Chapter 5: Fifth Phase.1

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 80

Emeravwe went through the next day in a haze, absent in her early morning classes though she was present, then oblivious to the antagonisms of the Omote she worked with in the Bureau of Halls and Chambers. All her thoughts were focused on the young Eunuch and his invitation to the garden. She had dared to trespass the Eunuchs’ Compound because that particular garden was easily accessed from outside the compound, yet so isolated from the Eunuchs’ Quarters that it was rarely used. It had been her secret refuge the past two years, now her only choice was either to be deprived of it or add an additional risk.

That she, a Maiden, entered the Eunuchs’ Compound without permission was already a violation of palace rules; if she continued to meet the Eunuch her crime would only grow in severity. Yet, Emeravwe wanted to meet the young Eunuch. She wanted to see him, to speak with him and befriend him. The past two years in the palace had been miserable for her; she felt she deserved at least this small consolation.

That evening, she hurriedly gulped her supper then rushed to the garden in the Eunuchs’ Compound, arriving quite early, for the sun still shone in the evening sky. She resigned herself to wait for the young Eunuch though her heart fluttered ceaselessly and she was nearly giddy with excitement. She sat on the stone bench before the pond, swinging her legs merrily as she took in the peacefulness of the garden and anticipated the arrival of her potential new friend.

The smooth white stone bench of the garden was flanked on either side by stout cycad trees, and beside one of these grew a thick cluster of purple fountain grass both tall and leaning. Behind the bench was one triangular corner of the tall imperial gold granite wall of the Eunuchs’ Compound, and opposing the bench, marking the perimeter of the garden, was a long row of towering horsetail which grew in a semicircle, bordered at each extreme by palm trees. Between the trees at each end was a flagstone path leading into the garden. The small round pond situated before the bench was edged with smooth stone slabs, and around the garden were other low-growing plants.

Emeravwe waited a long time for the young Eunuch’s arrival but when the sun set, and he still had not come, her spirits began to sink as well. Still she waited, till the crescent moon shone bright in the sky and the stars formed an endless sequined pattern. A voice in the back of her mind told her that the boy would not come—she had been ignored and maltreated by the other Maidens, why should this Eunuch be any different? But Emeravwe refused to listen. The young Eunuch had not seemed to mind when she told him she was a valued child and had even comforted her. She was sure she would finally make a friend in the palace; she did not want to believe otherwise. Yet tears came to her eyes despite herself, and her chest seized with disappointment and loneliness as she sat weeping on the bench.

“Omote, why are you crying again?”

The voice filled Emeravwe with such a sudden flood of joy that she leapt up to greet the boy, rushing to him as he entered the garden. His yellow headcloth was wrapped around the lower half of his face, and he carried a cylindrical glass lantern which glowed with the incandescent light of the tall wide candle it held within.

“You came!” she beamed, her heart seeming to burst in her chest.

“But of course,” the boy responded, unwrapping the loose ends of his headcloth from his face as he made his way to the bench. “We—I promised you oils for your hands.” He settled on the bench and set the lantern on the ground, then reached into the folds of his robes to retrieve a dark, egg-shaped porcelain vial which he presented to her. Her heart swelled at the sight of the quaint little vial adorned with dainty white flower buds. The boy beckoned her with a nod and when she approached, he took her hand, gently placed the vial in it, and smiled kindly. “It is oil from the plumeria. It has a wonderful scent I am sure you will enjoy.”

Emeravwe cradled the vial reverently in her hands. It was the first time she could recall ever receiving a gift from anyone, and that made it so much more precious. Her eyes misted as she gazed from the vial to the boy, her lips spread in a frozen smile of admiration. Belatedly, she remembered to thank the young Eunuch for his gift and bent her knees deeply in a butu, bowing her head and bending her waist. “I shall use it well,” she said sincerely. “Miguo, Eunuch…” she looked up at the boy.

He regarded her in silence, and in that moment, she thought she saw sadness in his expectant eyes. Then he smiled and said, “Aslan.” He leaned forward, his smile growing warmer. “And what is your name, Omote?”

“I am Emeravwe,” she answered eagerly. Holding the precious vial to her heart, she hesitated. “Are we friends now, Eunuch Aslan?”

The boy’s expression turned inquisitive. “Can you not make friends with the other Omote?”

Emeravwe lowered her head, her voice falling as well. “They refuse to be my friends.”

He said lowly, “I also cannot spare the time, Omote Emeravwe.”

“But will you speak with me if I come here?” she asked hastily, afraid the boy would dismiss her altogether.

He was silent a moment, then nodded. “Yes. When I am able.”

Emeravwe’s heart surged with joy and, forgetting all Maidenly decorum, she lunged forward to grasp the boy’s hand, squeezing it in her gratitude. “Miguo, Eunuch Aslan! Miguo!”

The young Eunuch looked briefly surprised at her forward behavior, but answered, “Vrendo,” his voice giving a hint of mirth. “Now, you must return to your chambers, Omote Emeravwe. It is quite late.”

Emeravwe gripped the boy’s hand tighter, anxiety suddenly overcoming her. “Will you come here again tomorrow night?”

He smiled. “We shall see. Now, go on. Good night, Omote Emeravwe.”

It was reluctantly, and with a heavy heart, that Emeravwe left the garden, her precious vial of oil clutched to her chest. More than once, as she left, she turned to see if the Eunuch was still there, and each time he was; illuminated by the light of the lantern and kissed by moonbeams, sitting patiently and watching her until she left the garden. She was anxious to know whether he would be at the garden the next night—he had given her no assurance, and the uncertainty distressed her. But when she remembered the vial of oil clutched to her heart, her worries were soothed, and she could not express the happiness she felt.

She ran all the way back to the Maiden’s Compound in her elation, and when she lay in her chamber that night, beneath the cover of her blankets, she dabbed a tiny portion of oil on her hands, delicately rubbing it in and relishing the smoothness and relief it brought her. Then she cradled the vial, uncorking it every so often so the oil’s sweet smell filled her, warming her and reminding her of the young Eunuch. She had finally made a friend in the palace! Knowing she was no longer alone cheered her such that she could hardly sleep, but when she did, for the first time since entering the palace, Emeravwe slept peacefully.

Submitted: July 07, 2019

© Copyright 2020 OE. All rights reserved.


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