The Titular Devil, With Hand

The Titular Devil, With Hand

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lilitu Chapter 3

Hey, here's some more Lilitu:

Chapter 3
After several days weighing what Sayida had told her about Shiraz, Lilitu decided she'd better speak to Hamid. He was in the hall that served as his audience chamber, acting in his capacity as Sawaliyeh's chief magistrate, listening to a dispute about a cow and looking very bored. Two of his tenants were standing in front of his high seat, shouting at each other; aside from occasionally asking them not to be so loud, he was doing very little---he only asked one question, and that was towards the end, and Lilitu didn't think it was relevant to much of anything. Finally, he simply stood up, said: "Judgement to the accused," and made off towards a doorway on the right. One tenant raised a howl of triumph, quite horrible to hear; the other man hurled himself at him, but guards separated them and dragged them both away as Lilitu ran after Hamid.
"I need to speak to you," she said.
"Make it quick," he replied. "I'm going hawking."
"With Shiraz?"
"What do you want?" he asked impatiently.
"We should go somewhere else."
Just up the corridor was the room where Hamid robed himself for his audiences.
"Now then," he said, after closing the door.
Lilitu demanded: "Are you going to marry that woman?"
"Don't take that tone with me---"
"Are you?"
"You have some objection?"
Lilitu nodded. "She betrayed her husband---"
He winced and raised his hand.
Undaunted, Lilitu continued: "Sayida isn't his daughter---"
"Who told you this?"
Lilitu just stared at him; for the first time she realized that she would get Sayida in terrible trouble.
"I can't tell you."
Hamid said: "If you're going to make such accusations---"
"You have to trust me," Lilitu said.
"Lilitu," he replied, "among other things, I'm a judge. I can't accept an accusation without evidence---"
Lilitu crossed her arms on her chest. "Evidence."
"What evidence did you get from those farmers yelling and screaming just now?"
"What does that have to do with Shiraz?"
She almost told him that he didn't need evidence because he wasn't much of a judge, but realized at the last instant that this would be a disastrous line to take; there was the matter of her resemblence to Sayida, but she didn't have the heart to rub salt in that particular wound. At last she said simply:
"Don't marry her, please."
"Why are you so concerned?" he asked. "Let's assume you're telling the truth. She sounds just like your mother. You loved your mother, didn't you?"
He said wearily: "You really should stop with that, at least when it's just the two of us. I'm not your father, and we both know it. Now if you're worried that I'm going to cast you out, you needn't. You'll always have a roof over your head. But you shouldn't presume too much. I advise you to stay on good terms with Shiraz, and stop making up lies about her."
"I'm not lying."
"Then tell me where you came by the information."
"I can't."
"Then I can't believe you," Hamid answered. "You really should go and let me change out of these robes. As I said, I'm going hawking.''

That night, Lilitu was about to settle down and begin a very malicious poem about someone just like Shiraz when she remembered she'd cut the last of her reed-pens to a mere nub, and she went downstairs to the store-room where the writing supplies were kept. While she was there, she also took a large sheaf of cotton-rag paper and a jar of ink-black; clutching the supplies to her breast, she headed back upstairs, and, rounding a corner---
Found herself face to face with Shiraz.
The two stood staring at each other for a few moments; hair unbound, down over her shoulders, Shiraz twitched that smile; her eyes gleamed, sockets very dark. She seemed to be working herself up to say something, but when she didn't, Lilitu just breathed out through her nostrils and stepped round her, heading past the room where her mother had died.
Then she heard cloth rustling, and soft swift footsteps---Shiraz was coming up behind her.
What's this? Lilitu thought, just as the footsteps paused; there came the sound of a door being opened, and then the footsteps started up again. Lilitu started to run, but The Monster reached over the top of her head and seized her by the bangs, dragging her back, into the room, flinging her onto her mother's deathbed. Shiraz stood glaring at her, then backed towards the door and kicked it shut with her heel.
"You know," she said. "I wanted to be friends with you, really I did. But I'm afraid you've left me no choice."
Still holding her supplies tightly against her chest, Lilitu sat up. The gloom wasn't too thick, as the room was whitewashed, and there was moonlight through the lattices; Shiraz began to pace back and forth, each time more swiftly, a dark striding silhouette.
"I might've known, of course," she said. "Like mother, like daughter. But I'm not going to lie down and take it this time---"
"What are you talking about?" Lilitu asked.
With that, Shiraz rushed at her, seized her ear, and twisted it fiercely. Lilitu yowled.
"Shut up!" Shiraz hissed, and twisted it again. "Shut up, or I'll wrench it right off, you little bitch!"
"What have I done?" Lilitu whispered.
Shiraz let Lilitu's ear go, but jabbed a nail-point into her nose. Lilitu dropped her supplies at last and clapped both hands over her face.
"You've been trying to cut my legs out from under me," Shiraz said. "Telling stupid lies. But your father doesn't trust you.''
Oh my God, Lilitu thought. That horrible fool…
Shiraz went on: "He told me what you'd said, this afternoon.''
"If he thinks I'm a liar,'' Lilitu replied, "why would he have asked you about it?''
Immediately Shiraz pinched Lilitu's upper arm between thumb and forefinger.
"I...don't…know," she said, twisting at each word. Then she slapped the stinging flesh, and allowed: "Perhaps he was a bit worried. But I must've put his fears to rest. He asked me to marry him.''
Lilitu bit her lip.
"If I were you, my dear," Shiraz said, "I would lie very low from now on.''
As though she had done something to her neck, she turned her head sharply to one side, hair flying about her face. Lilitu heard a soft pop. Then Shiraz straightened her garments, brushed her locks back with her palms, and swept from the sickroom.

The wedding was arranged with most indecent haste; Lilitu told Sayida that Hamid should've saved the food left over from Rahminah's funeral.
"Why?" Sayida asked.
"So he could serve it again at his wedding," Lilitu replied.
"Wasn't the funeral two months ago?"
"Food doesn't keep that long."
"I know," Lilitu said.
"You're always making jokes that I don't get," Sayida said.
"I know," Lilitu replied.

There was, needless to say, no time for guests to be summoned from very far off, so Hamid and Shiraz had to limit themselves to notables in the nearest oases. Among these worthies was the Fig-Protector Nasruddin Ben-Abdullah, Lord of Al-Baradh, an old friend of Hamid's; Nasruddin brought most of his family, including his lanky sixteen-year old son Akbar. Having ceded Oded---at least temporarily---to Sayida, and desperately in need of something to keep her mind off the wedding itself, Lilitu found herself paying very close attention to Akbar, who was funny looking, but interesting in a peculiar sort of way; deciding she really needed to sit next to him at the feast, she changed places with Sayida, observing everything he did, and taking every opportunity to engage him in conversation. It took a while, but ultimately they found something they were both interested in---natural philosophy. They didn't, of course, discuss the subject Lilitu was most intrigued by, but there were other matters almost as fascinating; he was very knowledgeable about insects and reptiles, and they began swapping stories about specimens they'd caught. When Lilitu told him about the time she'd pinned a young night-viper with a forked stick, he looked at her with positive worship in his eyes, which were very large and definitely the best thing about him.
"Now to be honest," she felt compelled to add, "the snake had a jerboa halfway down its throat, and I had an easier time than I might have otherwise."
"Did you pick it up?" Akbar asked.
"Yes," Lilitu said. "But I tossed it away, because you have to hold snakes right behind the head, and its throat was all swelled up with that jerboa, and it felt very unpleasant."
"Your father lets you go walking about at night?"
"No, but I sneak out sometimes.'' Suddenly a thought occurred to her. "The moon's full tonight. Why don't we go snake-hunting?"
He glanced over at his parents. "I don't know.''
"Everyone's drunk," Lilitu prodded. ''They won't notice."
"I'm not sure...''
"Come on. When my father and that woman go upstairs, and everyone makes a big fuss, we'll just slip out."
Akbar thought a bit more, then nodded.

The moon was well up as they left the house, the whole sky blue-grey with its light, only the brightest stars still visible through the glow. Shadows of fig leaves made a mottled pattern on the ground. Lilitu took the shortest path through the grove, and they soon came to the edge of the oasis. Beyond the trees was a strip of low brushy stuff, then dunes.
"Better get snake-sticks," Lilitu said.
They cracked a couple of branches off the fig trees, then proceeded into the grass.
"Keep your eyes peeled," Lilitu said. "Vipers come looking for the jerboas, who live under these bushes...see, there goes a jerboa now!"
"Where?" Akbar asked.
"He's gone already. We'll probably see some more. Lots of toads around here too. And scorpions. Ever been stung by a scorpion?"
"Yes. Wasn't so bad."
"Must've been one of those little brown ones. Have to watch out for the big black kind, though."
"That's for sure---"
"Toad!" Lilitu cried, and she caught it and showed it to him, holding it by the back so it couldn't squirt her. "These fellows make a lot of noise after it rains. They sound like some sort of strange cow, and you think, that can't be just a toad, but it is. If you're near a pond, it's incredible. Six of them will jump on one female. It doesn't look very nice." She put the toad down, and even though it hadn't managed to pee on her, she wiped her hands on her robes anyway.
"Then why do you watch?" Akbar asked.
"Oh, I only did it once or twice. Watch the toads, that is. Don't you watch animals mating?"
He laughed. "A couple of slaves, once."
Her first thought was that she should make some expression of distaste, but she wanted him to continue, and asked:
"Didn't they know you were there?"
"Yes. My father wanted me to learn about men and women, so he ordered them to show me.'' He paused. "I don't think I should be discussing this with you."
"I don't mind," Lilitu answered. "And anyway, you're out here with me alone, and that's worse than just talking about anything."
"We haven't done anything bad."
"No one would believe that---scorpion!" she pointed it out with her stick.
Akbar pinned the creature to the earth with his stick, then told her: "I've never met a girl like you.''
''Is that a compliment?" she asked.
"I suppose," he answered, then let the scorpion run off.

They continued towards the dunes in silence, halting on the bank of a dry stream-bed that marked the boundary between the brush and the sand. Its floor was made up of small rounded stones; having seen them in the daylight, Lilitu knew they were every color imaginable, although in the moonlight, they were all shades of blue-grey. The dunes, however, were very pale, and had a lovely silvery look.
"Do you want to keep looking for snakes, or go up on the dunes?" Lilitu asked.
"Dunes," Akbar said.
They made for the highest, crossing several smaller ones before they came to it; as they reached its foot, Lilitu noticed, to her very great surprise, something wriggling its way down the slope towards them.
"Some kind of viper," Lilitu said, deducing this from the way it moved. "Big fat one."
"I thought you said they liked the grass," Akbar said.
"They do. Maybe it got lost. Seems to be heading right for us."
"Let's wait."
Apparently having seen them, the snake altered its course, squirming away to the right, but still coming down the slant. They ran after it.
"Night-viper," Lilitu said. "Get in front of it."
"Why?" Akbar asked.
"To distract it while I come up in back.''
"I don't know...''
"Come on," she answered. As the snake neared the bottom of the slope, Akbar planted himself a couple of yards ahead of it while Lilitu, racing along the slant, got behind it. When the snake halted, she brought her stick down on its neck, then bent and seized the reptile behind the head, holding it up. It was a good two feet long, and very thick.
Akbar came up and admired it, then showed Lilitu an awestruck smile, pathetic and endearing all at once.
"Will you marry me?" he asked.
"You're not serious," she said.
"I think I am.''
''You think you are?''
''I would like to kiss you, at least."
Lilitu looked at the snake, then him, then back at the snake.
"All right," she said, and tossed the viper. She watched it slither away, then turned to Akbar and wiped her hand.
"Should we sit down, or what?'' he asked.
"We can do it that way," she said, but within seconds of her first kiss, she was straddling him. A hard ridge rose up at the bottom of his belly, running slightly off to the side; she knew what that was, and although she was somewhat surprised it had sprung up so quickly, she began to rub on it.
"You're not very ladylike," he said, gasping for air.
"I take after my mother," she said, and planted her lips on his again. It occurred to her that this was not entirely fair to her mother, since Rahminah had reformed her life; but it was also indisputably true that Rahminah's inclinations---which Lilitu plainly shared---had resulted in ample behavior to repent. And so Lilitu, telling herself that she really didn't have any choice, at least until she got older, decided she'd really better do whatever she pleased to the boy lying pleasantly prone between her legs.

Things didn't go very smoothly, however.
Akbar might've watched some slaves at some point, but he still didn't have the slightest idea of what to do. It was a while before he would let her put her tongue in his mouth, and while he knew some of the places to touch, he didn't touch them very skillfully. It didn't even seem to occur to him to undress her; for that matter, he didn't even seem to realize he had to get his own clothes off, and she had to do that too, at least pull his trousers down. When he tried to mount her, Lilitu had to put it in for him, and while the taking of her virginity didn't hurt too much, he finished far too soon.

Afterwards, he acted rather proud of himself, but she, needless to say, was most disappointed. She managed to control her temper, however, and he never even noticed she was displeased; also, she was still very interested---as lackluster as the event had been, she still wanted more, and told herself that they might simply need practice.
At any rate, things went just well enough that they resolved to try it again.

The following night, in roughly the same spot (which they got to much more quickly, not stopping for toads this time) things went rather better; the night after that was genuinely agreeable.
Then he left with his family.
Lilitu wasn't exactly stricken; he was good company, and had improved as a partner over those three nights; if he wasn't better than masturbation, he had, by getting her all excited, made masturbation somewhat easier when she returned to the house.
But he wasn't the love of her life, she was fairly sure of that, even if he did appreciate her skill at snake-catching, and her other, even more profoundly un-ladylike characteristics. Sayida, upon learning that Lilitu had used him to dispense with her maidenhood, postively encouraged her to forget about him.
"Unless you're pregnant," Sayida said. "Then you might want to send him a letter, see if you can get him to talk his parents into letting him marry you."
"I'm not going to get pregnant," Lilitu said.
"How do you know?"
"I was an only child."
"My mother didn't get pregnant easily. And she slept with all sorts of men. Not just my foster-father, or whatever we want to call him."
"You still might," Sayida said. "There's a herb that I take---my mother taught me about it. 'Don't fool around with boys, but if you do, don't you dare get pregnant.' That's what she said. Anyway, it just puts your womb to sleep. I picked a bunch just yesterday. I'll give you some. Next time you think you're going to be with a boy, eat a leaf or two."
"I don't think I'll need any for a while."
"Why?" Sayida asked. "Because Akbar is gone? Would you like to try Oded?"
Lilitu was astonished at the offer.
"Isn't it about time you did something really wicked?" Sayida asked.
"I already---''
"Did it with Akbar, sure. But he's a nobleman's son. Your... whatever probably wouldn't mind marrying you off to him. But Oded...he's hired help. Traaaash. And every time you look at your whatever, you can think to yourself, I don't respect him, and I've really proved it."
"There's that," Lilitu said.
"Really," Sayida said. "I'd be happy to loan Oded to you, and you'll really enjoy it. I've got him all properly trained. Taught him to use his hands and his tongue, and to keep himself in check till I'm done...but you have to let me watch."
"Do I?"
"Do you mind?"
"Let me sleep on it," Lilitu said.
She had most lascivious dreams that night.

Sitting on the marble fountain-rim, Sayida ran her fingertips through the water, then turned back to Lilitu. Deep dimples forming at the corners of her mouth, she smiled lewdly, and said:
"So then."
"You can watch," Lilitu answered.
"What if I want to join in?" Sayida asked.
"With him? Or me?"
"Both,'' Sayida said.
"Let me see how things are going," Lilitu replied.
Sayida patted the fountain-rim. "Sit down, please."
Lilitu sat beside her asking:
"Do you have someplace---"
Sayida nodded. "An old brick hut. I bet you know it. We swept it out, and brought some blankets and cushions...''
She took Lilitu's hand, and stroked her between the fingers, staring her in the eyes; then she gave her a soft light peck on the cheek, which Lilitu voiced no objection to.

Lilitu went with her after Hamid retired with Shiraz. The moon was well past full by that time, but Sayida led the way swiftly and surely by its light, down towards the spring. Surrounded by tall reeds and palm-trees, the hut stood right on the water's edge---Lilitu had spent some time mucking around on the lakeshore, looking for frogs and turtles, and remembered the family that had once lived in the hut---they'd moved after one of the children drowned.
"I've heard this place is haunted," she said, as they approached the little house.
"That must be why everyone stays away," Sayida said. "Convenient."
She knocked on the door, swung it open. "Oded!"
"Here!" he replied. Lilitu saw him stand up on the other side of the shadowy single room, a dark shape against the window, curly hair fringed by the light; clearly making out that narrow waist, and the curves of muscle in his shoulders and arms, she became aware that her heart was beating very fast. Akbar had never excited her so much, even when they were actually in the midst of making love, but the mere sight of Oded's silhouette was making her pulse race.
Sayida motioned her inside, then closed the door. Even with it shut, there was still moonlight from the window beside it; Lilitu discerned the blankets and cushions Sayida had mentioned. Oded stepped forward into the glow. He was wearing knee-length trousers; on his feet were rope sandals, and there was a crude metal medallion, copper, or so Lilitu guessed, on his chest. She'd never seen it before.
"Hello, Oded," she said.
He bowed. "My Lady."
"Take your pants down,'' Sayida told him. "Show her what you've got."
He smiled, teeth gleaming in his dark face, undid his belt, and pulled his pants down.
Lilitu put her hands to her mouth, giving a soft gasp.
"Isn't that something?" Sayida asked.
"Yes," Lilitu answered.
"Go on," Sayida said. "Grab it."
Lilitu advanced hesitantly, paused. Sayida pushed her forward. Lilitu extended her hand, touched him tentatively, then pulled her hand back with another laugh.
"What is this?" Sayida asked. "I thought you said you did it with Akbar."
"I did," Lilitu answered. "But he wasn't so...''
"Scary and purple?"
"Not even remotely."
"Well, the bigger the better. Don't be shy."
"Maybe you should start,'' Lilitu said.
"Oh very well," Sayida said. "If you insist." She knelt in front of him. "Now watch very carefully. It's possible to make friends with these things, no matter how scary and purple they are."
Lilitu moved closer, and knelt beside her to observe. After performing a succession of marvels, Sayida turned and asked:
"Would you like a turn?"
Lilitu blinked.
"Would you?" Sayida repeated.
Lilitu changed places with her, and with Sayida stroking her hair and whispering advice, she soon found that she was capable of marvels of her own.

Once Oded was exhausted, they bathed in the lake---there was a little sandy beach behind the hut---then headed back to the mansion, Lilitu and Sayida together, Oded by a different route.
"Was he all you'd hoped?" Sayida asked.
"He's really quite stupid," Lilitu said.
"Toys don't need brains.''
"How did you like him as a toy?"
"Very nice," Lilitu said.
They went on a way in silence beneath the palms. Then Lilitu said:
"I thought you were going to...''
"Share me with him."
"I wasn't sure if you wanted me to. You seemed to be having such a good time. And I was perfectly happy to watch, and tickle myself." She laughed. "Were you disappointed?"
"I don't know."
"I think that was a yes," Sayida answered, and took her by the hand.

Lilitu slept late the next day; she awoke very sore, but still desperate for some more of Oded. Hoping her cousin would set up another assignation, she went to Sayida's room, and found that she'd taken ill.
"Go ahead and speak to him yourself," Sayida said. "If I feel better, I'll join you."
Finding Oded hard at work polishing some brass; Lilitu arranged the tryst. Shortly before going to meet him, Lilitu went to see Sayida again, but Sayida was fast asleep, and Lilitu set out for the hut alone.
She was a bit apprehensive, knowing she wouldn't have Sayida to advise her, but when she and Oded got down to it, she managed just fine, and very much enjoyed his undivided attention. After coming so many times the night before, he seemed to have some difficulty coming tonight, but there were advantages to that; it all went off very well.
The trouble came afterward.
For no particular reason, she decided to take a chance and return with him. But as they were nearing the mansion, they came upon four soldiers drinking in a clearing; startled, the men-at-arms leaped to their feet, pulling out their swords.
"Who is that?" one demanded, a tall old broad-shouldered fellow named Nadjibullah.
"It's me!" Oded cried.
Nadjibullah got up close to him, squinting in the moonlight. "Gardener's son. And who's this you've got---"
Recognizing Lilitu, he broke off; she winced at his breath.
"My lady," Nadjibullah said. "What are you doing out at such an hour?"
"Having a walk," she said.
"An innocent little stroll?"he asked.
"All by yourselves?"
Lilitu scrambled for an excuse. "I like to go looking for snakes and things. Everyone knows that. Oded was out for a walk too, and he offered to escort me back."
The soldier gave a filthy laugh.
"It's true!" Lilitu protested.
"I think you'd better run on home, My Lady," Nadjibullah said, the other soldiers grunting in agreement.
Lilitu and Oded hurried from the clearing.
"They're going to tell my father, I just know it," Lilitu said.

Very nervous, she didn't sleep well, and was already awake when the knock came at the door; looking most flustered, the Lark informed Lilitu that her father wanted to see her urgently, in the audience-hall.
Oh God, Lilitu thought. Just as you feared...
Hoping frantically that she was mistaken, she got dressed, and went.
On the way, she tried to think of other things he might be summoning her about, but when she arrived, she found Hamid sitting in his Justice Seat and looking most unhappy about it, the expression on his face exactly what Lilitu would've expected if he'd been humiliated by the gardener's son. Sneering horrendously---Lilitu simply wanted to kill her---Shiraz was standing next to him. Quivering, face swollen with welts and smeared with blood, Oded was lying on the floor in front of them, Nadjibullah and another soldier standing over him. Wringing his hands, Oded's father was off to the side, face written with anguish.
"There you are," said Hamid to Lilitu, sounding more sick to his stomach than anything else.
"What is all this?" Lilitu asked.
"Your...friend here told us everything," Shiraz said.
"Told you what?" Lilitu asked.
"About you and him," Hamid said. "Last night, in the hut."
Oded looked at Lilitu with swollen eyes, his beauty utterly banished, at least for the time being. He said: "I'm sorry, My Lady---"
The guards looked to Hamid. He nodded, then looked away, and they began kicking Oded, Nadjibullah catching him in the face again and again. Blood splashed onto the floor from Oded's mouth; Lilitu saw a tooth come flying out.
"Stop it!" she cried, knowing Hamid had no relish for this sort of thing. He nodded again; the guards stopped.
"What are you going to do with us?" Lilitu asked.
"Haven't quite decided about you," Hamid said. "As for that---" He gestured towards Oded, "he's dishonored me and my family name, and---"
Shiraz leaned over and whispered in his ear.
"I think I'll have him hung," he said. "From that big tree, you know the one I mean."
"No!" Lilitu cried. "Don't kill him! It's all my fault."
Shiraz whispered again.
"Your mother says he must certainly die," he told Lilitu.
"She's not my mother!" Lilitu cried.
Shiraz smiled smugly, as if to say:
Thank God.
"She hates me!" Lilitu cried. "She wants him dead to hurt me! She doesn't care about this family.''
"And you do?" Hamid asked.
"Please!" Lilitu sobbed. "Don't kill him."
Hamid replied: "Give me a reason why I shouldn't."
"Let me speak to you alone."
"Don't let her," Shiraz told Hamid.
"I know of a very good reason,'' Lilitu said.
"Then give it to us," Shiraz replied.
"Us?" Lilitu asked. "Who's in charge here?"
Hamid chewed a horn of his moustache.
"Don't listen to her," Shiraz said.
But Hamid nodded to Lilitu. "Come," he said, and led her back to his robing-room. "Now then."
"He hasn't dishonored your family," she said.
"Hasn't he?"
Lilitu answered: "I'm not your daughter."
"Ah," he said. "Yes. There's that." He paused. "But everyone thinks you are."
"No one thinks I am. So why don't you just send him and his father away, and think of something appropriate to do to me?''
He stared at her, grimaced, looked down at the floor. Shaking his head, he slapped a hand to the back of his neck and said:
"I hate all this.''
"He doesn't deserve to die. Not over me. I'm worthless." Even after all that had happened, even though it was the right argument to make for Oded's sake, she still hoped Hamid might give some hint that he disagreed, but when he didn't, she took it in stride, continuing: "You've swallowed far worse. Let him live."
''I hate all this,'' he said again. "Shiraz will have my ears.'' "Stand up to her," Lilitu said. "The way you should've stood up to my mother."
"Aaah," he said disgustedly, and left her.
Thinking it would be best if she didn't go back to the audience-hall, she returned to her room by a different route; after a time, the Lark brought her a note from her father to the effect that she was confined to the chamber until further notice.
"What happened with Oded?" Lilitu asked the maid.
"They threw him out," the Lark said. "His father too."
Thank God, Lilitu thought, thinking she should try to thank Hamid. "If I wrote a note to my father, would you sneak it to him?"
"I wouldn't dare! If Shiraz caught me, she'd read it, you know. She tries to read everything that comes his way, even dispatches from Thangura. I've been beaten enough as it is."
"Forget it," Lilitu said.

Later that night, Lilitu was just about asleep when she heard scrabbling and rustling, and looked to see someone push the lattices inward and crawl in from the ledge.
"Don't worry!" came Sayida's voice. "It's just me."
In an instant, she was in under Lilitu's covers, snuggling up against her.
"How did you get up here?"
"Those vines, next to your window,'' Sayida answered.Surprised they hadn't just ripped loose from the side of the building, Lilitu said: ''You do smell rather like leaves at that.''
"I think it's very pleasant," Sayida said.
''It's very green.''
''How can you have a green smell?''
Lilitu didn't explain.
''What color is my breath?'' Sayida asked, and exhaled.
''Spicy...what do you want?''
''I heard you're confined to your room for a while. I thought I'd come over and comfort you."
"Or yourself? Since you won't have Oded to play with anymore?"
"Whatever," Sayida said, and put her arms around her. "You know, mother has strictly forbidden me to see you."
"Has she ever twisted your ear?"
"Half off," Sayida said. "She's done it to you, I take it?"
"Awhile back. When I was trying to keep her from marrying your stepfather."
"Well, I'm very embarrassed to hear it. Most depressing. Why don't we talk about something else?"
"Such as?"
"How we might comfort each other."
"What do you have in mind?" Lilitu said, aware that Sayida was already rubbing against one of her thighs.
"Kisses are extremely comforting. So is this---" Sayida put her hand on Lilitu's breast. "Feel better?"
"I'm not sure."
Sayida kissed Lilitu on the cheek, then on the mouth; she tried to slip her tongue in, but Lilitu kept her lips closed.
"Let me," Sayida said.
Increasingly...comforted by the feel of Sayida's hand on her breast, Lilitu was nonetheless unsure if she wanted to go much farther, especially if it involved another woman's saliva; just to stall, she started to ask Sayida what she'd been eating, but the instant Lilitu's lips opened, Sayida's tongue slipped through like something from an adder's mouth, and once the initial shock passed, Lilitu began giving as good as she got.
"Would you like me to teach you everything?" Sayida asked breathlessly, after a time.
"Please,'' Lilitu replied.

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