Welcome back! This week I have another short scene from my upcoming release, The Samurai's Garden:
She stopped suddenly at an unfamiliar sound outside her hut. Who or what would be making that noise? The road was not well-traveled, and it was not the sound of an animal foraging for food. She peeked through the doorway, and her jaw dropped as she realized what she had heard.
Hiro stood at the edge of the clearing, swinging an ancient axe in a deadly arc at the trunk of a thick tree. A loud crack preceded the thunderous boom as it crumpled to the earth. The axe continued its work as limbs and branches were separated from the trunk.
Hanako’s mouth went dry at the sight of her handsome guest. He was stripped to the waist, his tanned and muscled arms glistening as they swung rhythmically. She couldn’t resist leaning out of the doorway to get a closer look. Mesmerized, she stared at the rippling muscles on his back. Kenji had never stirred such feelings in her. Of course, Kenji had never subjected himself to hard physical labor. He was an artist and an intellectual.
Thinking of her husband brought memories of him cowering in a corner, pleading for his life. A big, muscular soldier stood over him, his sword raised…
Memories of that dreadful time brought a dull ache to her heart. She lifted a hand to her breast as if to massage the ache away. Remembering her guest, she turned from the doorway. She couldn’t think about such things now.
She lit the fire and put on water for tea. The little earthen jar held enough rice for one healthy serving, so she washed the precious grains and set them aside to soak. A quick trip to her garden produced a radish and some herbs. After a moment’s hesitation, she picked a few blossoms from her flowerbed. Such a fine gentleman was probably used to having lovely things at his table. She didn’t have much, but her flowers would have to do.
She found a thin wooden board and cleaned it as well as she could. Remembering an old bottle of cheap sake her father had left behind, she dug it out and pulled out the stopper. The rancid odor nearly made her swoon. The fancy gentleman would definitely not drink this concoction. But the decorated bottle gave her an idea. After dumping out the contents, she arranged the blossoms in it and set the arrangement on her makeshift tray.
The rice was boiling in the pot, and she had just finished seasoning the chopped radish when Hiro entered the hut. His face and torso gleamed from his morning exertion. Hanako forced herself to look away.
"Thank you for cutting up the firewood. I didn't realize the woodpile was so low." She continued to look away as she prepared his tray. If she gave in, she would subject herself to longings she had forgotten. It would not do to wish for the attentions of the wealthy traveler.
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