Worlds Apart

Honored Mother,

Thank you very much about the goat.  I am taking care to pay attention and be sure to remember everything so I may rule goat-herders well some day.  My goat’s name is ‘Habib’ and he has brown wool and licks my face.  I feed him milk from a bladder and he follows me around.  I think it is only right, since he thinks I am his mother, that he sleep in my room.  Omi says that isn’t clean because he doesn’t use the pot like people do, and Sitt Merritt says it is beneath my dignity to sleep in his barn.  But if he is my family, how can it be beneath my dignity to sleep with him?  Surely your word on the matter will hold weight.  Please, I feel it is vital to the security of the future of the Siresha that I be allowed to sleep with Habibi the goat.  I have prayed for wisdom on the matter, and the signs were very favorable.  All the incense burned right up and the smoke never got in my eyes not once.

You ask about Omi’s friend.  His name is Meron and he is very tall and has grey hair and brown spots on his hands.  His hands have crooked fingers.  He says, they are crooked because the weaving goes side to side, so his fingers have learned to do that too.  I asked Omi why do her fingers not also go sideways, and she says because she takes better care of her hands by rubbing them with oils.  She shows me how, and now I too will have straight fingers, even if I try the weaving.

Meron laughs and brings me sweets and says I have old eyes.  I think this must be good because I must be old as soon as possible to help save my people, like you did.  But when he says it, he shakes his head and shows me games.  He knows many games for an old person, and he says he aged backwards so that now, being old, he gets to play more.  I do not see how this can be so, but Omi laughed.  Omi laughs much with him.  I didn’t know Omi liked to laugh so much.  They talk about looms and weaving, and trade words.  He sounds very funny when he talks in our tongue, but he never makes fun of Omi when she makes mistakes with their tongue.  Omi makes many mistakes, but he says, mistakes can be fun too.  I am not sure this is right.

Meron’s house has one room and his oldest daughter comes to clean it.  She’s very nice, but she looks oddly at Omi and me.  She talks very loudly and slowly to us.  We are not deaf.  We are foreign.  I don’t know why she does this, but Omi says I should be nice and play with my goat.

Khassan says the People still have no pressing cases and I shouldn’t worry about them.  How can this be?  Please make sure.  I don’t want to neglect my people for a goat.  I go every day, but they say, “Little Amirah, we are well!  Come again for the festival of Bes.”  There are three new babies.  Two are named Aminah.  That is very confusing.

Dutifully,

Nafisah, Amirah bint’Aziz

*********

Dear Ada Glariond,

Thank you for helping tell Omi and Grandmother and everyone to let me have the goat!  His name is Habib.  I drew a picture of him, but it isn’t good.  I made for him a crown of flowers, but he ate it and he also ate my new scarf.  He ate it off my head!  It was very embarrassing.

Grandmother would not let me take Habib to the Feast of Spring with her friends.  Her friends are very, very old and some still ask her if I worship the Eye or if I’m this color all over.  I think, though, that they are ignorant, not mean.  Grandmother says this is a good way to learn how to be an ambassador, and that every ruler is part ambassador.  And that ambassador means that you get to be all of your people at once, and it’s a great honor.  I tried to do a very good job, and Grandmother says I did, even though I forgot and used my hands to eat by mistake.

I told Honored Mother about Omi’s friend, so I suppose you should ask her.  Mother Teriel said she would tell you Gondorian things about him too.  I don’t see what the fuss is about.  Shouldn’t Omi have friends?  He isn’t even naughty sometimes like Branner and he never ever pulls anyone’s curls or puts tacks in their chairs or calls them silly-head.  They don’t even go any place muddy, and they both have hurty knees, so they don’t wander off much. But people look worried and whisper and nobody will say why.  Why?

Thank you again for Habib.  Please let me sleep in the stall with him.  And maybe, may I go barefoot like the peasant girls?  It looks fun and Adia says mud feels nice between your toes.

Love,

Nafisah, Lady Arathalion

*********

Sister Aminahli,

I must thank you for your husband’s gracefully worded refusal.  A great weight is lifted from me with his words.  See, I learn writing too!  Nafisah kindly teaches me, and Sitt Merritt says it helps her learn better.

I’m sure Nafisah is telling you all about her new friend the goat.  Many lambs were considered, but she and Branner and Adia decided that the brown goat felt left out among all the white goats, and that they would make him feel loved.  They pet the sheep too, never fear.  It seems to comfort them.  They keep brave faces, but they look very different here, and people don’t wake from ancient grudges overnight.  I’m sure Khassan tells you all about the daily scuffles there.

Ah, now.  We come to Meron.  I would beg your forgiveness, but I won’t.  I’ve spent all of my life doing what was asked of me, as have you.  As you say, we must be people sometimes.  I’ve tried to explain Nafisah to him, but it’s hard.  We don’t speak each other’s words well.  They only have one wife at a time, and I’m not sure he understands how she can be mine, yours, and now also your husband’s.  Has he really adopted her?  That is very strange.

If it comes to choosing, I always choose my daughter.  And she is mine, even if she will grow up to be yours.  I would like to have a man’s hearth to keep in my old age, but I would rather have my child.  I trust you to do justice by me, as always.  You are young, but justice was your wet-nurse.

I can’t resist giving advice, so I give some here.  You say, this new baby makes you nervous.  Babies do that.  You must learn to let her fall down and cry.  By all means, slaughter the assassins and keep your Hand close, but let her touch hot things and cold things and sharp things.  Use salt-water and honey to clean the wounds.  Take care that she only touches little dangers.  Now is when she learns what danger is, and she won’t if you keep her always away.  This is being a good mother.  Also, be away from her sometimes.  Let her find you before you find her.  How can she learn to be herself when she is never by herself?  But before all else, calm yourself.  This is not hard.  Children are not easily ruined, else we would be overrun with ruined children!  Spend most of your time being yourself, and not being her mother.  If you were meant to be a mother only and not a self, the gods would have decreed it so!

With love,

Fatimah

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