Breathe it in now, for tomorrow the air may sour. – Pyanni saying
Photo © The Storyteller’s Abode
When the southlander delegation paraded into the throne room, I noticed the jayanta first. Everyone did. With his deliberately rustic crown, gigantic clawed fur cape, and confident stride, he drew every eye.
Then I noticed Annan. I didn’t know his name yet, of course. But once I saw him, I couldn’t look away. Pale sandy skin, a wild shock of tawny hair, dark eyes. A beard. I’d never kissed man with a beard. So exotic, how could I resist? Then he smiled. My heart stopped.
It was like a bards-play. Love at first glance.
The delegation was all male, and reticent about interactions. For days, I made excuses to be in the same room, to walk past open doorways. I caught his gaze. He caught mine. He smiled. I twirled. He winked. I gasped. It was delicious torture.
I dug for gossip among the servants. He was the jayanta’s cousin, no closer to his crown than I was to mine. Liked women, yes. Unmarried, yes. I giggled enough to surprise myself.
Finally, we found a corner, alone. Word spilled free. Greetings. Compliments. He spoke my name and my knees buckled. He chanted it, “Beautiful Lasarit, gorgeous Lasirit” as he kissed my fingers, my ears, my cheeks, my lips. His tongue was hot, sweet, hungry. It stole my breath.
Three days of secret corners. Heart-pounding bliss. But soon he would leave.
We were tangled together, hidden away safely. Still fully clothed, though. Annan gushed about preserving my honor. I nodded as though I understood. I’ve never had a Sambaran lover. Their religion is odd about such things.
Nibbling my earlobe, he whispered. “Come away with me.”
Away with him? To Layor? I lived in the most advanced human realm in the world, in the second largest city in the Pyann Empire. Moving to the cold hinterlands sounded… adventurous? Almost.
Did he realize what he asked? I turned it to him. “Would you stay here? Abandon your family, renounce your faith, your traditions?”
His face faltered, reformed, rose. “We could share both faiths. Somehow.” He kissed my fingers. “I would give you anything you wanted.” He held my face in both hands, his eyes yearning. “We could make it work.”
Some couples did. Shunned, outsiders, but strong in their love. I studied Annan’s face. A stranger. I shook my head, slowly.
“Darling, no, tell me you will come. I’ll find us a home far from the naysayers. I’ll work hard, provide for you.” He grinned. “Give you a whole houseful of babies. Please, marry me. Say yes.”
It was a sweet dream. But it was not my dream. I stretched my heart toward it, but could not breach the distance. “You cannot love me until you know me, and you do not know me.” I stroked his beard, gently. “This cannot be.”
There were other words, then. And tears.
He sat up, straight, proud. “If I come back, will you still be here?”
Here, yes. But that was not what he meant. “No.”
“You will always wonder.”
A few other words was all it took. Then he was walking away. I watched his back. If he turned around, I couldn’t not be looking. He turned around. I wanted to smile, but he was so sad. Tears clouded my vision. I held my breath, as if exhaling was letting go of the air we had shared. I felt I would never breathe again.
We stared, one last time. Then he turned, and disappeared around the corner.
Just like a bards-play.
I stood there a while, crying, wishing, regretting. Feeling the empty space where he had just been. And breathing, on my own.
I must apologize profusely at going way over the word count limit of 175. I usually get it down to exactly 175, but boy, when I break the rules, I really break the rules. Luckily for me, I know that Priceless Joy is a wonderfully forgiving and sweet person and will let me break the rules once in a while, as long as I promise to be well-behaved most of the time. 😉 Thank you Joy!