I hate that I can’t just call you and talk to you – or even email. When are you going to get some place current with the modern age already? I jest, I know you’re doing your good deeds and all that – you always would give a stranger the shirt off your own back even if it meant you’d freeze. I don’t know when this will get to you but I feel so disconnected from you right now – it’s not good for us. Since it may be months or more before you reply – I’ll preempt your questions.
My music is going wonderfully. I’m continuing to study at the Academy here of course but as an advanced student, I am asked to perform at various benefits and galas. I’m so busy with these and my normal school work, I sometimes feel I’ve lost the time I used to have to just play for me – but when it gets that way, I go to a park near my apartment to just play for whoever happens across me.
The advantage of Bridgeport over Barnacle Bay is that there are plenty of celebrities – back home we were something of an oddity, which I think made us even more popular than we would have been elsewhere. Here I’m rarely recognized for Dad’s work or Dad’s book. Though my name sometimes is – that has its perks of course. I sometimes get free and discounted drinks at clubs if the bartender happens to have loved Dad’s book.
You wouldn’t get this I don’t think but the club scene is pretty fun. I know it’s not your thing but sometimes I wish you could be here. I would love for you to meet this guy for example – I met him at a club and he’s really nice. We have a lot in common and just seem to click. But not being able to tell you about him – really tell you I mean – makes it seem less real than it is. And it’s really real Faromir! I may just be in love with him and I don’t have my twin brother to talk to about it.
I miss you brother, come home soon…or try to call next time you get that blasted satellite phone working! What’s the point of having one on site if it never works?
The problem – well one problem anyway – with being in the middle of a jungle is that mail comes very slowly around here. None of the villagers even receive mail. I’m not sure they’d really understand the concept if it weren’t for the volunteers getting some now and then. I got Eowyn’s letter almost six months after I arrived in the village. I’d written her and the rest of my family dozens of letters in that time but had only been able to send a few with the supply truck now and then.
When I first arrived in the village, James laid down the rules with Theresa and I from the start. “There are two things you absolutely must remember,” he said, “first off, no ‘relations’ with the natives – the menfolk won’t take too kindly to it and it’s just a pile of mess for the Corps to deal with usually. Secondly, you’re here to help them not assimilate them.” He talked for awhile about what we could expect to be doing as we walked through the village.
“There’s no Life Flight or emergency medivac so try not to do anything too terribly stupid while you’re here.” He thrust a large, heavy briefcase into my hands. “That’s your satellite phone. There’s a small generator you can use as well – if either of them breaks you’re S.O.L until I come back through on my rounds and even then it could take weeks for a truck to get back out here with replacements so use them well.”
“Come back?” I queried. “You’re not staying here?”
“I’ve got volunteers spread out in villages across this region – until about a year ago this whole area was fraught with war and raids so they’re barely on their feet. That’s where you two come in…” he motioned to both of us. “I’ll stay here for the night to make sure you’re settled in and meet the people and then I’ll be on my way.”
“They didn’t cover THAT in the training” Theresa muttered, referring to our two month training course just before the assignment. While I felt confident we were both capable – flying solo so soon after training felt like a recipe for disaster.
Thankfully, it seemed, I was wrong. The first month or so went by without too many issues. We taught classes in English, we helped with the crops, we built huts and furniture, we did anything that was needed in the small village. I was really starting to connect with several of the children who were my primary pupils in classes.
When Tendaji, one of the boys in the village, ran up to me cradling his hand with fat tears rolling down his dirty face – I thought maybe he’d gotten a splinter or a little cut. It was wrapped in dirty linens of some sort and as I peeled back the layers – the amount of blood caked on the cloth told me this was no small cut.
His hand looked like it had been mauled by something, bits of skin were hanging loosely and I could see the bones in some areas. I ripped some shreds from my marginally cleaner shirt and used it to rewrap the wound before escorting him to the makeshift hospital we had. I was surprised, but thankful, to see that James had just arrived. He was a better medic than I was…or I liked to believe he was.
After washing his hands, he set me to work with one of the women making some sort of foul smelling concoction. My face must have betrayed me because he chuckled and assured me that it would help the boy fight off infection.
It took the two of us a couple hours to sufficiently clean the wounds well enough to stitch up what could be stitched. Tendaji was a strong boy throughout – even as the needle repeatedly pierced his wounded flesh, he didn’t cry out in pain. We had little we could give him to help in that regard.
After all the stitches were in and the wound had been cleaned, the whole hand was lathered in the odiferous paste I’d made. “It’s a local treatment,” James whispered, pointing to Tendaji quickly closing eyes. All his fortitude was spent and sleep overtook him even before we finished wrapping up his hand. “I think he’ll be okay, but I want you to check his hand a couple times a day and reapply some of that…” he pointed to the bowl, “each time. I’ll come back through to check on him as well.”
I spent much of the following days by Tendaji’s side. I read him books and told him about my family, I don’t think he understood all of it but he was amused in almost all the right places so I suppose he got the gist.
Tendaji did get better and life returned to normal – well as normal as we were used to anyway. While my grandmother had given me a great many tips in the gardening regime, one area she neglected to teach me was fishing. It was a shame too because according to Mom she was a great fisherwoman. If she HAD had a chance to teach me about the fine art of fishing, I may not have been laughed at in that little village. It was a slow day and I’d noticed the small river was teaming with fish on more than one occasion but had never had a chance to really try to catch any. I knew the basics of fishing generally involved a rod and a fishing line – neither of which I possessed at the moment but I did have some twine and a long stick.
For the record – it seemed like a genius notion at the time – I am man, see me catch fish. It didn’t work out that way. And unbeknownst to me, I had an audience.
Nyaari. She was Tendaji’s older sister and according to talk, she was arranged to be married to someone about three times her age. The thought made me cringe but it was their custom and it wasn’t my place to intercede.
On that day, I heard her sweet, gentle laugh float across the river and looked up to see her watching me with a bemused expression on her face. She slid gently into the water, letting it creep up her calf and then stood completely still for several moments. I barely allowed myself to breathe – afraid to disturb whatever she might be doing.
With great skill and incredible speed, her hand darted into the water and she came up with a fat squirming fish. She tossed it lightly into a basket nearby and then repeated the move a few more times until she had enough fish to feed her family. As she scooped up the basket, she turned back to me and smiled. I looked meekly at my makeshift fishing pole and shrugged. Clearly fishing was not my skill.
Tendaji came to me often for more books. When I ran out of the ones I had, he borrowed from Theresa and when she ran out, he would read the meager selection again. He was one of my most eager pupils and had a strong grasp on English. I’d been there for a few months when I got a package from Aragorn containing his newest novel. Tendaji saw it on my bed before I’d even had a chance to read the introduction and started devouring it.
“How is your brother enjoying the book?” I asked Nyaari as we tended to the crops together one morning. Gardening, at least, was one area she could not laugh at me.
She stopped and looked over at me quizzically – unfortunately she had not learned much English yet, having been forbidden by her soon to be husband. I tried to mimic the opening and reading of a book while repeating the word for brother in her own tongue. A look of understanding finally crossed her face and she smiled. “Tendaji like it, is good?”
I smiled and nodded. “Good. My brother…” Again I repeated the word for brother in her language, “he wrote…” I attempted to mimic writing across my hand. “He wrote the book Tendaji is reading.” It took several attempts at charades to get the point across but eventually we understood each other. I think.
After that, Nyaari and Tendaji came to me with the book and Tendaji translated that his sister wanted to hear the story as well. So for several nights, after all the work was done, the three of us would read Aragorn’s newest book together.
I asked Nyaari to come to the small school house for English and math lessons any time she wanted. Generally she politely refused or simply pretended like she didn’t understand me. But as we read the book, I could see the sparkle in her eyes, she was eager to learn.
I was pleasantly surprised when she followed Tendaji inside the classroom one day. Tendaji made up some excuse for her, mostly in case her intended found out I think. “I’m glad you came.” I said with a smile.
She merely smiled and nodded at me before taking a seat next to Tendaji. She was anxious for the first part of the class. I suspect she was afraid of getting caught but also didn’t like being behind the children – she was much older than them after all. She was a quick study though and added a few more words to her vocabulary by the end of class.
For weeks this routine continued, Tendaji would fabricate the reason she was there and I would accept it blindly. She was catching up to the others quickly and I saw that sparkle in her eyes every time.
At night, after most everyone had returned to their homes, I would sometimes wonder out to the edge of the river where the fireflies liked to bounce around. I thought about home and my family. Sometimes I questioned if I belonged here, mostly on the hard days when things went bad. But mostly I enjoyed the solitude and tiny chirps of nature. On one such night, a faint rustling of brush disturbed my evening. I knew the sound wasn’t the result of wind blowing through and turned to see who else was there.
Nyaari emerged from the tall grass slowly, almost timidly. “I am sorry…” she whispered.
“For what?” I asked with a reassuring smile. “It’s okay.”
“I am to be…” she brought her hands together as she tried to think of the right word.
“Married.” I suggested. “I know.”
“I do not love him – your books…your stories, they talk of love.” She looked away from me, toward the stars. “I…wish…to love someone.”
I didn’t know what to say, what I wanted to say she wouldn’t even understand. She could never run away from her family.
“Will you…” she leaned closer and put a hand gently on my shoulder. Her eyes were glistening with tears as she pushed herself closer to me. “You are kind and good…”
“Nyaari…” I said softly. Part of me was compelled to take her and hold her. I could easily love this woman.
Before I could say anything more, she leaned forward and kissed me. Her lips were soft against mine and in that moment, all I wanted was to go on kissing her. “Soon I will be…married.” She said, slowly pulling away. “I want for to be touched with loving hands…your hands…”
“I can’t…we can’t.” I whispered. Even if it wasn’t against all the rules, if her family found out; if her intended found out that she was not untouched – she would be killed. “You are beautiful and smart, and if I could…I would.” I said, gently cupping her cheeks in my hands.
She was already beginning to cry softly but she nodded. There was another rustle in the brush and she yanked herself from me quickly. If he hadn’t shown up when he did, I probably would have caved and taken her in my arms – consequences be damned.
She left quietly with her tribe mate – I couldn’t even recognize him in the pale moonlight but she didn’t seem afraid of him. Not long after, I returned to the hut that Theresa and I shared with James when he was in the village.
“Are you alright Faromir?” she asked as she climbed into her own bed.
I laid on my own bed, not bothering to change into something more suitable for sleeping and stared at the ceiling, barely registering her words.
“Faromir?” she asked again, this time a little louder. “Are you okay?”
“Hmm?” I muttered. “I suppose. Good night Theresa.”
I leaned over and blew out the bedside candle but I didn’t sleep that night.
In the following weeks, I tried to avoid Nyaari. It’s hard to avoid someone in a small village like that but it can be done. I threw myself into other work. It seemed like the generator was breaking down every other day so I made myself solely responsible for it.
“You know it can wait Faromir – the truck is coming next week probably…” Theresa would say each time but when I barely grunted in reply, she’d move on.
We’d set up a few outhouses and rudimentary shower systems for our comfort as well as everyone else’s. Being what they were, they broke down or got clogged often as well. I took every distraction possible, even unclogging a couple toilets.
But I couldn’t avoid her forever. I knew that eventually everything would be fixed better than before and I’d have to resume teaching my classes on a regular basis and helping with the garden. I often woke before sunrise in order to grab a shower before anyone else was up and about – particularly Nyaari.
But eventually even that stopped working.
“Morning.” I said quietly; the first thing I’d said to her in weeks. I wouldn’t blame her if she threw one of her tomatoes at me in response. But she didn’t. She looked up at me and nodded before returning to her work.
I sighed and went into the showers, tossing my shorts to the side before stepping into the frigid water. I closed my eyes and submerged my head in the water, ready for the cold to send shivers throughout my very quick shower.
I was not, however, ready for her hand to wrap around my arm. When I brushed the water from my face and turned toward her, I saw that she too had shucked her clothes.
Nice outfit lol
There IS a bathroom in this park…
Can’t be unseen! Can’t be unseen!
Can’t avoid the paparazzi – even in the jungle lol
This one needs a new camera though
Tourist convention at the watering hole
He got a call from his agent…O.o
Num num num
For some reason the mosaic simply didn’t appear when Faromir took a shower this time lol