Festival Sweets

K. Ryan, 2010

Originally written for prompt #6 of August's 31_days cycle. "That we should voyage far."

The Mire; Summersea, Emelan 1020KF

"Paras! Look, Paras! Look."

The paper was warm in her hands, and slightly damp. The child grinned at her as he thrust up, and she laughed a little to see him dancing, her stitches straining already at one knee. "What's this, love?"

"Ma said you'd be busy, but I wanted to show you anyway. You know," his face turned serious. "You do know it's Shurri's Day soon? And there'll be cakes and everything?"

Paras shook her head, eyes wide, tasting old festival traces even as she let him squeal in outrage over her ignorance. "Is it?"

"Oh, you're just being silly!"

"Maybe a little, sweet. It's a very big festival. What did you want to show me?"

"It's on the paper," his outrage had not even tried to fight properly with all the glee in his face. "Her picture and everything."

"You won't tell me?"

"Just look!"

It was not a good likeness, but it did not need to be. Rain had smudged lines already imprecise, and the thin paper had torn through at her forehead, and Yazmín Hebet smiled in Paraskeve's hands.

Khapik,Tharios. 1017KF

"You should come with me, darling."

It had been a successful night, the tiny dancer's voice broken through to nothing, the air between their bodies sharp with new henna-scent as Yazmín's lips brushed hers— chapped lightly bitter, still, from the mica and lanolin of the show before. A bangle chittered and slid down Paras's back as Yazmín reached up to fist what she could of her hair, pulling gently at the black curls. She must have slept in it. Neither had noticed. The doorway creaked under their weight.

Yazmín pulled away, pouting. "You should, you know." Her smile, even in the horrors before noon, even with deep shadows smudging her face, was devastating. Just a little. "I treat you much better."

Paras grinned, and kissed the tip of her nose as the smaller woman scrunched up her face. "You're not my family."

"If you were, there'd be problems." Yazmín kissed her again; parted her lips slowly, languorously—swallowing a small, squeaked growl as Paras responded by biting her tongue.

"I can't, love. And I'd be useless with your sort of dance."

"I could teach you. You're practically a witch, darling. You'd be good, soon."

"Not as good as you."

Yazmín shrugged, the motion pulling on Paras's hair. "Oh, never. But you could tumble in and pick me up, and the crowds would just sigh." A windy gasp of her own, free hand just above her breasts. And she giggled. "And you could do whatever you liked to my costumes because I'd make you fix them all later."

Another kiss, Paras easing out of Yazmín's slow-dazed, slackening hold and lifting the woman, groaning as the dancer hooked her legs around and arched against her own long body, half dressed. The doorway creaked again. "Follow me instead." Paras traced her tongue over Yazmín's lip, her cheek. Bit her earlobe as both of them whimpered. "They'll love you in Yanjing."

"Oh, they'd throw stones at me."

"Yes," said Paras. "Pearls, probably."

Yazmín laughed. "Oh, darling girl. I am going to miss you."


"Ma says she's better'an a princess because she comes to public parties. And she danced for the Emperor. She did! Twice. Ma says I won't see much of nothing and she won't neither, since we're titchy, but you're not. You could lift me up...P-Paras?"

Paraskeve did not bother wiping away the tears that ran down her face, though she tried to smile as she looked up and saw the boy, hovering between flight and a hug. "It's all right. Come on. Your ma must want you back, by now"

Paras cleared her throat and crumpled the paper in one hand, giving the boy her other, and turned to make her way back through The Mire, the child skipping and pulling at her arm.

"Could you lift me?"

"Oh, I think so," Paras said. "But I'm afraid I'll be standing at the very back."