tasteless ashes

“Forgiveness…? Why would I want forgiveness? I’ve never once been wrong. There is nothing to forgive.”

“How can you even say that …? You left the place in ruins. I can still feel the fire; I still have ashes under my fingernails and stuck to my lips. My hair reeks of smoke.”

At those words, your lips curl – that lopsided grin that once left me breathless –

(it does not still leave me breathless)

– and I am gaping, wondering how it is that you provided the spark, yet I am the one covered in soot and grime, smelling of your smoke. You look just as pristine as ever. Clean and untouched, seemingly untouchable. Your unbalanced smile could have been plucked from a Rembrandt painting.

“I think you have mistaken forgiveness for gratitude,” you say smoothly, that crooked grin widening –

(I am not breathless)

– as you move towards me.

(I am not)

“You’re welcome, love.”

(I am)

“Now let me taste those ashes.”

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Winter Kisses

“What is snow like?” you ask, your voice dreamy yet eager. You’re a summer child; you’ve never known snow, not truly. To you, it is as whimsical and harmless as the white fluff inside a snow globe.

I decide not to ruin this romantic notion for you. “It’s soft, and cold. And very pretty,“ I say. You frown, far from appeased. “It’s… difficult to explain. Ah, here.”

Feeling bold, I take your hands and hold them. “Close your eyes,” I command, and you do. “Now, imagine. It’s cold outside, but bright. The sky is perfectly white. Falling from it are specks that blend in so seamlessly with the horizon that you can’t even see them when you look straight up. But that’s not how you notice the snowflakes.”

“How do I notice them?”

“You feel them. When you tilt your head up, something soft lands on your cheek. It feels like this.”

I take a few seconds to appreciate this moment: you, so still, so close, your hands in mine as you wait with your eyes closed. Holding my breath, I flutter my lashes across your cheek. You instantly laugh, and your face turns a brilliant pink. I laugh too, heart fluttering, and I’m sure my blush is twice as bright.

“Snow feels like a butterfly kiss?” you ask, one brow raised skeptically. You haven’t tried to pull your hands from mine, so I squeeze them more tightly.

“No, not really,” I confess. My ploy has become obvious. I never was very clever. “And neither does this one.”

I don’t think you mind that my kiss is nothing like snow.

Fuchsia Kisses

I am the night sky. Stars burn themselves into my skin; the moon is a fickle mouth upon my chest. Opening, closing. Smiling, frowning.

I am black and white.

But you are the day time, and you are constantly covered in color, color, color. Radiant reds, pastel pinks, violent violets. Brilliant oranges and soft yellows, subtle shifts from hue to hue to hue. And blues, so many blues. Blues like a robin’s egg’s shell, like the eyes of a child, like a sapphire gemstone.

You are my beginning and my end.

You welcome me with fuchsia kisses; you send me off with a crimson caress.

 

 

Paths

“Why not?”

I can’t believe you’ve asked me to do this.

“Are you scared? Are you afraid of me?”

…I can.

“It’s not that I’m afraid of you,” I say. “It’s that I’m afraid of where you’re going. I see the path you’re headed down and I see that it’s in the exact opposite direction as mine. That’s what terrifies me.”

“How do you know which way I’m headed, let alone yourself?” Your voice is like velvet even when you’re angry. Smooth and just slightly condescending. It’s too rich for me. “You say yourself that you have no idea what you’re doing with your life most days.”

You smile, all white teeth and full lips, but it fails to sway me. Not this time. “I don’t. Not really. But I know what I’m not doing, and I can’t do that. I can’t follow you.” I shake my head and for the first time I turn away from you. A different path, the opposite direction.

“…I guess I was wrong about you. You’re nothing but a coward.” Your voice has become sharper at my rejection, losing its saccharine smoothness. Your words cut into my back as I walk away. “You’re just afraid!”

And you’re right. I am afraid, but not of you.

I’m afraid of what you’re becoming.

Starlight Satiation

You satiate me.

You are the heavens in these skeletal arms, you are the cosmos in these shaking hands. You are saccharine starlight, so sweet, so divine, so good. I could pull the true skies apart – leave you unscathed and instead reach my talons upwards, tear open those celestial bodies and make the heavens themselves weep… but those crystalline tears would be flavorless compared to you: mere water to your liquid gold.

Everything you are consumes me… and it seems only fitting as I consume you, too.

When you’re here.

When you’re not.

Your radiant luster clings to my palms long after you’ve gone, your seductive sheen gets stuck under my nails – evidence that I’ve clawed just a bit too deeply, that I’ve taken just a bit too much.

It’s never too much.

I dip my own fingers in my mouth and taste the lingering notes of rapture.

I lick my palms clean and drink every remaining morsel of paradise.

Soon, too soon, achingly soon… my palette is cleansed, my tongue, dry.

I’m left thirsty again.

Only Power, Chapter 7: The Games

The games were sure to be extraordinary.

Even Hadrian could attest to this—determined as he was to think otherwise. He had never attended the games and had never wanted to, but now that he had arrived in the arena, making his way to the Emperor’s box with a guard at his side, he quickly found himself getting caught up in the drama of it all. The tangible excitement, the bristling energy of the crowd, the imminent violence…

And Hadrian had a front row seat.


Full chapter here