When the meal was over, the women helped her put on her nomad costume. They wanted to do everything. Their hands were all over her, pulling at her sweater and trying to open the snap and zipper of her jeans. They giggled and exclaimed when they saw her small, pale breasts, but the biggest source of delight turned out to be her lacy briefs. She was relieved when they covered her with the new clothes.
“This reminds me of a wedding,” Fatima said when they all stepped out of the tent. “When a Qashami girl gets married, the women all help her dress in her wedding clothes and then they escort her to her husband’s tent.”
Walking toward the tent of her “husband,” Olivia felt like a bride. The mantle framed her face and fell down her back like a bride’s veil, and the long skirt swayed with every step. Rashid stood in front of the tent talking to Saddiq. He was wearing a long shirt and a wool vest like those worn by the other men. Time stopped for several heartbeats when his eyes fell on Olivia. He seemed to straighten up, to become taller, and everything about him became very still.
She met his gaze boldly. The petticoats swished around her legs when she walked. She felt the swing of her arms, the sway of her hips, even the slight bounce of her breasts. All the women stood behind her, waiting for Rashid’s reaction.
“Spin around again like you did for us in the tent,” Fatima whispered to Olivia.
Rashid’s nomad clothes made him look primitive and very male. His eyes were intent on her, like the eyes of an animal watching its prey. He was motionless except for a slight quivering of his nostrils.
Olivia lifted her arms slowly, and the women stepped back away from her. Then she began the pirouette. She moved as if in a trance. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. But still the skirt rose, its colors blurring as she spun, and she felt dizzy and flushed when she stopped. She gave Rashid a smile that came from some new knowledge.
“You are a temptress,” he said in English. His eyes were dark pools that beckoned her to tempt and be tempted.
“The ladies are waiting to see what you think of their handiwork.”
He stepped toward her and reached his hand up to touch her face at her temple. Then he slid it down until it cupped the nape of her neck. A shiver of response rippled through her, but she didn’t move.
“She is very beautiful,” he said in Farsi. “The costume is perfect. She is perfect.” He kissed her lightly on the lips. The speculations and remarks of the nomads hushed. A crow cawed in the distance, and then it was silent too. She was mesmerized. She felt possessed.