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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Drama · #665258
A ficticious account of the first Good Friday and Easter from Mary's perspective.
The Day the Sun Hid
by Vivian Gilbert Zabel

          Four women stood huddled together behind the mob of rumbling men. They held their hijabs close to their faces as they pressed their backs against the wall encircling the courtyard in front of Pilate's palace.

          "Omi, Mother, please, you must come away from here before this rabble turns on us," one of the younger women whispered to the older woman standing beside her. "They have been whipped into a frenzy by the chief priests and their officials. We must leave before it is too late."

          "Deborah is right, Mary. We are not safe here," the woman on the other side insisted.

          "Sister, Daughter," Mary answered in her soft, gentle voice. "I must be here. Can you not understand that my son is in there somewhere?"

          "Yes, Mary, I know Jesus has been brought here, but what can we do? We are but women." Mary's sister shuddered. "We are helpless."

          "I will not leave," Mary insisted, "but you may do as you wish."

          "Will you not think of your other children, of your grandchildren?" In her anxiety, Deborah grabbed her mother's arm. "I am so afraid. Why must you put him before any of the rest of us?"

          Mary raised one hand to brush the tears from her daughter's cheeks. "Oh, my child, you are as precious to me as he, but you are safe. He is in danger. I have known all his life that I had him but a short time. God willing, you, I will have with me for many more years." Cupping Deborah's face in her hands, she smiled wanly. "Can you not understand? What if that were Daniel in there?"

          Deborah dropped her eyes in shame as she considered her mother's words. "I... I could not bear to know that Daniel... my baby... no, I could not stand him being in the hands of those murderers." Raising her eyes to meet her mother's, she admitted, "You are right; I did not understand, but I think I do now. I will stay with you."

          "Well, I will not. You are both crazy. This mob will turn on us any minute, and I, for one, do not wish to be object for them to tear apart." Mary's sister pushed her way through the crowd toward the gate.

          "Do not blame her," the fourth woman replied as she took the sister's place beside Mary. "She is sore afraid."

          "I know," Mary answered. "I really do not blame her. I would leave myself except leaving would mean abandoning Jesus. Oh, Mary Magdalene, I must be as close to him as I can."

          "I understand. I, too, feel that I must stay close." The young woman slid her arm around the shoulders of the mother of her Lord.

          The sudden hush brought the women's attention to the gallery, jutting from the walls, surrounding two of the upper windows in the palace. Pilate, the Roman governor, stepped to the railing. "I cannot find any wrong in this man, Jesus!" he called to the mass of men below him. "What should I do with this man?"

          As led by the priests and their followers, the crowd roared, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

          After staring at the screaming men, Pilate shook his head. Slamming his hands on the stone balustrade, he whirled to stride back into the palace.

          While Mary covered her face and prayed, both of the women with her hugged her close. Oh, my God, please, please. He is Your son, too. You could send angels to save him. Please, keep them from crucifing my son, Your son.

          "Mary, Mother Mary?" a gravel-rough voice asked.

          Glancing up, Mary viewed the rugged face before her. "Peter, have you been with him?"

          Lowering his eyes, the fisherman shook his head. "I... I am not worthy to be with him."

          "What is wrong, Peter? You... you cannot be... you are afraid." Jesus' mother reached to touch Peter's arm. "Peter, what troubles you?"

          "Oh, Mother Mary, I cannot... I cannot tell you. You would hate me, as he now does." The big man turned as if to leave.

          Mary Magdalene grabbed his wrist. "Peter, you could never be as bad as I once was. Our Lord forgave me."

          Turning tear-filled eyes to search the perfect face of the woman once nearly stoned for adultery, Peter mumbled, "But I denied him. Three times, I denied him."

          "And do you not think he saw that would happen, Peter?" Mary whispered. "My son knew what would happen to him. Do you not think he would know what you would do?"

          "He did!" Peter gave a strangled cry. "He warned me that I would, but I bragged that I would never deny him." The shamed man refused to meet Mary's eyes. "He will never forgive me. I was afraid, afraid to be recognized as his disciple. Ashamed to be known as one of his."

          "Then why are you here, Peter?" The older woman patted his hand as it now lay in hers. "Why are you here?"

          The regret filled his eyes as he admitted, "I could not stay away."

          "Then join us, for we were unable to stay away either," Deborah offered.

          The crowd's yells brought the small group's attention back to the gallery where Pilate once again stood, glaring at the masses beneath him. Speaking to the religious leaders, he called, "I still can find no wrong in this man. What would you have me do?"

          "Crucify him as the people demand!" one priest cried.

          "If he has broken your law, then you take him and crucify him. I can find no wrong!" Pilate beat his fists on the stone half-wall.

          Hope flared briefly in Mary's heart before being crushed by the screams of "Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!" Her eyes closed in despair.

          "Omi, look!" Deborah's gasp caused Mary's eyes to snap open.

          Beside Pilate, her son now stood, a wicked crown of thorns pressed upon his forehead, blood from gouges dripping into his eyes and down his face. A purple robe had been thrown around his shoulders.

          "They mock him." Biting her lip, Mary fought the desire to shriek at her son's tormentors. "Look at his poor head. What have they done to him?"

          Then Jesus turned his back to the crowd as he was yanked by a guard through the windows. The robe slipped off one shoulder to reveal the blood soaked through his cloak, some dried and caked, some bright red. Mary's knees buckled, and she would have fallen if Peter hadn't wrapped his arms around her.

          "Come, Mother Mary, let me help you away from this place," the harried man whispered.

          "No, no, I must know. I cannot leave until I know what they will do with him." Her voice broke as she struggled to keep sobs from overwhelming her.

          "If we go just outside the gate, we will hear what happens, but the people will not press so closely. Perhaps we can find you a place to sit," the rugged fisherman begged the slight woman he still held.

          Glancing up at the empty gallery, Mary nodded. "Perhaps that would be best. If you will help me."

          With one arm around Mary, Peter forced the way to the gate while the other two women followed closely behind his intimidating form. After exiting the courtyard, Peter spied a stone bench a few yards from the gate. "Come, Mother Mary, you can sit here under the shade of the tree. The splashing water from the fountain will help cool you." He led her to the bench. "I will go back to the gate where I can see and hear what is happening. Will you be all right?" When Mary nodded, Peter patted her shoulder before returning to the gate.

          As she dropped to the bench, Mary sagged against the tree behind her. Her sight centered on her hands grasping each other in her lap. "He has been hurt. His poor back, his head. What have they done?" Tears filled her eyes, overflowing to stream down her face and drip on her clenched hands.

          Mary Magdalene and Deborah flanked the sobbing woman, arms going around her shoulders. "Omi, he would want us to be strong. If he sees us suffering, his will increase." Deborah handed her mother a small, soft cloth to wipe her face.

          "You are right, my daughter. We must be strong for Jesus. He has endured and will suffer more than we can imagine." Covering her face with her hands, she moaned, "Oh, my God, why are You allowing his agony to continue?"

          "Mother Mary, the Romans are taking our Lord to Golgotha. If you want to see him, we must leave now." Peter watched the woman who had been like a mother to all the disciples. "I would take you to my mother-in-law's, if you would rather. She would give you a room so that you can rest."

          "No, no, I must go. I will be close to my son as long as I am able." She staggered to her feet. "Let us go. I refuse to be left behind."

          "If we hurry, we can wait for him to pass by on the road toward the hill." Peter helped Mary keep her balance as the small group pushed its way through the masses of people, most of whom tried to force their way into the courtyard.

          All the way up the steep street leading out of Jerusalem toward the hill of the skull, Mary pressed her hands against her chest, her lips moving in a silent prayer. Please, my God, release my son, Your son from his agony. Please, please help Jesus. If it be Your will, save him... please, oh, God, my God... Please, dear Lord... Over and over her words sought to reach heaven as her heart felt ripped apart. From time to time, she stared into the sky, observing the sun which seemed to dim, though no clouds covered it.

          "Here, Mother Mary," Peter halted her at a wide space beside the road below the crest of the hill. "They will pass here, but we can see them coming up the road for a long way."

          Mary Magdalene and Deborah flanked Mary as Peter stood closely behind the women. Mary watched the crowds that started moving toward them. A small squad of Roman soldiers forced onlookers from the road, nearly throwing some men to the side when they didn't move quickly enough. Behind the soldiers stumbled a halting, bleeding man doubled under a heavy cross. The weight on his back and shoulder forced him to the ground. Mary gasped and tried to run toward him, but the other two women held her back.

          "I must go to him. Please, please let me go," she begged.

          Peter bent close to her. "Mother Mary, you must not call attention to yourself. The mob is in a vicious mood. You couldn't get close to the Lord, anyway. The soldiers would restrain you, if not arrest you."

          The weeping mother sagged against the man who held her upright. "I know. I know, but I want... to help him... I need to... help my son."

         "Omi, we all want to help Jesus, but we cannot. We can do nothing now but wait." Deborah hugged her mother. "Please, now. Peter is right; we must not call attention to ourselves."

          Mary forced herself to stand straight as her eyes continued to watch her son's slow and painful stagger. He fell again, and a frustrated soldier grabbed a man standing along the roadside, a strong man, a man from Cyrene, to finish carrying the cross the rest of the way. As the company of soldiers, their prisoner, and the Cyrenian started past, Mary pressed her lips tightly together to stop the cry bottled inside her. Jesus lifted his head just before he reached her; his eyes gazed into hers briefly before his head dropped again.

          "Hearts do break," she whispered. "They do indeed break."

          As quickly as possible, Peter forced them a way into the crowd following the prisoner. Just as they moved forward, a woman pushed her way to them.

          "Mary, Mary," her sister gasped. "I am sorry. I was so... so wrong. May I go with you? Will you forgive me?"

          "Yes, of course," Mary answered. "You may go with us, if you want, and I... I forgive you. Come, we must hurry. I must, I must get close to him."

          All too soon, the women and Peter stood on the edges of the mob encircling the area where two crosses stood, already hung with their burdens.

          "I must get closer. I must let him know I am here." In her anxiety, Mary clutched Peter's arm.

          "Omi, Omi, I cannot bear to go any nearer," Deborah wailed. "I cannot. Forgive me, but I cannot."

          Mary wrapped her arms around her daughter. "I understand. Stay here with Peter. He will keep you safe."

          "Mother Mary, you will not be able to make your way through this crowd alone." Stress caused Peter's voice to roughen even more.

          "Peter, I will help her get to our Lord," a voice replied from behind them.

          Turning sharply, Peter saw John. "John, you are well?" He clutched the man in a quick hug. "I have wondered where you were, where the others were."

          "We all scattered after Jesus was taken." John faced Mary. "I am so sorry, but we were so very much afraid. We failed our Lord."

          "He will not blame you, nor do I. You... you will help me to get closer?" Mary bit her lip as she waited for his answer.

          "Yes, but we must start now."

          "I will go, too," Mary Magdalene stated.

          "As will I," Mary's sister declared.

          "No, no, you need not," Jesus' mother insisted.

          "We have no time to argue, my sister. We will go. Deborah will be safe here."

          As John helped open a path for the women toward the crosses, they could hear the clang of the hammer driving the spikes into Jesus' body. With each blow, Mary flinched, a cold wave of horror engulfing her. Finally they broke through to stand at the inner edge of the spectators. They watched the cross with Jesus lifted and dropped into the hole prepared for it, bringing a groan from him as the jarring tore the spikes through his hands and feet.

         Ohhh, please, dear God, help him. How can he endure the pain. His hands, his feet... Give the pain to me. Let me bear at least some of it. How can You let your only son... She stopped in disbelief, in shock that she challenged God. Oh, Lord, please forgive me, but please take some of the pain away from Jesus. I cannot stand to see him suffer so.

          Softly, she sang the lullaby that she sang to Jesus when he was a babe and young child, "Night has come, my precious babe, please hush your tears..."

          As if he heard her nearly soundless song, Jesus' head slowly moved toward where she and John stood, with her sister and Mary Magdalene a bit behind them. His pain-glazed eyes met hers and focused.

          "Dear woman, here is your son." He then turned his sight to John. "Here is your mother." His head fell forward with a moan.

          "Though the night seems dark, my lamb, light will come again. Please close your eyes and sleep, no need to be afraid..." Mary's quiet song stilled while silent tears streamed ever down her face.

          "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me!" The cry from the man hanging from the middle cross sent a sharp pain through his mother. "It is finished." He dropped his head and died.

          Black clouds rushed across the sky. Lightning seared a path through the blackness. Thunder rumbled and roared as a mighty wind tore over the earth. The ground buckled and shook until many people fell, unable to stand or walk. John slid his arm around Mary and beckoned the others to follow. He half-carried the devastated mother. As they passed Peter and Deborah, the two joined them. They hastened through the storm to John's house.

          That night and the next day and night, Mary refused to leave the room given her. No matter how John, her daughter, her sister, her friends pleaded with her, she wouldn't eat. She drank a little water, but she refused all food. Her eyes remained dry, her heart and mind numb. She felt as if a part of her had been ripped from her chest, leaving a gapping, bleeding wound that would never heal.

          The morning of the first day of the week arrived, and Mary sat on a bench staring out the window when John and Mary Magdalene rushed into the room.

          Falling to her knees in front of Mary, Mary Magdalene took one of the older woman's hands in hers. "Oh, Mary, the most wonderful thing..."

          "Indeed, yes, Mother Mary," John spoke over Mary Magdalene's words.

          Mary raised her eyes to a figure standing behind them. Her heart leaped in joy. Jesus stood just inside the door of the room, a smile on his face, love in his eyes. "He lives," she sighed.

          "Yes, yes, we saw him. He is alive!" John's exclamation brought her attention to his face.

          "He lives," she repeated as she glanced back toward her son, but he was gone. The peace, though, that he had brought with him remained. As the others chattered and rejoiced, the mother of Jesus stored these things and pondered them in her heart.
© Copyright 2003 Vivian (vzabel at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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