Levi led Tiani along the boardwalk and helped her down onto the powdery sands on the beaches of Puerto Aventuras.
“The ocean is as beautiful as you promised me it would be.” Tiani’s voice filled with wonder. A warm, salty breeze pulled at her skirt, and teased her hair from its braid.
“I agree. But that’s not why I brought you down here,” Levi said. The Barcelo Maya Palace resort stood like a sentinel to their backs as they faced the Atlantic Ocean and the horizon beyond.
They walked forward but not close enough that the sand was wet from the encroaching tides. Levi needed the sand to be dry for this to work. He found just the right spot then pulled Tiani’s hand gently.
“Come sit with me,” Levi said, lowering to a cross-legged position. She sat beside him, but he shifted so they were facing each other. “Do you remember when I told you how many people there were who belonged to your Mayan tribe?”
She nodded. “You said there were as many as the sands on the seashore and I told you I didn’t know what that meant.”
Levi reached out and cradled her hand in his then lifted a handful of sand and let it sift through his fingers and onto her palm. “This is sand.”
Tiani pulled her hand closer to her face and observed the tiny pieces of silica.
“And this—” Levi drew his arm in a circle around them. “—is the seashore.”
“Oh, Levi,” she gasped, her eyes wide with panic. “There is so much.”
“That’s how many of your people there were.”
“Where did they all go?” she asked, a vulnerability to her words.
“We don’t know.” He shook his head sadly. “That’s what we’re trying to find out. And that’s why we want to interpret the writings on the temple pyramid. Your family’s story deserves to be told.”
“What if we can’t figure out what the story is about?”
Levi shrugged. “Then we’re no closer to learning the truth than we were yesterday. But the advances in modern technology, just in the past few years, leads me to believe that we’re going to figure it out.”
“I want to know the story,” Tiani said. “I want to know what they were trying to tell us with the writings they left behind.”
“Me too.” Levi felt emotion prick his eyes and heart.
“The more English I learn, the more I can help you translate,” she said in Yucatec.
“I’ll help you understand English, and you help me understand Mayan.”
“You already know more about my people than I do.” She pushed his shoulder playfully.
“Then I’ll teach you that too.”
“Will you take me back to your place of teaching?” Tiani asked. “I want to learn… everything.”
“Yes, I’ll bring you home to Cambridge and you can sit with me in my office and learn all you can from the good professors at Harvard University and we’ll bring all that knowledge back to your people and teach them.”
“After the rainy season is over,” she said with a gleam in her eye.
“Yes, after the rainy season.” Levi squeezed her hands.
“And after my father builds us a house.” Her words were authoritative.
“Definitely.” Levi leaned forward and kissed Tiani on her lips then grinned. “But first, let’s go meet Prince Benjamin.” He helped her off the sand and they brushed themselves off.
Before stepping onto the boardwalk to head back to the resort, Tiani crouched down again and lifted a handful of sand. She let it sift through her fingers and glanced around one more time.
It was a lot to take in. Levi understood that. Now that Tiani knew, she was eager to learn the truth.