Title: For a Girl
Zakariya Issachar - July 19, 2010 09:23 AM (GMT)
As no women were allowed on the Asharian fleet and Zakariya had told himself that he simply could not let his soon-to-be-wife out of his sight, the Captain of the Phoenix was condemned to sailing with the commoners, on a merchant ship heading to Kafkahan.
It was a silly little boat, for Zak could not call it any other way. It had a sail and relied more on wind power than the strength of its men. Luckily, the waters in the Kafkahan-Karam'sha-Sethi triangle were always blessed with low enough winds for sails. Azoth had always been kind to them in that respect and His Sister, Lazuli, always giving in its calm and easily-sailable waves. Zak had paid a hefty sum of money for him and for Dahlia to travel, reserving the very best conditions for his new love.
He'd watched her sleep, in her private quarters, having quietly sneaked in, unnoticed. She was very pretty and very young. It worried him, in a way, but her parents assured him that she would deliver. Zak would have waited a bit longer, but they had been very firm: it had been either then or never. Apparently, she'd had many suitors. It was irrelevant whether they were telling the truth: determination was something he both respected and honoured. In a way, whenever he thought about it, he always thought of Nadiyya. It was one word to describe her.
They hadn't had much conversation between them, aside from the basics, as name, provenance, number of wives and children. From his part, at least. They had, however, another week to discover each other.
The sun was close to rising when he performed his morning prayer and left the common quarters the men shared to admire the sunset. There were many things of the sea he missed when he was on shore, but the most, Zak missed the sunrises.
Dahlia Issachar - July 19, 2010 09:39 AM (GMT)
Sailing wasn't something that Dahlia enjoyed, or so she thought. The motion of the ship on the waves as it made its way to Kafkahan seemed to make her somewhat ill, though she hid that well enough. Oddly enough the feeling of illness seemed to be strongest when she was below deck in her quarters. Even more strangely, perhaps, it seemed to be the worst when she was alone without reminders of what potential problems would soon present themselves.
Of course she had to consider the possibility that it was her nerves getting the best of her that made her feel sick.
Regardless, being in open air and being able to focus on the water or the other sights helped. After forcing herself to wake from a deep sleep and losing herself in an unusually long prayer, Dahlia decided that some fresh air was much-needed and almost essential. She had woken up feeling just fine, but after asking the gods for a list of favors that she suddenly thought she needed, everything started to get to her. She needed a distraction.
Even as she left her quarters and made her way to the deck, she found herself dreading little things as she often did. She was, despite her attempt sot be rational, desperately hoping that no one would be on the deck when she got there. She was on the verge of begging the gods for one last favor that would allow her to be left alone completely so she wouldn't have to endure the awkwardness of being near or addressed by a stranger on top of everything else.
Unfortunately there was someone in sight when Dahlia emerged to see that the sun was still somewhat low in the sky. She wasn't completely certain whether that was something to be thankful for or bothered by. It was Zakariya, after all. He was supposed to be her husband soon enough. She needed not to dread his presence.
. . . seeing as how they were supposed to be intimate and all that.
Dahlia bit her lip slightly as her fingers curled around the skirt of her cream-colored dress and she forced herself to approach this husband-to-be of hers. She managed to put some confidence into her soft steps, but when she reached his side and glanced up at him, she froze. No words came. She simply stared for a brief moment before looking out toward the sea and fighting the instinctual blush that threatened to show on her cheeks and her ears beneath her mostly-covered hair.
Another quick glance at him came with a small smile after a pause, but still she couldn't find any words. Her fingers abandoned their posts clutching her skirt so they could curl around each other a little too tightly.
Zakariya Issachar - July 19, 2010 09:46 AM (GMT)
He heard gentle footsteps but he did not turn. Zak wasn't going to miss this for some sailor wandering on deck for change in duty. But when, in the corner of his eye, he saw Dahlia, he turned his head at her, in surprise.
She looked lovely in the growing sunlight.
Like an angel.
Zakariya waited for her to speak, but when she didn't, he contented himself with just smiling back, a warm, kind smile he only displayed for those women who held his heart. With the men, he knew how not to be and, especially, how to be.
Turning his head back to the gleaming iridescence, Zak slipped his hand onto her wringing ones, pulling them, gently, onto the railing, cupping them under. His smile became more pronounced, yet he said nothing, not even then. She had soft hands.
Dahlia Issachar - July 19, 2010 09:57 AM (GMT)
His smile told her he wasn't upset or bothered by her inability to address him properly. At the very least she knew with certainty that it meant he didn't loathe her, and he didn't want to strike her for being shy.
When he took her hands, moving them to the railing, her smile flickered then grew. She knew she was blushing now. It wasn't every day that a man touched her, especially with that kind of tenderness, and she couldn't deny the warmth that spread through her as a result of the contact.
Dahlia moved her hands slightly to feel his in the most subtle of ways. They were rougher than her own, but that was what she expected. That was what she wanted, in a way. She had always said that she wanted a strong husband who had worked with his hands, not that she needed a husband at all, obviously. . .
Even when she started to formulate a statement or greeting in her mind, she ended up being distracted by the sunrise across the water for a moment. It was different, she thought, than the sunrise on land. It reflected off the water in such a way that she was sure it was brighter now than ever.
When she came to her senses, she quickly told herself that a brief "Good morning" or "Hello" would make him think she was some kind of simple idiot. He hadn't done anything to make her think he was that critical, but she still doubted her understanding of his expectations. She was still terrified of disappointing him.
So she settled for a step closer to him and tried to let just a little more time pass before interrupting the serenity created by the sun with her awkward attempts at small-talk.
Zakariya Issachar - July 19, 2010 10:03 AM (GMT)
He stood there, silent, next to her, admiring the long, shining rays and their polychromatic effects on the water and the sky. It was only after a while that the deck began to be populated, though he'd picked a more sheltered corner of the boat, not necessarily for privacy, but as not to get in anyone's way.
There was comfort in her touch, and Zak enjoyed that.
"I bet you've never seen one like this."
Dahlia Issachar - July 19, 2010 10:10 AM (GMT)
The increase in traffic on the deck didn't go unnoticed. Dahlia didn't hint at it, but her mind raced when she heard footsteps and saw movement in the corner of her eye. She wondered what people were thinking about her. She wondered if when there was a soft chuckle it was at her appearance, but she didn't act upon that paranoia. She just stayed close to Zakariya and tried not to draw any attention to herself- not even his.
She was fine with their little hand-holding. That is, until he finally broke the silence.
Dahlia shifted slightly as if trying to gracefully break herself out of statue-like stillness. "I haven't," she confessed softly, glancing up at him. "Do you . . . ever get used to it?"
Does that even make sense? She was starting to blush again like some stupid little girl.
"Does the sunrise impress you now after you've seen it so many times?" she asked, feeling the insurmountable urge to clarify herself.
Zakariya Issachar - July 19, 2010 10:15 AM (GMT)
"Yes," he answered, simply, smiling at the horizon.
How could you get used to something so beautiful. Where the air touched the sea, where Azoth and Lazuli joined hands, wonders beyond words were created. One of them, of course, was the sunrise. The other, the sunset. An even greater, terrible one: the unknown.
There was a pause as he pondered on the years he'd spent on the sea. The joy of it and how much he missed it when he was parted from it, even for a day. Then, as quickly as those thoughts had come, he thought of her, redirecting his attention.
"How are you faring? It can be a test for the insides at times, sailing."
Dahlia Issachar - July 19, 2010 10:21 AM (GMT)
In a moment of impulsiveness, Dahlia chuckled lightly before quickly stopping herself. "Well," she began, trying to recover from the loss of composure. "I suppose I must admit it's different- maybe challenging, but I am faring well. I'm well."
Dahlia would have preferred not to admit that it was anything other than easy and perfectly enjoyable, but there was only so much she could do after slipping up like she had. She couldn't pretend to be completely nonchalant with her answer, but she still had hope of presenting herself as a stronger woman at other opportunities.
Maybe he didn't want a woman who could handle anything and everything on her own, but Dahlia needed to try to be that kind of woman for her own sake.
"How are you?" she asked plainly, trying to draw attention away from herself. "In general, of course."
He mustn't have been made ill by the sea. Still, it only seemed right to inquire about him.
Zakariya Issachar - July 25, 2010 09:09 PM (GMT)
"I am well," he said, all too proudly, grinning charmingly at her.
There was need for elaboration. "I am on a ship, which is where my soul feels at rest, I am accompanied by a beautiful woman who I am about to marry and am heading to the home that holds my heart." His dark eyes lovingly traced the contour of her pretty face. That was all Zakariya said before his lips fell into a subtle smile.
Dahlia Issachar - July 25, 2010 10:32 PM (GMT)
Dahlia, feeling her nervousness intensify as Zakariya answered her question, acknowledging her like he did, looked out toward the sun again. Still, she paid close attention to his words, looking for ways to make herself useful and an understanding of him. If nothing else she wanted to learn as much about him as she could. That was intimacy. That was what a wife needed to do. That was what would make her worth keeping around or at least capable of playing the games associated with marriage . . . it would help her compete.
Yet her thoughts of careful attention to detail and competition slipped away from her suddenly when she realized he was calling her beautiful- not pleasant or simply pretty- beautiful.
Dahlia looked to him, catching the way he glanced at her before smiling subtly. Her expression shifted to match his as she considered what he seemed to be thinking about her.
So many times people had called her sisters beautiful. So many times she had heard people refer to the daughters of her father as beautiful collectively, but Dahlia wasn't sure she had ever been called beautiful on her own. She would have hated to admit it, but the attention and the affection this man, her future husband, offered her warmed her and convinced her- if only for a moment- that things were finally going her way.
"It . . . pleases me to know that I will see your home soon and . . . become your wife," Dahlia said slowly, dropping her gaze and wondering what she was supposed to say in this type of situation. She could feel herself blushing at her own words, but she didn't give up her hope of acting more mature than she knew she was.
She wanted him to know that she wasn't made unhappy by the events that were unfolding, but acting overly eager seemed like it would be perceived as a suspicious behavior, and the last thing she wanted to do was become a childish annoyance. Saying nothing at all may have been preferable, but silence was far from ideal.
Zakariya Issachar - July 26, 2010 02:03 AM (GMT)
Zak couldn't help but to smile at that. She was very well spoken - he liked that. It also seemed earnest, not cool and calculated. Hopefully, she wouldn't turn out to become another Nadiyya. As much as he loved his first wife, sometimes, he couldn't stand her.
That was not, however, the purpose of this conversation. It was certainly tangential, but Zakariya had enough mental discipline to bring himself back to the problem at hand. That was, much to his pleasure, Dahlia.
"Are you afraid?" he asked, boring his dark eyes into hers. He had enough experience with that of betrothing to know a little about women, seen from that light. You could say Zakariya thought himself a bit of an expert and this writer cannot necessarily deny it. He was, in any case, versed in that of marriage and it was for that exact reason that he wanted to do his best to comfort and prepare his new wife for the life ahead of her. For one, he felt feelings of deep tenderness towards her and her being, and, secondly, in preparing her he spared himself of a world of grief. A good strategist considered those two angles, even in marriage.
Dahlia Issachar - July 26, 2010 02:16 AM (GMT)
Ye- "No," she said a little too quickly, looking up at him with eyes that were a little too wide for a short moment. "The thought, it- it doesn't make me nervous." What did he want to hear? What could she say that would be at least partially true and more pleasing than the whole truth? "It . . . excites me. I look forward to it."
That was true enough. There was something so very romantic about the idea of marriage, especially to someone handsome and accomplished and mature- a real man-, but there was also something undeniably intimidating about it. Dahlia felt both exalted, in a way, and dwarfed by the situation. The thought of marrying this man, the thought of becoming a part of what she knew of his life, was certainly exciting in a way, but she couldn't shake the anxiety caused by the unknown. Perhaps one could call that anxiety a fear, but Dahlia didn't want to.
Dahlia wanted to be fearless, and if she couldn't be, she at least wanted everyone to think that she was.
"I am curious as to how my life will change. I suppose I must acknowledge that, but I am happy." Maybe too happy.
Zakariya Issachar - July 26, 2010 02:22 AM (GMT)
He nodded, appreciating her explanations as he appreciated any given from the heart. Zakariya was still, in a way, unconvinced, because previous experience told him otherwise, but he let it slide, trying a more subtle approach.
"Is there anything you wish to know? I imagine you have many questions," some hidden behind curiosity, some hidden behind uncertainty and some brought about by fear itself. He patiently waited.
Dahlia Issachar - July 26, 2010 02:28 AM (GMT)
One probably would have thought that Dahlia had a detailed list of such questions stored in her mind.
One would have been wrong.
Although Dahlia had spent a good deal of time wondering about what she was getting into, she hadn't spent much time clarifying her thoughts or thinking of things to ask about. She didn't want to interrogate her husband-to-be. She had no right to even consider doing that, but she was curious.
She wished that she knew what to ask him, but she didn't. It took her a moment to even think of what to say next. Questions came to mind quickly, but none of them seemed appropriate enough to be asked without fear of repercussions.
Eventually one burning question came to mind that she just had to ask.
"Do you think your other wives will find me . . . unlikeable?" she asked somewhat timidly, looking out to the safety of the water again.
It occurred to her soon after she asked her question that she probably should have focused on him rather than his other wives, but she couldn't take the question back. Her stomach lurched at the thought of how her question might be received.
Zakariya Issachar - July 26, 2010 02:40 AM (GMT)
Zakariya's face subtly wrinkled in an expression of hilarity as he let out a snort. "Oooohyah..." he wheezed, letting his arms settle on the railing, lion-like, his upper chest resting on this new prop. "I expect they shall find you very displeasing," he said.
Dahlia Issachar - July 26, 2010 02:49 AM (GMT)
"Really?" Dahlia asked with an innocent lack of clarity, her doe eyes drawn to him again. She wasn't sure how to take Zakariya's apparent amusement.
He either seemed to find his wives' quarreling to be hilarious or he thought the question was ridiculous. Neither of those potential cases brought much ease to his young wife-to-be.
Zakariya Issachar - July 26, 2010 03:05 AM (GMT)
"Don't let them get to you, Dahlia," Zakariya said, looking at her. His face had lost that joking air, though it was still smiling and pleasant. "The worst thing you could do is let them get to you. I'm not sure of their reaction, but if they should decide to be horrible to you in my absence, it is my wish that you tell me."
He already planned on warning them again that he didn't work on favourites. It was a bit of a pain, having to have 'the talk' every time. First with Nadiyya, then with Tara... It had probably been the hardest talk when he'd brought Emma in.
Zakariya looked away, his face succumbing to a smileless state, his eyes lost on the sea.
Dahlia Issachar - July 26, 2010 03:15 AM (GMT)
Dahlia had a feeling that this was a potential problem that concerned him, too. She didn't want him to worry, but she also knew that if his wives did treat her unkindly, she would feel terrible about speaking up regardless of his wishes. Even if she thought telling him would solve everything, she didn't want to be the weak and defenseless one. . .
"I won't let them get to me," she said in as reassuring a tone as she could create, "and if they are unkind, which I'm sure they won't be- I am certain they are lovely women- I will tell you. I will."
He looked vaguely troubled, she realized as she glanced over at him before looking away toward safety. If he worried about how she would impact his family, Dahlia was certain she would begin to feel guilt for that. It may have been his decision to take another wife, but she was the one who would make the impact. Perhaps she could win his wives over and work her way into the family properly, but if not . . . she would blame herself for certain.
". . . and I'm certain that when you are not absent, all will be well," she added, hoping that would ease the tension she felt and whatever unpleasantness might have been plaguing the man beside her.
Zakariya Issachar - July 26, 2010 03:28 AM (GMT)
"I'm confident," Zakariya said, forcing his warm smile to reappear on his face, so as not to trouble her, "that once they get to know you and discover what a lovely person you are, they will care for you as much as I do." He believed that. With all his might.
Dahlia Issachar - July 26, 2010 03:42 AM (GMT)
Dahlia couldn't help it. She smiled shamelessly and girlishly at those words. She smiled almost uncontrollably, but then she was able to see past the flattery. As she processed what she had heard, her smile softened, but it retained its ability to express her pleasure.
"I never imagined that . . . well, that I would someday find a man, a husband or future husband, as the case may be, who would speak of me that way," Dahlia confessed. "My older sisters' husbands, though wealthy and in some cases quite handsome, don't speak of them with much affection."
She wanted to just come out and say that she thought a husband of hers would hardly be able to tolerate her. She wanted to be able to be completely open and honest for once in her life, but she couldn't. Now wasn't the time. Future husband or not, Zakariya had known her for only a short time, and until they were properly wed, he had no real obligation to put up with her whining or so-called foolishness.
Sometimes some things were better left unsaid even in the most 'intimate' of relationships. Dahlia's father had made that very clear to her once he decided it was time to marry her off. His biggest fear seemed to be his daughter embarrassing him and scaring every man in Farrah away with her ridiculous ideas and out-of-line arguments.
Dahlia hated being told what she could and could not say as a proper woman, but she wasn't about to mess this up.
"I hope you know that I . . . well, I like you very much," she said quietly, hoping that came out the way it was supposed to.
Zakariya Issachar - July 26, 2010 04:12 AM (GMT)
Men often refused to express their affection. They confessed it to others, they professed it to the gods, but they did not say it to the people to whom it was most important -- their lovers. Zakariya, for one, could not imagine why. He was more reserved to talk about his emotions in front of strangers, but forced himself to express them in front of the people who nurtured them. So, as she spoke about her sisters' husbands, he merely nodded.
Silence fell again, until she spoke. He couldn't help smiling slightly at the innocence and naiveté in that simple statement. His hand travelled to her hair, pushing it back behind he ear as he leaned in and whispered, "I hope you know, by now, that I do, as well."
Dahlia Issachar - July 26, 2010 04:32 AM (GMT)
Dahlia stood completely still, her mind and her expression going blank. She didn't move a muscle. She didn't even breathe, but then she smiled again. He was close- very, very close. He had touched her, and he had spoken such kind words. At first she felt the need to cower away from him, but then she realized she liked that. She quickly realized she could love it.
His affection was unlike any she had ever received before, and it felt nice- really nice.
Dropping her chin slightly, Dahlia looked up at Zakariya and said softly, "I know."
She didn't make any move to back away from him or hide. She just continued to smile and forget all about those other wives.