The Unknown Women: The Apostle's Wife (One ~ Simon Peter)
Author's Note: So, I felt a little uncomfortable when I first started writing this. It is very different than my other stories, but still, I am aiming for a historical fiction view. There's a lot of leg room because there's only one passage where Peter's mother-in-law and wife are mentioned. But I hope to be historically accurate to ancient Jewish culture, even though this original story is entirely fiction, based on what little information there is about Peter the Apostle and his family that's recorded in the Bible and traditions recorded by early church fathers. I got interested in the early lives of Jesus' disciples and what it would have been like in their daily lives. Critical reviews are accepted, no flames please, if you do not like the subject matter, please feel free to move on. Thanks = )
Rome - Decades after Christ's ascension
The floor was damp, and water dripped steadily, a droplet at a time from some distant spot. I tried to ignore the sounds of a whiplash against flesh - its victim wailing in pain. His wails echoed through the prison. I closed my eyes and prayed for the poor soul enduring that hardship. Even in the semi-darkness of my cell, I could see my hands folded in prayer as I sat on a single stool the centurion had given us. My husband's fate had been decided by Roman officials. We had been arrested for causing a rebellion to rise amid Nero's reign as emperor and he feared anyone daring to oppose his rule. The spread of Christianity and Christ as our king had done just that. Simon paced back and forth, heavy in his prayers, speaking in Aramaic rather than Greek - as we should have been. Once he'd finished, he released a heavy sigh.
"Simon?" I asked, gently.
"I know, I needed confirmation." he answered, glancing at me.
"You said long ago that you would be willing to die for Him, whatever the cost."
"I know, Tabitha. I was praying for strength to endure it."
I got up and gently touched the side of his face, though his face worn from sun and wrinkles around his eyes showing age, I could see the youthful man I was once betrothed to all those years ago, as he gazed at me.
"He will give you all that you need. I know that He will provide for me too, but I cannot bare to let you go," my voice cracked as I spoke the last few words. "I know I must for the sake of God's kingdom. But I do not think I have ever been more in love with my husband as I am now."
"Remember the Lord. May He bless you, Tabitha." Simon said, embracing me as two centurions came to escort him.
I held his embrace for as long as I was able, remembering all that we had shared and suffered together, all the long years of our lives. It was not necessarily coming to an end, but this life was coming to an end, only to begin new once we were reunited with our Lord.
"Hurry it up, we've an execution to carry out." the taller centurion growled.
Simon released his hold of me and placed a hand on my cheek before turning to leave with the centurions.
"Your execution will be tomorrow," said the second centurion.
I sighed and watched my husband depart - he did not look back but kept his head up as he walked to his fate. I touched the cell door, saying a prayer for him. I looked back at all the years we had shared together, our lives before and with Jesus, our lives after Jesus left. I smiled. I hoped that even after all this, that I would remember it once reunited with our Lord.
A.D. 21 – Galilee – several decades earlier
Tabitha walked with her mother and father to the market on the sunny, breezy morning on a spring day. Her mother had made some goat's cheese early that morning and unleavened bread, a basketful to trade. Tabitha's father carried the basket which carried the goat's cheese wrapped in grape leaves to keep moist. She carried the basket of bread. Her mother touched her shoulder gently as they spotted Simon, her betrothed, and his brother Andrew with John selling their catch of that day.
She saw Simon look up, glancing her way as Andrew touched his shoulder, nodding once towards her. Tabitha glanced at her mother for approval before going. She urged Tabitha forward. She walked to where Simon was. The market day was lively, as any market day was. A cool breeze swept through, lifting the earthen dust around the villagers. Tabitha held her crème colored head scarf to prevent it from flying off her head. She smiled as she and her mother stopped where Simon and his companions were selling fish.
"Would you like some unleavened bread? We prepared it fresh this morning." Tabitha said.
"I would, thank you." Simon answered.
"Shall you join us for supper this evening?" she inquired.
"We will. I hope all is well with our family?"
"Quite well, yes," she responded, "I see the harvest of the sea has been plentiful this season?"
"Indeed, God has blessed us another abundant day. We'll give trade a basketful, if you are interested in a barter business with us. You and your mother always make the best of things." Andrew commented, pouring more fish into a larger bin for show from his boat basket. "Including the fish we catch, would you not agree, Simon?"
"You really know how to compliment us women," she said, with a brief chuckle of amusement. "I wonder at you not having found a wife yet. Hannah has taken quite a shine to you, I think."
Andrew looked at Tabitha curiously as Simon and John laughed.
"Tabitha, you mustn't say such things!" her mother scolded.
"Has she?" he turned his attention to the weaver's tent where a beautiful girl, around the same as Tabitha, stood with her father. Hannah waved quickly, sending Andrew a kind smile.
"Look at him, smitten already, eh Andrew?" Simon teased, playfully.
"Stop your nonsense, brother."
Simon turned his attention back to his betrothed.
"Here is enough fish for tonight's supper, as it appears we will have my brother and John present." Simon said, softly.
He lifted out the bread, handing the loaves to John. He filled her basket plenty with fish.
"Simon, that is more than I can pay for!"
"It is my duty and my privilege to provide for my family, as your husband one day," he replied.
Tabitha smiled and felt her cheeks blush with warmth. Not many girls were as fortunate as she to have had her parents find a husband like Simon – someone who loved their wife. He caught her blush and smiled lightly at her. Their thoughts were distracted as horse's hooves thundered towards them. Dust followed their trail, the Roman eagle towering above their heads. The Roman cavalry made their weekly rounds in checking their stationed villages but today was also tax day. Simon ushered his betrothed and her mother quickly through the back alleys out of the Romans' way.
"I will see you at sundown, get home safely." Simon exclaimed.
Before she turned to leave, he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. Their engagement had nearly completed the year and soon there would be a wedding in Galilee. Tabitha was fifteen, Simon close to twenty-five, Tabitha knew it was common for girls her own age to find husbands now. Two of her childhood friends had married the previous year. Hadassah married Joshua, he was twelve years her senior. Leah married a man by the name of Levi – he was fourteen years her senior but a wealthy man, which her mother and father were pleased with. Leah was well taken care of. Hadassah married a farmer, his harvests often plentiful, though Tabitha did not envy Hadassah marrying farmer.
She much preferred the cool seaside village where Simon housed. Simon did care well for his family and she was eternally grateful for it. Tabitha had much yet to learn about being a wife and one day a mother.
Within the past year, her own mother had taught her to cook, to weave, how to dye cloth, what needed to be done to maintain cleanliness of home, how to make preserves and dried herbs and spices. Many other things were taught, and Tabitha's younger sisters learned beside her. They too would come of age soon to marry.
"Mama," Tabitha called, as they returned home after market day.
"Yes, my love?"
"I am frightened for my wedding night," she began.
"Hush, now Tabitha, you have a long way before that day. You have a man who loves you. You should not think of such things. To think of such things before you are wed is impurity. We told you and Simon to live in purity – as is tradition, after this year is out and you have your wedding, you will leave my home and move with your husband. I will say this between the two of us, you and Simon will become one, that is all I will speak of the matter. Do not ask of it again."
Tabitha nodded, feeling the shame creep up for even thinking such things. It was never spoken of except between husband and wife. Silently, she said a prayer of repentance and released a sigh. She and her mother continued to work in the house until sundown when her father, betrothed, her brother-in-law and John returned.
Tabitha and her mother laid out their meal before them. As head of the household, her father got up to pray and blessed their supper. Tabitha noticed the smiles she got occasionally from Simon. There was laughter and light-hearted conversation that night.
Once they had finished eating, Tabitha and her mother cleared away the table's contents but kept the wine out. Tabitha wiped her hands on a cloth before departing upstairs to the rooftop. Her fears gnawed at her thoughts even as she looked up to the stars and the crescent moon, twinkling softly. An evening breeze gently swept through. Tabitha folded her arms together, drawing her shawl closer in.
"Is it not strange, how vast and endless they are?" Simon asked her, walking up beside her, staring up as she did. "We only see so few."
"I sometimes imagine what it was like for Abraham to stare up as we are, after the Lord told him his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. I could not even begin to count them all."
Look at you, trying to win his affection…a dark voice hissed in the back of Tabitha's thoughts. She frowned, hoping to push them away. Tabitha released a sigh and returned her attention to the world present, looking towards the horizon. A small streak of light blue tinted the line between sky and land, the last of the sunlight dipping away. She could feel herself withdrawing into her own thoughts, those of anxiety and fears of what was to come.
How could she even be marrying someone now? She was just fifteen, but she knew her sense of duty to her family. Tabitha could no longer afford to live in her parent's home, she could not be a burden to them any longer. Simon would provide for her, they would live together soon. How long will he care for you? The voice pestered her again. Simon noticed her expression change.
"What is the matter?" he asked, his brows knitting together in confusion.
"Could I ask you something?"
"Of course," he answered, watching her uneasy movements.
"Why did you choose to wed me?"
"You come from a good family. You are kind, virtuous and thoughtful of others; I admire your confidence and your strength. Though," he paused.
Tabitha tried not to frown, even as Simon chuckled and smiled at her.
"What is it?" she continued.
"I wonder at how many of us marry so young at our parent's arrangement can say that they truly love their wife or husband," he glanced her way, a small smile to reassure her but she seemed not to notice.
"There are some who perhaps do not love right away. Hadassah and Leah seem very much loved by their husbands and they seem to love them in return." Tabitha replied. "Do you think we could love one another like that?"
Simon looked at her puzzled.
"Tabitha," he said, frowning as he felt rather slighted by her words.
She clearly had not realized how much he loved her. He took her hand gently and kissed the back of it, then after holding it in both of his.
"I wanted to marry you because I love you. How could you possibly not have known that?" Simon wondered, distressed. "What is it that has you so troubled?"
"I was afraid that you did not—," she paused, a knot tightened in her throat.
Tabitha looked down, feeling rather foolishly ashamed. She laughed doubtfully at her insensibility towards Simon's own thoughts and affection for her. So often she had convinced herself it was that of friendship, nothing more. She had not once considered what he might have to say or what he thought of.
"I am so sorry, Simon, I have been selfish. I have been so absorbed on myself today."
"I hope you know I cherish you."
She smiled as Simon kissed her forehead gently.
"I feel foolish for doubting you now." Tabitha said, with a chuckle.
"I will do all that I can to be a good husband to you."
"Thank you, Simon. I should go back down. I do not wish my mother to worry over me."
Tabitha descended the stairs, leaving Simon in his own thoughts, gazing up at the stars once more.