Yasmin Hemmat holds an M.A in dramatic and English literature. She is also a part-time teacher with a passion for reading and writing poetry and story. Her poems have been published in literary journals such as: Spillwords, Literary Hatchet, Literary Yard, Piker Press, Raven Cage Zine, and Duane’s Poetree.
A Veiled Woman
After 2 years, one of my friends sent me a letter to see him on his deathbed. He was suffering from an unknown disease. The only thing that I knew was that he saw weird things and heard strange voices. So I got into my carriage and went toward his house. His house was near the dark wood. It was an old castle, and he and his servant were the only people who lived there. He was a strange and reticent man. I saw him for the first time when I was a soldier. We were at war together. After the war, I got married but my wife passed away after 2 years and nobody, not even the doctors found out about her illness. On the first days of our marriage, I received a letter from my friend. He congratulated me. But I didn’t know how he found out about my address or about my marriage since after we came back to Spain I lost the track of him. But he didn’t write his address on the letter and I couldn’t answer him back. After 2 years, after my wife’s death, he sent me a letter again and told me he was going to die. When I reached his castle I realized that his castle was somehow near my house, and I was surprised. Why didn’t he call on me on those years? I asked myself. When I saw him I didn't recognize him since he was very pale and thin. He became someone else. Even his voice had changed. His house was like a Museum. There were lots of antique objects but the most eye-catching things were those mythological paintings. The pictures of the naked goddess and nymphs could be seen everywhere on those old red wallpapers. Among those paintings, there was a picture of a woman with raven black hair and big dark eyes but her face covered by a red veil. My friend told me at night he could hear the murmuring of those women and even their laughter. I was very sorry for him since I thought he lost his mind. I asked him where he was on those years and why he wanted to see me. But he didn't say anything. He just laid down on his bed and gazed at somewhere far away. After a minute of silence, he told me: “I saw her last night. She danced for me…the ethereal music could be heard from the woods, and she danced with it.” “Who? Who danced for you” I asked with amazement. He pointed to the veiled woman. “You know her? Who is she?” “A sweet devil.” I didn't know what to say but I knew one thing that he went into delirium, then he fell asleep. His servant came into the room and brought some pills. “Has any woman come here lately?” I asked. “My master is not a crazy man. She never let go of him.” said the servant with insipid voice. I was really confused. I didn't know what they were talking about. After one hour he woke up and I asked him to tell me everything or I would leave the house. So he started to tell me some of those bizarre events. “I was a poor painter. I painted everywhere from rich's houses to whorehouses. One day I went to a brothel to paint those poor beautiful women and I saw a seductive veiled woman. I asked her to unveil herself, but she told me she wouldn't do that because she promised herself she just showed her face to a man who loved her truly and after that, she would leave her job. I told her how could a man love you without seeing your face. She just told me you would find it soon. At that time, I didn't understand what she meant. But gradually, the mystery of her profound eyes captivated me. Every day I went to visit her but because I didn't have enough money I couldn't sleep with her. I just painted her picture. The one that you could see on that wall. One day I confessed that I loved her, but she just laughed and told me If I loved her I had to prove it but I didn't have anything to prove, I didn’t even have money. Therefore, I decided to quit painting and found a lucrative job to catch her heart. At the brothel, I became familiar with a rich merchant and asked him to help me find a job. And I became his page. All day and all night I worked hard in order to see my beloved’s face. I gave her some money but the money was not enough, so she just danced for me and made me crazier. I fell for her completely. She became my only reason to live. Even in my dreams, I could never see her face and the time I wanted to unveil her, I was jolted awake. One day due to the business trip I was forced to leave the city. I told her to make a promise not to show her face to anyone until I came back. My trip took one year and I made a great deal of money. I even slept with lots of women in every city we anchored. But those profound eyes never vanished from my mind. In those years the war had broken out. I wanted to run away but someone who was jealous of my accomplishments ratted me out. So I dispatched to the war and you knew every detail of it.” He became silent after telling this strange story. But I wanted to know more. What happened to that veiled woman? Did she reveal her secret? When I looked at my friend again, I came to realize that he became older than the time I came to his house. He took his pills and went to sleep again. I went closer to that mysterious painting and looked into her eyes carefully. Her eyes were familiar to me as if I saw them before. My friend’s murmuring distracted me. I noticed that he was calling her name but I couldn't hear it clearly. I decided to wake him up because I still didn't understand what this story had to do with me. He woke up and gazed at me. I told him, “you are calling a name in your dream. What is the name of that mysterious woman?”. But he didn't say anything. After a long pause, he started again: “The war was over. You and I went back to Spain and I never saw you again. When I came back I wanted to see her soon but on my way, I had an accident with a carriage and I broke my legs. So I couldn’t manage to see her. It took a month to recover. Those weeks spent like many years. Finally, I went to that brothel with a heart overwhelmed with joy. I became a different man. Nobody knew me at first because I was an opulent man and everybody treated me with respect. I asked them about the veiled woman, but they didn't answer me. I became angry and started to shout. One of them told me after 2 years that you had disappeared, she left here and nobody knew where she was. She ran away at night without saying a word. The whole world fell over my head. I wanted to die. I didn't know where to go or what to do. I howled like a wounded animal. I left that doomed place and with lots of money in my pocket, I lived like a beggar. My delirious dreams had emerged. Most of the time I was drunk. My illness had been started on those days. I looked for those eyes everywhere. I went to every brothel in the city but no one knew her. One day I went back to the brothel and after sleeping with one of the girls who was a close friend of her, I begged her to tell me about that mysterious woman. She swore to God that she didn't know anything but after I gave her a piece of gold she told me everything. She said the veiled woman had been seeing a man but the man didn't know that she was a prostitute. That man was a rich handsome gentleman. One day she had an accident with a carriage and that man help her and due to the accident she became unveiled so the man saw her face, and he fell in love with her beauty, and she told her she was an actress in a theater.” He became silent again. I was shocked and speechless. I was shaking with rage. After a minute I shouted: “And how have you known that man was me? Why didn't you say something all these years?” “That girl saw your picture and tell me about your appearance and I found out that man was you. I searched everywhere to find you and when I came near your house I realized that she was married. So I didn't want to ruin her happiness but sometimes I came there in order to see her but I had never seen her. I bought this ruined castle to be far from the world and at the same time to be near her. If that bloody accident hadn’t happened to me, I would have seen her again. You were so lucky… You got her without any effort. And to my surprise, I came to realize that you had never noticed her eyes... Just before I died I wanted to ask you something. Just tell me how she looked like.” I paused for one minute. I knew she was beautiful but I didn't know how to describe her face. After her death, her face even became blurry in my mind. I loved her but why I had never looked at her carefully?! He continued with a weak voice: “You unveiled her secret without knowing that it was her secret. You saw her as an ordinary woman. A woman without a mystery.” His breathing became harder. His eyelids became heavier and finally, he fell into an everlasting sleep. Cold sweats covered my body. With shaking hands, I went towards the painting... It was the first time I fathomed the beauty of those mysterious eyes.