Join 16-year-old Mary Nelson on a unique journey. After being told in a dream that she is pregnant, Mary must face small town life in the twenty-first century. At first she believes her dream was just a dream and not a message from God. Her mother thinks she is lying about being a virgin. Her doctor cannot believe she is pregnant. Even her boyfriend, Joey Griffin, has trouble understanding the miracle. Once both pregnancy and virginity are confirmed, Mary must deal with paparazzi and world press, local clerics of all denominations, the school board, and kidnappers.
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Chapter 1 “It was only a dream,” Mary assured herself in a breathless whisper. She took deep breaths, trying to slow her racing heart. It may have been a dream, but it seemed so real. She dreamt almost every night, but this one was different. Normally her dreams were visions of living a life different than the one she had now. None of those dreams felt this real. This one felt as if she had been touching Heaven. She could still smell the sweet scents of the flowers in the most beautiful garden she’d ever seen. Her dream was even more beautiful than the pictures in the books Mrs. Logan showed them in Art class. She had never seen anything as magnificent as what her dream had just shown her. The shock of it had jolted her awake. But it was a dream, not a prophecy, wasn’t it? Though she attended church every Sunday with her mother and grandmother, she wasn’t sure whether or not she believed in God, His son and all the stories of the Bible. After all, God hadn’t been there when she asked him to keep her dad from walking out last year. He hadn’t answered her fervent prayers for Mom to get the promotion she wanted and the raise that came with it. He hadn’t seemed to listen last week when she begged for the answers to the history test she forgot to study for. No, her dream had just been an incredible dream, not a visit from one of God’s angels. Rolling over, Mary checked the clock by her bed. 6:33 in the morning. Her alarm would be going off in two minutes. She fought her way from under the covers and turned off the alarm. She carried her clothes to the bathroom down the hall without bothering to pull on her robe. Mom and Grandma had seen her in the oversized green nightshirt with the cartoon cat on the front and cat footprints across the back. In the shower she closed her eyes and lifted her face as warm water splashed over her. She was back in her dream. The vision just as clear as it had been minutes earlier. The garden was full and overgrown in a manner that didn’t appear junky or neglected, but lush and healthy. The flowers, trees and bushes were too beautiful for words to describe. She had wandered through the garden, pausing at each turn in the meandering path. At each turn she discovered yet another breathtaking view. Birds and small animals followed her. They sang and chattered a musical cacophony that soothed her and added to the feeling that she had arrived in paradise. As she turned around one last bend in the path, she disturbed a bush full of small brown birds. They flew off in all directions, circled, then returned again. She watched for a moment then continued on her way. A few feet beyond was a small wooden bench next to a trickling brook. A man sat on the bench, his face lifted to the sun. Mary froze for a moment unsure what to do. Should she approach or retreat? She had been warned since she could walk on her own not to talk to strangers, especially strange men, but something about this one pulled at her. “Come and sit down, Mary,” the man said without opening his eyes or looking her way. The voice was soft and inviting, hypnotic. It pulled her closer until she stood before the bench. “Please sit down. I have a message for you,” the man said before turning to look at her. Mary tried not to stare, but it was difficult. He was gorgeous. His hair glowed golden and flowed back from a face too beautiful for words. It was long and shaggy and made him fit in this place. He was tanned golden bronze with perfect features. His nose was long and narrow. His eyes were crystalline blue. He had the kindest smile Mary had ever seen. His ivory robe glowed in the sunlight. “Who are you?” she asked as she eased onto the seat beside him. “I am a simple messenger,” the man said. “What is this place?” “The Garden. Now listen carefully, Mary of Nazareth, Pennsylvania,” he said. He leaned close and stared directly into Mary’s eyes. She could not look away. It was as if she entered the swirling pale blue of his gaze. “You have been chosen to carry a reminder of God’s love to his children. You will give birth to a son and name him Emmanuel Jesus. You have a long road ahead of you, but know that you are never alone on your journey.” A sharp knock on the bathroom door startled Mary. “Hey in there, did you fall back to sleep?” “No, ma’am. I’ll be out in a minute,” Mary called as she reached to turn off the water. Ten minutes later Mary emerged from the bathroom. She was dressed and her shoulder length auburn hair was almost dry. The natural curl softened when it was blown dry so it waved instead of kinked. She had brushed blush on her cheeks and darkened her eyelashes with mascara. She would swipe on tinted lip-gloss once she was out of the apartment. Mom and Grandma didn’t approve, but had allowed her to begin wearing makeup just two months before when she had turned sixteen. Their understanding was that she could wear mascara and a touch of blush as long as she learned to use them so she did not look like a painted clown. She also had to pay for her own cosmetics. Mary had agreed as soon as the deal had been laid on the table. Some of her friends had been wearing makeup since middle school. She just wanted to be like the others. All her life her parents had told her she was special, but had never been specific as to how or why she was different than her friends. All she knew was that she was still wearing flats while the other girls had moved on to platform or stiletto heels that were dictated by the fashion magazines they all studied religiously. Each month the other girls made whatever changes Cosmo or Seventeen or Elle dictated. After dropping her nightshirt on her pillow and pulling the covers up so the bed looked pulled together, Mary closed her door and stared at the reflection in the mirror that hung on its back. She looked the same, short but thin and trim. Her jeans were tight, but not too tight. She had to tug on her shirt so it would cover the belt loops of her jeans. The school had a rule against belly-shirts, but by wearing low cut jeans and hip length shirts the teachers let them get by. Pulling the hem of her T-shirt up, Mary focused on the expanse of bare skin between her jeans and her lacy pink bra. Her belly was flat as always with just a hint of the six-pack of muscle. Mary fought hard for that flat belly and could not imagine it being round and full with pregnancy. “It was just a crazy dream. Forget it and move on,” she assured herself again. Just to make sure, she stopped at the puppy calendar hanging over her bed and double-checked the date. April 15th. Her periods had been like clockwork, every 28 days. She wasn’t due for her next one for a week and a half. Slipping bare feet into her sneakers, she grabbed her book-bag and left her room. She had just enough time for breakfast before Lindsey and Brook arrived in Brook’s brand new Volkswagen Bug. Brook’s parents were divorced and for her last birthday her father had been most generous when he gave her the car. Brook’s mother had taken her on a shopping weekend to New York City. But a closet full of new clothes could never compare to the freedom and status a brand new car gave her. As she gulped down a glass of orange juice and grabbed a hand-full of cookies from the jar next to the stove, Mary pushed the still vivid dream to the back of her mind. It was just a dream. There was no way she could be pregnant; she was still a virgin. Mary and her boyfriend, Joey Griffin, had agreed they were too young for sex. They had talked the subject over a number of times and agreed that no matter what their friends were doing, they would hold onto their virginity until they married. Of course the wedding would not be for three or four years at least, but they already considered themselves engaged. Between now and the wedding, they planned to work and save their money and study at the local community college once they graduated from high school. Joey planned to be a car mechanic and someday take over his father’s garage. Mary wasn’t sure whether she wanted to be a hospital laboratory technician or a legal secretary. “Mary, you should sit down and eat a proper breakfast,” Grace, her grandmother scolded. “Grandma, cookies have oatmeal, raisins, flour, sugar and eggs. Just as good as breakfast. Besides,” Mary said with a smile. “I’m late. Brook’s probably outside already,” she said just as the familiar beep-beep sounded outside. “See, there she is. Bye Mom. Bye Grandma,” she called as she flew from the kitchen and out the front door. Another day was beginning and she was ready to face it. Life was too busy to worry about her strange dream. He woke with a gasp, his heart racing as if he had run for miles. But he didn’t run intentionally any longer. Not for the cross-country team as he had in high school and not on the treadmill in the Philadelphia hospital where he spent most of his ten years as a physician. Nowadays he worked hard, ate right and led a simple, purposeful life. The people he had called friends up until two years ago would never recognize him these days. He’d given up the every three weekly haircuts, designer label clothes and a life that was full of stuff, but had no real meaning. His home these days was a plain room smaller than the master bathroom of the condo he had once resided in. There was no fancy décor here, just white walls, hard wood floors, a plain cross above his bed and pegs on one wall to hold his clothes. The bathroom was down the hall and he shared it with the six other brothers who also lived in this wing of the building. The monastery had been in existence since just after the Revolutionary War. The brothers had come together in central New York, staked their claim in the woods and settled in. The old stone building they had built had running water and electricity, though for the most part, the brothers continued to live by the old ways with oil lamps, wood stoves, living by God’s laws first and man’s laws second. Once upon a time up to a hundred men lived in this community. As their numbers had died off, fewer and fewer men came to take their places. They lived a simple life, laboring on the farm, tending the gardens and greenhouses that provided their food as well as enough surplus to sell to the markets that prized their organic produce. That money paid the bills, the taxes and provided the means to hold onto the land they refused to sell off, no matter how much pressure was put on them. Developers had wanted the land for more than fifty years, but the brotherhood had determined generations ago that this place would remain until the last brother had breathed his last breath. He opened his eyes and frowned. It couldn’t be morning already. He felt as if he had just fallen into bed. He wore no watch; time was relative. Life here was lived by the bells in the monastery’s tower. “Brother Adam? There’s been an accident. We need you,” a soft tenor voice reached his ear just before the door opened, revealing an elderly brown-robed man holding a lantern in one hand. “Brother Adam?” The man in the bed sat up, then rose, reaching for the simple white cotton shirt and jeans hanging on the wall. Pulling them on, he shoved his feet into the black, solid topped Crocs the brotherhood had discovered just the year before and now wore for their comfort and durability. Once dressed, he headed for the door, not bothering with the brown robe that would only get in his way. Running his fingers through his hair, he pulled it together, then secured it in a ponytail with the black elastic band he pulled from the pocket of his jeans. As he followed the elderly monk, he listened closely as the man whispered so they would not disturb the others. The walls were thick, solid stone so he doubted an ambulance driving through the building with full lights and sirens would bother anyone too much. Brother Adam stopped in the doorway of the room set aside as the infirmary and took in the scene. One man was laying on the simple cot on one side of the room, still unconscious though an ice bag lay on his temple. The second man sat in a chair next to him, his hand wrapped in a towel. Two lamps on the examining table provided a yellow glow of light. Taking a deep breath, Adam said a silent prayer for strength, skill and serenity. Then he took the lantern from the elderly monk, shooed him back to bed with a wave of his hand and entered the room. His vow of silence would be tested, but with the Lord guiding his hands, he would be able to deal with these injuries as he had the others that had tested his skill as a silent physician monk. His silence would end one day, but it would take more than a laceration and possible concussion for him to break it tonight. It would take a miracle.