Rain plinked on the roof, a soothing sound far outweighed by the splattering of rain in the puddles. The dampness soaked into my clothes and settled into my bones. The small blaze in the brazier finally gave up the fight against the cold and went out. I shivered.
Slipping the roped leather sandals from my feet, I tossed them to the corner of my bed and tucked my feet under me to warm them. I succeeded in chilling the only part of my body that had any warmth left. I brushed dirt from the thin sheet, my hand found a worn place and my broken nail caught a thread, tearing a hole in the only thing I owned between me and the cold winter.
The bed on which I sat, and the box it filled, for it could not be called a room at all, belonged to the man whose back I was watching. His coat was thick with animal fur and his turban was wound around his head in thick braids with a double portion protecting his neck. I didn’t have to see his face. It held a permanent expression of displeasure even when he was taking his pleasure, if you know what I mean. He snarled his words. As each day passed into night he would allow man after man to look in my box, and when they would shake their heads refusing me, his disposition got increasingly malevolent.
I know what they saw. I had no comb so my hair was ratty and dirty. I had no bath so my body was caked with dirt and grime. I had no perfume so the stink was unbearable. I was not old in years, but I was very old in experience.
So I dreamed.
My feet were in soft, hand-worked leather slippers. My body was draped with silk and a girdle of gold about my small waist. I smelled of the finest perfume and my hair was soft against my cheek. My husband settled a stole of softest fur around my chilled shoulders. I lifted my cheek for his kiss and waved him on his way. As soon as I heard the door close, I rose and powered myself. Without a thought to the babes in their cribs, I ran to meet my lover. I melted in his arms. His strength was beyond bearing. His weight was a seal upon my heart. His breath was sweet and his passion was intense. I savored the glow of pleasure. I craved it. More and more I needed the release of it. I dressed in the gifts of my husband. I ate what he gave me but I craved pleasure from another.
I tried to recall my first lover. His face was blank above me. I was not married then. I was free to choose when I would take pleasure. I flitted from one to another, tasting what was offered and offering myself for tasting. Sensuous pleasure lasts for such a fleeting moment. I craved it more and more so I became the party girl, going home with whomever I could coax into my bed, far grander than the one I sat upon at the moment. I gathered gifts from my lovers… fig trees and grape vines. I had a forest. After I married, I saw no reason to change my ways. He knew what I was when he married me. So what? Yes… Yes… He gave me all I could ever have wanted. But, he also gave me children! My body changed and bloated and I thought I would never get it back. When I did, I ran to the lover I had seduced before the pregnancy. He didn’t want me! He slammed the door in my face!
I went to the next one. He said I disgusted him… a far different tune he had been playing in my bed. I met wall upon wall and had no where to find pleasure... or comfort.
So. I returned home. My feet dragged in the dust. I had chased so many lovers, I had worn holes in my shoes and blisters rose on my tender feet. The path was hot. The sun beat on my back. My throat dried up and I craved water more than any thing I had ever wanted. I stopped at our well, but the bucket came up empty of water, but full of mud.
Winter wind blew in the opening of my box, spraying my face with cold rain. It was just as well for I had no desire to remember what happened next. It was too humiliating… too painful. I scrubbed my face with the thin sheet, and some of the grime transferred from my face to it. This is probably why the next man to poke his head into my box decided to taste my wares. Money clinked from one hand to another and I transported my mind from this box back to that hot day. What was the difference? The shame was the same.
That day, my husband called a meeting in the gates. That day every secret was exposed.
to be continued...
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