Happy Month of Love, and enjoy!
Augnesse entered her room. The open door allowed a cross-breeze to waft through. Cool as were the desert nights, humidity held on a little longer on the peninsula. She left the door open.
Moving to the window, lifting her face to the fresh air blowing in, she tried to recall Zihariel’s music, only to find Nyael’s face behind her lids. And Laerto’s.
What do you do now, Augnesse?
She startled at the chorus of her own name, turned to the voice at her door, to the silhouette there. “Come in, Nyael.”
He stepped back into the light, blooming like sunrise. “It would be better if you came out. May I speak with you a moment?”
His kiss lingered in her mind, on her lips. She forced herself to move slowly.
“I wanted to apologize for Laerto’s dramatics,” he said when she stopped in the doorway. “He thought he was being clever.”
“It was rather clever,” Augnesse admitted. “And amusing.
“Dramatic. Clever. Amusing.” Nyael laughed softly. “Yes, that is Laerto. You liked him then?”
“I really couldn’t say. He’s quite attractive, too, but he did desert me. I’m going to have to make him work a little before I forgive him for that.”
Augnesse glanced up at him through her lashes. No jealously. No anger. Only sorrow and the hint of a smile. “You will be good for him,” he said. “I didn’t believe that before tonight.”
“And now you do?”
“I do. It makes me glad, knowing the two of you will be happy.”
“And what about you, Nyael? What of your happiness?”
“That has nothing to do with anything. We both know that. And now I must apologize for kissing you. It was selfish of me, and I—”
“Don’t apologize. Not about that. Please.”
Nyael leaned on the wall beside her door. He bowed his head, picking at his fingernails instead of meeting her eyes. “But I am sorry, Nesse, because now I know exactly what it is I can’t have. I’m sorry that I can’t kiss you again. Not now. Not next week. Not ten years from now. I’m sorry to have only the memory of it, and the pain of all that knowing.”
Augnesse leaned against the doorjamb, her face so close to his he had little choice but to look at her. “The greatest pain would have been never knowing at all.”
Nyael’s hand came up, she thought, to cup her cheek, but he did not touch her. He said, “Then we are at odds.”
Augnesse reached for his hand before it could fall away. Palm to palm, their fingers entwined. His skin was darker than her own, yet not as dark as Laerto’s. His fingers were long, like hers; but where hers were delicate, his were thick. Calluses hardened both their palms. The Augnesse who left Bosbana would have been ashamed of this; but she was no longer that girl in love with notions of a handsome Therk and the desert. That girl had been left on the barge. That girl would never have the courage to tell him, “I love you, Nyael. Now and always.”
He closed his eyes quickly, tightly. Nyael kissed the back of her hand lingering there as if he might speak, and then he was gone. Augnesse watched him until the dim lighting of the hallway swallowed him, then watched the dark silence he left behind.