Writing again today. Editing the dance scene when Haisma starts to realise she feels more than she should for her guide.
Here it is, Chapter 11:
Sometime into the night, the musicians joined us. Raw percussive rhythm instantly filled the hall with vibrant energy. Faziel took Fayma’s hands and they merged with the guests cramming the dance floor. The two made a stunning pair, bathed in the radiant flickers of the flames from the torches scattered about the hall. A few gentlemen asked for my hand, but I politely declined, not in the mood after the huge emotionally-taxing adventure today.
When the moon floated high in the sky, a singer walked to the stage and sang. My heart stopped. The bare percussion pounded softly in harmony with his barritone voice. I sat cross-legged, captivated by the serenity of his performance. I had no idea what he was singing about but the melody just broke my heart.
Because it matched the tone of my core perfectly, all I felt right in that moment, a feeling of… disconnect. Alone in a foreign place far from home. Alone in a room full of merry people. Alone in this bitter pain inside me that wouldn’t, couldn’t subside. A sudden wave of pensive vibes claimed me. Before I knew it, a tear rolled down my cheek and I wiped it away angrily with my hand.
I turned to find Faziel’s smiling face, his hand outstretched to me. “It would be awfully rude to decline your Gatekeeper’s request.”
My first reaction was to look for Fayma. I found her asleep on the bench, tucked peacefully beneath his cloak. I lifted my eyes to him. He gazed back, patiently waiting. I took his hand. Together we walked to join the couples entwined on the dance floor.
Somewhere amidst the swaying pairs, Faziel paused and circled his arms around my waist like a belt. His braids made flowing curtains over our faces. We danced with a space between.
“You ok?” he asked, eyes fixed on mine.
“I… don’t know.” I really didn’t. I didn’t know anymore about anything.
“You want to tell me what happened at the markets?”
I looked at him, his face open. I could tell him anything right there and then but all I said was, “yeah.”
He waited for a time. When I did not elaborate, he said, “You need not worry about the Red Roses, Haisma, they can’t get to you without first going through me and with my reputation, they wouldn’t want to.”
“I’m not worried about them.” I didn’t think I should be. If they had wanted me dead, they would have eliminated me years ago like they had my parents. “And if they dare to interfere with my quest, I’d be far more terrifying than you.”
Faziel gave me an amused snort. “You already are more terrifying than me. So what’s bothering you, girl?”
A lot of things. I did not even know where to begin. I did not know anything anymore. The incident at the market confirmed it all. I took a moment to gather my thoughts. “The Princess knew me, Faziel, and the fact that she gave me those roses… She wanted me to know she knew. How could she know me? Did she order my parents’ death? Why? What did she do to my brother? And how did I miss this? All this! None of the clues I gathered back home matched up, the connections all seem so random. There are so many things I do not know about my parents, even when they were alive. How could I not know these things? If their association with the Red Roses bore even the slightest risk, did I and Plio not deserve to know? What were they trying to hide from us? And why?”
I realised the questions were endless. They piled up in my mind like leaves over a blocked drain. I was so angry, my body shook from trying to contain the rage. I was still hissing the questions out when Faziel pulled me closer and wrapped me in his arms.
My head fell onto his chest. His hand gently moved up and down my upper arm to comfort me. I closed my eyes. I knew he did not have the answers. Nobody did and it was probably exactly what Mother and Father had wanted. For what? To protect us? At the cost of their own lives? I was angry. I felt… betrayed. Secrets always led to bad places and it was a terrible place they’d left us in.
“Whatever their reason was, it doesn’t matter now, girl,” Faziel whispered. “What matters is that you and your brother lived.”
I wasn’t sure I agreed with him. Surviving through the remains of your parents’ mess was not exactly living.
“We’ll find your answers, Haisma. I’ll do anything in my power to help you find them, I promise you.”
He tightened his embrace, a soft squeeze, yet enough to make me forget. Forget all. For a moment, I dared myself to forget all that I had lost.
We remained so for a time, entwined and swaying side to side to the sad melody of the man’s singing. We did not even fit: him so tall and big, me thin and bony, but I felt him then as though there was nothing between us. I pressed my cheek against his chest and listened to his heartbeat. It sounded like the tap tap of rain against the windowsill. I took a deep breath in and surrendered to his warmth.
Comfort by osmosis. I surprised even myself how easily I found it, here in his arms.
Why am I doing this? Click here.