My name is Leah.
My husband's name is Jacob.
I am his first wife.
Jacob loves his second wife more than me.
My sister's name is Rachel.
She is my husband's second wife.
This is the reality I live with every day. I understand why he doesn't love me. I'm not as pretty as my sister. She has everything good going for her and as her elder sister, I have to step back and let her shine.
I've watched my husband disappear within Rachel's tent more than I care to remember. He goes there without fail. Here... I have to beg him to come to me. I sit staring at the flames in the hearth sadly. What has my father gotten me into? He barely touched me these seven years gone by, not since the morning he discovered he was deceived. Why would he when he had Rachel? I was never very important anyway, not really. I remember the whole situation well...
Father came into the room where we had been weaving and announced that a visitor had come. That was when we saw him for the first time, strong, handsome, young, and already ensnared by Rachel's beauty. I sighed and went right back to sewing. He would never pick me and so he couldn't get Rachel. That was the way it had been and would be.
Then, later on, I heard him ask father for Rachel's hand in marriage... and father agreed! I almost dropped the basket in my hands. The pain I felt at that moment was intolerable. It didn't matter. He was given an ultimatum. He had to work seven years in exchange for Rachel since he couldn't pay the dowry. I fled from there as fast as I could.
I had known this would happen, but why did it hurt even more then than it had before? I clutched my dress and fell to my knees sliding down the wall in my room. I was glad not to have to share a room with Rachel. I don't know how I would have explained my sorrow. I would have to be presentable before supper tonight. I didn't care to show any of them how much they had hurt me. The didn't know and if they did, they didn't care; not particularly.
For seven years after that, I would catch Jacob in the fields toiling hard. Rachel would go to him without fail every afternoon with a jar of water and some food. The one time I went in her place since she was ill, he could barely mask his utter disappointment. I cried myself to sleep that night, I remember, praying that I would get the strength to move on. Perhaps I should resign myself to the fact that I am never going to be loved the way Jacob loves my sister.
Then, a few days before the wedding, father came to me and told me his plan to get me married to Jacob instead of Rachel. One thought rung clear in my mind during the silence that followed his explanation; I couldn't betray my sister. She had been the favourite and gotten more than I ever had. I had every right to be jealous, but she was my sister; the only one I had ever or would ever have. How then, could father ask me to do such a horrible thing to her?
"Father, I cannot. Give Rachel to her. I don't mind that she will be wed before me..."
"I will not allow it I tell you! Now listen to me Leah. You are getting older and the men in these parts are not very interested in you. If you do not do this, Rachel will never be wed. You have to come first. You know the law," he said firmly, then for good measure added, "you will be wed instead of Rachel. What happens in this house is my responsibility."
"But father..." I began, trying to make him see sense.
"I will not have both my daughters dying under my roof of old age because you are deciding to be selfish!" he said. I put a hand to my throat and said no more. He repeated his instructions and left without another glance at me.
I had never seen father that angry with anyone in my life. But now the choice came down to either betraying my sister or preventing her getting married for life. Rachel would be crushed. She had given me tale after tale of how she had dreamed of Jacob or how she had spent the day with him. It had killed me every time I heard it, but it had to be so for her happiness. Now father was asking me to break her confidence in me, to shatter the delicate bond we already held...
Then Rachel came rushing into the room and telling me about her wonderful time in the field with Jacob. I pardoned myself in the middle of her story and walked out. I hadn't the heart to listen any more. I was heartbroken enough. Even if I did go ahead with father's plan and married Jacob, he would never love me. He didn't see in me what he saw in Rachel. It would never be the same.
The wedding day came and father made sure Rachel was not around for it. I took her place as the bride and Jacob took me to his bed that night. I had never felt so close to a human before that, and I felt the most cherished being in the universe. With the way he had treated me and now lay sated with his arm around me, I thought to myself that maybe he would grow to love me in time...
But then I remembered that he had cried out Rachel's name. It was her he was sharing that magic with, not me. I stirred and he awoke to begin again. This time, in the dark, he touched me as if trying to memorise my body. I wept and he kissed my tears away whispering reassurances. His strong arms held me to him and I wept harder knowing that all this love and passion was not for me, would never be for me, but for my sister.
I sat up on out marriage bed, unable to look at Jacob sleeping soundly beside me. The sun rose steadily in the sky and with it, the light that would reveal the truth. It blinded me momentarily since my eyes were so sore from crying. He stirred. I stiffened. He sat up quickly and incredulously stared at my dark hair streaked with one silver line. The moment had come.
"Leah!" he gasped and almost fell out of bed. I could not face him. He touched my shoulder and turned me around then swore and jumped out of bed backing away from him. I looked up at him then and saw the horror that lay there. I turned away unable to believe he thought me so hideous he could not stand the sight of me. I heard him angrily dress and then he tossed my clothes at me. I dumbly put on my clothes still not meeting his gaze.
He grabbed my arm, his fingers biting into my flesh there, but I didn't think voicing my complaint would make him any less vicious. Oh father, what have you gotten me into? He banged on father's door and when it opened, he shoved me in.
"What is this you have done to me? I have served you faithfully for seven years and then you give me the wring bride! I wanted Rachel, was that not clear?" he asked. Each word was a stinging barb that dragged over my heart. No, they didn't care about poor plain Leah. Not father who must have seen this coming, not Jacob who even now was so callously shattering my heart, not even Rachel who would eventually hate me for what I had done.
Jacob did not touch me again. I was sent to a different tent and my husband would not even deign to look at me, let alone speak to me. Rachel came back and was married to Jacob immediately. She did not speak to me for weeks after that and Jacob had been going to her tent ever since. Never again did he show me the tenderness of that one night I spent with him. With me, it was a duty, with Rachel, a pleasure; with the wife he hadn't wanted to begin with, could anyone blame him for being so cold and unloving?
That was why I now sit listening to the happy laughter drifting in from Rachel's tent as I watch the shadows playing on the flap of my lonely tent. He had never once laughed with me in the marital bed. But perhaps if I told him about...
I touched my stomach and smiled. There was hope. I had prayed and God had heard. I was with child. Perhaps this child would bring a very little of Jacob's love my way. Perhaps this time, he would change his mind...