In all the years I had known him, I had never seen him more heartbroken. The way his head hung low, the utterly lost look in his eyes, tugged at my heart. I wished that there was something, anything, that I could say, but I knew that I would have to be careful, very careful, not to anger him. His name was Jacob, and he was my husband. He had just lost the love of his life, my younger sister, Rachel.
I had been shocked when my father had told me that I was to marry Jacob many years ago.
"But Father, you know that it is Rachel that he loves, not me. He has worked for you these seven long years trusting that you would give him Rachel's hand in marriage, as you promised."
My father shook his head. "Custom dictates that the older daughter must marry before the younger one does. Besides, it will be a good test of his love for Rachel, to see whether he is willing to work a total of fourteen years for her hand."
I had no doubt whatsoever that indeed he would be willing.
"But Father, I have no desire to marry a man who doesn't love me. Both of them would only end up hating me in the end. I do not wish to be a party to this deception."
"Nevertheless, it is the custom, and I must abide by it." I knew that I had no choice. As an unmarried woman, I was completely subject to the desires of my father, and had no voice of my own in what my future was to be.
I dreaded the moment Jacob would lift my veil and see that it was my face underneath it rather than that of his beloved Rachel. When it finally came, I looked into his eyes and saw something die there. He said nothing, just dropped the veil and quietly walked away.
I walked up to him and gently touched his arm. "I'm so sorry, Jacob."
"It isn't your fault, Leah. You're not to blame. I know that you had no choice in the matter." He sounded so tired, defeated.
I dreaded seeing Rachel again. When I did, I took one look at her wounded face and vehemently wished that I were somewhere else, anywhere else but in my sister's presence.
"I'm sorry, Rachel. Father made me. I didn't want to do it, but he wouldn't listen."
"You lay with him last night." It was a statement, not a question. At least there was no venom, only resignation, in it.
I nodded almost imperceptibly.
"Did he please you?" Her bottom lip was quivering.
I shrugged. "Well enough. The whole time he wished that it was you rather than me, you know."
She began to cry, and I put my arm around her and cried with her.
Although devoid of the passion he felt for Rachel, my marriage to Jacob was happy enough. He never treated me unkindly, never voiced his disappointment over the way things had turned out, although I often found him gazing into the distance with longing in his eyes.
The baby awakened and began to cry. Benjamin. Jacob's son and my nephew. The child whose birth had cost my sister her life. I picked him up and cuddled him, wishing that my dry breasts could offer him what he needed. The wet nurse came and took him from my arms. She was only a servant, no relation to either Jacob or myself. How I envied her.
The sky was beginning to turn dark, and stars were beginning to twinkle. How brightly shines the moon at night after the sun has set, I thought. The sun had set for Jacob, never to rise again. Would he ever be able to find solace in the moonlight?
"Leah." His voice startled me. I turned to see his sad eyes looking my way and began to feel anxious. I knew that grief sometimes causes one to say harsh things that he or she will regret later. Did Jacob resent me and wish that it were me who had died instead of Rachel?
He sat down and motioned for me to sit beside him.
"You were always there for me, Leah." His voice was warm, steady, comforting. "Every step of the way, through the good times and the bad, I always knew that I could count on you. It must have been so hard for you, knowing how I felt for her, how we felt for one another, and yet you were always so kind to us both. There was never a trace of jealousy in your words or actions. You never resented the time I spent with her, the things I shared with her..." He cleared his throat, wiped a swift arm across his tear-laden eyes.
"I just want you to know, Leah...in case I never told you how much you mean to me...well, I'm telling you now." He smiled awkwardly, and I smiled back. We hugged gently, united in our grief, seeking comfort in one another.
The moon will never shine as brightly as the sun, that much is true. Yet she has her own delicate, unique glow that lends light and warmth to her surroundings. As my husband and I sat quietly together, I felt a deep peace in the midst of the overwhelming sorrow.