The Coast

Another result of a writing exercise; this one I fabricated and cherry-picked a list of quotes, then selected four at random and did a small amount of prewriting to work them together into a story. Presented here after one write-through, no edits. See if you can pick out the quotes I had to use, and if you can do better!


Neither the heat of the afternoon sun’s wash of gold nor the warm humidity of the sea were to blame for his sweat as the man stepped out of his stirrup, and the groom led the rich brown gelding off leaving him standing before the large carved archway to the villa, its walls hung with ivy and overlooking the green plain and the cliffs below which the tide surged with its white caps. He shifted there a few moments, avoiding the inevitable trip into the tile-roofed domicile.
Minutes that seemed like heartbeats passed before a servant emerged, leading a lady in rich greens: Emerald in her sash and jewelry, over a lighter green that smoothed gently over her hips in a distracting way. Her dark eyes twinkled and her mouth gathered as if containing a laugh, but instead she spoke: “Welcome home; won’t you come inside?” and she bowed in that luring way young women manage, seeming to bend without seeming to lower themselves, looking at the ground without stopping the real gaze at the one to which they are deferring.
He approached slowly, making his steps precise. “Thank you, I will. Were you expecting me?” He held out his hands and she put hers into his, popping up on tiptoe to kiss him lightly on the cheek with eyes aswirl with happy schemes.
“Oh no, not for another week at least. Did you meet any difficulties on your ride from the mountains?”
“It was uneventful.” He fidgeted, not quite meeting her gaze.
“Your accent is much better; you’ve been working hard and well.” She probed, a small smile on her face as her eyes looked at each of his in turn. “Come, you’re warm out here after your ride I am sure.” She moved to put her arm in his, but he turned away a moment, reaching into the small pouch on his belt.
“I found this at a Jew’s shop, and it reminded me of you. Your eyes, the way they shine.” He brought out a smoke-grey gemstone, about the length of his thumb, set in silver and cut to a clean, five-faceted kite. “I couldn’t find a chain to put it on, but I thought you might enjoy finding a proper place for it. I know I do not have a great sense of fashion, and you enjoy spinning beautiful things into one another.”
“It’s beautiful!” She took it from his hand as though it might fly away, and pressed her ear to his sweaty shirt. “Thank you… I have some ideas already.”
“When do you not, love?” He laughed, for the first time starting to relax. “I am happy you enjoy it.”
“Why are you so tense? Is this about my brother, or is there something else?”
“I do worry; he doesn’t seem to favor me, though I do not think he will break off our match. He loved your father very much, and is honorable.”
“So it is something else. Come in the house with me, I have something to show you! There’s plenty of time to tell me.” She slipped her arm in his and began coaxing him to the house. They passed the gateway and into the rich garden of vines and flowers, and he slowed to a stop again, looking about.
“I went gambling again, while I was in Cenerne. That gem came from the winnings.”
“Three and a half months.” She pursed her lips. “Not bad. My brother owes me a horse then.” She winked at him.
“You gambled on how long it would take me to break my promise to you? About gambling?” He stared at her.
“Can you think of a better way to encourage you?” She laughed like a little bell. “Now, no amount of gems will make me not be upset at you for breaking promises, but you are forgiven. Mistakes are expected; giving in to judgment or vice is never salvation, but rather repentance.” One side of her mouth tugged upwards as she looked askance at him, but pain flicked across her forehead.
“I do not know whether to leave in shame or kiss you.”
“Neither, for you are coming inside.” She wove her fingers into his and pulled him along, her smile returning.
“I am sorry.”
“Does your sorrow mean you’ll keep a promise when you make it?”
“Not so firmly as your pain does, love.” He resisted, pulling her hand up to kiss it. “Every day is a struggle; they are so strong, my old habits.”
“Such is the way with our weaknesses; their strengths are their novelty at first, and their familiarity at the end. They aren’t truly what you ever want out of your time, or you wouldn’t feel so victimized by them. It’s a matter of falling in love with something worth your while to pull you away.” She winked and darted up the steps and through the door the servant had opened, and he followed slowly, but with easier steps and a soft smile on his face.
“You are ever the philosopher; I wish I were so deep as you.”
“Oh rubbish. An ocean must have her shore to keep her reined in, don’t you think? Come here, in the kitchen!” He trailed her voice through the carpeted house, pausing to look through the windows at the ocean for a moment. When he arrived, she was stirring a small kettle, and a clay bowl was beside it on the countertop. “Here, drink with me!” She dippered out two small cups, and dismissed the servants from standing there awkwardly. He took the cup and his mouth puckered from the sourness of salt and pink sourness that tanged like iron when he sipped.
“Urg, that’s foul!”
“No, drink the whole thing at once!” She gasped, having drained her cup. “It doesn’t work as well otherwise.”
He downed the rest, face contorting and a shiver running down his length.
“Why?” He croaked, half-coughing as he caught her infectious giggles. “That was awful!”
“Wait! Breathe through your mouth, and tell me when it happens.” She stared up at him, a huge grin on her face.
He waited, breathing in the sourness and shuddering again. His next breath shocked him, as it was sweet, like the air had turned to honey and mint. He stared at her, eyes wide. “What-”
“Isn’t it wonderful? Even from bitterness sweetness can come if you keep with it. It’ll last a good while.” She drew close to him and he gathered her in his arms, smelling her hair and pressing himself to her.
“I was concerned that my failure would mean you would not want me anymore.”
“So why bring me a jewel, if you thought you would lose me?” She stuck her tongue up at him.
“I’m a gambler; hope is the root of much foolishness.” He grinned and resisted the urge to kiss her by releasing her and holding her shoulders.
“Well now who’s the philosopher?” She fluttered away, cheeks all rosy and eyes colored with pleasant circuitry. “Sit down over here and take your shoes off.”
“I’ll call the servants if I want to wash, I hardly-”
“It’s my home, and this is how we do things here. The host cares for the guests if they are honored. You’d best get used to it.”
He felt awkward, but having clean relaxed feet felt wonderful, and the breeze as the moved out to the balcony overlooking the cliffside road at the back of the house filled the space his worry had occupied. The servants brought food and they sat watching the sea as the sky began to blush. She spoke to him of all manner of things, of her business interests and the gardens she had worked, her brother’s feuds and the children of her merchants. The sweetness had left his mouth and entered his soul by the time shadows began growing.
“Your brother won’t be here. I need to go find room at Vecino’s hotel.”
“Mmm… Yes. I’ve already sent your horse and things for the night. Would you walk with me in the gardens before you leave?” Her eyes were hope.
“You do taunt my promises, but since you care for me so much I cannot say no.” He tapped his nose and winked, hopping to his feet and lifting her in a whirl from her chair. A servant materialized at her shriek of surprise, but the moment of terror was over and nothing indecorous was observed. They moved sedately through the house to the cool of the flowered scents and the ordered rows of disordered, lively wonderfulness.
“You’re so much like your garden.” He said, low and thoughtful.
“How so?” She looked up to him, voice soft.
“I do not remember.” He blinked. “I’m sorry.”
“I am used to your vague nature.” She patted his arm and rested her head on his shoulder as they walked pace for pace. He felt her yawn, and ever more slowly turned back to the villa.

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