Sleeping Beauty

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           Sophia awoke with a groan. She had been dreaming about running through the streets of Rome, late for an appointment with a producer who wanted her for a part in a movie but she couldn't find his office and people kept giving her conflicting directions, arguing with each other about whose directions were right. Finally she had found the right building and was about to go through the door of her dreams when she had woke up with this splitting headache and---Sophia realized that she was practically naked, sprawled on an oversized pillow limbs akimbo as if wantonly offering herself for someone's carnal pleasure. The King! Sophia suddenly remembered as if she would ever forget how the King had advanced on her and thrown open his robe proudly revealing to his own royal amazement his rejuvenated and vigorous manhood, then Sophia had passed out, gratefully, as she recalled. Had she been violated? Sophia looked down and saw a wet stain on the crotch of her pajamas, but then remembered the drugged wine. The glass she had dropped was still by her feet. Unconscious as she had been, Sophia did not feel, unless he had been exceptionally deft in his lovemaking, that the King had taken advantage of her. Perhaps his Highness had remembered his promise and kept it, which oddly, if nothing had happened, left Sophia feeling slightly insulted.

           Head spinning, Sophia managed to gather her garments and put them on over her harem girl costume. Someone coughed. It was Yasir, poking his head inside the tent.

           "Are you recovered, Miss Loren?"

           "Not really. Someone drugged the wine."

           "Queen Fatima's idea. She wanted to leave nothing to chance."

           "Can I go now?"

           "Of course. The King would be here to thank you personally but, Allah be praised, thanks to your sacrifice, he is otherwise engaged. He did, however, leave with me a small token of his appreciation. May I present it to you?"

           Sophia shrugged, giving Yasir her all-purpose peasant girl expression. "If you must."

           Yasir entered the tent, bearing before him a small, gift-wrapped package, which he presented on bended knee. Sophia took it.

           "You want me to open it now?"

           "If you would be so kind. So I can report to his Highness that you were well pleased, or not."

           Sophia opened the package. Inside was a diamond necklace, which she took out and admired. "Is this for real?"

           "Every carat, Miss Loren. It is beautiful, is it not?"

           Sophia didn't know what to say. She carefully put the necklace back in its box.

           "Is something wrong, Miss Loren?" Yasir asked worriedly.

           "No, it's just---I have a fiancé back in Italy."

           "Ah, I see," said Yasir, grinning broadly. "Do not worry. Once you explain the circumstances, I am sure he will understand."

           Actually, Sophia was pretty sure that Carlo would understand, but even if he didn't, would that be so bad? How long had she been trying to get him to marry her? She knew he was already married so it was difficult, but still. If Cary Grant hadn't been enough to make Carlo jealous, maybe this would do the trick. After all, a girl couldn't wait forever!

           Sophia gave Yasir her most sincere smile. "Tell the King that I am very happy with his gift, and that I wish him success on his endeavors."

           "Thank you, Miss Loren. You are most kind. If there is anything further I can do for you, please let me know. I am at your command."

           Sophia thought for a moment. She had not forgotten about Mr. Wayne, but was there anything Yasir could do? There was only one way to find out.

           "I need your help, Yasir," Sophia said, to her surprise a slight quaver coming into her voice. "A friend of mine might be in grave danger. I have to find and warn him."

           "Who is this friend?" asked Yasir, suddenly becoming all business, standing at attention. "If he is anywhere to be found, I will locate him for you."

           "John Wayne."

           "John Wayne? The same John Wayne you are making a movie with? This could have serious ramifications. Perhaps it is a plot to embarrass our fledgling country and damage our relations with the United States. Come!"

           Sophia followed Yasir out of the tent to a waiting jeep, Hamad once again behind the wheel. "Do not fear, Miss Loren," said Yasir as they got in, Sophia taking the front seat this time. "Allah willing, we will find John Wayne and save him in time. I have every confidence."

           The jeep started, headlights stabbing into the night, and lurched forward a few feet before coming to an abrupt halt. "Where to?" asked Hamad, milking his one line for all it was worth.

           "Ghadames!" shouted Yasir, not to be outdone, and they took off into the waiting night.

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