Chapter 28: Trial

Corin

     Lars recovers remarkably fast. I mean miraculously. One night, a blonde woman sneaks down the stairs to see him while the woman Sama changes his bandages or whatnot. They, Sama and “Rohan the guard,” start yelling at her to leave, but she ignores them.
     The next thing I know, I hear Lars crying for his brother. After that, he takes mere days what should’ve taken weeks or even months to accomplish. I wish I’d known what happened.
     He refuses to talk to anyone. All he does is cry.

     However, the morning of my trial, he speaks to me. “I don’t know why you want to join them.”
     “Sorry, mate. I’ve loathed Reck for ages now. I want to be where Orion is.”
     I hear him snort. “Fine. Betray your people and go make your little love-nest with these backwards heathens.”

     “Backwards heathens who healed you with some miracle, you mean?”
     He gets quiet again. Then he speaks. “Yet they killed my brother.”
     I sigh, not continuing our pointless debate. I get it: Odin died because he tried to shoot that man-child. I hope to argue my case that I wasn’t about to try the same thing. I was in a defensive stance when I’d triggered that trap.

     Orion comes in, looking upbeat, and he gives me a haircut. I notice he’d shaved, and I’m glad. That beard looked ridiculous on him.

     They take me out of my cell, and I wince at the daylight I hadn’t seen for ages. I’m brought into what they call the ‘community center.’ I’m told to have a seat on a sofa, and I count my blessings that at least I’m not handcuffed to a post or something. That’s a good sign. They must not be too worried about me.

     They attempt a kind of formal hearing. It’s actually quite precious, and I have to love them for it. They’re trying at least. The whole thing is closer to how the Skeeve council worked where everyone had the opportunity to weigh in, but they do give the woman Sama the final say.
     Vik lists the charge against me, but he does it in such a way as to make me think he doubts it’ll hold. Then, Orion stands in my defense.

     I smirk. Orion: my barrister. I love that bastard. Oh, I won’t pretend I’m not in some kind of danger, but I doubt they’ll kill me. Sending me back to the fucking Skeeves WOULD kill me, though, and Vik mentioned that as a possible sentence.

     Vik and Orion debate back and forth over the big issue: ‘was I about to shoot Asa?’ Of course, the answer is no. I’d been too shocked to see Orion suddenly standing before me.
     “I think we should hear from the accused,” Sama says in her adorable accent. I sigh and stand up.

     “The question on everyone’s mind,” Sama says, “has to do with your motives.”
     Asa pipes in, “Yeah, you show up guns a-blazing and then say you wanna stay.”
     “That’s understandable,” I say as I take in several things at once. First of all, I notice Zuri won’t meet my eyes. She’s never liked me much after what happened that one time, but I can’t help but be grateful she’s kept my secret. Rohan looks like he agrees with Brother Asa. Vik and Orion merely act curious as to what I’ll say, but the blonde woman momentarily catches my attention.

     Who is she? She’s the one with the mystical healing powers and yet she sits there, silently taking everything in. She’s young, even younger than Brother Asa, I’d wager. Whatever. I have current problems to deal with.

     “Firstly,” I begin, “I would love nothing more than to betray Reck the Intolerable Tyrant.”
     Asa speaks, interrupting. “Well, that’s a quick show of betraying your tribe. How do we know you won’t go and betray US when it suits you?”
     I sigh, working at holding in my aggravation. “Secondly and to answer your question, I want nothing to do with the world he’s creating.” Sama asks what I mean. “Even before I left, the population of Victoria, which is what he named the village once it was too big for a village, was expanding exponentially. At times, logarithmically. Survivors were hearing of this ‘great’ city and started flocking there, thinking living there would solve all their problems. But I have inside information, the inside scoop, as it were.” I pause, waiting for any questions. When none come about, I continue.

     “His ambition knows no bounds. He wants to be the world’s hero, and one of the ways he plans on making that happen is to reactivate the power grid.”
     She catches on quickly. “But to do that, he’d need resources.”
     “Correct. Near the city, there is a plant that required some repair but wasn’t impossibly destroyed. Near to that is a coal mine. As for ‘resources,’ more and more enter the city every week.” I take a breath. “I wouldn’t’ doubt that now, his plan has been achieved. Electricity, but at what a price? He told me in confidence that he wouldn’t object to forced labor if it came to it. I’ve no interest in being part of a society that all but enacts slavery for the ‘greater good.'”

     “Tell me you’re joking,” Asa says in angry disbelief.
     “I wish I were, mate. Those people are in for a rude awakening.”
     “How would he pick them?”
     Sama interrupts. “I’m sorry, Asa, but that is not the issue here. Corin was stating his case WHY he no longer wished to be a Skeeve.” I turn back to her. “And personally, I believe him when he says he wants no part of that or anything this Reck has planned for his city. But Corin,” she looks at me, addressing me personally, “could you be happy here with us? We certainly don’t have those kinds of amenities.”

     “Sorry for my language, but fuck the amenities.”
     Vik looks down at the floor. “I believe him.”
     Sama nods as if making a decision. “Are there any objections? Asa?”
     Brother Asa looks up. “I’ve thought about it, and I don’t believe he was gunning for me. His buddy on the other hand–”
     “Is not on trial here,” Sama reminds him. “But you bring up a good point. What are your feelings towards Lars?”
     I have to fight the smirk with her asking about my ‘feelings’ towards Lars. “You mean do I have any loyalty to him? Not really. I’m… I’m loyal to Orion, so whoever he thinks is great is okay in my book.”
     Orion smiles at me. Zuri votes me in. Rohan does the same–but not happily. The blonde healer says that if Orion trusts me, they all should trust me as well. I’m momentarily taken aback. Her vote of confidence came as a surprise, especially since she phrased it that way.

     “Then it’s settled,” Sama says, looking around at everyone. Did I just get a unanimous vote? She looks at me. “Corin, welcome to the family… and your new home.”

Chapter 27: The Temple

Yadira

    So much has changed in the past weeks. Just when I was beginning to get used to a new norm, another one comes along.
    Rohan and I have re-formed our relationship. At the very base of whatever makes me, me, I know I love him. I just wish I could remember why. When we make love, it’s wonderful, but surely, there’s more to it than that. There ARE these little moments, however, when he’ll make a certain expression, a kind of half-smile, that makes my heart beat funny. My heart remembers him. I suppose I’ll have to be happy with that for now.

    We bury the man Rohan killed, the one who tried to shoot Asa. We find out his name was Odin, so Vik carves out the name on a stone.

    The men who sailed with him do not attend his burial. Instead, they remain locked up in the holding cells Vik somehow knew we’d need.
    Rohan doesn’t let me talk to the man who’s awake. This would anger me except that I don’t know what I would say if I had the chance. I know he’s sad because I hear all about it as Orion talks to Sama.
    She agrees to a trial of sorts.

    Today, Zuri approaches me with her eyes lit up with excitement. “You have to see this!” I smile and let her lead me to a kind of cave I’d never noticed before.

    “Why have I never seen this before?” I ask. She’s acting like this is something new, like even the old me didn’t know, but how could that be possible if I lived here my whole life?
    “Because it was covered with brambles and shrubbery before they cleaned it out.” She’s right. Most of this was covered with a briar patch of sorts. It was in safeguarding the island that this became visible.
    “Where does it go?” It looks scary to me, like it’s probably filled with all manner of creepy-crawlies.
    She turns to me with a secret kind of smile she sometimes uses.

    “Follow me.”
    “Zuri! Are you crazy?” She could get bit by a spider or something terrible!
    She laughs. “Calm down. I’ve already explored it once. Come on.” She disappears into the blackness.
    I quickly realize the cave, or tunnel rather, isn’t very long at all. I see light ahead, and we emerge on the other side in a large clearing. Again, my mouth drops that none of us knew this existed before now. Well, maybe Sama or Asa did, or maybe myself, but I don’t know. Surely someone would’ve mentioned it, right?

    A quick glance around almost answers my question. This might not be obvious to see from the sea, maybe just showing a cliff face and nothing else, a kind of optical illusion. The brickwork could be explained as well. There are all kinds of ruins on the island of houses people used to live in.
    But this looks older.
    “What is this place?” I ask.
    “My guess is some kind of abandoned temple.” She walks forward a few paces. “I looked around a little earlier, but I knew I had to come and get you.”

    “How old is it?”
    “I have no idea. I’m not a… what is the word… an archeologist, but it looks like there were two definite time periods when things were built, judging by the different brick styles.” She looks back at me, waiting for me to catch up. “There’s a tile inlay that I really want you to see.”
    I nod like I know what she’s talking about when actually I have no idea. My eyes continue to travel over the ancient stonework, wondering why it’s here in the first place, wondering about the people who built it, wondering again how we could have missed something like this.
    “Wait a minute!” Zuri suddenly stops, staring at the crumbled, main building.
    “What?” I follow her gaze.

    “That. That wasn’t… That wasn’t there earlier,” she says almost to herself.
    At the same time, I let out a little laugh of happiness. Finally! Something looks familiar! It’s my friend, the rock! Uh, crystal! How did HE get here?
    “Yadira!” Zuri calls out in alarm as our roles are reversed. She’s the cautious one now while I bound fearlessly ahead.
    “It’s okay, Zuri! I know this person.” I grin at her and watch her catch up.

    “Person?”
    I can’t stop smiling. “Yes! This is the r-… crystal I talked about!” I face the crystal. “Hello again! I’m sorry. I never learned your name.”
    Relief pours through me when he answers. “Good to see you too, Yadira.” Contrary to what he says, his tone implies a kind of annoyance. “I suppose it would cause no harm in learning my name. It’s Peter.”
    “Hello again, then, Peter.” I turn to my friend. “Zuri, this is Peter. He told me to drink from the fountain.” I’m again happy I’m able to remember the time just before I lost my memories. I can still recall the land of weird.

    She looks like she’s trying to process what I’m doing and saying and stunned by both. “The crystal has a name, and it is Peter,” she states dully. “Did… he… tell you this?”
    I turn and give her a funny look. “Yes. Just now. You must’ve been too far away.”
    “She can’t hear me like you can,” Peter tells me while Zuri looks at me like she debates whether or not I’ve lost my mind. “However, unlike most mortals, she can sense a presence, like I’m no ordinary crystal.
    “He says you can’t hear him?” I ask her.
    Her expression changes, and I think she believes me.

    “No, I cannot. But I… believe you. After all, an hour or so ago, there was only this well-preserved tile inlay, and now, there’s a crystal with what looks like a fire inside it.” She pauses. “Interesting. I find this place then have an overwhelming feeling that I need to bring you here. Then this shows up. Er, HE shows up.”
    “Oh, I like her,” Peter says, sounding jovial for the first time. “She’s… sassy.
    I look at him with a quizzical expression, wondering how he could’ve gotten ‘sassy’ from what Zuri just said.
    She continues, “So, …he… was with you in the realm of the gods?” She looks at him with respect.
    “Yes.” More like the land of weird, but yeah.
    Then, she speaks to him, asking the question I should be asking, “Why did you tell her to drink from the fountain?” There are tears in her eyes. “I’m doing my best, but she wants her memories back. Tell us, what are we supposed to DO?”

    “And why can’t I hear you?” she asks, stressing the ‘I.’ She starts crying. I stand here shocked while Peter speaks to me again.
    “She is filled with jealousy of you. It impedes her progress. It’s one of the many reasons they decided to send me.
    “Who is the ‘they’ you mean?” I ask while Zuri sniffs, still crying.
    “Our parents.” He pauses, obviously letting that sink in.
    “I think I need to sit down.” He agrees with me, saying he’ll attempt to calm Zuri in a way that I can’t yet.

    After I walk away, Zuri starts speaking to him in a different language. It would sound pretty if there weren’t such anger in her voice. I GUESS Peter can understand her? I don’t hear his answers, but I do sense powerful feelings of emotions pouring from him. He wants her to know she’s doing a good job despite the unknown-to-me jealousy and that more will be asked of her. That’s my best guess.
    Meanwhile, I have no idea how to deal with the knowledge that Peter said OUR parents. Parents? Me? And that makes him my brother? My brother is a r– crystal?

    Zuri saves me from my confusing thoughts when she emerges from the roofless inner temple area. “Everything okay?” I ask.
    She takes a deep, quick breath before nodding her head once in a fast motion. Then, she walks over and has a seat next to me.

    “This is not how I thought the day would go,” she admits to me.
    I laugh. “Tell me about it, right?”
    “His name is Peter?” She watches me nod a yes. “I think I like him, even though… hm… I sense an… attitude problem?”
    I laugh harder in a kind of hysterical way. My brother Peter who is a rock has an attitude problem. Oh, right. Crystal.
    Zuri joins me in my crazy giggling. “And Yadira, this will sound strange, but… go swimming.”
    I look at her like she’s bonkers. “What?”
    “Just try it.”

    I do as she says, figuring it couldn’t hurt, and she walks away a little bit, probably to go have some quiet time herself to think.

    The water feels nice. It even smells nice. Peter tells me to breathe in the mist.
    “I’m sorry your memories left. We, I, thought it would make things easier.” He doesn’t wait for me to ask my next question. “You’re soon going to be put to a difficult trial. Having no memories would make it easier for you, but… Zuri’s right. It’s cruel either way.” He sighs. “So… here.”

    I breathe in again, and suddenly, pictures fly through my mind:

    “Thank you,” I tell him.
    “In future, remember that you thanked me.” He sounds sad, and I don’t want to ponder what he means.
    No, I want to go embrace my husband.

Chapter 26: Visitors

A/N: Hey, everyone! I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth, I promise. Well, maybe I have as far as this thing has been going. I got an ACTUAL job a few months back, and they’re finally pushing me towards a full-time schedule. I’ve had this little beauty of a chapter sitting and waiting for weeks, needing the in between chapters to come out, but I hadn’t found the time to finalize stuff for it to come out (until today, obviously).
I hope to catch up with everyone’s stories during my breaks (when they give them to me), so please, please don’t think I’ve forgotten about your stories, either! I’ve been so exhausted lately that I didn’t want that to carry over into my mood when commenting (and responding to comments).
Also, I’m experiencing something that rarely happens to me: I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO GO FROM HERE. I mean, I have a few ideas (distant ones, unfortunately), of course, but I don’t have the chapter buffer I’m used to having. I’d really love some input, etc, if you have ideas of what you’d like to see happen.
Anyway, sorry for the long note here, ON WITH THE STORY!

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     My heart pounds in my chest. I don’t suppose it’s in fear, but the fact is, I’m out of practice. I’ve been so focused on how to get back to winning Yadira’s affection that I stopped any kind of combat training. Oh, sure, that little fight with Rohan tells me I can more than hold my own, but I wouldn’t call that a fair fight.
    I glance in Rohan’s direction. He has one of the shotguns pointed down to the beach, and I have a very strange deja vu. He’s like our sniper again. I can only hope he’s as good a shot as he used to be.
    Two of the men swimming to shore wear hats, another in sunglasses of all things, making it easier for them to be able to see in the bright sun. One man wears a wide-brimmed fedora. He appears to be the leader.
     As far as these men will know, Vik is our leader. I’m on point to his right, and Asa is to his left. Three against three–unless they have backup hidden on the boat. And of course we have our own backup on the top of the cliff.
    Fuck. They’re wary. They must’ve seen our fires. We step forward to just inside the trees.

    “Halt!” Vik calls out, and the other three men raise their weapons. Vik has his shotgun trained on the man in the middle who’s held up his hand to tell his men to stop. Good thing for them too. They were about to step right on a trap. “State your name and purpose here,” Vik commands.
    “I am Corin of the Skeeves,” the man in the middle says, and my mouth drops in shock.

   Vik immediately puts out his hand to stop me from running forward to greet my old best mate, lowering his weapon to the side. My heart breaks with the thought that Corin’s now the enemy.
    I can barely see his eyes as Corin watches us warily. He can’t see us well where we stand in the shadows, if he can see us at all. “And just who might you be?”
    Vik pauses. He doesn’t want to answer his question. “You have no business here, Corin of the Skeeves. Leave our island at once!”

    I blanch at this. There he is! My best mate! And I have to pretend I’m not here. I figured Reck would send a scout or two, but I didn’t expect him to send the last remaining original Skeeve he had.
    Vik puts his finger over his mouth, looking at me, conveying I should remain silent. I understand why, but it’s killing me. If Corin should recognize me, even the sound of my voice, he’ll easily figure out Vik, Zuri, and Amina are here as well.
     Corin cocks his head, listening with his incredible hearing. “First show yourself, and then we’ll decide whether or not we have business here.”
     Fuck. He thinks he’s recognized the voice.
     Asa starts frantically pointing to himself and pantomiming himself walking into view. Vik gives him a curt nod, not liking the idea but realizing it’s our best chance. He hands Asa his shotgun since it’s a more threatening weapon than the metal-tipped spear Asa had.

     Asa steps out and sounds downright terrifying when he mimics Vik’s tone and accent, “Now you see me. You have no business here. Be gone.”
     I can sense Rohan’s unease, and I offer up a quick prayer he’s still the crack-shot he once was. Asa was dragged into this by coincidence. I’ll hate myself if he dies thanks to us.
     Corin smirks. “Who’s with you, boy?”

     A gunshot sounds, and sand at Corin’s feet pushes away, letting everyone know it was merely a warning from Rohan above.
     Asa smiles meanly back at him. “Let’s just say it’s none of your damn business.” He pauses. “And I’d advise you to lower your weapons or my buddy from the sky might not be so generous next time.”
     Corin raises his hands and directs his men to do the same. I don’t recognize the other two. “Fair enough.” He clears his throat. “I’m looking for two men, a woman, and a little girl. Yours is the first sign of civilization we’ve found.”
     “Haven’t seen ’em. They must be somewhere else.” Fuck. He answered too fast. Corin is going to know that was almost rehearsed.
     Corin pretends to relax. “Well, damn. But after a year, it is nice to meet someone new. We’re in need of fresh water and a place to dock our boat for some much-needed repair.”
     “We have no dock, as you can probably see, but I’ll wager you can find a decent dock in the old city. As for water, you can look there as well.”
     Shit. Bad move. The other two men raise their weapons. Ever since eop, it’s been very bad form to deny someone water.

     “You’ll deny your fellow man something so simple as water?”
     I put my head in my hands as I hear Asa reply, “The gods have not deemed you worthy to drink from our well.” Oh great, let’s just bring the gods into this as well.
     One of the other men gets incredibly angry with this. “You son of a bitch. How dare you claim to know the will of the gods!” He aims his shotgun…
     … and gets promptly shot in the thigh. He screams and drops to the ground, holding his leg. Asa also ducks as the other man fires a shot which lands in the sand behind his head. That man gets shot in the chest, dead before he hits the sand.
     I freeze, and Vik snatches my rifle from me before pointing it at my best mate. Corin has also raised his, pointing it into the foliage where Asa disappeared.
     This has to end. “Corin, stop!” I yell and run out from the cover, completely unarmed.

     He sees me and stumbles, his jaw slack. “Orion, you asshole.”
     His conspirator at his feet yells, “Kill him!”
     I hear a voice above me. “I wouldn’t do that, Corin. Not unless you think you’re faster than Hoots.”
     He ignores both of them, instead still speaking to me. “How could you do that to me?” He steps forward and promptly triggers the trap, sending him flying through the air in a net before being slung right into the tree trunk that I had used to prepare it. He’s knocked out cold.
    “You bastards!” his cohort screams, and Vik shoots him in the chest before he can fire his weapon.

    The man Vik shot doesn’t die, even if he’s close to death. Vik missed his heart. The man passed out from pain and blood loss. He’s on a cot in the cellar, being watched over by Rohan and tended to by Sama.

     As for me, I’m sitting in a chair opposite my best mate. He’s slumped over, still out, and tied up. I’m waiting for him to wake up. It doesn’t take him long.

     He moans and tries to raise his head. Quickly, he discovers he’s bound.
     “Stay calm, old man,” I tell him.
     “Fuck,” he moans. “Orion?”
     “The very same.”
     “Water. Please.”
     “Sure,” I tell him. Then I get up, grab the cup of water I brought with me, and hold it to his lips. I do my best to keep it from spilling yet hold it at an angle where the water will come out. He greedily swallows it. “Better?” I put the cup on the box next to me.
     He nods, and I sit down again. Then he spits in my face.
     After my shock wears off, I start laughing. “Good to see ya too.”
     “What the fuck were you thinking?”
     “Well, ye asked for water–” I wipe my face on my shirt.
     “You know what I mean!” He winces from yelling.
     “Ye-ah, probably wanna hold off on the yellin’. Ye knocked yer noggin pretty well out there.” I stand up to double check that the lock has the safety on. It does.
     “What about Lars? And Odin?”

     I smirk. “Lars and Odin? Ya sure ye don’ wanna know ’bout Thor as well? Or maybe Freya?” I laugh.
     “Bollocks, you’re still an ass.” He struggles against his bindings for a moment. “They’re brothers.”
     “Ah. Sorry to hear that. The one who tried to shoot our mate is dead. The other is in the next room, fightin’ for his life.”
     He lets this information sink in. “What the fuck happened with you, mate? One minute you’re beside me and the next, you’ve run off with that siren and her child. I didn’t even know you’d fancied her.”
    “I don’t. Too easy.” I grin, and we both laugh.
    “Then what?”
     I sigh and turn my chair around. It’s time to do my job. “First tell me what yer doin’ runnin’ ’round like yer master’s dog?”

     “I’m following orders.” Then he makes a pathetic attempt at my accent. “Don’ ye KEN what that means?”
     I roll my eyes. “Aye, I do. But why are ye followin’ orders from that monster?”
     “That ‘monster’ was our mate!”
     “‘Til he lost his bloomin’ mind.”
     He calms down, looking down, and I know he agrees with me. “What choice did I have?” Since I don’t answer, he continues, “What CHOICE did I have since you left with nary as much as a ‘by your leave.’ Not even a goodbye! Nothing! A bloody NOTE could’ve been better than nothing, but you didn’t even do that! I even checked fucking tree trunks!”

     “I couldna. Ye know that. Vik and Zuri were runnin’ for their lives.”
     “Well, once they decided to steal his daughter, they were. Zuri at least had nothing to fear.”
     “Amina’s na his.” Fuck Vik telling me to reveal nothing. This is still my best mate I’m speaking to. “Now tell me she had nothin’ to fear once he’d’ve found out about that?”

     That brings him up short. “Not his? Then that means… fuck. Vik.” I let that sink in some. Then he asks for more water.
     “Ya gonna spit in ma face again?”
     “No. Even if I should.”
     I chuckle as I stand then help him drink. He’s starting to perk up some.
     “What I don’t understand,” he says, “is why YOU left. At this point, you’d probably be a fucking general for fuck’s sake.”
     “General to a madman or living compass to a couple an’ child runnin’ for their lives. Which would YOU decide?” I put the cup back down and have a seat in the chair again.
     “You and your bloody morals.”

     I smirk, thinking of Yadira. “Not… quite.”
     He gets quiet, and I let him think, wondering what he’s going to say next. Finally, he speaks again. “I hate him, Orion. He’s declared himself King of the Skeeves and erstwhile Supreme Ruler of the Planet, claiming it’s the will of the gods.”

     “So not MUCH of an ego then, eh?”
     He rolls his eyes at my sarcasm. “Not a shot was fired when we showed up at the Trag’s camp. They surrendered immediately, and one of the terms, as I later found it out to be, was to have the high priestess pronounce his right to rule.” He spits on the floor. “It’s a godsdamned absolute monarchy for fuck’s sake, like we’re back in the bloody dark ages.”
    I ponder for a moment. Dark ages. “Well, what else did ya think history would think of this time we’re in?”

    “I couldn’t give a fuck. The point is, I hate him. I went on this little ‘find the princess’ mission to find YOU. Reck can rot in hell.” He looks me in the eyes. “Untie me, Orion.”
    “I canna do that, even if I want to. Thing is, ye pointed a gun at a member of my new family, an’ Vik doesna trust ye.”
    “Oh, so VIK is your big kahuna around here?”
    I chuckle, wondering how he’d react to the knowledge that our leader is a woman. “Na. He’s just sleeping wiv her.” I laugh at his expression.
    “Zuri?”
    I stand up, not correcting him. “I’ll tell them what ye told me, an’ hopefully, they’ll believe ya.”

    As I walk to the door, he gets my attention again, scooting his chair to face me. “Orion.” I turn to see what else he has to say. His lower lip trembles. “I’ve missed you.”

Chapter 25: Loneliness

A/N: This is a long chapter, but it has in it some key moments.
Next chapter, stuff really ‘hits the fan’ again. >:)
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Orion

      Today is Vik and Sama’s wedding. An actual wedding, for the FIRST TIME here since eop. I still don’t care what Rohan and Yadira say.

     It’s an actual wedding because Zuri presided over it. She’s our self-proclaimed priestess and chronicler, and no one is arguing that fact, especially not Yadira.

     This is what a wedding looks like, Yadira: an officiator, witnesses. Of course, in the old days, there would be a proper reception: a band or DJ, food, drinks, dancing. We’re having to ration our food supply since the garden didn’t produce enough for double the number of people on the island, them not knowing we would show up when Yadira planted the garden in the spring. But Sama has a plan.
     That’s not saying we have no way to celebrate. Yadira managed to whip up a batch of a drink using a kind of root she harvested. It’s not too bad. We also brought the card table and are going to have a bonfire (using materials Vik gathered around the town for this specific purpose). I suppose it’s time to start new traditions.

      I find Yadira at the drink bowl. “So what did ya think of the ceremony?” I’m rubbing it in; I know I am. I can’t help it.
      “It was lovely, and it was what Vik and Sama wanted.” There’s been a change in her in the recent weeks. I think it has a lot to do with her growing friendship with Zuri. Yadira still remembers nada, but she’s becoming more confident in herself–not stressing so much over the loss of her memories.
      “It was real.” I suppose I will never truly give up on her, even if it’s created a rift in the ‘family.’
      She does a small, mock bow. “Well, I’m glad it meets your strict approval. It’s not every day that happens.” She’s furious with me, I’m guessing. I can only guess because she refuses to discuss anything with me in private.

      The others come over to try and then exclaim over Yadira’s ‘new’ drink. Zuri takes the seat next to me.
     Asa asks Rohan and me to join him in a game of cards, saying the whole point we brought the table down was to play so we may as well get to it. I sit opposite Rohan.

      My blood boils when I look across the table. And to think, I used to really like him. “Care to place a wager on this one?”
      Rohan lets out a short ‘hah’ of a laugh. “You WOULD ask that, wouldn’t you?”      Asa looks uncomfortable as his eyes go back and forth between us. “Guys, I just wanted to play.”
      I ignore him, instead addressing Rohan again. “I think you can guess what it is I want.”

      Asa’s shocked. “Dude. Are you serious? Over a game of cards?”
      Rohan sighs in an aggravated fashion. “Yes, Asa. You see, the man is that desperate, and desperate men act like idiots.”
      I still watch Rohan as he fights to control his temper. I get more specific. “One night then.” And once she has me, she’ll never want you again.
       Rohan laughs meanly. “Oh, that should be hilarious. I’ll make sure she’s armed to the teeth.”
      Asa’s flabbergasted. “You two realize she’s a person, right?”
      “Yes, of course we do,” I assure him. “But she will barely speak to me.”
      Rohan glares. “There’s a good reason for that.” He sits back and ponders. “All right. If I win, you leave.” 
    “Leave? Where would I go?”
      “I couldn’t give a fuck.”
      I think for a moment. I really expect to beat him. “Okay, but it’ll only be to live in the off-site settlement.”
      “I can’t believe this is happening,” Asa pipes in, but he agrees to be the mediator in our bet. “If I win, you two have to stop this stupid feud.”

      Normally, I’m very casual when I play cards. To me, it’s never been about winning. I’ve always just liked being in people’s company with some good natured banter and friendly competition. Today, this is anything but friendly.
     I’m not daft. I can imagine that Yadira would shriek if she heard about my proposition. She may not even agree to it, and I expect that. But it’s the CHANCE that I want. I just need to talk to her, to explain myself. Somewhere in that woman is a part of her that loves me, and I want her to see it for herself. Yes, of course I’d love to have her in every way, but I’m not pressing my luck.

     “Hah!” Rohan shouts, a look of vicious triumph in his eyes. “Beat that!” He slaps his cards on the table. How did he get a hand like that so quickly?
     I sadly put my cards down, showing my lack of a winning hand. My heart sinking, I say, “I’ll move tonight.”

     We have the bonfire part of the party, but all it does is make me feel more isolated, more alone.

      Rohan won’t stop grinning like the biggest ass.

      After Vik and Sama leave for the settlement, I make my exit as well. I’m just the extra wheel anyway.

     So this is my new home. It’s where I kissed Yadira for the first time.

      I light the table lantern.
      I’ll be fine. This home isn’t so bad. I don’t know why someone didn’t live in it before. I look around, and the empty loneliness is more than I can bear.

     How did my life become such a huge pile of shite? Should I have stayed with the Skeeves? Put up with Reck and his insanity? In crossing the ocean, I’ve condemned myself to a life of almost monkitude, alone.

      After praying the flue isn’t full of anything that might cause a chimney fire, I start a fire in the small furnace in the bedroom. I’m glad for its warmth because the night is freezing.
     A month passes. I only visit the main settlement occasionally. Sama was made aware of my agreement with Rohan, and she visits now and again to make sure I have enough to eat and so forth. I’m thrilled to the bone when she tells me she’s expecting Vik’s babe.

     Zane grows up practically overnight, and there isn’t a soul alive that would argue about his paternity. We’d all expected he would turn out more like Sama, but nature likes to surprise us.

     In my boredom, I discover something about the drink Yadira figured out how to make. If left out and covered for several days, it ferments, and it tastes decent enough once one removes the nasty film that sits on the top of it. And it helps keep me warm.
     I make good use of it with the job Sama gives me.

     Where I live has an excellent vantage point looking out to sea, so I spend quite a bit of my time sitting on my rooftop, drinking and watching the world go by.
     My new job is all because of Vik’s paranoia. He truly expects unfriendly visitors. Maybe he’s right. Or maybe we’re all just utterly mad.

     I belch and look at my empty glass. I’ve just about run out of the root used to make my drink. Bugger. I suppose I could just go to the old town and see if I can find more bottles of old whiskey.
     I smile at the prospect. It’s early spring, and the weather is improving, which should make the journey easier than last time. In fact, the snow around me doesn’t make sense because it’s not that cold today.
     Then a small glint from the sea catches my eye. Hold the phone. Wha’s that? I clumsily reach for my binoculars.

      My heart stops. I can hardly believe it. A sailboat.

Chapter 24: Guide

A/N: Eop = end of plague. I started abbreviating it while doing the cast of characters tab, and it started to make sense to me that it may as well become a word in this society to mark when time really changed. So it’s 16 years past eop, or just year 16, yr16, y16. Eh, language is alive, and I have to think about how it would evolve in this period of ‘history.’

—————————————

Zuri

     When I first met Yadira, I was insanely jealous. First of all, she had Rohan, one of very few men I’ve not been able to seduce (the other preferred men, a secret I will continue to keep). But mostly, I could see it like writing on her skin. The gods are with her. They bless her, and she didn’t even know it!
     My first night, I hardly slept for thinking of it. By morning, however, I realized that it’s not her fault she doesn’t know it.

     But I didn’t know what to do about it! It was so plainly obvious to me that she was no mere girl, but I kept getting hints that she wasn’t ready to hear my thoughts on who she may really be. She’s had no one to teach her these things, and I start to wonder if that’s why I’m here, if that’s why I’ve gone through everything I’ve gone through. I could never be positive, though.
     Until that morning…

    IT had happened. The gods have placed their mark on her, and with it, I see my path. I have been brought to her.
     First, I am her guide.

     “Hello, Yadira.” I find her after blissfully satisfying my Asa. I haven’t told her my thoughts yet due to all the activity that Amina’s father has us doing. Luckily for me, I’ve stayed out of it, claiming I need to care for our daughter and try to figure out what’s going on with our young goddess. (At least I finally convinced Vik she’s not a demon!)
     “Hello, Yuri.” She pauses then quickly corrects herself. “I mean Zuri.”
     As if I needed more proof. “Thank you. I prefer Zuri. Yuri makes me think my parents wanted a boy.” Besides, I think Zuri sounds cuter. At eop, it was a kind of fad to change our names. I changed mine when I encountered the Skeeves.
     Her mouth drops, a look of surprise on her face. “I did it again,” she whispers.
     “You mean to say you know things about people that you feel like you should not know.” And of course, I’m instantly curious what those things are. But this all goes in line with my thoughts, the fact that she just KNOWS things.
     “Y-yes. And I hate that! Why can’t I know things about MYSELF?”
     “You will remember again.” But it may be a long time from now. A long time… which she will probably have thanks to the fountain.

      “You mean to say you’ve found some books?” She knew I’d been doing the research.
      I smile. “Yes and no. Yes to the books, but no, I don’t think they’re accurate. There are things that, like you, I just KNOW.” I’m so grateful for everything I was taught previously. The books here on this side of the world make the things I’m looking for seem like they’re total fiction, and they downplay them like children’s stories. In doing so, I worry they have omitted valuable information. I can’t remember every detail I’ve ever learned.
      “Okay… But you think I’ll get my memories back?”
      I quickly work out in my mind a way I could tell her that she might understand. “Yes, but you need to go on a spiritual journey.” The memories are not the most important thing! I inwardly sigh because I know that’s all she wants.
      She looks at me strangely. “A what?”

     I’m guessing what she’s thinking. I suppose that wasn’t the BEST way to put it. “I don’t mean have your spirit leave your body. Your memories were taken from you for a reason. That reason is to get you to focus on your journey. If you still had your memories, you would not be as inclined as to seek out the meaning behind all this.” You would not be as inclined as to figure out your true self, and in figuring that out, everything else will fall into place, I pray.
     “So if I can figure out the meaning my memories were taken, I’ll get them back?”
     “Yeeeees, of a sort. You need to realize your purpose on this earth.” I pause and decide to go ahead and tell her my personal thoughts. Maybe that will get her to see. “In meeting you and seeing what I’ve seen, I now know my purpose. And the first thing is to guide you on this journey. It has to be why I’ve gone through what I’ve gone through.” Before my grandmother died (when the world was sane), she taught me many things. My mother was trying to continue teaching me when the plague took her. So many deaths…
    Yadira nods. “Jers.” She even pronounces his name correctly.
    Tears sting my eyes. How does she know? “Did Rohan tell you?”

     She too looks like she wants to cry. “No! Y-Zuri, why does this happen to me? I can see them. He tripped, and Rohan tried to catch him.”
     I suddenly hug her, crying. “Thank you.” I also offer up a silent prayer to the goddess. “He was my brother, and I wanted to believe Rohan’s story. Now I know. Thank you.”
     “If you’re supposed to be my guide, tell me why I can see this horrible thing yet can’t remember last month?”
     “It has to be more proof that we are on the right path. It was a gift to me, but I’m sorry it brings you sadness.”
     “I’m sorry you lost your brother.”
     They’re so simple, her words. But they unleash a torrent of grief from me.

     She holds me while I cry like I’ve never cried before, which may be true. I didn’t have time to cry over finding my parents dead from the plague. I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to cry over Jers the way I needed to. Reck wouldn’t let me, saying it was a sign of weakness. But here, in the presence of Yadira, I let it out.
    With the world still shuddering from its tremendous loss, we need her.
    This is why the gods sent her. This is why she’s a woman. This is why so many are drawn to her.
    As for who, or more accurately what, she is, I don’t know for sure. She could be the goddess herself. She could be her daughter. She could be a physical manifestation of the spirit of the goddess. Maybe some combination. Maybe she’s a new, very-in-tune high priestess, but I think my original guesses are closer to the mark.
     My first step may be in being her guide, but my last will be in letting her guide me.

Chapter 23: Betrayed

Rohan

     “Leave,” I tell the worthless bastard. “You’ve done enough damage for one night.” My throat still hurts from where he clipped me with his arm, but I’m ignoring it.
     I’ve never trusted the pile of garbage after I saw the way he looked at Yadira that first day, and ever since Yadira’s mysterious loss of memory, I’ve kept a close eye on her, wondering if he’d try to take advantage of the situation–since she has no memories of me either.

      I’m not quite sure how he managed it, but he’d somehow seduced her to the point that he looked like he was ready to carry her off, even though she told him ‘this isn’t right.’
      Before she’d said that, I’d worried I’d somehow lost her, that she preferred him over me. After all, the first thing I saw when I’d rounded the corner was HER kissing HIM. And after all that with her assuring me she knew she loved me. Then what was that then?
      In my turmoil of emotions, hearing her say that and trying, not very hard mind you but still trying, to push him away made up my mind: It’s mostly his fault.
      And, I admit, on a much more primal level, I was seeing red that he was trying to seduce MY woman. I wasn’t going to stand for it.

     Of course I couldn’t fight him. He was a bloody foot soldier for fuck’s sake. Before that, he took part in a sort of street fighting tournament that was popular with our lot for a time.
     But when Yadira called him something, some other name, he paused in shock. I took that moment to start pounding him.
     Then the bastard gave me a look like he was about to try for the pity card should he ‘let me’ beat him up. There was no way I could win! … until Yadira wrapped her arm around me.
     I won anyway.

     “Rohan, please.” I’m brought back to the present moment, and I tighten my arms around my beautiful wife.

       “Shhhhhhhh,” I croon her as I stroke her hair. Her crying has progressed to the hiccuping stage, and it breaks my heart.
       She won’t stop trying to apologize, her words stuttering as she tries to get them out. “I-I d-don’t know h-how I c-could le-et that ha-appen. Ple-ease do-on’t hate me-e.”
       “Never. Please stop crying.” I honestly don’t know why I’m not upset with her. Takes two to tango, as they say. Maybe if she had her memories, this would be rougher on me, but I KNOW Orion was using the situation to his advantage, also using her lack of experience as he probably flooded her with more than she could withstand. It was her trying to pull away that sold me on that fact. Of course, everything she’s crying/mumbling/sobbing out to me also helps me to understand.
      “I wa-as trying to-o avoid hi-im, but it di-didn’t work. I’m s-sorry.”
      “Yadira, shh. Calm down. I don’t hate you; I could never, ever hate you. I’m not mad at you.” I could kill Orion, though. “Calm down, and we can talk.” She starts up what might be another wail, but I stop her. “No. Shh. It’ll be okay. I love you.”

      After we stand here for several minutes, me stroking her hair and rocking us back and forth, her breathing finally returns to normal.
      “How can you say it’ll be okay?” she asks sadly.
      I lightly shrug. “Because I love you, and I want it to be.”
      “How can you say you love me when you don’t even know me?”
      “What? What are you talking about?”

     She lifts her head, and I look into her reddish eyes as they swim with more tears. “How can you claim to know me when I’m not even me anymore?”
     “How can you ask that? And of course you’re you.”
     She shakes her head no. “I’ve been told things as YOU remember them. I have no idea what I was thinking during those moments. All I can do is guess.”
      “Yadira, you’re you. When something happens, you react exactly like you would have before.”
      Her face crumples up. “React? Like before? Rohan, he… He said he kissed me right before I lost my memories.”

      “What?” I gasp out. I feel like I’m falling into a deep pit, so deep that I’ll break every bone in my body when I hit the bottom. Wasn’t I just thinking how it would’ve been worse had this happened before she lost her memories?
      She must not like the look on my face because she tries to back away, but all that does is make me tighten my grip on her. “Rohan, I didn’t kiss him back.”
     “How do you know?” I ask even though I can guess the answer.
     “He told me.” Yes, of course he told her, which makes the fact that she didn’t kiss him back all the more believable. “He’s been chasing me ever since, but I was trying to avoid him.”
      No, he’s been chasing her for longer than that. Wait… she was trying to avoid him on her own, meaning she’s known for a while what happened. “Ever since…” When after she lost her memories would he have told her this? “There was a time between then and now? How often has this happened? And why didn’t you tell me about it?”
      She looks like she’s about to burst into tears again. “This was his third attempt, and I didn’t tell you because… because I was trying to figure out what I was going to do.”
      I let go of her, more like jerk back away from her. Did someone just run me through? I clutch at my chest because of how badly it hurts. Why did she have to try to ‘figure out’ what to do? As if she had to consider whether or not she’d chose him? I take a couple steps away from her.
      “Rohan, please!” She closes the distance and puts her hand on my chest.

      I almost wrap my arms around her again, but I can’t bring myself to do it.
      “Please don’t hate me. I can’t stand it. I was so confused!”
      Is this why we still haven’t made love? She didn’t want to while she was still considering being with Orion?
      “I had nothing to go on other than emotions.” She kisses me but gets no response.
      She didn’t help her case just now. Emotions. Yes, including emotions she felt for him. Her words stab me again. I put my hand between us.

      “Stop,” I tell her in a plain voice. I put my finger on her perfect lips. “Just… stop.”
      “Rohan?” Her beautiful eyes open in a worried question.
      “You were going on emotions? Then why were you kissing him just now?” Orion had better keep far away from me. But I want to know the answer to my question from Yadira.
      “I don’t love him.”
      “That isn’t what I asked.” Even though it’s still nice to hear.
      “I don’t know. He drew me in. I wasn’t thinking clearly. Please, Rohan. It’s killing me that I hurt you. I love YOU.”
      My finger has brushed aside, so she kisses me again.

      She keeps lightly kissing me, pulling back each time. Fuuuuuck. She’s pressed against me, tempting me like a siren. Damn it all. I can deal with the rest later. Right now, I have to fucking kiss her senseless.

     She makes a startled noise from the sudden ferocity of my kiss. This is what you wanted, right? If kissing is what she’s asking for, she’ll get it.
     Fuck! I can’t get that image out of my mind! She was kissing him! How can she do that and then say she loves me? It’s… it’s… cruel! Why did she have to do that? Why did she need to kiss someone else?
    She whimpers because I’m being brutal, and I hate myself for it. Tears escape my eyes. The woman I love betrayed me. And here I thought I was winning her heart all over again, yet she was being happily seduced by a jackass. Is a jackass really what she wants?
     I picture in my mind how I could maybe change for her. I could be like he is. I could seduce her past where she’s comfortable and make her think it was her idea. It’s not like I haven’t wanted to. It’s true that I fucking want her. In fact, I want her right now, pain and anger included. It’s what she wants, right? I could live with myself that it won’t be as pure and loving as I want it to be. Couldn’t I?
    My emotions take a nose dive. I find the bottom of the proverbial pit I was falling into earlier, and I’m in agony. A sob escapes me. I can’t do it. Call me a fool, but I can’t do it. I really fucking love her, and I don’t WANT to be a jackass. I break from the kiss. I have no idea what expression I wear when I look down at her.
     “Rohan, I’m so sorry.”
     For a moment, I think about walking away from her right now. What if, after everything, she still wants him? What if I’ve lost everything with her losing her memories and she thinks she wants him even after I work to try and restore what we had? Better to walk away now, right? But I can’t lose her! I go right back to how I was holding her before.

     She doesn’t resist me clutching at her while tears stream down my face.
     Calm down, you idiot, I tell myself. Think about what she told you: the first time, before she lost her memories, she was basically attacked and didn’t kiss him back. Next, she’d lost her memories and didn’t know what to do. Then, she decided what to do but didn’t know how to handle it, so she avoided him–or tried to. After that, the sonofabitch used every weapon he could against her, and she made a mistake. And she realized it was a mistake and was beginning to try to get him to stop. I have to believe she was about to fight him harder than that.
     And she chose you. I let in the closest thing to a full breath in what feels like ages. More crying escapes as I let it out.
     “I love you, Yadira,” I tell her and kiss her hair. I want what we had before, and we got there because I was patient. However, I didn’t have to worry about an asshole lurking around every corner back then. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to give up.
     She starts quietly crying again. “I’m so sorry.”
     “I know.” I take a breath. “But it hurts.”
     “What can I do?”
     “Forgive me for being an ass just now.” That violent kiss didn’t help me prove I’m better than he is.
     “You’re allowed to be angry.”
     “But I’m not allowed to take it out on you like that.”
     “It’s okay, Rohan.”
      I get quiet and hold her, thinking about how it’s not okay. But there’s not much more that can be done right now. We’ll just have to work through it. Oh, and banish Orion. That’ll help.

Chapter 22: Alone

A/N: The stupid game update made it to where a few of my doors and every single one of my CC windows don’t work, so things won’t match what they were before (or will be, depending on when the pics were shot). I guess chalk it up to more improvements to the settlement. /sigh.

Orion

      Now that Vik moved in with Sama, he went ahead and destroyed the rest of the aircraft, him no longer needing the cabin to use as a makeshift house.
     Rohan has a good idea: We need to build tunnels, underground rooms. They could be used as a cellar if nothing else.

     A few days after phase one of the cellars is complete, Rohan pulls me aside, wanting me to see something.

     I smirk at his outfit when I see it. He still likes to make his own clothes when he can. He pulled that leather from some furniture we found on the mainland. The furniture was too big to lug back to the island, but Rohan stripped it of its leather.
     “Asa and I have constructed something I’d like you to see,” Rohan says, leading me in the direction of the cellar.
     “Do Vik an’ Sama know?”
     “It was Vik’s idea.”
     So I’m the last to know. Good to know where I stand.
     We get down into the cellar, and my mouth drops. There is fencing and doors with locks where there used to be only rooms. “What the bloomin’ hell is this then?”

      “They’re holding cells. We can use them for storage for when we don’t need them.”
     “An’ when exactly do we plan on needin’ ’em?”
     “This is all part of Vik’s defensive plan.”
     “Why am I just now seein’ all this?” My tone heavily implies how I don’t like being left out of things.
     “Look, mate, he asked me to ask you to give me a tour of the traps you’ve created at the beaches, so don’t act like you’re the only one kept in the dark.”
     I suddenly smile.

      Yes, I’d LOVE to ‘show’ you the traps. And how to trip them. When it comes to Yadira, Rohan is beating me at every turn. I can’t blooming help it if he gets to sleep with her every night. Even worse, she’s avoiding me, making it impossible for me to get her alone. So, yes, I’d love to ‘show’ Rohan the traps.
     “Fine, fine. Meet me at sunup and we’ll have a little tour.”
     He agrees, and he shows me how the cell doors lock and unlock, a rather ingenious design that Vik invented. It doesn’t need keys, but it’s impossible to unlock from the other side. Rather tricky if you ask me. The doors, at least, have a sturdy safety on them so we don’t accidentally lock ourselves inside.

     The settlement is changing daily.

     The biggest change is the lack of the ruined buildings. The ones in the worst condition were torn down, and we piled the bricks where the structures once stood. Vik happily gathered the steel rebar, which probably greatly contributed to the fencing, doors, and locks in the cellar.

(I will update with the appropriate acknowledgement when I make note of who made this lot.)

     Speaking of gathering, we have made many more trips to the old town and brought back loads upon loads of supplies and useful items (including chickens!). We’ve turned what Asa used to live in into a storage facility.
     And with not knowing what else to do with herself, Yadira has discovered she’s rather gifted with cataloguing and organizing everything. So with Rohan discussing with Asa about more work to be done with the cellar, I know exactly where to find her–alone.

      She looks so beautifully ridiculous that I want to melt when I see her. That dress is too big for her. The sleeves keep falling off her shoulders, one at a time, and she’s constantly fixing them. The scarf or handkerchief in her hair makes her look like a peasant, which she is anything but.
     “Hello, Benjamin,” she says with a little smile, looking at me like she can see into my very soul.
     “Evenin’, lovely Yadira. I was wonderin’ if I could talk wiv ye for a bit.” Even in those rags, she takes my breath away.
     Her small smile turns to a look of worry. I knew it. She’s been avoiding me.
     “I… I really should go see if Sama needs help with–“
     “Have ye been avoidin’ me?” I interrupt.
     She pauses, so I continue.

      “I’ve been tryin’ to catch ye alone so we could chat.”
     Her eyes dart around for a moment, almost like she’s devising an escape route. “What about?”
     “What ‘about’? How can ye ask such a thing? About US.” I should’ve been more persistent. I should’ve found a moment or ten when I could literally snatch her away from her duties so that I could remind her of how she feels about me, of how I feel about her. But we’ve all been so busy thanks to Vik’s paranoid delusions. Well, maybe not delusions. It’s probably a good idea to have defenses in place. While we’ve been digging and building and demolishing, Yadira has never been alone.

      She sighs. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have strung you along like this, but I can’t do this. I don’t know WHAT the old me was thinking getting myself tangled up in this mess. I never should’ve led you to believe–“
     I interrupt again. “Led me to believe? Led me to believe… the truth?”
     Her posture stiffens. “The truth is I am married to Rohan.”
     I am more than ready for this debate.

      The sun hides behind clouds on its journey to the horizon, and I take a breath, prepared to once and for all shred her declaration. “Ye already know how I feel about that. I don’t count it as real. But even if, let’s say, ye WERE, then why are ye married wi’ feelin’s fer another man?”
     She takes a step back, and I stand my ground. “I love Rohan. My heart tells me I always have.”
     “An’ what does yer heart have to say about me?” She’s lying if she says she feels nothing, and I’ll happily prove it to her otherwise should she do so.
     “I… I LIKE you, Benjamin. But you have to stop this. I don’t know why you affect me the way you do, but I’m no longer going to act on it.” She tries to stand taller. “I’m not attracted to you; I’m sorry.”
     WHAT? In my momentary shock, she manages to slip past me, but only just so. I grab her wrists and turn her around to face me. “Yadira–“
     “Let me go!” She’s terrified. Dammit.
     I immediately let go of her wrists, but instead, I gently caress her face. She pauses.

      She’s shaking, and I imagine she’s like a small rabbit caught by a fox. She refuses to look into my eyes. “I don’t want to hurt your feelings,” she whispers.
     I continue stroking her cheek. “Then don’t.”
     “You have to stop this. You have to let it go.”
     “I canna. If I could, I would, but I canna. I have never met nor will I ever meet anyone else like you. Yer worth fightin’ for… so much so that I would continue until my dyin’ breath.”
     “No,” she whispers like she’s willing it to be untrue.

      “Ye know it’s true. If ye would but give me a chance, I could show ye just how deeply I love you.” I watch her close her eyes. My voice drops to a whisper. “Just a chance, Yadira. Let me.” I tilt her chin up.

     Yes. This is what I need. Yadira can’t resist me kissing her, and I purposefully keep it gentle, drawing her in. Sweet Mary and Joseph, she kisses me back, and I have to fight myself to remain in control, keeping back the impulse to roughly demand ownership of all of her. No, I want her to meet me there, so I continue to gently encourage her.
     It’s wonderful. Sweet Yadira is kissing me back with growing intensity. The last time, I wanted her immediately. This time looks to be the same, but I need her to want it too. She will, with enough time.
     I moan and grab her shoulder before pushing the dress halfway down her arm, exposing a portion of her breast. I can’t help it; I start increasing my intensity.
     She pulls back and fixes her dress. “Wait.”

      “Why?” I want to push her dress back down. Where should I take her? There’s a chair immediately behind her. The table off to the side is a bit too flimsy for how I’d want to use it. In the next ‘room,’ there’s a sofa, but if I’m going that far away, I may as well take her upstairs to the bed. But first, the dress.
     “This isn’t right,” she says as I kiss her neck.
     “Feels more than right to me,” I mutter against her delicious skin.
     The next voice I hear makes my blood run cold.

      “I think I agree with my WIFE on this one.”
     Yadira tries to escape my grasp, but I hold her fast while I glare at my very rude competition. “Bugger off, ye damn wanker. She’s na yer wife anymore than one of the chickens is.”
     “Sonofabitch, I’ll remove you myself!” He charges at me.

      Idiot! He attempts to punch me while I deftly dodge it and simultaneously get lovely Yadira out of the way. My forearm goes for his throat as if by its own will, and he coughs, unable to avoid the strike. He’s never been any good at hand-to-hand combat, and he’s an imbecile thinking he can have a go at me.
     Seeing my advantage, I take it and shove him face-first onto the rotting floorboards.

      I don’t have to punch him that many times for him to get the point. “Yer an imbecilic, spoiled brat of a festerin’ dunghill not worth a tenth of her, an’ it’s about damn time ye learned that.”
     Yadira’s crying. “Stop it! Leave him alone!”
     Rohan struggles violently, but he’s unable to match my weight. “She’s… not… yours!”
     “Benjamin, let him go!”
     Shock rips through me as I hear my real name again, making me pause in my assault.
     And Rohan sees his own advantage now. Before I realize it, I’m flipped onto my back.

      “You want to talk ‘not worth her,’ fucker?” Punch. “Find a mirror!” Punch punch.
     “No, Rohan, stop it!” Now Yadira is yelling for my sake. Hell, if it makes him look like an ass, he can beat me to a bloody pulp if he likes. I can take it.
     Rohan glares at me before ‘helping’ me stand. As we face each other, Yadira scares me when she runs between us. You don’t run between two bulls ready to kill each other! I have to immediately cancel my instinct to punch at him. Unlike him, I won’t strike if there’s a chance Yadira could get hurt.

       He yells something to me, but I don’t even hear him. I’m entirely focused on how the lovely Yadira presses herself against HIM while pushing ME away. What? But… No! ROHAN’S the ass here. Why are you pushing ME away? 
     “Just go, Orion,” she tells me, and my heart breaks that she didn’t call me Benjamin.

       And there you have it, I think as Yadira cries in Rohan’s arms, her apologies to Rohan doing their best to escape in her sobbing.
     I stumble off into the night. Alone.

Chapter 21: Busy

NSFW

Sama

     For the past week, Vik has been a frequent-to-constant visitor at my place. That’s not saying I don’t have other visitors frequently. My house has always been a sort of ‘central hub’ of activity, it being the only decent building for a long while. But Vik practically moves in.

      I’m not saying I mind. He’s also really attached himself to Zane, and I’m always grateful whenever he can calm my son so that I can finish whatever ‘mother-to-the-family’ task I have going.
     Sometimes, when no one else is around, he surprises me in some ardent way. One time, I was sitting on the couch reading, and he took the book out of my hand before kissing me like there was no tomorrow. I’d started to argue with him, saying him taking the book was rude, but he didn’t give me a chance. I soon gave up, though, because the man can really kiss–not that I have anyone else for comparison. But I’m not making any complaints.
     We’ve made out on the couch several times, and I sometimes wonder why he hasn’t pushed for more. Sex is no big deal, right?

     “Aren’t you cold?” he asks me.
     I sigh. “I suppose I am.” It’s been getting colder and I have warmer clothes, yes, but he stares at me with that hungry look MORE when I wear this.
     I finish preparing the fish, smile at him while hiding the strange hurt that he wants me to put on more clothes, and go upstairs to change.
     But before I can get to my wardrobe, I find out him asking me that was all a ruse so that he could pull off one of his surprises again. I hadn’t even heard him come up the stairs. One second I’m facing my wardrobe, and the next, I’m spun around, in his arms, and his mouth is on mine.

     I don’t think he’s ever been to my bedroom. My house may be a kind of public place, but my bedroom isn’t.
     I’m falling madly in love with him. It’s terrifying, but I can’t help it. He’s so perfect for me, even when his temper gets out of hand. Am I crazy for saying I even love his temper? I must be because that makes no sense. A hot temper is not a good thing, but if it ever gets directed at me, something comes over me. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like I handle it, like I can physically mold it with my hands as if it were clay, and he apparently loves that.
     He moans and slowly starts walking me backwards.

     His hand moves to my ass, and he moans again when he squeezes it.
     “Sama, you’re driving me insane.”
     Huh? “What? How?”
     He kisses me again before answering, “By going around in this skimpy summer outfit.”
     “Oh. That kind of insane.”
     “Yes.” He bends his knees a fraction, puts his hands UNDER my skirt, and stands again while simultaneously grabbing my ass once more. “Shit, do you have any idea how many times I’ve wanted to do that?”
     “What, grab my ass?”
     “Yes. I think I’ll just go through life with my hands cupping your ass. That won’t be too much of an inconvenience for you, will it? I shouldn’t think so.” He chuckles, and I realize we’re much closer to my bed.

      “But then I couldn’t do this.” His hand covers my breast.
     I say his name, not for any real reason. It just comes out. I’m about to jump him if he doesn’t do something about what he’s doing to me. Our eyes lock, and he nudges me back onto the bed.

      He reaches for my underwear, and I hear the front door open. Shit. 
     “They’re here for supper,” I whisper to him.
     He responds quietly back to me, “Hm. I prefer the main course served up here.”
     I gasp when I figure out what he wants to do to me, and I move to get away. I can guess I won’t be able to stay quiet through that. But he grabs me and pulls me back to him.

     I gasp several times and whimper. I can’t take it! I’m going to lose my mind, and everyone is going to come running upstairs to see ‘what’s wrong.’ I whisper desperately, “Vik, please.”
     But all he does is chuckle deep in his throat as a response, and he happily chases me all over the bed, removing our clothes as he does. When I come, he swiftly moves…

     …thrusting himself inside me.
     I hear voices from below, “Where are Vik and Sama?” I think it was Zuri.
     A whimper slips out when Vik starts slowly moving, watching me.
     Next, I hear Orion’s unmistakable voice, “I have a guess.” I picture him grinning. “They’re busy.”
     I want to scream from how Vik is driving me out of my mind.
     “Yes,” Vik whispers to me, “Vik and Sama are busy.” He takes a deep breath, never stopping. “And will be for quite some time.”
     My eyes roll backwards, and I pant to keep from screaming. Shit, I had no idea it really could be like this. Those romance writers must’ve been pulling from experience, not imagination.
     Having an almost-audience must turn him on–because he starts testing me, seeing what drives me the most insane. The conversation has picked up downstairs, and I see him smiling when I grab one of the pillows to scream into it.

     “Shit, Sama,” he whispers into my ear several minutes later, “I had no idea it could be THIS good.”
     “Please, go faster.”
     He laughs quietly. “No way. Then I,” he stresses the ‘I,’ “won’t be able to stay quiet.”
     I hear Orion ask everyone if they’d like to play a game of cards when I start hitting Vik. He smiles again, snatches my wrists, and pins them to the bed.
     He leans down to me, “I’ve waited a lifetime for you, Sama. The last thing I want is to hurry this along.” Then he kisses me, and I’m positive now that I love him.

     We make love for hours, and I finally realize what that means. It’s more than sex. Sex IS a big deal, especially when it’s with someone you love as deeply as I do Vik.
     When at last we’re exhausted, I hear Zane starting to stir. Next, I faintly hear Orion’s voice as he coos to him, getting him to calm down. I know I’ll have to go and feed Zane in a little bit, but I appreciate Orion’s helpfulness.
     Vik and I talk quietly about a future we want, and I really want him by my side. I love him. I need him. If he’s proclaimed me this ‘leader’ person, I need guidance at times. His temper aside, Vik is really good at thinking things through.
     “I love you,” I breathe to him.
     He opens his eyes and smiles. “You stole my line.” He kisses me. “I love you, too.” He takes a huge, contented breath, and we cuddle some more on the bed.

       “So much,” he continues. “Who else could put up with my mood swings?” We laugh together.
     “I love your mood swings.” I kiss him quickly.
     “There will never, ever be anyone else for me. Will you marry me, Sama?”
     My eyes fly open to see him smiling at me. I smile back. “You stole my line.”
     “Say yes.”
     “Hmmm, what will you do if I don’t?” I’m toying with him on purpose.
     He chuckles and throws his leg over me. “Sexually torture you until you do.”
     Zane screams downstairs. I give Vik a look, and he moves his leg. Smiling, I get out of bed. He watches me as I pad over to pick up my discarded clothes. Then, I turn around, dash over to him, lean down, kiss him quickly, and say, “Yes.”

Chapter 20: Emotionally Directed

Yadira

     Rohan has gone to sleep, but having slept most of the day, I’m not tired. I decide to have a look around. It’s very bright out tonight, so I don’t have any difficulty seeing. In fact, if it weren’t for the stars, I might be persuaded to think it was day.
     There were no stars in the Land of Weird. That man called that place where I was so many different names, but I still think of it as the Land of Weird.

     I now remember arriving at the Land of Weird and how I’d worried I might never see the people I love again. That gives me hope. I remember remembering them.
     “Good evenin’, lovely Yadira,” I hear behind me.
     I smile. There’s something about him that makes me want to laugh, and since emotional responses are all I have to go on, I decide that’s a good thing.
     “Hello,” I reply, and he walks to stand in front of me.

     He waits for a moment while we stare at one another. He’s not exactly what I’d call attractive, but somehow, that doesn’t matter.
     His shoulders slump the tiniest amount. “I’m Orion.”
     “Hello then, Ori–” I pause. Again, I’m acting on pure instinct. “No. That’s not your name.” Is he playing a trick on me?
     His mouth drops. “Well, I, er…”
     I start doubting myself. “Is it?” Oh no. I don’t want to insult him.
     “It has been for a good, long while.”
     Oh. Okay. He changed it. “What was it before?”
     “How did ye know that wasna my original name? Rohan doesna even know that.”
     “I have no idea.” And I can honestly say that this isn’t the strangest thing to happen to me today. “So what was it?”

     He gets a goofy expression on his face. “Well, why don’t ye tell me? See if ya can guess.”
     It’s not what he says but how he says it. I start giggling.
     He sighs, looking a bit more content with everything. “At least I can still make ya laugh.”
     It’s true! I knew right away something about him makes me happy. Although, I also sense an ulterior motive. Earlier today, he wasn’t exactly looking at me the way a friend would but rather something more. What happened that he remembers and I don’t?
     “Well, do ye have a guess?”

      I take a breath and close my eyes. Who says I have to wait for Rohan and Yuri, I mean Zuri (the man called her Zuri, right?), to begin trying to figure out what exactly changed about me. I try to clear my head and let something else tell me. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
     “It’s an old name. Rob–” I almost say Robert. “No. Benjamin.” I smile and open my eyes to see him wide-eyed staring at me, his mouth agape.
     “How?”
     “I have no idea. Am I right?” I smile. I don’t really care if I’m right. This is a fun game. I should’ve played it with everyone.

     “You are,” he says slowly. “Yadira, there’s na’a person alive today that knew that.”
     I’m tired of things being weird, so I alter the subject. “Why did you change it? You don’t like it?” Sounds like a nice name to me.
     “I like it fine. I just wanted a fresh everything when I got away from my parents. I didna even want the name they gave me.”
     Parents. I have no idea who my parents were. Rohan said I didn’t know yesterday either.
     It’s driving me crazy how I can’t even remember yesterday! “What did I do yesterday?” The question probably feels random to him. I watch the color drain from his face, and I try to relate it back to our conversation. “How is it that I can tell you your birth name yet I can’t tell you what I did yesterday?” I bite my lip. “How do I know if I’m even me?”
     He takes several shallow breaths. “The fountain… it affects yer mind. It gives as it takes, but… it’s just takin’ yer memories. Yer feelin’s, yer emotions, yer… heart are still the same. If ye stop tryin’ to THINK about yesterdee, can ye FEEL it?”

     “What you’re saying makes sense. Somehow. But… how on earth do I get myself to FEEL yesterday?”
     He glances behind me, takes my hands, and says, “Come here.” He starts pulling me off to the side, closer to a wall. Then he surprises me.

      “Do ye remember now?” he asks, his voice quieter and a tad deeper.
     “What are you doing? Stop it.”
     “I’m tryin’ to shock ya into rememberin’ somethin’. Do yer lips remember?” He kisses me, and one thing’s for sure: I’m definitely shocked.
     I pull back away from him, breaking out of his embrace. I touch my lips. “What are you saying?”
     He takes a step. “I’m sayin’ that yesterdee, I finally got the chance to tell ye I love you.” A look of pain crosses his face. “And now ye don’ even remember!”
     I’ve backed into the wall, and he closes in again.

     I can’t tell for sure if he’s crying because he hides his face in my neck. Still…
     “Are you saying I cheated on Rohan?” I may not remember myself, but that doesn’t feel right.
     “No.” He sniffs. “You were so darlin’. You didna kiss me back, but sweet Mother Earth did I ever kiss you.” He kisses my neck in between little huffing breaths.
     “But I let you.” He’s telling the truth. Going on my feelings, I know it.
     “Yea. Conflicted the entire time, an’ I’m so sorry for that.” He kisses my cheek, and the wisps of hair next to my face stick to him as he moves up to look into my eyes. “Please. Please tell me ye feel SOMETHIN’.”

     My hair frees itself, and I look at his face. His cheeks are damp, so I reach up and try to dry them off with my hand. YES, my heart screams at me. But then why is it also screaming DON’T!?
     He whispers, “Yer still in there.” His eyes close for a moment, and he turns his head to kiss my palm before going back to look into my eyes.
     Why? I ask myself. How could I do this to myself? It’s wrong. “I’m… married.” Right?
     He smiles radiantly. “Yer not.”
     “But Rohan said–“
     “Rohan is a child playin’ ‘house.'”
     “If he’s a child, what am I?”
     He shrugs. “Okay. So play it wiv me.” He leans in and crushes his lips to mine, only for a moment, though. “I love you.”
     Regardless of what I’m feeling, right is right and wrong is wrong. I push him back as I say, “How can you say I’m not married?” I get the feeling he LETS me push him back, and I walk a few steps away. “We said vows.”
     “Vows ye don’ remember sayin’ now.”
     “That doesn’t mean I didn’t say them!” I’ve spun around to argue with him, but he wraps his arms around me again.

      “Yadira, those vows were feeble at best.”
     I can’t breathe without feeling myself do it against him. He’s pulled me tightly to his chest. “You’re making this argument like we’ve argued this before.”
     “We have.”
     “And I didn’t believe it then, did I?”
     He looks at my face, his eyes traveling. “I was tryin’ to convince you.” He pauses. “I canna help but wonder if ye were wiv Rohan ’cause you’d met him first. When I asked ye what would’ve happened had ya met us both at the same time, ye answered ya didn’n know for sure.”
     “Well, I was right. How can I?”
     “Ye can right NOW. Ye don’ remember him any more than ye do me, right?”

     He continues, “As far as yer mind goes, ya met us both today.”
     I was right when my first thought of him was that he was intense. He is, and the surprising way he’s affecting me makes a much more girlie part of me conjure up scenes from some very old romance novel, not that I remember any specifics or that I even read any. I feel ridiculous the though even entered my mind, and I wish that blush wouldn’t show up that’s forming whether I want it to or not.
     “But my emotions are the only thing I have to go on, and my body reacts like I’m in love with Rohan.”
     “But don’ try an’ tell me ye don’ also react to me.” He looks at me like he could eat me alive.

        “Whether or not I do, Benjamin, is not the point.” I don’t miss his sharp intake of breath with hearing me address him by his real name.
     “Oh yes, it’s exactly the point.”

      Damn him! Of COURSE I react to him, but that doesn’t mean I have to act on it. He’s giving me little chance not to, though. How can a kiss be both passionate and tender at the same time?
     I kiss him back.
     He notices, and he breathes in in a kind of victorious way and holds me tighter, if such a thing is possible. The ‘tone’ of the kiss moves from passionate to desperate need in mere seconds, and I know that if I don’t stop it, it will go far beyond just this. And this is bad enough.
     His lips move to my neck, and I beg, “No. Please no, Benjamin.”
     He pulls back, his breathing hard. His self-control balances on a tenuous thread, ready to snap if I give the slightest recant of my ‘no.’

     “Yer the only one,” he tells me, “who calls me Benjamin.” His lips brush mine. “Yer the only one on whose lips it sounds like angels’ wings.” Another soft kiss. “Don’ tell them.”
     “I won’t.” I think of a caveat. “Don’t tell anyone this happened. I don’t… I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
     “Deal, but I’m na one for givin’ up, sweet Yadira. Not easily.”
     “I think I’ve noticed that.”
     He starts chuckling, releasing me, stepping back, and kissing my forehead. “Goodnight. I’ll na pester ye anymore tonight.”
     I nod and turn to head back tot he house I share with Rohan.

     I’m in a serious mess. Why did I have to get dropped into this? As if going around memory-blind wasn’t bad enough. I’d thought letting myself be emotionally directed would help. Tuh. Right. Emotionally directed right into a hydrogen bomb.

Chapter 19: Memories

Rohan

     I knew it. I just KNEW it! I knew there was something special about Yadira.

     I didn’t take long to get over my horrible fear that something terrible had happened to her since she’d been missing all night. When she showed up this morning looking the way she did, I found that my wife still had the ability to stun me.

      She didn’t remember me. Or anyone. And that distressed her. Honestly, I’m not too worried. Her memories should come back. She’s still my wife, a woman ten times more amazing than I thought, and I’d already thought she was amazing.

     I know what Zuri was thinking. I know why she would’ve fit in nicely with the Trags. She’s very religious in her own way. It was her influence that made me believe Yadira was a goddess when I first met her. Looking at Zuri’s expression, that’s what she’s thinking.
     Not that I can blame her! All we have to do is LOOK at Yadira to know something happened to her, and the story she’s telling sounds an awful lot like stories Zuri herself told me. I’d never shared any of that with Yadira, the stories, and I doubt Zuri has taken the time to tell her either since she’s been so focused on Asa, her daughter, and Vik with her daughter.
     Orion’s depression barely registers on my radar. Honestly, I don’t care. Yadira is my wife. He can’t have her, and he needs to get over that fact.

     Yadira goes to lie down; Orion mumbles something about fishing; and Zuri tells us she’s going to check on Amina… and Asa. She winks. Poor boy. She’s wearing him out.
     That leaves me standing here alone with Vik. Sama went inside to nurse Zane.

     Honestly, ever since our altercation about Sama, I’ve tried to steer clear of alone time with Vik. The fight may be over, but I’m still on my guard, not knowing if his temper will explode again.
     “We’re in deep shit, Rohan. I need to impress upon you that fact.”
     “Come again?” My wife shows up glowing like the sun, looking more beautiful than I’ve ever seen her, and you tell me we’re in deep shit?
     Is this still about Sama? When will he get it through his head that it was all her idea?
     “For one, haven’t you heard? Reck thinks Amina is his. It’s the reason we left. My life was at stake if he’d found out. He would’ve found some way to do me in.”
     “Right. That’s why you left. How does that put us in deep shit?”

     “Surely he’s not dumb enough to sail this close to winter, but I wouldn’t put it past him to send out scouts.”
     I want to ask him if he’s just being paranoid, but I phrase it differently. “Are you sure he’d go so far as to send out good men looking for who he thinks is his daughter?”
     He looks at me now. “And Zuri.” To answer my knowing look, he says, “You know how he always obsessed over her.”
     I think back. “Ever since that day with the wolves.”

     Reck and I were once friends–of a sort. It was his best mate who died of the poisonous berry, and he sort of went inward after that. Orion would try to draw him out, but all he did was annoy him. Reck would actually listen to ME, and he’d open up. Well, as much as Reck would ever open up.
     Until that day Zuri showed up. While I’d helped Jers down from the tree branch he’d clung to, I watch as my sort-of mate’s eyes glazed over and an obsession took hold. Amazingly, Zuri managed him, taking other lovers as well yet making him feel special. As the years went on, though, I started noticing his anger growing, and when Zuri attempted to seduce ME, I stopped her. Anyone on Reck’s bad side would end up in some kind of miserable state one way or another. Which is why I wound up leaving anyway with him gunning for me ever since seeing Zuri’s apparent interest. And then Vik and Zuri eventually had to leave with Amina–and Orion in their wake.
     And now we’re harboring them.

     “You really think his obsession would take him this far?”
     “Possibly. As far as he knows, we could be anywhere. But the currents…”
     Right. With the global climate changes, the ocean currents changed, making what would’ve been a much longer journey here quite swift by comparison, thanks to the different currents. This little area is sitting smack-dab in the middle of a likely search area. “Fuck.”
     “Exactly. Mind you, I had no intention of dragging you all into this mess, but…” He turns around and looks longingly back at Sama’s house, and I immediately understand. He turns his head back, clears his throat, sees my expression, and continues, “I’ve been working on different ways to hopefully be able to defend ourselves, but I don’t know if we have enough TIME to build the fortifications we might require.”
     “Well, how many would he send? Three? Four? He can’t exactly spare them.”
     “Right. But my latest fear NOW is that someone gets back to him. Look at this place, Rohan.”
     “I know, I know. It still needs work, but–“
     “Look at it, everything, with HIS eyes.”
     I stop and try to do as he asks. It’s a small island, hardly worth the trouble. Surely, the town would have more to offer. I already HAD thought of those things, and that’s why I chose to come here. But now, if word got back to him that Zuri is here, that Amina is here, that the ‘traitors’ Rohan and Orion are here, that the man Vik who he thinks stole ‘his’ woman is here, it’s too tempting a target.
     And once here, he’d see the beauty and untapped richness of the place, something that had been steadily decreasing in his area. My eyes look over our beloved, albeit still messy, settlement, and I land on my small house. And I don’t want to think of what he’d do to everything, and especially everyONE here.
     “Do you see what I’m saying now?”

      Vik sighs. “He wanted to conquer the Trags because he saw them as weak, at least as much as he explained to the council. How much weaker are we when compared to them? By his reckoning, not much.”
     “But this is OUR island.” Fuck, Vik is smart. I think I finally understand where he’s leading the conversation. “You’re saying we need to plant traps and hidden defenses as well as the obvious ones. The ‘home-field advantage.'” We could build underground hiding places as well.
     “Yes, that is obvious. But although he’s not particularly a religious man, if he saw what we saw this morning…” He leaves his statement hanging in the air.
     “He’d try to use that too. Use her.” Holy fucking shit. Yadira’s mysterious transformation may have placed her in more danger than she already was in simply from being beautiful. Reck has always wanted power and whatever tools he can use to gain it.

     Vik and I spend the rest of the daylight hours planning our next steps in future defense of the island and those we love. Having stayed up all night searching in vain for Yadira, I’m tired, but the adrenaline coming from the thought of what Reck might do keeps me awake. As the sun sets, Vik and I return to our loved ones.

     My wife sleeps peacefully, having no idea the dangers out there that want to destroy everything we have. I decide I won’t trouble her with them. She has enough on her plate at the moment.
     “Yadira.” I’m not surprised she’s still asleep. She was gone all night to wherever it was she went. She was exhausted.

     Her eyes open, and she smiles at me, looking like nothing has changed, like she knows who I am. I smile brightly back at her. Then, my spirits sink as I watch the look of confusion take over.
     But did she ACTUALLY remember for a moment?
     I take a resigned breath and have a seat next to her.

      “Did you sleep well?”
     “Yes. I was having a nice dream.”
     I smile. “What was it about?”
     She blushes. “You.”
     YES! “So you… remember me?”
     She looks worried, shaking her head no. “I’m sorry. I’m trying. I really am, Rohan, but I can’t remember anything!”
     Wait a minute…

     “Who told you my name?” In all the confusion from earlier, she never heard my name. I know because that bugged me every once in a while all day when I was working with Vik.
     She looks surprised. “I… don’t know. I thought I already knew it. It was in the dream.”
     I take her hand. “What else was in the dream?” I’m desperate to tell her who I am, what we are, but I want to know what she knows without trying.
     She looks down at her hand in mine and smiles shyly.
     “What did we do in the dream?” True, something happened to her. I don’t know what, but that’s still my Yadira in there.

     “We were… together, and… naked.” She blushes again.
     I grin. “I’m liking this dream already.” I bring her hand to my lips and kiss it. She giggles. I ask, “What were we doing naked?”
     “Probably exactly what you’re thinking. It was daytime, and we were under a propped-up animal skin. I could hear the waves.”
     Our first time. The fountain gave her back our first time. I say a quick prayer of thanks. Quick because I have a more pressing need to kiss her.

      She makes a sound of surprise, but she also doesn’t try to pull away. This tells me a lot. She knows from a dream that we’re something special, but it must feel strange to her to have her ‘dream lover’ suddenly kiss her for what, to her, feels like the first time.
     “I love you, Yadira.” I gently and slowly kiss her face over and over again.
     “I… I know.” She takes a breath. “All I have are emotions, like phantom memories, and I know I love you too.”
     I kiss her harder, making my intent very clear that I want her, but, to her, it still feels like our first time, even with the dream. It was just a dream, after all, even though it probably was accurate. Still, she’s not ready, so I, feeling like I’m back in time to a little over a year ago, don’t push her past making out. While I do, I do my best to remind her of everything we’ve shared: our meeting each other, becoming closer, when I finally kissed her, when we made love the first time (I was right about the dream’s accuracy!), and the fact that we’re married by saying vows to each other before the gods as our witnesses.
     Zuri mentioned Yadira’s memories might come back, and I pray they do. Until then, I’ll enjoy winning her heart all over again.
     I have some rather nice dreams myself tonight.

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