge of the chores and the meals, insisting Elizabeth rest.

“I’ve never seen anyone daydream so much,” Rona declares.

“Leave her alone, Rona,” Elizabeth says and pauses, her discomfort obvious. She sits up and back in the chair. “She takes everything in, unlike you who talks too much.”

The women laugh, as Mary smiles, happy to be a part of the scene before her. Rona, though, narrows her eyes and glares at Elizabeth.

“Oh, stop being so dramatic,” Elizabeth continues and holds her arm out. “Help me up.”

Rona hands off the bowl of chickpeas to Mary and walks over to her cousin. She takes Elizabeth’s arm hand and helps her stand. Mary notes how big her belly looks, hanging lower now than it did that morning.

“You should stay off your feet, Cousin,” Abigail offers from across the room, where she sits mending a gown. She is Rona’s daughter and just a few years older than Mary.

Elizabeth paces to the door, her hand on her back.

“I feel better when I walk,” she says.

“Well, you better get your rest now while you can, because you’re going to need it, chasing a little one at your age,” Jess states. Mary recognizes her from the synagogue, the wife of one of the Levites.

“I thought that’s what you all were here for – helping,” Elizabeth laughs, resting against the wall.

“That’s what you have young Mary here for,” Rona says, sitting beside Mary. Though they are family, Mary knows to not take Rona too seriously. The woman liked to talk, as Elizabeth said; no doubt one of the reasons Elizabeth stayed home for the first half of her pregnancy. And now that she was due to give birth, everyone was talking about the pending miracle.

Just as they should be.

“No, Mary is here to learn,” Elizabeth corrects her. “She’ll be embracing her little one soon.”

Abigail smiles and lays the gown on her lap. “Will you name him after his father?” she asks.

Mary feels her face get hot and looks away. This was something she had yet to get use to – being accepted as one of them. At home she was still a little girl, but here, she was a woman, with comments and a mind of her own. They valued her words, even if they were few.

“Uhm, I don’t know,” she says, picking at the chickpeas they would be preparing for dinner. “Perhaps; though my achichem was not named after my abba.”

“When Joachim and I have our first son, we will name him after his father,” Abigail says, still smiling. “He’ll look just like him and he’ll be the sweetest, just like his father.”

Some of the older women chuckle. Jess ribs the woman beside her. “Young love is precious, is it not?”

“And what is wrong with that?” Abigail asks, offended.

“There is nothing wrong with love,” Jess replies. “It’s the husband you should ask about. Give it a few years and see if you still feel the same way, after Joachim has let himself go.”

Another adds, “And after he takes you for granted.”

Still another says, “Or he doesn’t talk to you or listen to you. See if you still love him after ten or twenty years of marriage.”

Chatter fills the room as all the women start talking at once, comparing their husband’s indiscretions and habits. Mary can’t imagine Joseph doing any of those things, but worse is the expression on Abigail’s face. Her face red, she is ready to cry. Mary looks around the room at her peers and decides to speak up. She clears her throat, loudly and says, “Doda has been married for thirty years and she and dod are still in love.”

The women get quiet. Mary feels her face grow warm again as all eyes rest on her. Then the women break out in laughter. Mary doesn’t understand and tries to find reason in the faces around her.

Rona touches her arm and still laughing, says, “Dear, your dod is…different; isn’t that right, Elizabeth?”

Amidst the chatter, hers is the only voice missing. Rona turns to the door where Elizabeth stands, holding her belly, the expression on her face pained.

“Nothing to say?” Rona adds, her voice light, but the concern audible.

Elizabeth says nothing.

All the attention is on her now, as she grips the door and a puddle gathers at her feet.

“Elizabeth?”

Taking in a breath, she finally turns to everyone and states, “The baby…”

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