Jennifer Macaire is an American freelance writer/illustrator. She was born in Kingston, NY and lived in Samoa, California and the Virgin Islands before moving to France. She attended Parsons school of design for fine art, and Palm Beach Junior College for art and English literature. She worked for five years as a model for Elite. Married to a professional polo player, she has three children. After settling in France, she started writing full time and published short stories in such magazines as Polo Magazine, PKA’s Advocate, The Bear Deluxe, Nuketown, The Eclipse, Anotherealm, Linnaean Street, Inkspin, Literary Potpourri, 3 am Magazine, and the Vestal Review. One of her short stories was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
“What can you know about me? You’re just the daughter of the sands, the daughter of the desert wind and of the sun, blazing in the noon sky. You don’t know anything about life, or about evil.”
boy’s words came in a murmur and the girl had to hold her breath to hear
them. She leaned closer.
There was a a young man in front of her. His whole body was a series of arcs and curves as clear as a statue carved in ancient Greece and turned golden brown by the desert sun of Morocco. His hair was dark teak and his eyes were long, slanted, and golden honey in the reflected light. The light bounced off the marble fountain into the room where it concentrated itself on the white bedspread the girl sat on. Her hair was black and swallowed the light. The dark cloth covering her head outlined her cheeks and made her eyes appear shadowed and wise.
"Why don’t you let me comfort you?" Sheba’s face was tense and beautiful as one of the carvings the boy had seen once before in the museum. He felt his resolve weaken. What harm could it do? For once in his life, to let his head rest on the soft breast of a woman and to let his tears wet her skin. The weight of his skull seemed to pull his head closer and closer to Sheba’s shoulder. Her hand came up, fluttering and hesitating.
me," she said. She wasn’t sure what he wanted her to do, but a woman’s
instinct is to give comfort, and Moustapha’s face was a mask of misery.
His long eyes were red-rimmed and his mouth was twisted by some bitter
sorrow. Her hands found his jaw, his cheekbones, his temples, and she pulled
him to her, enveloped him in a chaste embrace.
There was a moment when the act could have been interrupted. Any slight sound would have done it. However, for once the whole house slumbered in a heavy silence. Renatta was shopping for her wedding feast, and she’d taken Fahid and Channi with her. Sheba’s mother was at a friend’s house, bearing a bouquet of fragrant roses. The dogs were lying in the shade of the fig tree and in their sleep, they only twitched their legs.
Sheba didn’t know how it happened. One moment she was holding him, and the next moment they were lying on the bed, her robe on the floor, with his naked body on top of hers, driving into her flesh. She twisted a bit, but instinct as old as time made her receptive to his movements. There was no pain, the pleasure took her by surprise and she gasped.
Moustapha shuddered against her. He buried his face in her shoulder, her fragile, bony shoulder, and the scent of her warm body filled him with a desperate calm. He remembered where he had been before, where he had been touched, and why. He shuddered once more and then warm tears began to flow. He could no more stop them than he could call back the time, make the days go backwards, and undo the harm that was done.
Sheba felt her body slip into a boneless relaxation. She marveled at the texture of Moustapha’s skin. Sensually, her hands roamed his back, his shoulders, and his thighs. She half closed her eyes and her mouth searched for his. They kissed. The taste of salt tears was like a shock. Suddenly Sheba felt something happening deep within her. At first she was frightened as her heart suddenly began to pound and her head spun. A throbbing began in her belly. A throbbing she couldn’t stop. She couldn’t control he body. Her hips rose on their own. She arched her back and a moan was born in her throat. It started low, then rose and the feeling shook her apart.
Afterwards she lay there, amazed.
Moustapha rose on one elbow and gazed down at her. In his own chest was a tightness he couldn’t explain. He loved Sheba; he had always admired her. He thought that now they would marry. The idea was pleasing, and he nearly smiled. Then an icy hand ran down his spine. Could he ever tell her? How? He rested his forehead on her collarbone. He could never speak about what had happened. It would destroy him. If he had been raised differently, perhaps it would have been easier to speak about, perhaps not. Some people were born with a silver tongue, and some were born with lead in their mouths and the dry sand that surrounded his village was just an excuse to speak of nothing but dust.
Sheba knew that something was amiss. She’d known Moustapha since they were children and after he came back from working in Marrakech, he’d been so very different. Everyone had noticed. At first, they’d teased him, assuming he’d fallen in love with some girl in the city. However, the noise had died down as Moustapha slipped into shadow. He was not the same boy who had left. He had come back as a wounded soldier comes back from war and the villagers somehow sensed this. Puzzled, they left him alone. They would wait until he got well or died. It was not in their disposition to ask questions. Therefore, the wound festered, but Moustapha didn’t die.
The wound was psychic. How could a simple country boy possibly comprehend the destruction that lay in the rusted mind of his employer? If he had been able to see inside the minds of those he grew up around he would have been reassured to see nothing but the solid red cliffs or perhaps some shifting sands. There would be oases of calm in some minds, green and fruitful. Others would be dry and hot. The worst would be a swirling sandstorm of rage as the man everyone knew of as violent beat his wife or his daughters, but the sand would be swirling around oblivion and cruelty would lose itself in emptiness.
His employer’s mind had been as convoluted as a snail’s shell and as degenerated as a ship falling apart with rust. A ship lying on its side in a sterile sea, with waves tearing the metal even more, leaving jagged edges and deep holes with water seeping into the holes and a gray sky looking upon the scene and shivering snow.
Cruelty can hide behind a bland smile and twinkling eyes. Moustapha thought his employer looked like an intellectual. His blond hair was going gray and his eyes were now confined to thick lenses, but in his youth, he’d been a ruddy blond and handsome. The employer. The boss. The owner of the huge hotel complex that made jobs for a hundred hungry Moroccans every winter season.
Moustapha had been hungry. His stomach was concave, his shoulders were wide, his bones showed sharply through his clean tee shirt. He had a lean face and a wide mouth. His eyes were long; there was Byzantine blood somewhere in the ancestry. Moors and Arabs, and somewhere a Byzantine slave had made Moustapha.
His mother had been from the Atlas Mountains. She’d come to her wedding feast wrapped in blue cloaks and wearing all her mother’s gold jewelry on her slender feet, hands and arms. She hid her face behind a gauzy scarf and it wasn’t until the ceremony was over that Moustapha’s father caught a glimpse of his bride.
The first sight of her had enflamed him. She had been a delicate bride, seventeen years old, with skin like ivory and eyes as black as a night with no moon. Around her starry eyes were curly lashes and her mouth had small dimples in the corners where her lips turned upwards. Her hair, when she let it down, had reached her knees. Moustapha’s father had stood and marveled.
He had been an ordinary looking man. A tall, thin, Arab with a sensual mouth and kind eyes that would get softer when he looked at his wife. Moustapha had his father’s amber colored eyes, but their shape and form were his mother’s.
Moustapha remembered his parents with nostalgia. They had perished when their car plunged over a cliff on their way to the mountains. His mother had been holding his little brother on her lap. In his dreams, he would imagine her soft voice telling the small boy not to worry. Nothing would hurt, nothing could harm him, she was there. There now. Hush.
When he came back from Marrakech, he would sometimes dream that he was the boy in his mother’s lap. When he woke up he would stare at the red cliffs and wish he could die in his mother’s arms.
He found a job in Sheba’s father’s store. He was a wealthy man who sold expensive fabric and decorated European’s luxurious homes. Sheba had grown up in a house with a large courtyard, a rose garden, fig trees, and a fountain that worked and was always perfectly clean.
and Moustapha had gone to school together in the small school that took
the village children as far as the sixth grade then left them there. Like
puzzled voyagers that have been suddenly put off a bus, they waited to
learn more, but the nearest college was in Marrakech, and few of them ever
got on the bus again.
When he stood up though, his chin rested on the top of her nose and his build promised to raise him another ten or fifteen centimeters higher. He was slight, but strong, and his hands and feet were gracefully wiry although too big for him. He would grow into them, eventually.
They stood up and he pressed his lips to her eyelids, kissing one, then the other. His whole body was tingling. Hers was too. When their fingers touched there was a shock that surprised them both.
" Will you marry me? " he asked her.
"Someday, yes." She smiled up at him, her eyes dancing. "When you tell me your secret, if you feel that we love each other enough to be able to bear it together and not break apart."
"When will that be?" Moustapha wrinkled his mouth. The idea that she could sense his sorrow prickled. He felt his hips swaying towards her. He would have liked to spend all day in the soft bed with her, exploring and finding more about the pleasures of which she had given him a glimpse. However, she took her robe and slowly wrapped it around her. Her face was grave, like the statue in the museum.
" When you decide. Only you can decide Moustapha. Whatever it is I will still love you." She sounded so sure of herself. She was only nineteen. The worst thing she’d seen was a sandstorm, and the eyes of the two beaten girls. The two girls who lived with their father’s storm knew that someday they’d escape. The desert is endless, and so easy to get lost in.
"The man I worked for in Marrakech seduced me." The words seemed to leave his lips even as he tried to close them. But Sheba’s lips were on his mouth and her tongue lapped up his words as if they were drops of milk.
"I was ambitious," he admitted, turning his head. " And he was everything that a man could want to be. Rich, European, member of a powerful family, he played polo even. Can you imagine? The sport of kings." He couldn’t stop now. The wound was opened and the poison was leaving him in a rush. " I admired him so much. I would walk down the hallway thinking, ‘He wants to see me! A man like that wants me! He sent for me!’ I never stopped to wonder why. The caresses were inviting at first, until I understood them. When my body rebelled, he controlled me with his mind. No one will want me now, no one will send for me again. I’m lost. It was monstrous, and I am a monster."
"I love you, I need you." Sheba spoke in a fierce voice. Her body was tense. She would fight for him. She trembled with rage. How could anyone harm her lover? How could they? He was so young, so fragile. "You are not lost. You’re with me. What that man did was unpardonable. He is the monster, not you. You were his victim, and no one could ever blame you for going to him when he sent for you."
"They could blame me for the passion."
Sheba bit her lip. Something like a smile twisted her mouth. "That is possible," she said, and there was definitely a trace of laughter in her voice. "If they saw you in the nude. But from now on I’m reserving that privilege for myself."
"Are you sure?" There was wonder in his voice. The light from the sun now seemed to come from his eyes. They glowed.
"Yes," she whispered. Her arms crept up and encircled his neck. When they touched she bloomed and the last of the frost of youth fled from her face. In her smile, Moustapha saw his mother’s love and he let himself die and die and die in her arms.
Moustapha was lost in Sheba’s embrace and he didn’t hear the sound of the door opening. It was Renatta. She strolled in, armed with magazines and ideas for her wedding and stopped, stunned by the sight of Moustapha’s golden nakedness in her sister’s arms.
She screamed and the magazines slithered from her arms in a flutter of glossy paper and loud thumps. Moustapha managed to grab his trousers and leapt out the window.
didn’t know whether to rush to the windowsill and scream, or slap her sister
first. Jealousy, sharp and huge, exploded in her head and all she could
think of was destruction. The fact she was the eldest, the best loved,
and going to be married in less than a month didn’t mean anything any more.
The fact that Sheba’s face had subtly changed, the bones shifted, sensual pleasure making her eyes softer and giving her mouth a new curve, made Renatta’s hard mouth even harder. She stepped forward and slapped Sheba as hard as she could.
"Papa will kill you," she hissed.
Sheba wasn’t afraid. She narrowed her eyes but she didn’t loose her smile. "We’re not living in the dark ages. Papa will marry me to Moustapha; or else he’ll fire him and throw us both out. Or he’ll keep him in the store and have the son he never had. It doesn’t matter either way for me." Her face suddenly flamed. " Oh Renatta, just wait. Just wait until your wedding night. It’s amazing." She sank down onto her white bedcover and picked up a magazine that had fallen onto it. She held it on her knee but she was looking out the window and the sunlight made her eyes flash. Roses bloomed in her cheeks.
Renatta was torn between jealousy and curiosity now. Curiosity won. "What was it like?" she asked finally.
smile was blinding. " It was amazing." She shook her head. " I don’t know
how to describe it. It happened to fast, so naturally, as if the wind blew
the curtains inwards and the breeze touched my body. It was like a storm
that sweeps in from the coast. The clouds rise, fill with rain, and cover
the sky. Then the rain falls. The wind bends the trees and the land soaks
up the water. The earth and the flowers all give off such a strong odor
when the storm hits; it assails all your senses at once. You see it the
swollen clouds, you hear the thunder, the rain touches your skin and the
scent is overwhelming. "She shook her head.
"I don’t know," admitted Sheba. " But if you tell him I won’t hate you. I forgive you already. Even if he chases him away. My love for him is too strong. I’ll always find him now, even if he goes to Marrakech, or France. I’ll know where to find him. I just have to close my eyes and follow the storm."
"You’re a strange girl." Renatta was silent a while. Then she bowed her head. The jealousy was still sharp, but she loved her sister. She swallowed her bitterness and opened the magazine on her lap. "Look, what do you think of this dress?"
© 2002 Jennifer Macaire. All rights reserved. Do not copy or post.
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