Wife Number Seven

By: Melissa Brown


I always knew I would share my husband.

I was four when my father took his second wife, Mother Peg, and seven when Mother Louise joined our family. He could have stopped then. After all, in our faith, a man could enter heaven as long as he had three wives. But my father didn’t stop there. Next there was Mother Rylee and finally Mother Anne.

I should note that Mother Anne, who is only five years older than me, was just nineteen when she became my fifth mother. The exact age I was when I married Lehi Cluff, when I became his seventh wife.

My mother was a first wife and I had dreamed of becoming a first wife, as well. I dreamed of having a husband all to myself, if only for a little while. Some wives, like my mother, were lucky—she had five blissful years with my father before the prophet’s revelation that he marry Mother Peg. I wanted that too.


It seemed unfathomable.

Instead, I’m wife number seven. My husband shares my bed one night a week. And although I don’t love him, not in the way I’d always hoped I’d love the man I’m bound to for eternity, I find myself dreading the moment he walks out my bedroom door every seven days.

My existence is a lonely one. Lehi relieves that loneliness for the twenty-four hours when I pretend I’m the only one he lays with.

And I do pretend.

Every waking hour.

Chapter 1

“Brinley, wake up.” The raspy voice interrupted my dreams as fingers poked at my ribs. My sister wife Aspen stood above my bed, urging me to wake. My eyes were heavy and refused to cooperate, and the nudging grew more persistent. “You must wake up!”

“What is it?” I grumbled sleepily.

Aspen pulled me to a seated position, and pulled off the covers. “It’s happened. They’re here.”

I glanced at the clock. It was four a.m. . . . way too early for cryptic statements that needed translation.

“What are you talking about?” I yawned, wiping the sleep from my bleary eyes.

“Rebecca’s been reassigned.”

That word . . . reassigned . . . it woke me up. Completely. My stomach felt heavy, a brick of apprehension weighing it down.

“To Lehi? To us?” I asked, swallowing hard. An eighth wife, one with four children. Not only would I be the only childless wife of Lehi Cluff, but now I would no longer be the last one to enter the family. My lies would catch up to me. Rebecca’s reassignment would see to that.

“Yes. The prophet had a revelation.”

“And Elder Jameson?” I asked, my fingers trembling as I held them against my lips. I knew what had happened. Burt Jameson had lost one of his wives and four of his children. They would no longer call him Father. They would no longer give him hugs and kisses. Those tokens of affection would be transferred to Lehi, a man who didn’t even know their names. He was their new father and there was nothing they could do about it.

Aspen shrugged, her eyes cold and dismissive. “I guess he’ll learn, won’t he?”

Aspen was the sixth wife of my husband, Lehi Cluff. She was devout, a true follower of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as well as of the prophet and his teachings. Already the mother of three children, she was only one year older than me and had been married to Lehi since she turned sixteen. Since joining Lehi’s family, I’d suspected that Aspen was assigned to me—to watch out for me, to keep me in line, and to remind me of the virtues that were expected of me. She was my sister wife, yes, but she was also the closest thing I had to a “friend” in my new family.

We were different, so very different. Aspen believed what she was told; she didn’t question things the way I did. She didn’t lie awake at night, wondering if there was more to life outside the compound. Aspen was satisfied with her place in this world and never wanted to be a first wife, or to have a monogamous husband. She’d always wanted to be a young bride so that she could bear as many children as possible, as was expected of her.

Aspen was the perfect example of plural marriage.

I, however, was not. As far as anyone could see, I was an obedient, even-tempered, and loyal wife. I helped with the cooking, the cleaning, and the child-rearing. I’d never tried to secretly cut my hair or wear the color red. But I had my secrets. A voice inside told me I didn’t belong here, that there was another life waiting for me. And with each passing year, that voice became louder.

“Wake up and get dressed,” Aspen urged me. “Rebecca’s going to stay with you for the next few days until we can get her settled into her own area.” She crossed the room to my small closet, then pushed my dresses aside to make room for Rebecca’s things.

“And the children?”

“They’re sleeping in the common area with the other boys.”

“Are they okay?”

A disgusted huff left her mouth. Aspen stopped and turned to me with a look that radiated superiority. “Brinley, this is not the time. Right now you’re needed with Lehi and Rebecca. Now, get up!”

“Yes, Aspen,” I muttered.

I dressed in my standard garb: long underwear, long-sleeved cotton dress, and shoes. My hair was tousled from sleep and needed to be brushed, but there simply wasn’t time. Aspen stood at my doorway, staring at me impatiently. I pushed a few stray hairs back into the messy bun atop my head and followed her down the long hallway to the common area of our large home.