“Daughters of Ishmael” by Annaliese Lemmon

Mahalath smiled as she watched each of her sisters by the fire. Whatever the feud between Laman and Nephi, worsened with the death of Lehi, at least the daughters of Ishmael could still enjoy time together. Huldah was showing the dyes she had created from the plants and bugs she had discovered. Jerusha appraised the cloth while Elisheba examined the sample plants.

But little Adah (all right, she wasn’t so little anymore) wasn’t participating in any of it. She played with her infant, head down, not looking at anybody. Mahalath scooted closer to her. “Is something wrong?”

Adah looked up, eyes blinking rapidly. “I’m fine.”

Mahalath pursed her lips. Adah always blinked when she was upset. “Come on, you can tell me. What’s going on?”

Adah shook her head. “It’s nothing.” But as she spoke, a tear started to trickle down her cheek.

Huldah fell quiet. Elisheba crawled over to Adah’s other side. “Adah, it’s all right.”

“It’s not all right!” Adah buried her face in her infant’s body. “We’re never going to get to do this again!”

Elisheba rubbed Adah’s back. “I know it seems that way, but we convinced our stiffnecked husbands to let us get together tonight. We can do it again.”

Adah only sobbed in response.

Mahalath placed one hand on Adah’s knee and glanced at Huldah and Jerusha. Why weren’t they saying anything? Jerusha just folded Huldah’s cloth together while Huldah rubbed her fist against her mouth. Were they keeping something from them? There was no reason for the five of them couldn’t get together, unless… “Is Nephi making you leave home, again?”

Adah looked up at Mahalath, eyes wide. So, Mahalath had guessed right. They’d already left Jerusalem and Bountiful. Would Nephi never find a place to settle?

Jerusha glared at Mahalath. “Do you really think he’ll be safe if he stays?”

Mahalath shrank under her oldest sister’s gaze. True, she had already warned Jerusha twice that Laman seemed angry enough to carry out his threat to kill Nephi. Then while Jerusha had run to tell Nephi, Mahalath had hidden at Jerusha’s house in the hope that Laman wouldn’t discover that his wife had been the reason he couldn’t find Nephi. As overbearing as Nephi could be, Adah didn’t deserve to be a widow.

“So, when do you leave?” Elisheba’s voice was little more than a whisper.

Jerusha and Huldah exchanged glances. “Tonight,” Jerusha said. “If you could, try to keep Laman and Lemuel from investigating our houses. The longer it takes for them to notice that we’re gone, the less likely they’ll be able to follow us.”

“We can do that,” Elisheba said. “Though you would think that you’ve had enough traveling in the wilderness. It won’t be the same without you.”

Mahalath stared at the fire. No, it wouldn’t. While Nephi was strict and overbearing, she had never feared him like she had her husband. Where was she going to go to escape from Laman’s wrath if her sisters left? “Take me with you.”

Though Mahalath’s voice was quiet, it drew everyone’s attention. “What about your children?” Huldah asked.

“Laman’s teaching them to beat your children, and shouts at me if I try to intervene.” Mahalath drew her knees up against her chest. “I’m so sick of it.”

Adah reached her arm around Mahalath. “Of course you can come. We’ll take care of you.”

“You’re going to leave me?” Elisheba said. “Alone?”

“You can come too.” Adah beamed through the tears still sticking to her face. “This must be why I felt like I needed to see you one last time.”

“I don’t know.” Elisheba bit her lip. “We finally have a place to call home. I can’t just leave my kids, my husband.” She looked to Mahalath.

“But you know the Lord speaks to Nephi,” Adah said. “How will you know what to do without him?”

Elisheba snarled. “Yes, how will I know what to do without Nephi criticizing us every single day?”

Mahalath held her hands out. “That’s enough.” She didn’t need reminding how frustrating Nephi could be. “Elisheba, just promise to cover for us as long as you can.”

Elisheba’s face fell. “All right.” She took a deep breath. “I’m going to miss you.”

Mahalath wiped tears from her eyes. “And we’ll miss you. Take care of my kids. Try to teach them to be kind.”

Elisheba nodded.

“Then I better go pack.” Mahalath stood, throat thick. This time tomorrow, she would be free of this feud. If only she didn’t have to trade one family for another.