The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Twenty: Feelings to the Forefront

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

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

Glancing at her watch, Morgan realizes it’s almost midnight. After her and Samantha had returned from putting baby Melia back to bed, the conversation had droned on for a few hours. But Wahya hadn’t made it that far, slumping into the corner of couch and drifting off into a peaceful slumber, the droning of the foreign conversation lulling him to sleep.

Tiredly interrupting Samantha and James’ slightly heated debate about how to determine which time period Wahya is from, Morgan groans, “Hey, I hate to break up your lovers’ quarrel, but it’s late and I better get us back home.”

James looks at the clock on the wall, “Oh Jeez, I didn’t realize it was so late! And look, poor guy’s been passed out for a while now,” he nods to the corner the sectional.

The three look at Wahya, curled comfortably in the crook of the couch, softly breathing and besides his long hair, looking less like the historic Native American he began the day as, and more like another modern citizen dressed in his contemporary clothes. Morgan can only imagine what must be going through his mind as they’d talked this evening.

“Why don’t you camp out here tonight? He’s already comfortable, and you can take this side of the couch, for yourself,” James suggests.

Samantha seconds this, “Yeah, then you don’t have to wake him up and try to get him all situated at your place tonight.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want to be in your way with the baby and all,” Morgan frets.

“Nonsense, Morgan!” Samantha chides, trying not to wake the sleeping brave. “I’m going crazy here at home with the same routine; all this excitement is reviving my drained mother-brain!”

Then she smiles, “As your boss while Dr. Clark is away, I’m ordering you to stay.”

Morgan giggles, shaking her head in resignation.

“I’ll go get some blankets and pillows and you know where the bathroom is,” James says as he stands.

Then Samantha adds, gathering plates from the coffee table, “The kitchen’s yours and the only rule is that if you wake the baby you have to put her to sleep!”

“I can totally live with that!” Morgan smiles as she takes the blankets from James, saying goodnight to the couple who retreat to their own bedroom, restarting their argument about North American time periods.

Morgan lightly covers Wahya’s sleeping form with a blanket, and to her relief he barely stirs, only moving his feet up onto the couch so that he’s laying down rather than sitting awkwardly. “He’s so amazing! Going through everything he has today, and still having his head on straight! How in the world did he end up here of all places?!”

After washing up as best she can, Morgan takes her pillow and cuddles down under the blanket, turning the lamp off above her head. Once her eyes adjust to the dark, she can just make out Wahya’s silhouette on the opposite side of the sectional. Again, she thinks about the similarities and differences between him and the people of the 21st century, and she must admit that he’s been very accepting of everything presented to him. And she wonders what she would do if she’d been flung hundreds or thousands of years into the future.

Finally drifting off to sleep, Morgan wakes around 7:00 a.m., hearing noises coming from the kitchen. Taking in her surroundings, she remembers that she’s at James and Samantha’s house, and reflexively looks to where Wahya had been sleeping, only to find him gone. Sitting up, she folds the blankets that she and Wahya had used, laying them neatly in a stack on the couch.

Heading to the kitchen herself, she’s welcomed by James who’s scarfing down the last few bites of a bowl of cereal, “Morning! Want some breakfast?”

Yawning, Morgan takes a seat at the kitchen bar next to him, “Morning! Thanks!”

“Samantha says you’re taking her for a trip to Redwater to see where this gorget came from,” James prods handing her a bowl and spoon. The women had neglected to mention it to him after discussing it between themselves in Melia’s room as Morgan didn’t want to be the one to tell him, in case he didn’t agree with Samantha going out so soon; and Samantha had wanted to broach the subject in private. Apparently, Samantha had won her case with her husband, even though he didn’t necessarily look happy about it.

“Yeah, she said that you were going to babysit!” Morgan announces to him with a smile.

James grimaces, the tell-tell sign of a worried husband and father of a newborn, “Yeah, that’s what it sounds like! This is her first outing like this, so make sure she doesn’t overdo it, okay? I know she wants to get back to digging and all, but what with this pregnancy being such a miracle in the first place, I don’t want her hurting herself.”

“Oh definitely!” Morgan seriously promises, “She’ll supervise while I dig, if we even end up going that far.”

James gets up to wash his bowl at the sink and Morgan asks, “Where’d Wahya go?”

“He just went out in the backyard to look at the birds and relax,” James points his chin to the back door.

“Ah,” Morgan breathes out, not realizing that she was a bit worried about her new friend. “I suppose we haven’t introduced him to television yet, so his mind isn’t lost to real relaxation, huh?!”

James chuckles, “True!”

Drying his hands, he turns to face Morgan, still eating her cereal, “Hey, you know Sammie and I love you like a little sister, right?”

Morgan pauses mid-bite, giving him a quizzical look, “Yeah?”

“Well, as a big brother I think I should warn you that Wahya had some questions about you last night when you girls went to take care of Melia.”

She cocks an eyebrow, knowing the questions could only be so in depth with the limited communication skills between the two. James clears his throat nervously, wanting to broach the subject right. “He asked if you were single.”

Morgan sputters on the bite of cereal she had just taken waiting for James to continue, and looks at him with wide-eyed surprise, “Really!? That’s...uh, interesting!? And what did you say?”

“Don’t look so excited - you’re scaring me!” James is sincerely surprised by her reaction. Then remembering how Wahya reacted to the news, he can’t help but smirk just a little, “I told him that you were. Single, that is. But that was before I realized my answer would, uh... well, let’s just say he seemed pleased. At first I just thought he was asking for the heck of it, but when I saw where the question was going, I made sure he understood that if he did anything to you, he’d have to answer to me.”

Putting her spoon down, Morgan straightens, shocked and a bit embarrassed, “You didn’t!?”

He doesn’t answer, but leans on the bar, a more serious look on his face, “Look, Samantha told me that she warned you to be careful on the same note, and I agree. Don’t get caught up in something complicated that might get you hurt in the end, okay?”

Morgan’s emotions are not as even as she would have expected them to be in response to his concerns. A part of her is elated that both her friends could confirm that Wahya is actually interested in her, while also understanding their position as friends and mentors. And yet, a part of her feels irritated that they don’t seem to trust her enough to make such decisions on her own. Of course, she has her own and Wahya’s best interests in mind!

Finally, a slice of her mind feels fearful, having to confront her own feelings head-on about the man from another time already. If he’d been someone she’d met in the regular course of life; someone from the 21st century, she’d no doubt be interested in getting to know him better. There was instant attraction between them, and so long as he wasn’t married or otherwise attached, no one would think anything about it. But he wasn’t from this time, and her closest confidants did think something about it.

Her sister’s phone call yesterday evening - interrupting what could have potentially been the start of ‘something more’ with Wahya - comes to mind as well. Jessica had a spooky talent for sniffing out love and never had any qualms admitting she had a literal sixth sense in that department. Her intuitive know-how had even proved helpful in Samantha and James’ lives, as she picked up on their problem with conceiving a baby as soon as she’d met them at the Anthropology/Archaeology Department’s staff picnic two years ago.

It was right after the couple had moved to Richmond City University and Morgan didn’t know them very well. Jessica, her now-ex-husband, and the boys had come along with Morgan, since they were in town, and Jess had instantly attached herself to Samantha. Morgan had been slightly embarrassed at the time, but she now knew the couple may not have been able to conceive little Melia if it weren’t for Jessica’s insight and alternative medicine helping where conventional medicine had otherwise proven useless. Jessica had given Samantha much advice throughout her pregnancy, which was another reason they’d become more like family to Morgan now.

If her older sister had picked up on her and Wahya’s attraction from through the phone, there was definitely truth to it. And she hadn’t even admitted that there was anyone in the house for Jessica to know about! “Damn it, Jess; what am I supposed to do?!”

But Morgan doesn’t want to take advantage of his vulnerabilities as a newcomer to her time either. Could she even trust that he was really interested in her for herself; or did the fact that she was the first person he met here have something to do with his attachment to her? Would he be better off with someone from his own cultural background, to help him navigate this time period? There were just too many questions and variables to sift through at this point, and they’d only known each other for 24-hours!

She looks at James contemplatively and replies with all seriousness, “My only intention with Wahya is to be helpful. And like I told Samantha, I’ll try very hard not to get hurt nor hurt anyone else in the process. I promise not to do anything too impulsive. But, ultimately, I can’t promise much else beyond that.”

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

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

The morning sunlight feels good on Wahya’s face as he closes his eyes, soaking up the rays, thinking about everything and nothing all at the same time. He’d been surprised when he heard the early morning birds welcoming the first light of day, waking him from his comfortable spot on the couch, telling him that he’d slept peacefully all night long.

Sitting on James and Samantha’s back patio he takes a deep breath, and while it still doesn’t smell like home, it does smell better than the city air from yesterday. He had thought a lot about yesterday since waking and wonders what today will bring. Then, apprehensively, he thinks about what his family and friends might be doing.

“Did the other braves make it back to the villagers? Did everyone get away before the Iroquois found out they were on their land? What are father and grandmother thinking? No one would have been able to report back to them that I am dead.”

Feeling quite alive, he wonders, “Am I really dead? Is this just a part of my ultimate journey in the Afterlife? If it were, wouldn’t the people here expect people like me to arrive? But, if it is not a Spirit World, then what is it? And is there a way to get back to my own world? I don’t even know how I got here! And I have a bad feeling neither does Morgan, James, or Samantha.”

Thinking on the people of this world, his thoughts turn to his ‘guide’ in this world, “Morgan...”

Upon waking this morning, he was slightly surprised to see her fast asleep on the other side of the couch and wondered if she had also gotten sleepy from the alcoholic beverage and heavy pizza. It obviously wasn’t from the conversation, as she had been deeply involved with that the whole evening, at least before he’d drifted to sleep unintentionally.

With his eyes still closed against the sun, Wahya remembers watching the little Hummingbird [Walela] sleep for a while in the dim light of morning - the image of her still fresh in his mind. It was a rare moment to see her very still and quiet, and he’d found her beautiful in a whole other way, breathing peacefully in and out. Now away from her, he still can’t get her image from his mind, and the sound of her voice out of his memory. No matter how hard he tries, he just can’t seem to meditate enough to put her aside so he can concentrate on other things - like what he’s going to do if he either can’t find a way back to his own world or to continue to the Happy Hunting Grounds. “Was staying here in this world even an option? And if so, would Morgan...”

“Damned Badger [Inoli]!” He laments to himself, remembering how his best friend just kept saying that Butterfly [Aponi] was in his mind all the time after he’d met her, making it difficult for him to concentrate. “How’d he put it? Oh yeah... ‘it was like a sickness that he didn’t want to go away.’”

Trying to be irritable with himself for proving Badger right when he’d been the worst one to mock his friend about Butterfly, Wahya asks himself, “What is it about this woman that is so... so... wonderful anyways?! For one, she’s too talkative. How can anyone think around her; no wonder that’s all I’ve got in my mind? And she’s too happy - never serious enough. And she’s way too helpful and trusting. She should be suspicious and leery - I am a stranger after all.”

Unfortunately, his internal ranting only manages to bring her image to mind more readily, so he reasons with himself that since James had more-less warned him off her last night, he should just keep things pleasant, but not too friendly with her - period. To support that mindset, he continues to downplay his assessment of her, “Her eyes... well, they’re just not right, all colorful like that! And what’s up with that short, yellow hair? Someone would have to be crazy to think that was sexy! Then there’s her smile which is just so irritatingly... beautiful. With those damnably kissable lips... Ah, damn it!”

The reasonable part of his brain chimes in, “You know you like every bit of those things about her and it’s driving you crazy. Just like Badger told you it would when the right woman came along. You were supposed to like things simple and easy. And Morgan is everything complex.”

With one final blow, he admits, “You were supposed to be in love with Little Doe [Usdi Agisa]...”

Sighing, he stretches back on the low-sitting lawn chair, propping his feet on the ottoman, the truth coming out as he finally acknowledges feeling somewhat guilty about liking a woman so different than the one that had been his betrothed. His heartstrings tug, even though Little Doe could never be his wife, for the sickness had taken her life. Yet, this is the first time that Wahya had truly looked at another woman in the same way since her death, and his loyalty to Little Doe pulls hard at his resolve.

Arguing with himself about why Morgan, of all people and in all places, should be the one to get inside his head like this, he seriously asks himself whether or not he should pursue his instincts, or try harder to forget this unique and very much alive woman who’s in the here and now. “There can be no in between when it comes to her. It’s either fall head-over-heels for her or block her out completely.”

As if conjured up from his imagination, he hears the sliding glass door open and close and Morgan’s pleasant voice from behind him.

“Osiyo!” She calls softly, yet happily.

“And there she goes again, working hard to make me feel welcome in her strange world.” His body betrays his forced thoughts of opposition and he can’t help but smile up at her, sitting up in the lounging chair.

“Osiyo,” he replies more pleasantly than he’d expected himself to.

She takes a deep breath, breathing in the morning air, then comments on what that he imagines is the beautiful, sunny day. As she sits in the other lawn chair facing out into the yard, surrounded by large, leafy trees, an overwhelming feeling comes over Wahya - what he’d really like to do is sit there in the lounging chair with her, his arms wrapped around her, just being. No worries, no pressures.

And that’s what they do - separately, of course - just sit, enjoying the quiet of the morning for a moment.

Then Morgan breaks the silence, “We need to go home to clean up, so we can go to the lab. Samantha wants to talk to the farmer who found the gorget.”

“Why does she talk to me like I understand what she’s saying?” Wahya thinks as he glances her direction. “Maybe it’s because she doesn’t know how to explain it differently, so just says it anyways. It’s alright though... better than her not talking at all,” he finally admits to himself, his logical reasoning and sympathetic heart getting the better of his forced irritation.

Finally, Morgan stands, “Ready to ride? Car?”

She smiles that radiant smile he’d been trying not to like so much, as she clings to the imaginary steering wheel of an invisible car, and Wahya knows exactly what she’s talking about.

Forgetting to be irritated, he stands quickly, ready to go, his face beaming with energy. Riding in Morgan’s car is almost as exciting as being near her, and that’s one joy he’s not afraid of expressing at the moment.

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