The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Twenty-One: A Little Music with that Dental Hygiene

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

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

Going back inside to gather their belongings, Wahya determines Samantha and the baby must still be sleeping as he follows Morgan and James out the front door to the driveway. Reaching James’ red car first, the trio stop.

“I’ll call Samantha from the lab and let her know if we can go out to Redwater today. I’ll keep you posted, too,” Morgan tells James.

“Okay, sounds good. Are you bringing Wahya with you to the lab?”

Morgan nods, “Yeah, I don’t know what else to do with him. I don’t want to leave him by himself.”

Wahya can tell that he’s the topic of conversation and he wonders what the two have in store for him today. James turns his attention to him, and Wahya firmly grasps his extended hand in a farewell handshake, as the older man says, “I’ll be seeing you later, man.”

Acknowledging James’ hospitality for the food and a place to stay last night, Wahya thanks his host simply, “James, Wado.”

Climbing into the car, they start back the way they traveled yesterday coming from Morgan’s dwelling, and Wahya notes that she had said the word ‘home’ to him before they left. He hadn’t been able to remember what the word she’d taught him yesterday meant at the time, but now he guesses that they must be headed to her dwelling again.

Interrupting his thoughts, Morgan asks, “Wanna listen to some music?”

He’s not sure what she’s asking, but can tell by the light in her eyes and expectant expression that it wouldn’t matter what his reply would have been - she’s asking a rhetorical question about something she happily wants to surprise him about.

And surprise him she does, as she pokes one of the many buttons on the dashboard and the interior of the car is suddenly engulfed in sound. Rhythmic beats and a mix of high and low melodic notes emanate from all around them, much like it had in the clothing store. Siting up straighter in his seat, Wahya’s doesn’t know what to think.

His instincts tell him to be leery, this has to be some form of magic, yet he knows he doesn’t need to be afraid, as Morgan seems to be very much in control of the situation. He reminds himself that in this world, ‘new’ isn’t necessarily something to be afraid of. Already embarrassed by the amount of fear he figures he displayed yesterday, Wahya takes a deep breath, determined not to show the unmasculine trait in front of Morgan again.

Focusing on the noise itself he wonders, “Is this supposed to be music? It sounds complicated and crazy!”

Suddenly a feminine voice breaks out in a strange-sounding song, echoing around the car’s interior, and he wonders where the singer and accompanying music are coming from. Looking behind him in the backseat, his perplexed expression must be obvious, as Morgan eyes him and giggles. “Pop music. Do you like it?”

Her inflection says she’s asking a question, and she nods her head ‘yes,’ then ‘no,’ in an attempt to get his reaction to Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off blaring on the radio.

Furrowing his brows, Wahya honestly shakes his head, “No, I do not like this noise. Where is the singer?” Then half-jokingly, he adds, “I would hide, too, if I were making this horrible music.”

Morgan seems please to hear him talk aloud, more than his usual one or two words. Though his distaste for the music must be determinedly obvious, for to his chagrin, Morgan laughs heartily, and he can only assume that she’s teasing him about it.

“A lot of people would disagree with you!” She tries to let him know.

She pokes another button and the song instantly changes to a rapidly talking man instead and she taps the button again, obviously not liking that option herself. The next station features softer tones and a heavier beat with definitive drums. The female singer sounds a little mournful to him, compared to the first, and there’s an interesting twangy-sounding instrument in the foreground, unlike any he’s heard before. Wahya likes this - a lot.

“This is the Soft Rock station,” Morgan acknowledges, as Wahya nods his head contemplatively, wishing he could ask her about the instruments. The next song is even quieter, and more simplistic with a dramatic beat and there’s something Wahya finds relatable in the tones. He still wonders where the singer and musicians are but determines that since he can’t do anything about it, he might as well enjoy it. Morgan is after all.

“Good?” Morgan asks, trying to gauge his thoughts.

He nods simply, replying even though she can’t understand all his words. “Yes, this is better; it is interesting.”

She laughs lightly, noting his enjoyment, “Cool! It’s Phil Colins. This station has some older stuff mixed with newer songs, but it’s all good. A lot of classics. Though I guess it’s all new to you!”

Enthusiastically enjoying the next songs until a commercial break interrupts the music, Morgan laughs again, “Looks like you like fast cars and Rock-and-Roll - you are dangerous!”

He looks at her, wondering what she’s saying, her tone more flirtatious than before. When she catches his stare, she turns red in response, only feeding his desire to know what she’d said. Playing it off, she clears her throat, nonchalantly turning the moment into a vocabulary lesson, teaching him the name for the genre until the music comes back on again.

“‘Rock music’ - it goes well with ‘cars,’” he thinks to himself.

Ed Sheeran’s Perfect plays as they pull into Morgan’s driveway and Wahya smirks as she sings part of the chorus under her breath unconsciously as she puts the car in Park, “...dancing in the dark, with you between my arms. Barefoot on the grass, listening to our favorite song...”

“Apparently, she likes, what is it called...? Oh yeah, ‘rock music,’ too.”

Unfortunately, the song abruptly ends as she kills the engine, bringing both of them back to the present moment, though Wahya’s mood is drastically elevated from earlier. He always enjoyed music and dancing during celebrations at home and imagines what his grandmother would have to say about the rock music. “I think she would like it!”

Setting her purse on the small table inside the door, Morgan seriously and easily falls back into her instructional mode, much like she had when explaining how to shower yesterday. Struggling to keep up, Wahya’s eyes glaze over. Finally, Morgan gives up the talk and drags him to the master bathroom.

“This is a toothbrush. Tooth-brush.”

Wahya looks at the long white and bright blue stick with bristles at the end, paying close attention, after having repeated the word back to her.

“Okay, she keeps pointing to her teeth. She’s got really white teeth, so she has to do something to keep her teeth clean. I sure hope it is a cleaning stick of some kind. I haven’t been able to clean my teeth in a couple days and it is killing me!”

Morgan squeezes a small amount of white gelatinous substance on the brush end and hands the stick to Wahya. Hoping that she in fact explained that he’s supposed to use the stick on his teeth, he slowly puts it in his mouth, giving her time to stop him if it isn’t supposed to go there.

The cleaning sticks he’s used to, made literally from sticks, are more for chewing on, rather than brushing, and so he bites down on the bristles, tasting the minty paste as it hits his tastebuds. Feeling self-conscious with Morgan watching him so carefully, he almost jumps when she exclaims, “Wait! Brush, don’t bite!”

She jerks her arm back and forth in front of her face and he has no idea what she’s trying to get him to do. Exasperated by the situation, Wahya takes the stick out of his mouth and finally exclaims irritably, “This is ridiculous! I am not a child! I should be able to clean my teeth by myself! Your instructions are atrocious!”

He senses from her expression and gestures that she can barely contain herself from grabbing the stick from him, and he imagines that she would try to clean his teeth for him. In response, he narrows his eyes at her, warning her away from doing so. Luckily, she seemingly picks up on his warning, maintaining her distance, holding herself back with difficulty.

“Okay, hold on!” She motions for him to wait, an idea coming to her.

He pulls the brush from his mouth, watching as she grabs a bright pink stick similar to the one she gave him from a cup near the sink, puts some goop on the bristles, then faces him, baring her clenched teeth at him exaggeratedly.

Wahya relaxes his face from the scowl he’d been wearing, instead trying not to laugh as she proceeds to look at him as if she’s going to growl.

“Brush!” She says for the umpteenth time through her clenched teeth, then begins sweeping the bristles over the front of her teeth, white foam building inside her mouth. Building speed, she rapidly moves the brush back and forth before opening her mouth wide, showing him how to brush the underside and behind the teeth.

Going through the entire process again, she finally spits the white foam from her mouth into the sink, rinsing her mouth with water from the faucet. She grabs the towel from the wall, dabbing her face dry, setting it down on the countertop behind her.

With a little bit of exasperation and some frustration at not being able to describe the process earlier, she says matter-of-factly, “There. That’s how you brush your teeth. Got it?”

He gives her his own exasperated expression he clicks his tongue against his teeth, retorting in Tsalagi, “Why didn’t you just do that to begin with?! Talking about it was not helpful! I can do that, Hummingbird [Walela]!”

Independently grabbing the toothpaste from the sink, Wahya carefully squeezes more of what he’s figured out is a cleanser onto the toothbrush.

Because he knows she feels frustrated with him, but due to her own miscommunications, he can’t help himself, baring his own very white teeth mockingly, like she did at him. But unlike her, he actually does growl in jest.

Caught off guard, Morgan hadn’t expected his deep growl, and besides the initial jolt of surprise by his teasing, Wahya detects a tiny bit of attraction as her breath catches ever so slightly.

“Whoa!” He hadn’t meant for that effect, trying to make a point that he isn’t an idiot or child in fun, and quickly laughs instead so that she doesn’t take his actions as a come-on.

To his relief, she lightens up just as quickly, a look of equal relief flashing across her face. But he’s not sure if her reaction is because she’s glad he’s not mad with her, or if she’s relieved that he’s not trying to flirt. The idea of the latter bothers him, much to his own surprise.

Getting down to business instead, Wahya faces the sink, surprised by the foaming cleanser and soft bristles. He’s always prided himself with his hygiene, but this stuff is fantastic, and tasty, in comparison to the twigs and pine needles he was raised using. Rinsing his mouth, he grins at himself in the mirror, admiring how good his teeth feel after going too long without a chance to clean.

With water dripping down his chin, he spots the reflection of the towel in the mirror, still sitting behind Morgan on the counter. He reaches around her to grab it, accidentally brushing against her shoulder, suddenly surprising both of them by his close proximity. The slight touch of his body brushing hers sends a spark of clarity through his mind as he reflects on the turmoil that he’s felt about her all morning.

Feeling a sudden boost of masculine confidence now, and knowing his breath smells extra fresh, he can’t help himself. With renewed determination, Wahya puts away his reservations about Morgan, changing his mind and instead deciding that he does want to flirt with her. And he wants her to know it, too! After all, she’s an eligible woman, who is obviously attracted to him. And as an eligible man himself, who may be here for who knows how long, if not indefinitely, it’s time to take a chance on opening up just a little to the beautiful and fascinating woman standing before him.

Wahya grabs the towel, then instead of maintaining his distance, he barely brushes his cheek by her face as he comes back in front of her. Pausing, as his cheek feels the warmth of hers, he whispers a single word, low and soft, gently breathing it into her ear, “Wado.”

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