It’s that time again. 🙂 Today, we’re highlighting an exchange between Layla and one of her teachers, Ama Istani.
Layla couldn’t think of a worst day to have a poetry examination. Even in the best circumstances, her attempts to construct original verse stumbled to an inglorious finish. Today, with her thoughts tuned toward siegeball practice that afternoon, her poetry more closely resembled unpeeled potatoes jammed through a cheese grinder. She bit her thumb beneath her veil.
Outside, the day was glorious. Cool breezes fragrant with hypsis and trumpet flower blew through the classroom. The topic was the sea, but she knew she and her fellow students were supposed to write about love—romantic love. Sometimes, she wondered if women were ever supposed to write about anything else. She was heartily sick of crafting metaphors for a subject she knew nothing about.
Oh she loved plenty—she loved her father, siegeball, her friends. She loved the sea, too, so if this assignment was about just any type of love, it wouldn’t be so difficult.
The shrill blast of a zurna rang throughout the academy. Layla scribbled one last line below her stanza.
“Pens down, ladies.” Ama Istani plucked the pen out of Layla’s hand and laid it on the desk. “I’ll grade these drafts, and then we’ll revise our poems first thing next week, once you’ve had time to gain a fresh perspective on the subject matter. For tomorrow, read the next four chapters in A Dream of Blue Fire, and be prepared to speak on them.”
The ama opened the door and waited for the students to file out, collecting their poems as they went. Layla checked the fasteners on her veil, wondering if she’d have time to stop by her room before changing for practice. Absently, she handed Ama Istani the paper in her hand and walked past.
“I do not tease myself into believing literature is your best subject, Layla bar Avran, but I do expect a bit more focus.”
Layla whirled back to her literature teacher, her mouth open. “I—I was focusing.”
Beneath an artful arrangement of wavy dark hair, Ama Istani’s brows lowered. “I attend siegeball games, bar Avran. I have seen you focus. Do not insult me by claiming this was anything like that.”
“Yes, Ama.” She turned to go, but an impulse turned her back. “Why do we always write about love?”
The Ama peered at her for a moment. “Should we write about something else?”
Layla knew better than to shrink before that forbidding gaze. Ama Istani could be as cruel or as fair as a student expected her to be. “I might do better with a subject I know more about.”
At that, the ama chuckled and waved Layla from her classroom. “No one writes poetry about siegeball. You’ll have to make do with love.”