The milk droplets flew through the air and Tamara watched, almost in slow motion, as each of the small droplets danced, shimmered…taunted…then tumbled carelessly onto the immaculate linen table cloth, unconcerned and unaware of the life changing consequences of their actions. But Tamara was aware. Her whole body trembled as she stared at the five, maybe six small drops of liquid as they slowly, relentlessly melted into the fibers of the white material.
Her whole body trembled as she lifted her eyes, knowing that judgement would be swift and heartless.
As soon as her eyes lifted to her father’s furious features, Tamar knew that she’d done something horrifically wrong.
That slow motion movement continued as Tamara watched her father’s eyes lift from those small places on the tablecloth. His features morphed from surprise to shock to…fury. She watched her father’s eyes widen, then slowly narrow, his dark, bushy eyebrows bunch up, those three or four oddly long strands almost trembling with the man’s fury. His lips…fleshy and sputtering as bits of his food flew out of his mouth and his jaw went slack because of his fury…curved in disgust, then opened to bellow out his rage.
For the next five minutes, Tamara sat in the uncomfortable dining room chair while her father raged about her inexcusable table behavior.
“Your future husband will not allow this kind of…!” or “A true lady, one worthy of your future position as a wife to a very powerful man won’t….!” and the ever-present rant “You’re too skinny! You need to put on weight or your husband wont…!”
Tamara listened only to the first part of his criticisms, waiting for him to wind down. Perhaps her father’s furious lectures on her shortcomings might be shorter in length if Tamara would bow her head and feign shame or submissiveness. But Tamara hated being cowed! And she’d never be submissive! So instead, she lifted her chin, refusing to let her father see her tremble even though his words…hurt.
She wasn’t too skinny, she told herself! She was a twelve year old girl and…okay, so her arms and legs were a bit scrawny. It was probably because she hated eating here in the dining room with her father because nothing she did ever satisfied him.
Still, he continued but Tamara tuned him out, thinking about flowers or sunshine. Tuning him out was her silent rebellion against her father’s ridiculous anger towards her. It seemed that Tamara couldn’t do anything right – but she ignored him. She knew that she was worthy! She knew that she was strong and capable and…and she rejected all of his stupid criticisms!
A moment later, Tamara blinked and looked around, startled by the silence. Looking over at her father, she realized that he wasn’t yelling anymore. Instead, he was…glowering.
Uh oh! This wasn’t good! Tamara straightened her already straight spine, looking down the table at her mother, hoping for a clue as to what her father had said that she’d completely missed.
“Next week! You’ll leave next week! The school I’ve found for you will teach you better manners!” her father snapped.
Going away? Tamara’s head swiveled between her mother’s bowed head, then to her father’s imperious expression as he picked up his fork and started eating again.
Going away? For the first time during one of these demeaning rants, Tamara bowed her head. Not because she was shamed, but because she knew that she needed to hide her confusion and…excitement? Was she excited? Terrified, yes. Leaving the palace and getting away from her father...oh, that was too much to ask!
“She’s ready!” the old man with the weird eyebrows asserted firmly.
Jurid stood off to the side, watching his father’s reaction.
“She’s twelve years old!” his father snapped, obviously disgusted. “The betrothal contract between my son and your daughter is legal and binding, Idran.”
The other leader’s cheeks turned red, but he continued. “They don’t have to…” Idran, Sheik of Nadir explained. “Princess Tamara is young but…”
“No!” Jurid’s father snapped firmly. “We don’t condone child brides, Idran! That’s disgusting!” And with that, Jurid’s father stormed out of the office.
For a long moment, Jurid watched Idran who had obviously forgotten that anyone else was in the room. It occurred to Jurid that the older man was one of those people who would never be satisfied with his own power. He always had to strive for more. In this case, the old man wanted power through marriage and it didn’t matter that he would be selling his daughter into a marriage when she was nothing more than a child.
Still silent, Jurid watched, waiting. He’d learned from his own father to observe and learn. For several moments, the older man huffed and puffed, muttering under his breath. But eventually, he walked out of the office as well.
Jurid shook his head, disgusted with the situation. Walking out of the palace, he headed to the stables. By the time he arrived, his horse was already saddled and ready for him.
Walking right up to the powerful stallion, he petted the big guy on the nose. “I hope that you’re in the mood for a hard ride. Because I just listened to something disgusting and need to get it out of my mind.”
The horse must have sensed Jurid’s anger because he pranced eagerly, ready to get out and fly across the desert.
“Good boy!” Jurid soothed, then walked to the side and, with a swift move, pulled himself up onto the horse. Barely a moment later, the horse turned and, holding the powerful stallion back, walked out of the stable area. But when one of the stable hands was too slow at opening the gate, Jurid directed his horse towards the fence line and…simply jumped over.
Out in the hot sunshine, Jurid released his control of the stallion and his horse took off. Racing over the hard packed dirt, he and the animal were one. Jurid leaned over the horse’s neck, giving him even more power and the horse sped up, his long legs pounding out a rhythm that few could match.
After twenty minutes, the horse slowed and Jurid soothed and praised him, patting his neck as they continued. The hard ride was exactly what he’d needed to get the bad taste of that interaction out of his mouth. The idea of marriage made him shudder, but marriage to a girl who hadn’t even reached her teenage years? No! Absolutely not!
He couldn’t even imagine what the girl…Tamara was her name? Yes, that sounded right. All his life, Jurid had known that he was betrothed to this princess from Nadir. It hadn’t really bothered him. Not until he’d heard the girl’s father trying to marry her off at such a tender age. No, Jurid didn’t want a child bride. He wanted a strong woman. A woman who would be his equal. A woman just like his mother who argued and loved passionately. A woman who had pride and daring.
With a sigh, he turned back towards the palace. Obviously, he wasn’t going to get that with this Princess Tamara. So the only other option was to hold off on marriage to her for as long as possible.