A few other young girls were trailing toward the center of town, each wrapped in heavy woolen shawls and carrying pots of varying sizes. Ruth waved excitedly to her friend Abigail who shuffled out of her house, rubbing her eyes sleepily. Walking side by side, Ruth chatted animatedly, clouds of vapor circling her head in the frosty morning. Ruth felt the chill of the early morning air and pulled the corner of her shawl up over her head, huddling toward her childhood friend for warmth. As they arrived at the well, it became apparent that there was a problem. A crowd of girls encircled edge of the cistern.
Ruth squeezed through the throng, curiosity pulling her along. “What’s wrong?” she asked Jacob who stood at the well’s edge. Jacob helped worked as one of her parent’s shepherds. He wore a long rust-colored cloak tied at his waist with a cord. His head was covered in a turban, hiding his still boyish curls. His nose was pink from the cold and yet there were beads of sweat on his forehead from the hour he’d spent loading hay for the sheep.
“It’s frozen. Hard as a stone,” Jacob mumbled, rubbing his face with his cold chafed hands. “I’ve never seen that before.”
“Frozen? What will we do?” Ruth asked, her forehead wrinkling in worry.
“When the sun rises, it will warm the well. We will just have to come back later.” He nodded at Ruth, his cheeks coloring slightly. “Goodbye, Ruth.” Jacob ducked under the wooden beam and lifted his pair of clay pots over his shoulders, trudging off toward the caves where the animals were kept.
As Ruth turned back toward her home, the sun peeked over over the hill that surrounded Bethlehem. The girls dispersed back to their homes, ceramic pots still empty and Ruth caught a glimpse of the first pilgrims arriving in the city. A large family shuffled down the street, weary from a night of traveling. She ran back home quickly, her navy blue cloak fluttering behind her, excitement bubbling up. She burst through the door and exclaimed, “They’re coming!”