CASCADING HER RAYS INTO THE WORLD, the Sun placed itself on the west horizon. The harsh light struck my tanned skin as I worked in the heat. Sweat began to form upon my upper lip. Perhaps, it is what I deserve. My parents had sold me off as a slave whilst I was a mere child. I was unwanted then and I am unwanted now. I was working for a cruel master; the wounds and scars on my back could inform you of that truth.
As a teenager, I had been mocked by many children. Unfortunately, I was illiterate. Not many ladies or girls even had the chance to be educated. Yet, I had an unburning desire in me to learn how to write or read. My parents promised me great dreams though I know my broken wings wouldn’t even reach the sky to fulfill such dreams. In truth, I do not hate my parents for what they had done to me. They thought it was best for me so I should accept it. My parents had to fulfill a debt. In the process of that, I was the payment. I have been counting my captivity as the days pass by. I only have two more years to go and freedom will be bestowed upon me.
After I finished my work in the garden, I began to head back into the grand hallways of the master’s home. Even though I was always broke, I was thankful I had a roof over my head. My room may have been tiny but it was more comfortable than the home I stayed in as a child. I readjusted my veil before I made my presence known before the master. The soil had smothered the material of my kaftan due to the gardening outside. The master loved his flowers and he thought it would be best if I grew them. I loved to garden. Watching the plants bloom was a ball of positivity to me. They taught me how to cherish hope, love, and awaiting freedom.
I looked down whilst I noticed the master arriving in the room. Master Babak had been slightly merciful to me. He felt pity towards me despite the whippings and beatings he gave to me. I wouldn’t dare say it but I felt as if he had a soft spot for me. His greying hair was pushed back today and he looked healthier than before. His arrival had been announced before he walked into the room. However, the weird thing was to notice that a lady of great stature also seemed to stride in the room after him.
Her sights were heavenly. Never in my life had I seen such exquisite beauty painted upon a lady. Shamelessly, I glanced upon her face. Dangling from her head, honey tresses fell till her waist. The veil she had worn on her head seemed to be worth a huge amount of money; it was decorated in such detail. Taking a better look, she had striking emerald eyes that had been lined in kohl. I gulped for I had realised I should not have gazed in such a rude manner. Surely, I would get punished later. A curved smile appeared upon the great lady’s face.
“Assalamualaykum, Sayyidi Babak. Assalamualaykum, Sayyida,” I greeted.
“Walaykumsalaam,” Master Babak replied.
“Walaykumsalaam. Now, who might you be?” the lady responded.
“Oh, there is no need to worry about her. She is just a slave,” Master Babak quickly spoke, trying to divert her attention.
The beautiful lady’s eyes widened as she looked at Babak. Babak quivered upon her demanding and strong gaze as he backed down. I felt as if she was of royal blood. Perhaps, she was important.
“Let her speak,” the lady demanded, whilst tilting her head back into my direction.
“I am Shehrbanu, Sayyida. I apologise for my rudeness,” I softly answered.
“Shehrbanu, you fool! Address her with respect! She is the Malika of Bayinar!” he exclaimed.
Suddenly, I gasped. The first thing that popped into my mind was to do a clumsy form of a curtsy. How could I show absolute little respect to a Malika? My cheeks heated up in embarrassment, my eyes fixated on the floor. I didn’t want to look up and make eye contact with the Malika. Nervously, I fiddled with my fingers.
I could feel her burning gaze upon me. Did I anger her? A slim finger propped my chin up as I met her precious gems of eyes. Eyes roving over my face, she inspected each detail. My grime-covered face felt shame it had never felt before. I felt so little, so small and embarrassed. Yet she was showing me so much attention. I didn’t know whether I should feel honoured or ashamed.
Once she stopped, she looked at my clothes. They were plain; I had been wearing these same clothes for the past year. They didn’t get washed much. The Master demanded that our clothes must be washed only once a month. I probably smelled of sweat and she didn’t grimace at my unfathomable scent. Instead, she arched an eyebrow up.
She drew back into the place she was standing before. I didn’t understand what was going on. She composed herself into a regal posture. Quickly, my lips went dry.
“Babak, I want to buy Shehrbanu,” she demanded.
My eyes widened at her speech. Did she want to buy me? But for what? I am no better than anyone else around her. Or anyone in the castle. I am a mere gardener and a cleaner. Unfortunately, I could merely cook up a dish that seemed so hardly redeemable. Everyone’s attention was now directed at me. Thought of going to a richer home than this excited me. That meant I could have more freedom down at the palace. Excitement filled me but so did dread.
“No, this is not possible!” Master Babak responded. “Why her?”
“She is just a slave. And I am your Malika!” she exclaimed. “It was a demand, not a plea.”
“Double her price and I’ll accept,” Babak negotiated.
“Thank you, Babak. It’s done,” she huffed. “Now, you, my dear. We’re going to run you a hot warm bath.”
A warm bath had been drawn for me in the Malika’s room. Rose petals and rich bath oils had been thrown into the bath too. I could smell the rich everlasting scent of rose oil mixed with lavender. As I rested in the bath, I could feel my shoulders being massaged. The tickle of the warm water waving slowly against my body was an unknown feeling. Inside, I felt guilty that I even had the chance to experience such a luxury. Merely an hour ago, I was just a slave.
My eyes drifted shut whilst I relished in the indescribable emotion of peace. The soothing circles on my shoulder helped me relax. The mists of the steam evaded into the air, releasing the gorgeous scents of the oils. I could hear the humongous doors open into the Malika’s chambers where she was resting in Babak’s home. I didn’t want to open my eyes so I left them closed.
For a brief moment, the massaging of my shoulders had stopped. I groaned, in response to the stopping of the massage. Soon after, someone began to massage my shoulders again. I opened my eyes. I thought it was enough of my bath now. I had enjoyed the relaxation long enough. Whilst I stood up from my bath, I turned around to see who was massaging me. I wanted to thank them. Perhaps, it was one of Babak’s slaves. I only had one friend in Babak’s home. It was Askari. However, he had left ages ago. I missed him very dearly. I never knew how he left and why he left.
Tilting my head, I saw the Malika stand up. I shrieked upon seeing that it was the Malika who had been massaging my shoulders for the last two minutes. Why did I just not open my eyes when I had the chance to see who was massaging me? I gulped, in realisation. Fear struck through my nerves as I felt the wind brush against my naked body. I shuddered slightly. The Malika offered me a towel to wrap my body around.
When I took the towel, I immediately wrapped it around my bare body. I stepped out and looked down at my toes. Suddenly, I had taken the second to admire my clean feet. The normal way for mud to be on my feet. I could even smell the faint scent of the rose oil mixed with the vanilla upon my skin. I bit on my lower lip as I looked up towards the Malika.
Yet again, her heavenly beauty shined through. This time, her veil wasn’t placed on. Her orbs struck again, highlighting the slender features of her face. She smiled as she took a seat upon the bed.
“Shehrbanu, is it?” the Malika asked. “Look at how pretty you are when you’re not covered in mud and dirt.”
“Yes, Malika. It is Shehrbanu,” I stuttered. “Uhm, thank you?”
“You must be wondering why I have bought you for three times the price you actually are,” the Malika chuckled.
She was exactly right. No one would have gone through so much trouble just to buy one slave. It made me think there were ulterior motives in place for her. However, I was going to ask. It may have been one of the many risky moves I would have made in my life. I knew I was a pawn for the Queen in this game of Chess.
My eyes fixated on the Malika. I stood before her, in all my glory. I placed my leg out of the bath, one by one. The water droplets slid off my hair, drenching the floor. It was now just the Malika and me. She ordered the servants to be sent out while we had our private chat.
“Yes, Malika,” I responded. “I am just a slave. Why so much just for me?”
“You see, you’re special. You remind me of myself when I was just a little girl,” the Malika explained. “I also came from a poor family. However, I rose to the ranks. Have you heard of the Princesses of Persia?”
I raised my brows in curiosity. The Malika was talking about the famous dynasty that was well-known for its excessive wealth and culture. Though I am from Persia, I had never deemed it fit to do research. I couldn’t anyways. Not in my poor state. I would have to go to the library and ‘borrow’ a book. I could only read a few letters.
Along with that, the Princesses of Persia also were known to accept people into their families. They would give them titles that would help them with their status. I was so confused about why she had brought up the dynasty. Gulping, I looked at the lady of high stature before myself.
“Yes, I have heard of them. Why?” I questioned.
“Well, I have connections to them,” she smirked. “And you are going to become a Princess of Persia.”
My jaw dropped open when I heard those words come out of the Malika’s mouth.
“There is no absolute way I could become one of the Princesses! I’m not of their blood,” I gasped.
“Ah, see that is where you are wrong. Your mother-” the Malika was rudely interrupted.
“What about my mother?” I nervously asked.
“If you let me speak, I will get to that,” she said through gritted teeth. “Your supposed parents that were meant to take care of you had sold you to Babak. Habibti, they were not your parents. They were hired by your parents to take care of you. Your mother was one of the wives your father kept. However, your father wanted to protect you from his other wives.”
“What?” I shouted. “There is no way. I don’t understand.”
“It’s obviously going to be a shock to you, you will need time to process,” she explained. “However, in this time, I am going to take you back to Bayinar with me. Your mother is a dear friend of mine and she would have wanted you to come back to your rightful place.”
“What am I going to do in Bayinar?” I asked another question for the hundredth time.
“Habibti, we’re going to teach you how to become a Princess of Persia,” she smiled. “Now, chill out with the questions. Change into this kaftan. We are going to travel for a couple of hours.”
The Malika held a pink kaftan in her hands as she waited for me to take it. Once Shehrbanu held the kaftan in her hands, she felt the rich material of silk brush through her skin. A matching veil had been placed with it on the bed.
After noticing that I picked up the clothes, Malika Humera spun on her heels to love. There was this demanding aura about her. It was as if she was there to intimidate you or love you. Either one it was, you would not be able to tell. Only by her eyes sometimes you could tell.
I dressed in the kaftan and had stood by the mirror. Never in her life had I felt so luxurious. My hands fixed the veil upon my head. My fingers ran down through the material. A servant had walked in with a bowl of milk and water. I assumed that I was to wash my face with the bowl of milk with petals first and then wash it off with water. The servant placed a washcloth beside the bowls for her to dry my face with. I smiled at the servant just as she passed by. However, the servant seemed to scowl at me.
After all, I had just risen through the ranks in just one day. From a pauper to a princess. Despite being a woman, I was somewhat privileged in this world of greed and money.
It’s a bit of a short chapter, I guess. It’s more like a filler chapter, I would say. I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll try to update it more!