The Five Providences (Installment 5)

I sleep on it. The feelings welling up inside me. Fears, that somehow sink into my dream corrupting them into nightmares. I wake up in a daze, go through the daily process of looking acceptable, but this time I wear all red. A crimson color, that only women of a certain trade wear. Prostitutes. I look at myself in the mirror and feel like a foreigner. I feel lowly and unacceptable. How is it that wearing all red gives women such a reputation? I tear myself away and call over to Kalim from behind the changing screens.

            “Kalim, I’m going into the capitol today. I shouldn’t be gone long.” I say so he won’t go searching for me in Jezeb’s room.

            “Please don’t make this into a few days trip.” I hear him from somewhere in the room.

            “I’ll try.” I say as I emerge from behind the changing screens.

            “And Yasari…” He pauses for a long time. “Try not to get hurt.” His eyes silently pleading with me. Then his eyes snap open when he sees my outfit. His eyes pouring over me furiously.

            “No. Yasari. No.” Is all he will say. He turns me around and pushes me behind the changing screens again. He disappears for a second and then comes back with a yellow dress. I let out a sigh.

            “You are not a prostitute. You’re the daughter of royalty.” He shoves the dress into my hands. I change in silence, and we don’t say another word.

~*~

The streets are bustling as they usually do this early in the morning. I duck in and out of women holding baskets of bread, fabrics, and other goods. The sand buildings are short and close together, but the bazaar is wide and open. I see children running back in forth, weaving in and out of people and shop stalls. I love being in the city. As long as I keep my veil on, I’m as normal as any other woman. Our veils are never to be taken off in public, unless of course you are royalty, or in trouble. As much as I would like to stay and soak in the morning sun and cheerful atmosphere I continue through the large bazaar and down a few side streets. After a bit of walking I approach the less populated portion of the capitol. In this place, the houses are draped with scarlet sheets, their tassels hanging low, brushing their visitor’s heads as they walk in. A strong smell of perfume and oil wafts into my nostrils and my eyes water.

            I jump as I hear a man burst through a door of hanging beads. He’s clearly intoxicated and stumbling around, his head wrap coming undone. I gulp down the lump in my throat and hide behind a rain basin. This part of the city is shrouded in shadows despite the sun’s persistent rays. The man somehow manages to stumble off and I force myself to emerge from my hiding place.

I  poke my head through the bead curtains to see a dimly lit room. I choke on all the smells of perfumes and wipe my eyes.

            “I don’t serve women.” A cold voice pierces the silence.

            “Oh, I-I’m not-” I stutter.

            “You will have to visit Vemari, three doors down. She will charge more.” The voice says again.

            “I’m not here for your…services.” I choose my words wisely.

            “How interesting… then what are you here for?” A tall young woman appears through a beaded curtain from across the room. She’s tall and curvaceous with long black cascading hair. Her veil missing, revealing her black eyes. I’m tempted to tremble but force myself to stillness. She’s stunning, but with a subdued venom waiting to be unleashed.

            “Well, what is it?” She snaps.

            “I’ve heard stories about women of your trade.”

            “You mean prostitutes?” She says amused.

            “Yes, I’ve heard you can protect yourselves.” I sit there quietly still only halfway in the doorway.

            “So you’re not here to become one of us then, only to protect yourself. Is that all?”

            “If what I heard is true, you won’t turn any woman down.” I say plainly. She responds with a sigh.

            “Wait in the back.” She nods to the beaded curtains she came out from. I skulk pass the nameless woman and scurry behind the curtains. Another room, but smaller with cushions and a table filled with make ups, perfumes, oils, and any other self-improvement you could think of. I wander over the table and look over my shoulder to check if I’m alone. There are beautiful hair sticks with jewels that sparkle brightly, a gold box with a little ruby on top, and other priceless things. Apparently prostitution pays well.

            “Hello, my lord.” I hear the front door’s beads clatter against each other. I peek through the doorway to see who came in without rustling the beads. It’s a young man. Maybe thirty years old. He looks angry, his shoulders tensed with stress. He says nothing. He yanks his head wrap off and pulls the woman by her arm, pushing her onto the deep brown couch by the lamp that is burning.

            “My lord, you know how I accept payment. Half of my payment is received now.” She says without fear. The man drops a small pouch into her hands as he crawls on top of her. She shakes it slightly and instantly tenses up.

            “This is not the correct amount.” Her voice is edgy. The man kisses her neck and tells her to shut up. Suddenly like a viper, she swings her elbow to the left pounding into his throat. Then she uses the momentum of her swing to reverse their positions, rolling him onto the floor, and straddling him. She yanks the curved handle from the lamp to reveal a hidden blade the size of her thumb and presses it to the man’s throat.

            “My lord, the agreed measure is three hundred and fifty dharat. One hundred and seventy-five dharat which I am supposed to receive before I give you my services.” She presses the little knife right above his sternum. He winces.

            “You seemed to have had a bad day. I can fix that if you would only follow the rules.” She says as she cocks her head. It seems as if this is completely normal. Before long the man reaches into the folds of his robes and pulls out the allotted amount promised and hands it to the woman.

            “Thank you my lord, however next time you do this I will kill you.” She whispers in his ear and flicks her blade leaving a small “V” in the man’s chest. The man winces again but doesn’t seem to mind and begins kissing her hand. Eventually she puts the knife away and goes about her business. For the next hour I manage to block out the sounds of the services she provides.

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