Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Belated No-Kiss Blogfest Offering

It's the moment you've all been waiting for. ;) Here's my No-Kiss scene, from Mara's story (which still needs a title, damn-it-all!) Hope you enjoy it. Mara has just arrived in Paris and paid a church to let her sleep there that night. It's not what she was expecting, but at least dressed as a boy, nobody bothers her. Nobody but the ghosts of her memories...


While the church offers me shelter from the cold, I'd almost rather sleep on the street.

The hall is dark, warmed by stale, sweaty body heat, and noisy. The man beside me smells of onions. We are all strapped into a pew with several ropes across our chests to keep us in place. I tuck my skirt bundle between my legs and lean straight back. A chorus of snores fills the place already and judging by her breath, I think the old woman on my other side has a rotten tooth. It is the second worst night's sleep I've ever had.

The worst was over nine months ago, after I'd made the decision that led to this very moment. It was my sixteenth birthday-- the day Alex asked my father for my hand as everyone had been expecting him to since I turned fourteen. Papa agreed. But I refused.

I'm still not sure why exactly. Everyone thought I wanted another man instead, but it's not that. I'm not ready to be a wife and mother, not even married to Alex. And I don't want to raise my children near the Tinker's roving fingers. I'm not even sure I want children if it means passing on this curse.

So I crushed one of Alex's dreams. But I like to think that I helped him follow another one. Well, I did before Lucia made me worry. I tried to explain it to him that wintry night out behind the horse paddock. That it wasn't about him, but he didn't believe me.

His face was stone that night, not a single smile for me. "Mara, don't you understand that no one will ever love you as much as I do?" He sounded eerily like the Tinker. It made my skin crawl. I tried to look into his dark eyes and feel the longing he felt for me. To find it somewhere inside of me, profane and holy at once.

"If you love me so much," I argued, "then you'll understand I don't want to marry anyone right now."

He shook his head so his shaggy black hair fell into his eyes. Flicking it out of the way, he frowned at me. "Listen to yourself, Mara. This isn't a game. If anyone but me heard you say that, the kris would be called and, and..." He stepped closer and grabbed my hand. "If you don't want to marry me now, please say you won't do anything stupid. You need to be a good girl and help your mother with the cleaning and cooking."

"But I'm no good at those things." I turned from him, yanking my hand from his grasp. "And I don't want to hear anything about duty or what I owe anyone. I want to play my violin. If I need money I make up fortunes for rich gadje women."

"Hmph. You don't know anything about life, Mara." He tugged me by the arm and pulled me close to his chest. My heart changed tempo when I smelled his sweat. He was so much taller than me I grew almost lightheaded when I looked up at him. "Your father has taken care of you too well."

The lightheadedness faded when blood flushed my cheeks. I struggled away from him. "Don't say anything about my papa. He's a good man."

"Too good," Alex said, still holding me tight. "He should have given you a good beating every now and again. When you really deserved it."

"What have I ever done to deserve a beating?" I let the tension in my body melt into his. Very slowly, I licked my lips. I stared at him through half-lidded eyes, waiting for his mouth to crush against mine like the last time we found ourselves in this same position. We had done much more than kissing in the shadows of those woods. His mouth opened and he dipped his head toward mine.

But before our lips could touch, he groaned and pushed me away with a rough hand. "How many other times have you been out here, with how many others?"

I didn't know what to say, shocked that he would ask me such a thing. "Do you really want to know?" I asked at last.

"I suppose not."

He turned away, heading back to his mother’s vardo, leaving me alone in the woods listening to the snorts of the horses nearby and the Tinker's odd language as he came up from behind me.

"You'll never need another, my sweet," he said, kissing my neck. "Not while I'm here."

And I knew I'd never get away from him, not while he was still tied to Hugo's wagon. He kept me up all night with his hands and his words.

Here in this foul-smelling church full of dirty, poor gadje, I almost wish I'd told Alex yes if it meant we'd be sharing a warm vardo right now, even if the Tinker would be there, too, making our lives miserable.

A little boy no more than eight or so comes up to me with a dirty finger in his mouth, having escaped from his parents. I almost open my mouth to whisper to him that it's okay, that he'll find them, when he makes a lunge for my bundle. Without thinking, I kick him in the shoulder and grab for my things, tucking them up to my chest. The little boy runs off whining.

Now it is the worst night's sleep ever.

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