“That didn’t take you long.” Levi didn’t look up from the computer or take his hand off his mouse. Scribbles of hieroglyphs covered his notepad and copies of all four known codices of the books of Mayan hieroglyphs sat open on the kitchen table. “Feeling better?”
“Levi, don’t be a jerk.” Nicholas held Becky’s hand as they strode across the open floor plan of the condo he shared with his twin. “We just went for a drive down to Fort Standish and walked around the ruins for a while talking.” And kissing. He didn’t say that part out loud.
“What are these?” Becky leaned over the Madrid Codex, which contained a wealth of information on astrology and on divinatory practices, identifying the various Mayan gods and reconstructing the rites, Mayan crafts, pottery, weaving, and hunting.
“These are some of the few collections of pre-Columbian Mayan hieroglyphic texts known to have survived the book burnings by the Spanish clergy during the 16th century.” Levi finally glanced up from his work with an almost panicked expression as if he wanted to snap at Becky not to touch his research.
Nicholas wasn’t worried. Becky was a scientist like the twins. Scientists knew not to move so much as a page in another scientist’s research design.
“Who would be cruel enough to burn books?” Becky feigned horror.
“Apparently the Spanish clergy of the 16th century,” Levi said with sarcastic grumbling. “They considered them pagan. The written language of the Maya was nearly eradicated by the Spanish while trying to convince the savages to convert to Christianity.”
“You’d think that would be the opposite of helpful,” Becky said.
“It’s a miracle any of this writing survived,” Levi said. “The Maya were a literate culture. They wrote on bark paper or deer skin using reed pens and conc shells as ink wells. Theirs was a rich and complex system of hieroglyphics similar to those used in Egypt.”
“Do you see why he thinks he’s smarter than me?” Nicholas stage whispered to Becky.
“He is smarter than you,” she whispered back. “He proposed within five minutes of meeting me. You still haven’t even asked me on a date.”
“How about if I spend the whole summer with you,” Nicholas suggested. “Would that be a long enough date for you?”
Levi grinned. “I plan to lay wagers with the rest of the team of archaeologists about how soon the two of you will be sleeping in the same tent.”
“Very funny,” Nicholas grumbled.
“Ah, come on, Nick”—Becky stepped closer and laid her hands on his chest. As if by instinct, Nicholas found his arms wrapped around her waist. “I’m going to be the only female on the team. I’ll be all alone in that dark tent and will need a strong man to keep me safe and warm.”
“Yep, I give you three days, a week at the most,” Levi said.
“Am I allowed to get in on the wager?” Becky asked, turning to Levi and blinking her eyes with contrived innocence.
“You traitorous vixen.” Nicholas shook his head in resignation of his fate. “What am I going to do with you?”
“I can think of a few things…” Her voice trailed off and she bit her lower lip.
“I thought I asked the two of you to go spend some time at Dr. Benson’s hotel room,” Levi said. “You’re distracting me from my research.”
“We’ll stop.” Becky pulled herself away from Nicholas’ arms and he felt her absence as if he were a toddler and someone had yanked away his security blanket. She sat too close to Levi on one of the kitchen chairs. “Tell me more about Mayan linguistics. That is what I hired you for, right?”
“Okay, so, Mayan inscriptions are found on standing stone slabs called stelae, or stone lintels, sculpture, pottery, plus the few surviving Mayan books, or codices.” Levi was back in game mode, his excitement contagious. “The Mayan system of writing contains more than 800 characters, including some that are hieroglyphic and other phonetic signs representing syllables. The hieroglyphic signs are pictorial—meaning they’re recognizable pictures of real objects—representing animals, people, and objects of daily life.”
Levi carefully pulled closer the book she had been asking about.
“The Madrid Codex dates from the 15th century and was made of fig-bark paper folded like an accordion with a cover made from jaguar skin.” Levi pointed to another one of the books. “The Dresden Codex probably dates from the 11th or 12th century and contains astronomical calculations with surprising accuracy.
“The Paris Codex was discovered in 1859 in an obscure corner of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and was just torn wrappings of a manuscript and is probably slightly older than the Madrid Codex. Last but not least was the Grolier Codex, discovered in 1971 and dates to the 13th century.”
“This is almost as exciting as making out on the beach.” Becky glanced up at Nicholas with innocent eyes.
“You guys made out on the beach?” Levi’s jaw gaped. “Isn’t that moving a little fast for having just gotten reacquainted after years apart.”
“It was long overdue,” Nicholas said. “And it was more like on the protected side of the ruins, not really on the beach.”
“Semantics.” Becky waved her hand dismissively. She turned back to Levi. “You were saying?”
Levi sighed with exaggerated frustration. “Archaeologists painstakingly decoded the Mayan’s written language and published the manuscripts. And here they are.”
“Without linguists”—Nicholas interrupted— “archaeologists would simply be playing in the sandbox searching for bones and pottery fragments.”
“The two of you work well together,” Becky said.
“That we do.” Nicholas held out his hand for Levi to give him a fist bump.
“We’d each be lost without the other,” Levi agreed.
Nicholas and Levi had always believed they’d be bachelors forever. Now looking at this gorgeous woman at his side, his paradigm shifted, and a new future seemed to come into focus. He wondered how this new perspective would change the relationship with his twin.