Sometimes he wondered—actually, no—he always wondered what was on his wife’s mind. He could never tell. Her demeanor was always frosty and cold, but he knew that she had a soft side; the way she treated Darya was beautiful and motherly—which he thought that to be her real side. She was his wife, and he her husband. He wanted to get closer to her, get to know her better, but it seemed like she hated personal relationships (something he himself enjoyed thoroughly). He understood that this was an arranged marriage, but they were married—and he wanted her to be happy when she was living with him. Was that so wrong?
And yet she treated it like it was.
He knew they hadn’t married because they were in love. No, it was all about benefits and alliances. He knew, but it didn’t mean that they couldn’t be happy together. If they were going to spend the rest of their lives together (as that was what he assumed), they had to be at least on a stage where they would share inner thoughts—wasn’t that so? Delshad was a fiercely loyal man, and he loved his friends and family. He wasn’t asking her to love him back…just to give him a chance. That wasn’t too much to ask, was it?
Now Delshad was not angry with his wife—no, not at all. It took a lot to get him angry, though he might have appeared to be temperamental. Very few people knew that he was, in reality, a sensitive and gentle person. He treated people with respect, and was hurt that his wife didn’t seem to share his wish to get closer.
So Delshad had decided that he would do everything he could to get her to slowly open up to him—and since he really did not know a whit about his wife, he had to get information from others—mainly her younger brother, Eskandir. They were on better terms than Delshad was with Lyanna, anyways. Of course, the younger man usually asked for favors in return, but Delshad did not mind at all—as long as he got information about Lyanna.
Delshad turned his attention away from the lords he had been speaking to and towards his wife, who was sitting at the table not too far off. He watched with a smile on his face as Darya, his little sister-in-law, spoke to his wife with the most adorable expression. She was only five, and referred to Lyanna as her ‘mother.’ She was quite the wild child, nothing like his own deceased sister, but he was very fond of the little girl—and vice versa, thankfully. He often played with her when she wanted to be attended to, and he enjoyed it. He hoped that someday he would be able to have a daughter of his own, but he wondered if Lyanna wanted children—it was expected, for the city and for his lineage, but he wanted to know if she wanted a baby.
The amount he knew about her was woefully little.
Delshad had, however, more or less figured out that she did not like displays of emotion or affection—at least when it came from him (he had learned this the hard way). He respected her greatly; she was a strong, beautiful woman, something he admired very much.
If only she would give him a chance, he felt like they could be happier and more comfortable around each other.
He toasted the host of the party and walked over to where his wife was seated, coming to a stop next to her chair. “Are you enjoying yourself, Lyanna?” he asked, a smile on his face, then looked to Darya, who had come back from talking to Eskandir. “And you look like you’re definitely having fun.” He leant over and slipped her a wrapped sweetmeat, a rather indulging expression hovering on his face. It was before dinner, and technically you weren’t supposed to give children sweets before meals…but it couldn’t hurt too much, right? He winked at Darya, though Lyanna would have seen it despite the big show of it being ‘secret and stealthy.’
Delshad took a seat next to the dark haired woman, taking a sip of wine. “Would you give me the honor of a dance after dinner?” he asked cordially, as if they were not married. He would wait for her, be patient for her. Some people had trouble with opening up to others, and he understood that it was most likely hard for them.
He smiled warmly at her, though he guessed that he would be greeted with her usual coolness.
Delshad was determined to get her to give him a chance—a chance to prove that letting someone in was not a bad thing at all.
Step, twirl, sway. Dance. It was embedded into her; it was part of her—just like her blood, her bones. Dance. Her head spun with fatigue, hunger, thirst. But she pushed the thought of food and drink away, adding a burst of energy into her movements. Her arms moved slowly, her hips swaying in time to the music that was as loud in her ears as her own heartbeat.
Shirin smiled deliriously at her audience, her lips quirking almost teasingly. Her veil was like a dancing partner, hiding and revealing her body, her smile. When she was dancing, nothing mattered—her confusion, her insecurity—it was gone. Gone until the music stopped and her movements ended. And when they did, she was back to the lost girl she was.
But for now, it didn’t matter.
Her movements were smooth and quite sensual, every step and sway calling to her viewers; Come, come, let me erase your fears and worries.
Dizzy. Her mouth was dry, her stomach racking with acid eating away at her own insides. She had not eaten since last night—a whole day. Her master, the lord watching so obsessively, loved to watch her dance, perhaps a bit too much. He watched everything to be perfect, beautifully coordinated without a flaw. And when he saw a flaw, he lost it completely. She was doing her best these days to make sure that didn’t happen—that she would perform perfectly. But without food and water, she was not up to her full skill, and not to mention deprived of rest.
She wasn’t even sure if she could feel her legs anymore. Shirin wasn’t sure how she was still moving—and yet she still did. Her vision came and went, but she still danced as if she was the happiest girl in the world, as if she could conquer the world in a single breath. And then it was then she faltered—stumbled. Just once, just for a moment—but she knew that the damage was done. Most would not have even realized the mistake, but she knew her master saw, and had seen it well.
And she knew that she would be punished.
She swallowed the thought and returned to dancing, even though she could see her master’s face was already dark. It was not her fault, she was near fainting due to lack of food and rest, but it would not seem like that to her master, Lord Fariel. The man was a generous man, jovial, but the moment a thing went wrong he turned into a completely different person. When he became angry, there was no stopping him—he would do anything if it made him feel better.
It was okay. She was used to it—she could take it. She couldn’t retaliate because he was her master, and what a slave got if one rebelled against the master was not exactly pleasant.
The first piece of the upbeat music ended and she saw her master stand, his face reddened and his eyes a bit crazed. She glanced away as the other dancers looked at her with a mixture of pity and satisfaction—something she saw often. Many of them did not like her. She was the youngest of them all, and the one the master liked the best—and hurt the most. The others could be horribly jealous when it came to attention from the master. And to be honest, she did not want his attention; she did not want it at all. Another song started up and the rest of the dancers went back to performing, ignoring what they knew would happen to her.
She did not try to run or hide as he strode over to her and grabbed her, his fingers digging into her arm, and yanked her partly behind the curtain. “What do you think you’re doing?” he hissed, glowering at her as if he would snap her in two. Shirin swallowed, letting her gaze drop to the floor.
“My apologies, Master Fariel. It will not happen again…But…I-I haven’t eaten—” she started, voice small, but she never got to finish her sentence. He grabbed her viciously by the hair, sending hair ornaments clattering to the floor. The girl gasped, but otherwise kept silent; she would not cry out.
“So are you saying this is my fault?” her owner growled, shaking her by the hair. “When you are stupid and make bloody mistakes, you’re saying it’s my fault?!” Shirin bit her lip as her scalp burned, her neck yanked into painful angles by the much taller man. It was past begging him to stop—when he got like this, there was no point in doing so. It was best to just wait it out, endure the pain. It would pass—and another day would start again.
Day in, day out, she danced.
It was the only way she knew how to keep herself from falling apart.