My Own Flesh and Blood
Nuray didn’t remember many of the events of the next few days after she and her daughter left the hollow and found a suitable hiding place deep within the main city. But one night, by candlelight Nuray sat up late thinking about her life and what it had become. She watched her little girl as she slept and thought once again about the harrowing escape the two of them had had only a week ago.
If only she could find some way to provide for her Simay better than the scraps she was bringing home now; but she knew she would never be able to find real employment without giving herself away. The people knew Nuray from seeing her preside over the worship of Diana every sixth day of the week, but few people had ever seen Simay. The priestess had considered revealing her daughter, but every time she thought about it, a sense of dread came over her.
Many of her fellow priestesses had suspected her pregnancy, but Nuray had taken steps to allay those suspicions. Nuray wore voluminous robes during every public appearance; she carefully hid every bout of morning sickness, every ache of her tired back and swelling ankles. She could not bear to do away with the only thing in the world that she felt she could love besides Diana.
Only one other person had been witness to the birth of Simay – an old midwife – dead now three years – who Nuray had contacted out of desperation a few hours before Simay had been born. She had thanked Diana that all had gone well with the delivery, and that Simay had been a beautiful, quiet baby.
In carrying her daughter full term – in conceiving her at all – Nuray had committed a vile sin in the eyes of her fellow priestesses. Every priestess, following the example of their goddess, must never bear children or do anything that might facilitate it. If the temple ever discovered that she had had any dealings with any of the worshipers, Nuray would lose her position – she would be cast out of the city, or even killed, depending on the people’s wishes.
No one must ever know about Simay’s true origins… Ever.
Three years after Nuray and her daughter went into hiding, Simay developed a serious illness; every breath was excruciating, every movement torment. She had a high fever that would not break, no matter what Nuray did. Even her prayers to her goddess did not seem to help the girl.
Nuray cried out in frustration to Diana. “You promised me! You promised to preserve my bloodline!”
There was no answer.
In desperation, Nuray left their hovel to find help, promising her little moon beam that she would return soon.
Nuray clasped a veil about her face in the hope that no one would recognize the missing former high priestess of Artemis Diana behind the thick cloth.
She cursed under her breath at every unanswered healer and magician’s door she knocked on. No one seemed to be home – an oddity in the middle of the day.
Hours after she left Simay, she knocked on one final door – the most well known spell-caster in the city. Nuray knocked furiously over and over, not even waiting for a response between knocks, but to no avail. No one – not even a household servant heard her desperation.
Nuray ran back down the street, tears streaming down her face as she went. After several city blocks, the priestess stopped in an alley and broke down completely, her face in her hands. She did not even bother to pull her veil up.
As she wept, the harsh afternoon light glinted off of her tears and a dry wind scratched at her exposed face.
A hand gently squeezed Nuray’s shoulder. Startled, Nuray looked up at the unfamiliar face of a woman. The priestess was so shocked that she forgot to re-cover her face. When she realized what she had done she looked away in fright.
“Don’t be afraid.” The woman said kindly as she knelt beside Nuray. “What’s wrong? Maybe my husband and I can help.”
“I don’t think so…” Nuray mumbled. “I don’t even know who you are.”
“We came to Ephesus five years ago. We make and sell our tents in the market, and we’ve just returned to our home for the day. We don’t have much, but what we have is yours if it will help you.”
Nuray bit her lip in indecision. There was a chance this woman would recognize her since Nuray had only been absent from the temple for half the time this woman and her husband had been living in the city. If this woman remembered her, it would not only endanger her life, but her little Simay would never get the help she needed. The thought flashed through her mind that this strange woman was Simay’s only real chance, and she had to take it to try to save her precious daughter.
Nuray took a chance and looked into the woman’s eyes. To her surprise, she did not sense any deception in this craftswoman. “Okay, tent-maker. I accept your help.”
The woman smiled, and helped Nuray get back to her feet. “What is it you need, my friend?”
Nuray’s heart clenched when she heard the word “friend.”
“It’s my little girl. She – She’s very sick… I’ve been looking for a doctor, a spell-caster, anyone who could help me… but I can’t find one person…” Tears spilled down her cheeks again.
“It’s okay. I’ll go get my husband and we’ll come with you to your home.”
The woman ran across the street to a small house where a donkey was yoked to a wagon. A few minutes later the woman came out with her husband and invited Nuray to get into the wagon. The priestess hid her face in her veil as she sat in the front of the wagon with the woman’s husband to give him directions to her home.
Before the wagon had completely stopped in front of the old house, Nuray jumped out of the wagon and hurried inside. The tent-makers came into the house, following closely behind her.
Simay lay on the bed shivering, her body burning up with deadly fever.
When the couple saw the little girl, they came instantly over to her bedside.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before.” The woman whispered to her husband.
“It doesn’t matter to God: He can heal anything.” He replied quietly.
“I know.” The woman said to her husband before looking over at Nuray. “We would like to pray over her, if you’ll allow it.”
Not fully understanding what the woman meant, Nuray replied, “I’ve already tried that… But I’m willing to try almost anything.”
Without any further word, the woman and her husband knelt, one on each side of the little girl’s sickbed, and bowed their heads.
Nuray’s eyes widened at the first word the man said.
“Father,” he began, “we know that every child is precious in Your sight, and this woman’s child needs healing right now. If it be Your will Lord, heal this little girl, and give her a chance to know Your love in her life. I pray this in the name of Your dear Son, our risen Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.”
“Y-you’re Christians!” Nuray said in horror. Her goddess would surely punish her for this treachery.
“Yes, we are. I am Aquila, and this,” he stood and gestured toward his wife, “is Priscilla. We came to Ephesus with Paul the first time he came through here on his way back to Jerusalem.”
“You didn’t tell m – ”
“Mama…?” the small voice of her little girl quelled Nuray’s rage. “Can I have some water?”
Forgetting the couple, Nuray put a hand to her daughter’s forehead and discovered that the fever was completely gone. Only a sheen of sweat remained as proof that it had ever been there in the first place.
“Oh Simay, my little moon beam! Of course you can.” The woman wrapped her daughter in her arms and buried her face in the girl’s straight auburn hair while crying tears of relief.
After she'd let go of her daughter again and brought a cup of water to the child, she turned to Aquila and Priscilla.
“Why did you help me?”
“Because you needed it.” Priscilla replied.
“But, I’m not a Christian like you. I follow Artemis Diana.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or not. Our God is a God of mercy.” Aquila paused. “Let me ask you one thing.”
Nuray nodded reluctantly.
“Did Diana heal your daughter?”
The question hit Nuray hard. Diana had given her word that she would protect Nuray and her descendants, but where was Diana when her little girl was at death’s door?
“I will not dishonor the goddess, not even for my own flesh and blood,” the priestess thought. She dared not admit Diana’s failure to two Christians, and she glared at them silently.
“Jesus Christ came to this earth to give us life –”
“I don’t want to hear it, tent-maker!” Nuray clapped her hands over her ears in defiance. “Get out of my house! Get out now!” Nuray pointed an insidious finger toward the half-open front door.
“We will go,” the man called Aquila said, “but may we at least know your name?”
“My name is no concern of yours, Christian.” The woman spat out the label as if it were poison. “Now go!”
Aquila and Priscilla walked quietly out of the humble house and got back into their wagon to start the quiet trip home.