When he got to Sugar Plum’s cottage he saw that she was sitting on her porch with his mother, Rose, Belinda, Sally and Suzie. They were drinking her famous ‘eyeball’ drink, and were listening intently to what she was saying. He sat down on the porch steps with the blueberries and listened without interrupting to what Sugar Plum was saying . . . . .
” . . .. it’s not quite that simple. They don’t cease to exist, after all they “do”, but their significance and eventually their numbers may even out. There was a woman called Rehmat who I met many moons ago. She was a woman of great dignity and though her skin was leathery and deeply lined, she was at the time only in her early twenties, the same as myself. But what different worlds we came from! Where I was an explorer venturing through new lands and discovering realms unmarked on maps, visiting cities and villages where sometimes the sky was yellow and the sun was blue, Rehmat ran a safe house for women who were runaways, as she had once been herself.
I met her in a city by the sea, in a faraway land where the beaches were black from oil in the sands and the rivers were black from sludge and slime dumped into the waters over years and years at the hands of a tired race of people. Here the men ruled the streets and the women were marked private property, chattel to be bartered or bought and sold, for trade by their families, branded by their gender. They were breeders and their value was in their breedability, which allowed clans to merge land holdings or earn a living as the women were put to work in fields, kitchens, and the houses of the ruling elite; whose lives were very very different as I later learned.
You’d think they’d be highly regarded and respected but they weren’t. Instead they were downtrodden and abused, unless they were willing to stand up and fight. Some did and they were fierce, these women, for they had to fight hard to be victorious in a man’s world. The one’s that did had the undying respect of the men afterward, who treated them with reverence tinged with fear. But it was a difficult walk to walk and very few women took that path. Most opted for the easy way, which was to be compliant and biddable and of course, beauty was a handy tool with which to leverage oneself. They were canny these women, even if some were physically battered!
Anyway, I had mistaken Rehmat’s safe house for a women’s hostel while looking for a place to stay. What a shock I got to see the women who resided there! Their scarred and acid burned faces haunt me to this day. Rehmat herself had no visible scars, for she had fled the vicious attack planned for her before it happened.”
Sugar Plum paused. She was lost in a trance for some time. Then she sipped from her glass, swirling the liquid around the ice cubes slowly. Whispering Wind noticed the ice had roses frozen within. Eventually she continued.