For that week, she felt like a proper woman. Well, she admitted, at least like a human being. It wasn’t that she had dreamed of a life of nobility, but what could someone such as her really dream about? A roof over her head and walls to protect her? A Master that didn’t beat her every night? Nala was grateful for that, but she was a practical woman – a polished wooden floor under her bare feet was the dream. No coarse sand between her toes. No trudging to the market each day. Her body was clean and her bruises had faded – she had to pinch her skin to verify it really was hers. For the first time in Nala’s life, she had a choice in what clothes to wear; what to adorn her body with. Hazina’s cheery smile didn’t seem out of place in the lavish rooms they now lived in. These new freedoms tried to put her mind at ease.
Her new life of a week was so surreal, accepting it seemed to betray her. She waited for the debt to come due for such opalescence. She saw calves fattened before the slaughter, and she felt more like the calf than the noble prepared to eat such a magnificent feast.
Nala tried to push the thoughts from her mind. Hazina and the rest of the girls seemed so happy. Are they naïve, Nala wondered, or am I too bitter? Nala kept her suspicions to herself, and instead of enjoying the lavish clothes and showers of exotic oils, she searched the grounds for the mysterious man with an air of superiority and the most beautiful eyes she had ever witnessed.
The man had vanished into the crowd like an oasis skirts the desert horizon. She was the caravan, camping on water’s edge. She made the most of the safety she was afforded, but knew she would eventually have to leave the luxury of palm trees. She kept watch for predators and other suspicious behavior. As in the desert, she knew there was plenty.
Survival had been her primary mission for so long, but to survive like this? She almost considered it paradise.
And it was paradise; at least until the first girl was summoned away.