Dôdi reclined on a blanket with his new bride in his arms. Raya was four days out of the veil he’d removed on the night of their wedding, but she still wore the queenly raiment she’d been so nervous about that day. Her family worked the orchards here and couldn’t afford much for the traditional attire; the purple gown’s only embroidery was a few simple lines in white around the cuffs of her sleeves, the hem at her ankles, and a bit of trim around the neckline he’d been trying to peek down into to all day, hoping glimpse tonight’s surprise.
As if she could feel his scrutiny, Raya absentmindedly pulled her crimson mantle higher up. She was using it as a blanket despite the day’s intense heat, trying to cover her gown’s simplicity. Dôdi knew Raya’s brothers had saved up for months to buy the gown, and she was very appreciative for their efforts. However, he could tell she felt it wasn’t good enough for Dôdi. Ridiculous. Besides, she was beautiful in it, the purple contrasting with her long black hair and highlighting her hard-earned pale complexion. And she was beautiful out of it, too.
His wife’s eyes remained fixed on the dance before them. Two lines of a dozen women each faced each other, all in white save one side who wore purple sashes. Half as many men sat around them in a semicircle, clapping and cheering as the two sides of women sang and danced in turns. One side would sing along to the hand harpists’ boisterous tune while the other side breathlessly leapt about, spun around, bent and bowed their bodies, twiddled their fingers, and leapt some more for good measure, sweating all the while. Then the sides would switch.
Dôdi thought they were quite good, very agile. Seeing his brother Akka talking with some of the men in the semicircle, he was reminded of his brother’s marriage to Issa last year. These dancers seemed better than those Dôdi remembered at Akka’s wedding. Or maybe he just hadn’t been paying that close of attention to the ones at his brother’s festivities. Raya had been there, watching the dance attentively under that cedar tree, and Dôdi had been rather focused on her at the time.
Of course, Dôdi wasn’t paying that close of attention this time either. Just like he wasn’t for yesterday’s love songs, sang skillfully by their hosts, Raya’s brothers. Just like he wasn’t for the many games they played the day before.
While he’d love nothing more than to keep his attentions on the heat of Raya’s body snuggled up beside him, his friends would have none of that. Currently, he was busy answering the same inane question he’d been answering for the past four days of the party: “So, how’s married life treating you?”
But like always, the slow widower Allup and the yet unmarried Rheha — he wasn’t even sure which one had done it this time — turned it into another accounting of his latest lovemaking with Raya. As much as she pretended not to be listening, he felt her respond to his words. When he managed to be poetic with his praise, she seemed to melt into his embrace. When he was choking on his words, as he was now, her sandaled foot paused in its tapping to the music.
Right now, her foot wasn’t moving.
“Wait, what was that?” Yada asked as he reclined beside him in the shade of a tree. “You lost me with that whole ‘prince of the people’ bit.”
Dear Allup, leaning against a rock that might have had a more nimble mind than him, shook his head. ‘I lost, too. Still confused on chariots.”
Always one to chime in, Rheha agreed. “Yeah, what was that about?”
Beside him, Raya’s beautiful foot stood motionless in silent anticipation while her eyes remained studiously fixed on the leaping women and the cheering men around them.
Dôdi sighed and began again, “I’m only saying that I didn’t know —”
“Friends!” interrupted Akka’s booming voice as he approached, his conversation with the new in-laws apparently concluded. “Give my brother some peace. Clearly,” he added with a smirk as he leaned over Allup’s rock, “he’s unable to think straight. He can’t find the words to say.”
Allup looked up at Akka with a confused but sympathetic expression. “But why? Dôdi so good with words.”
Yada plucked a leaf from a low-hanging branch and threw it at Allup playfully, but the breeze took it well off its mark. “Too much sex, Allup. Not enough blood in the ole noggin,” he explained, emphasizing with a knock on his temple.
“Sure enough,” agreed Akka. “My wordsmith of a brother is struck dumb. Issa had the same impact on me for the first few days.” He offered Dôdi an exaggerated look of compassion. “Don’t worry, your highness, it will pass. Won’t it, Yada?”
“Yeah,” Yada answered, then added, “if his mouth doesn’t tire from ‘grazing’.”
“On her boobs,” Rheha contributed proudly, trying vainly to keep a straight face.
“Favorite flowers’,” Allup quoted, causing Dôdi to wince. Betrayed even by ever-loyal, ever-genuine Allup.
At that, his three closest friends broke into unrestrained laughter. His elder brother Akka pleaded with them to share this, Dôdi’s latest gaffe, and they struggled to contain their hysterics long enough to enlighten the big man. Dôdi pointedly ignored them all. He’d thought he was being rather eloquent when he’d made the comment about the lilies, his favorite flowers, but he couldn’t deny the stupefying effect Raya’s breasts had on him. Perhaps he was getting a bit tongue-tied.
Turning his eyes to the dancers, he watched absentmindedly as the white sashes took up singing while the purple sashes started their own leaping, spinning, and bending. He idly wondered about where this dance originated. Perhaps it was symbolic of some long-forgotten battle, or it represented something a simple as a fight between sisters. Whatever it was, it was clearly competitive.
Each time, the singers sang more loudly, and the dancers leapt more proudly, and they all gave all to outdo the last. Personally, he got dizzy watching them spin, a tangle of white robes, dark arms, and pale legs rotating like an overexcited storm cloud.
So, instead, he returned his eyes to the beautiful bride lying beside him. The dizzying effect her body heat gave him was more intense, but at least it lacked the nauseating overtones.