Day 31: Past in Incense

Umi closed his eyes and imagined in the thick, dreaming aroma of Shiori’s room both of them were in their childhood again. He imagined he didn’t have to worry about who didn’t (or did) want touching him. He imagined someone would wake him, in the morning, and tell him what he should do. He imagined they would tell him how to be happy.

Day 25: Tumbleweed Girl

The yard behind the atrium was empty of the harem children and their carers. Only half of the parakeet cages swung outside, empty of birds. The only noise between the evening gusts was their metal hooks, clicking and creaking on their lines. A single white-robed woman stood in the yard’s center, standing on a block to pull the cages down.

Day 8: Biting Thistle

Umi didn’t know any of her brothers well. She knew they carried the name of Khurshid Azar, which Umi was not allowed to—Siskin girl, you’re a Siskin, they’re Azars, they’ll be Azar men one day. She knew, to some degree, they were named for a king and she was named for a concubine, but it didn't bother her yet. All Umi did know was that, when it came to her full-blooded brother, she wanted to be him.

Day 1: Atrium

Golden cages in the shapes of hourglasses hung along the shore of the river in the months of the solar spring, hooked to golden lines. Emerald parakeets with black chins chattered inside their pendulum homes, using their ruby beaks to scale the bars. It was the job of the harem’s children to carry the cages from the atrium to hang, and the job of their carers to make sure they did not drop them.