Ask Morgana 002

I have been asked for something out of An Air That Kills, so I have selected a passage for you, and you can find it below. It is the 1920s; Alicia and her  former maid Emma – now her ‘companion’ – are amongst a party of British women visiting the island of Lesbos in the Aegean. Emma has been left behind at the villa while the other women go off on an expedition of their own. She is found by Mrs Patel, an Indian singer who is one of the party but who has also stayed or been left behind. Mrs Patel asks Emma to call her by her given name, Draupadi

4740.draupadi… Draupadi, on a smooth promontory, above my arrival-cove. There was a breeze here, but a natural dip in the ground gave some shelter from it, and the sun was warm. Draupadi’s firm hand pulled me the few steps into this natural bowl. I looked around, and saw that our horizon was the lip of bowl, only a few feet away. We were above everything, but unseen.

“How did you find this hide-away?” I asked. Draupadi said nothing, but when I turned back to her, I found that she had stepped out of her sandals, had laid her spectacles safely inside one of them, and was unwinding and folding her sari. Her movements were both graceful and unaffected, and held my attention, so that it hardly registered with me that she was naked. When at last I did gaze at her body, I realised how perfect she was. Her skin was a uniform brown all over, almost [it struck me] the colour of the olives in the orchard through which we had passed on our way up here. She was slender, but her limbs were rounded, and in exact proportion to her body. Her hips were round, yet she was not pear-shaped, and though she was smaller than me, she held her back and shoulders straight, and that gave her a tallness that was of bearing rather than height. She seemed to be a princess – a Rani – as if she had stepped out of the very legend from which her name had come. She was smiling. Her eyes were an honest chestnut, and indeed I thought suddenly that they were indeed the eyes of a doe. But their charm was not that of a shy animal, because there was laughter in them, and her smile broke now and then into half a grin, revealing her teeth. She was not self-conscious, except perhaps for those teeth. They were level and white, but had pronounced gaps between them – maybe she thought this was not a good feature, but I thought they made her. With supposedly perfect teeth she would have been, well, like a meal without seasoning.

She stepped up to me, put her arms around my neck, and kissed me. Her kiss was gentle and tender, yet it lingered insistently. Her breath was sweet – I had expected it to be hot, like Indian cooking.

“You are very beautiful,” I said, when her lips left mine.

“I have been told that.” There was no vanity in her reply.

“It’s true.” We kissed again, and I pulled her to me, feeling the softness of her back with my hands. She took one hand from round my neck, crooked her arm between us, and slipped that hand into my blouse, and beneath my camisole. That hand formed a cup around my right breast, and my nipple lodged between her fingers, as she gently stroked me. For a moment I thought, “I am being unfaithful to Alicia!” But the next thought was, “So what? She is always unfaithful to me!” That thought was more shameful to me than the first, but close behind it came another one, which comforted me again. “No, this is something different. This is me and Draupadi.”

“I have never been undressed by anyone,” I said. “Would you undress me?”


An Air That Kills is currently available from HoneyMead Books. Soon to be available on Amazon.