04 – Betrayals and Beginnings

Cover-RM

[1000 words]With the grace of the woman she knew she was, calendars be damned, she thought, and an eagerness beckoning from childhood, Kamaria launched herself and dodged swells of sand and grit. Her bare feet barely disturbed the sand, but her exposed legs felt the wind steadily increase. The biting intensified, and she started to feel a desperation she hadn’t felt since a bandit tribe claimed her parents. She would’ve been next if it hadn’t been for the actions of a travelling merchant. A merchant that afterward stayed in Kamaria’s tiny village. She believed it a self-imposed penance for not saving her parents. Her village was so small; it didn’t warrant a name. She hadn’t thought about that merchant in years. She encountered him regularly in the course of village business, but he seemed to watch from afar, always smiling. The memories of the merchant welled from within and her desperation was suddenly replaced with worry.

Is Talib in trouble? The thought raced through her mind as a sudden downdraft halted her run. She didn’t fall, but she was forced to slow down.

She breached the perimeter of her village and the sand storm seemed to mellow. It was as if the sand itself was trying to prevent her from her goal, and once she had achieved it, it’s protestations were no longer necessary.

Kamaria frowned, her instincts had been right, but it was her interpretation that had been wrong. Standing in front of the village fire pit was Talib, the merchant she had worried about. He had been her friend for the longest time after her parents died. After a while, though, they’d drifted apart. It wasn’t as if a child and a merchant traveled within the same spheres of influence, there just wasn’t any commonalities between them. Kamaria suspected her desire to stay close to the man was based on a feeling of debt to him for saving her life.

Kamaria sidestepped when she saw Talib wasn’t alone. Peering around a hut, her anger started to rise. She knew she had no right to be angry, but try telling that to her gut. Talib stood close to Jezebel, Kamaria’s long-time rival. Ever since Jezebel had moved into the village aged only twelve summers, she’d broken the heart of every young man’s heart. Kamaria had felt an instant hatred toward her, but maintained a cool demeanor.

Why was she with Talib? For reasons unknown to her, it inflamed Kamaria. Bile rose and bit the back of her throat. Her insides felt as if it were a discarded rope – gnarled and twisted. She knew it wasn’t proper to eavesdrop, but she had to know why they were meeting. And not just any meeting, but a secret meeting in the twilight of night’s last throws.

As silent as the wind itself, Kamaria scaled the wall of the hut and scampered across the thatching. She pressed herself into the thatching, making herself as small as possible. Guile only got her so far; she needed to get closer, undetected. She lay on her back, watching the scene below play out, up-side down.

“I’ll end it; I swear to you!” Talib spoke in a hushed voice, to Kamaria, his desperation evident. “Trust me!”

“I don’t know, Talib,” Jezebel replied in a sad, small voice. “I’ve seen the way she looks at you when she thinks no one is watching.” Jezebel squeezed his hand in hers. ”It really bothers me!” Even hidden among the thatching, Kamaria could see Jezebel’s shoulders slump. “I want us to have a committed relationship, truly I do, but as long as she has feelings for you, we can’t be together.”

Talib looked to the heavens, a longing flittering across his features. He attempted to draw Jezebel into an embrace, but she pulled away.

“Just tell her you’re not interested,” Jezebel pleaded.

Kamaria felt her stomach drop, which was an interesting sensation, since it seemed to drop ‘up.’ Talib and… Jezebel? She seethed. How could he… The thoughts formed incomplete. Not possible! Kamaria squeezed her eyes closed. Talib would never be with someone like her! She imagined him with well… someone not necessarily her, but someone like her. He witnessed how Jezebel treated men who caught her eye.

“I promise,” Talib said firmly, “I’ll speak with her tomorrow.”

Kamaria, felt her self-control fade, she forced her hands away from her bow. It would be so easy, she thought. She wanted to kill Jezebel for tempting Talib. Her vantage, even inverted, was sufficient to put an arrow between her lying eyes. Talib had never done anything to earn the specific torture Jezebel meted out with careless abandon. Was he so enamored with her that he couldn’t see her obvious attempts to keep them apart?

With her last shred of dignity, Kamaria rolled away from them and scaled down the hut. She staggered aimlessly, but her feet knew the sand was where she needed to go. Her heart raced and she felt the throbbing of the veins in her neck. The pounding was so loud; her head began to ache. Kamaria collapsed upon the sand and despite her best efforts to remain composed, she began to sob quietly.

“Why does this hurt me so?” She demanded of the moon as it dissolved into gently lapping waves.

Kamaria stared across the endless desert. The moon had disappeared completely and the first rays of the sun shone across the sand. She strained her ears, but couldn’t hear the telltale signs of a storm brewing that her other senses told her was coming.

Kamaria was due to begin her new life as an apothecary in mere hours. She steeled her resolve and vowed to be the best apothecary the village had ever known. She forced her feelings of betrayal down into the pit of her stomach. I won’t let that… She stopped the undignified thought before it poisoned her. She knew she would learn to make many medicines, but would she learn to mend a broken heart?

Kamaria strode with confidence toward the apothecary hut, her new life waiting.

Next: Disclosures and Decisions

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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degree in Computer Systems and Applications and is currently attending Northern Arizona University. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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