The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Twenty-Nine: Vanilla

July 2023
Morgan’s Home
Richmond City, Virginia

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

After the magic-induced storm on top of the cliffside at Ned’s farm, Wahya felt okay physically, but was quite shaken mentally and emotionally. By the time they’d gotten back in the car, it was completely apparent that Morgan and Samantha hadn’t experienced any of effects of the storm, and he couldn’t, for the life of him, figure out how to tell them about it.

By the time Morgan had brought him back home, he still didn’t know what to make of it. How had the landscape changed so drastically in only two days? Trees had been cut and cleared, and crops grown overnight! And even more puzzling is how he’d jumped from the cliffside yesterday, fell through the trees, hit the ground then suddenly found himself in rolling right into Morgan’s lab so many miles away. That was physically impossible without some sort of divine intervention from the Great Spirit or other supernatural force.

So, instead of trying to explain it to the women, Wahya had silently sat in the back of the car on the way back to the university, contemplating the immense amount of information and questions he’d been hit with this afternoon. He couldn’t seem to wrap his mind around what purpose the Great Spirit would have for placing him in this alternate world. Why was there even an alternate world to begin with?! Then, he questioned the storm that only he could see or feel. And what about the reoccurring stomach pains that miraculously disappeared the moment Morgan touched his shoulder and put the gorget in his hand? He’d always known the gorget was supposed to be a protectant of sorts, but never having experienced a blatant supernatural force, he was a bit stunned. Did The Traveler, who’d given it to him all those years ago, know of its power or that he would need it now?

Finally, the residual sensation of Morgan’s touch on his shoulder refuses to leave his pondering mind. Even after he’d showered, now waiting for her in the living room, he could still feel the somewhat continuous, tingling pressure left by her fingertips when she’d brought him out of the storm on the cliffside - much more muted than before, but still there.

“I don’t want to think about what would have happened had she not touched me and given the gorget back!” He thinks to himself, cringing internally as he remembers the incapacitating pain from the lab.

His thoughts drift specifically to Morgan, as he idly looks at the photographs on the living room bookshelf, playing with the gorget, safely tucked in his pocket. They wander back to the passionate kiss he shared with her earlier, just as she enters the room from behind him.

“Hey,” Morgan wakes him from his pondering.

Remembering the taste of her lips, he drinks her in, interested and turned on by her different, yet just as beautiful dressed-down look. Trying to play it off, Wahya looks back at the photo he’d been examining earlier and asks who the woman with Morgan is in the picture. She returns the answer using words in her tongue and their established hand signals, though he already had an idea of the answer even before she entered the room. The mother and daughter duo look quite a bit alike, and Wahya can tell that Morgan is very fond of the older woman, not only by her expression in the photo, but by her atmosphere now as she explains who the woman is.

In fact, all the people in the photos on Morgan’s bookshelf look happy with each other, and he momentarily feels the sorrow of losing his own mother, relatives, and friends to the great sickness. Hiding it with a smile, he follows Morgan as she brings him the rest of the way back to the here and now by suggesting they go eat.

Several minutes later, Wahya can’t understand why she thinks his reaction to her cooking is so funny, as he sits catty-corner from his hostess at the polished oak kitchen table. Sure, in trying to communicate with gestures and the universal sound for ‘yum,’ he knows he probably was a little extra enthusiastic. Enjoying her laughter, he tries to convince her in Tsalagi, “I have no idea what this meat is, but it’s delicious!”

He rubs his stomach and tears off another bite of the white meat with his teeth as she blushes and shakes her head, “No, it really is very good!”

With all honesty, this had to be his favorite meal thus far since being in this world, the seasonings creating a whole new experience for his palette. As they continue eating, the attempt at conversation slows and Wahya begins to wonder how he’ll be able to repay her for her kindness. At home he would have done some sort of chore for her, or hunted a rabbit, deer, or some other type of game she liked.

“I don’t even know what chores need to be done or what they would entail here. And I’m not sure how or where they hunt and gather food. I don’t even think everyone grows their own food.”

For dessert Morgan presents bowls of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, produced from the fascinatingly cold cellar-box she calls a refrigerator. Wahya finds the creamy delicacy more than extraordinary, “Wow! This is delicious!”

As he digs in, he thinks about how his father, Grey Bear, used to devour his mother’s grape dumplings. She was well known for her cooking, and especially her infamous dessert.

Laughing inside, he remembers his parents teasing, “Mother would tell me that I needed to ensure I marry a woman who was a good cook. Then Father would tease her that he should know, for her cooking is what made him fall in love with her, making it easy for him to forget about how badly she snored and stole the furs at night. Mother would pretend to hit him with her stirring stick and say that if he didn’t quit lying, she would make him find his dinner elsewhere. They would always laugh, then give each other a little kiss or other sign of affection. Everyone knew that they loved each other more than anything.”

Wahya suddenly feels emotional, not only for his own sadness over his mother’s death but knowing how sad his father still felt after losing the love of his life. “Ahhh, this is depressing! Get back to the present, Adatlisvi Wahya!”

Refocusing again, he considers the creamy delicacy Morgan called ‘ice cream,’ deciding to make an attempt to find out what the two distinct flavors are called. He holds up a spoonful of the slightly melting light brown ice cream, which he decidedly likes the best, “What is this one? What is the flavor?”

Morgan incorrectly guesses his meaning and simply replies with uncertainty, “Ice cream?”

He shakes his head, “No, I know it’s ice cream. What’s the difference in flavors?”

As he’d already eaten all of the white-colored ice cream, he reaches across the table, carefully taking the spoon from her hand, and to her confusion, scoops up some of the lighter-colored dessert from her bowl. Raising both his own and her spoons in turn, Wahya acknowledges that they’re both ice cream, but that they’re not the same.

“Oh!” Morgan exclaims. “Chocolate and Vanilla!” She says each one slowly, pointing to each as she repeats the words, and Wahya copies the English words a few times.

“Cho-co-late. Va-ni-lla.”

“Yep, you got it!” Morgan smiles back at him. “Chocolate and vanilla ice cream!”

With a twinkle of mischief in his eye, Wahya takes the last bite of his chocolate dessert and looks at her spoon in his hand appreciatively, pretending to have no intention of giving it back to her.

“Hey, I’d like that back, please!” Morgan soon pleads with a slight bit of hesitancy.

With everything on his mind since the storm on the cliffside, Wahya just now realizes that Morgan has been a bit distant compared to the flirty tease she’d been before. In fact, he surmises, she’s actually been a little nervous and reserved around him - even now as he teases her.

“Surely she doesn’t think badly about kissing me?!” He liked the fun, flirty side of her - not that he doesn’t like her softer side, too, but he definitely hopes she doesn’t regret that delicious kiss! He didn’t! Something about the creamy texture of the delectable dessert he’s holding in both hands has the word “flirt” all over it, and he quickly decides to see if he can loosen her up again, hoping she’s open to his advances.

With his eyes locked on hers, and just the hint of a smirk, Wahya makes as if he were going to hand her spoon back, but just as she reaches out to take it, he leans in and takes the bite of ice cream instead. Morgan’s eyes go wide in surprise as his candor, and she opens her mouth to complain, when he reaches over, stealing her entire bowl.

With a shocked gasp and a shocked smile, Morgan exclaims, “No - you - didn’t!?”

Wahya starts shoveling the ice cream as though he’s going to eat it and can’t help but laugh aloud at her second gasp of horror.

“Wahya! Don’t you dare!”

He didn’t need to know English to understand her tone, so when she partially stands to reach over for the bowl, Wahya purposefully turns his body away from her, curling his massive arm around the bowl so she can’t get access, and deliberately takes an extra-large bite of her ice cream.

“Wahya!” Morgan exclaims again, standing all the way and putting her hand on her hip as she continues her rant. He’s sure she’s telling him how greedy he is, or something to that affect, and he laughs as he swallows the cold substance down.

“Now, now Walela [Hummingbird], this is mine, now!” He calls her by his established nickname for her, as she hovers nearby. Stealing a glance at her from his protective position around the bowl, Wahya can see that she’s trying to hide her smile, despite seeming to be defeated. With both hands on her hips, she shakes her head, pretending to glare at him. He hadn’t felt this silly around a girl since... well, it’s been a while and it feels good!

So, he takes another large bite of her ice cream, and Morgan gives him one more admonishing demand, to which he ignores, before the unexpected happens. To his utter shock, Morgan defiantly rounds the corner of the table and pokes him in the ribs. Having been ticklish his whole life, Wahya inadvertently jumps in response to her simple, yet very effective attack.

“Yeow!” He bursts out in surprise, as he quickly resumes hold of her ice cream, letting out a shocked laugh. Still turned away from her, he reprimands teasingly, “Walela!”

Having recovered quickly, he scoops yet a third mouthful of ice cream up, nearly reaching his mouth with the spoon when Morgan adamantly stabs him again with her forefinger in a more intense jab to his sensitive side, making him jump again. This time though, she continues to dig her fingers into his side until he relinquishes in a fit of laughter, giving her easy access to the bowl.

“Alewisdodi! Alewisdodi! [Stop! Stop!]” He pleads as he tries to catch his breath between bursts of laughter.

Giggling in response, Morgan triumphantly retrieves her partially melted ice cream, obviously proud of her ability to get the better of the man twice her size. She did indeed surprise him with her relentless attack, and he thinks to himself that as determined as she seems to be, she probably wouldn’t have given up if he’d put up more of a fight on his end. As fun as that could have been, he figures he probably shouldn’t push his luck too far.

As her giggles start to subside and she looks like she’s going to sit back down to eat the rest of her dessert, she stops and begins to laugh hysterically, clutching her side. Narrowing his eyes, Wahya gives her a suspiciously quizzical look, unsure of what’s just so funny. Stepping over to the kitchen sink, Morgan dampens a paper towel, bringing it back to the table. Still smiling with laughter, she points to her own left cheek, then to his, “You’ve got some on your face!”

Wahya reaches up with his fingers to wipe at his chiseled jaw and face, finding that in their playing around, he’s ended up with vanilla ice cream on his face. He shoots her surprised look, obviously pretending to non-verbally say, ‘Look what you did!’

“Walela! Shame on you!” He actually says instead, having difficulty hiding his smirk.

Knowing an opportunity when he sees one, Wahya can’t pass on using the situation to his advantage. Not sure where exactly he’d made a mess, he is certain that Morgan is referring to his right cheek, as he can see her eyes settling in that direction. He takes the damp paper towel from her, intentionally choosing the wrong side, and vigorously rubs his left cheek with the cloth as Morgan shakes her head, still all smiles.

“No! The other side!” She corrects him with a laugh, gesturing towards his right side, and he pretends to figure out his ‘mistake,’ with the intention of avoiding the one spot where he knows there’s ice cream.

“Uh, not quite... More to the right... No... Um...”

Falling for the bait, Morgan steps closer, around the side of the table again, in an attempt to help him find the right spot, while obviously trying not to grab the cloth and do it herself - something, he notes, she has a bad habit of wanting to do. As soon as she’s an arm’s length away, Wahya dips his finger in the remnants of brown ice cream left at the bottom of his bowl, and reaches up to swipe Morgan’s cheek, leaving a chocolaty streak from the peak of her cheekbone down to the corner of her mouth.

“Ahhh!” Morgan gasps, eyes wide, genuinely caught off guard as she straightens in surprise. But, as he’d hoped, she’s far from offended, unsuccessfully hiding her smile as she gapes at him, shocked by his brazen flirt.

He’s not sure what sort of retaliation she might have in mind, so taking the opportunity while she seems both uncommonly speechless and unsure of what to do next, Wahya slowly stands, suddenly towering over her, his laughter and smile fading. At this close proximity, he feels her dazzling green-blue-yellow eyes boring into his soul as they suddenly glaze over with desire, and his breath comes in short as the magnetism of her beauty pulls him in.

He markedly glances down at the chocolate on her cheekbone, barely wets his lips, and with a quiet, yet deeply raspy voice he says, “Walela... Let me help you with that.”

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