The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Thirty-Eight: Storms and Sandwiches

July 2023
Morgan’s Home
Richmond City, Virginia

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

Famished after a second bout of passionate love-making and intermittent dozing, Morgan opens the side-by-side fridge, trying to decide what she should make for Wahya and herself. Wearing only a sweat sweater and panties, she finally pads across the floor to the island with her arms full of roast beef sandwich fixings. She tries to be quiet, as she’d left Wahya fast asleep, cocooned in the comfort of her bed. Glancing to the clock on the stove reading seven-twenty p.m., she smiles as the afternoon and evening seems to have flown by.

Her stomach flutters yet again, as she recalls the blissful fun they’d shared for the last few hours, and she’s glad she’d decided to stay on ‘the pill,’ after breaking up with the guy she’d started them for almost two years ago. They regulated her periods, so why not, she’d thought at the time. She hadn’t expected to be jumping in bed with anyone so soon after getting to know them, and she wonders what Wahya would have thought about a condom had she had any or the necessity to use one.

“I highly doubt fertility would be an issue on Wahya’s end!” She smirks.

Setting down the bag of bread, she slightly turns her attention to tomorrow’s events instead of Wahya’s masculine prowess, hoping her thighs won’t be as sore as she thinks they probably will be, for she’s supposed to be the one digging the small excavation while Samantha ‘supervises,’ per James’ orders.

“I’ll just have to enlist Wahya’s assistance. After all, he’s the one who worked my muscles so! Not that I’m complaining!”

Just as she opens the mayonnaise, her phone pings from the counter where she’d stowed it earlier. Grabbing it, she sees a couple unread messages, the latest being from Samantha. Wanting to ensure her sister made it home okay, she instead taps on the earlier message from Jessica, relaxing as she reads the notification that they had arrived home, and that Curtis was doing just fine. A not-so-subtle reminder ends the message, telling Morgan to call the club. Having done so already, Morgan quickly replies, then ponders about the birthday party.

“What am I going to do Saturday?! I can’t NOT go... We’ve been planning Dad’s 60th for forever! But I can’t take Wahya with me. Mom and Dad would freak if they thought... or knew I had... Well, truth or lies about any of it, they’d just freak out period... It’s just way too complicated at this point!”

“Ooh! He could hang out with James! I’ll have to ask Samantha tomorrow,” Morgan decides as she opens the more recent text from her friend and mentor.

Samantha Warner: Hey! Just finished looking up the history and geography of Ned’s property online. Seems promising for Native American settlements prior to European settlers moving in during the 1600s! See y’all tomorrow morning!

Sending Samantha a quick thumbs-up emoji and reply, she sets her phone aside again. Morgan is tempted to call the professors about the new information she learned from Wahya earlier this afternoon but decides better of it. Showing Samantha and James the drawings in person would be much more explanatory, she decides.

Washing her hands again, she takes a sip of her very cold tea still sitting on the counter, before starting in on the sandwiches again. As she spreads mayo and mustard on the sliced bread, Morgan wonders if there could be any evidence of Wahya’s people on Ned’s land. She now understands that his village had been decimated by an illness of sorts, but unsure of where exactly he was from geographically, she can only surmise that his people had probably lived near to where he’d lost the gorget. Not to downplay the tragic circumstances of Wahya’s life, but the archaeologist in her is extremely interested in figuring out what happened to his people and to possibly discover a more precise time frame for when Wahya comes from. Archaeological excavations could determine if there had been a drought making food scarce and difficult to grow, causing starvation and sickness. Or, she wonders, were they introduced to a new illness by an outside tribe? Had there been war? He was running from those other guys after all, she remembers.

“I have to ask Wahya more about what happened the day he popped into the future. Who were those guys chasing after him? Other Cherokee or some other tribe? He might even know where his own or other settlements were by the topography of the land!”

She stacks the shredded roast beef on the bread, topping both sandwiches with pickles before putting on the final piece of bread. Just before she picks up the tray to carry it back to the bedroom, she hears movement behind her.

“Osiyo,” comes the heart-melting voice - deep, sexy, and quiet.

Turning to face the boldly handsome man standing in the doorway, Morgan smiles, “Osiyo, yourself!”

He’s a sight to behold, slightly tussled, more like rugged, with only his boxers and blue button-up shirt, conveniently unbuttoned, displaying his perfect abs. Motioning to the food, she asks, “Hungry?”

Wahya advances the few feet between them, glancing at the meal she’s prepared as he leans in and gives her a deliciously deep kiss on the lips. As he pulls back, Morgan giggles, “Not exactly what I meant, but I could definitely go for a second helping of that!”

Handing him the plate with his sandwich, she looks up at him, her cheeks pink and her body heating again at his presence, “Here, lover boy. You better eat up, so you have strength for tomorrow. I’m putting you to work!” She bites her lower lip and suggestively adds, “Though you might need your strength for dessert later tonight, too.”

Wahya’s mind must not be far from hers as he leans close to her ear and seductively whispers in Tsalagi, then smiles equally suggestively. Morgan wishes she knew what he’d just said with that now familiar mischievous twinkle in his eye. He gives her a deep chuckle before giving her a peck on her lips and retreating to the kitchen table. She watches his lean body from behind, wishing she could block out the world and lock herself away with him forever.

Again, forcing herself back to reality, Morgan decides that now is as good a time as any to grab the notebook so they can ‘talk’ some more. Carrying her own sandwich, two goblets, and the half bottle of sweet red wine she’d opened last weekend, she joins Wahya at the table. Keeping the conversation via drawing light while they eat, Morgan discerns that Wahya is approximately twenty-six years old, has no siblings, and either enjoys making bows and arrows or shooting archery - maybe both. She, in turn, shows him through stick-figures and tallies of her own that she’s twenty-five, has only one sister, who he’s already met, and that her parents and sister are dentists - though as intrigued as he seems, she isn’t sure he understands the concept of dentistry.

More relaxed with the wine, the pair’s laughter finally subsides after Morgan’s somewhat successful attempt to artfully describe airplanes. To Morgan, this felt like the game Pictionary, where two teams guess what their teammate is drawing and whichever team guesses first, wins. Only, unlike the game, there’s no card or prompt verifying that what either one of them are guessing is, in fact, correct. And sometimes, she wonders if they’re on the same page at all. Eventually, they’ll learn each other’s languages, she thinks, and will have a good laugh at what they had assumed during these first attempts at communicating complex ideas.

There’s a bit of a lull now, and it’s suddenly apparent that something is on Wahya’s mind as he begins to look contemplative. Pushing their now-empty plates aside, and the notepad closer to him again, Morgan looks at him questioningly, waiting as he begins to draw - a more somber expression on his face. The picture he draws is far from what she expects, and she looks at him with concern when he’s finished. The scene covers the large page in black ink, and there’s no doubt that he’s referring to yesterday when they were on the top of the cliff, looking out over Ned’s property. What disturbs Morgan though is the frowning stick-figure-Wahya, standing away from the other two. Above him are ominous clouds, shaded heavily in black ink with lightning protruding into the sky below. For being a quick cartoonish drawing, it manages to hold much dread.

“It didn’t storm until we were already on the road back to the university,” Morgan says, trying to understand Wahya’s message.

Finally, moving on to the corner of the page, Wahya had drawn a new, smaller scene depicting her giving the gorget back to him, and she notes that they’re both smiling, and the sun shines above, instead of clouds. Furrowing her brows as she reexamines the entire page, Morgan remembers that when she went to hand the gorget to him before they had left the cliff, he had been quite distracted and that his mood had been sour thereafter, until they got back to the university.

She can feel Wahya’s eyes on her and knows he wants answers. But the more she looks at the picture, the more her apprehension grows. She remembers mentioning to Samantha just how beautiful a day it was, with the sun shining and a much cooler breeze than the usual stifling and humid heat of a Virginian summer in the city. Yet, Wahya seems determined that there had been a storm over them instead, and she questions how he could have experienced this - the storm had been in the distance.

Pointing again at the secondary picture, she thinks through it aloud, “And you’re saying the storm went away when I came to get you and handed the gorget back to you? I don’t know...” Then realization hits her, “Wahya! Did you feel any pain with this storm?!”

She points to his stomach in the drawing with the storm and grimaces in pretend pain. Wahya understands and nods quickly, answering in English with an affirmative ‘yes,’ and putting his hand over his bare stomach, showing her where the pain had begun, and again she feels the knot of guilt in the pit of her stomach.

“If only you experienced this, it has to be connected to the time warp that brought you here. In the lab it was like little electrical charges. And this was an electrical storm! God, it’s getting bigger - much, much bigger!”

She looks into his eyes apprehensively, unsure of what to say or do, but suddenly feeling terribly guilty inside for ever doubting him about the gorget. It really had protected him both at the lab and now on the cliffside. Then, even more guilt creeps into her as she now understands his mood when they’d left the cliff. It all made sense, and her worries earlier this afternoon that something had been wrong were now completely validated. She had been selfish, thinking about herself all the way back, while Wahya had experienced something horrific as she and Samantha went about saying how beautiful the weather was.

“I am so sorry, Wahya. I didn’t realize,” she apologizes to him, humiliation filling the pit of her stomach.

Wahya knows what the word ‘sorry’ means, and though obviously uncertain about why she’s sorry, quickly tries to reassure her, patting the gorget still around his neck.

“Tla. No sorry,” he commands, shaking his head in confusion. He touches the gorget again, then places his hand over her chest, and looking her deeply in the eyes, simply says, “Wado.”

He picks up her hand, kissing her palm sweetly, and Morgan can’t remember ever feeling so comforted in her fears than she did with him now. Giving him a tentative smile, she knows he’s thanking her for saving him from the storm by giving him the gorget at just the right time. No wonder he was so grateful for the parachute cord she’d provided as a means in which he could hang the stone around his neck. As coincidental as it may have been, Morgan now shivers at the thought that she just might have saved him from some horrible fate.

Knowing more important things are at stake and at Wahya’s insistence that she not be sorry, Morgan allows herself to forget about her stupidity yesterday. Continuing her verbal thought process, she takes Wahya’s hand in hers on the table, “I wonder why I experienced the anomaly in the lab and not out at the farm? Maybe it was proximity to you or something? I don’t know, but I wish I knew what it all means.”

Cringing inside as two possible scenarios come to mind, she determines that either the portal is trying to take him back to his own time or launch him into a whole other time altogether. If some sort of portal like the one he fell through opened, it wouldn’t be nearly as scary as these occurrences, making her feel leery.

“This can’t happen again without my knowing! I feel terrible - like I failed you! What if I hadn’t handed you the gorget when I did!?” Holding back the tears that suddenly want to surface at the fact that she could be completely oblivious to something as large as an other-dimensional storm.

“There must be some sign or signal we can use if you feel or see something like this again,” she muses aloud. “How about the word, ‘storm?!’ That would work!” She says excitedly, then shakes her head. “Nah, it wasn’t a storm the first time, and what if it’s not like a storm next time?”

Wahya looks at her expectantly when she voices her second suggestion with more enthusiasm, “I’ve got it! Let’s just call it what it is! Or at least what I think it is... A time warp!”

Referencing Wahya’s drawing again, Morgan teaches the handsome man next her the term “time warp” as the definition for any occurrence of stomach pains associated with storms, lightning, or static charges - anything similar to what he’d experienced in the lab or at the farm. They repeat the words together several times and Wahya seems to be satisfied to finally have a definitive means in which to communicate this unsettling happening.

“Time warp,” he says smoothly one last time, before blowing out a long breath of air and regarding her seriously. Morgan can feel the intensity of his trust in her, and in a way, it scares her. Her own ignorance as to what’s going on, or what to do about it frightens her. But for Wahya, she knows she’ll do anything.

Giving him a smile and a reassuring peck on the forehead as she stands to pick up their plates, taking them to the sink, Morgan queries herself further, wondering how - scientifically - the gorget acts as a buffer against the time warp? “If I can figure out what makes it so special, then we might have the key to how all this happened in the first place.”

Morgan turns off the water, shaking herself from her thoughts and pads back to the table where Wahya’s head is down yet again as he intently draws something else. Leaning on her elbows catty-corner from him, she asks, “Whatcha doin’?”

Finishing his quick drawing, Wahya turns his face up to her, taking her hand in his. With his other hand, he points to the drawing he’d done earlier with the time warp on the cliffside and begins speaking in Tsalagi. It’s obvious to Morgan that whatever he’s saying comes from his heart, the sincerity of his feelings apparent in his eyes and tone. When he’s done with his short monologue, he points to her chest, and finally to the drawing he’d just completed.

Looking down at the picture, she recognizes the now-familiar concept of herself, frowning in the drawing. Thinking for a moment, she realizes that he’s telling her that she seems worried or down after knowing about the time warp.

She gives him a weak smile and nods as she explains simply in English, “Yeah, it doesn’t make me happy because it seems to hurt you, and it just looks really scary.”

Wahya draws another ‘Morgan’ next to the worried one, crossing out the frowning figure completely. The new ‘Morgan’ is smiling, and she feels her own lips begin to turn up in a real smile as he’s so adeptly captured her feelings with his stick-figures.

“Tla odanvtedisgi,” His deep voice sounds more commanding now, and she imagines that he’s telling her to stop worrying and be happy.

With her smile fading again, she replies, “That’s easier said than done, Wahya. Not when you have something like that time warp [she points to the drawing of the time warp storm] hovering over you, and I didn’t even know that you were in danger. It was pure chance that I gave you the gorget before something bad happened!”

Wahya takes a deep breath in return, giving her a reassuring look, then further reiterates his statement by using the pen to once again cross through the ‘worried’ drawing.

“Morgan, tla odanvtedisgi,” he says firmly, but not in anger.

When she looks at him with partial confusion, not truly knowing what his words mean, Wahya startles her, quickly tearing the entire page with the storm out of the notepad, then more carefully, tears the image of the smiling Morgan from the rest of the page, setting it down directly in front of her. Finally, he effectively crumples the rest of the drawing up, setting the ball of paper down firmly on the table.

“Tla,” he shakes his head. “Tla odanvtedisgi. No,” he repeats the words and looks into her eyes with a sort of pleading resolution.

Morgan is sure that his frustrated words and drawings are his way of telling her that worrying about the time warps won’t help. And she sighs with resignation, knowing that it’s true. Cracking a half smile, she scoots a little closer to him, the corner of the table between them. Cupping his face with one hand, she promises with a tender smile, “I’ll never stop worrying about you, Wahya.”

Wahya’s own apparent concern about her happiness melts her heart, and she maintains her stance about his wellbeing. She cares too much for him to not worry about him now. But she also knows that Wahya is right, and that there’s nothing she can do at this point, beyond ensuring that he has the gorget on him at all times, for it seems to be his only weapon against the supernatural forces reaching out to him. She also realizes that she should count her blessings for the time she has with him and the relationship that’s forming between them now - for the future is very uncertain.

Relaxed again and finally coming to terms with her emotions, Morgan finishes the last of her wine, setting the goblet aside and leaning closer to the brave again, giving him a mischievous smile, “Even if I can’t stop worrying about you, I can think of something else we can do that’ll help us both forget about it for a while!”

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

CHEROKEE WORDS TO KNOW:
No = Tla
Worry = Odanvtedisgi

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