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In heat

Her laughter broke the silence. It was a high pitched nervous laughter and no sooner had it escaped her than she clapped both her hands over her mouth to cover up her inappropriate outburst. This was no laughing matter and from the stern look her husband was giving her it seemed he didn’t think so either.
It was only the beginning of the summer season but already the heat of the sun had burned most of their and the neighboring village’s crops and the communal well had come close to running completely dry. Outside her and her husband’s little stone house a grey donkey and a handful of milking-goats were grazing but they had been given the last of the hay weeks ago and the few remaining strands of grass that still grew there hadn’t looked green in days. A drought was imminent and the general outlook on the future was ominous. And she was laughing. Very much against her will, but still, he had heard it and now he was staring hard at her from his entrance through the house’s only door.
“Mary”, her husband said. “I will not pretend to find your reason, whatever it may be, for interrupting my work on the village well at a time like this appropriate in any way but you have been my wife for many years now and I have come to trust that you would not disturb me without a good cause. Therefore, when I come rushing home to you I do not appreciate being met by the fitful giggles of an irrepressible girl! Speak up, wife!”
Mary swallowed down the slimy lump of fear and nerves in her throat. Their marriage had been an arranged one and she had found herself bound to this man by tradition and convenience at the tender age of 13, but even though he was 20 years her senior and head of their village council, he had always been fair with her and she had come to, if not enjoy, then at least endure her life as his wife. They slept in separate beds due to her still being a virgin and he had never once tried to force his will on her, to have her as a man is always free to have his wife.
And that was why she was laughing, why she was giggling to the point of choking on her own nervousness and why she had sent for him during his work hours. She had been dizzy and nauseous for several weeks already and even though she had been blaming it on the summer heat the truth had now become impossible for her to ignore. Her chest and feet had been feeling swollen and sore and when she discovered that she’d stopped bleeding in accordance with the moon she knew what was happening to her body and she knew she had to tell him. She swallowed dryly and cleared her throat and forced her eyes to look directly at his scowling face.

“Joseph”, she said. “I’m pregnant”.


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