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

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Chapter Fifty-One: Birthday Presents and History Lessons

July 2023
Nellie Bay Golf Club
Nellie Bay, Virginia

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

Feeling more refreshed, Morgan meets Jessica, her mom, and the two boys in the club’s dining room, while they wait for her father to come out of the men’s locker room. She peruses the menu, then helps Andy read his, even though he knew he was going to get chicken tenders and fries before he’d even arrived at the table. The restaurant is full today, but tucked away in the corner, the noise is muted as soft music plays over the sound system.

Finally, Brent arrives, his jovial laughter garnering his family’s attention. “I’ve improved my game, only losing ten balls to the water. And now that that’s over, I couldn’t ask for a better birthday—my whole family together!”

Rising, Morgan greets her dad with a giant hug and a kiss on his bearded cheek. “I’m just glad you didn’t get lost out there,” she laughs. “Happy Birthday, Dad!”

“Thanks, sweetheart,” he returns with a soft grin and a squeeze. “It’s good to have you here!”

A delightful lunch ensues, filled with laughter and lighthearted conversation. Morgan is regaled with the current ongoings of the family dental business, while she fills them in on her own work, Wahya not far from her mind. Finally, it’s time for cake. The serving staff rolls the fanciful white and blue two-tiered dessert out, already lit with candles. Soon, everyone in the restaurant joins in on the “Birthday Song,” with a good-sized round of applause coming after the final off-key note. Morgan’s dad blows out the candles in one big breath, and after another round of applause from those at the table, Curtis asks his grandfather what he’d wished for.

“I can’t tell you what I wished for, Curt, otherwise it won’t come true.” His smile turns soft as he looks at everyone around the table, giving his wife’s hand a loving squeeze. “You know, I don’t really need to wish for a thing. God has blessed me with good health and a career that I not only love, but have done well in. And most of all, I’m blessed to just have all of you. A man couldn’t ask for a better family at fifty years of age.”

All three women find themselves a bit teary-eyed, and Morgan surmises that despite the ups and downs of life, they all really do have much to be grateful for. After one week with Wahya, she clearly sees that their lives, with all their modern conveniences, are much less stressful, or at least easier to manage, in comparison to where he comes from and the life he’s lived.

Morgan watches with a full heart as Diane gives her husband tickets for a seven-day Caribbean cruise. Jessica presents a special men’s facial care package, complete with an ergonomic beard trimmer. And for Grandpa, the boys both give hand-drawn cards and a gift certificate to the movie theater—enough for tickets, popcorn, and drinks for the three of them.

“This is from me,” Morgan says at last, handing her gift to her father. “Happy Birthday, Dad.”

Brent opens the small, elegantly wrapped box from his youngest daughter to find an antique pocket watch. The inside is engraved with “Happy 50th Birthday, Dad! Love you always, Morgan.”

“I thought this one would go nicely with your collection,” she explains, knowing her dad’s penchant for old timepieces.

“Oh, sweetheart, it’s lovely! Thank you!” He pats her hand, then admires the miniature clock again before Jessica calls for a toast and the group raises their glasses in honor of their patriarch.

Finally, as conversation winds down, the boys ask if they can go back outside, and beg their grandfather to come along. Looking at her watch, Morgan decides that now would be a good time to take her leave, for Wahya’s translation session with Tracie should be ending soon and she’s dying to know what’s transpired.

“Oh, Morgan, it’s Saturday. Are you sure you won’t stay the night and head home tomorrow?” her mother asks.

“Yeah,” Dad chimes in. “Maybe we can talk your mom into fixing waffles and scrambled eggs for breakfast. We only get the fattening breakfasts when someone stays over.”

Morgan giggles at her dad’s attempt at bribery and to trick her mother into fixing his favorite food. “As much as I would love that, I can’t. I have to get back.”

She trails off and her mother proudly, yet coyly fills in, “She’s got a boyfriend, dear.”

Brent raises his eyebrows in surprise, tentatively smiling. “How am I just hearing about this?”

Interrupting her parents, Morgan tries not to blush, while Jessica attempts to stifle her own smile. “Like I told Mom, we’re taking it day by day, so don’t go celebrating just yet.”

“Who said anything about celebrating?” her father says half seriously. “What’s this guy’s name anyways?”

“Wahya!” Andy exclaims with pride. “And he’s a real Indian!”

Morgan’s blush comes on full force, her embarrassment now obvious. Her love life is not something she necessarily wanted to discuss at her father’s birthday.

“From Columbia to be exact,” Jessica picks up for Andy.

And Curtis continues, “Andy says he helped bake cookies while I was at the hospital!”

“So, everyone knows about him except for me?” Brent states more than asks with wide-eyed chagrin.

Morgan laughs suddenly. She hadn’t been able to get one word about Wahya in edgewise, yet her family had somehow gathered enough information on their own to fill her father in without her.

“It’s okay, Dad,” Morgan finally manages, her face still flushed. “I like him a lot, but things are complicated with his situation right now, so we’ll see how things go.” Yet, as she addresses the entire family, a sudden hope that she just might be able to bring Wahya to see them one day, surfaces in her heart. She stands. “I love you guys, but I must be off.”

After everyone had their fill of hugs and kisses, Morgan finally gets back on the road to Richmond City. Filled with happiness that she did come to her father’s party and had been able to spend quality time with her loved ones, Jessica’s words still echo in her mind. While a part of her can imagine bringing Wahya into her family, another part of her knows that he would be missing birthdays and celebrations with his own family should he stay in this time. Her heart aches at either prospect. If he goes, she’ll miss him. Yet, if he stays he’ll never have precious moments with his own family ever again.

With uncertainty and a pang of grief in the pit of her stomach, she watches the time on her dashboard, eying her silent phone as she drives. James promised he’d call when they were done, if not sooner, and his call couldn’t come soon enough.

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

July 2023
Richmond City University’s Medical Clinic
Richmond City, Virginia

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

Wahya has so many questions for Tracie, James, and even Emory. Yet, determining what is frivolous, and what is important has made it difficult to know where to start. Tracie sits at her desk, with Wahya adjacent from her and James and Emory off to the side. So that Emory can take notes, Tracie decides to read the questions aloud in English first, then repeat them in Tsalagi for Wahya to answer.

Deciding to begin with the basics, Wahya gets answers to basic information that he’s pretty sure they’d gotten right through the drawings of the last couple days. While the other three chip in with questions of their own in the same light, all of them filling in the gaps they’ve had about each other.

“How do people get their food?” Wahya asks. “I do not see anyone going hunting, and the only crops I have seen being worked is Ned’s. And what about clothes and houses? Tell me about your society—how come people live by themselves, like Morgan? What happened to larger family groups, like how my people live… or lived?”

Tracie spends a long while explaining the social roles of contemporary American people as best she can, while talking about economics, a little about politics, and how the government is handled. Wahya listens with fascination as James and Emory add their two cents, James adding a deeper anthropological perspective to the conversation, while Tracie tries to keep up in her translations.

Finally, Tracie turns to James, and holds up Morgan’s note which he’d given to her earlier. “I saved this one for last. I understand where Morgan is coming from, but I wanted your thoughts as an anthropologist on the matter before proceeding. If Wahya is going to be staying here permanently, he needs to know about the history of his people from his time period to now. But, as we don’t know what forces brought him here, or if they’ll reoccur to take him back, should he be told everything?”

Emory smiles slightly, having planted that seed in Morgan’s mind yesterday, and he looks at James, the ethical questions that float in both Tracie and James’ minds now are quite apparent.

“This is something I’d already thought about heavily, and a big part of me says, yes, we should tell him. Yet, if he ends up going back to his own time tomorrow, would knowing change history?”

“I say do it!” Emory voices his opinion eagerly. “If he can change history, it would only be for the betterment of the Native American people, right?”

James doesn’t answer immediately, but asks rhetorically in return, “But do we have the right to do that? For better or worse, is it our place?”

“I know neither of you are in the right field to know if I’m on the right track,” Tracie interjects. “But what if he’s already went back and created the history that we know. Kind of like a loop, if you know what I mean.” When both men return quizzical looks, she continues. “Okay, so when the Europeans came to North America, the Cherokee people were one of the main tribes to take up the new ways of the country more quickly and easily than other tribes. Most people don’t realize that before the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee in Georgia were reading and writing better than most of their White counterparts. They had amassed wealth, and some even owned plantations and African slaves of their own. They had sustained their own economy just as equally, if not better than the country’s European newcomers.”

“That’s right,” James recalls. “Sequoyah created the syllabary alphabet and reading and writing within the tribe spread like wildfire.”

Tracie nods. “Not that I’m saying someone like Wahya would have had to start a new mindset in the people for them to be ready to adapt to the changes brought on by colonization, but what if he did—or will?”

“So, then if we don’t tell him, we could be changing history?” Emory connects her thinking.

“Wow,” James leans back in his seat, his mind blown at the concept. “That creates quite the conundrum, huh?”

As they all grow quiet, Wahya speaks up, not having had any of it translated to him. “Is there a problem?”

Tracie acknowledges him tactfully, “Not really a problem.” To catch him up to speed, she gives her best summed-up explanation of the ethics behind changing history, and Wahya nods with true concern. What in the world would be so monumental that his knowledge of it might affect the progress of history should he be able to return home?

“I still say you should tell him,” Emory votes again. “Even if, on his own, he isn’t enough to affect history, apparently the Cherokee people were able to adapt as best as possible considering the obstacles of the American government. I don’t think it would hurt.”

James clears his throat and gives Emory a piercing look. “Perhaps it won’t hurt history, but do you realize what the sudden knowledge of the attempted genocide and removal of his people will do psychologically to Wahya personally?”

Tracie’s face was already stoic, and grows more so now. With heavy sorrow in her voice, and swallows, “It’s hard enough learning our history as a descendant. But knowing what your future children or grandchildren will have to endure would be quite upsetting for me.” Her voice wavers with emotion as she takes a breath. “Yet, on that note, I do think he has a right to know.”

“Very well. Let’s do it,” James concedes as he gives Wahya an agonized look.

By now, Wahya knows that whatever they’re discussing must be deeply important, if not traumatic. And he listens carefully as Tracie finally begins, her words stiff with not only her rough speech, but emotion as well. “What I say is much unpleasant and we all will understand your feelings.”

He swallows with apprehension, wetting his drying lips nervously. He wishes Morgan were here now, for surely she would be able to help him handle whatever is to come. “Continue.”

It takes Tracie half an hour to cover the basic history of England, Spain, and France’s exploration and resulting colonization of the Americas, and the bringing of African slaves from a whole other part of the world that Wahya had never heard of. Then, she carefully broaches the subject of the Native Americans’ history thereafter. Wahya listens with intent, his face clouding over as she talks about the wars, massacres, and hatred between the European newcomers and the tribes of the Americas.

“Do not misunderstand, Wahya. Not everyone hated the tribes-people. There were times where people from both sides were friends. And there were troublemakers on both sides as well. But it was the worst time in our people’s history.” She speaks about how almost two hundred years ago, President Andrew Jackson called for the removal of the Cherokee and four other tribes to land further west. How thousands of people died either en route to Oklahoma, or because they wouldn’t leave their homes in the American south. And while her speech is stilted, Wahya understands.

“It was greed for land that almost destroyed the Tsalagi people and other tribes. Tribes who were once enemies had to fight alongside to survive. The American government wanted our people to disappear, to die. In the end, the tribes either sold out or were removed from their land and given poor pieces of land in return. They were forced to publicly abandon many rights, beliefs, and their languages. Many children were taken away from their families and given to White families to be raised in the new American way. My grandparents were part of that.” Tears spring to Tracie’s eyes as she speaks of the hardships her grandparents endured, and those before them, and how blessed she is now to be able to hold onto her culture as civil rights movements have helped to repair some of the damage done to her people.

Wahya goes from angry to sad, and silently angry again at the atrocities that his people have faced. Listening, he realizes that Tracie can only summarize the most important information in the amount of time she has and with her limited linguistic abilities. He’s sure it would take a lifetime to uncover all the hurt caused by greed and hatred. “But you are a respected medicine woman and healer,” Wahya points out. “How is this?”

Tracie smiles, chuckling at his insight. “Yes, I am fortunate my ancestors did not give up and were strong. In more recent history, many people have made a stand, and slowly our rights and our place in this nation have started to make a comeback. But there is still a long way to go. Maybe someday we will have true equality and respect as a people. The Cherokee did not give up and kept their own government and language alive. But many small tribes are still not recognized by the American government and do not have the rights they should. And some died off long ago.”

Drawing on the knowledge of politics of his own time, Wahya considers the political relationships between tribes. “And the Haudenosaunee are no longer our enemy?”

Tracie laughs again, “No, not anymore.”

Wahya sits silently for a moment, then glances to Emory and James. Even as a Cherokee woman, Tracie looks different in a way, though her features are similar to the women who raised him. He recalls all the people he’s seen in this time period, thinking about Emory’s blonde hair, Samantha’s dark red, and finally, Morgan’s gorgeous green-blue-yellow eyes.

His heart aches with the realization, but he has to ask, “My friends here... Are they all descendants of the, what did you call them? Europeans?”

“Yes, Wahya,” Tracie nods. “Even I have a grandmother on my mother’s side who is European. Much of the country is made up of the descendants of our tribal people, the Europeans, and the African people who were brought to America by the Europeans. And since then, people still come to live in America from nations around the world. Over the past few hundred years, we have mixed our blood and families together, creating a very unique American culture. Each of us has our own unique ancestors and cultural traditions.”

Wahya thinks on this for a moment, then prods, “And there are no more wars and fighting between the people here in America, then?”

“Oh, we don’t always get along. There is still hatred, greed, and fighting, but we have come a long way from the beginning of our coexistence. We have not had a war inside this country for almost two hundred years, but we have fought wars with other countries, across the water.”

“I see,” Wahya replies. “And do the tribes-people and African people fight alongside the European descendants in these other wars?”

“Oh, yes. And quite a few Native Americans have been awarded for bravery and heroism.”

Wahya smirks at this. “Of course they have. We have been brave warriors since time immemorial.” But he turns contemplative again, so many thoughts running through his mind. “This is a lot to take in. Not only do I learn of a great tragedy to our people, but that the world I was living in is far more complex than I realized. While the Cherokee and Haudenosaunee were fighting among each other, other people I never imagined existed were building their own forces and governments to conquer the world.”

He frowns, “As a brave, I understand the desire for land and conquest. That is a concept that is as old as man. As wrong as it is, it is the way of people. But I will never understand how they could tear children away from their parents to destroy our culture. I know of evil men who do cruel things to women and children. It is an abomination.”

Tracie nods, expressing her agreement, “I think most people today agree with you, Wahya. Sadly, there will always be evildoers in the world, and that is what we all must fight.”

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