That John thing, it ran right through me, a black seam of guilt and remorse and yes, if I’m honest, the exhilarating, addictive power I’d enjoyed for those few minutes, and I thought it would come between us, me and Him, because of course I was implicit, from the first slipper to the final veil, I knew what mum was after, I had my instructions, and I embraced the power of it all, the whole performance, looking like I wanted to be dragged through a bed backwards.
Mum had her way.
As did Herod.
And John had been His cousin. But all He said was, “if you change your mind, if you embrace love, all is forgiven.”
Like that. As though it was the easiest thing in the world: change your heart and all is forgiven.
So I did.
And I was.
They were all there for that final meal. Forget the paintings; even the written accounts get it wrong, it wasn’t just Him and the disciples sitting there waiting piously for the bad news, there was a throng: maybe twenty five of us in this room above an inn, eating, chatting, drinking wine, oblivious to the future, drunk on His word, and only He knew what was going to happen. If he said the thing about the bread and wine, I didn’t hear it, and the bit about the traitor, no one I’ve spoken to seems to recall that either.
James playing card games with the kids, I remember that, showing them tricks, playing number games, sitting next to that big Roman guy who was laughing and joking with the boys, like they’d each and all discovered a secret and didn’t care who else found out, and Magdalene of course, she was officiating over the food and drink, bustling about, and there was plenty.
He just sat quietly, chatting mainly with Peter the Rock and Judas, the Searcher, until at one point he looked across to me and His gaze entered my soul.
And in my heart I embraced love again.
When he died, something died in me, after they’d scourged him and broken him on the cross. Hope died, maybe, and my heart became as cold as His marble flesh when Magdalene and I washed him and cleaned his wounds, oiled his olive skin. Combed his coal-black hair.
I pressed my mouth against the hole in his wrist, my tears washing him once more. Hope failed in me then, but not love.
And when, three days later, I saw the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty, the cold and lonely snows in the remote regions of my heart melted, and the sun shone upon me, and I flowered again. Magda and Mary and I hugged one another for joy, and that beautiful boy who was waiting there for us gave us His message once more.
Change your heart, he said to me.
And I did.