Nahla stood at the side of the busy and shabby unmetalled marketplace of Kish, pulling the folds of her cloak in apprehension. Under it she hid the clay jar that she hoped to sell off to a worthy visitor. Most people in the locality recognised her; less for her appearance and more for the deceit that she was well known for. Who was she going to swindle today?
As people passed her by, nobody spoke to her but each onlooker’s eye displayed a shaft of recognition for the most talented slave of the Sumerian clergyman, Amar Suena. A few people here and there stopped to examine her course of action.
She scanned the crowd from among proud and demanding wood sellers who hurled abuses at docile pleading goat seller’s, to Lebanese cedar sellers and amidst them there stood a man in white attire with a tiara of olive leaves on his head. Clearly, he was from another country, who had come here with the hope of making a kismet. She smiled as she saw in him the traces of an ideal target and slowly paced towards him. How prefect, she thought.
Kaizer had finally reached the last leg of his journey. A trader’s life had always excited him. Travelling to countries far and wide, a new culture each time, new people and new hope. If only their language wasn’t a barrier for him. He had been told by his Afghani countrymen of the fetching Kish market where many a fortunes had been made. A few carpets were all he had with him to offer. As he listlessly walked down the street looking for a prize that would be worth his humble offering, he came across a cloak clad woman.
All he could tell was her dusky complexion that glistened in the sun and the most riveting eyes ever. For a brief moment he entirely forgot the business he had come for. She held a clay jar towards him and pointed at the carpet. Was that a deal she wanted to strike with him? A carpet for the jar? For the delight at having her want to do anything with him, he would have given the carpet for nothing. Without a scrape at trying to bargain or wanting to enquire the contents of the jar, he extended the most elegant carpet from the dozen of them to her.
She nodded her head and signalled to mean them all. All carpets for one jar?
Now his curiosity piqued. What did the jar contain?
He looked at the lid but it was sealed so he shook it as the insides clanged. He tried to break open the seal but no sooner had he touched it; she firmly snatched the jar away from him.
She then waved at him and pointed towards the surface of the pot on which was scrawled a picture of six goats.
It then dawned upon him the clarity of what was happening. This woman here was trying to buy from him carpets in exchange for six goats that she would give on another prefixed day. That he had heard from his friends was a popular trend in Sumer.
But what was he going to do with goats and how would he take them back home? He nodded his head in disagreement. The woman’s eyes fell with regret as she turned away.
A strange surge of guilt arose in him. How could he upset someone so ravishing? He hadn’t seen her face but her eyes were enough to talk of her loveliness and soft nature. Also there was the decoy of meeting this young woman again.
He lightly touched her shoulder and held out the carpets. At first she looked mildly surprised but without much ado hurriedly accepted it and pointed to the watch in his pocket, moved her hands in a circular fashion twice and then signalling with a show of hands indicated three and six. 36 days!
That’s when she was going to repay him. As a man blinded by her grace and poise, he didn’t question the deal much further. All the people who were now overly keen on the outcome of seeing a man cheated, sighed in despair. Among the people supervising the proceedings was Amar Suena, the clergyman who owned Nahla. She had proved his allegiance and loyalty to him by conducting his business in a more than suitable fashion.
Heavens knew there was nothing in the clay jar besides a few stones which when unsealed would prove the traveller as a liar tainting the image of an impoverished street side slave girl when he asked for the goats that belonged to him.
Amar Suena felt a sense of pride for this catch of a slave and on examining the ace quality of the carpets agreed to honour his promise to Nahla by setting her free. She had served him well and deserved to live without being bound. However the price for this kind gesture from his end would be for her to marry him. In his opinion, it was the greatest ideal a slave could aspire for. Never to have to do menial jobs again, never to dupe strangers again but stand aside him as his better half, a tribute she was not even worthy of, given her deplorable status.
Nahla however had other ideas. She wished for freedom. She wished for a new life. She wished for falling in love....perhaps with just an eccentric foolhardy smitten trader from Afghanistan.
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