The Artifact (Book 2, Time Trilogy) (EDITING)

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Chapter Fourteen: Home Sweet Home

July 2023
Morgan’s Home
Richmond City, Virginia

}}}-----> WAHYA <-----{{{

“Wahya... We’re here,” Morgan’s gentle voice pierces through the darkness from behind his closed eyelids.

Where am I? What’s going on? Wahya rouses himself from the nap he’d unintentionally taken after leaving the clothing shop. How he managed to fall asleep with all the wonders this Spirit-World has to offer passing them by as Morgan drove, he’s not sure. But the seat was comfortable and the steady rhythmic sound that the car makes soothed his overworked mind.

Blinking at Morgan, he realizes just how far to the point of exhaustion he had been, and how much he must trust her to allow himself to relax so fully. Putting the gorget he’d been clutching back into his pocket, Wahya looks out the car window, surprised to see such a change in scenery. The sun is shining and instead of the stark gray of the industrial cityscape, greenery is all around, despite the definitive evidence of people inhabiting the area.

“This is my home. Home,” Morgan repeats the word slowly for him and Wahya echoes the foreign sounding noun, looking through the windshield at the tan-colored one-story suburban house trimmed in white sitting in front of the parked car. Morgan signs for both eating and sleeping as she talks, and Wahya determines that this must be her dwelling. With hanging plants on the porch and trees surrounding the property it seems much homier than the giant, busy buildings of the city’s center.

Wahya’s interest is piqued at the prospect of this being her home, as he expects he’ll meet her family here—at least her parents, perhaps grandparents, and siblings if she has any. And what about a husband?

He’s sure neither Emory or James are attached to her, though wonders if James may be a sister’s husband, or a cousin. Yet, with everything happening, he hadn’t put a lot of thought into it before now. Seeing her home brings the question to the forefront of his mind. Then he smiles inwardly, As shy as she seems to be of the male body, one would not think she could be married.

Wondering how her people conduct marital affairs and affectionate relationships, Wahya steps out of the car, turning his thoughts to what sort of people Morgan’s clan is. Do they look and act like her?

Helping her carry in the bags from the car, Wahya is amazed by the surrounding village. Dwellings line both sides of the road. Each looks different from the next in size and color. Tsalagi summer homes are square shaped, like these, but not nearly so large and colorful. The comparison reminds him that he doesn’t even have a home in his own world, and again he wonders where his father and grandmother are now. Surely the entire group has since moved along from where they’d been camping.

Morgan leads the way up the few wooden steps onto the roomy porch and unlocks the vivid red front door. Wahya isn’t too surprised at the bold color choice for her door, as hummingbirds are known to like the color red, and this simply validates his thoughts on her personality and the possible meaning of her name—Morgan.

Not wanting to come off too forward, despite the language barrier, he tells her silently, I think it is only reasonable that I give you the nickname, ‘Walela.’ It is what my people call the hummingbird. From now on, that will be your Tsalagi name.

She pushes the door open with her foot and Wahya follows her inside, where they set the bags next to a knee-high wooden table. He can only guess from the soft seating in the room, that it’s a meeting area of sorts, similar to that where he met James at the university.

Setting her purse down, Morgan turns to him. “Hungry?” She motions the sign for food, and Wahya shakes his head no. He’s still full from the hamburger and fries at lunch. Not that it was more food than he normally eats, that is when he’s not running from Haudenosaunee warriors or trekking cross-country in search of a new home, but it was somehow heavier in his stomach than his usual fare. And then there was the chocolate bar. Now, that was a treat slightly rivaling his mother’s grape dumplings, and had helped stave off any thoughts of hunger as well. No, it’s thirst that ails him at the moment.

“Ama? Aditasdi?” Wahya asks, cupping his hands and pretending to drink water.

Morgan’s eyes light up in recognition, and she beckons him to follow her into another room, obviously used for food preparation. He notes the large sink and figures he would be able to obtain water from there, learning about this device from James’ bathroom instruction.

Pulling a clear glass from the cupboard, Morgan fills it with water, but not from the sink as he expected. Instead, she presses the glass against a lever attached to one of two doors on what he’s soon to learn is the refrigerator. Not only is the cup she hands him crystal clear, but the water is, too, and surprisingly cold. He downs the entire glass, thoroughly refreshed. Done, he hands her the glass. “Wado.”

He declines more and looks around, wondering why her home is so quiet. In his village, there’s always someone busy about the dwellings, cooking or doing some sort of maintenance—repairing clothes, making baskets, there’s always a myriad of things to be done. Surely her mother should be around? He isn’t sure how to ask her about the others who live with her, so decides to let it go for now. At some point, they’ll show up, he figures.

“Okay, do you want to wash up? Wash?” Morgan asks, pretending to rub her face briskly, then rubbing one arm and then the other, and Wahya believes he understands the gist. If she’s talking about cleaning up, he’d love to.

“Yes. Vv,” He says in English, then Tsalagi, waiting for her to offer him the large kitchen sink to freshen up with.

Instead, she continues talking as she leads him down a dimly lit hall, passing other rooms as they go. He doesn’t understand any of what she’s saying, her use of hand gestures minimal. And he wonders why she goes on so. But at this point, even if he could understand her, he probably wouldn’t be listening. His attention is too caught up in everything around him. The walls of each room they’ve passed through are a different color, all the tones pleasantly muted, but bold in their own right. The contemporary and moderately decorated home with all its foreign designs fascinates him.

Finally, they enter a brightly lit space, most likely for sleeping with the large platform he assumes is a bed against the far wall and covered in soft-looking white and teal fabrics. Two tiny tables with drawers set on either side of the large bed, and the fabrics hanging from the sunlit windows match the duvet covering the bed and the rug running over the hardwood floor.

How many rooms does her family have? This is huge. She must have a large family. Yet there is only one bed in this room. Perhaps the rest of the family sleeps elsewhere and this is her grandmother’s bed. He tries to fit her life into the familial terms he’s used to.

He quickly snaps to attention as they walk through the master bedroom and into what he recognizes as a bathroom. At least the sink and toilet are familiar implements. He stands in the center of the tile-floored room, while Morgan produces one large and one small piece of cloth, hanging the very large one on a long rod on the wall near an interesting glass enclosure.

“Shower,” Morgan names the partially windowed space in the far corner of the bathroom. Opening the large glass door, she lets Wahya look in while she continues to point out various things, none of which he understands. The two outer half-walls, the floor, and the two floor-to-ceiling walls in the back are all made from a smooth cream-colored stone, cut into smaller, very exact squares. Glass windows run nearly to the ceiling, facing the interior of the bathroom.

Finally, Morgan points to a silver metal lever on the far wall, her expression showing her uncertainty in how to explain it. Wahya genuinely feels bad for her confusion and tries to pay better attention, hoping that his concentration will relieve her frustration and that perhaps, like the seat belt malfunction, he will be able to figure out whatever it is that she’s wanting to explain on his own. Obviously, the lever does something, but she’s having difficulty explaining it through gestures and her foreign language.

“Oh, fine!” Morgan says, exasperated with herself, and takes off her shoes, stepping into the little glass and stone encased room.

Wahya watches from the glass doorway as she approaches the far wall and touches the lever, bringing his focus to it specifically, then above her to a shiny, round object hanging down and out from the wall. It has a flat base with several tiny holes evenly spaced across its surface.

“Okay, here goes nothing.” Morgan turns the lever towards the top, and a sudden shower of water appears from the overhead spout. It was evident that she knew something was going to happen, yet she still squeaks in shock, quickly jumping out of the watery spray, getting only minimally wet in the process.

In her hasty retreat to get out of the water’s way, she nearly knocks him over and Wahya, who’d been trying to figure out what she was doing, smirks in response as she bounces against him before he quickly catches her by the arms before she slips in her now-wet socks.

“Sorry!” she blurts, eyes wide with embarrassment.

“Is this your attempt at getting me back for knocking you down earlier today?” Wahya teases. “I do not think you are big enough Little Hummingbird.”

What he doesn’t say out loud is that the longer he’s around her, the more her busy, yet determined hummingbird-like traits are becoming endearingly cute in a sexy kind of way.

Wahya releases her gently, his humorous-toned words and smile seeming to diffuse her embarrassment somewhat. Turning his attention to the show, he now understands her frustration from before. To turn the water on, you have to be in the stall, and there is no way to turn it on—or off—without getting wet. As I want to wash up, that is not a problem. But it is a problem if you need to turn it on without getting wet.

Morgan picks up her instruction again, and Wahya tries to figure out what the Hummingbird is trying to say as she points to the lever again. Then, to his surprise, she darts back into the water. Turning the lever downward, she effectively shuts off the source, getting pretty wet in the process this time.

Wahya can’t help himself, and tries to hide his smile as she attempts to remain serious, looking half drowned as she more carefully steps back out of the shower. The water makes the left side of her shirt stick to her in the most appealing way.

She’s flustered again, he notes with humor, the pitch of her voice raising just a tad and the speed of her speech quickening. Talking must be her way of trying to deflect the attention from herself. Only it makes her problematic situation more noticeable. I wonder if anyone has ever told her this?

For some reason, he suddenly has the intense urge to kiss her. Not a sweet little kiss, but a soul gripping kiss that would make her forget all the important things she has to say. Whoa boy! Where did that come from? He tries to reign his feelings in.

Perhaps it’s because she’s trying so hard to be so helpful, yet he has no idea what she’s telling him, and instead of allowing her to continue wasting her breath any longer, he’d much rather steal her breath away.

Wahya wills himself back to reality, concentrating on her directions, as confusing as they are. In the end, he knows that red and blue on the lever mean hot and cold respectively, and that there are three different soaps. Two for his hair that he must use in a specific order, and the third bottle for his body. The small cloth is for washing his face and the larger cloth is to dry with. The strange-looking loofah is for washing his body. And lastly, she’ll have his new clothes ready for him in the bedroom when he’s finished.

Do I look and smell so bad that she does not think I have ever bathed in my life and do not know how? he wonders, when she doesn’t look convinced that he’ll know what to do, repeating parts she feels need more attention again.

After a while, he’s exasperated and feeling somewhat offended. Motioning to the shower, his silence finally breaks. “Please, I am a grown man and know how to wash myself, despite your fancy waterfall and multiple soaps.” He continues without thinking. “If you think I am so incompetent, perhaps you would prefer to stay and do it for me!”

Morgan stops short, surprised by the abrupt interruption, his voice echoing off the tile walls. Wahya’s own embarrassment rises as he realizes the connotation of what he’s just said. Had she spoken Tsalagi, he’s sure she would be horrified by his suggestion that she stay. He hadn’t intended for it to come out suggestive. Yet, the way he did intend makes him cringe inside. His lack of communication in response to her instruction had probably made her feel as though she wasn’t getting through to him. His frustration with her actions was his own fault.

More calmly, he softens his expression and takes an easy breath. Sincerely, he acknowledges her. “Agehya.” Then in English, “Okay.” She clearly understands the calming word. After all, she’s repeated it countless times to him today. So, he repeats it again, firmly but kindly, “Okay.”

Morgan resigns herself to his simple and considerate statement. “Okay, Wahya,” she replies.

Turning to leave him to wash in solitude, the hesitancy in her gait isn’t lost on him. She is not sure I will not kill myself. Is the cleaning ritual here so demanding? He nods in thanks and waits for her to pad damply out of the bathroom. Then, blowing his breath out slowly and heavily, he wonders just what kind of situation he’s gotten into. It is a good thing she is letting me alone or I would have ended up doing something I would regret to make her stop pestering me—like kiss her.

Trying to wipe the conflicted thoughts from his mind, he stares into the large, heavily framed mirror above the sink, and looks at himself. He looks so tired and bedraggled, and not having a memory of a better reflection to go off of, hopes that he’ll look a lot better after he’s washed up.

Stepping out of his borrowed clothes and piling them in the corner, he steps slowly into the shower. The wet stone tiles are cold under his bare feet. After studying the lever for a moment, he turns it on, the shockingly cold water hitting his body from above like a miniature waterfall. The only time he’s ever bathed in anything but cold water was the time they’d found some hot springs traveling on a trading venture a few years ago. Otherwise, cold and refreshing is all he knows.

He smirks at the memory of Morgan’s response to the cold water and wonders how she bathes if she can’t take a little cold water. Would you not like to know?

As he allows the water to run fluidly over his face, he isn’t sure if it’s the imagined sultry images of Morgan’s bare body—silky smooth skin, with water flowing coolly over her—that’s making not only his blood, but the water seem warmer. I think the water really is getting warmer!

Suddenly jolted from his daydreams, Wahya jumps back out of the direct stream, wincing as the water not only turns warm, but right down hot. “Yeow!” he cries as steam begins to rise.

The lever! he suddenly remembers. Red is hot and blue is cold. Darting into the hot water to push the lever backwards, he waits a bit, noticing a definitive cooling of the temperature. Eventually, he finds a good in between setting, and finally relaxes again in the lukewarm water.

Getting down to business, he studies the three bottles, choosing the first one Morgan said was for his hair. At home he usually washes with soaproot, and he assumes this is probably similar. Squeezing the tall bottle like she showed him, Wahya gets a fair amount of shampoo in his palm, testing the texture of it with his fingers before proceeding to scrub his scalp. Working the immensely bubbly and floral smelling substance through his long, thick locks, he feels a little more relaxed.

Rinsing thoroughly, he uses bottle number two, which doesn’t lather up like the first, but miraculously makes his hair smooth and tangle free. He associates this with the greasy conditioner his family uses from animal fat after washing. Using the final bottle, along with the small rag and loofah, he scrubs his face and body twice, careful not to reopen wounds from his fight with the Haudenosaunee and subsequent fall through the trees into this world earlier this morning.

When Wahya finally decides he’s clean enough, he shuts off the water and wrings out his long hair before grabbing the large towel to dry off. Seeing his reflection anew in the mirror, he’s amazed by the improvement. While not doing so with vanity, he’s admittedly a little bit impressed by his own looks. He hopes Morgan is equally happy with the new, and much better smelling man.

}}}-----> * <-----{{{

CHEROKEE [TSALAGI] WORDS TO KNOW:
Aditasdi = Drink

Agehya = Woman

Ama = Water

Haudenosaunee = Iroquois

Tsalagi = Cherokee

Wado = Thank you

Walela = Hummingbird

Vv = Yes

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