History Lesson—Part 15
Skye rapped on my door. Five knocks in quick succession. The sound was loud and impatient. “Cord,” she called, “why are you still in your room? You should be leaving for school.”
I slowly rolled out of bed and opened the door. Skye stood in the hallway, hands on her hips, frowning at me. “You’re going to be late.”
“I’m skipping classes today.”
“Why? You’d better tell me a good reason. And I hope it doesn’t involve Sadie Endicott.”
Skye remained rooted in her spot in the hallway, waiting for my reply. I didn’t want to lie to her, although I knew she wouldn’t be happy with my excuse. So, I opted to tell her the truth and deal with the fallout.
“I can’t face Sadie. Not after what I did yesterday.”
Panic crept into Skye’s eyes. “What’d you do?”
“Can we talk in the kitchen?” I asked, knowing it was time to confide in her. “I need to get dressed.”
When I came downstairs, I saw two mugs of yaupon tea on the kitchen table. Skye sat near one of them. She watched silently as I slipped into the chair across from her and gulped a mouthful of the light, earthy flavored tea from the other mug. Finally, she spoke.
“What’s going on, Cord?”
Inhaling, I tried to determine the best place to begin, but words tumbled out of my mouth before I could contemplate their impact.
“I’m in love with Sadie. I can’t help it. Our connection is extremely strong. I didn’t realize how strong until yesterday, when I showed her my thunderbird.”
Skye’s eyebrows rose in surprise, but she said nothing. So I continued. “Our fingers collided when we touched the engraving, and it caused some kind of electrical shock to surge through both of us. It was so strong, I thought I was going to lose consciousness. Sadie said she saw a blinding white light.”
“Is that why you can’t face her?” she asked.
“No. It’s what happened afterward. I decided to go, thinking that it was unfair for me to pursue a relationship with Sadie. I almost made it to the door, but I couldn’t leave her. So I went back and….”
“Cord… you didn’t—” Worry lines creased Skye’s brow as she studied me.
I felt the blush start at my collarbone and spread to my forehead. Shaking my head, I replied. “I pulled her into my arms. Held her and kissed her. That’s all. But I think my talisman must have brushed her skin while it was against mine. I saw a bright light, and suddenly we were in a different dimension, one that was unfamiliar. We stood on top of a mesa, like something you’d see in Arizona or Utah. Just the two of us. The sky looked unusual—an open expanse with streaks of pink mingled with blue. It felt surreal, the same sensation I experience when I travel back to an earlier time. But I got anxious since I didn’t know where we were, so I let go of her.”
“What happened then?” Skye asked.
“Everything went dark. I opened my eyes, and we were standing in her kitchen as though nothing happened… in the same spot where I first put my arms around her. But I was so rattled that I took off.” I glanced at Skye. “That’s what I did. I ran away.”
The tension eased once I admitted it, and I relaxed. Skye smiled at me.
“Have you spoken to her since?” she asked.
I sipped my tea and stared at the table. “No. I don’t know what to say. I’m sure she’ll ask a dozen questions, and I won’t know how to answer them. She’ll get frustrated. And I’ll want to tell her everything. But if I do….”
“You think she’ll be frightened of you. Or wary. Either way, you’re worried that you’ll lose her as a friend.”
Although we’d never talked about romance before, Skye understood how I felt.
“I’ve always been alone,” I said. “And now I’ve made a connection, a really powerful connection, with Sadie. It’s the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time. And then I wonder why it even happened, because….” I peered up at Skye. “How can Sadie and I have a romantic relationship? I don’t worry about the time conveyance. We did that, and she was fine. It’s—” I couldn’t even bring myself to say it. But Skye did.
“You’re worried about what you are.”
I nodded. “Dating me wouldn’t be fair to Sadie.”
We sat in silence for a while. Thoughts of Sadie crowded my mind: the streaks of gold in her hair when the sunlight touched it, the curl of her lip when she laughed, the wrinkles that creased her forehead when she tried to understand unusual things about me, and the taste of her lips when she pressed them against mine. How could I stop loving her?
“I don’t want to hurt her,” I said. “But continuing this… whatever this is… will eventually break her heart. And mine.”
Skye reached across the table and grasped my hand. She tried to smile, but I saw the sadness in her eyes. I knew she understood my pain and ached for me. We were similar, and both of us the same as her father. The tall, pale man. Makka-Inini. When he married my grandmother, he explained that he wasn’t like the Susquehannock, but she didn’t truly understand what he meant. Years later, when the villagers first saw other white men traveling up the river in their unusual canoes, everyone assumed the men were Makka-Inini’s people. But I discovered that wasn’t true. As far as I knew, the only ones like him were me and Skye.
“It’s time to visit your grandfather,” she said as she stood and grabbed her purse. “He possesses the wisdom that comes with age and is the one who can set you on a path to heal your heart.”
~ ~ ~
It was a four-hour drive from Linthicum to Makka-Inini’s home in Pennsylvania. He lived alone in a small bungalow on the western bank of the Susquehanna River. While Skye and I opted to interact with other people, which required us to move every three or four years, he preferred the consistency and isolation of the riverfront.
Skye turned off State Route 92 and steered the car along the winding gravel driveway. Several years had passed since we’d seen him, but nothing had changed since we last visited. The old one-story house, hidden from the road by a thicket of trees, stood high above the river bank. A weathered deck jutted off the back of the house, and steep wooden steps led down to the water. Skye parked the car, and we walked across a tiny patch of grass to the front porch.
“Father,” Skye called as she knocked on the door. “Are you here?” She opened the door, and we went inside. Through the back windows we saw Makka-Inini sitting on the deck and watching the river. Skye knocked on the glass, and he turned. I could see he had aged. Strands of silver replaced the blond hair at his temples, and the skin around his blue eyes had wrinkled. He smiled and walked into the house.
“Skye! Kohr! What a surprise!”
I doubted our visit truly startled my grandfather. He possessed what people referred to as a sixth sense—the ability to access the minds of others—which allowed him to anticipate the unexpected. And his awareness wasn’t limited to us, his family. He could infiltrate anyone’s thoughts. See what they didn’t show and know what they didn’t say. It was a gift he used to communicate, one that Skye and I hadn’t inherited.
“I have a smallmouth bass that I caught yesterday,” he said. “I was planning to grill it for lunch. Will you two join me?”
“We’d love too,” Skye replied. “But let me fix it so you and Cord can talk.”
As Skye walked to the kitchen, Makka-Inini faced me and motioned to the deck. When he peered into my eyes, I knew he sensed something troubling me. I heard his low voice reach into my mind. Your heart aches over love and you wonder if a life with a particular young woman is possible.
Nodding, I replied. “I’ve never had a strong connection with anyone. So why now… and with this girl? I don’t know what to do.”
“Don’t worry, Kohr,” he said aloud. “Your heart is kind and you’ve always made good choices.” He grinned and patted my shoulder. “So, tell me about her.”
As we sat on the deck watching the river meander past us, I told Makka-Inini everything that had happened between Sadie and me. He listened quietly, nodding now and then. I’d always felt close to my grandfather. He’d spent most of his life as an outsider; and now I understood the full impact of being different—foreign—especially when trying to form a relationship.
“You and I are more alike than I’d realized,” I said when I’d finished my story. “And I’ve wondered how you told grandmother about yourself… or if you did at all.” I paused, searching for the right words to convey my thoughts. But he knew my mind and said them for me.
“Nothing’s more exciting, or frightening, than loving someone, especially when it’s romantic love. I know that all too well.” Makka-Inini sighed as he stared beyond the river. “You feel vulnerable and can’t help but examine your decisions as well as the motives of the person you care about. I was fortunate. Your grandmother and her people welcomed me into their lives without questions or expectations. Eventually, I told her about me and where I came from.”
“Then why don’t I know, grandfather?”
“Your grandmother kept it to herself to protect me,” he said. “Her people had a limited understanding of Earth and its place within space.” He turned toward me and frowned. “But you could have come to me with questions. Why didn’t you?”
I shrugged. “I didn’t need to know. But now, life’s more complicated. People have learned many things over the years, and their knowledge of the universe has increased significantly.”
“So, the problem is that Sadie asks questions,” he replied, “and you don’t have the answers.”
“You’re right, I don’t. All I have are more questions.” Holding his gaze, I found the courage to tell him why Skye and I came here. “I want to tell Sadie about me… everything about me. But to do that, I need answers… from you.”
Makka-Inini regarded me in silence. I stood my ground, staring at him with my teeth clenched and my fingers pulled into fists. I could hear the sounds of the Susquehanna below us as it surged southward to the Chesapeake Bay. After several minutes, he broke eye contact with me and turned his head back toward the river.
“Okay, Kohr,” he said with a sigh. “I’ll share the story of my life with you. Tell me what you want to know.”
To be continued.