Author, Teacher, Storyteller
“I can’t believe that they left me, again.” She hurried across the marketplace, and up the path to her uncle’s house. Music swirled in the air, growing louder the closer she got.
The sun sank lower behind the trees, creating long dark shadows.
She slowed her half walk half run as she made her way up the narrow trail to Uncle Jonah’s.
The sight in the window brought her to a halt. Nathaniel gazed down at his bride. His finger caressed the side of her face, pausing at her chin. Tilting it up, he leaned in and kissed her with such tenderness that Hannah averted her eyes.
The room erupted with cheer.
She stepped back from the opening allowing the shadows to hide her.
“On behalf of myself and both Nathaniel’s and my family, thank you for celebrating with us as we welcome him into our family.” He turned to his new son-in-law. “Nathaniel, I welcome you. I have entrusted you with the joy of my heart. Honor her above all others.”
“Awww…” Women crooned at her uncle’s words.
“Now, enjoy the food and dancing as we wrap up the five day jubilee honoring the union of Nathaniel and Carmella. At the end of the evening the couple will join the mitzvahs dance and then they will begin living together as husband and wife.” Uncle Jonah’s voice boomed out of the small opening.
Hannah leaned forward and peered through the window again. The bride and groom stood arm in arm staring at each other as if they were the only people in the room. Will anyone ever look at me with such love in their eyes? Will I ever prove to be worthy of such deep love?
The urge to return home almost overwhelmed her. No. I will not run.
Hannah straightened her shoulders, adjusted her robe and took a few deep breaths. Hannah, you can do this. One more evening and it will be over. Remember it’s not about you, it’s about your cousin and her new husband. She reached out and pulled the door open sliding inside before it could close.
The noise engulfed her, sending her staggering back a few steps. Staying close to the wall she inched into the room. Everywhere she looked people milled around. A large table dominated the room. The middle two chairs remained empty. Her aunt and uncle occupied the two seats next to the groom. While the groom’s mother and oldest brother took the place next to the bride.
“…she’s the oldest girl in the village… only one not married.” Hannah froze trying to make herself as invisible as possible.
“…it’s no surprise none of the abba’s in the village are willing to consider a marriage contract between her and their son…. Stubborn…pious…”
“She already turned down Esau… such a sweet young man and she refused to marry him…it devastated him…”
Hannah pressed hard against the wall as the three women walked right past her. The joyous music smothered her, mocking her. From the shadows, her jealous eyes followed the bride’s every move.
A heaviness settled in her heart as the couple floated across the floor.
Whispering callously, she wiped a silent tear from her cheek. “This day is about Carmella and Nathaniel, not me. I am happy for Carmella, I really am.”
Laughter floated through the air; Hannah wrapped her arms around her waist at the sound. The merriment in the room ridiculed her, grating on her raw emotions. She should be delighted, instead apprehension grew. She placed her palm on her chest, willing her heart to slow down. Her head pounded. She rubbed her temple, hoping to lessen the blinding pain. How am I going to show my face at the well tomorrow?
She pushed off the wall and scanned the room looking for her parents.
She’d stepped into the large room just as a group of young girls passed her.
“I’m glad I’m not her. It’s her own fault that she is still unmarried.”
“My brother told me that she is hardhearted, bossy and thinks she is better than others.”
“I pity the man that tries to tame that woman…” Their voices trailed off as they moved off.
Hannah sighed; mother’s fears are coming true. Abba Adonai, I need Your strength. I need You to fill this hole in my heart. Show me how to be happy for Carmella. I want to be excited for her. But it’s so hard.
Carmella smile as Widow Jana approached the bridal table. Abba, am I going to be like Aunt Gina? Is that why my abba hasn’t found a suitable husband? Hannah wiped her hand over her face and gave herself a mental shake.
“There you are!” The young voice startled her.
Ruthie hopped from foot to foot, beaming like the sun. The smile spread across the little face so many people said looked just like hers. Her big brown eyes twinkled, “I’ve been looking for you forever!” her eight-year-old sister exclaimed.
Hannah smiled at Ruthie. “It looks like you found me.”
Ruthie grabbed Hannah’s hand and pulled. “Come on, let’s go dance.”
Hannah’s heart pounded as sweat pooled on her forehead. The expectation in Ruth’s eyes forced Hannah to make a choice. Am I going to hide here and feel sorry for myself or put on a smile and pretend everything is fine, for Ruthie's sake?
Hannah allowed Ruthie to pull her toward the dancers. She ruffled her little sister’s hair.
“Hey, don’t do that.” Ruthie complained, grabbing Hannah’s wrist.
Couples moved to the rhythm of the music.
Hannah swallowed hard; you can do this, smile, and focus on Ruthie. The sisters joined the dance that honored the bride and groom. Hannah’s eyes connected with Carmella’s, and they shared a smile. At the end of the third song, she tugged Ruthie out of the throng of people, she motioned “drink”, together they headed to their parents’ table.
Hannah pretended not to hear the whispers.
“She’s not married.”
“A burden to her family.”
“I remember her great aunt.”
Hannah kept her head high and continued toward the table. Don’t give them the satisfaction of knowing how painful their thoughtless words are. She took the seat next to her father, leaving Ruth to sit next to their mother.
Mother smiled at her, helping drown out Aunt Sheba’s words that echoed through her mind. “You’re the one to blame when everyone is talking about you in the morning.” More and more Aunt Sheba’s attitude toward her was interfering with her and mothers’ relationship. In the past we have been as close as sisters.
As the night bore on the stigma began to settle on her. She ignored the looks, some filled with pity, others casting shame. She refused to show how much the looks and comments hurt. Squaring her shoulders, she lifted her chin and kept a smile in place.
The notes to the final song signaled to the crowd that the couple would be leaving the celebration.
“Hannah, we expect you to join us in the line.” Her mother reminded her.
Hannah’s eyes darted to the door. The urge to escape into the darkness of the night pulled at her.
“Yes mother.” Hannah rose and followed her parents as they joined the other guest forming two parallel lines.
“Thank you for all of your support and encouragement.” Nathanael held Carmella’s hand as they paused to thank their guest. They made their way down the line speaking to each guest.
Carmella stopped in front of Hannah, and threw her arms around her neck, “I love you cousin, thank you for being here for me this week.”
“I love you too.” Her voice broke on the last word. Why did it feel like she was saying a forever goodbye?
“Ignore the busybodies, remember Adonai knows what He is doing in your life.”
“Hey, can I hug your special friend?” Nathaniel’s voice broke the girls apart.
Hannah laughed and gave him a brief hug. “Take good care of her...” she pushed the words over the lump in her throat.
“Oh, I will.” Nathaniel lifted his hand and rubbed his palm down Carmella’s back.
Carmella’s eyes softened and filled with love for her husband. Their love for each other flowed out of them soaking those close enough to be touched by it.
Carmella’s joy radiated from her like sunbeams dancing across the green hills.
Rubbing her hand over her chest she tried to wipe way the pain in her chest. She stepped back from the line and stood off by herself, arms tightly wrapped around her waist.
Life will forever be changed now that they have completed their marriage celebration. Her best friend won’t be around to act as a buffer from the gossipers. They will narrow in on her like lions to a feast. No one will understand, but there will be plenty of fuel for the wagging tongues of the village meddlers.
A heavy sadness wove its way through Hannah, leaving her cold. Absently she rubbed her hands up and down her upper arms. Is Carmella right, have I missed the chance of finding a good man to marry? Hannah’s chest heaved, and her throat bobbed as she tried to swallow the tears clogging her throat. Would mother push me further away to keep Aunt Sheba happy? The words she feared most flashed in her mind, you are unlovable, just like Aunt Gina. What will happen now?