Anna was in a grumpy mood. As she chased little Isaiah down the tunnel yet again, she wished she were any place but here. She scooped the three year old up in her arms, in spite of his yells and squirming.
“You need to stay in the chamber with the other children,” she scolded. “You can’t just go running off down the tunnels.”
Oh, she was tired of babysitting. There were half a dozen little orphans whose parents had been executed, and several other children as well. As she helped the women each day, she sometimes got weary of being the one who had to run after the toddlers when they escaped from the nursery. Little dark-haired Isaiah was the worst. As cute as he was, he was sneaky. He could slip out and disappear before anyone noticed, if they didn’t watch him every minute.
Anna put the child down, and drew a toy from a pocket in her robes. As she gave it to him to play with, he stopped crying and was content for the moment. She leaned back against the cool stone, and enjoyed the quiet, away from the busy nursery.
She knew deep down why she was so irritable. It wasn’t really the children. Most of the time, she liked taking care of them.
“It’s because Jacob got to go up and I didn’t,” she said aloud softly. “I’m sorry, Lord God. I know I shouldn’t be jealous, but I wanted to go so much.”
It had been a long time since Jacob and Anna had been above. They had been correct in their hunch that Zacarias wouldn’t allow them to go out anymore.
“You’ve done a good job,” he told them. “but there’s too many people who know who you are. It’s just too dangerous. You could be followed, and we all could be discovered.”
For several months, he had sent others out to buy food and get information but today, most of the women were getting over an illness that had been going around. The men, of course, would be recognized immediately as many had been prominent in the church and government. Shimone hadn’t been heard from for some time. Though he often stayed out several days, he hadn’t come home from work in over a week. They were afraid he had been caught.
Due to the fact that there was just no one else, Zacarias had asked Jacob to go buy the food. She knew he had seen in her eyes that she longed to go too.
“No, Anna,” he said kindly. “It’s just too dangerous now for the two of you to be seen together. Besides, we need you here what with all the women sick.”
Anna had nodded, trying to keep back the disappointment. After all, he was the leader and knew best. But it hadn’t stopped her from feeling jealous. Now, as she confessed her sin, she knew that God had forgiven her.
I’ll do the best I can in the job You’ve given me to do, she promised silently to God. Then suddenly, “Isaiah! You come back here! Right now!”
The little boy had gotten tired of the toy, and suddenly jumped up and took off. Anna raced after him. She realized that they were getting close to Tunnel Three.
“Don’t you dare go in there, Isaiah! That tunnel is forbidden. It could collapse on us!”
She grabbed him and lugged him back. In spite of his yells, she sensed movement and looked. Was that a shadow? Was someone coming out of Tunnel Three? Maybe the men were checking it, as they did sometimes.
“Who’s there?” she called.
No one answered. She stepped forward, putting her hand over Isaiah’s mouth trying to hush him. She listened carefully. It almost sounded like footsteps, then nothing. Finally she shrugged. She must have imagined it. Isaiah wiggled and scrambled away, and it took all her attention to get him back to the nursery.
They had almost reached the chamber when someone came running toward them.
“Shimone! It’s Shimone! He’s back!”
People along the tunnel poked their heads out of their chambers. They came quickly, gathering in the big room where Zacarias was tending to several bruises, and a large cut on Shimone’s face.
“They got me! I’ve been in jail all week,” he told them, shakily. “They let me go, finally. I never want to go back there!”
“You’re safe now,” someone told him.
It suddenly struck Anna that maybe they weren’t safe. Had she really seen something back at Tunnel Three?
“We’ll get you something to eat,” one of the women was saying.
As the group was occupied caring for him, Anna quietly moved toward Zacarias. He always wanted to know of anything unusual, but it seemed like such a little thing that she didn’t want to say it in front of the whole group.
But Zacarias always listened courteously, even to the children. He drew her away to a quiet corner, as she told him about Isaiah running off and what she had heard.
“I’m not really sure if it was anything at all,” she said.
He looked concerned just the same. “Thank you, Anna. It’s always best to be cautious.” Then he glanced at Shimone. He raised his voice over the chatter and said, “Shimone, which way did you come in?”
The young man hesitated, as if surprised at the question. Then he said, “why…the front entrance, of course.”
Zacarias pursed his lips thoughtfully but turned away to speak to Jonathan, one of the other men. Jonathan soon disappeared out the door. Anna supposed he was going to check Tunnel Three. When Jonathan came back, she watched carefully. He shook his head at Zacarias, and spoke a low word.
Obviously, he had found nothing, and she should have been relieved. But she wasn’t. She had a strange feeling about it all. And to make matters worse, she was getting worried about Jacob. He really should have been back by now.
Lord, keep us all safe, she prayed.
To Be Continued….
By Carol Bennett