The Garden

Our quarters left nothing to be desired. We were given gorgeous (but very revealing) clothes, all the food we wanted (as long as we stayed thin), and any trinket or bauble we asked for. We were given an indoor garden in the palace, where each of us had a gauzy tent, each a different color. The expansive room was paved in white marble, with lush green plants and bright flowers climbing decorative pillars. More indoor waterfalls cascaded from the ceiling and pooled in small pots, or pebbled ponds filled with jewel-toned fish.

Each tent was made of rich fabric, draped with sheer and opaque layers. Mine was brilliant garnet, with velvet pillows and blankets inside. I supposed they were there to help me live in complete comfort befitting an emperor’s concubine. I had to admit, the opulence was very appealing, but the thought of the price I would soon begin to pay pressed at the back of my mind.

There were too many tents to count, and I heard whispers of another room like this one. Just how many of us were there?

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