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

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Chapter Fifty-Two: Heavy with Emotions

July 2023
Nellie Bay Golf Club
Nellie Bay, Virginia

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

Morgan jumps as her phone rings, breaking the silence she’d been driving in—her focus being half on the road and half wondering what was happening with Wahya and the others. Seeing James’ name on the screen, she answers with an expectant hello.

“Hey, we’re just leaving Tracie’s office now and heading back to my house. Are you still at your dad’s party?” James asks.

“No, I’m almost an hour out from Richmond City. How’d it go?” Her heart beats wildly.

“It was good,” James replies, his tone positive. “Very informative for everyone. Emory took good notes covering everything, and Tracie was great about relaying what she and Wahya talked about. I think we’re all a little worn out mentally though, and Wahya has a lot to chew on now.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet,” Morgan replies half to herself, then adds after a pause, “Did you all bring up the history of the Native Americans and Colonists?”

“Yeah, after some debate, we all agreed that we should,” James concedes with a sigh. “He took it better than I expected, but I think he’s still thinking through it all. It was a bit emotional for everyone.”

Morgan’s heart goes out to Wahya and she feels bad she wasn’t there. “Well, thanks for being there for him, James. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him to hear.”

“No, no problem.” Then, changing the subject, James goes on. “Oh yeah! Tracie said to tell you that she’s still good for tomorrow at two o’clock. What’s that about?”

Morgan tries to laugh it off. “Oh, Wahya had some more personal questions to ask and she thought it’d be better to do it over the phone when she has some more time.”

James pauses, trying to figure out what kind of personal questions Wahya would have. Jumping to the wrong conclusion, he prods with concern, “He doesn’t have something medically wrong with him, does he?”

Surprised, Morgan blurts, “What? Oh! No. Nothing like that. He’s all good. As far as I know anyways. It’s just...” She can’t come up with a credible lie. So, determining James would eventually work it out of her anyways, and knowing he and Emory witnessed the kiss she gave Wahya after he came to in the lab yesterday, she caves in, admitting in haste and in defense, “Ah, hell! It’s personal relationship type stuff, okay?” Her stomach clenches, knowing James won’t let it go.

Again, James pauses, and Morgan is sure he’s jumping to the right conclusions now.

“Morgan!” His tone confirms it. “I told you not to go and get into something that’s going to get either of you hurt.” She cringes as he continues. “Now’s not the time for this conversation. We’ll talk about it later.”

She’s sure he doesn’t want to talk about it in front of Wahya, who’s riding in the car with him, being that Wahya can’t answer for himself at the moment, and she lets it go despite the desire to make a stand. Slightly less defensive, she answers before hanging up. “Fine. I’ll be at your place in about an hour, okay?”

~~~

Morgan was glad for the hour’s notice so she could prepare her thoughts about how she would respond to James’ disapproval of her and Wahya’s relationship. She’d been thinking on that very topic ever since Jessica’s conversation at the clubhouse, and Morgan had been doing some serious contemplating of her own actions and thoughts. What she doesn’t expect is to be sidelined by Samantha as soon as she arrives at their home.

Hopping in the passenger seat as Morgan pulls into the driveway, Samantha gives her a happy smile. “Hey! Take me for a little drive. There’s a playground just up the next street.”

But before Morgan can begin her prepared defense, sure James had already expressed his concerns to his wife, Samantha starts, “How was the party? Did you all have a good time?”

“Yeah, it was real nice.” Morgan answers with caution. “It was good seeing everyone again. Jess says hello, by the way.”

“That’s good. Turn right here,” Samantha nods to the street ahead and takes a breath. “Yeah, my dad would’ve had a birthday coming up next month, but he passed away almost six years ago. Stomach cancer...”

Morgan frowns. Samantha had never talked about her dad, only her mom before. “I’m sorry, Samantha. I didn’t realize...”

“It’s okay. I didn’t tell you so that you’d be sorry for me.”

Morgan parks the car, and Samantha gets out, making a bee-line for the swings. Morgan follows in silence. The playground is empty today, so they have it all to themselves. The partial clouds keep the sun from beating down on them and a light breeze plays across the small field. Sitting without swinging, Samantha starts again. “If you were suddenly dragged away from the possibility of seeing your family again, you’d probably worry about them and want to be able to at least visit them on holidays again, right?”

“Well, yeah, of course,” Morgan replies, not sure where this is going.

Samantha elaborates. “Wahya feels that way about his own family and friends. He wants to be able to return to them.”

Morgan sighs, wanting to get the thoughts she’d been turning over in her mind for the last hour out in the open. “Samantha, I know. I’ve done some serious soul searching today, and I know that I have been kinda selfish in my thinking.”

Samantha waits for Morgan to continue, surprise evident in her expression.

“Between my sister, you, James, and even Emory—somewhat—I now see how I’ve put so much hope into making Wahya stay here in the present, that I’ve ignored his own feelings on the matter. Even if we don’t have an option on whether or not he stays or goes, I haven’t been very good at considering his emotions about it.” She looks her friend in the eyes. “It’s not going to be easy, Samantha, because I’m going to be completely honest with you... I’ve never felt so deeply for a man before. I... I’m in love with him.”

Samantha’s eyes widen and her brows crease just a bit as Morgan takes a breath between words. “But it’s not up to me whether or not he stays or goes. It’s up to whatever force brought him here in the first place and the powers of fate or whatever is out there. And I need to stop trying to force my will on those powers.”

The professor turns in her swing, taking a deep breath of her own. “What exactly do you propose to do then?”

“I don’t know. I think changing my mindset is the first step. And even though Wahya was wearing the gorget this time when the time warp happened, I think the gorget still has a lot to do with him staying or going. And I do believe that the warps are trying to grab onto him but are unsuccessful for some reason.”

“So, you’re going to try to convince him to give up the gorget?”

Morgan nods as a tear falls down her cheek.

“Aww, Morgan,” Samantha’s face softens with sorrow. “It’ll be okay. You’re on the right track, and that shows more love than you know.”

Both women stand, and Samantha pulls Morgan into a tight hug as Morgan silently sobs, releasing the tension in her heart yet again. Finally, Samantha pulls away and smiles. “Come on, let’s go pick up the pizza I ordered before we came out here. We’ll all have supper at my place and discuss today’s revelations.”

~~~

Morgan is impressed with Emory’s notes, feeling a bit bad that he hadn’t been invited here tonight to discuss the situation. She isn’t sure she forgives him just yet for his outburst in the lab, but she realizes that while he had been partially right in his assumptions, the other half was speaking from jealousy and hurt. And while she could never see herself being with Emory, she wishes she hadn’t been such a hard headed fool in front of him.

Sitting on the couch again with Wahya, James, and Samantha, much like Wahya’s first evening, the group chows down on pizza as James explains Emory’s notes and describes what transpired during the meeting with Tracie. Morgan’s emotions were already raw before, but by the end she feels extra solemn, learning details she hadn’t even known about the Cherokee people’s history. On the silent drive home, she wonders if Wahya feels differently about them—her—now that he knows her ancestors had a part in the attempted destruction of his people.

Wahya stares out the window in silence, watching the dimly lit scenes go by in the evening light. When she asks if he wants to turn on the radio, he simply shakes his head, turning his attention outside once more. She knows that she needn’t feel responsible for the sins of the past, yet when confronted with a member of the past, she can’t help but feel the guilt of being associated with her ancestry. And not knowing what he’s thinking or feeling right now turns her guts inside out.

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

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

It’s late and Wahya knows Morgan is tired. She’d already showered and was probably ready for bed he realizes, noting the bathroom light extinguishing from his view. But instead of joining her, he sits on the back porch steps in the dark, listening to the night sounds—thinking. Before long, Morgan interrupts his thoughts, and he’s glad for her presence as she pads outside, then sits one step behind him. With his elbows resting on his knees, Morgan wraps her arms gently around him, pressing her body against his back, her cheek resting against his neck as she breathes in his hair, soft against her skin.

“I’m so sorry, Wahya. I wish I could do something to change things.”

He knows the meaning of the words I’m sorry, and understands Morgan’s sorrow. He takes her hands in his, squeezing gently and leans back into her embrace. He doesn’t want her to feel bad, and yet, he still needs time to process everything in his mind.

Finally, he pulls away, bringing her hands up and over his head and turns on the stoop to face her. “Walela, I cannot thank you enough for everything you have done for me, and for the love you have shown me. But this burden I now carry is mine. Go to bed and rest, my love. Tomorrow I will be able to tell you what is in my heart.”

He motions for her to go and sleep, and Morgan looks back at him with concern, yet understanding. She hugs him tight, then stands, leaning down to kiss him tenderly, leaving him to his musings once more. As he sees the light from the bedroom window go out, he stares up at the night sky, a multitude of thoughts and a clarity about the world around him running through his mind.

He smiles to himself, beginning to see the greater reason and need for the mostly straight-lined symbols the people of this time write or etch on nearly everything. He had watched Emory use the symbols to take notes while they talked with Tracie today, and then saw how James used those notes to remember the conversation and relay it to Morgan and Samantha in greater detail later. Though similar in concept to the pictographs of many people in his time and those of his past, these symbols were obviously utilized in a more specific and complex way. His people relied on memorization, but this method lessened the need to remember everything perfectly. And he wonders whose ancestors developed this prevalent system—his own or Morgan’s, or some other.

About those ancestors... Wahya’s emotions are ragged, and after going over everything in his head more than once, he’s drained. It was difficult enough to hear about the history of the land his people had called home longer than any of the others, but the pure sorrow and empathy from not just Tracie, but the rest of his friends was unexpected.

This must be a terrible thing for people to remember now, though Tracie says not everyone is over their differences. I am very fortunate to have fallen into this time with people who do care. It must be the luck the gorget holds that helped, just as the Traveler told me it would bring. Was the Traveler really a Shaman or even a spirit in disguise?

Then a new thought occurs to him. Maybe the spirits brought me here so that I can take such messages back to my time and help prepare the people for the future. Had the Traveler foreseen this future full of pain for so many people, and gave me the gorget so that I could get here? What if I can make a difference in the future of my people? If only I could get back to them.
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