Logging on to email, Nana eagerly reads O’Rourke’s third report, this one sent with time to spare and free of misspellings, if devoid of novel information—a matter of fact that pleases and frustrates her simultaneously. If Dad succeeds too easily, it would prove that her attempts were rankly amateurish. If Dad succeeds not at all, her engaging him would prove a costly waste of time—circumventing the Prince, already an indiscretion, somehow rendered worse by a dearth of firm results, Sheikh Hadithah’s facilitator role likewise called into question (provided his intent to help was and is sincere—doubts about which, recently, are on the rise).

Unlike those who come here of their own accord for profit, I was 'cultivated,' so to speak, procured as an infant, nurtured, raised by nannies, for the most part, schooled at home in diverse households, treated with kind consideration, even deference by my peers, who knew my purpose, later on, was to please the Prince. Sheikh Hadithah fostered this with a hands-on hands-off dictum, meaning I was to be taught to touch while left untouched myself. The Art of Pleasure-Giving, mingled with conventional prep school subjects, was imparted by a series of instructors, highly paid, who had perfected certain skills, alongside common practices, that a would-be Prince’s paramour worth her salt must master. Math was fun. I liked Linguistics. Science gave me thrills. I fell in love with Art and Music. Ancient History held some sway. But when it came to learning methods for evoking states of rapture, where to lick and chew and suck, with how much force, what to stroke, squeeze, spank, the body’s nerve ends like an organ’s stops, so versatile, each one playable, all contributing to a simple air or a full symphonic suite; I took great pride, moreover exalted in exceeding expectations. Word of which, on reaching Him whose "protégé" I was dubbed, would move the Sheikh to pay impromptu, gift-bearing visits, thus reinforcing my psycho-sensual verve. Women in the Oriental world are given status of a form their Western counterparts seldom reach and rarely earn. There are unwritten rules by which all Eastern females must abide, and these are symbolized, nay epitomized by the veil. Unfairly misconstrued as chauvinistic by outsiders, we whose custom is to shield ourselves from unfamiliar eyes accept the veil as affirmation of our fundamental worth, no more no less than that of him who stands on guard. Loyalty is sacrosanct in this association, his to her as fierce protector, hers to him as virgin bride. And though a man may seem to dally with respect to his commitment, once a husband, once a father, he is honor bound to serve, to keep his home a lifelong haven for mother and spawn alike.

Houris, on the other hand, are barred from such fidelity. By the nature of our contract, we must forfeit spousal rights, which is to say we may not marry once our service has concluded. Occidentals might propose, of course, and do, and are accepted. But the hymen is irreparable. Once consenting to its tear, a woman cannot be a wife to an Oriental man. Knowing this, the Sheikh advances ample compensation to the vestals he collects. A million Swiss francs go to each, which are deposited in Geneva at the outset of employment and remitted upon request the day we leave.

Such a large endowment calls for pre-recruitment scrutiny, made more difficult by requirements which insist, beyond virginity, that a maid possess proclivities contradicting certain norms, as well as anatomical features judged to be ‘unique.' Stating this, I hasten to amend, there are exceptions. I am one such, insofar as I was groomed instead of hired, and from an early age, at that. None other boasts of equal tutelage; plus my dowry far
exceeds the standard sum.

Troubling me, of late, is that the Sheikh, though most agreeable when I asked him to recount my history, did so leaving gaps. At first, His disavowal of knowing who, by name, was my progenitor seemed believable. He has agents; there are scores dispatched worldwide, and one of these had called my case to His attention. Records were not kept, He told me. Documents were mislaid. Of the agency that brokered my eventual adoption, He had lost His recollection. All was done, He said, by proxy. And, like the Sheikh himself, events had duly aged. Counseling me to retain a private eye—indeed, suggesting one—put me further at my ease. If He had something sly to hide, why grant me access to a tool for its discovery?

Nana shuts her journal like a hand claps closed a mouth to trap a secret from escaping lips sworn to silence. Doubts about the Royal Family, even vague misgivings are a sacrilege to utter (in a secular sense), a smear, a flagrant insult to the source of true benevolence. What possessed her? Why suspect iniquity where integrity long has reigned? How conceive misgivings in an atmosphere so trusting?




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