The name Rana meant reborn. So that was it. The woman in the painting had returned to her past and taken me with her. But why? Maybe the answer would be here in her diary. I read on. As I read about her capture and sale at the open markets I had a sort of deja vu as if it were me standing there in the bright sunlight waiting to be chosen.Rana was of Roma descent and her family had moved to Georgia in the Caucasus near Mount Elbrus where they entertained the villagers withthe traditional music and dance that had been the gypsy’s stock and trade since time began.Rana had been sold into slavery by her parents who wanted their beautiful daughter to have all the finer things that life could offer and also make a tidy profit themselves .This despite the fact that she was to be married to a young circassian soldier already chosen for her and with whom she was very much in love.
And so it was that she found herself at the markets that fateful day with five others also on display. As she and three others chosen by the sultan’s eunuchs waited under guard during financial dealings I had a memory of Rana gazing towards the ocean mesmerised by a pair of light blue eyes gazing back at her. She wrote “His hair was dark and his smile dazzling”. She had wanted to break away at that very moment and run into his arms as he mounted his white horse and came toward her. He had found her. She had known that he would come. Would he dare to free her? For a moment it seemed possible as he came closer and closer still. But one of the black Eunuchs turned to face him and with one arm outstretched to grab the horses reins and the other preventing Rana from taking one more step in his direction. The moment was broken. It was all so clear in my mind. This was more than words on a page. It was all as real to me as the room I had just entered and felt so much attachment to.
I had also been chosen on that day. The eyes that had stared down upon her from that great white horse were Gurel’s eyes. I would know those eyes anywhere. The eyes he looked into had once been mine. Not hers. But if this were so how could he have been her lover and how could she have described him so exactly? How would this impact on me, on my marriage, on the world I inhabited ?
The world I wanted to return to nearly thirty years into the future. If only I hadn’t stayed behind. If only I hadn’t climbed that staircase. If only I had never entered this room. If only I was not the only blonde English girl in the harem. If only ….