In the Heart of the Heart of the Palace

Thereupon Esther summoned Hathach, one of the eunuchs whom the king had appointed to serve her. Esther 4:5
You think I should be grateful to my uncle, who sent me off to fulfill my destiny. But looking back on it now, it seems to me that Uncle Mordechai used my beauty to help free our people, never realizing how that freedom would enslave me.
Perhaps you think I should be grateful to the king, who raised me up from obscurity to queenship, a lovely Hebrew orphan girl, now imprisoned in his palace for life. Yes, I came in my own way to love Ahasuerus, but the One who allowed me to save our people granted me neither children nor continuing purpose.
No, looking back on my life in the walled gardens of the king’s palace, the one I am grateful to is Hathach, the eunuch the king appointed to serve me. And isn’t it always this way, that women like me and men like him find each other? Isn’t it always this way, that beneath our obvious differences, a queen and a eunuch, that we found each other and became the closest of friends, in the heart of the heartless king’s palace?
Nights when everyone was asleep, we would sit up talking like two sisters, sipping spiced wine and telling stories. Trapped in the palace, I sat in rapt attention as Hathach told me stories about his adventures outside the palace walls, the shops and stalls he went to, to fulfill one or another of my requests, for perfume, henna, kohl, or new fabrics. And then the stories I liked best, about the men he met in the market, their homes, their gardens, their beds, those hungry lovers of a single afternoon. And I would regale him with stories about the palace, about the king, about the things I learned from sitting quietly and listening. And sometimes, when we had nothing better to do, we would open up trunks and boxes and pull out all my clothing and makeup. And the two of us, laughing till kohl-streaked tears poured down our cheeks, would dress up in ridiculous costumes and parade about my room, inventing stories to go with our disguises. And if people think about me, years from now, the savior-prisoner of our history, I hope that they too will dress up in outlandish costumes with their best beloved friends, drink spiced wine and eat silly candies, and laugh through the night till dawn arrives on intoxicated feet of the softest pink.