After a jovial lunch regaling one another what the others had missed while they were separated, their next stop was the Registry of Catastral Information to obtain maps and surveys of the land surrounding the temple pyramid. In order to purchase the land, they needed as much information as possible about the specific ownership of the land, the extent, value and tax valuation. They knew the purchase would take months, if not years, to finalize, but at least they had a starting place.
A thought kept tickling the back of Levi’s mind that being married to the daughter of the tribal chief could provide an advantage when attempting to purchase the land. He knew foreigners were allowed to purchase land in Guatemala, but this was a huge chunk of land that was currently owned by the federal government and occupied by natives who were basically living there for free. The opportunity to receive tax revenue from the owner of the land may be another incentive.
Other thoughts plagued him as they drove north from Flores to Tikal. An hour in the back-row seat of a large Jeep staring out the window as the landscape rolled by gave him time to think.
Tiani and Becky again sat together in the middle row and Levi sat beside Nicholas. The chief sat in the front passenger seat beside the driver. None of them held any conversations until Nicholas leaned closer and spoke in a voice just loud enough to be heard by Levi.
“You doing okay?” His twin was perceptive.
“A lot on my mind, that’s all.” Levi picked at his fingernails, his hands resting in his lap.
“Anything you want to talk about?” Nicholas asked.
“Just trying to figure out how I’m going to make this all work.”
“What were you and Tiani talking about while I was trying to distract everyone else before lunch?”
“Kind of making our engagement a little more official,” Levi said. “I’m planning to talk to her father either tonight or tomorrow and see if he has decided if I’m worthy to marry his daughter.”
“After all you did for them today, I don’t see how he could argue,” Nicholas said.
“That’s not why I helped them.” Levi didn’t mean to sound defensive.
“I know that, but the chief will probably see that to your advantage.”
“I want to bring mom and dad down here for our wedding,” Levi said. “I don’t want ours to be the way yours was. I want the ceremony to be planned and spiritual and solemn, a celebration of our love and our choice to get married. You know what I mean?”
“You know what’s funny,” Nicholas said. “When Becky and I were standing there with the chief dictating the words that were said and the conch shells and the incense burning, I thought to myself that you would love this.”
Levi chuckled. “As much as we think we’re so identical, there are some ways in which we are very different.”
“The minute we popped out of mom we immediately began separate lives, separate experiences,” Nicholas said.
“I’m really gonna miss you when we’re apart.” Levi’s throat tightened and tears pricked his eyes.
“We’ll never be more than an airplane ride away from each other, and you can have a satellite phone and call me every day if you want.”
“I’ll try not to bug you every day,” Levi said.
“No way, man. You’d better call me every day, or I’ll feel withdrawals. That or get super worried that you’re alive and well.”
“If you insist.” Levi felt a weight lift from his shoulders knowing his twin wanted to hear from him every day. He didn’t feel so alone. They still had over a month together before going back to the States. Separation anxiety this far in advance was not a good sign.
The four-hour trek from Tikal to the village was grueling after their long, tiring day. There was very little talking or excitement or anticipation, other than desire to collapse in bed when they arrived. That got Levi thinking of another aspect of marrying Tiani. Where would they sleep?
He wondered if Tiani had her own home, of if she expected they would live with her parents. That didn’t seem like a fun place to spend their honeymoon. He wished he could take her back to their townhouse in Cambridge. Now that Nicholas was married he’d likely move to Houston immediately to move in with Becky. Levi and Tiani would have the townhouse to themselves. The thought made him smile. That led his mind down other paths of anticipation and he tried not to let his fantasies run too far amiss.
Tiani was not only elegant and beautiful, there was a subtle fire behind her eyes that she saved only for him. Nicholas had described her as having bedroom eyes. Levi wondered if that was true. He wondered if maybe Tiani was fantasizing about him the same way he was fantasizing about her. He wished he could ask her. He wasn’t even sure how to broach the subject.
Excuse me, Tiani, I know you said you’d like to get married. Have you thought about our wedding night at all? Do you have any idea how incredible that will be? Do you even know what men and women do on their wedding night? What kind of sex education did you have in school? School? That’s where you go to a building to have teachers who instruct you how to read and write and do math. No school in the village? Ugh… okay. Guess you haven’t had that particular health education class, huh? Gee, I’d be happy to teach you everything you need to know. No, I haven’t been married before, but I have a general idea of how things work. We’ll learn together.
Levi couldn’t hide his grin and was glad they were walking single file along the jungle path. Explaining his train of thought, even to his twin, would be extremely embarrassing. He also entertained himself thinking of all the other things he could teach Tiani, like how to speak English, how to interpret the symbols on the temple pyramid, how to read and write. Maybe he could even teach the other tribal members the same things. Maybe he was brought to this place at this time to help these people.
By the time they reached the village, his brain was tired along with his body. He mumbled goodnight to everyone else in their little group before collapsing in his tent. He didn’t wake up until mid-morning and he awoke to a surprise.
Levi nearly jumped out of his skin when his eyes opened and he found Tiani sitting cross legged and serene near his feet, inside his tent, beside his bedroll. He glanced at the zipper door of the tent and wondered how she possibly got all the way in the door and zipped it closed without him waking.
“What are you doing in here?” Levi scrambled to a sitting position, tangled in blankets. “Your father is going to kill me.”
“He already left with Timothy and James through the tunnel to the temple.”
“Did anyone else see you come in here?” His racing heart hadn’t yet slowed.
“I don’t think so,” she said.
“What are you doing in here?” Levi circled back to his original question.
“I spoke with my mother and father this morning,” she said, not really answering his question. “I told them that you are worthy to be my husband, and they agree.”
“They do?” Levi forgot his convictions and took her hands in his, excitement filling his heart.
“You were right that my father respects my opinion, but he also agreed with me before he heard my opinion. He sees something special in you, just like I do. He also knows that I will leave with you, but he knows I will return soon.”
Levi was dumbfounded and didn’t know how to answer. He fought every urge inside him not to pull her into his arms and kiss her until neither of them could see straight. Instead he answered her with a jumbled train of thoughts. “I want to bring my parents down for our wedding, and I want to take you home to Cambridge when the rainy season starts, and do you have a house here in the village for us to live? Or would you like to move into my tent? How soon can we get married? As soon as my parents can get here? Tomorrow, maybe? How many children do you want to have? Can I kiss you now?”
Tiani giggled. “That was a lot of questions. Yes, I have a house to sleep with you, Yes, we can get married as soon as your parents arrive, even if that is tomorrow. As many babies as our bodies create together. And, no, you cannot kiss me until you marry me.”
“Oh, how I wish I could marry you right now.” Levi’s inappropriate thoughts about his incredible fiancé were halted in another realization. “We need to hurry and go to the temple site so I can use Timothy’s satellite phone and call my parents. The sooner they get here the sooner I can kiss you.”
“You go eat breakfast,” Tiani said, grabbing his blanket and pulling it close to her chest. “I will lay here and wrap myself in your scent.” She lay her head on his pillow and he nearly lost his resolve.
Levi reached for the tent zipper and hurried out of his tent before he did something crazy like lie next to her and kiss her while slowly removing that dress. Breakfast. Not exactly what he was hungry for, but that would have to do for now. He zipped the tent closed behind him and practically ran away toward the breakfast hut.
A stand alone novella in the All's Fair in Love and Sports Series by Julie L. Spencer.