“Hey, princess,” Levi spoke softly in Yucatec. “You look upset.” After his department chair, Dr. Sedwick walked away, Levi turned and saw anger or confusion on Tiani’s face before she pulled herself back into the mask she often maintained while serving as a tribal leader. The mask he hadn’t seen since they left Guatemala.
“I’m fine.” She lifted her chin with a confidence that seemed fake.
If Levi had learned anything from his father, uncles, colleagues, friends, basically any married man he’d ever met, it was that when you wife says she’s ‘fine’ you can guarantee she’s the opposite of fine, and most likely whatever she’s upset about is your fault.
“Show me this place of teaching you have.” Her words were clipped, confirming his fears. He tried to recap the most recent things he’d said and done to figure out what had happened to upset her.
Levi knew Dr. Ives had been lewd, but Dr. Sedwick had been polite and jovial. Was she upset with something he said? or could something he said have been misinterpreted? He’d complimented them on their desire to teach the tribal members, told Levi he was glad they wouldn’t be losing him. Levi had mentioned he might want to return to the classroom in the fall semester. That had to be it!
“Are you upset that I wanted to return to teach here in the fall?”
“Doesn’t the rain ever come to your village?” Tiani stopped short and pursed her lips.
“Yes, we have lots of rain here in Cambridge.” Levi hesitated. Where was she going with this?
“What is different about the rainy season in my village compared to your village?”
Now he understood. Levi had told Dr. Sedwick he couldn’t handle the Guatemalan rainy season. “Well, the main difference is the duration. In most parts of the United States, rain lasts a few hours, maybe a few days at most, and then the rain stops. In your village, the rain stays for months.”
“Why did you agree to marry me if you can’t handle the rain?”
“I love you. I will live wherever you want me to live. If you want to live in your village forevermore, I will move there today.”
Her face softened. “You would do that?”
“Of course.” He hadn’t dared to reach out for her in fear she might pull away, but now he pulled her close. “I want to be where you are. My home is wherever you are. You are the most important person in my world.” Levi hesitated. Was that true? Had he really just admitted that there was someone else more important than his twin?
A peace came over his heart. Yes. Tiani was more important than his twin. He would choose her over him. He had chosen her over him. Knowing Nicholas was only a phone call away, and only a flight away, made that choice easier, but Levi’s place was with his wife. And Nicholas’ place was with Becky. That’s how marriage worked.
“My place is with you.” Levi pulled her just a little closer for a soft kiss. Nothing inappropriate for the hallway at the university and nothing that conveyed the message: let’s go home and continue this conversation. Just a nice, sweet kiss to reassure his wife. He took a step back and met her gaze. “Are you ready to see all my books?”
Tiani relaxed and smiled lightly then nodded her head. “Yes, show me your books.”
The Tozzer Anthropology Building was a fascinating place for a person intrigued by archaeology and ancient structures. Levi brought Tiani into his office and pulled books from his shelves with pictures and drawings of antiquities in ancient Mesoamerica.
While Tiani sat at his desk, Levi brought her maps of the area showing where her village was located in relation to other places she knew, such as Tikal and Flores and Guatemala City.
He saw the moment her brain connected the dots and realized how big the world was beyond her little jungle forest. She knew there was a four hour walk between her village and Tikal, and a one-hour drive between Tikal and Flores, and an airplane ride to Guatemalan City. Those were all tiny dots on the map of her country, almost too small to be noticeable on the continent of Central America, and non-existent on a world map.
“I have a lot to learn,” Tiani whispered in a shaky voice.
“You have a lifetime to learn it all.” Levi wrapped his arms around her from behind, leaning over her and resting his chin on her shoulder.
“I don’t think it’s possible to learn it all.” Her voice cracked as if she was getting emotional. “All this and you still want to know what the writings mean on the temple? Why?”
“I’m not sure how to explain it.” He tried to seriously consider her question. “Your people were smart—are still smart,” he hurried to add.
Levi removed his arms from her shoulders and lowered himself to one knee beside her, realizing what he was about to tell her was probably going to be disorienting.
“A few hundred years ago, most of your people disappeared from the world very suddenly. Why? What happened that caused your people to disappear? Scientists hope that by studying what your people wrote, and drew, then we could understand what happened.”
“How many of my people were there?” Tiani gulped, vulnerability in her eyes.
“How many is that?” She pulled away just enough to meet his gaze.
“As many as the sands on the seashore.”
“I don’t know what that means.” She shook her head, brows creased. He realized she had never been anywhere near an ocean. These concepts were beyond her limited understanding.
“I’ll show you sometime.” Levi leaned forward and kissed the tip of her nose.
“Okay.” She turned back toward the desk and ran her hands over the beautiful atlas of the world with all its mystery.
“Let’s go to the bookstore,” Levi suggested. “We can find some books to take home with us and teach our people.”
“Where is home, Levi?” she whispered.
“In our village in Guatemala.” He placed a finger on the map right where he knew her village lay.
Tiani lifted his hand and splayed his fingers then pressed his hand onto the page, covering most of Central America. She then moved his hand over the map of the world in a broad circle. “My home is wherever you are.”