Chapter 14

New Handmaiden

Abiya woke. She felt chilled from fear. She remembered having a nightmare. Only she couldn’t remember what she’d been dreaming. Where was she? This wasn’t her room. Her four-poster bed was made of bronze. This bed was made of wood. Her canopy and bedding was plum. This was scarlet. How vulgar. Then the truth came flooding back. She’d been given away. That was the nightmare; she’d been given away to a warring prince.

She remembered the wedding day, but she didn’t remember the wedding night.

“Drink all of it, my lady.”

Abiya held a warm mug in her hands. She took a sip. Her nose wrinkled. “It’s bitter.”

“It will make you feel better.” The voice was soothing, comforting, like her mother’s.

Another sip. “What is it? I’ve not tasted anything like it before.”

“No, my lady, you wouldn’t. It is one of my design.”

She looked up at the lady before her. She’d expected to see her handmaiden. Though she couldn’t remember who that was, she was sure the full-figured woman was not her. Her hazel eyes looked concerned. She smiled mother-like.

Abiya smiled back. “I do feel better.” She finished the drink. The fog from her mind was clearing.

The woman took the mug and set it on the table. “Now let’s get you out of that dress and give you a bath.”

“Who are you?” Abiya asked.

The woman’s face grimaced.

“Have I asked you that before?” Abiya felt foolish at not remembering asking or remembering the answer.

“Yes, you have, several times, my lady.”

“I have been sick.” Who was this woman? Who had sent her? Where was Abiya’s handmaiden? Did she have a handmaiden? She couldn’t remember.

“Yes, my lady, forgive me. My name is Tamerad.” The woman smiled so sweetly.

This is Tamerad. Why am I worried? I am safe with her. She didn’t know how she knew that, but Abiya knew it was the truth. She could trust this woman, even with her deepest secret. “First I must hide something,” she whispered so softly.

“My lady?” Tamerad looked surprised. “Shall I leave?”

“Help me hide it,” Abiya whispered as if she didn’t want the walls to hear and tell her secret.

Taking a step closer, Tamerad also whispered. “What is it?”

Reaching into her dirty sleeve, she held it out for Tamerad to see. “It is called Topaz.” Topaz rolled off Abiya’s tongue like a lover’s name.

The handmaiden leaned closer. Her hand twitched. What was that glint in her eye? Abiya pulled back. She’s come to take it from me.

You can trust her, the voice in her head said.

No. How do I know that is true? I’ve never seen her before. How do I know she is my handmaiden? She could be lying.

I would never lie to you, the voice said.

A peace swept over Abiya as she realized the true of those words. There might not be anyone in the world she could trust, but the voice was always true.

Then, Tamerad straightened, took a step back, and slipped her hands in her sleeves. The threat was only in Abiya’s imagination.

You see? It was all your imagination. You have nothing to fear from this one, the voice said.

I can trust her, Abiya told herself. She was just being a foolish girl.

Still, the thought of leaving the room without Topaz chilled Abiya’s heart. “No, I can’t. I must never be parted from it.” She clinched the jewel to her chest.

“Will you take a bath with it?”

Abiya considered it. “Yes.”

Like a mother disproving her daughter’s decision, Tamerad’s right eyebrow lifted, ever so slightly.

“No.” Abiya felt her face heat with embarrassment. “That would be ridiculous.”

“Then we should hide it so no one will ever find it.”

Abiya liked her suggestion. “But where?”

After carefully examining the room, Tamerad said. “I know.” She drew Abiya to the bed, pulled it from the wall, lifted the sheet from the head, took a small knife from her pocket, and cut an inconspicuous hole in the mattress near the wall.

Reluctantly, Abiya slowly guided Topaz into the slit. Tamerad remade the bed and pushed it up against the wall. “See, no one is the wiser. Now we will have that bath.”

With a worried backward glance, Abiya allowed Tamerad to lead her out of her bedroom to the bathing room.

Published in: on July 3, 2011 at 11:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

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