The Karawa family compound buzzed with activity and excitement.
Guests and family members had been arriving for much of the day. The gardens were filled with people. There were distant family members catching up on the events of each other’s lives, and guests using the event to increase their network of contacts in promising new markets. The host family’s servants were busily moving around the garden, ensuring that the guests’ needs were being well covered.
In the kitchen, Shadi and Zia were keeping a close eye on the comings and goings of the serving staff. The platters being served that were being consumed quicker than others were given higher priority than the slower-moving foods, with the cooks allocated accordingly to a section of the kitchen. The variety of drinks was maintained, with juices and water regularly delivered alongside the fine Shirazi wine from the renowned viticultural southern city. The ladies knew that the wines were always popular, yet wanted to avoid guests making too much of a scene in an alcohol-induced stupor.
The ladies stepped out of the kitchen’s back door, into a small walled terrace. An elaborate sun clock stood in its middle, surrounded by a variety of short flowers. Shadi walked over to assess the time of day.
Zia watched her mother with amusement. “Father and Yafeu will arrive soon enough. To leave the presence of the Susashah before time does not keep one in his favour for long.”
Her mother sighed as she turned to her daughter, the lines of worry evident. “It is not every day that a day of entertainment revolves around the giving away of one’s daughter.”
The amusement quickly faded from Zia’s deep brown eyes, as did the curls at the side of her lips. Her mother saw this, and walked over to provide a comforting embrace.
“Do not worry, my dear. All ladies are worried when the time comes to be married. Our own hearts are a lesser consideration, but our welfare is not completely ignored.”
Zia lowered her eyes. “I understand that, Mother. I knew the time for marriage would come eventually, but I fear that a streak of independence will not bode well with Yafeu. He has always seemed to be controlling.”
“It is an unfortunate effect of being in the merchant trade. There is no end to the number of people willing to take advantage of you. Those in the city will steal your goods, and whether they kill you or not to do so means little to them. Those in desert locations are little better, and sometimes are worse due to the harsh climate they live in. Yafeu has to deal with both, as has your father.”
A sad smile crossed Zia’s face. “A son-in-law who has so much in common with him. It is no wonder that Father was eager for the marriage.”
“That was an unexpected benefit, my dear. All your father wants is to ensure the family name continues past his own lifetime. The years of devotion he has poured into his work to see the Karawa name recognised as the foremost merchant family of Susa is renowned. For the family’s business reputation to dying with him is his greatest fear.”
Her daughter nodded. “And he sees Yafeu Babafemi as the most likely chance to ensure that does not happen?”
“Exactly. We’ve all known Yafeu’s family for many years, and they are a merchant family also. Did I ever tell you how our families met?”
Zia rolled her eyes. “Yes, many times. I am sure it will be an interesting story to tell, should you be called to say something tonight.”
A clearing of the throat drew the pair’s attention to the kitchen door. A messenger was standing there, the sweat on his forehead and his chest’s fast movements showing the effort of his travels.
“I apologise for the interruption, my ladies. Behnam and Yafeu have just left the Susashah’s palace, and they will be arriving here within the hour.”
Shadi looked back to the sun clock. “That gives us two or so hours to make sure everything is prepared.” She looked back to the messenger. “Thank you for letting me know. Please take some food for yourself on your way out.”
The messenger bowed. “You are most gracious.” He turned to Zia. “I hope everything goes well for you, my lady.”
Zia gave a slight bow. “Thank you. I hope so too.” The messenger turned and headed back into the busy kitchen.
“Father has done well by me, Mother. Yafeu and I are to have plenty of time to get to know each other once more, as we travel to the other well-known merchant cities of Persia. Seeing how he deals with his customers and suppliers in Pasargadae and Istakhr will let me witness first-hand how he has grown as a person. The rumours may not all be true.”
Shadi gave her daughter a sly look. “Istakhr? I see you do not fall into your father’s habit of giving the city its old name.”
Zia smiled. “Knowing it was previously Persepolis is Father’s favourite piece of historical knowledge. I allow him the enjoyment he gets of using the old name.”
“How gracious of you,” Shadi said sarcastically as she gave her daughter another hug. “Come. We better make sure everything is ready for when the pair arrive. I hope they did not take full advantage of the Susashah’s hospitality, as it could leave no room for the feast tonight.”
“Father fears your temper, so I am sure he warned Yafeu that they needed to behave.”
The pair laughed as they moved back into the hustle and bustle of the kitchen. The staff moved with extra enthusiasm at the news of the long-awaited guest’s impending arrival.
– X –