Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Sanguine

by Lisa Kwan
Written for: The Writer's Tower
Theme: Sanguine (January)
Bonus words: "saucepan" or "croissant"

Their march-like footsteps could be heard around the corner. We ducked into a nearby alley, hearts pounding. They trudged safely past. Any second later and they’d have caught us. I shivered. I gripped her small hand tighter.
We crept along the walls, barely daring to breathe. Her small bag of belongings swung heavily around her slight shoulders as we swiftly turned corners and darted between the shadows. I remember fleetingly wondering what she’d brought with her, knowing there was no return; if one of the contents was regret.
She suddenly pulled me back, gripped my cloak. We’d arrived at a dead end. I must have taken a wrong turn; it was too dark to see. It wasn’t the same way I’d come by. Still, I pulled her closer, and silently made way towards the main road. It was our only path out of the town.
Merely a few steps later, a guard headed in our direction, his armor reflecting tell-tale moonlight. I felt her squeeze my hand ever so slightly. We were exposed. Quickly, we slipped into one of the houses through a side doorway. I thanked the gods that these people never locked their doors.
We found ourselves in a kitchen. We stayed deep in the shadows by the doorway, watching for anymore incoming guards. She leaned back and knocked over a saucepan which clattered to the ground, a deafening sound that made my stomach shrink.
I grabbed her and we ran. Ran until our lungs felt like it was about to explode. But I heard them coming after us; first the one, then several, their shouts getting closer. They must have realized, too soon, that she was gone.
Against my better judgment, I turned back to look. The street seemed like it had been lit on fire—blazing torch flames danced and rose high to the roofs; the smell of smoke and their fury equally choking.
She tripped, and her legs just gave way beneath her. She collapsed in a heap; even so, she fell as gracefully as if she were doing a dance. As my heart sank together with her, I watched everything in slow motion. Mid-air, she smiled a sad smile, as if knowing this was goodbye.
I ran to her side, tugged her to her feet; but suddenly there were hands surrounding us, grabbing us, clutching at us. We were pulled apart, and I cried out her name. I only saw my name on her lips, noticed the cut above her eyebrow from her fall before she was taken away, disappearing into the crowd.
Several successive blows landed below my ribs, and I doubled over from the pain. My eyes teared up, clouding my vision. But as I looked up, I recognized the face—the chief of the Sanguines. Her father.
As he stood in front of me, six-feet tall and in full armor, the mob diminished to a hush. Without warning, he bent down and tore my robes at the shoulder, revealing my mark of the Earth—of a Melancholic.
“A Melancholic,” he spat. The crowd grew restless. “So it’s true,” they murmured. “The chief’s daughter and a Melancholic were together…”
I pushed myself up, albeit shakily, with the little strength I had in my arms. “Please,” I begged.
I was completely blindsided by the chief’s ensuing blow. “You know the law. All of us, be it Sanguines or Melancholics, Cholerics or Phlegmatics—we do not mix, mingle, or socialize with anyone outside of our community. It is absolutely forbidden. You know that. Yet you chose to seek out my daughter, a Sanguine.”
I wiped the blood off my mouth, my hands shaking.
“What reason on earth,” he bellowed, “—would a Melancholic have with a Sanguine, other than to spy on us and to have us destroyed?” He took a shuddering breath. “You took advantage of my daughter. You used my Zethora for your own agenda.” The murmurs rose.
Even though it wasn’t true, I kept silent. Now that I had been caught, I needed to make sure Zethora would be safe.
“Add to that the fact that you have been captured on Sanguine land. That, too, is punishable by death.”
“Please, sir. I would never hurt her or any of your peo—”
“LIES! All lies! Silence your deceitful mouth, or I shall!”
I hung my head. I thought of the day I first saw her, watching her in secret, in awe, and vowing to have her; so what if she were a hated Sanguine, and I, a Melancholic.
And I remembered growing to know her—her kindheartedness, optimism and spontaneity a stark but welcome contrast to my wariness, pessimism and rebellious nature—and eventually, inevitably, to love her. And I realized that, unlike what had been ingrained in us since birth, Sanguines were people too, with hopes and dreams, full of love and compassion.

“…and we’ll live in a small little hut surrounded by fields filled with flowers of all kinds.”
“I hate flowers.”
“It doesn’t matter. I love them. They’re beautiful.”
“You would.”

We were silent once more. I gently traced the mark of the Air on her shoulder, burned into her soft skin at birth. As was mine.
Earth and Air.
Day and Night.

“We will…could…one day. Right?”
I turned to her. Her eyes glistened. And against my better judgment, I promised.

“Now, any last words, Melancholic?”

I wish I could have held her face once more, kissed her once more. I wish I was stronger. I wish things could have been different—perhaps another time, another place.
As they dragged me away, I somehow heard her voice. Almost a whisper in my ear, “I’m coming with you.” My eyes searched the crowd for one final glimpse but could not find her.
           I prayed she was safe, that she would live on.

*Author’s note: Story inspired by the theory of the Four Temperaments.


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