Black Rose: Part Five
Updated: Feb 26
The three days leading up to the visit to the sultan’s palace were a whirlwind for Kesi. In addition to organizing, distributing and selling the goods from their safari, she had to deal with Danuja’s presence. As much as she tried, Kesi realized Danuja would not be able to convince anyone she was a servant. Kesi stopped trying to correct her; she let the girl follow her about as she attended to her duties. The good thing was that Danuja was fascinated with Pemba. She expected the girl to be sad and homesick, but she was just the opposite. She had questions about everything and everyone. She would make an eager pupil for the imam.
The day of the palace visit finally arrived. Kesi’s mother and sisters arrived at her home early that morning to make sure she was properly dressed for an audience with the sultan. Her sisters fussed over her clothing, making sure it fit perfectly while mama observed with a wide smile on her face.
“This is such an honor,” she said. “To be summoned to the sultan’s palace!”
Kesi winced when Avana pulled her sash too tight.
“I do need to breath,” she said.
“Prince Rafiki likes women with small waists,” Avana said. “Yours is a little plump for him.”
Kesi turned to glare at her sister. “And how do you know this?”
“He told me,” Avana said. “He came to visit your house often while you were away. We talked.”
“Maybe you should marry him,” Kesi said. “Then he’ll stop bothering me.”
“You are the eldest,” Avana replied.
“Enough of this,” Kesi said. “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I don’t have to look my best to turn him down.”
The room fell silent, which made Kesi nervous. She gazed at her sisters and mama and they all looked away. A chill ran up her back.
“What is it?” she said. “What are you not telling me?”
Mama stepped forward.
“I was going to wait, but I guess you must know now.”
Kesi snatched away from Avana.
“Your baba and the sultan met in secret the day you returned from the east. The Sultan agreed to give us control of all the goods coming into and out of the palace as loloba for your marriage to Rafiki. Your baba agreed.”
Anger welled up in Kesi’s throat, causing her to choke. She stormed out of the room, out of her house then into the street. Danuja ran to catch up with her then fast walked to keep pace. Kesi entered her parents’ courtyard to see baba sitting in the veranda dressed his best for the visit. His eyes went wide when he saw Kesi striding toward him.
“Let me explain,” he began.
“How could you!” Kesi screamed. “This was my choice, not yours!”
“Well, technically it is my choice,” baba said.
“With my approval,” Kesi replied.
“Don’t shout at me!” baba said. “This is an opportunity our family could not pass up. To be favored by the sultan is an honor any family in Pemba would kill for. It is what is best for us.”
“But what about me?” Kesi said. “I’ll have to give up everything.”
“Family first,” baba said. “It is how it has been and will always be. It’s time you stopped being selfish and do what is required of you.”
“But I am a merchant!” Kesi argued.
“You are my daughter first,” baba said. “I should have never let you learn the trade. I knew it wasn’t proper but I let my love for you override my judgement. You have brothers now that will learn. It is time for you to follow you path.”
Kesi’s stomach roiled, aching from the emotions tearing through her like a violent monsoon. She saw the resolve in baba’s eyes. She turned and stalked away.
“Where are you going?” he called out.
“Back to my house,” Kesi replied.
“It is almost time to go to the palace!”
“I will meet you there.”
“I planned for us to arrive together.”
Kesi stopped, then pivoted to face baba, her eyes burning.
“I will spend my last moments of freedom alone,” she said.
Kesi marched back to her home.
“You don’t want to get married,” Danuja said.
“No,” Kesi replied.
“What will you do?” Danuja asked.
“The only thing I can do,” Kesi replied.
Kesi sisters and mama were still at her home when she returned.
“Get out,” she said. “All of you.”
Her sisters scurried by her. Mama remained.
“You, too,” Kesi said.
“Surely you want to talk about this,” mama said.
“Get. Out.” Kesi replied.
Mama lowered her head then walked out.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know how much you would be against this.”
“No, you didn’t,” Kesi replied.
As soon as mama and the others reached the street, Kesi began gathering her things.
“Help me,” she said to Danuja.
“What should I do,” Danuja asked.
“Grab everything you can,” Kesi said. “We’re leaving Pemba.”
Danuja stopped. “Leaving? You’re running away?”
“Yes,” Kesi said. “Now be quiet and do as I say.”
“Where are we going?” Danuja asked.
Kesi stopped. “I don’t know. I’ll figure it out once we’re at sea.”