Midwife in Behruz
Layla’s trip to Behruz, her father’s country and home of her early years, is meant to be one last adventure before she joins her dreamboat fiancé in Texas. But Behruz casts a spell on her. Her knowledge as a midwife is needed there. Serving women’s health in a country where no one talks about “such things” presents interesting challenges.
Majid, an American-trained doctor, is back home in Behruz serving his people. He’s ready to settle down, but because of an old family bias, American women are forbidden to him. That’s no problem until Layla walks into his clinic with a sassy smile, a jar of semen, and a blond fiancé back home.
“Does it bother you when I say vagina or uterus?”
“No, but those words come up when you’re talking about your work.”
“Well the word penis comes up in my work too, and I do use it. As you know, I wouldn’t have any work if it weren’t for penises.”
She smiled a challenge. Her eyes held his as she tucked hair that had come loose from her ponytail behind her ears.
He gulped back his astonishment and laughed. He’d never experienced a bawdy exchange like this with a woman. It was fun. He laid down a challenge of his own. “You use that word in your work? I kind of doubt that. Give me an example.”
She was adorable with her cocky little smile and her face scrunched in concentration. “Oh, I know. I’m looking at a three-month ultrasound with a patient, and I point to the nub below the umbilical cord. I tell the woman, ‘That’s the little penis.’ ”
“Yes,” he said. “I can see how it would come up in that context. Is that all?”
“No. Let me think. Oh, I know: women ask about how to wash around their babies’ penises. They wonder about spots and splotches on their partners’ penises. And…”
“Okay, okay you win. I see this is an important word in your vocabulary. And do you use words like that when you talk to your American fiancé?”
“Hmmm. No.” She fussed with loose tendrils of hair again, and then, apparently giving up on the ponytail, she pulled off the band that held it and let her hair fall free around her shoulders. “I don’t suppose I do. He uses a wide assortment of words to refer to the male reproductive organ himself, but I think he’d be a bit uncomfortable if I started talking about penises.”
“I’m glad to hear that. It makes me feel less backward.”
He straightened a stack of papers on his desk. “I’m aware that people in your culture are more open than we are about matters related to sexuality. People of my culture must seem quite inhibited to you.”
She settled her hair behind her shoulders. Glints of auburn shone from the thick waves. “No, not to me. I don’t think inhibited is the word I would use. I’d say people of your culture are more respectful of sexuality. I imagine more of the mystery and sensuality of sex has been retained.”
Mystery and sensuality. That brought rather disturbing images to his mind. He saw a seduction scene as she might imagine it, a scene in which his culture was exotic and mysterious. And sensual—with incense and brooding music and silken robes—maybe in the desert in a sheik’s tent, with rugs and cushions and clusters of grapes.
A dreamy fever clouded her eyes and a fresh bloom crept across her cheeks. Was she imagining that same scene? Was he in it?