She sets down the comb and places her soft hands upon my neck, gazing down at me with lowered lashes and appearing as an Oread nymph in the priceless Egyptian glass. Both she and the glass were a gift from the Pharaoh and are said to carry within them a charm of Qetesh, Egypt’s goddess of love and beauty.
She sees my anxiety and I close my eyes with relief as she gently soothes the pains from my head and shoulders. Her touch is lighter than the wings of a dove.
After a short time the pressure in my brow decerases and Nafrini bids me, in her heavily accented Greek, to ‘look into the glass again’, as she sets alight a tightly wrapped bundle of herbs and leaves from a flaming lantern which hangs beside the doorway.
The acrid scent of the smoke is not quite pleasant at first, but it is not long before I start to become hypnotised by my own reflection in the shimmering glass. Nafrini has been singing for quite some time in a low but musical voice.
The words she utters are in her native tongue – a language I know a little of – and the stream of mysterious audio symbols mingles irresistibly with the smoke, until I feel the very air about me has become a vivifying incantation.
A nightingale, herald of spring with a voice of longing, bursts into song and I feel myself grow suddenly drowsy, my eyelids flickering like the wings of a butterfly as it gathers pollen from swollen summer blooms.
Before I have the chance to drift off into sleep, the sensation of cool metal being pressed into my brow rouses my attention. I open my eyes onto the mirror and focus on the golden diadem Nafrini has placed around my temple on the piled up coils of braided hair.
I am captivated by the glittering of gold in the warm glass and when she hands the sprig of daphne to me I chew it unthinkingly, unable to tear my gaze from my own reflection. Time slows to a standstill; I see that it is changing.