“Dr. Stephenson, welcome home. How was your expedition this winter?” Dr. Larry Ives thrust his hand forward in greeting then seemed to notice Tiani for the first time. “Well, well, well, what have we here?”
Levi didn’t like the way his colleague was leering at Tiani. He knew she was beautiful, and everywhere they went men would find her attractive, but he needed to put a stop to this now.
“Dr. Ives, allow me to introduce my wife, Tiani Sayid.” Levi placed a hand on Tiani’s back as if displaying her.
“Good morning Tiani,” Dr. Ives said, redirecting his hand of greeting. His words were slick, like a used car salesman. Levi had never really liked Dr. Ives. He was a relatively new faculty member who taught entry level theory of archeology. A classic example of the cliché mantra about those who cannot do, teach. “Pleasure to meet you.”
Tiani didn’t answer, nor did she reach forward to shake his hand, merely raised her chin in the air and glanced at Levi, waiting for him in intervene on her behalf.
Not wanting to hide a word of what he was about to say, Levi asked Dr. Ives if he spoke Spanish.
“Uh, yes,” Dr. Ives said in Spanish. “A little.”
Levi immediately switched to Spanish, talking slowly to accommodate Dr. Ives’ limitations. “It is not customary to shake one another’s hand in my wife’s culture, nor would she shake your hand, seeing as how you are beneath her in stature and lineage.”
“Huh?” Dr. Ives said, dropping his hand to his side. He switched to English. “I understood very little of that. Something about my hand and your wife.”
Before Levi translated for his colleague, he turned to Tiani and spoke in Yucatec. “He doesn’t understand Spanish well so I’m going to repeat what I just said in English for his benefit.”
“That will be acceptable,” Tiani said, also in Yucatec, once again playing the part he’d coached her to play. She seemed to be having fun with this.
“My wife is the daughter of her tribal chief and a princess in the Sayid royal family; therefore, it would be considered beneath her to shake your hand,” Levi said in English. “It is also not customary to shake one another’s hand in her Mayan culture.”
“Okay, wait. Back up. What language were you just speaking?”
“Yucatec,” Levi said. “My wife’s native language.”
“When did you get married?” Dr. Ives creased his brow. “And… how many languages do you speak?”
“Fluently? Let me think.” Levi turned to Tiani and asked in Yucatec, “How many days ago did we get married?”
“Thirty-two?” She guessed, cocking her head to the side. He decided to take her guess as accurate.
“We were wed thirty-two days ago,” Levi said in English, turning back to his colleague, counting on his fingers. “And I am fluent in English, Spanish, French, German, Finnish, Swedish, Mandarin, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, and Portuguese. I know a little Swahili, but I haven’t focused my studies on the African languages because there are almost two thousand of them. Plus, as long as you know Arabic, French, English, and Portuguese, that pretty much covers the ability to communicate with most people on the African continent. My main focus has been in the Mayan languages. I’m fluent in almost all ancient and modern languages of the Maya. How many was that? Were you counting? I ran out of fingers.”
Dr. Ives stood there with his mouth gaping. He gulped and whispered, “I would have been impressed with four or five.”
“There’s a reason why I’m world-renowned in my field.” Levi patted Dr. Ives on the arm and looked over his shoulder. “Oh, look, there’s Dr. Sedwick. I wanted to introduce him to my wife. Nice talking with you, Dr. Ives.”
“You too…” Dr. Ives face was still creased in shock and Levi wondered if he was still counting.
“What did you say to him?” Tiani whispered, even though no one else would understand her speaking Yucatec.
“I was just bragging a little.” Levi kissed her on the cheek and then switched to English and called out to his department chairman. “Dr. Sedwick! I want to introduce you to my wife.”
“Ah, the prodigal twin has returned to clean out his desk,” Dr. Sedwick said, skipping the handshake and pulling Levi into a hug.
Levi froze. Had he been fired? He squeaked out a reply. “I’m just taking a sabbatical. Do I need to clean out my desk for that?”
“I thought you got married.” Dr. Sedwick pulled back with a grin. “And here’s your lovely bride. You met in Guatemala, right?” He must have realized that the Mayans didn’t shake hands because instead he offered Tiani a slight bow of respect.
“Yes, this is Tiani Sayid,” Levi said. “She only speaks Spanish and Yucatec. Do you speak either language?”
“Si, puedo hablar español,” Dr. Sedwick said, acknowledging that he did indeed speak Spanish. The remainder of the introductions would be easier. He started by asking Tiani what she did for a living. She still didn’t completely understand the concept of a person having a job, per se. Everyone in the tribe helped out wherever they were needed, and the tribe had most things in common. There was no need for money or riches.
“I am the daughter of Chief Gabor Sayid, and a tribal leader,” Tiani said, repeating what Levi had taught her to say when people asked about her and what role she played in her community.
“You must miss your family, living here in the States,” Dr. Sedwick said with an understanding tone.
“We’ve been too busy to miss my family.” Tiani blushed and lowered her eyes. Levi knew exactly what she meant by ‘busy’ and it had nothing to do with shopping trips and sightseeing.
“How long have you lived in the United States?” Dr. Sedwick asked. He seemed confused.
“Three days? Two days?” She glanced at Levi. “How long have we been here?”
“We got here three days ago,” Levi said. “So, two nights. But we’ll probably live here half the year and go home to Guatemala the other half the year.”
“I thought she lived in Houston,” Dr. Sedwick said, cocking his head to the side.
“You think I’m Nicholas, don’t you?” Understanding came over Levi. “I’m Levi.”
“Levi? But I thought Nicholas was the one who got married.”
“We both did,” Levi said with a smile. “Nicholas married Dr. Rebecca Benson from the University of Houston at the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping. And I have the honor of marrying Princess Tiani Sayid of the Mayan tribe protecting the temple pyramid we discovered near Tikal using the new LiDAR technology.” Levi stepped closer and wrapped his arm around Tiani’s shoulders.
“No kidding? What a small and beautiful world we live in.” Dr. Sedwick once again bowed his head. “I’m honored to meet you, Your Highness.”
“Thank you,” she said. “I’m honored to meet you as well.”
“Did you know that you are married to one of the most talented linguists who ever walked the earth?”
“I understand he is talented at a great number of things.”
Levi scratched his head and cleared his throat, humbled by their praise. “Anyway…”
Tiani and Dr. Sedwick both chuckled.
“I want to show Tiani my office and then we plan to go shopping for books. Tiani and I will be helping teach her tribe to read and write Spanish and English.”
“What a wonderful endeavor,” Dr. Sedwick said. “Good luck with that. And for the record, I’m glad you’re only taking a sabbatical. Didn’t want to lose you both. Never thought I’d see the day when something would separate the geek twins.”
“I never thought I’d see the day either,” Levi said. “Good thing we have our wives to keep us… busy.”
“Indeed.” Dr. Sedwick inclined his head with a gleam in his eyes. “Have fun with your tour and book shopping. Let me know when you’re ready to get back in the classroom.”
“Probably fall semester,” Levi said. “Although I’m not sure how I’ll handle the Guatemalan rainy season this summer.”
“I don’t think I could handle it either,” Dr. Sedwick said, chuckling as he walked away. “Good luck with that.”
When Levi turned back around after saying goodbye to his department chair, he caught a look of anger or confusion on Tiani’s face. Great. What did he do?