The Artifact (Book 2, Time Trilogy) (EDITING)

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Chapter Fifty: Confessions

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

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

Wahya is fascinated as James takes him out to his extended garage, or rather workshop. Morgan had dropped him off on her way to procure her dad’s birthday cake, then she was off to the beach for her family’s get-together.

He hadn’t put a lot of thought into the fact that Morgan had always been within a somewhat close proximity to him from the moment of his arrival in her time, and it suddenly felt odd to know she would be so far away. They’d grown so close over these few days, and his heart aches a bit knowing he wouldn’t see her until much later today. But James is already proving to be an amenable host as he shows the brave his woodworking area, where several pieces of his craft lay in various stages of completion.

To Wahya’s surprise, James had also managed to find an online resource to translate English into Tsalagi, reading various words from his phone in an attempt to further their communication. While James can’t make complete sentences, he is able to search for specific words relating to the objects and ideas he’s referring to—namely the beautiful wooden vessels and figurines that he seems to have a knack for creating.

Wahya knew someone had to make all the utensils and items people use in this time, as they did in his own time, but the craftsmanship and individuality of such objects here are very different from the items he’s accustomed to. Morgan’s tableware, for example, is unusually perfect and identical in shape, size, and color, not to mention made from very smooth, glossy material he assumes is a clay of some sort. And then there was glass and the even more amazing shiny silver material Morgan called metal. But James, on the other hand, creates his own wooden tableware, each one unique in design, and Wahya likes it a lot.

He listens as James rambles on while they peruse his workstation and table, throwing in the occasional Tsalagi word as he refers to his phone for the translation: atlisdodi [bowl], adidodi [spoon], and gasgilo [table] to name a few. It’s really less about translating the conversation, rather than an attempt on James’ part to learn Tsalagi vocabulary and teach Wahya English words. But as James seems to be just as interested in learning languages as Wahya, both find the exercise to be a fun diversion. Listening to James speak English in full sentences also allows Wahya the opportunity to pick up on speech patterns and inflections, so he doesn’t mind the fact that he can’t understand James—yet. He has every intention of doing so before long though.

“Yeah, I was terrible at woodworking in high school,” James goes on. “But something flipped during college and I suddenly had a desire to try it again. Maybe it’s because I wanted to learn more about how people from Neolithic Britain would’ve lived, and this was my way of experiencing their lives just a little.” James laughs, “Samantha swears I must’ve had a past life there, because if she’d let me, I’d recreate the whole thing. You know, furniture, utensils, clothes... You name it, I’m fascinated with how it was all made!”

Samantha appears through the door, hearing her name. “Did you call, sweetheart?”

“No,” James looks up from his workbench, “I was just telling Wahya about how you won’t let me go all out and change up our home decor for a more Neolithic style.” He gives her a wink, and she laughs in return, stepping out to where the two stand.

“I don’t mind studying it, but I don’t wanna live it,” she states with a smile. Then she teases her husband, a hint of flirtation in her tone. “If I let you, you’d be in buckskin tunics and leather shoes instead of the handsome button-up you’ve got on now.”

She goes in for a tiny peck on his lips, then turns to go back in the house. But James gently grabs her from behind, wrapping his arms around her middle, his face alight with passion as he kisses her lightly on the neck. Into her hair he quietly teases, “I think you’d look mighty fine in a buckskin tunic, coming to about, oh, upper thigh.”

She giggles and blushes, sliding out of James’ grasp, seemingly glad that Wahya can’t understand what they’re saying. Over her shoulder she teases in return, heading back inside, “Wouldn’t you like to see that?”

Giving the couple space, Wahya studies James’ model megaliths, not needing to know English to understand the flirtations of the couple about a decade his senior. He’s happy for their apparent love, hoping that his eventual marriage one day will be equally full of love.

With Samantha gone back inside, James turns his attention back to his guest, acknowledging the replica landscape displays sitting encased on either side of his collection of finalized bowls. They look like something out of a museum exhibit or model train setup, and James tries to express that he built them himself.

Wahya is fascinated with the miniature landscapes, complete with tiny green, rolling hills, trees, and several tall, gray stones strategically placed in circular positions. He wonders what they represent, for James seems to be very proud of them.

“This one is Stonehenge,” James proclaims. “It’s a famous historic site in England that dates back even further than your time.” Then pointing to the other, he continues, “But this one is Avebury—my favorite. Samantha and I met there a few summers ago when we were hired on to do field sessions through the university exchange program between the UK and States. She was in charge of the archaeological excavation and I had the anthropology students. We weren’t actually studying at the megaliths that year but were at a site close by where a well-known healer, or I guess what you’d call a medicine woman, lived.”

Wahya notices James trailing off and wonders what he’s thinking about. It must be a fond memory he determines, one of which talking about the models has unearthed from his mind. Finally, James concludes, “We got hired on permanently after that, so still go out to England every summer to different Neolithic sites for the university’s field sessions. We’d be there now if we didn’t just have Melia. Maybe next summer. We’ll see.”

Changing the subject, James moves over to his equipment. “So, you wanna try your hand at wood turning?”

To Wahya’s delight, the next few hours are spent experimenting with James’ wood turning tools. It felt good putting his hands and mind to use. Making tools and household implements is a necessity in his world, and yet doing it as an art form seems just as satisfying in its own way, if not more so, he thinks.

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

July 2023
Nellie Bay Golf Club
Nellie Bay, Virginia

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

Morgan had breathed a huge sigh of relief once the birthday cake had been safely delivered to the clubhouse. It was out of her hands, and if something happened to it, it wouldn’t be her fault.

“There’s my two favorite nephews!” Morgan bends to give Curtis the first hug. “How’s your ear feeling?”

The tiny blonde boy beams. “Lots better! Mommy doesn’t have to put the stinky drops in my ears at night now!”

“Well, that’s good!” she laughs, then gives Andy a squeeze next.

“Where’s Wahya?” Disappointment is all over his face as peers into her eyes. “I thought you would bring him. I really like him!”

Morgan smiles, knowing her mother is listening to every word. “He had other things to do today, but I’m sure he would have liked to see you, too.”

Before Diane Walters can get her question out, Morgan turns to her mother, sweeping her up in a big hug and exclaims, “Mom! You got your hair cut! It’s so cute!”

Diane pats her short bob and laughs, “Oh, thank you dear!” She looks her younger daughter up and down, holding Morgan’s arms out, and smiles appreciatively. “Let me see you. It’s been too long, and you don’t live that far away to stay away as much as you do! You’re looking good, Morgan! What is this about a man at your house?”

Her mother doesn’t miss a beat, and Morgan glances over to her sister. Jessica shakes her head, discreetly confirming that she hadn’t told their mother anything about Wahya.

“Andy says he doesn’t speak English and has long hair. You’re not dating a bum, are you?” Diane continues, ousting the boy as the inadvertent tattle-tell.

Shocked by her mom’s boldness, Morgan lets out a gasping laugh, instantly covering her mouth with her hand. She wonders when exactly her mom had become such a snob, not remembering her parents being so ‘upper-crust’ when she was a youth. They’d been struggling dental students when they met in college and slowly built their way to the top, working hard to save money, not spending more than they had. Proper investing of both of their incomes at their posh dental office ensure they can easily live in a giant house on Nellie Bay, and that Morgan’s father, Brent, can buy his wife everything he couldn’t when they were younger.

“Mother!” Morgan scolds, “Give me a bit of credit. Just because a guy has long hair doesn’t make him a bum!”

“So, you are dating?”

She hated it when her mother tricked her like that. Morgan thinks for a second, not wanting to lie about Wahya. After all, she had right out professed her love for him not only to his face, but yelled it at Emory yesterday. But she didn’t want her parents to judge her quickly escalating relationship either. Deciding to tread with care in a gray area in between, Morgan repeats the fictitious story she’d already given her sister.

“He’s actually a student from South America that was supposed to be at Dr. Clark’s dig in Mexico but got sent to the university instead. He didn’t have any place to stay, so he’s staying with me.”

Her mother raises an eyebrow, and Morgan continues, “He’s a really nice guy. And no, he doesn’t speak English. And yes, he wears his hair long—in the style of his people. I do like him a lot, but his situation is complicated, so we’re taking things one day at a time.”

Taken aback by all the information and the lack of evasiveness, Diane replies, her eyes still a little wide, “Well, that’s good dear. I just worry about you, you know.” She looks at Morgan a bit dejected and softens her tone while giving her daughter a gentle hug. “You’ll always be my baby, so I have to worry.”

Breaking from the hug after a moment, Morgan returns a tender smile. “I know, Mom. And I love you for worrying about me. Now, where’s the birthday boy so we can get this party started?”

Jessica answers, “Dad’s been out on the course since early this morning, but his buddies should be bringing him back soon. They bought him a round of golf for his birthday.”

Morgan laughs, taking her sister’s arm as the group makes their way to the back deck of the clubhouse, overlooking the golf course. “Has his game improved? If he’s as bad as the last time I went with him, we’ll be waiting till supper.” The other two women chuckle in return.

Jessica releases the boys who are dying to play on the expansive lawn while the three adults take seats on the shady deck, enjoying the cooling sea breeze the bay provides. After a bit of mundane conversation, Diane sees one of her friends from her quilting club. “Oh, there’s Gretchen. I need to ask her something.”

Leaving the girls on their own, Jessica sighs, “Gossiping Gretchen. She won’t be back till Dad comes off the course.”

Glad for the opportunity, Morgan blurts to her sister, “I’m in love, Jess!”

Jessica nearly chokes on her iced tea, swinging her legs down from the wooden ottoman to sit up and face the younger Walters daughter. “Whoa! That was fast for someone who wasn’t thinking about romance on Wednesday!”

“Okay, I lied that day. I think I was already falling then.”

Jessica giggles, optimism glowing in her eyes. “And how does he feel about you?”

Morgan clears her throat. “We are definitely on the same page. Well, at least I hope so...” She wants to tell her sister everything, yet she knows she can’t. Yet, Emory’s words from yesterday won’t get out of her head and doubt clouds her mind. Was she really looking at the entire situation objectively, or has she taken a more selfish route? “It’s just that I don’t want him to go back... uh, home. And I’m not even really sure if he wants to stay.”

Jessica gives her sister a contemplative look, the conflict evident in Morgan’s eyes. “I know there’s a language barrier, but you have asked him right out what he wants, right?”

Morgan shakes her head guiltily, knowing she hadn’t even tried.

“Is it because you don’t know how,” Jessica begins, “or that you don’t want to hear that he might not want to stay?”

Tears spring to Morgan’s eyes, and she counters, “But I love him...”

Taking Morgan’s hands in hers, Jessica chuckles knowingly, then tenderly replies, “Hey. It’s okay. It’s not like you can’t go and see each other if he doesn’t stay. He would have to go back home just on the basis of getting a visa and whatever else if he wanted to stay in the US anyways. And it’s not like Columbia is that far away. You could always visit each other!”

Fresh tears appear as Morgan knows just how impossible visiting Wahya in the past would truly be. Seating herself next to Morgan, Jessica pulls her close. “Morgan, it’s okay! I know how you feel, but you can’t change what has to be, and you can’t make people do or feel the way you want them to, no matter how hard you try.”

“But I know he loves me, too!”

Jessica closes her eyes momentarily, takes a meditative breath, as she always does before delving out heavy advice. “I’m not saying that, Morgan. All I’m saying is that if you really, truly love someone, you can let them go when you have to. And if it’s meant to be, you’ll find your way back to each other. Otherwise, they were in your life for a time for a reason, but not meant to be forever.”

While Jessica’s words make all the sense in the world, Morgan retaliates anyways. “You were the one who told me to go for it! Now you’re saying it might not work out?”

Propping Morgan back up on her own, Jessica straightens, looking her sister in the eye and handing her a tissue from her purse. “Look here, I didn’t say to go for it because I knew he was your soul mate and that you would last forever.” She waves her hand. “Love happens. Sometimes it’s forever kind of love, but often it’s meant for just a season of your life. That doesn’t lessen the importance of it. And that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it when the opportunity arises. But it does mean that if you want to do justice to the love you shared, then you must let it happen as it will, not as you want. Forcing love and fate is a surefire way of killing it.”

Morgan closes her eyes, willing the tears to quit, and nods her head in reply as she whispers, “I know.”

Giving Morgan another squeeze, the two sit quietly for a time, until Jessica points across the grassy field. “I’ll bet that’s Dad coming back now, and Mom will be done talking with Gretchen soon. Go freshen up and I’ll be waiting for you, okay?” Morgan stands as Jessica gives her one more thought, “It’ll all work out for the best no matter what happens, you’ll see.”

Morgan leaves for the ladies’ room, mostly guilt-ridden over her lack of concern over Wahya’s wants in the matter. As she cools her face with a damp paper towel, she realizes that she’d been attempting to force her will on time itself, purposefully trying to hinder the electrical warps with the gorget and by telling Wahya to fear the stormy warps.

Hell, I honestly don’t even know what the warps are. But they’re probably meant to take him back to his own time. Instead, I’ve been telling myself that the gorget was to protect him from the physical pain the warps caused him. In reality, I think I’ve just been trying to protect my own heart.

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

Adidodi = Spoon

Atlisdodi = Bowl

Gasgilo = Table

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