T he map. The map. The piece of parchment that stares at her, mocking. Aster throws down her quill and buries her head in her hands.

The door of the study opens. Aster looks up. Is there nowhere she can be alone?

Clara stands, her eyes round and bright. “Aster,” she says, slightly breathless, “you must come.”

“Ask Regina,” Aster says. She picks up the quill, allows it to hover atop the parchment, as if she knows the marks she must draw.

Clara shakes her head. She draws close, and takes Aster’s hand. She tugs.

At her sister’s touch, a flash of anger passes through Aster.

She scrapes back her chair and rises, pushing past Clara.

The front door is open. Just outside, lying on the street, is a large man.

Aster steps forward, kneels down. A gentile, no doubt. His face is pale, but still with a pinkish hue. There is a slight twitch in his shoulder.

Alive. Relief floods through her. The man is alive.

She shudders to think of what may happen were a gentile stranger to be found dead in the Jewish quarter of the city.

Clara hovers over her. Aster turns and speaks clearly. “Find Papa.”

Clara nods and disappears.

The man is huge: broad shouldered and tall. His hair is dark and curly, a small pack is beside him. A man on his travels. What is he doing here, in the Call?

Clara returns a few moments later. Papa cannot be found, she says. “But I have called Sara, and she, her husband.”

A shadow falls over them. Elisha, Sara’s husband, looks down at them in concern. “What shall we do with him?” he asks.

Aster fumbles for an answer. They cannot simply leave him. The man is ill, or maybe overcome by fatigue. But to allow a gentile man into their home… if he is there overnight, and the guards find out, then Papa will be fined. Father Garcon will preach a sermon about the poisonous Jews.

She looks down again. The man’s face grows waxy. “Fetch a glass of wine,” she orders Clara.

Clara returns with a goblet filled with wine. Elisha puts his arm around the man’s back and hauls him slightly off the ground. Aster sets the goblet at the man’s lips, gently tips. The purple wine simply dribbles down his chin.

“It is of no use,” she says. She lifts the goblet and spills the wine onto the ground; no one may touch it now, for it has been raised to the lips of a gentile.

Elisha struggles under the man’s weight. “He should be taken inside,” he says. “Out of the street. His head should be sponged with cold water. He must be attended to.”

By now, a crowd is gathering.

Elisha clicks his fingers. “Come, come. We must act.”

But Aster thinks of Jocef. Do not hide your eyes from what may be born of your actions. If she takes him into their home, Papa may be punished. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 572)