Thursday, 14 December 2017

F Fic, Non-fic

The Grace of None, Save One

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“Indeed,” Maginah answered with a nod. “But I am not a Roman, am I? If I were, I’m sure there are a dozen gods I could turn to that would forgive me of it.”

Maginah smiled at Gadiel. From her furrowed brow, Maginah could tell she couldn’t fathom such an atrocity. The rest of us laughed, uncomfortably, but laughed all the same. We hadn’t many occasions to laugh at the Romans; their customs, their leaders and their gods always added to our personal amusements.

“In the end, she will pay for her sin,” Channah stated firmly, pleased with her own righteousness. “Mark my words, He will find a way to punish her.”

We all nodded in silent agreement. There were few things in life that we knew, but we knew them well. We all knew the stories of the past, the ways He reminded us to be obedient children: the flood he sent, the sinful cities he burned into ruins. Yet, we also knew how it started. We had heard it before, one bad apple to spoil the bunch, how one sinner could turn into two, leading to four. Perhaps we wondered if this one sin could turn into more and lead to our small village’s undoing.

Maginah picked up a small bowl of herbs, pulled out a leaf, and crushed it in her hands. Ada watched intently, noting how well she ground up the leaves. Adiela sipped her milk, attempting to ignore Renina as she slid the dice toward her again and lightly kicked her under the table.

We seemed content in the silence surrounding us, content in our small world, still full of mysteries, but satisfied in knowing we didn’t have to spend much time worrying about the truths of them. All we needed to understand was that our husbands provided us shelter and food, our rabbis provided us guidance, and He would provide us answers when we sought them, if we were deemed worthy enough. And many times, we knew we were.

Half an hour passed before the dark, woven cloth of the doorway flapped back. The bright face of Hedya, Channah’s daughter, appeared – her eyes wide with excitement. She was a young girl, a year younger than Ada. Dust covered her gentle face and she was completely out of breath. We simply stared at her, curious over the strange excitement she carried in her eyes.

“Eema,” she called out as she rushed to her mother’s side. Channah stood up and approached her daughter.

“What’s the matter?”

Hedya took in a deep breath. “You’ll never believe who I saw at the well.”

She had our attention. She took another breath, playing with our anticipation. “Maryam. She has returned.”

“Yes, we know. We saw her earlier,” Renina said to her. She appeared to be the least impressed with the news.

Hedya’s eyes cut to her, although she tried to remain respectful. Among us all, Renina always treated Hedya like the silly child she was and never allowed her to forget it. However, she remained above it and gave Renina a pleasant smile. “Good day, Renina.”

Renina returned the smile, then looked at Adiela. “Salt or wool? Your choice.”

“Maryam spoke to me,” Hedya continued, turning back to her mother. “You’ll never guess what she said!”

“That she’ll leave again, for decency sake?” Maginah picked up the loaf of bread from the table and returned to the stew again.

“As a matter of fact, she will. She and Yosef are leaving for the census soon, but that’s not the news I want to share with you.”

“Then tell us,” Adiela said. She met Renina’s glare and began to reach for the dice.

Hedya rang her hands and took a moment to look at each of us, one by one. “I know whose child she carries.”

We were struck speechless. We had spent months thinking and contemplating the very idea, yet none of us ever thought we would actually know the answer.

“Who?” Gadiel asked.

Hedya looked like she wanted to burst with the news. She grabbed Channah’s arm and pulled her towards her. She cupped her hand around Channah’s ear and whispered the secret. She pulled away and smiled, awaiting the look of surprise from her mother that never came. Instead, Channah gasped, her eyes widened and her hand struck across Hedya’s face, a strike so forceful it threw her daughter to the ground.

“How dare you!” Channah yelled out. She raised her arm to strike again, but Gadiel was at her side before the punishment came down. Gadiel grabbed her arm and pulled her away toward the window.

“Insolent child, how dare you repeat such a lie!” she yelled at Hedya, whose eyes were already full of tears by the time Adiela and Ada reached her side to help her up.

“What did she say?” Renina asked.

Gadiel helped Channah to her stool and waved her hand over her face, allowing the cool air to calm her down.

“I won’t repeat it,” Channah announced. “I will not be struck down for her lie.”

Hedya wiped the tears away from her face and regained her composure. She had known her mother’s wrath before, but never this strong. “I was there. That’s what she told me.”

Maginah returned to the table and refilled Channah’s beaker with milk and handed it to her. She then pulled a cloth from her pocket and handed it to Hedya to clean her face. “What’s said is said. You might as well tell us all.”

Hedya closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “El Shaddai.” She opened her eyes to see our reactions. “Adonai.”

“See!” Channah yelled at her again. “See how my daughter now lies for that whore!”

The upset and commotion in the room struck us all silent again. Hedya was a good child and never known to lie before. However, she had a gullibility that we couldn’t deny either. This gullibility to believe Maryam’s words so eagerly was beyond our comprehension.

Maginah made her way to her stool again, and cleared her throat, taking us out of our temporary stupor. “This is a very serious charge she makes.”

“What would possess a girl to make such a claim?” Adiela spoke out. She looked down at Ashera and ran her hand across her forehead. “Something dreadful must have happened to Maryam, to make up such a story.”

“I don’t think she’s making it up,” Hedya defended. The tears in her eyes were soon replaced with a strange comfort. “You should have heard her when she told me. Her voice, as well as her eyes, told me it was true. She does not lie.”

“This is foolish.” Channah said as she pulled herself away from Gadiel. “I have raised a daughter who believes foolishness.”

Channah paced through the room attempting to settle her anger. Ashera returned to her sewing as Ada added more sticks to the fire beneath the stew. Renina stood up, went to the basin and retrieved another cloth, poured water on it and went to Hedya and placed it against her reddening cheek. It was only Maginah who further considered Maryam.

“There’s a prophesy, you know,” Maginah stated. Her arms were folded across her chest and she looked at the floor, deep in thought. “It has long been said that He would send us a child. A messiah. Isaiah foretold it.”

Maginah, not only being our matriarch, but was also our voice of reason. Yet, we never expected her reasoning to end with the long awaited prophesy. And so we were, once again, locked in thought, searching our own hearts as to if Maginah’s words made sense.

“And you think Maryam is the one?” Channah challenged. “Are you saying our daughters were not good enough?”

“It’s not a matter of who’s good enough, Channah,” Maginah said.

Renina took a drink of milk and stuffed a piece of bread in her mouth. “For years I’ve prayed that my daughter would carry a child, and He’s turned a deaf ear to our prayers. She only asks for her husband’s child, not His. This is an insult!”

“You pray too much,” Maginah said. She stood up again, wrapped the end of her tunic around her hand and reached for the pot of lamb stew. “Let’s eat this stew Ada has made for us. It will only be a matter of time before we know.”

“Eat?” Channah took a deep breath, yet her anger barely showed signs of subsiding. “That’s always your solution, isn’t it?’

Maginah smiled and filled the first bowl. “Perhaps I know when to recognize my blessings.”

We settled around the table in silence, afraid the slightest action could set off the next. Maginah poured out the stew in our bowls as Ada broke a fresh loaf of bread and passed it around. When Maginah settled in her chair, we took hands and thanked Him for our meal and the company of each other. As we took the first bites of Ada’s stew, Hedya straightened up, smiled and took a deep breath through her sniffles.

“You will see, Eema,” Hedya finally looked at her mother through her reddened eyes. “I do not lie. And I believe her. Just wait, you will see. All of you will see.”

And so we were left to wait, wait for what was still unclear. We waited alone, in a solitude of our own making, waiting for the news we desperately wanted to hear of Maryam’s child, waiting for the day we would set our very eyes on Yeshua, look into his young, comforting gaze and catch a glimpse of what He is, and perhaps understand why she was chosen. Renina waited for her daughter’s child, a child which never came. We waited, with tears and anger, desperate to understand, as Ashera held her son’s small, lifeless body in her arms after Herod’s Slaughter, cursing Him, asking Him why Yeshua was spared, why the new sons of our village were not given His grace, nor the warning that led Maryam, with her husband and child, to Egypt. Why were they allowed safety? We wondered and waited.

We waited for the days to see Yeshua, the man – to see our other children follow him; recognize in him what we were reluctant to accept. We waited and heard the stories of the blind who would see, the diseased who would heal, the hungry who would eat and the dead who would breathe anew.

We waited and watched as they called him King, searched within ourselves for the strength to call him Messiah. Some of us could not. We waited and watched the world around us change, to see men and women alike flock to him, to hear his voice, to hear his philosophies, leaving us to question our own humility, humanity, and worthiness.

We waited to see him betrayed, watched a beloved friend turn his back, and the new government feed him to the crowd, string him up, make an example of him and leave him to die as Maryam wept at his bloody feet. And we waited, listened in anticipation to the rumors in the days which followed. We doubted our hearts again. In the end, our bitterness was all that we had left to cling to.

We waited, we wondered, we regretted.

He could’ve been any of our sons, could’ve been the son of any of our daughters. Yet, Yeshua was sent through her, to live among us, to minister to us, to remind us the promises of his father, Adonai, El Shaddai, Elohim – whose name we lived in fear of uttering. He was sent to Maryam – a woman who never doubted, never feared, never knew how we cast our eyes upon her. What made her strength superior to our own? Why did such grace touch her and none of us? What had we done to be turned away?


About the Author

Wendy C. Williford is a native Texan who began writing stories as early as the 5th grade. By the time she was 17, she had written her first unpublished novel and a broad collection of poems. Since then, she has written dozens of short stories, poems, experimental stories for friends and family and a screenplay. She received a BA in History with a minor in Creative Writing from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2007. Currently, she is working on a novel set during the Scottish War for Independence.

She has works published in Ascent Aspirations (June 2013 issue), Children, Churches & Daddies Magazine(July/August 2013) and the Fall 2013 edition of Allegory Magazine. She also blogs about her experiences as a newly published writer at http://paperbackwriter28.net/

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