My sometimes-wife had the knack for finding me while I was in the bare. It was how we met, how she left me when she was done with me, and how she found me currently knee deep in Teardrop Pool at this House of Health. She, of course, was fully clothed all of those time—and this time? A black, sheer dress draped over a golden breast-band and loincloth. The gold kohl around her eyes was thicker than strings that held the pieces in place over her best curves. She was dressed to impress, in other words. Dressed for trouble.
It didn’t help any that she was carrying my bundle of clothes. Clothes I had left with the attendant to purify. Ketesha did not offer them up as she stopped before me. Instead her gaze raked me over me, lingering on the silver, healing waters, then ascending somewhat higher as she tutted.
“Such is a pity.” She stroked my clothing with long, gold nails. “Truly.”
“Ketesha-Uret.” I stepped out of the pool and made a grab for my stuff. She pulled away with a smile.
“Ketesha-Uret is so . . . ” She cradled my clothing like a pet cat. “So formal, my love, for our relationship.”
“Where’s the attendant, Ketesha? What are you doing with my clothes?”
“I sent her away, so we could . . . talk. But I suppose that can wait until your prescribed time is finished here.” Her gilded lips narrowed in a pout, and she shook her head. Her black hair was pinned up, so the long golden earrings—all four of them—snaked and bounced against the column her throat.
I kept my gaze there, and while my mouth slackened and a golden smile blossomed, I snatched the clothing and retreated a step, triumphant.
The days of being hypnotized by her beauty and grace and her attentions were long over.
She, of course, was never off balance. Like a cat tossed over a balcony, she always found her feet.
She dusted off her arms, turning the gesture into a caress. “Beware strange women, my Pheteh. That is how you got into this mess.”
Beware the woman you know, in Ketesha’s case. Well, let her keep her supposition. Taking the waters had just saved me from goadings about matrimonial vows and my remissness of late. Vows I had never quite figured out were legal, fictive, or some singular combination of both. My only regret would be that the word would get back to her sister.
(c) Jodi Ralston