The 6th installment!
“Have you been here the whole time?” I see the woman come in. I must’ve fallen asleep.
“Yes.” I say sheepishly feeling heat rush to my cheeks.
“You could have stepped out through here.” She says yanking back a heavy door that leads to a court yard. I smack myself in the forehead.
“I assume you’re not used to this kind of life. It must be foreign.” She says almost laughing and pulling her robe closer to her chest and fixing her veil. I nod in reply.
“Get out and wait for me in the next room. I need to change.” She says gruffly and I quickly go to the front room, avoiding the couch. I wait a short time but when she emerges her veil is gone and she is in plain sand colored robes. She is still equally as beautiful and intense.
“I’m going to be honest with you.” She says sitting down on the brown couch. “I’m not sure I like you. You look weak minded, as well as physically weak.” She looks me up and down. “Take your veil off.” Her eyes trained on me. I reluctantly remove it, she’ll see them sooner or later. She doesn’t look surprised.
“Why do you want me to train you? I don’t usually take girls who won’t offer themselves to service.” She says without missing a beat.
“I’m tired, of being beaten, and taken advantage of. I’m tired of being weak.” I say between gritted teeth. She’s scrutinizing my every move.
“Fine.” She says standing up. “Follow me.” She walks to the back room and heaves the heavy door back as if weighs nothing. It’s almost midday now and the sun feels blinding. The courtyard opens up into a large roofless area. There are young women and young children all together. The floor is tiled, and there are plants delicately placed about the courtyard. The children chase each other around carrying a ball and keep it from touching the ground. It’s like a separate world here. I want to put my veil back on before anyone can see but before I can the woman turns around and stops me.
“When you are with us, it is rude to hide your face. We are clan. We accept each other for our flaws and our strengths. You are no different.” She says yanking my veil from my hand and continues leading me. The courtyard is quite large, but in the far corner is a large gong. She rings it loud and clear and I fight the habitual bow that I am usually forced into. Without a word twenty young women come and gather around us.
“This is our newest addition, you will treat her as one of our own. She is not apart of our vocation. She is merely a guest.” She glances at me for a moment. “As it were, she will begin self-defense classes with you all.” She looks at me again and locks eyes with me. “Give her hell.” She says with unyielding eyes. I feel a shiver go down my spine. The young women nod in unison. They resemble a well disciplined regime of military troops.
“That is all.”
“That’s it?” I say, afraid of what she’ll say.
“I don’t even know your name.” I say bewildered at her distant personality that is so effortlessly paired with her obvious hospitality and logic. What a strange pairing, I think to myself.
“I suppose you will need to call me something.” She says as if it is a burden. “You can call me Vel.” She says shortly. “The girls will introduce themselves, but you should make an effort. You’re not an Alfen here so stop acting like one.” She says and walks away from me. I’m stunned into a stationary position. How can I not be an Alfen. This is impossible.
“Hello, I’m Darya.” A young girl of at most sixteen stops me. Her hands are small and slender.
“I’m Leven.” Says another small girl. This begins the mass of names that come at me from many different girls. I meet all kinds of women. Some who are tall and curvy and others who are small and slender like Leven and Darya.
“I’m Kipa.” Says a strong voice, which is connected to an equally strong looking woman. She must be in her late twenties, curvaceous, with short pin straight black hair. I become nervous. She pats me on my shoulder and smiles. “Welcome.” I relax a bit. These girls are both entertainers and warriors, lovers and fighters. Beauty and strength tied together in one being. An odd sort, especially for our culture. In Srutah, women are meant to be frail and delicate as well as beautiful.
Eventually the mass of girls lead me over to a sitting place in the courtyard, offering me to sit on one of the many extravagant pillows. I do. Kipa, Darya, Leven, and a few other girls whose names I cannot remember sit down with me.
“Where are you from?” Asks one.
“Do you have a family?” Asks another.
“Why are you going to be training with us?” Asks still another.
“Slow down girls!” Kipa raises her voice amongst the squabble. They quickly come to a hush. Seniority obviously has its rights here. I take a deep breath.
“I’m from Srutah, I have many family members, although I do not wish to call them so, I’m training with you because I want to become strong… Like the rest of you.” Some of the girls chitter with excitement, others stare with intensity that makes me look away. Kipa claps me on the back and smiles.
“Then so be it.” She says and the rest of the girls fall into speedy conversation again.