Don’t we all think we know what we are doing? In a time of crisis, I had one hope. The Starborne Etwa took in those who came to them freely. I had little to trade, save for one thing. To keep Sari safe, I would sell myself.
They say everyone exists on a knife edge. One day I came home to find my mother dead. She’d slit her wrists. Coward.
I found a man there, digging through what little we had left. I ordered him to leave.
“I am the representative of Sirrah Efram. He is now the guardian of you both.” He glanced at Sari, playing in the dirt. Then back at me. “You’re too old to be of much use, but this little one, she is quite lovely. Sirrah has been contacted by the merchant Sahabad; he is interested in taking her as his fifth wife.”
Sahabad! That bastard owned six of the most profitable brothels in Jambaness. He ran the filthiest establishments. Women and young boys left his hovels only when they died. Usually died young. And it was rumored he ran a dozen around the world. Fifth wife, my ass.
I backed up, pulled my broken knife, and stood between this man and my sweet Sari. “Never.”
“It is useless to object. She is a beautiful girl and no doubt will thrive with Sahabad. Come, be reasonable.”
What he termed reasonable, I knew would be unimaginable. I held the knife low, showing I knew how to use it.
He bowed, his very fine robes held above our dirt floor. No doubt he feared getting them dusty. “Very well. I will return with the city guard.”
So, I ran. Because this agent of my hated uncle was right. The court would give him legal rights over Sari, even over me. But she was beautiful and he would sell her. I uncovered Mother’s little box, full of the remaining gifts my father had given her over the years. They were the last of her treasures. I grabbed a blanket and tossed Sari’s clothing in it, the jewelry and her one toy, a carved doll dressed in rags. Picking my sister up, I ran.
The slum wasn’t a good hiding place. Uncle Efram would find me. Especially since Sahabad had an eye out to take Sari. I headed for the space port, for the ones who came to us from the stars. As I said before, I thought I knew what I was doing.