Page 13 - Vladimir Bartol ALAMUT
P. 13

Fiction SANJE 15“Look how hungry she is, the orphan,” one of the girls said.“And how pale,” another observed.“Let’s put some blush on her cheeks and lips,” a beautiful light-hairedgirl suggested.“The child has to eat first,” Miriam rebuffed them. She turned tothe black girl with the gilt tray. “Peel her a banana or an orange, Sara.” Then she asked Halima, “Which fruit do you prefer, child?”“I don’t know either of them. I’d like to try them both.”The girls laughed. Halima smiled too when Sara brought her banan-as and oranges.She soon felt overcome by so many delicious things. She licked herfingers and said, “Nothing has ever tasted this good to me before.”The girls burst into uproarious laughter. Even the corners of Miriam’s mouth turned up in a smile as she tapped Halima on the cheek.Halima could feel the blood starting to beat in her veins again. Her eyes shone, her mood improved, and she began to speak openly.The girls sat around her, some doing embroidery, others sewing, and they began asking her questions. Meanwhile, Miriam had pressed a met- al mirror into her hand and started painting her cheeks and lips with blush and her eyebrows and lashes with black dye.“So, your name is Halima,” said the light-haired girl, the one who had advised coloring her cheeks. “And I’m called Zainab.”“Zainab is a pretty name,” Halima acknowledged.They laughed again.“Where do you come from?” the black girl they called Saraasked her.“From Bukhara.”“I’m from there too,” said a beauty with a round, moon-shaped face and ample limbs. She had a cute, rounded chin and warm, velvety eyes. “My name is Fatima. Who was your master before this?”Halima was about to answer, but Miriam, who was just then apply- ing color to her lips, stopped her.“Hold on just a minute. And all of you... stop distracting her.” Halima swiftly kissed the tips of her fingers.“Stop that,” she scolded her. But her scowl wasn’t quite convincing,and Halima could clearly sense that she had won their general good will. She glowed with satisfaction.

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