She began to pace, “No. You will not ask this of me,” Mary said calmly. “It is too much. I cannot do it. I am not the one. There is someone better, I’m sure. I am but a girl. I do not have the strength for what you are asking.” She turned to face the angel and boldly continued, “Do you understand? Do you understand what you are asking? Do you know what you are saying to me? Are you listening to me?” Mary gasped for breathe as her chest tightened.
“Do not be afraid, Mary.” The angel said with tenderness.
* * *
Her mother was washing their clothing in the river with the other women of the town. Mary and her sisters were splashing and playing nearby. Mary was wading through the water when her foot slipped off a sudden drop in the sand below. It was deeper than her height. She was only four years old and didn’t yet know how to swim. She gasped in panic and began to sputter a mix of air and sandy water. Her hands and legs flailed wildly, her heart pounded, her eyes stung. She thought she heard the muffled sound of her name being called and wondered if anyone saw her slip. Suddenly, she felt herself pulled into the light of the sun as if in slow motion. It was only seconds but it seemed much longer. Her mother had run through the thick water instinctively to yank her youngest daughter out of the deep. She could hear her mother screaming but could not see anything. She felt limp and heavy.
* * *
Mary yelled, “Do not be afraid? Do not be afraid? The town, they will want to stone me. Do you hear me? Oh God! They will KILL me-” Raising her hand to her mouth, Mary’s panic turned back into fear and she crumpled to the floor. After a few minutes she whispered, “He will leave me.”
She cried quietly, her head down and her hair a mess over her face. As she wiped her tears and moved her hair away something across the room caught her eye. Something she had never noticed before. She sat up and stared. Her little brother’s chair was against the wall in the corner. He had only recently begun to use it. She had seen something along the inside edge, across the back, under the seat area.
She slowly drew herself up. She wiped her face with the fabric of her dress. She went to the chair and stared at it. The under edge could not be seen while standing nor as she was sitting on the floor. Quickly she knelt down and turned it over. There it was. In the center of the back beam of the underside of the chair, was another floral motif. The same floral motif Joseph carved into the back of the chair and all the chairs he built. In the center of the middle flower, was a more intricately engraved M.
Emotion flooded her and she lay on the floor as sobs wracked her from deep within. Her abdomen heaved. She thought she would vomit but all that came up were uncontrollable waves of body shaking cries. She cried away all her doubts, doubts about faith, doubts about love and her future. By the end, she had cried away all her fear. She lay, a spent heap on the common area rug, her head resting on a sitting pillow, humming to herself.
* * *