Paradise Lost

Submitted into Contest #248 in response to: Write a story titled 'Paradise Lost'.... view prompt

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Historical Fiction Gay Fiction

He had been through it before as a younger man, with bolder intention and weaker resistance, or so he’d thought. But even as a grown man, his erratic heartbeat still made him tremble, and he pressed himself against the sliding door as if he could hide from the guilt that followed him like an evening shadow, stretching from the servant’s quarters, past the lantern lit corridor, and to the main house, where he stood hopelessly alone.

He shouldn’t have been over there in the first place. He was the honorable son of a high-class merchant, and he was too old now to be tempted, like a moth, to the flames of passion.

But oh it burned in him–so hot that the dense, summer air felt like the bathhouse, and he struggled to breathe it in.

Hiroshi was ashamed of himself for not having the strength to leave this all behind him and escape inside his room. He would have been safe in there, surrounded by inked fantasies of formidable merchants on grand ships, heading toward some perfect paradise across the sea.

How would he make it there, he wondered, when he could hardly make it through the garden without looking back over his shoulder to see if Ren was still watching him from the window with his porcelain white face and a precious smile.

“I thought you might visit.” It didn’t matter what that man said, his words were poetry on painted red lips, and his gaze was as sharp as the wing-tipped eyeliner.

“I was waiting for you.”

Hiroshi felt the warm, velvety summer breeze caress his cheek, and sighed.

“We can’t keep doing this, Ren,” he whispered, lowering his head to watch the shadows climb onto the porch and turn the corner.

“Why not?” He heard Ren’s voice on the wind as it brushed his hair back behind his ear.

Hiroshi stepped away from the wall and hurried in the opposite direction, hoping that if he ran circles around the question, he might never have to answer it outright—or perhaps, he could compose a haiku.

He reached the corridor and only then realized that walking in a circle would bring him right back to where he started. He stared down the lantern lit path that descended through the garden between the main house and the servant’s quarters.

He also wondered whether Ren was still watching through the window.

He felt his fingers unfurl from his palms and took the wind in his hands as he walked, in limbo, down the path.

The veil night did very little to protect him from prying eyes of those paper lanterns overhead. He blushed from the embarrassment of being caught in their light and felt the weight of his guilt on his back as his shadow followed him all the way down.

None of that mattered, however, when he saw Ren’s silhouette in the shining window. Bright black and beautifully shaped in the glittering glow of several oil lamps. He thought once more that he might make a haiku, if only he had the talent to wield the right words, but he was childishly tongue-tied. His throat grew dry.

Why, after all these years, did he still feel like this?

Ren was a servant boy, raised with a little bit of extra generosity on Mr. Sato’s part, but still a servant nonetheless. He lived at the bottom of the hill, and although he bore a short sword and a few more combat skills than most servants in the main house, he wasn’t considered anything special.

Not to Mr. Sato, at least, but then again, Hiroshi never considered himself to be much like his father.

Unlike his father, Hiroshi Sato was a quiet and careful man to some, and to others, he lacked confidence.

To Ren, he appeared sturdy, yet graceful. Strong-willed, and yet reserved. He had seen him coming down the path like a black snake, swift and straight, deliberate in his movements as he wound between the lights and approached the window.

He felt the pressure of his presence, his shadow seeping through the panels like a clot of black ink.

Luckily for him, he didn’t mind getting his hands a little dirty—and he knew that no one else would care either. Servants were allowed to be defiled with the strangeness of a man coming to their window, but unlike the other servants under Mr. Sato’s name, Ren readily opened the window and invited the darkness into his room, helping him step over the window and land on the tatami like a fallen leaf, crisp and light.

Once Hiroshi was inside, he shut the panels and latched them tight.

“What brings you back so soon?” asked Ren. “Even though a bird should want to perch himself higher than the worms.”

Hiroshi found himself turned toward the shadow on the wall, as if it were a secret that he had already begun to work through the ties that bound his shirt together.

“What if they’re hungry?”

Ren reached around him and carefully removed his hands from the fabric as his shirt fell open. With long, nimble fingers, Ren pried the shirt apart, brushing the bumps on his skin as he pulled it off his shoulders.

“Then they should have their fill,” he whispered in his ear. “It’s not being greedy, Hirsohi. It’s just nature.”

Surely, through all those lessons in meditation under the Buddhist monks at the temple, he knew that the bird’s need to have the worm was natural, but did he crave it so? Did the bird stumble about his perch contemplating exactly how, when and where he would approach the worm, to what degree he might handle it in his mouth and savor the taste before he devoured it?

Or were these feelings, this craving, only a human experience—another layer that separated them from divine perfection?

To hell with us, then, thought Hiroshi.

He accepted Ren’s warm embrace from behind, threading their fingers together as Ren loosened the knot in his cloth belt.

“A bird doesn’t second guess himself when he swoops in to catch the worm,” Ren recited in verse, pausing before the belt came completely undone. “I can tell when you’re nervous, Hiroshi. Are you sure about this?”

It was the teasing worm that caught the bird’s eye, the rest was instinctual. Had Ren really been a woman beneath all that makeup, Hiroshi might not have hesitated. He could have called it instinct.

But Ren wasn’t a woman, and Hiroshi was all too aware of that fact for this to be instinctive.

“I—” His words melted into moans as Ren planted hot kisses along his neck, and that was all the encouragement he needed to pull the belt apart.

“R-ren,” Hiroshi gasped, gripping his wrist as his trousers fell fast to his ankles and the shadows cooled his thighs.

“If it’s troubling you, then it’s alright to forget about me as your friend.” Ren moved to kneel before him and supported him by the waist when his legs wobbled.

“Tonight, I’m your humble servant,” he said. “So naturally, I must do whatever my master wants.”

Ren’s hair slid between Hiroshi’s fingers as he pulled it out of its neat topknot and let it fall like a black ink frame around his smiling face.

If his shaky hands could hold a paintbrush, then this would be the image he would paint on every panel—this was the face he wanted to wake up to and return to every night—his own private paradise.

Ren stood up again, taller than Hiroshi ever imagined him to be. They had known each other since they were young, and back then, Hiroshi had some pride to gain from being the tallest of the two, but now Ren nearly towered him, and his shadow plunged him into the full depth of his shame.

"Something's wrong," said Ren softly. "Tell me about it."

“We really can’t keep doing this,” he muttered, clutching Ren’s arms. “I feel like I’m using you to comfort myself when I should be preparing for the meeting tomorrow.”

He blamed it on his nerves for bringing him down there. He would be hosting the most important business meeting they’d ever landed, and as the son of an exemplary merchant, there were high expectations for him to secure a successful alliance, and open trade routes to China.

—and, childish as it was, when he was nervous, he couldn’t help but to want a familiar face. Surely, that was why he came down here. He wanted to see his friend. Now that he’d done just that, he could leave—if only his hands would learn how to let go.

“I shouldn’t be relying on you to be with me every time I—”

Ren tilted his chin up and buried him so deep inside his brown eyes that he couldn’t speak or look away.

“Hiroshi, we started this together. I’m not going to abandon you now.”

“I was a child when we started this mess, but now I’m—”

Ren took his hands and held them tight to stop them from shaking. “—just as nervous as you were back then. I know that look. I know how you would feel going into that meeting room tomorrow alone, and I’m not going to let that happen. I know you don’t want that.”

Hiroshi finally lowered his head when Ren let him go and he closed his fingers around the warmth still lingering in his palm, knowing it wouldn’t last for more than a few seconds.

“I don’t know what I want.”

April 29, 2024 04:40

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