It was unsettling, not being liked.
Zadkiel kept trying. ‘Can I help you, Mary? You must be getting tired. Here: let me stir the pot.’ But Mary just kept shooshing him away to the rafters.
He’d given up on being an owl. She’d seen through him, so there there seemed to be no point. But he realised — a bit late perhaps — that she still preferred him out of sight, hiding, so that she could pretend he was an owl, if need be.
Mary found him to be a troublesome companion — and this made Zadkiel very nervous. What if Jesus liked him no better than Mary did? What if God had got it wrong? Zadkiel was not really sure why God had chosen him. God said it was because he was so good with people, but surely any angel worth their wings knew how to blend in and win the earthed-ones over. Zadkiel knew that he had no special skills — and Mary seemed more than willing to prove that point.
Zadkiel tried everything. He offered help in the kitchen. He offered help in the barn. He tried talking with her, and he tried keeping silent. But nothing he did seemed to ease Mary’s mood.
For Gabriel, Mary was different. Gabriel charmed her with stories of Sophia leaping the stars, and told her conspiratorially of just how stroppy the Word of God could be. For Gabriel, Mary laughed and tossed her hair, and acted like the young girl she was. But with Zadkiel she was stern. All broom and bristle. Wishing he wasn’t there. Zadkiel tried to sooth her by hiding in the furthest corner of the house.
The next morning, she slipped off without him. How, how, had it come to this? Zadkiel was distraught. Her time was getting near, and he must be there when Jesus was born. Zadkiel was not supposed to let her out of his sight.
Quickly, he jumped down and shook the night’s cloak from his feathers. He rose on the wind, and scanned the ground till he saw her, sobbing by the stream, with the water jug broken at her feet.
Gently. He must go gently. But not quietly — no. Better to be human-like and clatter through the trees than to swoop swift-winged and silent. So Zadkiel drew in his wings and walked, down through the brush, clattering all the way to the clearing, where he let silence fall.
Mary must have heard him, but she moved not at all. So Zadkiel sat — three wing-spans away — and waited till her sobbing ceased.