The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Nineteen: Family Ties

July 2023
James and Samantha’s Home
Richmond City, Virginia

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

With the women gone, James moves a little closer to Wahya, setting his empty plate on the coffee table and seriously contemplating the tired-looking man - the food, beer, long day, and inability to understand the conversation having a sleepy effect on him.

James asks simply, but with a genuine tone, “You okay?”

Wahya knows this phrase well from Morgan, and nods his head, “Vv. Yes. Okay. Wado.”

Being alone without the women, Wahya figures now might be a good time to ask James the question that’s been on his mind for much of the latter part of the day, and ponders how to ask without many words. Finally, he points to James and says his name, “James.”

James nods, “Yes, I’m James.”

“Samantha.” Holding up his two index fingers, Wahya repeats the couple’s names, indicating that one finger represents James and the other Samantha. Then putting his fingers together vertically touching, he hopes to convey that the two people are a couple.

James seems to understand, “Yes, Samantha and I are together - Married. A couple.” He holds up his fingers in the same manner as Wahya, confirming the connection.

Hoping James is tracking, Wahya now takes a balled-up napkin, setting it in front of him on the coffee table. Again, naming James and Samantha as represented by his index fingers, he touches the napkin and says, “Usdi.”

He then curls his arms together, giving the universal sign for rocking an invisible baby, pointing his chin towards the baby’s room where Samantha and Morgan had disappeared, “Usdi.”

James smiles broadly, “Oh! The baby!” Then makes the rocking motion and a mock baby-cry to confirm with Wahya, who nods excitedly.

“Us-di?” James repeats Wahya’s word, and in a matter of minutes both men have learned each other’s terms for baby. Wahya has also confirmed that the baby does indeed belong to both James and Samantha as a couple and that they are a family, living together in the same dwelling.

Having established that, Wahya moves a little closer, not wanting Morgan to hear - not that he thought she could with all the cooing and feminine giggles coming from the other room.

Holding up one finger this time, he says Morgan’s name, to which James nods, grasping the fact that they are now moving along to talk about the young Collections Manager. Extending his other index finger, Wahya says Morgan’s name again, then questionably looks at James for the name of a possible husband or betrothed.

“Uyehi [Husband]?” He asks.

“Oh,” James quickly realizes that Wahya wants to know if Morgan has a family, though after having been at her house already, he thought Wahya would have already established that she lived alone. Perhaps it wasn’t as obvious to someone outside of the cultural timeline he ponders. In answer to the question, James shakes his head, waving away Wahya’s other index finger representing the possible spouse and holding up a solitary finger of his own. “No. Just Morgan.”

Wahya nods his head contemplatively and the college professor can practically see the figurative wheels turning inside the younger man’s head. In return James blurts, “Hey now, she’s like a little sister to me and Samantha. I don’t need to tell you that if anything happened to her, you’d have to answer to me.”

Wahya is pulled from his thoughts, knowing the familiar protective look and tone in James’ voice from the single girls’ fathers and uncles in the village when a boy is interested. Despite the fact that at twenty-seven years he’s no boy looking to court a young girl, he swallows heavily. He wouldn’t dream of doing anything to hurt Morgan in any way, but he had to know if she was attached to someone - not only for the sake of his unstoppable interest in her, but simply as a matter of how he should treat her overall. He wasn’t looking to overstep any bounds, romantically, culturally, or otherwise.

Quickly, Wahya changes the subject by changing characters up. Pointing to the napkin again to represent the baby, and his fingers as James and Samantha, he then references Morgan as the napkin, asking about her parents. Surely if she isn’t married, then she lives with her parents.

Recalling his historical knowledge of Native American family practices in which most lived with extended family members in the same household, James relaxes again, trying to express that Morgan’s parents do not live with her, “No, her parents are not here, but farther away.”

When Wahya finally understands this, he’s confused at the thought, “She has friends and doesn’t seem to be unlikable - at all. It doesn’t make sense that she would have been disowned by her family - who could do such a thing to a person like her?! Unless they are dead, but I do not think that’s what he is trying to say. Maybe she was supposed to be married and instead of him moving in with her family, the people of this world move in with the husband’s family. If something happened to her husband-to-be, maybe now she is unable to go back to her family for some reason?”

He contemplates this sadly, thinking that living on her own must be quite lonely for her. He can’t imagine what life would be like not having his family together. Like him, his father and grandmother had also felt the emptiness in the home that his mother’s death had brought, and now with him here, it will be just the two of them.

“Poor little Hummingbird [Walela],” he thinks, turning his own sadness and loss to her.

}}}-----> MORGAN <-----{{{

- - - EARLIER - - -

“Oh definitely!” Morgan exclaims, jumping up before Samantha when the new mother asked if she’d like to assist with tending to the crying baby.

Following the pretty redhead into the baby’s softly lit room, Morgan is excited to get her first glimpse of the Anthropology/Archaeology Department’s newest and youngest honorary member, after having watched Samantha’s pregnancy develop over the past several months.

Morgan had been out of town visiting her parents when Samantha went into the hospital for the delivery, and then it’d only been recently that Samantha’s mother had went back home to Maryland after coming to help the first-time parents with their new bundle of joy. Morgan hadn’t wanted to intrude but had planned on visiting soon anyways. Wahya had just given her the best excuse.

“Shhh! It’s okay, baby! Momma’s here. And I brought a visitor!” Samantha coos as she pulls the crying baby out of the crib. The wailing instantly stops.

Morgan peeks over Samantha’s shoulder at the tiny infant with bright blue eyes and barely a tuft of soft red hair, and her heart melts, “Oh, Samantha! She’s beautiful!” Then, giving the little one a tiny wave she greets her, “Hi Melia!”

Samantha moves to take baby Melia to the changing table for a diaper change, and Morgan watches on in fascination.

“Yeah, she’s gorgeous all right!” The redhead acknowledges about her new daughter. Then addressing Melia in baby-talk, as she unbuttons the bottom of the tiny light pink Onesie, “Aren’t you just the prettiest baby?!”

Melia coos happily and smiles a big toothless grin at her mother, who teases her infant in return, “But her diapers are far from pretty! Isn’t that right Little Miss Stinky!?”

Morgan laughs and holds her nose as the tiny person’s stench wafts over to her. Samantha deftly wipes the baby clean and begins putting on a new diaper as though she’s been doing it for years.

Looking over at Morgan, she clears her throat and says, “So, seriously, what makes you think Wahya is for real and that this isn’t a big prank? I mean James told me about the whole wall and cloud thing, and I have my own thoughts, but this sounds a bit wild. I want to hear your reasoning.”

Morgan takes a deep breath, gathering her thoughts, “I don’t know. I mean I don’t think anyone could have pranked the opening in that wall. He literally flew out of that hole, knocking me over. And there’s no way he could have come at me with that much force from only two feet in front of me. He had to have been coming at a good rate of speed already. And I can’t come up with anything better besides an alien abduction. And time travel just sounded more rational between two irrational options. Plus, it’s obvious that he doesn’t know English at all, and he’s so out of touch with everyday things, but he’s definitely not mentally incapable of understanding or learning, so I wouldn’t say he’s some nut job who lost his memory or something.”

She takes a breath before continuing, “Otherwise, physically he looks Native American. And now that James has proven he’s speaking Cherokee... I mean you said yourself, Cherokee isn’t something that just anyone speaks - not even all Cherokees speak it! And I don’t believe that he’s from some lost tribe like that movie The Last of the Dogmen. Not here in Virginia - it’s too populated for that! And even if he was, that doesn’t explain the hole in the wall he came from.”

Morgan takes another breath, calming herself, then seriously asks, “What do you think?”

Samantha, done with diaper changing, shifts the baby to her shoulder, lightly rubbing her back, then sits in the rocker tucked in the corner of the delicately decorated room, “I’m gonna feed her. You don’t have to stay if it’s uncomfortable. I don’t mind either way.”

Morgan blinks at her friend and mentor, “Oh! Yeah, sure. No, my sister breastfed her babies, so it’s nothing new to me, so long as you’re okay with it.”

Settling the baby on her breast, Samantha rocks softly, looking up at Morgan who finds a place to sit on the stool next to the changing table. In her serious professor tone, she starts, “I’m going to be frank with you, Morgan, because no matter how you look at this, it’s serious. If this is a prank, it’s gone too far. If he’s some wacko, then who knows what he’s capable of.”

She looks down at the baby a moment before continuing, “If he’s really from the past, as James mentioned you’d already brought up, then he could be seriously vulnerable to all kinds of diseases and stresses, not understanding the modern world. Your safety is part of my responsibility as a lead in the department and as a friend to you.”

She searches Morgan’s eyes for confirmation that she’s taking this very seriously, and Morgan nods her head and swallows heavily, realizing that Samantha means business should someone be trying to mess with her.

“But I haven’t picked up on any nefarious doings, and like James, I think Wahya is being honest with his actions and understanding of the world around him. And I believe your story - I don’t think you would play a prank like this.”

“Oh no! I swear I would never! Shoot, this is too elaborate for me to pull off!”

Samantha laughs softly at Morgan’s mortification, and pats Melia gently as she continues to nurse the infant, quieting her voice, “Okay, well let’s just say that the whole time travel thing is legit. Here’s my findings so far. James brought home Wahya’s breechcloth in his gym bag. I know a lot about the material culture of people from 5,000 years ago - albeit in Europe, not North America, but that piece of clothing is either an excellent re-creation or the real deal.”

Morgan’s interest is piqued, “How can you tell?

“First off, it’s definitely cured leather, not some faux material. The quality is definitely for use and it’s worn. You can tell it’s not just a costume - it’s got everyday wear and tear. Secondly, there’s absolutely no machine stitching - the threading is sinew and leather. The holes for the stitching were definitely made with a stone or bone awl or drill, not a modern needle or tool. And lastly, the cut edges were made with a stone tool, not cut with scissors or machine cut.”

Morgan is sincerely impressed with the professor’s assumptions, and says in a low voice, so as not to disturb the baby’s nursing, “Wow, you got a lot out of that! What about the gorget?”

“You really think there’s more to it?”

Morgan nods, “Yeah. I mean he recognized that thing - you could see it in his eyes, and he wanted to know what I was doing with it!”

Samantha frowns, “So strange.” She ponders silently for a moment, then aloud, “I could see a connection if he popped up in Redwater where the gorget was found, but why did he appear suddenly in the Archaeology Lab? If a time warp brought him to the future, you would have thought that it would have brought him to the same location he was in the past.”

Then thinking a little more, she adds, “The lab is on the second floor, and he should have appeared on the first floor if he was in that specific location however long ago. There wouldn’t have been anything that high above ground-level before the university was built.”

Morgan nods again, “That’s right! That’s why I think the gorget has to have more to do with it. I was holding the gorget when he knocked me over.”

Samantha takes a long breath, “Hmmm. I think we need to take a field trip to Redwater and see what’s going on where this gorget was found.”

“Can we afford to wait until your maternity leave is up?” Morgan asks worriedly. Samantha had at least a month left before she was due back to work.

“Pfft! I was talking about going this week! James doesn’t have class after lunch tomorrow or Thursday, so can stay home with Melia either of those days. I’ve been dying to get out and dirty with work!”

Morgan giggles, envisioning Melia growing up as a toddler on archaeological excavations with her scientist parents. “If you’re game, I think we can arrange a field trip! I’ll go to the office in the morning and call the farmer to arrange a meeting and get some supplies if I get the go-ahead.”

Samantha smiles satisfactorily, as she continues rocking Melia who has finished feeding and yawns sleepily, “One more thing before we go back out there.”

“Yeah?” Morgan replies.

“I know you pretty well, Morgan. I’ve seen you with all kinds of people.” She gives her younger friend a cursory look, “What’s going on in that mind of yours about Wahya?”

Morgan returns a quizzical look, “Uh... I dunno, what do you mean? I mean I want to be helpful and understanding of his situation and try to figure out how to help him get home or whatever. And I think this is a really neat opportunity to learn about a past culture and all!”

Samantha contemplates how to put her thoughts into words, “I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Oh, I think he’s safe enough. Like I told James, if he was going to hurt me, he would have already done it long before now. And I don’t think he’s scared of me anymore.”

Samantha shakes her head, “That’s not what I mean. You’re right, I don’t think he’d hurt you and it seems like you’re getting along with him just fine.”

“Okay?” Morgan says, asking Samantha what exactly she is meaning.

“Morgan, I realize that he’s something to look at and you’re young and single...”

Morgan clears her throat nervously, her eyes wide, sure that Samantha can’t know about her unruly feelings about the handsome visitor from the past sitting out in the living room.

Samantha continues, “Morgan, I’ve been through love, divorce, and now change-your-life kind of love, and I’m around college-aged youth who are always in the highs and lows of relationships day in and day out. You both emanate with so much attraction to each other, it’s pitiful!”

Morgan nearly chokes as she swallows again. Yet, feeling as though she can confide in her mentor, she whispers loudly, “You think he’s into me?!”

Samantha laughs softly, “You don’t?!”

“Well, I uh... I don’t know. I didn’t think he thought I was ugly, but I just didn’t think... I mean, I think he’s hot! And, you know...”

Samantha shakes her head, rocking Melia again as a smirk crosses her lips, “Well, I’d just be very careful if I were you. Don’t do anything rash, if you know what I mean.”

“No! Never! My priority is to make sure that he’s taken care of and I wouldn’t want to hurt feelings or anything. I don’t even know if he’s got someone waiting for him at home, you know!”

“Just be careful, okay?!” Samantha cautions, giving Morgan her best mom-look.

“Okay. I promise.” Morgan swears, crossing her heart with her finger.

“Good,” Samantha nods, looking down at her now-sleeping baby and whispers. “Now let’s put this baby back to bed and get out of here!”

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

Cherokee Words to Know:

Baby = Usdi
Hummingbird = Walela
Husband = Uyehi
Thank you = Wado
Yes = Vv

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