Her hands shook violently as she attempted to close the door. Her tear streaked face was hidden under a black shawl, clothing surprisingly dusty and unruly for the Passover Sabbath.
The sun was almost set; there was no time to wash her clothes or even to make a bit of food. The house was hushed and surprisingly quiet for the events of today, not to mention the day of rest.
Clutching the shawl closer to herself, she slowly made her way into the house. The children sat in the room near the door, huddled together, looking dazed and afraid. They glanced up as she passed by, but ducked their heads immediately, as if seeing her so distraught frightened them.
She traveled further in, entering the small kitchen. Women were scattered around, some holding each other, others lost in their own thoughts. The woman closest to the door was sobbing, keening softly as two other women attempted unsuccessfully to console her.
She sighed, knowing there was nothing she could do for her. She approached the table, where another woman offered her a piece of matzo. She shook her head numbly. "Can't eat," she managed to whisper.
No one questioned her statement.
Her fingers itched to do something, anything that would erase that image from her mind, that painful tableau that wrenched her heart apart and tore loud, painful sobs from her throat.
But her traditions forbid her to do so this evening. Eyes closing in internal pain, her hand gripped the table to steady herself. "Where are they?" she asked hoarsely.
"In the upper rooms," came the hushed reply. A small, lighted lamp was pushed into her hands. "They refuse to leave there."
Carrying the lamp in front of her as steadily as possible, she ascended the stairs one at a time, laboring over every step. She took a deep breath, pausing with her hand on the door.
The eleven were gathered sparsely, speaking mostly in hushed tones. A few were gathered together, conversations more vocal than the others.
"How long before they turn on us, and we end up the same?"
Gathering her courage, she placed the lamp on the table next to a half eaten Passover meal, spinning to face the speaker. "Not very likely while you insist on hiding yourselves like cowards in these rooms."
"We did not ask you, woman," another muttered.
"I do not care," she snapped. "You have all deserted Him, and everything He has worked so hard for!"
"How dare you!"
"How dare I?" she repeated, whirling. "I watched, as one of you, one of His chosen, kissed and betrayed Him. I watched, as another of His chosen denied Him three times in succession. I watched, as He was dragged before those who claim to be of God, as they beat Him and taunted Him, who would raise no hand against them. I watched as He was tortured on that cross, as He cried out to God, and prayed for us in his final, agonizing moments. And only one of His chosen watched with me! I watched, as they pulled His broken body down. I cried over His body as we took Him to a tomb and buried Him as best we could before the Sabbath. So yes, I dare.
"I dare because I was there, because I cannot get that image out of my mind. Because how many of you stood with me? You...cannot...you..." she broke off her tyrade, lunging at the nearest disciple and pounding her fists upon his chest. "You...abandoned Him, when He needed you most!"
Strong hands pulled her back, catching her as she threatened to continue. She broke off sobbing, falling away from the arms as she collapsed to the ground, burying her face in her hands.
No one spoke for long moments, the only sounds in the room her racking sobs. Finally, one of the men reached down and took her arm, guiding her to her feet. She wrenched her arm away from him, stalking towards to door.
"Which of you mourns Him now?" she asked quietly before leaving the room as slowly as she had entered.
The hall was silent as she walked numbly through it. Hours had passed, and the women had managed to mourn and cry themselves into an uneasy sleep. She hadn't been so lucky.
She sighed, sinking into an empty seat in the vacant kitchen. Her hand ran through her hair absently, not noticing when her fingers forced their way through vicious snarls and tangles that yanked mercilessly on her scalp.
She blinked, and once again her mind transported her to that dark tomb. Her hands feeling the cloth as she gently wrapped His body, her fingers stained with His blood. Her hands reaching out to gingerly —
A creak from the stairs near the kitchen brought her thoughts back to the present moment. She glanced up in surprise - the disciples had locked the door firmly behind her - she jumped, automatically straightening her clothes and wiping unhelpfully at her face.
A young, frightened face peeked around the corner, the man pausing as he realized she was looking at her. "I...I thought I heard someone."
She nodded absently, her eyes traveling back down to her hands. "Can I...can I sit with you?" he asked softly.
"Of course," she murmured, nodding again. He took the seat next to her, fidgeting as though nervous. She gave his awkwardness a small, weak smile, reaching out to grasp his hand.
"Is He...is He really dead?"
"We saw Him die," she replied quietly. "We witnessed His agony. I felt His wounds."
"Still..." he whispered half-heartedly, leaning against her slowly.
"He is with His Father now," she murmured, wrapping her arm around his shoulders. Tears fell quietly from his face onto her shoulder, but she made no attempt to stop this.
She understood, oh so well, the emotions bottled inside of him. He would have been too afraid, too self-conscious, to cry in front of the men.
Despite her outburst earlier, she understood the fear the men were drowning in. To those opposing them, the men were his true followers, the ones that needed to be taken care off. They wouldn't even notice the women; her gender kept her safe.
"Do you...am I going to die?" he whispered brokenly.
"Yes. We all will, eventually," she hedged, knowing full well that was not what he meant. She sighed. "I don't know if you'll die soon. I just don't know."
"So what do we do now?"
She paused for a moment, taking a deep breath. "Now we wait."
Ironically, it was the only Sabbath she had ever, truly and perfectly, kept.
The day was passed in quiet solitude. Even the children were reserved and still. The tears had all been shed, and now they sat.
The upper room was silent. There were no arguments about theology, or about who was in charge, or the next move.
The lower rooms were equally as silent. Unleavened bread was laid out on the table, but no one was partaking.
She sat silently amongst the women, her temper cooled and her tongue quieted.
At length, when the sun was almost set, she announced, "We must go to Him."
A long pause occurred, during which the others glanced at each other uncertainly. "It is dangerous to walk the streets at night, especially for a woman," one finally spoke up.
"The men would not accompany us."
"It would be difficult to find in the dark."
She exhaled loudly. "I'm leaving at dawn."
This was met with a small murmur of assent, as if they realized that she would not be talked out of this.
They were most certainly correct.
She ascended the stairs, similarly to the previous night. She walked with more strength now, though the horrific images behind her eyes had not abated.
She knocked confidently on the door, steeling herself for the argument she was about to endure to gain access into the room.
"Go away," came the gruff reply.
"I bring a lamp for the night," she replied softly, attempting the kindness she knew her Lord would want her to show.
A lengthy pause. "Leave it at the door."
"I will not. You cannot avoid me forever."
"I am His disciple, too." A few moments later, she heard footsteps shuffling towards the door, and the door cracked open. She slid inside, placing the lamp on the table as she had the night before.
"We are going to the tomb at dawn," she announced, surveying each man in turn. "Anyone who wishes to come is welcome to join us."
"We will not be joining you."
Turning to face the speaker, she nodded once. "Suit yourself."
The group set out as the sun rose.
She didn't know why, but somehow the air felt lighter, as if the world was suddenly a better place.
It was a cruel twist of fate. How could the world rejoice and sing God's praises when her Lord lay dead in a dark tomb?
Surprisingly, their walk to place where He lay seemed short, even with the jars of ointment, rolls of linens, and bottles of perfume ladening them. She sighed, shifting her containers to the other arm. Her heart did not feel as heavy as the night before, as if it was slowly mending itself.
A sudden gasp on her right made her look up in worry, and the woman next to her pointed forward, towards the tomb. "Was there not a large stone rolled in front of it, to protect His body?"
She stared in horror at the truth of the woman's exclamation. The gaping hole in the rock stared back at her like like a mocking, laughing mouth. She pushed her jars into the arms of another woman, breaking out into a full out sprint to the awaiting tomb. She fell to her knees as her eyes met the clothes lying on the ground, missing the body they had clung to.
Tears came to her eyes, and a loud, racking sob tore from her throat. Why, oh why would they not just leave them in peace? Even in death they tormented Him, and even now she was powerless to stop this horror.
The women were then beside her, staring at the empty tomb in wonder.
Suddenly, it was as if the sun hand come to close on to the earth, and she was blinded by a dazzling white. The women fell to their knees in surprise, as two strangers suddenly appeared with them.
Shielding her face from these radiant figures in such dazzling raiments, her heart was mended, and instantly she recognized the beings as messengers of God.
"Why do you seek the living among the dead?" one asked, "He is not here; He is risen! Remember how He told you, when He was still with you in Galilee?"
Her mind raced, recalling all of the words her Lord had proclaimed to them before their entrance to Jerusalem.
She remembered! He had taken on a dark aura, as if foreseeing some horror that was to come. "The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again."
The angel smiled as the revelation overtook her. "Go, pronounce to His disciples the good news."
She jumped to her feet in absolute ecstasy, turning and racing as fast as she could back towards the city. Her mourning shawl flew off and fell away, but she did not care. The Lord was risen! The suffering was over! The Redeemer lived!
As she neared the house, she had to stop short as a figure blocked her path. She fell to her knees, surprised and elated to see the man in front of her. "Master!" she cried, too joyful to give any other response.
The radiant smile He gave her mended her broken heart, mind, and soul, leaving a healed woman behind. "Do not be afraid," He told her, extending his hands in a peaceable gesture. "I have not yet ascended to my Father; go now, and tell my brothers what you have seen."
Unable to keep the smile off of her face, she raced the rest of the way to the house.
This time, as she entered, she shook, but not from fear and grief. She shook from a delirious gladness.
She raced up the stairs as fast as her pounding heart and panting lungs would allow, pounding on the door with all her might. The door was unlocked, and she fell through, right into the arms of an apostle.
"He is risen! He lives! Our Lord is once again alive! He is gone from his tomb!" she cried, the words running together, her heavy breathing causing her to be nearly incoherent.
"What?" The stared at her blankly, as if she was mad. One caught her by the arms. "Calm down. What is it? Out with it, woman!"
"The Lord!" she gasped. "He is risen, just as He told us He would be!"
"She has lost her mind!" one muttered quietly.
"You speak nonsense. This whole business has been too hard on you. Perhaps you need to sit down -"
She laughed. "The only thing crazy here is your disbelief! Go, go to the tomb, see for yourself!"
One of the men ran out the door at these words, but the others simply shook their heads. "You are the crazy one."
The disciples stared in confusion as she smiled. "Not even your doubt can ruin my happiness! For I know that my Redeemer lives!"
She ran from the room, from the house, out into the street, falling to her knees with her face towards the Heavens.