My foray into the courtyard of the favourites and introduction to my new chamber opposite Rana’s was all very well planned. I had been briefed by the valide sultan on the pending journey to Yildiz Palace the following evening. The next day we would be in preparation for the dance and Sultan Hamid wanted me to be in attendance. I knew that Gurel was out there somewhere in the first court waiting for a chance to gain entry through the main gate . The apartments in which the favourites resided were a world away from the first court and I wondered how he would ever find his way past the gate of the white eunuchs ( those who took care of the sultans private office ) and into the sultans private domain. He had not recognised me when I had peered out at him through the window of my carriage but had certainly recognised Rana. So I was to play the third wheel in this game. I remember feeling confused but remarkably calm when the truth of it had demanded my comprehension.
When Rana and I had finally come face to face it had all become so clear. Her beauty, her fire and her seductive vitality were all there on display in her eyes. On entering her room, which was much larger than my own and even had it’s own bathroom as well as a spare room for a servant girl. I was immediately struck by the grandeur of her furnishings. A canopied bed at the centre of the far wall with heavy red and gold curtains complimented by matching bed covers all in the style of the French court. Small wooden bedside tables resembling ornately carved stools inlaid with mother of pearl stood on each side. On one of these tables was a bowl of fruit and a pitcher of water. On the other, amongst some of her personal effects, was a small book with velvet cover which looked as if it might be a diary.
At the end of the bed was a sofa with a round coffee table in front of it. Against the wall opposite was a dresser with mirror above which was a large empty golden frame. I wondered why it was empty. Maybe the previous favourite had taken the painting that resided within the frame with her. The servants room was to the right and the small bathroom to the left of the far wall. An elaborate laquered screen covered in mosaics was placed to the side of the entrance to the bathroom behind which Rana could change her attire . It was a beautiful room and I felt honoured to be there.
This would be Rana’s first presentation to the sultan and she seemed at ease with the prospect as if she knew she could control the situation. I had accompanied her downstairs to the Imperial hall and after dining in a kiosk near by had returned to the rooms with the others ,for this was my duty as consort . On her return I was in the process of preparing for bed. It had taken at least three hours and Rana appeared quite subdued. Announcing that she was now an odalisque she simply turned on her heel and went to her room closing the door behind her. It was not a happy announcement but I did detect a power behind her voice. Maybe this would be her way of coping until Gurel came for her. I sat on my bed ,surrounding myself with cushions and pondered the events of the day.
Tomorrow would be a sojourn to a new palace and a visiting opera company no less. Perhaps Rana and I could convince members of the company to help us with an escape plan. All sorts of wild ideas were running through my mind. Where was Gurel? Would he find us? I tried to sleep but could not and knocked fertively on Rana’s door. She came to the door and spoke to me in a whisper as she rubbed her eyes. She had been crying and I have to say the tears in her eyes made her even more beautiful. “Come” she said ” I need someone to confide in this night”. The young servant girl assigned to her entered from the adjoining room. The girl carried a golden tea pot on a tray with two glass tea cups which she set down on the guilded coffee table in front of the sofa. Rana bade me be seated next to her and poured for the both of us. ” Here’s to my victory” she smiled in a tone of cynical charm. We sat for many hours into the night as I listened with intent fascination to the story of her life thus far. I told her all I could of Emine’s life from the fragmented pieces I had obtained from others in the harem. How would she have taken it if I had told her that I was not of her time ? She told me of her love for Gurel and of their troth to be together for all eternity. She showed me note he had given her just before her carriage had entered the gate.
The note had been delivered by pidgeon and dropped at her feet as she alighted. In the note was a detailed plan of how he planned to find her inside Yildiz palace. It was strange indeed to be reading this love note . Even stranger because the content was written in a language completely unfamiliar to me. The fact that I was also speaking another language had not fully dawned on me until that very moment and with that realisation came the acknowledgement of my jealousy. Why then did I not want to tell her the truth? Make her suffer even further? Could it have been because my love for him transcended everything and time was no obstacle? Could it have been the overwhelming admiration I had for Rana and her determination to live a life so unrestrained? Was it due to my need to be a part of something so much grander than myself and the life I had lived or was it the need to prove myself necessary in the portals of history? I surmise it was all of the above.
© Renee Dallow ( Hybiscus Bloom ) 12/4/2014