Later that day, Nathan came by to deliver the weekly accounts from the shipyard his father, Beriah, had carefully prepared. He usually spoke with her a short time. Though the lessons had ended, Nathan was always her friend, always encouraging. She wondered what he thought of the rumors about her in the village, but he never mentioned them.
As he touched the mezuzah at the doorpost and uttered the prayer, Mary was sitting quietly on a bench in the courtyard. She’d glanced up briefly, noting his presence, but now her eyes focused listlessly on the small tinkling fountain that
Jared had installed years before.
Aware of Nathan standing quietly, watching her, she looked up again.
“What makes your face so sad today, Mary?”
She gave a slight shrug of her shoulders. “Have you not heard? A cousin is coming from Hebron and we are to be betrothed.”
Nathan’s face changed. His smile froze as a brief shadow of anger crossed his handsome features. “So there is no one in Magdala? He must look clear to Hebron to find a groom for the most beautiful maiden in the city?”
She was taken by surprise. Nathan was angry with her father? Her eyes took in his stance and the set of his jaw. Where was the boy she’d known for so long? Standing before her was a man, his body honed and tanned from working
outside in the shipyard. His rich auburn hair fell across one eyebrow and his dark eyes flashed. As he stood staring at her in the afternoon shadows, she tried to understand why he was angry at her news.
Nathan turned abruptly and started for the house. “I will give these scrolls to your father.”
She stared after him, speechless for a long moment, and a new thought crept its way into her consciousness. There was something more than indignation in his manner. She had not thought of Nathan as more than a friend, and these thoughts startled her. Suddenly Mary sat up taller. He was jealous! Did Nathan care for her? How could she have been so unaware? Her heart beat a little faster at this new knowledge. She let the thoughts play around in her head, remembering how he looked at her. Then she examined her own feelings. The lift in her spirits when he came, the peaceful pleasure of being with him when they studied together. She was always so comfortable with him. She loved the way he laughed at small things, she loved . . . and the realization came.
As the sun poured its warmth down on her, the wonderful thoughts rose to the surface. Nathan.
Then her shoulders slumped. What was she to do? Her father had already promised her to someone else. The betrothal documents hadn’t been signed. Perhaps there was still time to call it off. Yet she had never disobeyed her father. How could she tell him all his hopes for her were not hers? She struggled to contain her emotions as she rose, composed herself, and went into the house to begin helping her mother with the evening meal. No one must know of her feelings for Nathan. It was too late.
She followed him with her eyes, but Nathan did not look at her when he left. Was their friendship now at an end? A sick feeling filled the pit of her stomach.
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