She dragged herself away from the palace, with a heart even heavier than her feet. She wanted to cry her heart out, but the immense heartache was so much, her sobs choked her. Her eyes were hazy with never ending tears, and she stumbled over her own feet, falling to the ground in one pitiable mess.
And there she sit sprawled on the grounds of a busy marketplace, bawling her eyes out. No one seemed to notice her, nor her state of desperation, but she preferred it that way. The last thing she wanted, after falling in love over night, and subsequently having her heart ripped out by the same man who awakened that love, was the pity of a complete stranger.
Hand weaved baskets filled with fresh produce and other items on sale toppled onto her head, swaying hands slapped her face and temples, and random passing feet kicked her in her thighs, but still she sat there, as invisible as she felt.
And then the Heavens opened up, and the skies began to mourn and cry with her, chasing all the buyers and sellers away. Eventually she pulled herself to her feet and made her way back to her humble little village hut where her 3 little ones waited for her in the care of her most trusted neighbour, a baron woman who loved her children dearly.
They greeted her with innocent smiles and wet sloppy kisses and ran out to play as soon as the rain ceased. But the littlest one, Âbãn knew his young mother too well. She suffered the most turmoil whilst expecting him. He was like an extension of her, and she of him.
The little boy refused to leave her side and swung his chubby little arms around her neck, and her silent tears moistened his blonde locks ever so slightly. She held on to his little body tightly and her boy only let go when she did. She kissed both his rosy cheeks and offered him a watery smile.
“It’s okay now jané delam, my love, you can go out and play with your brothers. Mâdar is just fine.”
He gave her a dimpled, toothy grin and ran out of the hut happily. Feeling as though she had done enough weeping for the day, she busied herself with tidying up and did what she knew best… She worried over the future of her children. And she realised, with a sore heart, she would be forced back into her sinful means of earning a livelihood for her young ones.
She bathed herself in a basin of steaming water drunk with the seeping aroma of lavender. Her tender skin was like layers of Japanese satin. She treated her long golden hair with most sublime smelling oils, and when she was done with it, her silken locks were adorned with Jasmine flowers. The scent was so intense, it wafted out into the street.
She applied dark kohl to her sultry, come-hither eyes, and donned her favourite emerald garments. The shimmery green skirt swayed lazily as her hips danced to the motion of her footsteps. The tasseled, gold beaded belt dangling around her hips sang in unison with her anklets, and so did the ones hanging from her matching top which left her belly exposed. She completed her look of seduction with a green veil, hiding the cause of all her pain.
She looked perfect. But on the inside, she was anything but. She fought back any thoughts of pain and left her young ones once again in the care of her only loyal friend. She pulled her black robe securely over herself and made her way to her usual spot down at the most celebrated tavern in the royal city.
Leila, intoxication, she called herself. Leila was the name she went by as she danced for her bread and butter. There was a roar from the group of men who frequented the place. Leila was a favourite of theirs. No other dancer could move the way she did. She was poetry in motion, as flowing as water.
She despised them, every single one of them. Most of them she knew quite well. They were married men of good women. They were fathers of children her own played with daily. By the end of the night, some were too drunk to walk straight.
As her shift came to an end, the old man, Ma’allim al-Majnoon, as he was known waited outside for her.
“You are back dokhtar, daughter, why are you back?” he asked.
“The same reason I always return Ma’allim. I have small mouths to feed and this is the only way I know how.”
“Have faith in the Lord of the worlds dokhtar. He is watching and He is listening. He will help you, but not when you are resorting to this.”
“Pray for me, Ma’allim.”
It had been a long day, and as much as she wanted to feel the old man’s words penetrate her troubled heart, she needed to go home. She hurriedly returned with her night’s earnings and breathed a sigh of relief. She had made enough for a good few day’s worth of supplies for her children and for herself.
She prayed that night, right before bed. She prayed and cried and beseeched her Lord to remove whatever had weaseled her way into her heart for Rezauddin. All she wanted to do was to forget him and to move on with her life.
Weeks went by in a similar fashion, and soon weeks became months. And then news came to the marketplace directly from the palace. Sultan Rezauddin was preparing to undertake the biggest expedition yet as he sought to expand his reign, and to extend his kingdom.
And when talks of the expedition were coupled with the search for a royal queen for the kingdom, Salena’s heart was crushed all over again.