Roshan looked up when his parents showed a young woman into the garden. Noticing the covetous glint in her eye, Roshan closed the book. He slipped the slender volume into his valise before he rose and nodded to her. The pink of her gown mimicked the blush of the cherry blossoms but did nothing to soften her strength. “Lady Emeko,” Roshan said. “A pleasure to see you.”
“Lord Roshan,” she replied. “The same.” She glided over and stood next to him, looking out at the garden. The light faintly fading toward dusk brought a warm glow to the courtyard garden. Petals fell softly from the cherry trees. Jasmine perfumed the dusk air and the stream murmured musically as it wound under the bridge. From fresh bamboo to the dark green of the shaped trees, all of the plants in the formal arrangements flourished.
“You are gifted, Roshan,” she said.
Roshan inclined his head in acceptance of the compliment. “You’re very kind.”
Emeko glanced at Roshan from the side of her eye. “I am not.”
Her statement drew a small smile that crinkled his eyes. “I will not contradict your own assessment. One must know oneself best.” Sensing Emeko’s desire to move, Roshan offered her his arm, and the two of them began a slow walk down the garden path. Outwardly Roshan was relaxed, yet inwardly, his nerves tightened. Not enough to effect his breath, but enough to tighten the muscles in his arm. Emeko, politely, did not notice. They finished the circuit of the garden at the bench where they began. Both withdrew their arms. Emeko looked up steadily at Roshan. He saw no censure. They both knew duty and honor allowed them nothing else.
“Good evening, Roshan.” She gave him a slight obeisance. He returned the formality.
She turned and glided toward the arches that lead back to the street. He watched her go, her departure doing nothing to the hollow feeling in his stomach. He picked up his valise but did not reach for the book. Instead he took out his writing case and breathed deep of the evening air. As the servants drifted out to light the lanterns, Roshan began write. Lines of verse, and woven under them all, the things he needed to remember, the things he needed to find. Duty and honor may keep one upright, but he would not live a hollow man.