She hoisted up her water jars and led me a short way to a low inn door. I left the donkey tethered at the well so Joseph would know I hadnt gone far. Just as we reached the door a tall harassed-looking man with a sack of grain on his shoulder emerged, caught sight of us and immediately threw down the sack and placed his hands on his hips. “Oh no! I know that look! Were FULL, Bec! Ive already accommodated FIVE of your strays beyond the limit and theres just no more room! Where do you want me to put her? In the stable?” I could see that Bec was squaring up to argue back with equal vigor, but I suddenly interrupted this spousal exchange with an involuntary cry. Both eyes turned to me, then followed my gaze to the small puddle of water that had formed between my feet. I stared at it, dumbfounded. Lucky for me, Bec sprang into action. “Yes! In the stable! Excellent idea Levi! Come and sit down, love. Youll need your strength in a few hours. Levi, you go clear out the old straw and put in new, and put some of the animals outside so theres room for our guests. And find some clean blankets!” Levi, startled into submission by such close proximity to what was clearly “womens business”, did exactly as he was told. An hour later, I was comfortably installed in the stable. Considering that guests were packed in five-to-a-room upstairs, I decided that the stable was probably the best room in the house. It stank, of course, but Bec had laid down clean straw covered with clean blankets to make a bed, and hung more blankets from the rafters so that we had quite a private enclosed little space of our own. And, most touching of all, Bec had brought a manger into this little “room” of ours, filled it with the softest straw, and tucked in blankets to make an unusual but definitely serviceable cradle. Her recommendation was for me to get some rest while I still could, and get her when I thought I needed a midwife to be fetched. “So there you are!” Some strange woman came up to me at the well and started babbling about the baby coming. “Are you alright? Does it hurt very much?” I turned to see Joseph peering anxiously at me through the curtain. “It doesnt hurt at all yet. I dont think its really started. But it will soon – tonight probably.” “Well, you are a clever one, managing to find us private accommodation at this late stage. Arent I lucky to have a wife who can give birth just when its most needed?” He snuggled up spoon-style behind my back and put an arm around my waist to pat my belly. “Should I still be here? Im not supposed to be around when you… when it comes out… am I? Am I supposed to go now or later?” “Lets say later.” I said, curling my aching back into his comfortingly warm belly. I began to drift off, but not before hearing my gentle husband yawn into my ear and say sleepily “Do you smell donkey wee?…” I have no idea what time it was when I woke. As usual, I needed to pee and, slipped out into the enclosure outside to relieve myself. There were a few sheep who had been displaced by our visit, as well as our own donkey. Id forgiven her by this stage, and stroked her side for a moment, then rested my cheek against her flank and inhaled her sweaty, hairy, mammalian smell. There was something comforting about her round, barrel like belly and high wide hip bones which had borne many a foal, when I was so close to birthing myself. I squatted to relieve myself, and as I stood up, a strange feeling rose up under my belly. It was like the tightenings that I had been feeling for the last few moons, but then, not like them. Deeper and drum-like and a little bit breathtaking. I didnt want to go back inside until I was sure what it was, so I sat down on the ground, leaning against the fence. The donkey knelt down too, settling herself just a few feet away. I could see the sliver of a full bright moon rising over the buildings above, and beside it, a star so bright it seemed blue.   Continued Part 3…