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The mood is somber as Mary waits for Joseph. The men had been called to a meeting earlier that afternoon and now with the sun setting and no word from them, Mary couldn’t help but worry. What if the foreigners walked in upon the meeting? What if they decided the men were conspirators against Caesar? Certainly no proof was needed – just the word of a Roman citizen. And it wasn’t as if their king, Herod, would provide back-up or demand restitution if something happened. Everyone knew he lined his pockets from the coffers of Rome.
Frustrated, Mary gets up from her chair and walks over to the window. With the meal cooked and the table set, she has nothing left to distract her.
“You used leeks again to season the goat? You know I don’t like them,” Miriam states sharply as she inspects the meal. Mary knows Miriam is speaking out of worry; still it doesn’t stop the words from stinging.
She doesn’t have a chance to apologize – the door opens. It’s Joseph and he doesn’t look happy.
“What happened?” she asks, rushing over to him. He puts his arm around and pulls her to his side.
Miriam asks, “What did they say?”
“All the men are to register in their hometowns, according to their clans and tribes,” he replies.
Mary hears the defeat in his voice and wishes there was something she could say or do to cheer him up.
“That’s ridiculous,” Miriam states.
Joseph releases Mary and walks over to the table. He takes a seat and sits back, letting his shoulders slump.
“They honestly expect everyone to their hometown?” his mother continues, as she paces the floor around him. “They expect you to go to Bethlehem, lose almost two weeks’ worth of wages just to accommodate them?”
Mary perks up – he would have to travel to Bethlehem?
“Why do you have to go to there?” she asks.
Miriam glances at her with scorn, as if she should know better than interrupt.
“That’s where my father and his house hailed from,” Joseph responds.
The City of David. Now she understood why the malakh had addressed him as the Son of David.
“The shop will have to close; Silas will have to register as well,” Joseph ponders. “I can make the trip in less time, but that will mean traveling by myself.”
“Oh, no,” Miriam objects vehemently. “You will do no such thing. Even if it extends your trip, find a caravan to travel with; there is safety in numbers.”
Mary’s heart starts palpitating loudly, so much so she fears the others can hear it. She would have to spend two weeks or more with Miriam? Alone? No…
“Joseph…can…I go with you?” she asks.
Miriam answers for him.
“No! There is no reason for you to go. You’re place is here.”
Sarcasm and mockery underline her comment. Mary hopes Joseph will argue, at the very least notice it, but he doesn’t.
“Imma’s right, Mary. And with the day of your fulfillment being close, it’s best for you to stay here.”
Mary knows she must obey her husband, but in this instance, she can’t. There was no way she was going to last two weeks alone with Miriam. She had to find the courage to finally talk to Joseph.
Tired and weary from the day’s activities, Joseph makes his way up the stairs to his bedroom. Each step is a heavy one and he is ready for sleep. Mary had gone up an hour earlier and it was just as well: the last few days had been stressful.
But when he walks into the room, she is still up.
“I thought you’d be asleep,” he says, shutting the door.
She rises from the bed, her eyes avoiding eye contact, her hands searching for something to hold.
He sees the angst in her face and approaches her, beginning to feel some anxiety.
“What is it? Is it time for the child?”
She shakes her head.
“No. No. I just…Can I talk to you?”
“Of course you can.”
Not knowing what to expect, he leads her to the bed and sits down with her. Then he lets her talk. She is quiet at first, her eyes firm on her hands in front of her. Something is bothering her and Joseph yearns to fix the problem. Then the words begin to flow. She wanted to go with him to Bethlehem. He is ready to argue against it until she tells him about his mother’s attitude and behavior towards her. He begins to get upset, angry with his mother.
“How long has this been going on?” he asks her sharply.
“Since the nissuin,” she says, still avoiding eye contact.
“Why didn’t you say something sooner?”
She shrugs and finally looks at him. There is fear in her eyes, the level of which he hadn’t seen since the day she came back from Hebron.
“I…I thought…I shouldn’t complain. She’s your mother and you’ve been so good to me…I mean, I’ve made it this far with G-d’s grace, I didn’t want to trouble you, especially since you work so hard for me and for this child that’s not even yours. You’ve been rightly chosen for this task, and while I can never doubt that this was G-d’s doing, I am beginning to see this was not all the glory I thought it would be.”
A tear streams down her face and for the first time in the last six months, she seems a little more fragile, a little more human. A little less angry, he admits, “I always thought you were rightly chosen, with your patience and binah. I doubted, while you believed.”
“I don’t think I had a choice but to believe,” she says, pointing to her belly.
He chuckles and asks, “Can I tell you something?”
“I’ve been afraid,” he begins and shares his fears and hesitations with her. The expressions on her face range from disbelief to incredulous, but still she listens, offering him understanding, instead of pity. His heart swells and Joseph appreciates her even more.
“But I don’t deserve any kind of veneration,” she says.
No, not veneration, Joseph thinks, but definitely love. He takes her hand, daring a look into her eyes. She returns his gaze and they are lost for a moment. Without any more hesitation, he leans forward, his lips drawing closer to her. He wants to kiss her, as his wife, the way he should have after their nissuin, but not before he tells her, “I love you, Mary.”
Her response is quick, sure.
“I love you, Joseph.”
His lips find hers and they kiss for the first time. It is sweet and everything he imagined it might be.
“Joseph,” Mary states, when the kiss ends.
He gazes at her.
“I probably won’t be ready until the child is born, but…would you share the bed with me now?”
“Yes,” he replies, leaning into her again, then adds, “And yes, you can come with me to Bethlehem.”