After finding his wife and daughter, Behnam requested that they join him in their private garden.
Zia knew that there was something important to announce or request, as there were few occasions where her father spoke under his personal cypress tree. He believed that a discussion under the tree was to be in the presence of Hormazd himself, and would ensure good luck and protection from Ahriman’s evil influence.
Upon their arrival at the garden, Behnam dismissed his guards. Moving under the wide branches of the tree, he gestured for the two ladies to sit on stone bench in front of its trunk. The bench was typically his: no detail was etched or carved, letting the natural beauty of the lines running through the rock speak for itself.
He looked upon the two ladies. His wife, Shadi, was the happiness of his life, and had entranced him from the moment they met. Her eyes were a deep green like jade, her face the colour of fine desert sand, and her bearing proud yet inviting. Her choice of clothing was a light shade of brown, with a matching headscarf obscuring her hair. After over two decades of marriage, and the natural wear of the world, the natural and unassuming beauty of her face still remained.
Their daughter was also a beauty, though a peculiar one to his thinking. Her dark eyes were neither his nor Shadi’s, yet many had mentioned their piercing quality and likened them to his own. Her skin colour was a shade darker than his or his wife’s, providing a more exotic quality than the other ladies of Susa, which drew the eyes of many men.
A wide smile ran across his face as he spoke. “I have had correspondence from Alexandria.”
Shadi’s eyes brightened, while Zia remained indifferent. His daughter spoke. “I welcomed the messenger this morning, so I am aware of this.”
“Of course, my dear. Yafeu Babafemi has sent a most pleasing letter, and I wished to share its news with you both.” He spread his arms to gesture to the ladies both.
Shadi spoke, her voice reflecting her proudness. “What matter does Master Babafemi bring before you?”
His eyes moved to Zia, the smile deepening. “He has requested my permission to marry Zia.”
The ladies gasped. Shadi turned to her daughter, her eyes moistening with tears, to embrace her beloved child. Zia returned the embrace, though her eyes did not seem to reflect her happiness. Behnam ‘s smile began to withdraw as he saw this.
“My dear daughter, do you not see this as good news?”
Zia turned to her father as her mother released her arms. “It most certainly is, Father. Yafeu and his family are to Alexandria what our family is to Susa. The joining of the two most powerful merchant houses either side of the Arabian Desert is a formidable alliance.”
His eyes narrowed. “I appreciate your recognition of such a fact. I sense some reserve from you, though.”
She held up her hands up, palms facing him. “Forgive me. I do not deny your observation. I have met Yafeu only a handful of times, many of them when we were children and beginning our paths towards adulthood. For my leaving Susa, and all that I have known, to live without love would make my existence unbearable.”
Behnam stroked his chin, the close-cut stubble meticulously trimmed. “I can appreciate such a desire, Zia. Despite this, an opportunity of this size is not presented regularly to any merchant. If you found the match lacking or undesirable, I would still bequeath you to him. There are many ladies in the world who are unhappy in their marriage. Find an outlet in your life that would give you purpose, while remaining devoted and faithful.”
Her daughter’s head lowered, Shadi spoke with the love of a caring parent. “Marriage is a scary thing at your age. You are unsure of Yafeu, and if the love and respect he and you hope to share will be enough to sustain you into the future. I had the same reservations with your father, and though we needed time to adjust to each other, we learned how to do so.”
Zia looked to her mother. “You were born in Susa, as were you, Father. Your marriage did not require relocation to the other side of the world.”
Behnam nodded, as did her mother. Her father spoke with a balanced measure of affection for his daughter, and the excitement expected of a favourable business transaction. “That is true. Though I will not deny his request, I will extend an offer for Yafeu to spend time as our guest. Persia is one of his greatest trade destinations, so he will not be likely to deny it. You and he can travel to Persepolis and Pasargadae, his other main trade cities. It should give you enough time together for you to get a sense of him.”
Zia bowed to indicate her assent before rising to embrace Behnam. “Thank you, Father. I would appreciate it greatly.”
He returned her hug. “It is settled then. Shadi, would you please find the messenger and advise him that an answer for his master will be ready tomorrow morning. I imagine Yafeu will expect his answer as soon as possible, so see to it he has sufficient entertainment to see him home to Alexandria.”
Shadi bowed gracefully as she rose from the stone bench. “I am sure Koosha and Navid will show him a good time in the city once their day’s duty is served. It shall be arranged.”
“Thank you, my dear.” He stepped forward to kiss his wife on the cheek, ad turned to his daughter to do the same. “It is a great day for our family.”
The ladies walked to the door exiting the garden, Shadi talking excitedly of the arrangements to be made before Babafemi’s arrival in Susa. Behnam looked to the tree offering a silent prayer to Hormazd, requesting a beneficial conclusion to this promising situation.
– X –