Author's notes: Written for Temps Mort's "This is not the worst moment of my life" challenge. Done in a little over an hour. Standard disclaimer applies.
This is not the worst moment of his
life. It's uncomfortable. He doesn't
like the feeling of the sheets tangled around his legs, but it's a nice
morning, and there are birds singing at the window. The cloth is soft. Her skin
may be softer, but he doesn't make the move to explore the possibility. Her
shoulder is brushing his, and that alone is enough to register.
This is not where he wanted to be. Not where he expected to be either. This is however, what they'd planned. Or what she'd planned, though that would imply a certain amount of sly intention when really it was all circumstance. Somewhere in the room, there is a crumpled red kimono. He sees it, half hung over the foot of the bed. Circumstance. There was a wedding last night. It happened to be hers and he knows this because it happened to be his as well.
This is for the clan. He reminds himself of that with his eyes on the window, while really, he watches her. This is for the clan. The curve of her shoulder leads into the curve of her neck and the line of her cheek against the pillow, her eyes closed and her lips half pressed to the fabric. Her palm is tucked near her face, even in sleep her fingertips twitch—old reflex, schooled into her body by nervous habit. Always nervous. She really is a plain girl. Nothing gorgeous or remarkable about her. There's nothing attractive when her back is turned or when she hugs herself, or when her head is bowed--as though to take a blow that never lands. She did all three, the night she asked—which seems so long ago, though it was only last fall. There was something ugly about her fear as much, he had to admit, as there was something attractive about her when her mind was made up. Please consider, she'd said. It's your decision.
This is politics, pure and complicated, and the idea that he'd been offered a choice feels something like a polite formality. This is generations of hatred, lying naked in the morning. Resentment in the lips that had pressed against her neck that night, sadness in the fingers that ghosted over his brow, and a feeble apology in the gesture. Nothing erased, nothing healed, nothing simple. He doesn't know what he found so fascinating when she pressed her palm into his. She wasn't shaking. It's all right, she'd said. You don't have to.
This is not freedom, tangled in the sheets. He sees it out the window, has always imagined it feels something like the sky, boundless, endless, and far, far away. This is not freedom, tight coils in his chest constricting like the way the fabric does around his thigh as he tries to lift it. This a warm room and soft bedding and softer skin that presses against him a inch more, an inch tighter. This is a girl with her eyes open as she smiles faintly, tiredly, blindly, and lifts her palm to shield herself against the sun. Oh, she says. Good morning.