“Nyaari…” I gulped the word out, my throat felt dry as I faced her. She was beautiful, devastatingly beautiful. She stepped closer, her hair cascading down her back.
“Faromir.” She didn’t have to say anything else, she didn’t have to plead with me this time. She’d caught me and I couldn’t refuse – even if my brain was screaming that I should. I knew refusing was the proper thing to do.
But as she brought her hand up to gently stroke my cheek; as she blushed slightly; as she moved in closer to me, nearly pinning us both in the small shower space; “proper” was the last thing on my mind.
I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her closer to me. “Are you sure about this?” I whispered. If she said no, I knew I would be able to stop all this. “You know what can happen…”
“I’m sure.” She whispered back. She leaned forward and kissed me, her sweet silky lips sent both of us over the edge of reason and we were lost.
The movement from other villagers brought us back to reality. Slowly, reluctantly, she put her dress back on. I delicately helped her secure it and tried to smile. This would never happen again. In a few short weeks she would marry and eventually I’d go home.
She grasped my hand lightly. “Thank you,” she said, giving me another daring kiss.
I could only nod and then watch, feeling the hole inside rip open as she walked out of the showers and disappeared around the corner. I’d fallen for her, I’d tried not to but I had completely fallen for her. And now I had to watch her be joined into a loveless marriage with a horrible man who saw her as nothing more than property. And there was nothing I could do to stop it.
Unable to stand the idea of tending the crops with her, or teaching a class and always catching her scent or seeing her sweet face; I headed out of the village. The truck happened by as I was walking toward me and handed me a couple letters before continuing on.
I dropped myself on the hard ground near the water’s edge and tried to think about what had happened. Then I tried NOT to think about what had happened.
After several minutes of this back and forth, I remembered the letters I had shoved into my pocket. One was from Eowyn, there were pages and pages about this guy she’d met in Bridgeport. For the first time, she barely mentioned her music. The second was from Theodin:
I hope you are doing well in the jungle – where are you again anyway? So anyway, life here on the island is the same as ever. Dad still has a couple reporters – and I use that term loosely – hanging about him and the house often. He hasn’t done anything note worthy in a couple years but I guess there isn’t much else going on here.
Mom is still really upset about Grandma and Grandpa’s deaths; I think she was barely getting over grandpa passing when grandma went and just set it all off again.
Eowyn calls at least once a week – she won’t stop talking about some guy she’s met. With Aragorn in France and you off in the jungle – she talks to me about it. A lot. She doesn’t seem to get that I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.
School is crap. Okay it’s not crap but it’s school so it’s just boring and school like. And now that I’m in high school, they seem to think there are more than twenty four hours in a day and give a whole lot more homework. Does it get better? I bet not…
We’re really trying to keep up with the garden but none of us have the natural talent that Grandma had or the dedication that you have. Even Dad comes out to help now and then..and you know how he feels about spending too much time outside.
So yeah – I guess that’s all I got. Mom and Dad’s birthdays are coming up soon – you think you’ll be home by then? If not, maybe next year.
I managed to lose myself in the letters from my family for a bit. I even reread Eowyn’s ramblings about her boyfriend Devin. For the first time since I’d arrived, I wish there was a bus I could hop on that very day – or that I could just call a cab and go home.
Unfortunately that wasn’t an option. A couple weeks had passed since the encountered with Nyaari. We didn’t see each other much but she still came to classes occasionally and we smiled at each other cordially if we passed each other.
So when her mother came into the hut the volunteers shared, I was startled. I’d only exchanged a few pleasantries with the woman in all the time I’d been here, she was fairly distant from the volunteers – I always assumed it had to do with her husband.
“You…” she faltered, not practiced in English at all. I could see she was frustrated by it as she considered her words. Theresa continued to read – though I don’t think she was giving it her whole attention.
“Nyaari…speaks of you…” she pointed at me fiercely. Whatever she wanted to say, whatever feelings she had for me; they weren’t pleasant. “She is to be….” I was reminded of Nyaari struggling with the word, what seemed so long ago at this point.
“Married, I know.” I said. “I wish every happiness in her marriage.” I was only partially lying – I did want her to be happy. I just didn’t want to see her in an arranged, loveless marriage.
She nodded, still scowling at me. “I see you together….I am…” she muttered a string of words in her own tongue and I saw Theresa’s eyes go wide.
“What? What did she say?” I asked, having been able to pick out only a couple of the words.
“She fears the two of you are too close – considering.” Theresa said, eying me suspiciously. Great, now they were both giving me looks.
“Well, tell her I only wish her daughter happiness. Excuse me.” I said, hurrying from the hut before either of them could question me further. Unsure of my course, I just started walking. I heard them before I saw them; I heard Nyaari’s name mentioned and it hit me that I was standing near her own home. Unable to stop myself, I moved closer to the hut and started to listen in. They were speaking quickly in their native tongue so I didn’t catch most of it.
I recognized one as Nyaari’s father and I could only assume the other was her intended based on what I gathered from the conversation. They were discussing the arrangements for her marriage – bartering the terms as if discussing the sale of property. I felt nauseous and hurried away, unwilling the listen further.
Nyaari was married a couple weeks after. There was no ceremony or affair to any of it. Theresa explained that the father and husband had already negotiated and made all the necessary arrangements. After that was done, Nyaari was presented to her new husband by her mother and he was given the opportunity to “inspect” her. He could choose to back out of the arrangement – she had no such option. They left her family’s home for a hut on the other side of the village and I rarely saw her after that.
I knew he hit her – I saw her with the bruises occasionally. She tried to style her hair in such a way to hide the worst of those on her face but she couldn’t do anything to hide the ones on her arms or neck. All I wanted to do was go over that, beat the crap out of him and take her away from him.
“Faromir…” Theresa said, she sounded like she’d said my name a few times and I hadn’t responded. “Are you in there?” she asked with a chuckle.
“Not really.” I muttered. It was the truth, most of me was elsewhere –with her or at home.
“I’ve seen you watching her…did you two…” she trailed off, looking around anxiously as if afraid someone was listening.
I didn’t reply. I couldn’t put words to it; if I refused to say it then maybe the ache would stop sooner.
Theresa seemed to understand my silence. “Ahh.” She was silent as we worked awhile longer. “She’s pregnant you know.” Theresa said quietly.
I grimaced. I’d known it would happen eventually but I had hoped I’d be gone before she was with child. Still, she had a new glow to her now. Her sweet smile was always on her face – a stark contrast to the constant bruises.
Every day that passed brought me closer and closer to the edge. I was surly – a trait I didn’t like but I couldn’t seem to help it.
“Faromir, maybe you need a break – being here, all the time…it can be exhausting. James could arrange for you to take a weekend in one of the cities or something.” Theresa suggested once again.
She’d been suggesting it for a couple months and every time I just nodded absently and took myself off to do something else. I’d spent a lot of time in the hospital when I was avoiding her (or anything) – treating coughs and patching up wounds of various sorts. It was hard to be surly to a sick kid.
Mostly I was rewarded with smiles and foreign thanks but sometimes they waited too long to come in and there was nothing I could do for them. Even if we were home, near a real hospital – sometimes nothing could be done to fix the hurt.
The day I helped bury a five year old child is the day I resolved to go home. I still had about a year left but I couldn’t do it anymore, I just wanted to get out of here. And a weekend in a foreign city wasn’t going to magically make everything better…
After I finished covering the grave, I sat for a long time. The child had died from an illness – they’d waited for weeks before they brought him to us by which time he was too weak and too far gone. I’d held his hand and cradled his head in my lap as the coughing ripped through his frail body. I’d focused on him because if I looked into the face of his parents I would have felt rage and they didn’t need that.
Finally, I got to my feet and slowly walked back toward my hut – resolved to contact James as soon as possible. I was half way there when I heard the coughing and scrapping of the dirt.
She was covered in dirt, her clothes were ripped and she was bruised all over. She was cradling her stomach protectively and I knew – though I couldn’t see any obvious signs – that she was pregnant.
I tried to figure out who she was under all the bruises and dirt but she didn’t look familiar. The nearest village was many miles away and I wondered if she’d fought her way through the jungle. She started to stumble so I ran to her side; she pulled back from me even as I put out a steadying hand. “It’s okay, I just want to help..” I said, though I knew she probably didn’t understand me.
Relief spread over her features and she fell into my waiting arms. I lifted her up and she curled against me as I carried her into the hospital. I carefully laid her on the bed and started to go for a blanket but she whimpered and reached a hand out. I hadn’t even realized she was awake. Unwilling to leave her side, I sat in the chair and waited.
In time she became peaceful and I heard her labored breathing replaced with a faint snore. I retrieved a blanket and gently covered her up. I returned to the chair and dozed off and on throughout the night.
When the others discovered her in the morning, they shunned her and refused to help us try to figure out what had happened to her. Theresa had a little more grasp on their language and was able to piece together a few fragments of the story. She’d been beaten in her village – possibly due to her pregnancy – and had been left for dead by a river bank. She’d been wondering for days before she stumbled into my arms.
I spent a lot of time with her – only Theresa and I would so we both tried to make sure someone was with her almost all the time. She grew bigger quickly with a steady source of food and it soon became clear she was more pregnant than we’d originally assumed. When she went into labor, it still came as a shock though, she was still early near as either of us could figure.
But there was nothing we could do to stop the natural progression so we stayed by her side as she labored for hours.
She gave birth to twin girls that night, one of which passed away only minutes after she was born. Seeing the babies, I knew now what she’d been run out of her village. They had a pale, white skin tone and tiny wisps of blonde hair – presumably from their father. But they had their mother’s brown eyes. I wondered if her village was one of the one’s on James’s route – and more importantly if there was a blonde volunteer working there.
Jhana followed her daughter from this earth that night. She’d never quite recovered from the beating she’d taken and the multiple birth had exhausted whatever will to live she had left.
She named the surviving baby Katara just before she closed her eyes for the last time.
Tourists are weird
Cabs don't belong in the jungle
She tried to hit on him....ewww
I'm not sure it's supposed to twist like that