“I want to go home,” Tiani said in perfect English, then switched to Yucatec. “Was that clear enough or should I repeat it in Spanish for clarification?” She was storming down the hallway of the hotel as quickly as her high heeled shoes would let her walk. She punched the button for the elevator to take them to the penthouse suites on the top floor.
“Tiani, I’m sorry they treated you that way.” Levi stuck with Yucatec as he climbed into the elevator beside her. “That was uncalled for.”
“I don’t like America, and America doesn’t like me.” She folded her arms across her chest and huffed as the elevator soared to the upper levels of the hotel.
“That’s not true,” Levi argued. “Most people in America have been very kind to you.”
“You don’t see the way people look at me.” Tiani stalked forward and poked Levi in the chest. “You see the world through the eyes of a white man. You do not know what it’s like to be a brown-skinned person, especially a woman.”
“You’re right,” Levi whispered, deflated. “I have never seen the world through the eyes of a brown-skinned woman.”
Tiani lifted her chin and waited, probably expecting him to argue.
“But I have looked deep into the eyes of the most beautiful brown-skinned woman in the world, and I love what I see.” Levi reached up and brushed the backs of his fingers along Tiani’s cheek and she leaned into his hand. He used the leverage to pull her gently to his chest so that her head was nearly on his shoulder.
“I don’t belong in your world, Levi.”
“You are my world, Tiani.”
“I understand now why Akna didn’t want to join Marcos in his world and why Marcos couldn’t stay in hers,” Tiani said. “The Mayans and the white men were not meant to live together.”
“Prince Marcos was hardly a white man. Middle Eastern men have very different skin tone than those of us from European descent.”
“You’re missing my point,” she said, pulling back to look him in the eye. “You and I do not belong together.”
“That’s not true.” Levi felt his world crashing down around him even as the elevator slowed and released them from their confinement.
There were only a few suites on the top level, and they were all occupied by members of his family. One suite was empty and would be for another couple of hours until the party downstairs finally died down.
Levi was glad he and Tiani had chosen a solemn ceremony with the tribe rather than a pretentious gathering of people they barely knew.
They let themselves into their suite with Tiani still not speaking to Levi and he having no idea what to say to her.
Tiani marched into the bathroom and closed the door. The shower turned on and Levi leaned his head against the doorframe, wishing he could join her but respecting her desire for solace. After just a moment the shower turned off and Levi stepped away from the door seconds before Tiani opened the door and turned her back to him.
“I can’t reach my zipper.”
A tiny smile crept across Levi’s face, seeing a perfect opportunity to connect with her. He took his time stepping closer and rested one hand on her hip and reached the other hand to lower her zipper slowly, savoring the clicking of the delicate tines. Before she could step away, he gently pulled the capped sleeves over her shoulders, letting the heavy dress fall away to reveal the creamy brown skin of her back.
Tiani gasped lightly as the shimming violet fabric rested around her feet on the floor and she stood there in feminine lacy underwear. Levi was reminded how unnecessary lingerie was because it would just wind up on the floor next to their bed.
He leaned forward and kissed her neck, running his hands up her arms. She shivered and leaned back against his chest, surrendering to his advance. He wanted to reassure her that they shouldn’t allow the actions of a few mean girls to ruin their night, but he didn’t want to distract her or remind her of the conversation from earlier.
They didn’t need words. They didn’t need broken English or accented Spanish or the exclusivity of Yucatec.
Levi would communicate with his wife using the best language in the world. Love.