Classical Sass

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(263) Book excerpt, for MP’s scene prompt

Collage of chess pieces, 17AD.
  • this is an excerpt from the whatever that I’ve been working on since forever. I’ve left out some of the fantasy aspect of the book beause I didn’t think it would make sense in such a short excerpt. I’m thoroughly excited, though; I’d been stuck at this plot juncture for months and now that I’ve written it, I’m realizing large chunks of my book will be different. Exciting!!!

Rhiss had avoided Riel for two full days. She’d tried to be coincidental about it; oops! missed lunch with everyone because Tseht* wanted another round of flight drills! oops! have to skip dinner because fencing practice for tomorrow’s exam! oops! too tired to hang in the common room before bed, gah so tired! She finally told Jila at breakfast on the third day that she was running out of skittish and would have to tell him. Jila laughed and mumble-chuckled something about finally.

Rhiss caught Riel outside their dorm tower, during the quiet beginnings of dinner hour, when the soft white light of the paths was unfettered by eager feet and hungry steps. She caught his arm, felt his muscles tense and knew before she saw his face that he’d not been fooled by her logistical mishaps the last few days. She inhaled the cool breeze, laden with floral hues and forgiving sweetness from the gardens, and said,

“Riel, I’m sorry. I just…I didn’t know what to say. I’m worried now our closeness is less because…because I just can’t, you know?”

Riel turned, his hazel eyes hard beneath the once kind frame of sepia lashes, and said, “Our closeness? Rhiss, the reason I thought I could hit on you was because we weren’t that close.”

Rhiss stood, the perfumed breeze now clinging to her neck and rifling through her hair like frantic backpedaling from a song she thought she knew. She felt her face go numb, and knew if she blinked, she’d find herself smeared in liquid hurt.

Riel continued, cavalierly, “You know, if we were really close, then hitting on you would have been a terrible risk, right? But see, it’s fine because nothing is lost.” And he stared at her, his always warm face a weird unfamiliar mask of frigid distance. His hands, his large, wonderful, reaching, teaching hands, hung limply at his sides as he spoke to her about their history that never happened.

Rhiss knew if she cried, he would grow colder. His choice to hide his rejected feelings was thorough and deliberate, and her pleas would slide across the vertical ice of his staunch refusal. 
But she wanted to cry. She wanted to scream about how she relied on him and trusted him and how she knew he would miss her and how this coldness wasn’t going to just disappear at dinner over chit chat and praita**. She wanted to fling her memories at him, conversations that stretched across days and jokes that went from vague nothings to belly aching guffaws in seconds, every startling, intense, connection over some random detail that shouldn’t have mattered at all let alone much. She wanted to grab his shoulders and make him look, make him see her again, the her that loved him and didn’t want any of that to change.

She didn’t. She stood, his ice across her back, and nodded. 
“Ok.” Soft and sad, unbent. “Ok,” She said, “then I will let go.” She smiled tightly at him and watched him shuffle-trot towards the Hashery. She stared at his waning back, let her knees hit the ground, and wept.

*Tseht is Rhiss’ dragon
 **praita = popular herbed bread served alongside main dishes. spicy, earthy flavor, rich buttery texture.