Silk Saris and Sweet Sorrel: A Year's End Queer Romance
In Part One of Three, meet Priya, who loves her island but struggles with her other desires
T’is the season for Sapphics!
I love writing romance, dear rebels, and am at work on completing my first full-length F/F Caribbean adult romance novel. More on that fairly anon.
Longing to see my experiences, lived realities and settings reflected in the books I read extends into every genre. I can only write towards a fulfillment of the world as it is: one in which queer Caribbeans live, love and behave wildly, intemperately about it.
Without further ado, here’s a Substack exclusive for you: the first instalment in a three-part year-end queer Caribbean romance, Silk Saris & Sweet Sorrel. May everything you love, and everyone in your arms, be merry and bonny and bright.
Thanks for reading Novel Niche! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
🪔 Priya had always thought that coming home had a taste to it.
Pressing her cheek to the cold airplane window, she shut her eyes briefly to the rhythms of the rolling wheels, the patter of grey Piarco rain against the glass. That rain had a flavour to it, she knew without needing to feel it on her skin. It would be warm, slightly pitchy, like bitumen on the tarmac, but sweet too. Like sorrel. Like Christmas. Like the thousand and one flavours of coming back to the start of things.
She glanced at the phone in her lap, watching it buzz and blink into startled life as a trio of WhatsApps announced her brothers, already impatient and laden with fresh doubles at the arrivals gate. That was a taste profile bar none, shadon beni and cilantro and scotch bonnet pepper seeping into the curry, steaming off the fluffy dough circlets like promises: you’ll never taste anything this good away from home.
It was true. Every good thing Priya had put in her mouth, held on her tongue, allowed into the palate of her professional life as a fusion chef: it came from Trinidad. Not just professional, she steupsed at herself, hefting a Toblerone and Nescafe Gold-laden carryon onto the customs counter, smiling at the officer who welcomed her back. She’d never use her U.S. passport to cut queues at Piarco. The wait was nothing to the warm rush of belonging in every morning, family and each grinning 868 greeting, salted picong and slaps of raucous laughter, honeyed with tomorrow please god and dou dou darling.
What a long time it had been since she’d called anyone darling. Or been so adored.
The taste of Port of Spain on a bright midmorning December was all coconut water and ponche a creme, against an aroma of fresh-cut Savannah grass and syrupy sno-cone sugar. Priya made mental notes for her seasonal recipes as her brothers loudly sang along to last year’s Carnival scorchers, weaving through Ariapita Avenue traffic with less caution than aspirational stunt-drivering. Coconut profiteroles, she thought, with caramelized banana slivers, for New Year’s dessert at the Golden Parliament Lounge… but no. The bananas they imported always lost something, by the time they hit New Jersey. Not everything sweet survives a sea crossing. She should know.
She begged off Darshan and Devanand’s help, only allowing them to carry her suitcases upstairs before sending them back to the office to help Ma and Dad with the Christmas rush. Darsh pressed a sheaf of mail into her hands before kissing her cheek a sloppy, hasty goodbye, already rhapsodizing about the aloo and gobi samosas she’d promised them for family dinner. Priya tugged at her sneakers, padded barefoot onto the verandah to watch eager joggers lap the Savannah, pairs of old men conversing about life, love and politics on the concrete benches far below. Were any of them lovers, she wondered, hidden in plain sight, bedmates beneath the wrinkles and canes?
She shook the pile of bills and flyers onto the coffee table, her hand spasming as a thick parchment envelope landed atop the heap. A curling cursive with her name. Hand-delivered, not stamped. Priya closed her eyes and leaned into the wrought-iron railings, pressing the invitation to her chest. She imagined she could smell the perfume that lingered on the hand that wrote it. The scent of local coffee brewed before daylight, deep brown in the sender’s earthenware cup painted with hibiscus. The shimmer of lipgloss on her mouth from the last party they’d been to, when poui blooms were falling far enough on the wind to blow between their bedsheets, three stories up. Lip lacquer like pink poui. A mouth like a blossom, with petals parting.
Priya opened her eyes and tore the envelope open, letting the cream cardstock fall into her palm. A curling scent of peppermint slipped out, pleasant and crisp.
requests the pleasure of
at her Christmas Eve Party 2021
9 PM - ∞ | Dress Code: As You Like
Handwritten, like always. Scented, whether Alafair intended it or not. Priya was sure the words had their own taste, too. She shut her eyes again, crumpling the cardstock slightly, feeling the home breeze ramfle her hair, get into her lungs. A wayward kiskadee perched on an electricity pole and warbled his own name at no one in particular. Priya brought the invitation to her mouth, and kissed it like a fool. Like a long-time-no-see New Jersey chef home again for a two weeks after three years in foreign. Like a haute cuisine fusion guru with no good answers for the taste of her.
Just. Sorrel, crushed between ruby-bright lips, sweetened to taste. Wild honey from Mount St. Benedict’s apiary, slathered on Christmas morning toast. Cinnamon and orange peel tea, passed between warm hands on Old Year’s Night, between fireworks and full-body implosions that shook their bed, rattled their art prints, made the whole house so goddamned good and glowing and full of light.
God. Good God. It made no sense, not after what had happened three years ago. The flavour profile between them should have run all bitter, sour like caraille and chandelier bush no amount of molasses could make nice. But somehow. Lord. Somehow, Alafair Ramchand was coming back for a taste of Priya on Christmas Eve night. 🪔
Thank you for reading, my festive darlings! Part Two of Silk Saris & Sweet Sorrel will be with you in one week’s time. Til then, be naughty consensually, and read whatever you goddessdamned like.
Indescribable! I love your writing style. It takes me to a heavenly escape. I could read on for hours! Keep at it
Reads like a local version of Netflix's Elite short stories 15-mins three parter episodes. Well done!