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

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Chapter Fifty-Three: This is Love

July 2023
Morgan’s House
Richmond City, Virginia

}}}-----> WAHYA and MORGAN <-----{{{

It’s close to three-in-the-morning by the time Wahya finally comes to bed. He successfully crawls in next to Morgan without waking her, and yet as he lays there, sleep proves hard to come. When sleep does overcome him, it’s filled with restless dreams until his overwhelmed mind finally calms in the earliest hours of the morning, allowing him to truly rest.

When he wakes, it looks to be late morning by the position of the sun streaming through the bedroom window. Morgan is gone from the bed and not in the adjoining bathroom, and Wahya hurries to ready himself for the day, not wanting to be late for their phone call with Tracie. He has so much he wants to tell Morgan, and things to ask her, yet he feels a little nervous. What will she say or think?

He finds her in the living room. The TV’s on, but she’s not watching it. Instead, she stands by the bookshelves, holding the framed picture of her parents.

“Osiyo,” Wahya says, trying not to startle her, but does so anyway.

Her surprise is soon replaced with that familiar, glowing smile. “Osiyo!”

He wraps his arms around her from behind, looking down at the photo in her hands. “I never got a chance to ask how your visit to see your family went.” But she doesn’t understand his words and simply relaxes into him.

Sensing her hesitation about how to approach his feelings today after yesterday’s intense information download, he tries to lighten the mood by squeezing her gently and rocking their bodies together as if they were dancing to a silent tune. It works, and she giggles under her breath, leaning into him even more. Breaking apart, he presses a kiss on the top of her head, and she puts the picture back on the shelf, pulling him away to the kitchen.

As Morgan fixes an early lunch, Wahya sits at the table watching her, the desire to communicate with her in a fluid and basic linguistic level overwhelming after yesterday’s experience.

“If we are to be together, here or in my time, we are going to have to learn each other’s languages,” he tells her. She simply smiles at his foreign words, and he wonders what she’s thinking.

Morgan, on the other hand, enjoys the attention Wahya gives her, though her heart is pulled knowing that at some point in the near future she’s going to have to try to talk him out of wearing the gorget and figure out how get him to believe that the time warps might not be bad after all. Finally, she decides to forget about it for now and simply enjoy the presence of the man who seems to be enjoying his time with her. She decides that she’ll have to enlist Tracie’s help in this matter.

~~~

At precisely two o’clock, Morgan and Wahya sit across from one another at the kitchen table, so they can be comfortable and Morgan can easily take notes if need be. A wave of nervous excitement runs through Wahya as Morgan dials Tracie, putting the phone on speaker, so they both can hear and talk together.

“Hey! Osiyo!” Tracie answers after the first two rings.

“Hi Tracie! We’re both here. Thank you so much for doing this!”

“Oh, definitely! No problem!” In Cherokee, she asks, “How are you, Wahya? I know yesterday was difficult.”

“I am better,” he replies honestly. “I have thought a lot about what you told me and have made some decisions. But first, I need to tell Morgan how I feel.”

“That is good!” Tracie returns. “I am ready whenever you are, Wahya.” Her Tsalagi words are still stiff, but understandable. They hear her take a deep breath on her end, preparing herself for another tedious session.

Morgan sits with her black-rimmed reading glasses perched on her nose, ready to copy notes. Also ready to begin, Wahya gently takes the pen out of her hand, laying it on top of the pad of paper in front of her. He wants her full attention, and no notes are necessary for what he has to say.

She smiles, a bit chagrined, but nods, understanding his meaning. Taking her glasses off, she sets them aside and grasps his hands in hers. Then, Wahya tentatively begins, speaking into a phone’s microphone for the first time in his life. How strange it feels to talk to someone who is so far away.

“Tracie?” he begins.

“Yes, I’m still here, Wahya. Go ahead.”

“Good.” He clears his throat. “First, please tell Morgan that I am very thankful for everything she has done to help me feel welcome and at ease. She has patiently taught me about her foreign time and when she could have been frustrated with my lack of knowledge, she has been kind and enjoyable. Please also tell her that I am grateful to her for opening her own home to me.”

Wahya waits for the translation, and Morgan smiles and squeezes his hand in reply. He doesn’t give her time to say anything in return, forging ahead with Tracie soon picking up the flow, translating as though she weren’t even there—the words just being and becoming as if Wahya spoke English and Morgan had known Tsalagi her whole life.

“Morgan, at one time I knew great happiness in my life, and then the great sickness came and took away many people I loved. Despite that, I was not ready to die that day when I jumped over the cliff to get away from my enemies. I do not think the spirits were ready for me to die either. I do not know what exactly the spirits had in mind, but I do know that they brought me to you.”

He takes a breath. “You have shown me your world and your kindness. You have shown me what love between a man and a woman can be, what it should be. I did not believe love could exist so deeply inside the heart before now, but you have opened my eyes and heart to love. I love you, Morgan. And I only hope that you feel the same for me.”

Morgan’s eyes blink back tears as Wahya’s words are translated to her. She doesn’t hesitate to reply. “Oh, Wahya! I love you, too! I’ve never experienced love like this before either, and I know I still have a lot to learn about love, but you’ve taught me so much.”

Wahya brings her hands to his lips and kisses her fingers as Tracie relays Morgan’s thoughts. When the translation is finished, Morgan picks up again. “Wahya, I have to apologize to you.” He looks at her with confusion as she continues, frustration written on her face. “I never asked you if you wanted to go back to your own time, or if you preferred to stay here. A big part of me still hopes that you would want to stay here with me and never leave. But now I realize that that’s not fair to you. So, I ask you now, do you want to go home?”

Wahya blinks at her for a moment, never considering that she wouldn’t have known or thought that he would want to go home, given the opportunity. Surely, she would if she were in his position. Finally, he nods his head. “Yes, I have always wanted to go back to my own time, once I learned that I was not dead, but I did not know if it was even possible. I understood that you were not sure about it being possible either?”

Morgan senses his sudden hesitation at her motives, and interjects, “Oh, no! I really don’t know if it is possible, or how to go about it if it is. I would never mislead you like that; I swear! I’m just saying that I haven’t been putting my energy into thinking about the possibility as much as I should have, because... because I don’t want you to leave. I know now that it’s been selfish of me, and for that I ask your forgiveness.”

Wahya understands her confession, and harboring no ill feelings for the special woman across from him, he smiles softly. “Ah, Morgan. You do not understand. I do not want to leave you, either.”

She looks at him in confusion and he continues, “I have a question to ask of you. If the spirits do allow a way for me to return, would you want to come with me? Morgan, come back to my time and live with me and my people, as one of the people.”

Morgan, expecting Wahya to be upset with her, had never really considered this question before, nor even the possibility of herself leaving the present. She’s momentarily shocked by the fact that Wahya wanted to take her with him, though she doesn’t know why.

“Oh, Wahya!” Her heart fills to the brim. But hesitation soon clouds her face and Wahya’s heart sinks. He already knows what’s in her heart—the same thing that’s in his own—though he had to ask.

Trying to frame her thoughts, she realizes that life in the Middle Woodland Period was rough, and she isn’t sure if she really wants to live that life, giving up not only the amenities of the twenty-first century, but her family. She tries to answer as best she can, “Well, I... I don’t know. I...” Feeling further guilt over the fact that she isn’t readily willing to give up her contemporary life for him, she lowers her head in shame, suddenly feeling unworthy of Wahya’s love.

Having already thought of these very things before, Wahya reaches over to cup her face, not wanting to pressure her, but not wanting to hear a negative answer either. “Shhh... Don’t answer now, my love. If the moment comes, you will know what is right. Regardless of your decision when the time comes, the spirits may have other plans and will do as they please anyways. Just know that the offer is there and that I would be more than happy to bring you to my time and build a life with you there. Otherwise, for as long as I must stay here, I will be grateful for your guidance and love for as long as you will have me.”

Morgan’s teary-eyed smile returns wholeheartedly, and Wahya feels the need to explain further, “After all I have learned over the past few days from you, James and Samantha, and Tracie, too, I am sure there is a reason the spirits brought me here. And I do not believe they intend to leave me here. I feel like I am being called home from somewhere deep within me. I must teach my people about the future. I doubt that there will be any way to avoid the dark times when our peoples meet, but perhaps my knowledge will better prepare my people for what is to come.”

Morgan knows in the pit of her stomach and the depths of her heart that he’s right, and she exclaims, “Wahya, it has to be the gorget! I know I told you that the time warps are bad. But what if they’re not? What if you have to allow it to come and that is the way home? The gorget is what brought you to me—to the future. Maybe the gorget from this time period is blocking what is supposed to happen.”

Wahya’s jaw clenches with worry and apprehension, but he nods resolutely, squeezing Morgan’s hands as a new thought suddenly arises. “Morgan, I think you are also part of it. When I was on the cliff and the time warp was above me, the pain went away when you touched me—before you handed me the gorget. And this last time, I was wearing the gorget and it still came. Yet, when you reached me, it stopped.”

Unable to hold back her own thoughts on the matter, Tracie interrupts, speaking respectively in their own languages. “You both seem to have really hit it off very quickly, and I can see that your connection with each other is very strong. I can’t believe you have only known each other for a week. To hear you talk together, I would have sworn you’ve been together for a long time. Regardless, I think Wahya is on the right track, Morgan. Perhaps, you are more of a key to his staying than you realize. With that said, I think your mindset has to be open for him to go, and so does his. It sounds like you’re both accepting the fact that you may need to be separated by time and cannot be together, but the connection between you is so strong. I believe with all my heart that it will hinder your futures if you both don’t let go in mind, body, and spirit. Wahya must prepare himself to return, and Morgan, you must prepare yourself to help him to go.”

Morgan heaves her shoulders as she releases her silent tears, with the confirmation of everything her sister had said to her yesterday. Wahya moves to her side of the table to comfort her, wrapping his arms around her.

“I know! I just love you so much!” Morgan decries, sniffling her tears away, then looking up into his loving black eyes. “But you’re not mine alone. You have a purpose in your own time, and I would be no better than those who’ve hindered your people in the past if I were to prevent you from doing what you were sent to do!” Then, with a deep breath, she adds, “I don’t think it would work for me to go with you, Wahya. But your offer means the world to me. And if I had to go back in time, yours—with you—would be the only one I would choose.”

Turning her attention to their translator, Morgan continues, “Tracie, I need to go get Wahya’s clothes from Samantha and do this right. So long as he’s attached to this time period, he can’t successfully return, and I believe you’re right—I’m the tool in which he goes or stays! I can’t explain it but deep down inside I feel it! I’ve been feeling it.”

With a new mindset on both their parts, Wahya and Morgan wind down their emotional conversation with Tracie, eventually saying their goodbyes to their new friend and confidante. Wahya goes first. “Medicine woman, if what we plan to do works, I may not get another chance to thank you. I want you to know that as a descendant of the Tsalagi people, Tracie, you are a fine example of a strong Tsalagi woman. And even if I might not be your direct ancestor, I speak for all the Tsalagi ancestors from my time by saying how proud you make me and what honor you bring to our people.”

Now Tracie’s voice cracks over the line, and she replies shakily, “I could do better. And I will... Grandfather!” She laughs, trying to lighten the mood by teasing the younger man who is technically nearly two-thousand years her senior. This is a happy occasion, she reasons, for he just might be able to return home to his family and provide some knowledge to the Tsalagi people of the past. She continues in English, “Morgan, you better call me if you guys succeed in sending him back!”

Morgan brushes her tears away. “I promise, Tracie! We’re all in this together!”

As they finally hang up the phone, Morgan and Wahya embrace one another tightly. The possibility that the power to send him back is within Morgan’s grasp fills them both with hope and nervous excitement. Morgan’s mind races as she already begins to formulate a plan for successfully sending Wahya home, and she sets her focus on this now, knowing that she may lose the momentum to go through with it if she gives herself time to hesitate.

Looking at the time, realizing that they’ve spent a couple hours on the phone with Tracie, Morgan exclaims through words and gestures, feeling strange not having Tracie to translate for her anymore, “Let’s go get your breechcloth and belt from Samantha. You’ll want to be in the right clothes when you get back home.”

She jumps up to go get her car keys and Wahya, fully understanding her actions, quickly grabs her arm, pulling her back. “Whoa, Walela! You are not ready to get rid of me that quickly, are you?” He grins mischievously at her excitable energy, knowing that’s not what she intended, and motions to his clothes. “I know you liked seeing me in my breechcloth, but that can wait.”

His face grows serious and he looks at her with a renewed tenderness, realizing their time together may truly be limited to hours, not days or weeks, if Morgan’s theory is correct. He knows that his destiny is in the past, though it’s difficult to think about leaving Morgan behind. Neither of them were made to live in each other’s time. Both would miss their own homes, lives, and families too much to be truly happy in the other’s world.

Caressing her cheek with the back of his hand, Wahya’s eyes hood with love and desire, and he steps closer, stooping to be closer to her level. Softly, yet demanding and also pleadingly, he breathes, “Walela... Make love with me for what is left of today. Tomorrow we will try to send me home. I wish to be with you for one final time.”

His request is written in every fiber of his being, and Morgan needs no translator to understand his longing and love for her—both spoken and unspoken. She forgets her plans, returning his sentiments as her breath hitches and her own eyes darken in tandem with his. Lacing her fingers with his, Wahya leads her to the bedroom, once more turning her to face him and taking both of her hands in his as they stand together.

He takes his time removing her clothes, savoring the sight and feel of her warmth. Morgan assists, lifting her arms or stepping out of the garments carefully. When she’s completely naked, she does the same for him—their bodies bared for each other in the same way their hearts had been bared vocally only moments ago. The sole item left between them being the gorget. It will ground him to the present for the time they’re making for one another now.

Wahya shifts his hands to her hips, the feel of her skin on his fingertips alighting him with further desire. Pulling her to him, his body pressed against hers, the problems of the world, both past and present all but disappear. Morgan places her hands on his chest, her eyes never leaving his, as she tries to memorize every detail of his face, sure there will be a time when she won’t have him anymore.

Laying Morgan gently back onto the bed, Wahya covers her body with his, settling over her as gentle as the breath of a hummingbird wing. When finally their lips meet, a silent, slow, but firm fervor of electricity builds between them. For once, time seems to stand still, as the lovers revel in the touch, smell, taste, sight, and sounds of the other. Their love bursts in momentum as they explore each other’s bodies, hearts, and souls repeatedly and seemingly with no end.

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