Oils & Perfumes

The words sounded dull to her ears. Though she was walking docile a few steps behind her mother Tallia's heart was in the tent that drew father away with each step she took. Each step she took hardened her insides towards the future. It was not the same carefree young girl that had grown up in riches and royalty that entered the main tent abreast of her mother. Tallia was gone. She'd fled the moment they'd withdrawn from each other's arms, the moment she faced her mother.

"My beautiful daughter!" Her father cried upon her entrance. "You've spent your last solitary night as a child. Tomorrow morning you will be a woman. You must agree with me wife, it seems the night alone in her own tent has done her well. She looks like a woman already." Her father gave her mother a cheerful smile as he pulled her into his side.

"I agree with you husband. Our daughter will make us proud in the eyes of her new husband." Leila gave her husband a peck on his stubbled check then slipped from his side.

"Now, we must prepare her for what await her tonight. You must excuse us husband." Tallia followed demurely as her mother caught her wrist and brought her farther inside the main tent. As they entered the women's quarters the female servants showered her with smiles and pulled her towards a warm bath already awaiting her.

"You will be rubbed from head to foot with oils and perfumes before you make the journey to your new husband. You must be supple as your cross into womanhood. If the gods favor you will conceive on this night young daughter." Leila watched the servants pull Tallia's white shift over her head.

"Oh Tallia! Didn't you sleep on the silk pallet I had specially made for you for last night?" Her mother wondered, standing and coming to look at raw red patches that covered her back and bottom.

"No, I slept on the straw pallet. I must have been so restless" she let the sentence trail. He'd told her this was the excuse she should use if asked such a question.

"How childish of you daughter! You should have known better." Tallia winced at her mother's words and from the touch of her mother's slender finger as she examined the raw skin.

"Yes mother."

"Rub them well with oils before you put her in the bath." She commanded of the servants, exiting with a flourish and a jangle of her bracelets.

"You shouldn't have." Bertie, one of the servants whispered to her as she dabbed the sore skin with aloe.

Tallia let her hands clench at her sides. Tallia was dead.