I am on the train now, rushing off into the distance, wayward from my homeland, far past the forest, seperated from you, but I can't help but replay our bittersweet parting in my mind over and over again, and, like a stream, my tears just keep flowing. Oh, if only my thoughts were as clear as water.
If only it were that simple, Emmi?
I peer down at the open bible I abandoned in my lap before flipping to a random page, hoping for a distraction or possibly even some ounce of guidance from my Heavenly Father above.
I read the first passage:
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).’”
With my hands now laced tightly, I let out a final sob and say one silent prayer,
"Dear heavenly father, who is my favorite and saving grace, if it’s meant to be, I entrust you to reunite us."
It all started in the woods outback as I stormed away from my humble abode, stomping my oversized rain boots through the swamped, muddy path and crushing the multitudes of green little sprouts, peeking their way through the ground’s brown patches.
“He treats me just like I am a darn sprout..!” I cry out. “Caz’ I so young, little and frail...? No I aint!” “Why mus’ I be at the ever mercy of tah’ blowing wind that jostles me back and forth without warnin’?” Why did m’ah pa return? He’s trouble. That’s all he ever is; that’s all he’ll ever be. Downright trouble.
I remember when he broke the news.
¨Yah s’hah be delighted to know, and I do so hope to see ah spark of gaiety on tat’ sour, pickle face of j’ours; I have established myself ‘n Oklahoma, and after workin’ long and hard now, yah hear, I’ve gathered enough money to restore you an’ yah ma to my place of residence,” he’d explained with a skinny-lipped smile stretching his face, yet I couldn’t find any sincerity in something so disdainfully chapped from the chilly, fall weather, and I despise the yellow tint of his teeth, some missing and some wood.
At the time, I wearily turned to my mother for reinforcement or at least some condolence.
¨Is that not splendid, son?” she chimed in instead.
My father had left months ago and often sent small provisions back, yet I assured myself I would never see that man again.
Oh, how foolish was I?
Since, I, but ah’ boy, was below mah’ fatha’, in due times I'd be swept far away tah’ Oklahoma. A country dweller forced to live in the stinky suburban and reside so distantanced from the sweet stench of pine and peace and quiet...
A rustle hinders my train of thought, and I spot what seems to be a pair of eyes peeking through the twigs of a shriveled bush.
“I-I see yah come on out at once!” I command, working to maintain an even and firm tone, though I stutter nonetheless.
But, rather than attacking me, he says, “Whoe a’we you?” His gaze remains unmoving and sharp.
He pauses before rising to his feet. “Lean, similar to my frame, though much taller,” I observe. His skin is dark and adorned with freckles like the slaves we still keep confined to plantations around this area. What a lucky son of ah gun! The union had permitted his freedom after all; although, t’ah white man will forev’ah reign. A gust of wind blows by, and his black hair flies in the wind like our flag of freedom, but its ebony shade only matches his shabby cloak. Plain indeed. The only thing that stands out is his emerald eyes, glistening as the incoming sunlight breaches our dark facade. I can't help but admire them in comparison to my murky blue hues; they are like sewer water that's been tainted from falling down the drain.
“Whoe awe you?” he repeats. His voice is muffled, and his vowels are sloppy and jumbled. Like ah man submerged ‘n water…
“I asks yah first..!” I counter, crossing my arms
He simply grunts and squints at me, seemingly stumped.
I can’t help but burst out in a loud laugh at his mannerisms, “Foolish boy.”
The black-haired stranger turns right round, and I see his mouth conversing. I can't make out what he’s saying. Most likely somethin’ unintelligible.
In the middle of my thought process, a small girl peers out from behind a nearby tree.
She quickly positions herself in front of the boy.
THIS IS OUR FOREST; REVEAL YOURSELF NOW OR LEAVE OR YOU SHALL FACE OUR UNHOLY WRATH,” she suddenly screeches, and, as much as I hate to admit it, I nearly book it. I flinch as her voice echoes and force my legs to lock in place.
“I-it’s Liesel..” I blurt out.
She sticks out her tongue. “Sounds like icky veggie.”
I furrow my brows, glaring. “It means ‘God is my vow’ ever heard of it, woman..?”
My rebuttal seemingly falls on deaf ears till I notice her approaching me with an unparalleled bloodlust in her eyes.
“Back!” I shout before an indistinguishable pain stabs my lower torso.
I squeal, dropping to the ground like a fish out of water and clutching my manhood to shield it from the unwanted hands, or more like feet, of the stranger.
“Yah kicked me!!” I gasp out.
The corner of her lips upturn at this, seemingly proud of herself. “Sure did.”
Her dark-skinned accomplice rushes over and extends his hand down towards me.
“So’ewwy,” he mumbles.
I scowl at the dull-witted boy, refusing his help as I stand back up on my own.
The girl interrupts us, “Our tribe is eastward; we guarding the fort, and you entered our territory. Do you has an offering to provide?”
I finally snap out of my scaredy-cat senses.
“Territory? This here jus’ ah patch of trees. If anythin,’ it belongs to M’AH family since it’s on M’AH great uncle's acre...!” I huff out.
Her face scrunches up, yet she seems to refrain herself as her partner in crime makes a small motion with his hands.
What is that supposed t’ah mean?!
My face scrunches up, and I decide to question them.
“Who the hell are you guys anyhows?!” I start off, but a swift downpour halts my interrogation.
The midget of a women curses under her breath then turns to her companion, “Let’s go, Emmi.” She motions for him to follow, but he stands there, staring blankly at the clouds. Before I can react, I’m lifted high into the air. The taller boy holds me bridal-style as if I'm some shabby piece of property he’s claimed.
I yelp, squirming in his arms as my face turns red-hot with embarrassment.
“What, eyy! Put me down, yah savage!”
He, seemingly oblivious to my words, just continues onward, quickly darting through the trees, only clutching me tighter as I squirm.
I grow increasingly flustered as I recognize his hands, much larger than mine, pressing against my skin.
“Are you even listenin’?” I exasperatedly exclaimed. The girl flashes me an amused look and giggles as she darts forward, ahead of us.
We finally approach a dirty, wooden shack. I scrunch my nose as we head through the doorless entryway or, to put it more explicitly, a gaping hole in the wall.
The floor is dirt, but I can tell it’s dry despite the leaky droplets that occasionally splash me. The shack consists of dark, wet planks that are unevenly stacked atop one another and loosely held together by rope. The roof is a thick bundle of straw, and a small pile of sticks sits in the corner besides some wilting flowers. There is three tall sticks plunged into the ground to my right and a glassless, open window that’s drafting in a cool breeze.
CRACK! I jump at the sound of thunder and begin to feel a small ounce of gratitude for my newly acquired location.
The rain quickens, and Emmi bends down to where I sit cross-legged, shivering, on the uncovered ground.
He tugs at my coat sleeve.
“What do yah want from me now?!” I snap.
He sighs and proceeds to grab ahold of one of my coat buttons and begins unfastening it.
My face heats up, and I bashfully swat his hand away,
“W’at,w’a, wet” his words are jumbled about and sloppy like a baby’s as he attempts to provide some form of an explanation; then he quickly points at my jacket, “you cawtch cowld from w’at co.’” He glances from me to the drenched woods as he struggles his way through the sentences.
I huff out a deep, weary breath and take off my jacket, tossing it carelessly aside.
His eyes go wide, and I refrain from giggling at his furrowed brows. He frantically rushes over and scoops up my jacket; looking at it like it’s some precious jewel, before he hangs it up on a branch acting as a rack of some sorts.
“I..” he starts. He pauses thinking before mumbling, “‘wike co’t.”
“‘Wike?” “What is you... five..?” I reply.
His small smile falls, replaced by a frown,
“Well, yah shu’h don’t act like it?”
I sigh, dropping the subject.
We sit awkwardly in silence for a moment before I recall the small book I tucked in my boot as it brushes against my foot. I quickly pull it out. Though semi-damp, the shoe luckily protected it from most of the hardship.
I pause a moment before deciding to motion him over
“Me..?” He points a thumb at himself.
“Who else?” I groan, rolling my eyes.
He hesitates before plopping down in front of me. He fixes his eyes on mine, and I can't help but avert my gaze.
Up close his eyes dazzle me. He is like a beautiful pine tree. Dark skin with freckles texturing his face like bark, forest-green eyes like pine needles, and a tree-like stature, tall and lean.
I can't help but admire his shapely body and his full lower lip, giving him a peach-colored pout. His eyes are filled with eagerness and curiosity yet also an unparalleled innocence.
I shake my head in an attempt to banish those thoughts. I'm ashamed to find myself consumed by such ‘urges’… yet again.
What would my pa think? No, what would my mother think?
I picture her tears and the blame and guilt in raising such an impure son despite her diligent bible readings and Sunday church visits.
I imagine her consulting the priest... spilling all mah’ dirty secrets...
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming (Colossians 3:5-10).”
I recite the words of Colossians, trying to embed the warning into my brain, and my lips sway slightly with each syllable.
How am I, a lowly sinner who indulges in such sinful acts of the flesh through m’ah sexual impurity, the join the kingdom of heaven and God, my lord ‘n savior?
I quietly fret, filled with terror of the devil just below us and the prospects of a fiery hell waiting for me just beyond my grave when a tap on my shoulder snaps me back to reality.
Emmi seems concerned, but I shoulder it off and open the small book. A bible. At least, I can find guidance amongst its pages.
I take a deep breath and turn to let him view the pages. I begin with reading the story of “Daniel and The Lion's Den.” Halfway through, I pause upon noticing his steady gaze focused on each and every page.
He looks like he’s attempting to decipher each written word while examining the way my mouth fluctuates as I say them.
I flick his forehead, “‘ey, do you really expect to learn anything that way now?”
He doesn't respond, rubbing his temple.
I gently push his chin upward until we’re face to face, "fine then, at least let me teach yah." It takes him a moment to process, and I contemplate repeating myself in slower, more simple terms.
Fortunately, he gives me a small smile and nods.
The two of us spend the storm cooped up in the shack, side by side; his leg occasionally brushes against mine, and I struggle to focus on each word while still enunciating their syllables and pointing them out in the book for him.
To an outsider, it was simply a day of learning, an unethical church in some ways, a bible shared between two children or even a boyhood moment oddly spent reading.
But, that day was the day I met the love of my life, Emmi.
As the fall leaves fell, I continued to congregate with them. My bosom filling with an unparalleled passion for the man.
His tan features, like an exotic beauty, allured me, but the compassion he displayed is what truly fueled my desires. Oh, if only, I was s’ume damsel in distress from some good ol’e fairytale. I’d let him be my prince and rescue me from my pa in a heartbeat.
On the day prior to my departure, Emmi presents me with a flower crown. It’s strung together on a muddy thread with the stems twisted in knots around the string. Beautiful...
His speech has vastly improved while his unique pronunciation, still evident, has grown on me.
"Oh Emmi," a smile curls my lips, but suddenly, as a betrayal of such sudden joy, tears begin to spill and roll down my cheeks. And I'm sent bawling into his chest.
He rubs my back in soothing circles, whispering sweet, little nothings, but all I can do is push him away.
“I must go,” I state, unable to meet his eyes.
He gently clasps my hands, so calm and poised.
Then in a voice, as articulate as ever, he says the ballsiest of things.
My heart plummets in my chest, and I recall his sister, the other forest dweller, telling me their heading to warmer weather in just a few weeks time. Shouldn't he be begging me to accompany them?
"Don't yah want me to stay?" Hope laces my tongue like a forgotten dream. Did I really mean nothings to him?
He lifted me up the day we met like a prize, and now he was dropping me. I felt so disregarded. Emmi was tossing me aside through no evident fault of mine.
"Why...?" I start before he pulls me into a tight embrace. And with three little words, simple in nature, he flips my train of thoughts upside down and quells all my worries.
"I’ll find you."