Ashwin’s tone turns reflective. Tarek said I read too much. He thought it was a waste of time. But during his last few visits, he requested I read to him. He said it made him happy to listen to me share something I enjoy. He was happy because I was happy. Ashwin rubs the sad tilt of his lips. Sometimes I still read aloud to remind myself he wasn’t a total monster.
It’s meant to be drank, not stared at.The voice came from behind her. Without looking, she knew the person it belonged to.
And that had her picking up the glass.Mind if I sit down?The tomato juice, the vodka . . . maybe it was the pepper. Bad, bad, bad.
As a matter of fact . . .Victor Brooks sat facing her.
This is becoming a bad habit, she said, ignoring the roll in her stomach.
Oh? He flagged the waiter down, ordered coffee. What habit is that? he asked once the waiter left.I quicken my step. I do not want to be claimed for any of these positions. I do not want to be claimed at all. Most daughters cannot wait to leave this remote fortress, but they will leave here only if they are claimed to live whatever life a benefactor dictates for them. I would rather stay in Samiya and serve the gods than leave and serve a man.
Chatter from a hundred girls spills out of the dining hall. I pause at the doorway and scan the knee-high tables for Jaya. She is sitting with the other daughters our age, including Falan and Prita. Jaya motions me over to an empty floor cushion next to her. Sarita and Natesa sit across from them at the same table. I force away a frown and kneel beside Jaya. Falan and Prita smile a hello and return to their quiet chatting.Bamboo Girl, Natesa mutters.
Sarita snickers around a mouthful of rice. I pick at my food with my fingers. I do not wish to take on their tired insults about my awkward height and skinniness.Jaya leans into my side. Are you all right?