A Breath of Bittersweet

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.



Inspired by this week’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge.  Click here to see other stories based on Lou’s great photo prompt!

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!


21 thoughts on “A Breath of Bittersweet

  1. Annan and Lasarit, such feelings btw them but not enough. Not enough to go away together, to give up their homelands, their religions, just not enough. Lasarit is right when she says “you don’t know me,” they’ve had a few stolen moments. They have possibility, but that is not enough to give it all up and run away together, is it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes exactly, Amanda! It’s one thing to have that initial rush of excitement and attraction, but they didn’t have time to see where it would go.

      I was thinking about so many epic love stories and plays — and movies, too — where the two people basically just see each other across a crowded room, “fall in love” based on practically nothing, and then the whole rest of the epic is them struggling to be together or meeting a tragic end because they can’t be together (like Romeo and Juliet). Leaving me to say, wait, they don’t even know each other! That’s not romantic, that’s crazy.


  2. I think we all relate to the struggle to stay within the word count. Sometimes when I get started I can’t seem to stop. I sure am learning how to edit what I write and still say what I want to say.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s nice to know I’m not alone! I usually start out with a first draft that’s 25-50% too long, and manage to cut it down to 175. Sometimes even twice as long. This is a great exercise for learning to edit more judiciously. But this particular story just had too many parts to it, and I had to rush to work and didn’t have time to try something completely different. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you – I’m glad you enjoyed it! Yes, it’s a sad story. But really, since they barely knew each other, if they had tried to run off together, it probably would have been a sadder story in the long run. Funny how those “romantic” movies and plays never show what happens *after* the poorly-matched love birds go off into the sunset at the end!


  3. Phew! That was one passionate and powerful story — with some hot and heady scenes! (Fanning myself, now!) 🙂
    On a more serious note, I love how well you handled that scene of separation. Very complex, all of what happens between them — it rang true to me.
    And here is the crux of the matter:
    “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.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Lou, glad you thought so! I agree that they’re both better off not jumping into it. Although they wouldn’t be the first — and then once they’re in that situation, they’d be basically stuck.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Plans for the future should never be founded on such a brief relationship and fortunately, Lasarit had the sense to see that. Leaving the place she loved to start a new life with a man she knew little about would have been completely the wrong move.
    Very well written, Joy, and full of delightful detail – especially the mannerisms of Annan and Lasarit and the interactions between them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Millie! It’s always great to hear that the details are noticed and appreciated.

      I agree about Lasarit’s decision being the right one. And yet I wonder how many people would agree with Lasarit when it’s presented as it is here, and yet still consider Romeo and Juliet to be romantic?

      Liked by 1 person

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