In a time and place where his wrongness would lead to him being stoned or burned unto his death, Ezekiel found a way to fulfil all of his duties as given to be him by God, and yet still be true to himself.
This is the story of Ezekiel's Victory.
Samuel and his family slept the night under the wagon.
The next morning, Charity woke slightly before dawn. She stretched and wriggled and then propped herself up on one elbow so that she could look down at her sister. Seeing that Constance was blinking sleep from her eyes, Charity leaned down and kissed her soundly.
Constance's eyes widened in surprise. Then her arms reached over behind Charity and pulled her close so that she could return the kiss in full. After a moment they pulled away from each other. Constance lay there, blinking up at her sister and smiling.
"What was that, my sister?" whispered Constance. "Did you not get your fill of this yesterday?"
"Yesterday I was kissing Ezekiel," replied Charity, also in a whisper. "I wanted to find if there was a difference between kissing Ezekiel and kissing Constance."
Constance laughed quietly at her sister. "And … ?"
"And I am not sure," whispered Charity. "I may have to try some more of both before I make up my mind."
Constance laughed some more. "Oh, my dear sweet Charity. You are surely the most outrageous person I know. I thank God that He has placed you in my life. You are truly a gift to me."
Next to them, Hope stirred in her basket and started to cry. Constance quickly scooped her out of the basket and scrambled out from under the wagon. Charity followed and held Hope briefly so that Constance could unfasten her dress. Soon Hope's cries were silenced as she suckled.
While she fed her babe, Constance smiled and closed her eyes, letting the rising sun warm her skin. Then she felt a soft kiss on her neck below her ear. She smiled quietly but did not open her eyes. Then a second kiss landed on her uncovered shoulder and then a third on the skin at the rise of her breast, just above where it was covered by Hope's head. That last made Constance's eyes open in surprise. She stared at Charity who grinned back at her without remorse.
"What … ?" said Constance.
Charity leaned forward and kissed her softly on the lips. Then she stood and strode away without saying another word. Constance watched in amazement as Charity started collecting firewood as if she had done nothing more than wish her a good morning.
Shortly afterwards, first Samuel and then Isabelle rolled out of the blankets on the other side of the wagon. They brushed down and straightened their clothes and then moved around to begin the day. Samuel smiled and nodded at Constance when he saw her sitting there, feeding Hope, but he took no more notice as he bustled around, getting the fire started and milking the cow.
Constance finished feeding Hope and then changed her nappies. Then, with Isabelle's help, she removed her dress, rebound her breasts and donned trousers and shirt to become Ezekiel again.
A short time later, they sat down together to break their fast. While they did that, Isabelle and Charity rebound their hair and put on their bonnets. Afterwards, the blankets and such like were reloaded onto the wagon and the lead rope for the cow was tied once more to the back.
Then Ezekiel and Charity resumed their place on the back of the wagon. The family had decided that it would not be safe for Constance to be seen in public until they had travelled for many days – weeks even.
And Ezekiel did not mind so much. After all, Ezekiel and Charity were newly married and they had much to learn about each other. Their joy in living was infectious and as they travelled, Samuel and Isabelle found a new joy for themselves. Ezekiel and and Samuel would swap the duties of driving the wagon, their respective wives sitting beside them, while the other couple rested in the back.
During their turn at sitting up front, the younger pair would wait until the were on an isolated stretch of track and then tease their parents – calling back "We are alone now, Father. Are you kissing your wife? You should! For the back of the wagon is perfect for that! Kiss her, Father. Tell her of your love and demonstrate your passion under this wide blue sky. Kiss her Father, out here in the light, for God is watching and is surely please to see us live our lives. Embrace your wife, Father, out here in the light for Grace is with God. Let her see you and rejoice.
This was an entirely new thing for Samuel and Isabelle and there was much hesitation and diffidence. But Samuel was beginning to resign himself to the changes in his life and Isabelle was more than eager for him to try this new thing.
And when it was the turn of Samuel to drive, the younger pair nestled in the back and did exactly what they had challenged their parents to do while Samuel and Isabelle sat on the front bench and pretended to be oblivious of what was going on behind them.
This ceased when the wagon wound its way through a village or passed an isolated farm. At those times, the couples would sit demurely beside each other and share their thoughts. They stopped in some of the villages to purchase food and to seek directions but they did not linger and they rarely exchanged more than pleasantries with the villagers they spoke to.
One other thing of note that happened over these two days is that Ezekiel spent much time carefully watching her father. She took note of the way he moved and the way he gestured and the way he spoke to his family and the way he spoke to strangers. Then she began to imitate him.
Gradually, over the passage of the two days, she became more and more manly in her movements and her actions. Charity giggled and laughed at her attempts but also supported and encouraged her – often stopping her and pointing out moments when she had forgotten herself and behaved too much like a woman. Ezekiel also practised speaking with a lower voice and slightly gruffer that she might sound more like a young man. And so, slowly and deliberately, over the course of these two days, she became a he.
Late in the afternoon, a farmer saw them passing as he walked back in from his fields. He offered them the use of his barn for the night for there was a storm brewing on the horizon and it would be a bad night to be camping under the wagon.
Ezekiel was driving the wagon at the time and he thanked the farmer for his generosity. The farmer showed them a side track and pointed to the barn a little way off the road.
"God bless you," said Ezekiel. "We shall all sleep more soundly tonight for your kind offer."
The farmer shrugged it off. "I am doing no more than any other honest man would do. Help yourself to some hay and a little grain for your horse and your cow. Sleep well. The storm should be gone by morning."
Ezekiel was able to pull the wagon inside the barn and still leave room to move around it. They brushed down the horse and put the horse and cow into a stall amongst the farmer's own animals.
Then a pair of children came skipping up the track and knocked on the door of the barn. They came with an invitation from the farmer's wife to join them at sunset for the evening meal as there was no hearth in the barn for the travellers to use for cooking. The group all looked at each other because they were concerned that Ezekiel might be exposed under such close scrutiny. They gathered to hold a quick conversation in whispers. Charity assured them all that by the light of lanterns in a crowded room, Ezekiel's disguise would be sufficient. Samuel turned to the children waiting by the door and asked them to thank the farmer's wife and tell her they would accept her kind invitation.
Isabelle hunted through the wagon and picked out half a cheese and filled a small bag with vegetables.
"Come, Charity. You and I must go down to the farmhouse and help with preparing the meal. I shall tell them that Samuel and Ezekiel are conducting some minor repair to the wagon and will come down in time for the meal."
She then turned to Samuel. "Do not come down until sunset so that they will not look too closely at Ezekiel during daylight."
They all agreed on the plan and Charity picked up the basket in which Hope was currently sleeping and then accompanied Isabelle down to the farmhouse.
Samuel turned to Ezekiel. "I don't think Isabelle knew it, but her words about us repairing the wagon will not be a falsehood. I need to replace some of the leather harnessing for the horse and you, my son, can help me."
"Yes, Father," said Ezekiel with a smile. "I would be honored. It is a son's duty to labor beside his father."
And so Ezekiel spent the next hour learning some new skills that were traditionally carried out by the men of the family. Samuel confessed himself pleased to have a new son to teach and was effusive in his praise when Ezekiel showed himself to be a quick learner.
They finished the task just before sunset so they quickly washed their faces and hands in the horse-trough, lit a lantern and made their way down to the farmhouse.
As Charity had predicted, Ezekiel's disguise was not penetrated. He managed to stay in the background and let the others do the talking. He even found a seat in the corner where the lanterns cast a slight shadow. Realizing their subterfuge was successful, the family was able to relax and enjoy the meal and the company of their hosts.
Their hosts did ask why they were travelling, but Samuel waved his hand and explained that there had been some unpleasantness at their village and they had decided to leave rather than cause a confrontation. Their hosts listened to them talk and watched the way they behaved and decided that these were Godly people who had endured some ill fortune and decided not to press for further information.
When the meal was finished and tidied up, Samuel and his family thanked their hosts and withdrew back to the barn. Once returned to the barn, Ezekiel fed Hope and changed her nappies. Samuel and Isabelle climbed up to the hayloft and spread their blankets on a bed of hay. They changed out of their clothes for the first time in two days and donned nightclothes.
"We will soon have to find a place where we can stop for a day," said Isabelle. "Our clothes need washing and we will soon run short of cloth for clean nappies for Hope."
Samuel grunted and nodded.
"Now, come to bed, my husband," said Isabelle. "I still have a pain in my heart from the loss of my daughter/son and perhaps if I fulfil my wifely duties, that will help erase the pain."
So Samuel and Isabelle lay together and quietly unleashed the passions within them. Afterwards, they embraced and slept.
Ezekiel and Charity decided they could not sleep in the hayloft for if Hope woke during the night and crawled out of her basket, there was nothing to stop her from crawling over the edge. They spread some fresh hay in an empty stall and spread their blankets over that. Then they wedged some loose boards below the bottom rung of the stall so that Hope could not crawl in amongst the hooves of the animals.
They removed their normal clothes and donned sleeping gowns and so it was Constance and Charity who crawled between the blankets.
The rain began to sound on the roof of the barn. At the same time the wind picked up, pushing through the trees and driving the rain harder.
They listened to the sound of the storm outside the barn and embraced for warmth. Then Charity kissed her sister, unleashing her boundless passion.
They kissed and kissed some more. Then, while they were kissing, Charity's hand – more by accident than by design – landed on the part of Constance's sleeping gown which concealed her breast.
Constance, feeling the contact on her breast froze and stared in surprise. Despite their enthusiasm, this was a liberty the two girls had not previously taken. Charity took a moment to recognize where her hand had landed, and then she also froze. They both lay there, unmoving, their faces inches apart, staring through the darkness into each other's eyes, wondering how the other was going to react.
Then Charity's hand moved, gently stroking and exploring the shape hidden below the material of the gown. Constance's eyes were staring and her mouth was open. She had no idea how she should react to this so she did not react at all. Then Charity found Constance's hand under the blanket and slowly drew it down until it lay over Charity's breast. Charity gently pressed the hand into her breast and let it go.
Constance's hand did not move for a moment, but then it started stroking and exploring. Soon Charity's hand returned to Constance's breast and together they explored and discovered the sensations involved in this new activity.
After a time, Charity's hand left her sister's breast and trailed down her body until it found the small swelling in her sister's belly. She stroked and petted that mound and then sighed.
"One day my belly will swell like this," whispered Charity. "What does it feel like?"
Constance sighed and rested her own hand on her belly. "In my body, it feels pleasant, later – when the babe is closer to being born – it gets uncomfortable. In my mind, the feeling is … I don't have the words. Both wonderful and frightening. God has blessed me with a new life within me. It is a wonderful blessing but the responsibility to care for and nurture that new life can be frightening.
"And what of the making of the new life? When you lie with a man – what is that like?"
Constance gave a small smile in the darkness. "Ah, sister. You are asking all of the difficult questions tonight. Again, I don't have the words. It varies. On some nights, when the passion is missing, it is like peeling the skin from potatoes – a duty that is not difficult but tiresome and repetitive and not entirely comfortable and you are glad when the task is done. But on the nights when the passion is there – ah! On those nights it is wonderful."
"Yes, but what does it feel like?"
Constance sighed. "Charity, my sister, I think you have been gaining much pleasure when we embrace and kiss. How would you describe that pleasure to a maiden who has never been kissed?"
"Why, it's … it's like … Oh!"
"Exactly, so, my sister." Constance kissed Charity lightly on the lips. "Do not fear, like all else it is a part of God's plan. Hold God in your heart and all else will happen as He wills. Now let us sleep for it is late and I am finding this travelling to be very tiring."
Charity nodded and returned to her sister the light kiss she had received. Then they nestled together and slept.
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