The misery is over. The terrible times are past. There is no more competition, no more pleading for time. There are no more games to win or lose. All that is left is the life I’ve always wanted, the man I’ve always loved, the end of the patient waiting, the last of the sad longing, new possibilities.
But she is dead, the sister of my youth, the playmate of my childhood, the sweet shadow of my past.
How we laughed in those days, when the lambs were born and wiggled their little tails for us, when our family had a great feast and we all dressed up in our brilliant best and received presents for our charms. As little girls we giggled and talked our secret thoughts, played mothers and babies, and dreamed of wonderful princes, bridal dresses, loved and laughed. We were quiet around our father, because he stood no nonsense, and was quite severe. But we knew how to manage him, with shy little laughs, big pleading eyes and dancing steps. We knew how to play him, and when, for he was only daddy. He frightened us when that servant came back with his tongue cut out for answering back. So we never did that. Mummy would silence us with her finger, and we would immediately go quiet. But Mummy had her ways too, to get the things she wanted from him. She had only to look at him a certain way, and he would say “Alright, do it. Whatever you want, do it.”
We were so close then. Life was very sweet.
But then everything changed. A man came to town. He was a relative, he said, and he was willing to marry. He wanted her, my younger sister. I thought my heart would stop beating because father agreed. The only thing was that he had to work seven years for her. I panicked then, because the older must marry first, but he had agreed for her.
Seven years flew by and still there was no suitor for me. My father was a very hard man, and I cried many tears because there was a husband for my sister, but none for me. What would happen to me. Would no-one ask for me? Were they all afraid of my father? They said my tears would weaken my eyes, but I could not stop. She was very beautiful, they all said, but what would happen to me? Would I be left to care for mother for the rest of my days? To be a servant in my father’s house?
The seven years were up, and still I had no suitor. Her marriage was prepared, and Zilpah came to me and said
“Here, get dressed for your wedding.”
What wedding? I had no suitor.
“The older sister must marry first.” And she began preparations. “Here, you must cover your skin with this perfume. You must smell exquisite.”
“Your father has told me that you are to be the bride tonight. Rachel’s turn will come later. Do not argue. He has decided this.”
Confused, I obeyed. To disobey was to die. The marriage took place, but I covered my head. I was so ashamed to do it, but it would be easy to love him. He was a good man.
In the morning after the marriage I thought he would explode when he saw my face. There was such a fight. I wished for death. Daddy let him marry my younger sister a week later, and then I was dismissed but I carried his child.
After that I had to negotiate with my little sister whenever I wanted to sleep with our husband, because he loved her. I used to weep so much. I had six sons and a daughter for him, but still he loved her, even though she could not bear children. I learned, in the end, to trust his God, who used to listen to my prayers. “Patience,” I would hear at the end of my tears. If I couldn’t have his heart, then I could have the love of his God. Yahweh became my great comfort, and the children were my joy.
Eventually she had two children, but she died giving birth to the second. My little sister! Why was it this way? Beloved companion of my childhood, and first wife of my husband, called to be with her ancestors, left me with my love.
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