I searched the crowded market carefully, as to not draw attention to myself. The niqāb did well to shield my identity from the many bustling people around me. Man after man passed but none were the face I’d come to grow fond of.
A hand brushed gently against mine, too sensually to belong to anyone else. I had been so distracted with looking for him I hadn’t noticed his slipping by my vision. I brought a smile upon my lips as I looked his way.
This smile dimmed as I saw that the hand caressing mine didn’t belong to the one I’d hoped. The man standing on the other side of the vibrant red apples was dress far too elaborately for my liking.
His clean attire was covered in many jewels that did their best to distract me from his sly features. I didn’t let them. His mouth was turned up with a sly smile that matched his deceiving light brown eyes. His face was smooth, freshly shaved, something I figured he did quite often. His dark brown hair, nearly black, was pulled back by some unknown object I couldn’t see but would bet my last golden coin was also bejeweled.
I noticed then that while I was accessing his mildly good looks he still held onto my hand. After snatching it back quickly, I took a step back.
He raised his elaborate eyebrow in a gesture I could only take as curiosity.
“Why do you pull away?” He asked stepping around the crate of apples. “Do you not realize who I am?”
My niqāb must have been working very well because he certainly didn’t recognize me. I took this as a good thing. That meant no one else recognized me.
I tried to play the part of ‘poor little slave girl’ well.
“I’m sorry,” I replied, bowing my head. “I did not realize. Please, forgive me.”
“Calm your worries, insolent girl. You are forgiven.”
I held my tongue as best I could. There was a nasty remark on my lips at his mention of me being insolent. He clearly didn’t know who he was speaking with.
“What is your name?” He continued. “Clearly someone with you beauty must come from a wealthy name.”
How he could tell I was beautiful was a mystery to me. The cloth I was wearing covered me from head to toe, and only showed my eyes.
We had gathered the attention of nearly the entire market, something I wanted to prevent.
A familiar set of eyes stared at me with light brown eyes to match my own. Though, these were worried. My sister, dressed in the same confining attire as I, stood within the crowd. I tried my best to send soothing emotions with my eyes to tell her not to worry, that everything was under control.
Bringing my attention back to the man in front of me, I noticed that he was trying to wait patiently.
“My name is Mina Ahmed.”
“Ahmed? Hmm, I’ve never heard of it.”
I brought my attention back on the ripe apples. “That’s because I’m not of importance.”
“The beauty in your eyes is very important to me.”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. If all this man saw was my hidden beauty then he was far more superficial than I first suspected.
I saw my sister stifle a giggle. She knew me well, and knew it took all my effort not to gag at this man’s failing attempts.
“I very much would like to meet your father. I have-”
Whatever he was about to say was cut off by a few people’s grunts and protests.
The man looked behind him and saw six large brutes making their way through the market. Dressed in beige herem pants, bare chested, and swords in hand, the kings guards pushed pasted the market people angrily.
“It’s about time,” the man commented. “I was wondering when the king would realize true royalty was traveling through his mediocre streets.”
I didn’t have the time to comment on his radical statement. I was too busy trying to find an out for my sister and I. Looking at her now I knew she was searching for the same thing. But before I could signal for her to follow me, a large hand wrapped around my tiny arm, shaking my small form and causing my niqāb to fall from my face. I cursed myself for not having been taught how to properly wrap these cursed things.
There were collective gasps from the people surrounding us. The man in front of me looked at me strangely, still not realizing who I was. I figured it was just the same. I had no idea who he was as well.
“You can release her,” the man told the well-muscled guard clutching me. “She’s just a-”
“Princess Akyra,” the brute said, completely ignoring the man. He turned me around and I recognized him as a familiar guard at the palace. “This is the third time this week you have snuck out. Do you realize how dangerous that is? With you little sister accompanied. Your father will not be too thrilled about this. Where is your sister?”
“Release me,” I told the brute, pulling my arm from his massive hand. He let me do this but I was certain he could have stopped me if he wanted. He could probably have done a lot more than stopped me if he wanted to. “Akia, you can come out now.”
I didn’t look back to see her unveil herself, but knew she had by the sudden murmurs of the commoners.
“Wait…” the man behind me began. “You’re not…”
I turned to face him again, my almond eyes scowling. “No, I am not some poor little slave girl.”
His smile widened for a second then dimmed as he realized he had insulted both my father and his city.
“Princess,” the guard, I was certain his name was Omar, began. “It’s time to go.”
I turned my back on him only to be pulled back into his arms. The guards crowded but the man’s next words made them falter.
“I am Prince Jamal Abu Shakra of East
Mangal. And I am here to marry the princess.”
If the crowd wasn’t already murmuring before, they definitely were now. I was certain when we left the whole city would know of this Princes announcement by the time we reached the palace.
I pulled away from him quickly, not caring for his closeness. I walked away from him and the guard, with me sister behind me, and climbed into the carriage that waited for us all.
As we took off I saw the face I so desperately wanted to see.