The baths had been freshfilled, and the air was warm and steamy the way I liked it, and I could
smell roses and lavendar on the air. Rosa, Lucille and Louisa were there when I got there,
giggling and splashing about from where they squatted in their tubs. We greeted each other
amicably enough, though perhaps with not overwhelming joy. I placed my towels, combs and
ointments to one side as I pulled off my diklo, bodice, skirts, petticoats and chemise as they
each soaped themselves and washed, their brown bodies shining and slippery, curvy and womanly.
But I was quite quite proud of my big belly right then, unashamedly standing naked in front of
them as I went to clamber into one of the tubs, and I could see them all eyeing it off, me the
wickedest woman-child in the Court, pregnant and adored by the handsome Bulibasha. Louisa clicked
her tongue and said to noone in particular;
"Four babbies and her tits aren't even saggy!"
Oh how I love to be envied! I hid a smug little smile as I lowered myself down into the water, my
belly poking up above it, and leaned back and began to rub myself over with the ointments I used
to keep wrinkles away, and my scrubbing brush so I would not get the hideous stretch marks which
haunted my dreams.....
Lying there, the smile fell from my face suddenly as another strange sensation swept through my
belly. Again - like ice! Ice - as though someone had poured freezing water into my navel, and it
was freezing...freezing into ice in my belly! The bath, the tent, the girls as they rubbed
themselves dry and scented and dressed, all faded away and I lay there with a pounding heart,and
a mind frightened, terrified, by this feeling. My throat was dry I sat so still with my lips
parted, not breathing. Slowly, slowly, this strange feeling melted away and I gulped, and licked
my lips, and ran a trembling hand back through my wet hair. I sat up as quickly as I could
manage, my wet shoulders growing cold suddenly in the air, the tent darker than I remembered it.
I realised I was alone, and hastily, shaking, I washed my hair and the last remnants of paint
from my body, and hoisting myself awkwardly out of the bath I dried and dressed as quickly as I
could manage.
I was relieved to back to my tent with all my family there by now, joking and laughing and the
tent all aglow with warmth that was not only from the fire. I was so pleased to see Clopin had
convinced Lena to perch on his lap,who was giggling as he told her some silly story, as my boys
Clopin and Ahvel poked, and pinched, and teased one another while Harlan rolled his eyes and
played the big man. The soup was all ready, and Lena had been the good girl and laid out bread
and cheese and wine on the table for her papa and myself, and I was pleased to see she had
decided to play the little mother as well and had cleaned Clopin and Ahvel's grimy six-year-old
face and hands. I was greeted with cheerful and loving smiles all round, and I leaned against the
tent flap a little and smiled weakly back. The icy feeling had passed, but had left with it one
of uneasiness, both of mind and body. It was that faint disharmony I had felt earlier, and it was
stronger now.
But I masked it, and pretended nothing as Lena leapt off Clopin's lap to serve our dinner, and my
boys continued to try and outdo each other with smart-mouthed comments and boasts, all of which
Clopin shamefully encouraged them with. But as I moved around to take my place, he managed to
tear himself away from urging Ahvel to prove how easily he could make big brother Harlan look a
fool to wink at me, and he knew of course that there was something wrong, and now with an
expression of concern he held out a hand for me to take, and when I did he pulled me down onto
his lap, cuddling me close. Ahvel, still in the humor for cheeky braggarting, come forth with -
"She will crush your legs, Papa, with the giant babby in her belly!"
I buried my head in my husband's neck as he slammed a fist on the table and told his son to mind
his maman's feelings. Ahvel jumped, and apologised meekly, but I ran a little hand through his
shiny hair and said it was not important. Clopin turned my face to his and asked me was there
anything wrong.
"No no, it is nothing." I said softly, shaking my head, waving a hand nonchalantly.
"Just a stone on the ground, eh?" he said quietely, putting his head in close and looking at me
closely. I shrugged it off again.
"There are no fears" I lied, and he well knew it. But he let me get off his lap and take my own
seat, but I could not eat my soup when Lena gave it to me, only a small piece of cheese and
bread.
Sometimes being pregnant and unwell is a wonderful thing, for it was Lena who Clopin said could
do the dishes, for I despised the dishes, despised them completely. But I was left in peace to
fall down on my bed while Lena hummed at the front of the tent and cleaned, and Clopin chased his
boys from the tent, Harlan finally dropping his big man poise when he saw his papa was in the
mood to behave the child with them. I knew they were going to wrestle, of course, wrestle and
fight and each tell the other what wonderful big strong men they were.
So there I lay on the bed rich with the scent of my husband and of lavender, and contemplated my
belly as it poked up high before me. There was still the feeling of uneasiness all the way
through me, and I sighed and pulled Clopin's pillow onto my face and breathed in deep, smelling
his skin, his sweat and hair, and the lavender.
It was yet another wicked thing for me to do, keep so much lavender in the bed while I was laid
up with child. It is not my favourite scent, but when in bed it is very pleasant and aroused both
my husband and myself greatly, and we of course, could do nothing about it. A less secure married
woman would not of dared, least her husband find satisfaction elsewhere, but I enjoyed the
knowledge of Clopin's desire for *me* and how he would hold me both tight and lightly in his
arms, and breathe shallowly into my hair during my time.
I could revel in that as one of the few powers we women have in this man's world. I had been
blessed, blessed like few women with a man who loved me and who had respect for women. But I was
still expected to toe the line - if I showed Clopin up in public, then he would punish me
publicly. He had let me do things no other man would ever let his wife do, but there had been
strict rules and guidelines to follow, and repercussions for not following them.But as a woman
whose husband loved her and who had taught her to be confident in her sexuality with him, I could
at times, weild a great deal of power. My mother had taught me the glories of the dark side of
the moon - like the power women have in the life giving blood of our menstrual flow, so is the
power we have in feminity so long as we learn how to use it. We may never lead this world, but we
can make life very sweet for ourselves through it. Each female is a mystery, wrapped up in
herself until the time of her first bleeding when she realises the power of her womanhood, the
power of the moon reflected in her sex, as her time comes and goes with the waning and the waxing
of that mighty light in the sky. Just as my mother had taught me to love the unicorn, a creature
of purity, of life, of night, she had taught me to love the moon, to let my body flow with it's
rhythms, as it should, to revel in it's strength, and pure beauty. As I lay there on my bed with
the noise of my only daughter dim in the background, and my nostrils and mouth all filled with
the scent of lavender, my eyes became bright with the images of my mama - long away in India, she
with her strong mix of gallic-romany blood who had given me my hair and my eyes and my skin, and
who had given me myself. She was ferocious and spirited,but she had not been a disobedient or
unsuitable wife, nor had she been subjugated. She did her duty uncomplainingly and brilliantly,
and was rewarded for it by my papa with freedom and love and respect. Just like Aloise, Clopin's
sister. And both women had been blessed with fruitful wombs. Unlike myself, who had only given
birth twice in thirteen years of marriage, and who was wicked and disobedient. A jolt of pain ran
through me then, and it was not from my belly but from my heart - for I had been pregnant seven
times at this age - and had lost five times.
I sighed as Lena finished her cleaning, putting everything neatly away,and quietely slipping out
of the tent to leave me to my rest. I stroked my belly again and tried to push aside the
uneasiness which continued to jab my shoulder, harder now. Who could say what the Powers that Be
did, how they worked? I did not know. All I knew was that my heart ached then as I thought of the
babes I had lost, and ached harder as I remembered that terrible icy coldness that had spread
through my belly. I squeezed my eyes shut tight as a stinging began behind then, my chovexani
eyes, and tried not to think about it. But these wicked thoughts would not leave, they played tag
in the corners of my mind, darting from one place to the next and I was in terrible danger of
crying.
"Only when the moon falls from the sky will the world end, daughter" my daj's voice whispered
in my ear, another long passed memory rising from the earth to dance in my head, my mama and
myself sitting in the menstrual tent on straw, as we did in India, looking outside at the ripe
egg of the moon. "When all women are gone from this earth, so will mankind die, for man cannot
live without woman, just as night cannot fall without the moon. But who will wipe out woman, and
who will pull the moon from the sky? We will always be women, if nothing else, and the moon
cannot be stolen, remember that always."
The moon - I needed the moon.
Awkwardly, I rolled off the bed to wrap my shawl and cape around me tightly, before moving as
quickly as my bulk would let me out of the tent, away from the Square, towards one of the back
exits from the Court of Miracles. Clopin would be furious when he found out, I was strictly
forbidden to leave the Court during my term, but I had a need right then - and one he could
never, despite how well he knew me, understand.

When I was outside, and she was there before me, full and ripe and shining white, I knew some
relief. I could not rid myself of the terrible disharmony running lightly through my veins, but I
took comfort in she that represented all my sex, whether human or beast. I saw with pleasure the
shape of the Unicorn leaping over her in the stars, strong and free, but with her single horn
bowed reverently. I slowly, painfully, lowered myself to the ground and pulled my cape close and
tight around me and turned my face towards her light. I was moonbathing.
I sang softly to the babby I carried in my womb, sang songs of hope, of love. I sang under the
moon's glow that my babby might live and grow strong, whatever sex it was. I prayed it would be
perfect and normal and would grow up intelligent and wise. And I confess - although ultimately
it would not matter to *me* I hoped it would be a boy. If I could do this, do this again,
then it would not matter I was a wicked wife who talked back to her husband and disobeyed him; I
would of done my duty in the eyes of the rom, and they could shut their gossiping mouths finally
and envy me my wonderful children, and Clopin's chest could swell with pride and he could strut
about the Court as the peacock, and I could bask in his love and no longer feel guilty that the
other men might look down upon him because our love for each other was too great for him to
subjugate me harshly.
"Herli, what the hell are you doing out here?" Clopin's voice interrupted my thoughts, in which I
had become lost.
I jumped and turned to him, masking my face, hoping moon would not betray me and illuminate my
eyes. He was frowning, angry that I should of been wicked twice in one day, first shaming him and
then disobeying him, but I was not going to break down now and fish for sympathy. It was too
close to my heart for me to play. I just looked at him, golden brown in the moonlight, his face
shadowed by his hat, even at nighttime and did not answer. I could feel his anger grow in my
silence, until finally he barked out.
"Get up now, and go inside and I might forget about this!"
Oh and what will you do if I don't? Was the thought that immediately rose in my mind. Were I not
feeling so melancholy it would of passed my lips too, such retorts to my husband were common of
me and he expected then, and when he did not get one this time, he pulled his hat off and sat
down next to me.
"What's wrong petite-ves'tacha?" When Clopin was in a mood to be particularly tender, despite
scolding or bossiness, he would mix rom and french up, using what words best expressed his
feelings. He was peering down at me as he wrapped an arm about my shoulders, then followed my
gaze up to the moon, where I sat still and looked. I rested my head on his shoulder, rubbing it
about on the bone which poked through the fabric. I sighed and pouted and still did not answer.
"You have to go back underneath, Herli." he said softly. "You should not of come out in the first
place."
I didn't have an answer for that, because of course,he was right. Much as I hated that rule, it
was the rule, and one I had not disobeyed before, but for a very long time ago......
A memory of that terrible day when Chester had died rose up in my mind and I shivered and pulled
my cloak closely and tightly around me and Clopin pounced on it, leaping to his feet and putting
his hat back on.
"You're cold. You'll do yourself and the babby harm. Come inside now."
Well, I wasn't speaking and gazing up at the moon, no matter how spiritually-inspiring she was,
was having no other effect upon me, so with a resigned sigh I put my hand in the one he
outstretched to me, and was about to let myself be hauled to my feet when my little babby Ahvel's
voice come pipping out -
"Maman, papa, we can see you!"
Clopin let go my hand and turned, ready to shout at them to go below, but it was my turn to
pounce and I called out -
"We cannot see you, come over here my little darlings!"
A second later and all three of my boys were clambering onto the low little wall Clopin and I had
perched ourselves on, it's gray stones turned silver in the moon, it's moss bright black. Clopin
sighed and grumbled but they cuddled in quickly and closely to me and their beautiful pointed
little faces made me laugh a little, and wrap my cloak about them too, remembering the joy I had
felt when I had suckled them when they were still such tiny babbies, a joy I *was* to know again
- soon. When Clopin saw they had lightened my heart, he relented, though with a frown, and pushed
his namesake along the wall to sit next to me. I returned my attentions to the moon. She may not
take away my uneasiness,but dammnit, she was spiritually-inspiring.
Around me my boys - their papa included, vied for my attention - today maman, I did this and then
I did this but my brer, he could not do this instead he did this and looked a fool, and kitten
you should of seen how they applauded me, they literally begged me to perform again, some of the
ladies followed me to the next street and so it went on. But I heard such babble and more
everyday, so it all washed over me and passed away - pushed away by the moon's light, and I did
not answer them as they wished, and so finally they fell silent, and Clopin's fingers traced a
pattern over my back and little Ahvel rested his head against my bosom and yawned. We would have
to go inside soon.
But no - the next moment my boy had raised his head and said to me;
"Maman, how came the moon to be in the sky?"
I smiled down at him, it was an old bedtime story and a favourite one.
"The moon is the womb of the Great Goddess, who goes by many different names, and from her womb
come all the women of the world, and our bodies work in rhythm with her to this day, in honor of
our Great Mother."
A shortened version, but it pleased him and he leaned his head against my bosom again and
contemplated the moon. My shav, Harlan smiled in memories of the same story being told him when
he was a babby, but Clopin snorted.
"Bah! Paramitsha! It is very clear the moon is the left eye of Devi, watching over us by night."
I frowned at him. "Do you deny then,that women are tied to the moon, that she is our guide and
our mother?"
"I never denied that! But the moon is no womb!"
"What makes you so sure?"
"This story was told me by my maman and she was never wrong."
"Well, my story was told me by my maman and she was never wrong!"
"Perhaps both maman's are wrong?" Harlan interjected.
"No!" Clopin and I said together. Our son Clopin spoke up.
"But the moon is for woman, this you both agree upon?"
Clopin and I nodded gravely, for that truth could never be denied.
Our son Clopin continued. "In that case, does it not stand to reason that a woman would know
better than a man what the moon truly is, just as a man would know better what the sun truly is?"
He was a smart boy, my son Clopin. "That is true, my son, my wise son. You speak some sense to
your father!"
Clopin my husband scowled. "Bah!Paramitsha!"
I sneered at him. "Anything you don't agree with is a faery tale to you! Are you perhaps
listening to the gajo too much, and are following their new and 'enlightened' intellectualism?
Those filthy pigs who bathe but once a year and think it is enough?"
He waved a dismissive hand at me. "The gajo are all idiots. You know I think as much of their
supposed intellect as I do the dirt on my shoe. Knowing their idiocy they probably think the moon
is the flip side of the sun!"
Our son Clopin, who had been pondering our words with large, thoughtful eyes, spoke again. "I
have a theory of the moon's light. I have thought that, just as women are enlightenend and made
strong by man, so is the moon illuminated by sun's light."
Clopin raised an interested eyebrow at that, and looked up at the moon with squinted eye, but I
shook my head and said softly to my boy.
"My son, you are wise beyond your years it is true, but the moon is clearly illuminated with her
own light. Can you see the sun anywhere abouts in the sky?"
He hesitated before shaking his head. "Well then." I said satisfied. But I could see from the way
he chewed his lip and looked above at the moon he was not. It was my turn to continue.
"The moon glows with her own light, and it is strong and guides our way when we would otherwise
become lost. So do women find their own light within themselves."
Clopin clicked his tongue and laughed a little. "But the moon does not illuminate the night
fully! You will remember that before sun hung in the sky, the whole world was black. It was sun
that brought light to the world, sun is stronger. Man is stronger."
It was true, but then man was bigger, more violent and smellier. But I did not say so. A woman
can only disrespect her husband so far, and he did speak the truth. Our son Clopin leant forward
suddenly with a new thought.
"Man is bigger than woman. Perhaps sun is also bigger than moon!"
Clopin chuckled and pulled me closer to him. I laughed a little also.
"My boy, it is very clear that sun and moon are both the same size." Clopin told him gently. "The
greater strength of the sun's light comes from within, just as it does with man."
Another pause from our thoughtful son, and then "But two things at different distances can look
the same size. Perhaps sun is placed back further than moon?"
"But my son" I said to him "You know that the God and Goddess lie side by side in the sky. Sun
and moon lie side by side. And sun and moon are much smaller than earth, they are as buttons in
the sky."
My son looked at me with the superiority he was already learning from his papa. "Perhaps not
everything in the world is as was told you by your parents, maman."
"Mind your maman." Clopin said quietely, but sternly, and our boy looked away, chided. Our son
Clopin would not be allowed to disagree with me until he was a youth, like Harlan. But Harlan
loved his maman too much to use his supposed superior intellect as a man over me. I had a feeling
my son Clopin would have no such compunctions. But then, he was a brilliant boy.
The night's breeze was cold, although it was summer, and I shivered again a little, and Clopin
wasted no time in leaping down from the wall.
"Come now, we're going inside" he said to all of us. "Your wicked maman is cold, though she might
deserve to be I cannot bear to see it."
Obediently our three sons clambered from the wall, and Clopin lifted me gently down, before
bending his head for a kiss, at which our sons Ahvel and Clopin stopped to look. As babbies
Harlan and Lena had giggled and joked to see our very frequent affection, but Clopin and Ahvel
would watch us silently, with smiles on their faces. They liked to see us touch one another
gently, I think it soothed them in a way. Harlan pushed his brothers on, scolding them severely
for watching, and a moment later Clopin and I followed, he patiently keeping pace with lumbering
me.
Lena was long since in her tent with Jeta, sewing for their Chest of Treasures they both worked
hard upon. Unlike I at her age, Lena looked greatly forward to the day she would be married.
Harlan shook his papa's hand, who also ran a hand through his head, then kissed me as I lay
myself down slowly and gratefully on the bed,before leaving our tent. Clopin and Ahvel lingered a
while longer, wrestling with their Papa before he, laughing, scooped them both up and brought
them over to me for kisses and hugs before he pushed them out of the tent.
He blew out the candles on the two candelabra near the front of the tent, and now the only light
came from the one by our bed. It was a quiet and dark light, but a warm and comforting one too.
It threw friendly shadows against the wall and over Clopin as he walked, still laughing a little,
over to me where I was awkwardly trying to unfasten my sandals.Pushing my hands away, he took my
feet up in his hands and quickly removed my sandals, before moving to my bodice and skirt. It was
an act of consideration, but one of tender intimacy too as told me by his smile, one I could not
imagine anyone else ever doing.I was glad for it, for my back ached terribly, more than was
usual, and I still felt terribly unsettled. When I was naked, my skin all pink and soft with my
swollen nippls and more swollen belly,he pulled back the covers and assisted me underneath them.
Then he pulled off his own clothes. Can I begin to say how much I loved the sight of his body? A
perfect golden brown all over, and though he drank and ate so much, he was lean and wiry, his
dazzling acrobatic skills giving him a smooth muscularity, not visible beneath his clothes. I
loved the black hair on his chest and the way it thinned out as it travelled down over his belly,
then thickened again below, and his brown nipples and large, expressive hands and the way his
papa had had him circumcised as a babby, having taken counsel from a beloved Jew friend who told
him it would keep his boy clean and free from disease. It would seem to have worked, for Clopin,
myself and our four babbies glowed with health despite the fact that in his youth Clopin hopped
from one bed to another with all the energy of a flea.
He basked in the warmth of my adoring look for a moment before hopping in besides me, pulling my
body close. Despite the fact we could do nothing in nakedness right then, we liked the feel of
each other so close and warm and for the other. There was tender kissing and hands run through
bal and over berk and bul and kori before I snuggled my head happily against his chest, secure in his arms
about me, letting the browness of his body wash over me like sunlight. Then I slept.

I awoke in the middle of the night from a terrible dream where a carrion bird ate my babby from
my belly where I lay in the middle of a barren field, while my fluids flowed from me like water,
and I screamed in the sharp, relentless pain. How long it was before I realised I screamed
outloud, and the pain was no dream pain, but a very real one, sharp and savage, just as though
that awful bird hovered above me and stabbed forward with his beak again and again. So lost was I
in the blackness of this pain, that it was long before I realised the tent was blazing with
light, that people were hurrying back and forth, that Clopin was clinging to my hand and shouting
in fright and Tante Marie and Abigail hovered over me calling instructions to those about them.
When I realised all this I sat up violently, my strength in my fear far surpassing the pain. I
wailed to see the blood-soaked sheets and clawed desperately at them, and it took Clopin and
Tante Marie combined to push me back down,and hold me there. At my other births, Tante Marie and
Abigail had been enough to tend me, but now I heard the most gifted and experienced midwife,
Tshilaba, being called for, and I continued to wail and moan and struggle with my husband.
Tshilaba had hurried in by then, with all of her equipment and medicines, and she wasted no time
in shouting for me to be lifted from the bed, and placed in the center of the Tent, above the
blankets and straw that had hurridedly been strewn about. I was vaguely aware that Tante Marie
had exclaimed that Clopin and I had brought ill fortune by sleeping naked together during my
term, and of Clopin shouting savagely at her to shutup, but there was fear in his voice as well.
Tshilaba turned to my husband as Tante Marie and now Colombine, who had joined us, supported me
on either side with arms about my waist, and arms circled under my thighs, creating for me a
chair of their bodies as I squatted above the straw in agony.
"Bulibasha, you must go" she said with quiet insistence. Clopin shook his head stubbornly, a pair
of hose hastily pulled on, but nothing else.
"I'm staying here, with my wife."
The other women let out a cry of horror. Unheard of! Tshilaba continued.
"It is very bad luck for a man to be present whilst his wife gives birth! She will lose the
babby!"
Clopin was a tower of rage as he glared down at the little midwife. "The damn babby is dead
already, I'm staying here with my wife so if - anything should happen, I am here."
I cried out at those words. How lovely of him to want to be with me, but how cruel of him to so
heartlessly toss aside any hope I might've had. Tante Marie snapped at him from my side.
"You big brute!! First you endanger the babby in your bed, now you disregard her feelings as
though she were not even here."
Clopin glowered at her. "I told you to shutup, old woman."
Tante Marie gritted her teeth at him while I clung to their arms and cried as the straw beneath
me became stained bright red.
"My babby!" I gasped out in pain, and their attention was returned to me. I saw Clopin pale as he
saw the blood that flowed from me like a river, and at my face which was most likely white, sweat
soaked and twisted in my torment which was not wholly physical. Oh my poor little babby.
Tshilaba kneeled in front of me as another pain wracked me head to foot and I bellowed.
"You know what to do, chey" she said to me softly, casting a last nervous glance at my husband
who refused to leave. "Come now, push with me."









Harley Quinn, 2000 (harley_quinn@cheerful.com)
May not be reproduced without permission.