“Tell me what’s wrong,” James asked, aware that Meg had looked a little worried and concerned every time he’s seen her for the past week. It had been a week since Meg’s strange experience meeting the tall stranger, and she had been trying to think of a way to tell James about it without looking crazy. She knew he wouldn’t believe the truth – nobody would. She had been dreading this conversation – she could lose the most precious relationship of her life, and the future that she had hoped to have with him. She tried to stall him further, not feeling ready to have that conversation yet – but would she ever feel ready? “Nothing James, I’m just tired.” She wanted to tell him. She needed his support, his continual love and friendship throughout all that she was about to face – but how could she make him believe her?
“I want to be there for you, Meg – I can see there’s something on your mind, and if we’re going to get married we should be open with each other and help each other through those things that worry us. If you don’t want to talk to me about it right now then that’s fine – but is there anything I can do to support you with whatever it is?” Meg swallowed back a tear and told James that she didn’t want to ever lose him but that he wouldn’t like what she had to say; that he wouldn’t believe her. He looked puzzled. “What is it, Meg?”
So she began. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she stammered. “I… I found out last week that I’m pregnant. But I promise I haven’t cheated on you.” James looked stunned, then confused, then somewhat annoyed. Meg continued, “a tall man showed up in my room last week, and told me that he had been sent from God, and that I would give birth to the Messiah, the son of God. And I don’t know how I’m going to raise a child. I’m not quite an adult myself!”
James sighed. He looked deeply upset. “So you invited some attractive stranger into your bedroom. And now you’re pregnant. Oh Meg…” She tried to protest, to tell him that it wasn’t like that – but his face just showed utter despair. He felt betrayed. Then his expressions turned to anger. “Why tell me this if you are not going to tell me the truth? Do you think I am stupid enough to believe some story about a man sent from heaven showing up in your bedroom and miraculously giving you a baby? There’s only one way to become pregnant, and I didn’t help you!” Meg was fighting back tears with all her might and praying silently, fervently, begging God to show her the way – and to show James the truth. He only got more angry. “And you have the cheek to blaspheme God, claiming that He has honoured you, that your baby is conceived by Him, Himself. How could you?” He lowered his voice, and his gaze dropped to the floor. “I thought I knew you, Meg. I really thought I could trust you. I thought you were different. I guess I was wrong. Bye, Meg. Hope he helps you raise the kid. I can’t help you now.”
Devastated, James slumped down on the park bench. He really had believed that he could trust Meg, and that she would make a wonderful wife. He was angry at her for betraying him – but more than that, for making up some impossible story rather then just telling him outright. He wept. Why now, just when he was getting excited about the wedding? Why wait until the preparations were almost finished – why not break his heart earlier when it might have been less of an inconvenience to everyone else who was involved in the wedding planning? And who was the mystery man that had impregnated her? James cried out to God for comfort and peace. He felt like all his dreams had been shattered. He had been looking forward to a beautiful future as Meg’s husband, but now would be the joke of the town. He wondered if he would ever learn to trust a woman again, or ever allow himself to love so deeply again. He begged God to help him. And one tiny part of his heart wondered if her story could possibly be true – a tiny drop of hope that perhaps Meg had not been unfaithful after all. James dismissed these thoughts. Impossible.
He didn’t sleep that night. He kept wondering, if he had done something differently, perhaps this wouldn’t have happened. If he had been more affectionate towards Meg, maybe, or bought her flowers more regularly? He had been so happy – and now, so overwhelmed with despair. He couldn’t hold the tears back. He shuddered at the realisation that he would need to speak to all the people who had been preparing things for the wedding… But he didn’t want Meg’s name to be dragged through the dirt as he knew it would – so he began thinking up ways to try to keep it as quiet as he could. Why would she do something like this?!
The next morning James decided to stop by his parents’ house before work. As his mother, Janet, ushered him in and put the kettle on, she could tell that something was upsetting him. She passed him a strong cup of coffee and sat down beside him, trying not to show her concern for him, in the hope that he would tell her what was on his mind without feeling pressurised. “So, James, what brings you here at eight in the morning?” A hundred dramatic thoughts were flying wildly around in her mind. Maybe he had lost his job. Maybe he was ill, or had been diagnosed with something serious. Maybe he had made some huge mistake that would impact his life and the lives of others. Maybe Meg had been hurt. She began to tremble slightly, wondering what it could possibly be that had caused such obvious distress to her eldest son.
Her husband David entered the room and sat opposite James, pleased to see him and oblivious that he was upset. A warning glance from his wife silenced him just as he was about to greet his son with a loud and not particularly funny joke, as he enjoyed doing whenever James came to visit. James began to speak. “Thanks for the coffee. It’s nice to see you. How have you been?” His mother mumbled that they had only seen him a week ago and that nothing had changed – that she was just eager to hear about his life and whether there was something on his mind. “Actually, Mum, I didn’t sleep so well last night. I don’t really know where to start or how to say this. Something has come up, and I know you will be surprised and upset.”
“James, please tell me what’s going on. Whatever it is, we will still love you and support you. What happened?” Janet had a desperate expression on her face. David was leaning towards James with hands clasped on his lap and a concerned frown. James noticed that his eyebrows stuck out even more than usual. He gulped back some coffee and began.
“I saw Meg yesterday. She wasn’t quite herself. No, Mum, I don’t think she’s ill. She said… Well, she told me that she’s pregnant. And I know the baby isn’t mine – as I’ve told you before, I haven’t slept with her. I don’t really know what to do. She seemed sort of happy, sort of excited, but she seemed very nervous to tell me. I guess that makes sense…” He began to sob. It had been many years now since he had cried in front of his parents. “It’s just, it seems so out of character!” James sniffed, and Janet passed him a tissue. “We were so happy together, I thought. It’s not like her! I guess maybe I never really knew her. Anyway, now I need to contact everyone involved in the wedding preparations. I don’t know what I’m going to say to them – other than that we need to cancel. I know they are going to ask, and I really don’t know what to say. She doesn’t deserve the kind of gossip that will spread. Soon everyone in the synagogue will be giving her funny looks and making comments about her behind her back – and to her face, too. I can’t bear the thought of all the ridicule and shame that will come to her. And to me, too. Why did she have to do this?!” James wept, holding his face in his hands.
Janet and David were shocked, and didn’t know what to say. Eventually Janet broke the silence with a sudden barrage of questions. “Well, what did Meg say? How did she tell you? Was she ashamed? Is she going to go and live with this other partner? Or did she ask you to forgive her and stay with her?”
James dried his face, blew his nose, and sighed. “This is part that hurts the most. She wouldn’t even tell me what really happened, and she didn’t seem to have any regrets, other than knowing that I would be upset. She told me some story about a tall man appearing in her bedroom and telling her that she would give birth to the ‘Messiah’, the son of God Himself. She said he was sent from God. She went quite defensive when I questioned the details of her story and tried to understand it in more realistic terms. I’m sure she will make a good mother, but if she is unable to tell the truth in a situation like this, how will she possibly raise a good and honest child? Anyway, that’s not my problem. Whoever it is that made my fiancée pregnant, well he can take care of her now, and her child too. It just really hurt me that she felt unable to tell me what really happened. It’s not like her at all.”
David now spoke up. “How fascinating that she would claim to be pregnant with the son of God. In my experience, usually when good people admit their wrongdoing they avoid all mention of God, other than hoping that He might one day forgive them. It seems to me as if your Meg does not want to be blamed – or even does not believe that she’s blameworthy. Her story does not imply that she feels any shame at all, and I would have thought that cheating on you would make her feel at least a little ashamed. She did genuinely seem to love you, and she was very excited about marrying you and spending her life with you. I would very much like to speak with her about her little tale – simply to see if she holds to the details and if she still feels no shame.”
Janet was indignant. “David! I don’t think now is the time to talk about psychology! Do you mean to say that you think Meg believes her story? I had not considered her mentally unstable until today – but having an affair is not easily forgotten! Indeed, losing her virginity to a man who is not the one she has been preparing to marry – that is not something she could forget about! Why would she believe some imaginary conversation with a stranger about bearing the Messiah?! I think maybe she was so afraid of upsetting James that she thought this story would be easier to handle than the truth. But then, she always seemed truthful in the past, and never seemed the type to impulsively run off with a stranger. I wonder…”
James was frustrated – he had already thought about these things throughout the night and had lost a lot of sleep over it, and he did not want to go over those thought processes again. He could not see the point, since Meg’s story was an impossible one, and he had to get to work. He sighed impatiently and began collecting the mugs together to take them to the kitchen. His mother fell silent, followed him through to the kitchen, and hugged him. “We love you and we are here for you. I’m so sorry the wedding is cancelled. I wish there was something we can do to help the situation, or to make you feel better.” Her expression suddenly changed from concern to despair. “Oh dear, I wonder what Meg’s mother will do…” She shook her head and ushered James to the front door. “Anyway, you’d better be off – can’t have you being late for work! It was nice to see you. I hope you have a good day and are able to forget for a while…”
Work was a drag for James that morning. He could think of nothing but Meg, and her strange story. He was devastated, and tried to avoid people throughout the morning as best he could. At lunchtime it became even more difficult – one of his colleagues approached him with a grin and slapped him on the back. “Why so down today, James? I heard the news! Aren’t you excited to be a dad? I think you’ll be good at it!”
James was shocked. “Where did you hear that?!”
“Your brother put it on Facebook! He overheard your folks talking about it! I guess this means you’ll have some time off later in the year, then – I don’t think Meg can raise a baby on her own… Isn’t she still in school?!”
He felt sick. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. I didn’t sleep with her. Someone else can get time off work to help her raise the kid. Don’t believe everything you read on Facebook, especially from my brother…” He put the rest of his lunch back in his rucksack and went back to his desk. Throughout the afternoon James was aware of people whispering, and he overheard several comments, jokes and stifled laughter. One colleague, a man he didn’t know too well, touched his shoulder in passing and gave him a consoling look. Most of the others kept away, perhaps not knowing what to say to him. There were two colleagues, though, who were usually quite friendly, who spent a large part of the afternoon mocking him.
“What did I tell you! If she isn’t getting it from you she’ll be getting it from somewhere!”, one said with a grin. The other chimed in, saying, “Look where your piety and your ‘respectful boundaries’ got you! Take my advice – sleep with the next one, and then maybe she’ll stick with you!” This continued until finally he was able to leave the office at 5pm, and he was relieved to be out in the fresh air for the walk home.
When James got home he had hoped to read a book or watch a film or do something else that would occupy his mind so that he would not need to think about the implications of Meg’s actions – at least for the evening. But when he got home he felt so drowsy from the long day and lack of sleep the previous night that as soon as he had eaten the remains of his lunch he fell asleep and did not wake up until 7am the next morning. While he was sleeping he had a mysterious dream.