Mask of Betrayal
Blooming citrus and other aromas redolent of the day of her wedding stirred in the late spring coastal breezes in the desert kingdom. Soon, she thought, their second wedding anniversary of a childless marriage would be upon them and with that, a great shame. Several visits to Old Naws, the healing woman provided no favor and the bindle of pungent desert herbs given to her to burn in the bedroom did nothing but leave the far wall a hazy smudge of soot and the elixir left nothing but an acrid aftertaste lingering upon her tongue.
Thoughts roused in her mind as she scrubbed the wall. She thought of her husband who was from a progressive family much different than the one from which she came. The father of her husband advocated for social reforms until his death; Reforms which served as a schism between himself and colleagues from the eastern kingdom into a lasting enmity which haunted her husband and hindered his political career. Being wed to an eastern woman did little to assuage his critics in the senate and his fortunes tumbled.
Dinners became quiet affairs filled with a tense uneasy silence. “It is my wish that I take the mask”. she stated firmly at last. “For two years I have tried and failed to bring you a child. It is not my place to tell you of your affairs, but I must allow you to find…” her voice wavering slightly “another who will be able to provide you with what you an heir. This is how it was foreordained to be.”
He sat quietly for a moment pondering her words. He briefly and reflexively considered rebuking her for bringing up such eastern foolishness into his home and sully the deeds of his father who strove against repressive traditions. He instead noncommitally offered “There is still time. We will accept what is seen fit to have bestowed upon us.” The meal was finished in silence.
In the distant past, barren women were covered in the traditional seven veils. Some of the remaining households which still held this practice secluded women in a more modern fashion and fitted for a second skin which obscured their features and left them a silent cipher and was seen as a luxury boosting the esteem of an otherwise cursed household.
The husband weighed some of the political implications of keeping such a custom in his land. He decided to allow her to be masked and had her measured for her encasement.
She wrapped her head in a diaphanous veil to protect the seamstress from feeling uneasy during her as she was not certain that she often preformed this practice. As a free woman, she negotiated some terms of her confinement within the limits of classic interpretations of tradition. “Typically these days women only wear this when formally entertaining in the home.” The seamstress spoke demurely as she set about her task “You can be sequestered to your chamber and emerge dressed with three raps upon your door.” The wife spoke beneath her veil and declined this concession to modernity asking to remain covered at all times. She thought of her soon to be diminished status in the household and of a new wife taking her place “I wish to have as little vision and hearing as possible.” she stated. “I wish to be sure that no words can escape my lips if I were to be overcome by emotion.” The seamstress resumed measuring “I will wear costumes at the pleasure of my hus… master” She corrected and added “either chosen by him or by a representative of him. I’d prefer black but the decision is up to him so long as my features are not recognizable and that no one remove them from me under any circumstances.”
The veiled woman would be permitted the traditional hour allowed to bathe and take nourishment but would sleep and otherwise spend her remaining hours silent and encased. She was not sure she would be able to judge time when she became nearly blind, deaf and mute and decided to leave these practicalities to others. The sunset two days hence saw the formal end of her marriage and her possessions, clothing and portraits containing her were removed from the home. She understood and accepted what she now must now do.
She emerged from the bath and dried her hair which had been cut short. She sat and gathered the gauzy material which will evermore hold her form. She pointed her toes and inserted her feet into the silken depths and pulled her enclosure up to her thighs stopping for a moment to untwist at the legs. She then reached in arm into the tiny gloves at the end of an arm filling it tightly with her flesh. She then drew up her suit over her breasts and then ducked her head to insert it into its hood. Reaching around the back, she moved a zipper up half way then from the top slid the fastener sealing herself within. She stood for a moment allowing her to adjust to the curious sensation of being encased.
She fumbled about her chamber looking for her silencing mask. The mask was considered a more modern and humane way of secluding a barren wife in protective anonymity than the cumbersome veils as masking could be done quickly and without assistance which could challenge her sterile isolation.
Having her sight now diminished by the opaque black hood drawn over her features, she held her mask up to the light to orientate it properly and fit it to her face.
Her mask was thin and firm in texture and stretched over the face and fastened around the back of the head leaving only the crown of her hood exposed. It was composed of two identical halves being joined in the middle leaving a natural pocket that fitted closely to the woman’s chin. There were pepper pot holes near the mouth to allow for air but silenced her to any noise more than a groan. Her jaw only moved with great effort under the pliant wrap and above that a cut out under her nose visible only from underneath. Small cutouts permitted just enough vision to negotiate a room with some grace but did not allow enough light to read and faces became unrecognizable hazy blurs. Unlike the eidolic mask her aunt wore, hers was gaily patterned and decorated to look like a woman’s face.
She felt for the door she is only to open when properly masked to enter her sitting room and wait. She left her private warren as a silent spectre who would allow the man to whom she was married to seek a proper wife and not become a shameful mendicant who is turned back to her family in dishonor. Her room was now empty of furniture save for a jute mat made of course knots; one among the few traditional appurtenances of the slave.
After a short time she was taken by the hand and made to rise to her feet and led to a bed chamber. Her legs were spread and she felt a tug at the fastener enclosing her crotch. Presently, she felt a tip of manhood invade her sex pushing itself deep within. Her body tensed and some soft moaning floated from beneath her mask. Her tightly encased form writhed on the bed and gloved fingers clutched at the edges as her breathing became heavy under her mask. Then her petite gloved hands began to swipe reflexively at her mask as she thrashed about in panic. He jerked at the muzzle pulling it from her face. The sight of her lying still chuffing for air under her hood moved him to reach for the fastener behind her head and release her.
Her hands reached up to his. “No. Please no” spoke a softly muffled voice betraying her silence. Her body then relaxed silently and the sounds of breathing quieted as she regained control. A moment later she pulled her gloved hand away from his consoling grasp and sat quietly, the faintest outline of her features were visible through the opaque hood obscuring her. He stroked her brow and a flutter of eye movement disturbed her hood as she silently twitched away from his consoling touch.
He resisted conceding to “false compassion” as he had been warned and again pressed his manhood deeply into her once more. She sobbed as tears collected on the hood over her eyes. Impulsively he reached for the zipper which held fast he hood and opened it quickly damning tradition.
“I’m sorry, sir” she said sobbing. Her gloved hands held up to her face. Her hair, now shorter than he had last seen it, lie dampened close to her head. He reached an arm around her and gently stroked her tightly encased arm as he silently comforted her. He could not allow this moment to last if he was to abide tradition. As her body began to quiet, her world once again became dark as the dampened hood was jerked back on over her head and he finished inside the tearful woman.
She lay there moaning softly for a moment before she found herself snatched to her feet, muzzled, and led to her chamber and pushed down to her mat. Presently, she limply crawled to her private room where she could peel off her sweat-soaked encasement and dress again and perhaps rest – if allowed.
After a short time in chilly water, she dried herself and zipped herself into silent obedience. She pressed her face into a muzzle and firmly fastened it in the back. She stood there a moment breathing in through her nose and exhaling hot breath through her mouth in an attempt to stave off panic which fluttered in the heart of the woman behind the mask as she reached for the door beyond which she must be suitably attired.
She groped about the dark room on her knees for the mat upon which she was to lay. Her breathing quickened and she found herself haunted by panic and gasping for air. Ripping off her muzzle she exhaled sharp gasps and found herself frantically clawing at her hood. She bustled to her private warren where she thought of removing her hood for just a short while but dismissed this as making it worse for her. She attempted to pinch the nose of the hood to try to draw it away and reduce the terrifying feeling of enclosure but it was fitted too tightly and gave little. She left her private warren and groped on all fours for her mat where she tried to regain composure. Unable to rally her bravery she drew down her hood and lay there silently alone with just the sound of her breath gasping in the dark room.
At some time during the night she found herself compelled to seek the comforting and familiar. She awoke in the morning naked next to the man she married two years ago. They ate together and chatted lightly before he went to the palace for business. No mention was made of the terrifying night she spent in the mask and the sudden re-emergence of his frightened former wife. No longer having clothing, she gathered linen about her and neatly pinned to fashion a shift to wear. She sat in the garden and enjoyed the warm breezes of spring. She found herself wondering if he had put the thought of masking her out of his mind and dismissed it as an outdated practice.
Go on to Chapter 2.