It’s been a week since Mary left her hometown to avoid scandal, but as much as this has been her story, it is also Joseph’s.
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Joseph makes his way down the path to Mary’s house, located on the edge of town. The walk wasn’t long, perhaps fifteen minutes, but he is sweaty and covered in sawdust. He should’ve washed up and changed; however, he really wanted to see Mary.
He wipes his forehead with his sleeve and takes the steps down the alley, clutching the flowers in his other hand, flowers he had picked for Mary on his way there. They weren’t much, but they gave him a reason to see her.
Joseph turns the corner and sees Mary’s house. He bounds the last few steps and with the flowers behind his back, he knocks on the door, trying to be patient. He begins to knock again, when the door opens. Heli stands there, a look of surprise on his face.
“Joseph!” he exclaims. “How are you?”
Joseph smiles; he liked the older man. In his own way, he reminded Joseph of his father, Jacob, who passed away several years ago. With his father gone from this world, Joseph was left with a void. Now that he was betrothed and getting ready to become a husband, and one day a father, Joseph couldn’t help but think himself fortunate that he should be able to call Heli his father-in-law.
“I am well, thank you,” he replies.
“How is your imma?” Heli asks.
“She is also well.”
Joseph pauses, waiting for Heli to continue, but an awkward silence follows instead. He expects to hear the younger children screaming or running around like they always do, but not a sound can be heard from inside the house. He clears his throat and asks, “Is Mary here?”
“No,” Heli responds, looking back into the house, then out at him. “She is not here. She is visiting family in the hill country.”
Joseph tries not to sound disappointed.
“When will she return?”
“Ah…well, it’s a delicate situation…with the kinsman, you see…she could be gone for months.”
“Oh,” Joseph says, not even trying to mask his emotions this time.
“I’m sorry. We should have sent word, but it’s just busy here, with the little ones.”
Taking in a deep breath, Joseph says, “No, I understand.”
Heli pats him on the shoulder.
“You’re a good man.”
Joseph offers him a weak smile in response.
“I’ll tell Anna you stopped by,” Heli adds as he shuts the door, leaving Joseph in the doorway, holding the flowers he brought for his betrothed. He looks down at them, wondering what to do with them now that Mary was gone.
She’s only gone for a few months, he tells himself. She’ll be back. It will give you time to make preparations to bring her home as your ishah.
Though it was true, it didn’t take away the disappointment of not seeing Mary.
She’ll be back, Joseph tells himself again and heads home.