Many minutes passed by with not an utterance from Rezauddin. The court was filled with a tensed clouded atmosphere felt by everyone present. Courtiers shifted in their lofty chairs as they looked at each other questioningly. Criminals shifted from one foot to the other uncomfortably. A baby stirred in her criminal mother’s arms thirsty from the mid day heat. And still she knelt, Salena knelt before him, before the perturbed King, she sat motionless looking at a chewed and discarded pistachio shell on the ground wondering what would become of her. And still he stared at her, at the figment of beauty before his eyes, spellbound by her although unable to see her fully.
The courtier beside him whispered something in Rezauddin’s ear and then the Sultan spoke after what seemed like hours…
” Send them back to the cells. We will resume judgment and executions tomorrow”… He ordered the guards without lifting his eyes from her head. She stood to leave but he summoned her to stay. ” Leave the girl behind” he ordered the guard beside her.
She looked up quizzically at him. Fear ran through her veins as she searched his face for an indication of her fate. But he smiled gently at her. His eyes were soft and kind. Immediately, she lowered her gaze as she asked him, ” do you take pleasure in my execution that you smile?” ….
The court had been emptied except for a few guards standing at the doorway and the courtier at Rezauddins side who never left the King alone, ever.
” I take pleasure in your beauty only” … He says to her.
Her heart thuds faster as her cheeks flush pink….
” Will you not execute me then?” …
” I will not execute you … Not today”…
And yet again, faster it thuds as she wonders what fate will she eventually meet.
” I do not understand”, she says… ” You have never set a person free before. Will you set me free?”
Rezauddin smiles at Salena, ” it is true, I have never set a criminal free before today and I am not about to set you free either… Take her to the palace” he orders the guard…
” Sultan, King… I have little kids to feed… Please let me tend to them”… She pleads
” And if you were executed today, who would have seen to them then”?
” Allah of course” …. She answers
Her answer takes his breath away. He knew that even though he had power at his finger tips, there were some things, some moments that he had no control over. This very moment was exactly that. He didn’t know why he chose to keep Salena alive, he just did it.
” So will he not take care of them then”? He retort’s mockingly….
” He will… He has always taken care of them “….
” Then you have no need to fear for they will be seen to” … He reclines comfortably into his chair a smug expression on his handsome face….
Salena knew that she was placing herself in danger by entering the palace. The King could not come to know of her identity for if he did, her execution would be immediate.
” I do not fear for them Oh King… It is myself who I fear for. I have never spent a night or a day apart from them…. Please release me”….
He was torn. He knew that the way to win her was to give in to her. He did not desire to have her executed, he did not desire to execute anyone at that moment. He also did not desire to set her free. He was torn between keeping her for himself even if against her will while wanting to grant her wish, her plea to see her children ….
“A guard will be sent to your home to protect it for the night and in the morning we will decide where you deserve to be, with me or with them” …
” I have no place with the Sultan, I am nothing, no one, I am a servant, a peasant! Nothing more”…
He takes delight at the sound of her voice. She stirs something unknown within him, something undiscovered, like an island of un-felt emotions he did not even know he had possessed. And yet still … He had not seen her face. How could he be so drawn to her! The cloud of energy around them was like a bolt of lightning with thunderous desire.
” Remove your veil”…. He coaxed her. His tone seductive.
But she froze. She could not… She would not remove it for fear of what lay beneath the cover of her veil. Once Rezauddin saw her face she knew that he would have no interest in her, other than torturing her until death …
” Do as the Sultan orders” said the courtier….
But Rezauddin lifted his hand as if to overrule the courtiers command…
” I ask that you allow me to keep my face veiled. I will enter your palace for the night, but I will request my own room. Tomorrow you will decide my fate and the fate of those little children. I pray that He places softness in your heart tonight so that you look upon me with kindness tomorrow”…..
Salena knew that she was merely buying herself time even if all that she got from it was to live one more night and already her mind was abuzz with thoughts of how she could break free from captivity and run home to gather the children and flee to the desert getting swallowed by the sea of dunes. But she knew that it was impossible for a guard would guard her window, her bedroom door and her home. She concocted more plans, new plans on what she would tell Rezauddin upon him discovering her face.
The Sultan agreed, Salena could keep her veil on and she would spend the night at his palace while he decided her fate the next morning. He smiled, finally he got her…
But who was she really?
And how would he react when she removed her veil?
All that Rezauddin could think about was how he had found her and how he would not let her go that easily ….
Her feet once again chimed as she exited the courthouse and made her way to the palace….