Laila was so lost in memories from the past that she did not see Kaif when he entered into his tent. Nor did she look up from the pendant she was tracing so softly with her fingers. She sat there on the mats like a silent, sad shadow. Her sadness was overwhelming the already darkening tent. Tears spilled silently from her cheeks and she hugged her knees a little tighter for the pain inside of her was growing so fierce she felt that she was going to die.
When her master entered, he first noticed that, despite a number of hours having passed since he had left, she was still seated in the same place, in nearly the same position. Outside, the sky was nearly dark, and Laila was motionless in the darker still interior. A little longer and she might have been sitting in complete darkness. Though the tent flaps had rustled behind him as he entered, she made no move to acknowledge his presence. Her eyes were fixed downwards, her hand making small, circular movements which Kaif could not quite understand in the darkness.
He stepped across the soft carpets strewn on the floor, reaching the small, flimsy table opposite his bed, upon which sat a lamp of burnished bronze. It was only when he lit it that the girl reacted.
As he turned around, he saw that her left fist was clenched tightly against the cushion, as though holding something which she did not want him to see. As her master, of course, it was well within his power to demand to see it. By all rights, he should have: it might have been a weapon which she had tucked into her skirt, or a vial of poison she intended to sneak into his cup. But he refrained, and wordlessly, sunk to the mat upon which his bed was made, almost mirroring her position.
Laila slowly lifted her eyes up towards her master’s and back down to her hand were she clutched the small pendant. She swallowed hard and blinked back the tears which fell so readily down her pale cheeks and slowly whipped them away. She softly tucked her feet under her as she watched her master like a hawk, ready to block any blow he might send her way.
It took some time for her eyes to adjust to the light, but once they did, she saw that Kaif sat on his bed mirroring her position. It was clear he had no intentions of hurting her at all. She gave him a small surprised and questioning look. Though, she hardly expected him to answer. She lowered her eyes once again as the tears came back to her eyes, making her vision blur and all thoughts of Kaif seemed to disappear as she again found herself lost in her memories, while she once again traced the pendant.
The brief look they had exchanged unsettled Kaif, as he watched her turn her attention to whatever it was in her hand. She had been expecting him to act more like he should be; like a man who had been on campaign and had not known a woman for months. She was, after all, his concubine, her sole purpose to please him. Kaif's eyes focused on the bedding, thinking how long it had been since it had covered more than one. With a mild unease, he realised that, aside from his narrow mat, there was nowhere for her to sleep. But she seemed comfortable enough in her corner, he thought sardonically, so really she could remain there if she wished. He had no reason to worry.
If he really thought about it, he could feel desire for her. But thoughts of her probable treachery prevented him from exercising his right to touch her. He did not trust himself sufficiently to say with any confidence that power over his desires would not translate to power over him.
“What do you have in your hand?” he asked flatly.
Laila jumped when Kaif finally spoke and stared up at him through her tears. She looked down at her pendant and back up at her master. Reluctantly she opened her small, frail hands holding out the only thing she had left of her old life. The only thing she had left of him. She desperately hoped Kaif wouldn’t take it from her or think that she had stolen it. The tears fell back down her cheeks as she laid the small beautiful sea stone in front of her, for Kaif to take if he desired.
She felt what little was left in her heart break slowly off in full expectations of the necklace being taken away. Of the memory she clung to being stolen away like everything else in her life had. She did not lift her eyes from her hands which felt so empty. Nor did she move from her position. She was a dying shadow on a wall and nothing more.
Leaning forward, Kaif looked at the curious object inquisitively. It looked to be a piece of jewelry, but like none he had ever seen. “What is it?” he asked his brow furrowing.
Laila slowly lifted her teary eyes up towards Kaif’s and stared at him. He wasn’t going to steal the pendant away from her, at least not yet. He wanted to know about the necklace instead? She gave Kaif the exact same curious look that he gave her pendant.
“A…A..Stone from…the sea…” Laila said through her tears as she lowered her eyes. “It was a gift.” She added the last bit just so he wouldn’t think she stole it, and she spoke so truthfully that it would be hard not to believe her.
It was only as her voice broke that Kaif realized she had been crying. He frowned. She did not need to tell him who gave the gift to her. It was plain enough to see, from the depth of her attachment to it, that it had been a gift from a lover. But Kaif could not comprehend why this irritated him. Why should it matter to him that his concubine’s heart belonged to another?
“Put it away,” he said tersely, surprised with his abruptness. He ran a hand through his curly hair, wishing he had been less snappish. “It would be a shame to lose it.”
Slowly, Laila took her necklace and tucked it back into her hand. She really had no where else to put it and then she stared softly at Kaif. She had fully expected him to take it away from her and was completely taken by surprise when he did not. She looked around the tent and then back at Kaif for a moment wondering what to do next.
She expected Kaif to want to take her into his bed as was his right. She was his concubine after all. Yet, this didn’t really seem to be happening and she was slightly confused by it. She had no idea what was expected of her. She was not used to being a concubine or a bed slave. She was used to being nothing more then a thing used when wanted and thrown away when not wanted. She slowly frowned down at her bare toes, feeling very confused and a little less frightened for some reason which confused her more.
He sensed her growing confusion at his behavior. Breathing deeply, he stood up, making his way towards the table. “I am afraid a bed has not been prepared for you,” he said, talking more into the lamp than anything. What was he saying? She was a slave, not a princess, for God’s sake…
She looked at him bewilderedly, seeming quite unsure how to respond. He traced the grain of the table with his forefinger. “I do not wish your discomfort.”
Laila stared silently at her master and then down at the cushions and back towards his bed. Then back towards the cushions she sat on. She was very comfortable in her little corner on these elegant cushions. In fact, she guessed she could even sleep were she was. She could not believe that her master did not want her to be uncomfortable. Turbert had wanted her to be uncomfortable. She looked up at Kaif.
“I can sleep here on the cushions if it pleases you sir.” She said for the first time saying something on her own accord wondering if perhaps she displeased him somehow and frowning just a little on the thought. It would not do for her to displease her master.
Kaif was not sure if this arrangement did please him. But he relented, feeling deeply tired for the first time that evening. “It is dark outside,” he observed, without actually being able to see the night sky. “I am very weary. Would you mind if I put the lamp out?”
Laila herself felt very tired and shook her head as she lay down on the cushions. She watched as her master turned out the lamp. Still very surprised that Kaif had not taken her to bed with him. After all, wasn’t that what a concubine was for? However, she also understood how tired he must be and was grateful for the fact that he did not want her in his bed. She herself was still very tired from her journey. She had not slept well in Saladin’s tent being to afraid of what Kaif was going to be like and what Saladin could do to her.
She did not understand why she felt tired enough to sleep tonight nor did she understand why she even dared to feel safe enough to sleep. She supposed she felt safe because Kaif had yet to harm her. Though that did not mean he would.
Once her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the tent she looked over at her master and yawned sleepily. For a moment she looked as if she was going to say something however she decided against it. She had already spoken once out of place and it would not do to repeat the offense.
Kaif, still standing by the table, watched the girl settle herself into her makeshift bed. Realizing he lingered unnecessarily, he returned to his own bed. It was not long before he drifted off into a regretful sleep.
Laila herself eventually drifted off to a sleep filled with nightmares and dreams of forgotten memories. Though she slept, through the night it was almost as if she did not sleep at all.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Posted by Joanna at 9:20 PM