The flight home to Guatemala was much less traumatic for Tiani than the flight north had been. She didn’t need a sedative and she enjoyed watching out the window at the clouds and the Gulf of Mexico far beneath. The main incentive to board the plane was her homesickness. Every mile brought her closer to her village and her family.
Levi never told Tiani about his late-night visit from Nicholas nor their tearful goodbye. He cried on the floor in their hotel suite until he had nothing left in him and then dragged himself to bed and crashed. In the morning, they packed up their things and left the hotel.
They brought more than they could reasonably carry through the four-hour trek from Tikal to the village so they planned to have a truck arrive the following day and park near the edge of the jungle where men from the village could meet them with empty backpacks and pick up the bundles, which were mostly books, and carry them back to the village.
The tribe members were beyond excited to welcome home their princess and her new husband.
Tiani and Levi had only been gone a few weeks, but so much had happened that those weeks felt like months.
An unwelcome surprise awaited them. The honeymoon cottage they’d stayed in after getting married was now occupied by another couple of newlyweds. There were no other available homes, which meant until they could build a house, Levi and Tiani were expected to live in her old bedroom in her father’s home.
Levi wanted to hide his shock and disappointment, but his stomach clenched at the idea of sleeping a few feet away from his in-laws.
The bed was cozy, since there was barely room for the two of them to lay side-by-side. But the idea of sharing any intimacy was not appealing. Levi held Tiani in his arms, pushed up against the wall sweltering in the humidity and knew they couldn’t sleep this way two nights in a row much less for months. He considered trekking back through the jungle the following morning and driving the hour down to Flores to check into a hotel.
“My tent!” Levi exclaimed in a whisper. “Tomorrow night we can move into my tent. Nicholas and Becky slept in their tent for five weeks after their wedding. It’s got to be more comfortable than this.”
“What?” Tiani turned over to grin at him. “You don’t like sweltering in a cramped space with nothing but a thin wall between you and my father?”
“I miss our king-sized bed,” Levi said.
“I miss our showers,” Tiani answered with a provocative shift in her voice.
“I miss electricity,” he said, only partially teasing.
“I miss air conditioning,” she said, which was comical since she grew up without air conditioning.
“I miss my twin.” The comment just popped out along with their rapid-fire list but they both stilled at the realization. “I guess you’ve probably been missing your family as much as I’m missing my brother, huh?”
“No.” Tiani shook her head. “I love my family, but there is nothing that compares to the bond between you and Nicholas. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Really?” Why was this conversation making Levi feel hopeful?
“What’s weird is that I miss Nicholas just from picking up on your loss.”
“It’s like a part of me is missing,” they said almost simultaneously.
“We need to go home, Levi,” Tiani said with resignation.
“We just arrived today.” He was dumbfounded and confused.
“So, we’ll stay for a few days or weeks and sleep in our tent, then insist that between now and when we return again my father build us a house.”
“I would love that,” Levi said.
“We could have a nice, big king-sized bed.” Tiani snuggled close again with a suggestive tone to her voice.
“Don’t even think about coming on to me because there is no way that’s happening with your father listening.”
“Darn.” Tiani slumped into his arms. “We’re putting up our tent tomorrow.”
“First thing in the morning,” Levi confirmed.
“Do you think it would be uncouth to take a nap after getting the tent set up?” Tiani asked.
“Probably,” Levi admitted. “But I could feign a yawn a few hours later and use jet lag as a reason for fatigue.”
“I like that plan,” Tiani said.
“Let’s get some rest now so we won’t be too tired for any fun during naptime tomorrow.”
“If you insist.” Tiani turned around and tucked herself into his arms and within minutes was softly snoring.
Levi suspected he’d get zero sleep that night.