sheâd gone this far, she decided she might as well take things a step further.
âHave you talked to your father about it?â she asked. According to custom, Galenâs father should be the one to approach her father about the union.
Galenâs smile vanished. âIâve talked to him about it.â
âIs he opposed to it?â
âNo. But heâs not enthusiastic about it, either. He doesnât think your father would find me suitable.â
âBecause your family is not as wealthy as ours?â That was the obstacle he had implied earlier, when he talked to her in the garden.
âWeâre not even close. No family is as wealthy as yours.â
âThatâs beside the point,â she said. âIf you follow that line of thinking, then there would never be a suitable husband for me.â
âThen I guess the question is, would your father approve?â
âMy father wants whatâs best for me,â she said confidently. âAnd youâre whatâs best for me, Galen.â Her voice wavered with the emotion of saying the words out loud. âIâve loved you for a long time.â
âIâve loved you longer.â
The statement surprised Rebecca into complete silence.
âYou didnât know that?â he asked. âAnd here I thought you always knew what I was thinking.â
She looked at him in amazement as he continued, âIâve been in love with you since almost the first day I met you.â
âBut that would have been . . .â She finally found her voice, but her mind wasnât quite working yet. âI was just eight years old when your family started coming to our house for church.â
âAnd I was ten, and not the least bit interested in girls at the time. But then Iâd never seen a girl as beautiful as you. And then I discovered you were as sweet as you were beautiful. I think it took me two years just to work up the courage to speak to you. And when I did, and you smiled at me, I thought my life had endedâor that it had just begun. I was so confused, I wasnât sure which; I just knew my life would never be the same.â He reached for her hand, bringing it to his lips. âAnd it hasnât.â
Rebecca left her hand in his after he kissed it. She couldnât remember when Galen had said so many words at once. And what sweet words they were.
âIâll speak to my father again,â he told her.
When she was seventeen, Rebecca and Galen had received their parentsâ blessing. But by then the Tenth Legion had arrived in Ephesus. That autumn had been a time of great uncertainty, but Rebecca and Galen continued to make plans for a wedding the following spring. They promised that nothing, not even the threat of persecution, would ever separate them. Of the two of them, Rebecca had thought it would be Galen who faced the greater danger; his shop was in the crowded marketplace that lined the main avenue of the commercial district, and soldiers were often in the area asking questions.
Of course, it turned out that she was the one who became a prisoner for her faith.
On Devilâs Island her dream of marrying and raising a family with Galen had been utterly destroyed, and she had had to come to terms with the grievous loss of that dream.
But then a miracle happened. Almost one year into her life sentence, Rebecca had been released.
As she sailed home to Ephesus, Rebecca had dared to let God rekindle her dream. She couldnât wait to see Galen.
When she got home and got a good look at herself in the mirror, however, she was horrified. Her well-proportioned curves had turned into bony angles. She was thin and gaunt, her eyes sunken. Her once lovely hair was lackluster, her hands were callused and rough.
But it wasnât just the changes in her appearance that concerned her. Rebecca also had a baby, and she didnât know how her fiancÃ© would react. Could he