Anna tiptoed as she did when she was a child playing hide and seek. She stifled a desperate giggle. She put her fingers to her lips to silence the butterflies in her stomach. Finally, she closed the door behind her hoping her father wouldn’t awaken. He used to be a deep sleeper but ever since his health started to decline, he had been waking up more frequently. As Anna closed the wooden door behind her, a wisp of her father’s wisdom pressed in on her heart. “Be sure your sin will find you out”. Anna brushed the thought away. Visiting the most handsome solider in town was not sinning. It was pure excitement! She loved the thought of doing something secretive. It was freeing. With that thought Anna attempted to walk like a lady though inside she longed to race. Would Luca still be there? Anna was thankful that the cobblestone streets of Jerusalem were silent. By the time the stars were out the townspeople were asleep. Fear crept in. What if he was there? What would she say? She reached the outskirts of town and saw the lone Olive tree that overlooked the grassy fields nearby. She saw Luca sitting on a rock in front of the ancient tree. Trying to look calm and serene Anna smiled and sat down on the rock beside him.
Luca smiled though he kept refolding his hands.
“Anna, this land of yours is beautiful. I have not been here long and already I am in love with it”.
Anna smiled, unsure of what to say. She knew what her father would say if Luca had commented on the beauty of the land. Her father would tell Luca how the land was blessed by God and that His hand was on it. Anna gasped inwardly, surprised that she would be thinking about her father at a time like this.
Luca spoke again. “But it is not the land that I have grown deeply fond of. It is you”.
Anna blushed as Luca inched closer.
“Are you seeing someone”?
“No, I am not betrothed”.
“Perfect, then would you consider going steady with me”?
“Who else would I chose over you”? Anna smiled a coy grin while batting her eyelashes.
Luca squeezed her hand silently and the two continued to watch the stars in silence.
Later that night Anna slipped carefully into bed, hoping that her movements wouldn’t interrupt her father’s sleep.
Morning dawned fresh and hopeful. The people in Jerusalem went from day to day. Sunrise to sunset was how they lived. But to Anna today was a day full of miracles. She was in love and nothing else seemed to matter. Anna was in a cheerier mood. She quickly got dressed as she had overslept due to being out so late with Luca. She began bringing the eggs in from the chickens and crack, crack, she began to make breakfast. Anna knew her father had been up since before dawn praying.
“How did you sleep”? Anna asked as she heard her father’s steady footsteps enter their kitchen.
Her father did not respond. It was unusual of him. Anna hoped that her father did not know about her secret rendezvous last night.
“Anna, I want you to come with me today to the temple. Jesus is coming”.
Anna turned around to flip the eggs, so she could roll her eyes privately.
“I don’t know father, I am busy”. What she actually wanted was more time to day dream about Luca and last night, and a future as bright as the stars last night. Her heart grew tender just thinking about it.
“Anna, Jesus is coming. You do not have time to be busy. You will come with me”.
Anna was not in the mood to argue. Anything to hide from her father about last night.
“Alright father, I will come”.
She might see Luca. She brightened at the thought.
She packed a small lunch, humming the whole time.
Anna was not sure what to think of her father’s Jesus. Jesus was sitting on a hillside preaching. He was sitting on a hillside preaching. What man of the law sat to preach? Where was his level of authority?
She said none of this to her father. They sat in the back, because there were so many people crowding up near Jesus. How could Jesus speak? But He didn’t seem bothered to be around so many people.
Her father was listening intently even though Anna knew that his hearing wasn’t what it used to be.
Anna halfway tried to listen, but her mind was on other things. She kept looking over her shoulder to see if Luca would arrive. Jesus kept talking about being poor in spirit, and how believers were to be the salt of the earth. It was all rather puzzling. Suddenly, she spotted Luca out of the corner of her eye.
“Excuse me father, I will be right back”, she whispered. Her father would probably think she needed to relieve herself.
She forced herself to walk slower and look more at ease.
Luca smiled but it wasn’t a wide smile.
“Hi Luca”. Anna said, shyly.
“Good morning Anna. Did you sleep well”?
“I can tell. You look more beautiful than you did yesterday”.
Anna lowered her eyes and blushed again.
“So, did you come to watch Jesus too”?
“It is my job to watch Jesus. I have no choice. It is my duty”.
“What do you think of Him? He is so unlike any teacher I have ever seen”.
“Anna, don’t pay him any mine. He is simply a radical. There are rumors that he wishes to outrun the Romans”.
Without thinking Anna tenderly touched Luca’s arm.
“I’m sorry. I hope those rumors are false”.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere”. He winked at her, but she could see the uncertainty in his eyes.
Anna could see Luca pull away from her as his supervisor came into the distance on a horse.
“Tonight, at the Olive tree”?
Luca squeezed her hand and quickly left.
It was not fitting for their relationship to be public, a Jewish girl and a Roman solider would never fit in society. But Anna knew better. Love was stronger.
Anna went back to sit with her father. His eyes were still fixated on Jesus, but her father’s face was tense and strained.
That evening as they were walking home, her father startled Anna’s daydreams by speaking a loud. “Anna, I was full of hope today. I have seen the Messiah! I have heard His voice. It is really Him”!
Her father’s face was full of light. It had a special glow about him.
“Anna, why do you doubt?”
“Father, how do you know that He is really who He says? How do you know that He is not just trying to turn the people away from Rome”?
Her father gasped. “How could you say something like that, He is just and meek, bringing salvation. Every since you were little I have raised you to know the prophecies of old. This is Him in fullest light”.
Anna simply nodded. She thought everything her father told her as a child were merely stories.
“Anna, I know you must want to be married. I hope he is a good man and loves Yeshua.
Anna was silent.
“Is there such a man? Oh, how I have prayed to see this day! How come he has not approached me yet”?
Her father stopped and watched her face.
“Who is it”?
“I cannot tell you”.
“You must. You know that our heritage the father must match the daughter. It is to be a match made in Heaven”.
“His name is Luca, and I love him”.
“I don’t remember any boys named Luca in our district. Who was his father”?
“Father, you wouldn’t know his family. He is Roman”.
Her father’s face turned red. Her father rarely became angry. Losing Beulah, her mother had been the hardest blow on him and she believed it had aged him. But Anna knew her father was angry that she would have the audacity to go behind his back.
“You must stop seeing him”.
“I will not”.
Her father was upset but he didn’t speak. He put his hand over his chest. He began to breathe heavily, and then he collapsed to the floor.
“Father, I am sorry. I am sorry. What can I do”.
“Stop Daughter. Stop your worrying. My time has come. I don’t have to be here any longer. I have just seen Jesus and I tell you He is alive. The prophecies are true! You must follow Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the Life”.
Her father smiled.
And then he was gone.
Anna held his body in her lap and began to sob. It was all her fault.