Hijet dreamed of breasts, as he did every night. And once again he awoke with his sheet stained. Once more he would endure the sharp tongue of his mother holding the stained sheet as evidence of Hijet’s unclean body, and crying to the gods why she was cursed with a son.

Hijet endured this as he always did, with his head down.

Hijet was of the age most boys apprenticed themselves to their father’s trade. But Hijet had no father, so he sat by the village fountain in voluminous robes and head-covering with the other men who had no trade to speak of. There were more begging for work than usual; most construction work was now done by the new mult-limbed robots from Betleguese Prime. Only the soon-to-be completed temple required non-steel hands, but the temple could only afford a handful of workers. The rest of the men stood by the fountain, waiting to be told to work.

By noon, two dozen men were still waiting by the fountain, and it was looking like Hijet was going to face another day of no work and another night of curses and beratements. The square was already filled with merchants and businesswomen, and Hijet resigned himself to staring through the eye-slits on his head-covering at the short skirts and ample cleavage on display. He was so intent on a fruit merchant and her tight pants across the square that he didn’t notice the woman standing in front of him until she tapped him on the shoulder.

“You. Boy-Eyes. Turn around.” She was tall and strong, and her tank-top was stretched tight over her proud breasts and muscular stomach. The veins on her hands stood out blue against her tanned skin. “You deaf, Boy-Eyes? Turn around.”

The other men turned away, their own eye-slits finding purchase elsewhere. Hijet, cowed by this woman’s forcefulness, hung his head and turned. He had no idea what she wanted, and a he let out a gasp behind his head-covering when she did something he never in a million years would have expected.

The woman’s strong hands found Hijet’s rear through his robes and were feeling it. Evaluating it.

“You’ll do,” she said. “Come with me, Boy-Eyes, and I’ll pay you twice what you’d get shoveling dirt or pulling weeds.”

Hijet looked at the other men for advice, but he only received the blank silence of heavy robes and slitted hoods.

The woman’s house was as bright as the square; it seemed to Hijet that there she owned no walls, only windows. Even deep within his robes, Hijet felt exposed.

“Take your robes off.”

“But…I am male,” Hijet said.

“That’s why I brought you here. You want the money? Off with the robes.”

“I…I am a man.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, Boy-Eyes.”

“I am…unclean.”

“That’s why I’m using mud,” the woman said, unwrapping plastic sheets from around am immense amount of clay. “Look, I can’t sculpt you if you don’t take the robes off. You can leave the head-cloth on, if you like. I just need your torso.”

Hijet relented and removed the heavy robes, but left the head covering. The light streamed through the many windows, hitting his body at every possible angle. Hijet had never felt the sun on his bare skin before. And yet, it didn’t feel near as hot as the woman’s eyes. Hijet felt her gaze on his rear, on his stomach, on his chest.

“I think,” Hijet said, raising his chin, “I’m going to take my head-covering off.”