I can still hear him – my father – yelling at my mother. She was crying, and when I saw her later she was bruised and bleeding, and it is my fault.
My father, who rarely even acknowledges my existence, much less asks me to sit and chat for a bit, asked me how I was enjoying my training. Now, I know I’m not supposed to mention that my mother is sneaking me off to school when she can, and that we practice in secret the letters and numbers. I know I am supposed to be a pleasuring gift to some king or other. I accept that.
But Father and I were having what felt like a friendly conversation for once, and he’d just told me I was his favorite daughter, and so I asked him, “What if the man I am gifted to is highly educated? What if he wants a wife who can converse with him on a number of different subjects? What if he asks me questions about my world and my government? What if I am his window into Lebonathi culture? Don’t you think it would be wise for me to have some exposure to such subjects? Surely a prince would want a wife who knows things, wouldn’t he?”
His smile faded. There was this awful, stiff silence, and I knew I had blundered. “Do you know how to stroke a man’s phallus and bring forth wetness?” he asked.
“I have practiced,” I said.
“Do you know how to point your toes to the ceiling to give him deep entry?” he asked.
Again I said, “I have practiced.”
“Do you know how to stroke your breasts slowly, back to front until the kasheen appears letting him know you are a virgin and sexually ripe?”
“Yes Father,” I said. “I have applied myself to my lessons.”
“And yet you feel they are not complete?” he asked, “That you are better than, more than what you are being taught? Is that it?”
“I just thought…” I began, and his hand came up in my face.
“That is your problem,” he said, “the notion that you are supposed to think. You are a female. You are a repository for seed, nothing more. You are an object of pleasure, and a means to an end. I have given you the honor of representing Lebonathi womanhood, Eridi. You must be perfect of shape, flawless in performance, irresistible as an object of pleasure. Your only task, your ONLY task, is to capture the seed of the prince to whom you are given, and bear him a male child who will bridge our two cultures and further my place in the galaxy. Until that child is born, it is you who must be that bridge, however imperfect, and opening your mouth will not accomplish it. Opening your legs will accomplish it. Do I make myself clear?”
I nodded. I didn’t say anything because I was frightened. He reached over and caressed my face, then let his hand slide down my shoulder and across my breast.
“Best remember this little talk,” he said, just above a whisper, “or I will be the one for whom you open your legs, and then you will be worthless, cast into a corner with the wives I loan out to visiting dignitaries. I don’t want that for you, but I will make it happen, and I will enjoy it, so be careful.”
He flashed me this terrifying smile and gestured me out of the room. My mother waited anxiously in the hall and I fell into her arms. “Does he really have those women he loans out?” I managed, and my voice was shaking.
She nodded. I heard him calling her name and she pushed me down the hall away from her. “Run,” she hissed. “Run!”
I must be more careful. I must be more careful.
Subtitle: The duty of a Lebonathi princess
Search: Lebonathi culture, Eridi, Eridu, Kasheen, bridge between cultures, repository for seed
Image: on file