Elizabeth cautiously approached the softly sobbing lump curled on the ground. “You ok?”
Leah looked up and sniffled. “Besides the fact that I just caused my best friend to be stolen from me? Yeah, I’m fine." She shifted her weight to look at her ankle. "I think it’s just sprained.”
“Come on. I’ll help you up.” Elizabeth offered her hand.
Leah was grateful but couldn’t accept. “They won’t bother with me. He said I’m too weak. But if they find you…” Leah took a deep breath and let out a huff. What she’d just experienced gave her the determination to speak to Elizabeth more firmly than she’d ever spoken to anyone: “Go. Send my brother to find me.”
After watching Elizabeth disappear over the hill, Leah squeezed her eyes shut, trying to erase from memory her most recent experiences. She blocked out the world by resting her forehead on her arms. She had never simultaneously longed so strongly for both complete solitude and the company of a friend.
Elizabeth had gotten out of bed that morning without trying to sneak a few extra minutes of sleep. She went straight to her loveliest dress and took particular care in fixing her hair as she hummed a catchy tune.
It was dancing day.
Girls from all over town gathered at the road with nothing but smiles. Elizabeth found herself listening to the conversation of the girls beside her. Leah and Rebecca began talking about their siblings and telling Sarah their favorite places to sit and look at the stars.
Another girl, who had been tip-toeing up behind them to avoid stepping in anything that would ruin her dainty shoes, joined them by saying, “You guys actually watch the stars? Outside? I mean, the stars are great for a minute, but then they get boring.”
Rachel was Rebecca’s older sister, but their differences were unending.
“Ok, ladies. Let’s do what we came here for,” Leah suggested. That was all that was needed for the festivities to begin with a hundred women quickly joining in.
As the dancing progressed, so did the laughter. But everything ceased when the women noticed scores of men seeping through the rows of corn growing on the other side of the road.
“What do you suppose they’re doing?” Leah asked.
“I don’t know, but I don’t like the looks of it,” Rebecca whispered back.
“Of course the sight of so many handsome men wouldn’t appeal to you,” Rachel remarked.
Just then, the first man grabbed a dancer and began rushing her down the road.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked with growing concern.
“Home” was his gruff reply. By then, dozens of other men were leaving with their own chosen women.
“This is Benjamin’s family,” one lady yelled.
Word passed through the crowd of women that these men were looking for wives. The thought of that kind of marriage was enough to make Sarah break into a run. Leah followed close behind, but Rachel took a step towards the men. As she did, Rebecca reached to pull her back, but a man had already taken hold of her. To Rebecca’s horror, a strong hand also caught her own wrist. She struggled it free just as he grabbed her neck with his other hand. She fought him, screaming, but it was no use.
Elizabeth stood frozen, torn between whether to attempt helping Rebecca or keep running away. Seeing Elizabeth, Rebecca knew what she was thinking.
“Run, Elizabeth!” she shouted as loud as she could. The chaos around seemed to disappear as they exchanged understanding glances. Reality quickly hit again as Rebecca was shoved down the road. Elizabeth dashed away. When Rebecca looked back, she was relieved to see the swiftness with which Elizabeth fled.
Up ahead and to her left, Elizabeth soon saw Leah on her knees.
Sarah had turned back to help Leah stand and walk home after her fall. They didn’t get far before one man caught up. Sarah screamed at him, not recognizing her own voice. She just couldn’t let him take Leah.
“Can’t you see she’s hurt!”
Joseph looked at Sarah with sympathy in his eyes. He gripped her arm firmly but not painfully. His eyes were so sincere that she didn’t try to fight him. He looked down and explained, “I only need one.” Nodding towards Leah he said, “She’s too weak.” He paused. Looking up, he added quietly, “I’m sorry,” and led Sarah away.
Loosely based on Judges 21:23
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