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In the Seraglio: Part One

In the Seraglio: Part One

The journey to Byzantium.

The came for me when I was sixteen.

That makes it sound dramatic. It wasn't. Rabbi Glickstein had prepared me. Poppa could not spare Rebekah. Tall and full-breasted, the Khan had his eye on her. She was seventeen. She was our family's promise of a better future. I was the runt of the litter. Poppa always complained that it was a trial that he should have such a daughter. I was just under four four eleven inches, as the Greeks count it. The only boy who had ever shown an interest in such a creature was Reuben, the moneylender's son.

He and I sometimes spoke when I brought the money Poppa owed. Little I may have been, but as the Rabbi said, I was sharp as a pin. I could count better than anyone in the village, and faster. I spent hours reading the Rabbi's six books, and I could recite all the Psalms by heart. I knew my Torah too. And with the help of the Greek merchants, I could even read the Rabbi's Iliad, which he could not, but which had a fine binding, and had been given in settlement of a debt. Everything hinged on money.

So I would haggle with Reuben, and would win. He said he liked me. I said it was known that his best friends were goyim young men. He said I could pass for one, and offered me money to take my drawers down and let him use my anus. I quoted Leviticus to him, and told him that if I told the Rabbi, he would have his penis chopped off.

That is not what Leviticus says, but Reuben is stupid and credulous, and backed off. I still got my discount. But there was no more talk of the sin of Sodom; however, I saw how he looked at me. He wanted to sate his lust on me.

But now I was chosen for the Sultan.

It made no sense to me. But Poppa and the Rabbi explained it was our district's turn, and someone had to go. As I was not marriageable, it should, they said, be me.

The Rabbi said it was a shame the Good Lord had not made me a boy, as I would have made a good Rabbi. But there it was. There was nothing for me but to read Jeremiah and prepare my trousseau.

They came just after lunch. The Chief Eunuch took one look at me and queried the Rabbi, who explained that I was a virgin, and specially chosen by the Khan. That was not true, but the Rabbi had often told me that it was necessary to tell untruths to escape our persecutors. It would be different when we were back in Jerusalem. So they took me.

In the portable divan were two Circassian girls and one from Rus.

The Circassian girls were famed for their blonde hair, blue eyes and statuesque figures. These two reminded me of Homer's Amazons. For sure, they would please the Sultan. I understood a little of their tongue, enough to understand their lascivious talk of men and power. The Rus girl, Svetlana, was of a pale hue, with the reddish hair of the Vangarian. Unlike the Circassians, she was sad, and fearful. When we got to the Satrap's castle, we were shown to the women's quarters.

The food was good, but not kosher. That was another life now. We were shown to our quarters. The two Circassians bunked together, which left the other to Svetlana and myself. I offered to dress her hair for bed, and to get her gown ready. She seemed grateful. I told her, in my halting Russian, that I always did it for my older sister; she smiled, said her little sister helped her. She kissed my nose, which I liked. She was calmer for my attentions, and I donned my shift, and joined her on the couch.

She said she was scared, that she heard that if you did not please the Sultan, he had you strangled and thrown in the Bosphorus. I said it would happen to me first, so at least she would know if the stories were true or not. That did not seem to reassure her, so I kissed her on the lips. She seemed to like it, so I did it some more.

I felt her soft breasts move, so touched her hard nubs. She liked that a lot. So, feeling inside, I touched her, then by some instinct, I began to nibble her nipples. She grabbed my hand and put it between her legs.

I did that to myself, sometimes, so knew how she needed touching. As I sucked her nipples, she gave low moans. My fingers, now deep in her wetness, made her shiver. She responded to my comforting her with some animation. Feeling for her bud, I rubbed it gently and firmly.

She began to grunt and shake. I held her close, my tongue and fingers comforting her. Svetlana shuddered, then went quiet. I removed my finger, but not my lips. She liked that. She hugged me, called me nice names in her tongue. She snuggled up with me, and we slept.

Toilet in the morning required us all to strip and bathe in the baths. Maidens with dark skin washed us. I liked the water, it felt good. I noticed two of the black girls giggling. Silly cows, I understood enough Turkish to understand the contrast they were drawing between the Circassians, Svetlana, and me. Yes, I had no breasts, yes I had hips like a young girl, and yes I was about the height of a twelve-year-old, but so what? That was the way the Good Lord had designed me.

But I could see their point. Quite what the Sultan would make of me, worried me; I hoped Svetlana was not right. I didn’t think the Lord had that in mind for me, but if so, I was His handmaiden.

The journey to Istanbul, as the Turks insisted on calling Constantinople, took two weeks. The last part, by ship, was the swiftest.

And so it was, on a cool September morning that I saw the minarets of the Hagia Sophia for the first time. They shimmered in the early dawn mist. I went back and woke Svetlana with what was now our customary kiss. We snuggled a while.

We descended the gangplank to a waiting mobile divan. Within minutes we had reached the Topkapi Palace. The walls of old Byzantium stood high and thick. The air was already rich with strange scents. Even though it was early, the streets were crowded. I could hear many languages. The caravan stopped.

We were ordered to get out. We did. We walked into the most splendid room I had ever beheld. Solomon’s Temple must have been like this in its glory days. Guided by two huge black eunuchs, we were shown to the Seraglio. There we were met by an older, rather stout woman in a veil. She beckoned us in.

The Seraglio smelt of the sweetest perfumes of Araby. We were taken to the baths, stripped and washed. The black girls dried us, anointing us with perfumes, especially our breasts and between our thighs. We were told to sit, legs open. I thought I might die of embarrassment, or boredom.

An older woman knelt between each of us in turn. She fingered each of us intimately. Touching my kitty, she was satisfied I still had my Maidenhead. Stupid crone, I thought, surely no one would have been stupid enough to send the Sultan sullied goods?

We all passed the test. The crone said something in Turkish to the stout woman. I could not resist.

’Yes, I am like a little one, but only the Padishah can decide if he wants me.’

’Oh, you speak Ottoman then, little one?’

I admitted I had some.

’Well, you have spirit too, and maybe when my son tires of these fat teatee cows, he will find in you relief,’

Oh, my goodness. It was the mother of the Sultan. She was reputed to be the real power behind the throne, and I just to open my big mouth.

’And what are you called, little one?’

’I am called Rahab, your highness.’

’Was she not a harlot, my little Jewess?’

’She saved her people, Majesty.’

’Well child, playing the harlot with my son, might save you.’

Oh, what a prospect. But at least she was smiling.

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