Christmas Eve – presents are wrapped, stockings have yet to be filled and Santa’s cookies need to be set out. Not for him, but for me, of course. And one more post to be made. Enjoy.
* * *
“No, she can’t go with you to Bethlehem,” Anna states, visibly upset.
Joseph had left the shop in Silas’ care to talk to her about his trip. He had expected her to react accordingly, but not like this. Still, he was determined to stay strong in his decision. Mary was his wife and until he had a chance to talk to his mother and make sure she was treating Mary as a daughter should be treated, he was not leaving her while he make the trek to Bethlehem.
“She’s due any day now,” Anna continues.
They were in the main room of her house, where Nathan, Oprah and Kyla were eating, watching him with the innocent curiosity that children possessed. It had been unnerving at first, when he began courting Mary, but slowly they warmed up to each other.
“I understand your concern, but Mary is strong,” he replies. “She can make the trip alright. Plus, I want her with me. I think it’s best that way.”
“Best for you or for her?” Anna retorts.
Joseph sighs. He is loath to admit it, but he must.
Anna’s demeanor changes; her face is not as hard, and her shoulders relax. She seems to understand what he is trying not to say, and rather than respond to him, she turns to her son and says, “Nathan, take your sisters outside.”
“But I’m still eating.”
“Your food will still be here,” Anna assures her, helping her out of her chair. “Go with your brother just for a few minutes.”
Kyla obeys, but pouts all the way out.
“And how is Miriam taking this?” Anna asks, turning her attention back to Joseph.
“Not well. I had hoped in the beginning she would accept Mary and the child, but…”
Anna rests her hand on his shoulder.
“She needs time, that’s all.”
“I hope so.”
“Trust me, once she meets the little one, she’ll forget everything else.”
Still focused on his own misgivings, Joseph doesn’t agree, but he says nothing, knowing Anna is saying this for his benefit.
“So what can we do to help?” she asks.
“She doesn’t want to be by herself while I’m gone, and I don’t want her to, but I can’t leave Mary with her. I thought perhaps she could stay with you. I would compensate you, of course.”
“That would be unnecessary. You’re family, you and Miriam. Of course she can stay.”
“She will not pleasant,” he warns her.
“I’ve handled worse,” Anna offers, nonchalantly. “Just keep my daughter safe.”
Joseph notes the expression on her face, the softness of it in the mention of her daughter. She reminds him of Mary and in a small way, Joseph is comforted, knowing everything would work out for the best. G-d’s grace, Mary had said. Indeed.
To Mary, it seems as if all of Nazareth is traveling somewhere to register. Many of the faces in the caravan are familiar ones; while at home, the streets are a lot emptier than they ought to be.
Or at least they were that morning, when she and Joseph left. The silence in Nazareth was unnerving, while the presence of the Romans made it that much more tense.
As Mary sets up camp for the night, the tension remains, but not the silence. She listens to the chatter of the men nearby. They talk about the Romans, the registration and the coming revolution – nothing she hasn’t before. Still she wonders if this was it, the time when her people would rise up. The Mashiac was in their midst; surely that was a sign of things to come, right? One day he would lead them in overthrowing their Roman master?
Deciding it best not to think about such things, Mary prepares dinner: dried meat and day-old bread. It wasn’t the ideal supper, but it would keep them until their arrival in Bethlehem in three days’ time.
Joseph returns from gathering wood as she manages to lower herself onto the ground. Mary makes herself as comfortable as possible on the bedding, knowing she likely wasn’t getting up – not without help, at least. Resting her hands on her belly, she watches as Joseph tends to the fire.
With the work done, Joseph sits beside her and puts his arm around her shoulder. He offers a quick blessing over their meal and they eat in silence, listening to the others in their group carry on. Mary considers for a moment how she and Joseph will be replaying this scene for the next few days, but that’s fine, she decides, her head on Joseph’s shoulder. That’s fine.