My very first recollection of her was through the gossip mill. Rumors in Pharaoh’s harem spread faster than locusts devouring a field of wheat. There were whispers of a new addition to the jewels he had collected from all over the world. Most of the time, these rumors did nothing to phase me and I paid them no mind. Mostly because most of the women joining the harem were beautiful on the outside, plastic on the inside and empty on the head side. But for this particular one, I made it my business to get to know every single thing I could about her. For several reasons.
Firstly, she was a Hebrew. And we all knew about those people and their God. The great and terrible God who fought against their enemies and in one breath obliterated cultures, communities, tribes and generations down to their children, herds and even servants.
Secondly because my mistress, the one who had been the favored one of Pharaoh for so long, the great, intelligent, conniving and even vile. A great friend to have – as far as friends go and as deep as friendships could grow among a group of hundreds of women, with tens of handmaids each, all of them vying for the attention and affection of one man – the pharaoh. Mistress had his heart and his mind because she was both intelligent and pretentious. She told him what he needed to hear to think she was demure and helpless one moment, only to challenge his intellectual thinking and decision making the next minute – and that he absolutely loved. You see, Mistress knew she could never fully have him. She was, after all, not the queen but one in a hundred of a Harem. But she also knew that there were parts of his soul she could access that no other woman had the guts or the cunning to manipulate her way into. And so when Mistress began to fret and frown about this latest addition, I knew there would be trouble. And trouble came the day she walked in and gave me the third reason why I should worry.
Sarai, a princess from a far land, traveling through our land with her brother, was possibly the most exquisite female I had ever laid eyes on. I mean her skin was flawless. Smooth and sun kissed – unlike the women in here who hid from the sun as though it would burn through them like a flame to a match. And so most of them had a pale, milky complexion that was the popular culture of the day – the paler the better – and because of that this Princess stood out. She glowed and it emanated from within. Her bone structure and symmetry was perfect. Her physique petite. Her command of various languages near perfect, diction and all. Her demeanor strong, yet humble. Powerful yet submissive, She almost seemed like a mystical creature. And unlike everyone else here, she actually did not want to be here. She did not clammer for Pharaoh’s attention. She instead did her best to keep as far out of his sight as possible. And for that reason, he wanted her all the more.
And that was the fourth and most important reason why I needed to know everything about her. What woman did not want to be the object of his desire, attention and affection? Why did she act like she was in a prison instead of in a palace. She was, after all used to living in a tent due to the nomadic lifestyle of her brother – so why complain when you were now sitting in the lap of luxury? But that was not even important. Of more significance was the fact that it intrigued Pharaoh so much that he made it his top agenda to win her over. And that took his attention away from Mistress. And Mistress was very angry – and when Mistress was angry, my life was miserable. And so, It became my personal agenda to know everything I could about this predator to my destiny.
And so I set the wheels in motion to secure my future and that of my Mistress. You see, the worst part of being in a harem was not necessarily being one of many. It was being the one in the many who had once been THE ONE and was now just one of many … the vultures swooped in quickly and the vipers sank their poisonous fangs into your victimized veins and I had seen more than one of THE ONEs resort to taking their own life. That was the worst thing for any one of the ones that became the one that had once been. But for me, being the main maidservant of the has been one, it was even worse. If the venom was dangerous among the queens, it was lethal among their servants. And for me, who had bossed them around, manipulated and threatened them for so long, survival meant only one thing : the survival of my mistress.
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