Izdihar stepped onto her balcony and saw the figure of Faruq, standing with his back to her, looking out over the desert. He turned, bowed and said “Evening, Princess.”
“Call me Izdihar.”
He nodded. “Are you alright?” he asked.
Izdihar smiled. “If you mean am I going to start crying again, then yes I’m alright.”She sighed and walked forward to stand next to him at the edge of the balcony.
“I could leave if you want some privacy?” he said, starting to go. Izdihar shook her head. “You don’t have to...”
He stopped and turned back. Again, Izdihar was amazed by how certain she was, instinctively, that she could trust him. She tried to push away all the thoughts that had been swirling round and round in her head, staring out at the mountains.
“Have you ever wondered what’s out there?” she asked softly. “On the other side of the mountains?”
“Can you believe that a child followed my father here from another kingdom on the other side?” she asked. “And to end up here!”
“I doubt it’s any more perfect there than it is here.”
“You’re probably right. Imagine... Just a child, and he made it all the way across that desert...It’s amazing, isn’t it?”
“I guess it just goes to show... Amazing things happen all the time,” he said, smiling at her. She gazed into his eyes, warm and reassuring, and felt strangely breathless. For a moment she just stood there, not knowing what to say. Then she heard someone saying her name from her chamber. “I must go...”
She turned away to see Fayez emerge from her room.
“There you are, Princess. Shahrazad is asking for you.”
Izdihar hurried back inside and as the servant left Shahrazad strode right in, looking furious, clutching Tommy’s hand. He was again swathed in that enormous hood, so that the paleness of his skin didn’t attract too much attention.
“Shahrazad?” With a jolt of uneasy adrenaline she noticed that her friend had a black eye. “What happened to-?”
“He wants Tommy.”
“Sayyid wants Tommy. He sent Mazin for him this afternoon.”
“They said he’s trespassing in the city, that he could be a spy.”
“That’s ridiculous... What happened?”
“He wasn’t there. I denied it. They searched the place, knew he’d been there...”
“And Mazin did that to you?”
“Yes, when Tommy showed up... just as they were leaving... I managed to get them to leave him by telling them King Basir had let me take him.”
“He’ll back you up.”
“I know... But I can’t let him go out on his own anymore. I couldn’t leave him at home, he doesn’t understand. He could have climbed out of the window or something.”
“And if they got him when he was on his own... They could deny they had anything to do with it.”
“Exactly...” Shahrazad was sitting with her hands on Tommy’s shoulders. He was watching Izdihar intently, occasionally looking round at Shahrazad.
“How did they find out about him?” asked Izdihar.
“I don’t know. But he’s been running around the city for the past fortnight and he’s not exactly inconspicuous... It can’t have been that hard. They obviously know he’s from over the mountains. Why else would they be interested in him?”
“Of course,” breathed Izdihar. “They want information out of him, about his kingdom... They want to find out why Father went there...”
“Exactly. I don’t know what they think they can do though, they can’t even speak his language.”
Izdihar met Tommy’s eyes and was startled by the understanding in them. “Can he understand what we’re saying?”
“A bit,” said Shahrazad. “It’s hard to tell exactly how much he understands. More than he can say, I think. And he learns so fast... Are you alright, Tommy?”
“Yes. Shahrazad alright?”
“Don’t worry about me, Tommy.”