​​Judy Meadows, Romance Writer:

Escape from Behruz


 When the meal was over, the women helped her put on her new costume. They wanted to do everything. Their hands were all over her, pulling at her sweater and trying to open the snap and zipper of her jeans. They giggled and exclaimed when they saw her small, pale breasts, but the biggest source of delight turned out to be her lacy briefs. She was relieved when they covered her with the new clothes.
     The bright colors and the enthusiasm of the women as they dressed and preened her made her feel like a child getting ready for a special party. First they helped her put on two gauzy petticoats, then a skirt and, finally, a blouse. The skirt was a gathered and tiered patchwork of pink, red, yellow, and purple cotton that fell almost to the ground. The blouse was gathered around a scooped neck and had full sleeves that came to tight bands at her wrists. The final touches consisted of an embroidered purple sash, which they tied around her waist, and a lace trimmed mantle of white silk that covered her hair.
     Olivia enjoyed a borrowed sense of belonging, something she hadn’t felt for a long time. She was surrounded by women wearing costumes similar to hers who were all beaming with pride at her appearance.
     She’d admired the nomad women she’d seen in the city. They stood so tall and moved with such confidence. Now, dressed like them, she stood taller herself. Her own sense of pride and confidence swelled.
     The women were waiting for her reaction. She took a few steps away, feeling the swish of the petticoats around her legs, and then she stretched out her arms and did a pirouette that lifted the skirt into a rippling circle of color around her. She smiled at the women, grateful for the sense of sisterhood they shared with her. She was aware of her body in a new way. The costume made her feel womanly as nothing she had worn before ever had, but at the same time it made her feel frivolous.
     “Tell them it’s beautiful. Thank them for me,” she said in Farsi, and Fatima translated her praise to the nomad language. “Everything fits perfectly. How did you know my size?”
     “Your husband told me. I met him in Behruz City last week. He gave me the sizes when he gave me the money to buy the materials.”
     “Did you buy this too?” She fingered the delicate lace of the mantle. It was exquisite compared to the plain cotton ones worn by the other women.
     “Your husband asked me to get you a mantle such as this.”
     Olivia flushed with pleasure at the idea of Rashid taking a personal interest in her costume. How would he react when he saw her in it?
     “This reminds me of a wedding,” Fatima said when they all stepped out of the tent. “When a Qashami girl gets married, the women all help her dress in her wedding clothes and then they escort her to her husband’s tent.”    

     Walking toward the tent of her “husband,” Olivia felt like a bride. The mantle framed her face and fell down her back like a bride’s veil, and the long skirt swayed with every step. Rashid stood in front of the tent talking to Saddiq. He was wearing a long shirt and a wool vest like those worn by the other men. He was holding up a rifle, sighting along the barrel. He said something to Saddiq and handed him the rifle; then he turned and saw the procession of women approaching. Time stopped for several heartbeats when his eyes fell on Olivia. He seemed to straighten up, to become taller, and everything about him became very still.
      She met his gaze boldly. The petticoats swished around her legs when she walked. She felt the swing of her arms, the sway of her hips, even the slight bounce of her breasts. All the women stood behind her, waiting for Rashid’s reaction.
      “Spin around again like you did for us in the tent,” Fatima whispered to Olivia.
      Rashid’s nomad clothes made him look primitive and very male. His eyes were intent on her, like the eyes of an animal watching its prey. He was motionless except for a slight quivering of his nostrils.
      Olivia lifted her arms slowly, and the women stepped back away from her. Then she began the pirouette. She moved as if in a trance. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. But still the skirt rose, its colors blurring as she spun, and she felt dizzy and flushed when she stopped. She gave Rashid a smile that came from some new knowledge.
      “You are a temptress,” he said in English. His eyes were dark pools that beckoned her to tempt and be tempted.
      “The ladies are waiting to see what you think of their handiwork.”
      He stepped toward her and reached his hand up to touch her face at her temple. Then he slid it down until it cupped the nape of her neck. A shiver of response rippled through her, but she didn’t move.
      “She is very beautiful,” he said in Farsi. “The costume is perfect. She is perfect.” He kissed her lightly on the lips. The speculations and remarks of the nomads hushed. A crow cawed in the distance, and then it was silent too. She was mesmerized. She felt possessed.