Lalla Fatma Zohra was the friend of a friend, and she and Moulay Arrouj, having had lunch with a mutual friend, bade him good-bye and, both being carefree in Fez for the afternoon, headed to Le Jardin Montplaisir, recently completed according to the design of a newly-appointed French architect named Guillaume de Matichard. De Matichard was a graduate of L’École des Beaux Arts in Paris. Montplaisir was shaped like an ostrich egg. Hence its gaiety and ease of arrangement, its (on the whole) superior finish, and flattering air of speaking to the visitors, who themselves presumably educated, may be spared the obvious. Too reverent to scoff and too dizzy to judge, Moulay Arrouj and Lalla Fatma Zohra dutifully unwound their way down the path that led to the southern gate of the park.
“This side of the park is private and peaceful,” she spoke softly.
As she walked beside him, she stumbled and fell against him and squeezed his arm. She righted herself alright but did not let go of his arm. Pointing his eyes ahead, inhaling the presence of her amber perfume, he accommodated his arm to her grip and, thus secured, they carefully sat down.
“Hold me,” she said. “Hold me tight as if it were for the last time.”
Sitting across from her, Moulay Arrouj saw that Lalla Fatma Zohra was happy. Her face, released from the tension of hope, had gown smooth; her gestures had taken on the flirting irony of a teen-ager; she was almost ecstatically attentive to everything about her; and her voice, as she bent forward to whisper a remark about the “little honey,” was rapid as if the very air of her breathing had turned thin and free. She was happy to be in his arms, and, jealous of her happiness. He, growing impatient to kiss her, was startled by how perfectly almond-shaped her eyes were. He soon realized he couldn’t keep his hands off of her.
It was her meringue-like voice, enfant terrible manners, and playing hard-to-get that attracted him to her in the first place. In the past, she had treated him a few times him to a mild flirtation, so subtle you had to scratch for it. But on that autumn day, September 30, which marked her eighteenth birthday, he was determined to go all the way to the Tigris! Her wrist in his lap, he was stroking the inside of her forearm. Stroking and stroking with a patience drawn thinner. Her linen sleeve was pushed up from the brown-veined skin. She leaned forward. Suddenly, thickly, he kissed her. A wonderful honey gathered in his groin. Her flecked black irises were perfect circles with worry; an inner bit of her lower lip, glimmering with moisture, glittered nervously. The pores of her nose showed. She was unnaturally still.
“Feel my breasts,” she said in a trembling voice. He closed his eyes and held them firmly while rubbing his right cheek on her left shoulder and learned that way about her joy, the roots of it; its wide trunk and intricate branches. By now, sap was flowing from her extremities toward the fork of her body. Raising his fingers to the silver hooks of her sleeveless slip-on malia that was belted at the waist, Moulay Arrouj knew without seeing them or hearing any sigh that the tears of joy were coming down fast. And when he took off her wrapper and he saw her self-supporting breasts and the fine birth mark in the shape of a bunch of grapes on her right thigh, he could think but not say, “Praise is to Allah!” He reached out and took hold of her, clasping her down quickly. Before she could attempt to free herself, she was caught in his embrace.
There was an animal-like quality in the firmness with which he gripped her, affectionate, sensuous, wholly irrational–gentle but of the determination of a hawk descending on its prey. She gave in. And he didn’t pause until he had touched every ridge and leaf of her brown body, all of which Lalla Fatma Zohra could feel because the desire in her had unexpectedly become enormous, greedy, more savage than when she had been fifteen. For a brief irrational moment, she wished she could walk away from him. Then she wished, more rationally, that she could love him without needing him. Need gave him power without his trying; need was the choicelessness she often felt around him; need was what made her plough on for fear she might not see him again for a while.
He was all around her, more powerful by far; she could make no movement not prompted by his will. At first, she tried to resist him, although the battle went on wholly inside her. She realized her helplessness and accepted it. Straightaway she was conscious only of his lips and the breath coming from between them, sweet and fresh as a spring morning in childhood. She surreptitiously moved so that her inner arm brushed against her breast and closed her eyes at the needles of delicious pain. Sometimes Moulay Arrouj bit too hard. When she finally felt that desire, she was surprised above everything else. She didn’t know that a man’s thrusts could suspend memory, that it was possible to be poised in a place where she couldn’t think or remember but only feel.
“Now, it’s my turn,” she confided.
First, she touched his face tentatively. Then, she ran her sensitive fingers slowly along his curly, thick, black hair. Shortly after, she sniffed his scent and examined the scar on his forehead with care. And in bed at night, she thought to herself, he would be completely there, a prisoner of her intense feelings. She thought of the little games she’d play with him, pretending to disappear when she was really there; she thought of the countless ways she’d make him grateful to her. She was aroused by his rough skin rubbing against hers. She straddled him while whispering: “Hold my breasts tight as though they were the most precious part of you.” Slowly she took him in, holding his shoulders to stop him from changing position. He came very quickly. She stayed on top of him, motionless, waiting for him to recover his energy. Not long afterwards, he had an enormous erection. Complete lack of modesty or embarrassment made up for her inexperience. Desire directed her body by instinct, dictating the appropriate movements. She moaned loudly, sounds that seemed so unlike her, so uncontrolled and stirring and throaty. She’d gone mad.
Suddenly, she felt a shiver of joy that was quite, quite unique; it was a complete expression of her body and mood and spirit, all together at once. In Montplaisir with Moulay Arrouj she had discovered pleasure for the first time!
“He’s good, the bastard!” she admitted to herself.
She felt happy knowing that some of the sweat on her body was his and some of the sweat on his body was hers. Then, easily, she slipped out of his grip and went back home.
At home, in her room, she lay on the bed with her eyes closed. The sheets her body had touched became soft and her mouth held a taste of his sweat lulling her to sleep. She wanted the real thing to turn into a dream; a dream in which she could see him embracing her again. And she did. That was it, yes; and in the dream it didn’t even seem strange. She was leaning her face against the pillow, certain it was Moulay Arrouj. My Allah, it was him: help me. Give him back to me. She stretched and her body widened into the cool margins of the bed. The sap ebbed. The touching thing was, in the dream, she had known the change was overtaking her. And there was that in Moulay Arrouj, which now the dream made vivid to her, what she had hardly felt before, a racing love, young as he was, recent as their touching was, much as she gave him; he would sacrifice for her. And she exulted through her length even as she wondered why. “This was a new chapter in my life,” she mumbled to herself.