Adel, Part 3
I’m *almost* sorry I kept you waiting for a whole week.
Not really. 😉
Ghalib considered him for a long time without speaking. Adel let the silence sit giving Ghalib the chance to work it out. Finally, with a sigh, Ghalib spoke. “As you are aware, I am a servant here in the palace. I do the work of footmen, pages, whatever is requested of me, really.” He shrugged a shoulder but Adel could see this was anything but casual. “I…” He paused and dropped his gaze to his hands, which picked at an invisible spot on his pants. Finally, he took a deep breath, Adel saw him brace himself, then, “I am… restless. I wish to be something else, something more than a servant. But…” He trailed off, shrugged a shoulder and kept his focus on his hands.
Adel raised his eyebrows. “That is nothing to be ashamed of. Most men wish to do something with their lives.” Ghalib looked up quickly and stared at him. Adel nodded. “Yes. I had always thought, were I not the heir to the qadi-dom, that I might have focused on raising horses. My people do, but I am not able to particpate in the day to day as I would wish. So, if I had not been heir, I think I would have been in the stables. Did you not consider apprenticing? Or perhaps joining the guards?”
Ghalib frowned. “I have no talents. Captain Darius—Excuse me, Darius—tried to teach me how to use a sword, bow, just about any weapon he could come up with and I was hopeless. I burned everything I tried to cook in the kitchen. And I can’t even repair my own clothes.” He shook his head. “I truly have no talents to speak of. I once even tried to fish—and I managed to fail at that.” He snorted.
Adel smiled. “I can’t fish, either. I think I’m just too loud and scare them away. But surely there is something that interests you.”
“You forget I am also nineteen. Much too old for the masters to be willing to take me on. Apprentices start much younger than me.” Ghalib shook his head. “I should be grateful. I have work, I’m not hungry or cold.” He shrugged a shoulder. “I am good at taking care of people, but that is all.”
Adel watched as Ghalib struggled to control his emotions. “There is nothing wrong with taking care of people.”
Ghalib looked up. “That is true. Like I said, I should be grateful. Please, ya—Adel, do not allow me to take up more of your time.” He stood and bowed his head. “I thank you for not laughing and hearing me out.”
“I—of course.” Adel frowned. “If I can do anything, help in any way, please… do not hesitate to ask.” He knew how weak the words sounded, knew that this proud young man would not approach him, no matter what. And the smile Ghalib turned on him only reinforced that opinion.
“Thank you.” He glanced around the room then seemed to remember something. “Oh, uh…” he blushed and turned to the fireplace then set the logs and lit the fire.
Adel stood awkwardly to the side and watched, unsure how to proceed. He’d never before come across a problem like this one, something he couldn’t immediately help with. Even with the injured animals when he was young, he knew what to do. “Thank you,” he said as Ghalib stood.
“Of course. Is there anything I can get you?”
Adel shook his head. “Not at this time. May I… request you if there is something?”
Ghalib’s eyebrows went up but he nodded. “O-of course. Have a good evening.” With a bow, he slipped out the door and was gone.
Adel sat back in his chair and stared into the fire for a long time after Ghalib left, his mind going many different directions at once. He wasn’t through with this yet, not at all. He was sure there was something he could do, some way to help.
And he wasn’t ready to let go of seeing Ghalib again.
He’d caught the hesitation in Ghalib’s voice at being requested. He hadn’t liked it, and that was one puzzle Adel wanted to solve. Why was the man so worried about seeing him?
He laid his head back on the chair and sighed at himself. He was ridiculously relieved to hear Ghalib’s age. Were he his father, that wouldn’t have stopped him. The late qadi hadn’t given a single care for the age of the maid or serving girl he took to his bed. But Adel, as he reminded himself often, was not his father.
As such, while one reservation was gone, the other—the fact of Ghalib’s station, wasn’t going away anytime soon. Which made him wonder.
Was the help truly for Ghalib’s sake? Or his own? Because if Ghalib was no longer a servant, then his last reservation was gone.
He refused to answer the questions directly. But as he sat and thought it through, he realized he needed to talk to someone. He couldn’t solve this one on his own. And he knew just who might be able to help.
* * *
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