The eunuch’s band

Every afternoon she would sit by the lake in the palace grounds and have him brush her mane of hair. He was so much gentler than her handmaiden, who tugged through the knots, admonishing her if she complained.

Sometimes, when he’d brushed out every tangle, she’d ask for a plait. He’d work methodically, brushing as he went, talking all the time. Unless she wanted to talk to him, for in time he became her confidante.

She was soon to be married to a foreign prince. As he brushed she talked of the chill the nobleman’s touch sent through her. And he told her of his regret that she would be leaving. She asked him to plait her hair.

He was carrying a ribbon on which he’d written words of love. He secretly wove it into the braid. She could have had him punished for such impertinence. But he heard nothing from her. Until days later. She asked him to join her at the lake.

That afternoon she brought scissors and the kind of wig that was the fashion of the time. After brushing and plaiting she had him cut her tresses short. She told him to keep the rope of hair to remember her by. To stop it fraying she tied it with a ribbon covered in words.