Adal took a seat in the center of the men, and after his first bite, Olivia dipped her spoon into the thick stew and filled her mouth with one delicious bite after another. She didn’t think she stopped to take a breath until the bowl was empty. Then she started on the bread. It was delicious, but she would have loved a little butter or jam spread on it. When she was nearly finished, she looked up and noticed that the others were eating slowly and no one was saying a word. The entire meal had been eaten in complete silence. Olivia wanted more, but she dared not ask. She noticed very quickly that only the men were allowed a second helping. When the women silently left the room, Olivia scampered along behind them. She found the men intimidating, though she would never let them know it.
She pulled Clara aside and asked, “Why did Adal pray for children?”
“My dear, all women desire children. It is the duty of women to bear children, and dare I say, it is our highest achievement in this life.”
“So, none of you have children?”
“Unfortunately not all of us have been so blessed, but Iola has given birth seven times.”
The woman named Iola smiled when she heard Clara speak of her children.
“Where are they?” Olivia had never seen any children with the women.
Clara looked at the other women who had also heard Olivia’s question. “Come ladies, it is time.”
“Time for what?”
“Shh, we must be quiet.”
Red wine was served to the men, and then the women served themselves. Chants in what Olivia assumed was Latin were heard from the men, but when Olivia listened more closely she realized they were speaking Farsi. Why Farsi? In her travels as a model, she had heard numerous languages but had learned very little of any of them. The men were speaking so rapidly that she couldn’t understand one word. When they stopped, the men and women lifted the glass to their lips and Olivia did the same. It was good, very smooth, and Olivia didn’t stop until her glass was empty.
The room quickly became very blurry and there was chanting once again. Then she watched Adal rise to his feet and come toward her. He held out his hand and Olivia felt her hand float upward until it met his. She felt as if she could fly. Adal helped her to her feet and lifted her into his arms. “Olivia,” he said softly, and she noticed the men and women clapping their hands in unison as she was carried from the room in the arms of the man they called the prophet. It all seemed unreal to her as things appeared to float past her. The home she knew so well was now foreign to her.