Walking around the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri made me feel like a girl. When I was younger, I lived in England and when my family visited castles I would lag behind my parents, daydreaming about being a princess who lived there. The daydreams had an erotic tinge, though I wouldn’t have been able to identify that then. Twelve and cursed with unusually thick glasses, I wasn’t creating a whole lot of heat in sixth grade. Correction: No heat. OK, I was creating negative heat. But when I walked around the ruins of castles, I could freely imagine being beautiful and desired rather than being voted “Mrs. Strange” by my classmates, a dubious distinction that I’ve never shaken amongst old friends.
Fatehpur Sikri inspired in me many of the same romantic imaginings because it’s so intact. Built in the 1570s, it was occupied for only fifteen years by the court of Akbar the Great. I could easily imagine myself in billowing mogul pants, breasts spilling out of my tight bustier, catching the eye of Akbar across the sun baked courtyard.
He would smile and incline his head toward one of the palaces available for a late afternoon tryst. But I wouldn’t be that easy. I wasn’t like one of his mousey wives and concubines to be had for a mere trinket or a promise of social favors for my family. I was independent, an equal, and hotter than the sandstone walls of the Diwan-e-Khas. My name was Mona and I was a dancer. My signature move was a flawless backbend with one leg lifted, toe pointed to the heavens – leaving nothing to the imagination especially when I danced naked -- which I would only do if I liked you.
“Mommy, Daddy says to tell you we’re all on that other side of the gate,” said a high voice, interrupting my thoughts.
I looked down to see Murphy, “Huh?”
“We’re all on the other side of that gate. Daddy was worried about you.”
“Oh, honey. Tell him I’m fine.”
Murphy stood his ground, “Are you coming?”
“In a minute.”
“What are you doing?”
“Thinking honey. Just thinking. Run and tell Daddy I’ll be there in a minute.”
Murphy shrugged, “Uncle Keir says to hurry up. He doesn’t want to drive in the dark.”
“All right. Give me a minute.”
Murphy scurried off.
OK. I’m not a dancer I’m a slave girl. I’ve come to draw water from the well in the middle of the courtyard. I lean over and feel a hand brush my ass through the thin silk of my pants. I’d know that hand anywhere. It’s the hand of Akbar the great. I tremble as his hand lingers. What if one of his wives sees us? I might be forced to dance naked in front of the whole city. I stand, my water vessel sloshing water because I am still shaking. Akbar asks me who is my master, for he would like to buy me. I cannot look him in the eye. I look down and see that he is...
“MOMMY!!!” I turn around to see Spencer standing at the gate. “Are you coming?!”
“Yes. Yes. I’m coming. I’ll be right there.”
Spencer disappeared beyond the gate. I started to walk toward it, slowly.
I’m not a slave girl. I’m the newest, youngest, and prettiest wife of Akbar, who has been summoned to meet him just beyond this gate. He frightens me with his gruff manor and large hands. But I must obey the summons or he will force me to dance naked in front of the whole city. Once I step through this gate, I am completely his. Subject to his every whim -- powerless to resist his large hands and …
I walked through the gate and saw my family waiting for me in a clump. Pat turned and walked toward me, “There you are. What were you doing?”
“Just imagining what it must have been like,” I said.
“I know,” he said, smiling. “It must have been pretty wild.”
-- Oh my love. You have no idea.
|Pat pointing something out to the boys|