“Ishtar is the goddess of love.”
So she said. She was naked except for long strings of brightly colored beads. Several around her neck hung down over her breasts. These could easily be brushed aside, as could the beads hanging from a gold chain around her hips.
I stared into her black eyes thinking about the good works of such a goddess.
“If you would love me,” she said, “You must love her.”
She was in her prime, lithe, and, I had been told, without restraint.
“Sure thing baby,” I said trying to waltz her to the bedroom.
“To say so is one thing,” she said. “To mean it is another.”
“Of course I mean it.”
“Then prove it,” she said, putting my hand on her breast. “Prove to me that you love Ishtar.”
I kissed her neck.
“How baby?” I asked. “How do I prove it?”
“Stand before the altar and make a sacrifice.”
She pointed to a small table. It was made of polished wood, and stood waist high. It had a single drawer. On top of it was a red cloth. On the cloth stood a small metal statue that I had not observed or had overlooked. In front of the statue were a small wooden bowl and a penknife.
“Yes,” she said. “A sacrifice. You must give something of yourself. Prove to Isthar how much you love her. Prove to me how much you love me.”
I looked at her body. I looked at the bowl. I was reluctant to take my hand away from her breast. but did so. I went to the table that served as an altar. I bowed slightly to the statue.
“A sacrifice,” she said. “You must place the sacrifice in the bowl.”
I placed some bills in the bowl.
“Donations are welcome, but you must make a sacrifice. You must give something of yourself, of your body.”
One glance at that face and that body was enough to overcome my hesitation.
I picked up the penknife and opened it. Holding the knife in my right hand, I pressed the point against my left arm until there was a pin prick sized wound. Blood flowed for a few seconds into the bowl. The red splatter grew to a small puddle.
“Is that enough?” I asked.
She smiled broadly.
“That’s more than enough. You truly love Isthar. Most visitors pare their finger nails or chop off some hair.”
I suddenly felt stupid for having cut myself, the other possibilities not having crossed my mind.
“Wait here,” she said.
She left the room, and returned with a bottle of anti-bacterial liquid, a wad of cotton and a bandage. She took hold of my arm gently cleaned the wound, and bandaged it. When she was done, she lifted my arm to her mouth and kissed the gauze.
“All better now,” I said.
“You love Ishtar very much,” she said, and then added coyly. “Does that means you love me very much?”
I reached in my pocket for the roll of bills and place them in her hand. I had been told by a friend what amount would be sufficient. She grinned. She did not bother to unroll or count the money. She opened a drawer in the table under the statue, dropped the money inside and slid the drawer shut.
She came towards me and put her arms around me. She looked into my eyes.
“You love me very much. I can tell. Now, I will love you very much.”
Gently clutching the arm that had made the sacrifice, she led me to the bedroom. There she made her own sacrifice. She proved she loved the goddess very much. And that she loved me much more than the price demanded. I had found a priestess for my private religion. She made me into a holy man. I visited her many times in the months the followed. Imbibing her wisdom and the scent of her perfume. Praise Isthar.