Thursday, 14 December 2017

F Fic, Non-fic

The Grace of None, Save One

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Gadiel shook her head, her squinted eyes still transfixed out the window. “It’s her. She’s returned.”

“Who?” Renina said. She gathered the dice in her hands and shook them, hoping to goad Adiela into another game.

“Maryam.”

We all rushed to the window, gathering behind Gadiel to get a better look outside. Like a spirit returning from the dead, there she was, walking the rutted path to the community well, holding a large ceramic vessel against her hip, careful of her protruding stomach.

“She has no shame, does she?” Renina said, shaking her head.

“I can’t believe she came back,” Maginah said, slightly pushing Ada to the side to get a better look.

But she was back, and something about that thought made us uncomfortable. Since we had discovered the news of Maryam’s condition, it had weighed heavy on our minds, our curiosities always getting the better of us.

She was not a stranger to us; in fact, many of us had known her since she was a small child. Maryam was common, like the rest of us, just a common girl, unassuming in her appearance as much as in her manners. We couldn’t deny she was pretty, but no more than any other girl in the village. She was Ada’s age and had a lovely face that carried a maturity beyond her years. Her dark hair was neatly tied against her neck, a few locks hanging from underneath her hood. She stood straight, walking proud, her face and smile radiating joy and tranquility.

“How long has it been now?” Ashera whispered to her mother.

“At least six months in all, by my count. She left not four months ago to visit her cousin,” Renina answered when Adiela failed to respond. She turned from the window and went back to the table.

“It has to be true then,” Ada turned to her aunt, her eyes pleading for some sort of logic to it all.

“It’s nonsense,” Renina responded. “A woman who has never known a man cannot carry a child.”

“Then how did it happen?”

Renina shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. Her unnatural silence didn’t want to betray what the others had already been thinking.

“It must have been Yosef, then,” Channah said, turning to Ada. She took Ada by the arm and led her away from the window. “Apparently they were not true to their betrothal. Perhaps you understand why your mother won’t allow you in the same house as your Elijah until you are married. One scandal in Nazareth is one too many.”

Gadiel put her scrolls aside and turned around to the others. “Yosef is a good, young man,” she defended. “His family has had many meals with mine. I don’t believe he would break the betrothal in such a manner.”

Ashera left the window and returned to her corner. “I know I haven’t been married very long, but one thing I do know is that a woman is not blessed with a child without a husband.”

Those of us with many years of marriage behind us snickered. Adiela glared at us as she left the window. She rushed to Ashera’s side to help her take her place on the floor again and placed the sewing in Ashera’s lap. She broke a piece of bread from the loaf on the table and handed it to her daughter.

Maginah’s eyes circled the room, placed her hand against her lips and cleared her throat, getting our attention once again. “It was six months ago when the talk started?” She looked to Ada for the answer. Ada nodded and started stirring the stew again. “Wasn’t it about seven months ago when the Roman soldiers came into our village?”

“About,” Channah confirmed.

Maginah began to nod, her eyes appearing as if they were staring into the past as the memory returned to her. “Remember that night? They were after an escaped murderer from Judah. One of the soldiers attacked Talya’s daughter. What if one did the same to Maryam?”

Silence fell among us. Adiela gripped Ashera’s hand and bowed her head. We could tell that she was praying and thanking Him that none of her daughters were ever the victims of the Romans.

“If she was taken against her will, I doubt she would look so content.” Gadiel turned to the window again and leaned out to catch a glimpse of Maryam, who had nearly disappeared down the road. “She’s glowing, isn’t she?”

Renina slammed her dice on the table, claiming our attention. “It’s disgraceful. If this happened in the village where I was raised, it wouldn’t have lasted more than a month. A handful of heavy rocks and a prayer for her soul would be the only consideration we’d give her.”

“Calm down, Renina,” Maginah said. She took her place on her stool and adjusted her dress over her knees. “Not everyone is so eager to play judge as you are.”

“My only consolation is that my daughters are married,” Renina said. “Think for a moment if they looked at Maryam as influence? What if all of our daughters acted as disgraceful as she?”

“And to parade about, as if nothing is wrong,” Channah added. She took her seat next to Renina again and made herself comfortable. She removed the rose-colored hood from her head, gripped the corners in her hand and started wiping the sweat from her forehead and neck. “If I was Anne, I would have put her straight to heavy work until the problem purged itself from her.”

Channah began to laugh at her own wit until Maginah’s voice broke her temporary triumph. “There are other ways, you know.”

Maginah had our attention once again. She took a moment to collect her thoughts and leaned forward to keep herself from having to speak too loud.

“It’s called Sylphium,” she began. “It’s a root or a leaf. It is boiled like a broth and you drink it. Within days, your blood will flow again.”

A look of shock came over Gadiel. Horror burned in her eyes at the thought of such an atrocity. “How do you know this?”

“I overheard a man with the caravan from Rome speak of it. He was explaining it to one of those women who camp on the road to Samaria.”

“Surely that’s a sin,” Gadiel said, still horrified at the thought.

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