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Before you read this chapter (and the rest of the book):
First Prince of Israel is a modern-day scriptural retelling of the Old Testament prophet Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel. I am in no way advocating the practice of marrying more than one person at the same time. The prophet Jacob was asked by God to have twelve sons (and a daughter) and his twelve sons are well documented in history as having filled the earth with multitudes of people. This can be proven by genetic testing and actual historical records. My story is fiction and takes place in modern-day Turkey, in the Paddan Aram area just north of the Syrian border. The hot springs resort where they live actually exists, and it’s beautiful. The characters are fictional, and I’ve taken extreme artistic liberty in telling this story. I’m pretty sure the ancient prophet didn’t have a cell phone or a fancy Mercedes convertible. With all that in mind, enjoy the story!
Joining the land of the living wasn’t as easy as Jacob had hoped. He almost couldn’t look Rachel in the eye at first. As he gave a quick hug to the other girls, Leah and Rachel held each other for a long moment in the kind of embrace that only twin sisters can pull off.
Then Rachel left her sister and wrapped her arms around Jacob. He forgot himself briefly by holding her a second too long and then kissing the top of her head. Leah pursed her lips together, then plastered on a fake smile while hugging Zilpah and Bilhah.
Jacob held out the chair for his wife as the other three girls found their own seats, then he took his place at the head of the table. Small talk was understandably strained as they discussed menu options and gave their orders to the server.
Finally, the five of them were alone at their usual table tucked discreetly into a corner of the restaurant. Jacob didn’t waste a second after the server was out of earshot.
“Rachel, should I assume you have not spoken with your sisters about your vision?”
“No, my love, I have not.” Rachel nodded respectfully. None of them blinked an eye at Jacob referring to the girls collectively as Rachel’s sisters, nor at her calling him my love. If any of them noticed, their faces didn’t give away any shock.
Glancing first at Zilpah and then at Bilhah, Jacob cleared his throat. “We have something we need to tell you.” Without going any further, Jacob reached for Leah’s hand and took Rachel’s hand with his other. Without preamble he spoke with confidence. “Next week I’m taking Rachel as my second wife.”
“I knew it!” Bilhah exclaimed with jubilance. “I knew there had to be more to this arrangement than you guys were letting on. I mean, I thought it would be Rachel first and then Leah, but whatever. I guess Leah is oldest, right?”
Zilpah met Jacob’s gaze across the table, her exotic greenish gold eyes smoldering. “I’m last, aren’t I?”
Bilhah stopped talking and glanced over at her. “Last?”
Zilpah turned to her friend with surprise. “Oh, come on, you had a hunch about Rachel. Don’t tell me you didn’t think you were next and lastly me.”
“What makes you think you’re last?” Jacob asked, embarrassed by how sultry his words sounded, even to his own ears.
Zilpah shrugged with forced nonchalance. “Just a hunch.”
“I’ll make it worth the wait, I promise,” Jacob whispered.
“I have no doubt,” Zilpah whispered. Electricity zinged across the table between them, as they held each other’s gazes.
“Anyway, gosh, will you look at the time?” Leah said, clearing her throat. “The food should be here any second. Maybe we could talk about something else now.”
“I’m still a little bit confused,” Bilhah said with youthful innocence. “Are you having another wedding next week?”
“Just a brief solemn ceremony with the five of us and our father,” Rachel said, giving Jacob’s hand a gentle squeeze. “That, and God’s blessing, are really all we need.”
“Is that, like, legal?” Bilhah asked. “I mean, I know Muslims often take more than one wife, but does the Turkish government recognize that as a legal wedding?”
“I’m an Israeli citizen,” Jacob noted, “but God’s laws supersede all government jurisdictions, and He is who is asking us to enter into this union.”
“Because you had a vision or something?” Bilhah asked.
“I had the vision, actually,” Rachel said. “Jacob needed God to smack him upside the head to get him to understand.” They all chuckled.
“The vision I had the following day wasn’t quite a smack on the side of the head.” Jacob cleared his throat and took himself back to that moment when he saw his wives and posterity laid out before his eyes as if they were standing in front of him. He glanced at Rachel and touched the side of her face. “But, yeah, I needed God to show me the vision before I could believe. And for that I am truly sorry.”
“Leah, did you believe your sister right away?” Bilhah asked, still with creased brows and a confused daze.
“Without question,” Leah said, smiling across the table at her twin. “And I didn’t need a separate vision from God like my doubting husband.” She pushed Jacob’s shoulder playfully, and he took the opportunity to pull her hand to his lips and kiss her knuckles. Then he winked at her subtly and recognized his own hunger reflecting back in her eyes.
“Who had the vegan chee kerfte?” the server asked, breaking the spell and interrupting their conversation.
“That would be me,” Zilpah said, holding up her hand and sitting back for the server to place the dish in front of her.
The tension at the table dissipated as the servers brought out lamb kabobs and rice and stuffing and baked eggplant. Before any of them lifted a fork, they held hands around the table, and Jacob spoke a heartfelt prayer, asking God to bless their food and their little family.
Conversation was easy around the table as they enjoyed dinner together, and then they gave each other hugs at the conclusion of the meal and went their separate ways.
Jacob and Leah kissed all the way up the elevator again and only made it as far as the sofa in the living room before they were in each other’s arms.
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