Chapter 64: The Mission

“Tell me again why we have to go with you,” Prisca demanded, the three of them sitting at the shop a few days later. Aquila and Paul exchanged a glance and then looked away. They reminded Prisca of guilty school boys, caught in some embarrassing infraction.

The question was directed to Paul, but Aquila tried to answer. “If you haven’t noticed, Prisca, business has been slow since winter. Rumor has it there’ll be another grain shortage next winter. People aren’t paying for awnings when they may need their coin to buy bread. We were thinking,” he nodded at Paul, “that Ephesus looks good. A steady grain supply from the interior of the province. Lots of travelers and pilgrims to buy tents and tarps.” He looked at her hopefully, wanting her to see the sense of their proposal.

“Besides,” Paul jumped in, “I plan to start a church in Ephesus. First a quick trip to Jerusalem. Then on to Antioch for the winter. But Ephesus by spring.” He reached up and scratched his head. “I was hoping you could do for me there what you did here, Prisca. Learn the city while I’m gone. Teach me what you’ve learned when I get back.” Like Aquila, he hoped she would see.

“But this is my home now! We’ve got too much invested in these people. How can we just turn our backs on them and sail away?”

Prisca knew she had to walk a fine line. The move had been decided for her. She’d had no say in the matter. For principle’s sake, she needed to offer enough resistance to make Aquila remember and think twice before excluding her in the future. But as it became clear that Paul was moving on, the idea of leaving with him had nagged at Prisca. Now, for reasons of her own, she wanted to go. So she couldn’t resist the idea too strongly. Aquila might relent.

“There has to be something more than slow tent sales to make us leave Corinth.”

There was. Tucked inside Aquila’s tunic was a summons to appear in court the following month. The charges involved the sale of inferior products and breach of contract. They came as a surprise to Aquila—he’d never had a dissatisfied customer. But when he read the name of the man who’d brought the charges—Berekiah, son of Jubal—he knew the charges were fabricated, merely a means to cause trouble for him and his wife.

The summons burned against his chest, as palpably threatening as the man who brought the suit. When Aquila showed the summons to Paul, his friend just pursed his lips and nodded. It was only the beginning. There would be more of the same ahead.

Both of them thought it best not to show the document to Prisca. Shades of Rome.

It was the summons that started Aquila thinking. Perhaps they should leave with Paul, shield Prisca from Berekiah’s threatening bulk. And it was the summons that started Paul thinking along similar lines. He’d grown accustomed to the tailor and his wife, dependent on them.

For her part, Prisca had also discovered a reason to leave Corinth—though it had nothing to do with vengeful countrymen and trumped-up lawsuits. She discovered, in the days following Paul’s announcement that he was leaving, a growing reluctance to let him go … a mother’s resistance to the idea of launching her son into a dangerous world without his mother’s protective presence.

Prisca had decided she wanted to leave Corinth. But her reasons were simpler than Aquila’s … more visceral. She could not let Paul go. So, she was determined to go with him.

Paul shrugged his shoulders at Prisca’s statement about slow tent sales. “There are always reasons to stay and reasons to go,” he told her. “In the end, the decision isn’t a matter of reasons but of God’s will.” He gestured in a way that suggested the decision was out of his hands. “God wants me to move on. I know it. And, for some reason, God wants the two of you to go with me. I know that as well. Can you trust me in this, Prisca?”

She worried her lower lip for a time, grateful to have a reason to give in, but careful not to show that gratitude. Aquila still needed training.

Finally, though, she relented. “Well,” she held up her hands in surrender, “if you’re gonna bring God’s will into it …”

She started to chuckle quietly. “What was it Silas said? ‘Who am I to argue with God?’” She looked at Aquila, remembering their first time in Stephanas’s house, her first taste of forbidden food, her friendship with Stauria. “That question has gotten us in real trouble, hasn’t it?” she asked her husband with a smile.

And then, placing a hand on Aquila’s arm, she turned to Paul. “If God wants us to go with you, we won’t argue. But he keeps leading us to hard places, Paul. Does it ever end?”

Paul looked at her and felt his heart fill—out of love for these two, from memories of the hard places he’d gone himself and had yet to go. He gave a tight smile and said, simply, “It hasn’t yet.”

[Next Chapter]

[Beginning of the novel]

© 2012 by Tim Woodroof. Reproduction of this material requires permission from the author.