The seamstress was watching me while placing the measuring tape across the Fat lady’s shoulder, she put the tape around her waist, noted the measure and looked up at me. She put it around her bosom, and ran it along her arms.
I nodded shyly at her and made my way through the crowd with the freshly baked nutmeg flavored bread in my hands.
In Malaki, my town, not everyone wore clothes. The distinction was clear, Upper class, middle and low class. I was low class, no doubt. And my mother, a servant to nothing more than a middle class, so I was a servant too.
In the low class, our waist- long hair were thrown forward, covering our breasts as there wasn’t enough cloth to spare for them, and on our waists we wore the old rags once belonging to our fiery masters. Even when we could afford to make clothes, we didn’t. We were scared we didn’t deserve them.
I had a dress. A pretty, yellow dress, which my mother gave to me on the night, I first bled. She had looked into my eyes and said ‘you deserve to be clothed, my child.’ And I had asked, what about you, mother?
I was only ten then but I very well understood, my place in Malaki, I was born a low class, it was no insult. It was who I was.
I met him at the door to master’s house, on the same day of the eyeing seamstress. From the look in his eyes, the way they searched mine and lingered. I knew he was the one… the one to marry my Master’s daughter. But the way he looked at me you would’ve sworn he was here for me. He removed his gaze lazily and hesitant. And this feeling was a first, I felt wanted.
I ran to my mother to tell her, but she was wiping the floor of master’s bedroom, so I left without telling her. No one was in there with her, but I couldn’t utter such words even to master’s walls. I left without telling her how I felt. I regret not telling her. She would have been very happy.
I go into the sitting room and I see them there chatting and giggling, master’s daughter was there too but his eyes occasionally rolled to me. I was shy under his gaze but I had to serve the food and not spill it. Master daughter saw, she saw it in his eyes, the way he bored into me she also saw it in my body, the way I leaned into his gaze. But I didn’t want her suffering so I left quickly.
That night, I had felt an odd shadow peer into my face and when I woke up it was gone, and she was gone too. My mother lay beside me. I had seen it many times. I didn’t have to touch her to even know, but I did. I cried. I wept, my chest swelled in agony and I choked on my own very breath, but I was only told to shut up as I was disturbing my neighbors.
My mother, only she genuinely wanted me. I nuzzled at her softness through my first days, soared with her mild greatness through my early years. And now I was older, I only needed her wise company, I needed her more than I could ask for. But she was gone, gone slickly with a shadow.
I woke up from her cold body, the next morning. I had slept earlier that morning after I failed willing her to return to me. My master daughter walked in saying her father sent her to resolve the commotion in the servant quarters. My mother was no commotion. I and a few others, only quietly wept by her side. But she didn’t come alone, he came along with her and this time it was different.
He looked at me this time, with pity and as filth, he didn’t just look at me, he looked at us and I could tell what he thought. This weak, poor, low class. I could feel him cursing himself, for taken liken to me. My master’s daughter offered her apologies and said to offer a decent burial as my mother was a very good servant of her father. I nearly did not thank her, but I did only for my mother’s sake.
Weeks after mother was gone, several thoughts ran across my mind; poison, sword, hanging. I searched for a reason to stay and when I couldn’t find one, hanging won. It won because I was too poor to afford some poison and I wasn’t as brave to use a sword but there was always a rope on the ceiling of the last floor, where the criminals were hanged.
I went there at night, when almost everyone was asleep, I slipped through the guards watch and ran to the top most floor. When I finally reached, it was dark but I could see the rope and the small stool. Everything was in place, except there was someone already there. Him.
He said he wanted me, I said I didn’t want me. He said we should get married, I said my master’s daughter is his queen to be. He said he was wrong, I said he was right. His words won and we planned to flee tomorrow’s night. I didn’t trust him, even when he handed me a lot of money, a small bag of heavy coins. I had never touched such, even my mother would be shocked.
Early the next morning, I ran along the small town of Malika. The early morning coolness brushed past my tender skin and I could feel the hair on my skin rise. The streets were quiet, just like I liked them. There were a few blind beggars, and I dropped a coin or two in their bowls.
When I got to her shop, she was sitting. She blinked a few times in awe and offered me a seat. When I told her I needed many dresses, she looked at me daringly. I thought of telling her, why I needed so many, when she nodded calmly saying “I know the yellow dress needs a companion.”