Chapter 3 Rolfe’s hand landed hard on John’s shoulder, pulled at him and I felt John’s embrace loosen so that I would not be twisted around with him. But he did not move to release me. I raised my face, saw the look on Rolfe’s. Ah, I had never meant to hurt him. "How dare you!" Rolfe snapped, eyes flashing. "How dare you take advantage of her in her weakened state?!" He looked furious enough to spit fire, but deep in his eyes I saw more than anger. I saw hurt. In his heart, he knew and I was sorry that this would be the way he should find out. I spoke before John could. "No. This is of my choosing, John-Rolfe." His stricken eyes met mine. "But why, Pocahontas? I thought you loved me." His hurt carried into his voice as he asked it and I forced myself to my feet, gently waving away John as he stood to help me. It was right that I should face this, and face this alone. I had been wrong. I had not done what my heart had told me was right. I had hurt a friend. I laid a hand against the red fabric of Rolfe’s shirt, raised my eyes to meet the pain in his. "I am sorry. I thought I could bury my past" I glanced over at John, saw the way he stood casual and yet ready in case I should need him. "But it was not my past. It was a part of what I am." I looked back at Rolfe, saw the way he fought to keep his face stiff and unmoving. "You are my friend and I have done you wrong." "But I’ve bought you dresses to wear. I was going to build you a fine English house. Pocahontas," Rolfe took my hand in his, "I was going to give you everything an English lady of nobility could every want." In another time, in another place, I would have been furious to know that he had planned my life so thoroughly. But now was not that time. I gave him a sad smile. "I am not an English lady. I am Pocahontas. And my heart lies elsewhere. Forgive me for what I have done to you." Rolfe looked away, face set in marble like the statures I had seen in England. "I loved you." "I know. I am sorry." "Not as sorry as I am." And then he turned and walked from the room, shutting the door softly behind him. My legs went weak then, but John was there to catch me before I stumbled. Gently, he set me back in the bed, moving pillows so that I could sit comfortably before settling onto the bed next to me. I raised my face, searched his eyes with mine. He gave me a crooked grin. "I’m a part of who you are?" I smiled, touched his cheek, nodded. "Yes. Oh, yes, my John Smith. When I thought to turn from you, my life and joy fled my body and I was not who I was made to be anymore. I thought to be safe and wise, but to do so, I would have had to cut off a great piece of who I was." "Thank God for insanity and unwise women" John commented with a smile as he shifted closer and drew me into his arms. I laughed softly as I lay my head against his chest and snuggled closer. "I will remember you said so." His hand moving through my hair soothed me, coaxed me back to sleep. His voice was low as he answered me. "I’m not going to give you the chance to forget." He was gone when I woke again. It was late in the night and Alan slept in a chair near my bed, his low, rumbling snores reminding me of bears. It made me smile. My body still felt weak and shaken but I kept my movements slow as I moved and so it was not so very bad. There was a drink set near my bed, resting on a warmer, and it felt good to my fingers as I picked it up and drew it to me. It was a thin soup and I drank it slowly, pausing often to be sure it settled properly. Flit settled on the mug’s rim as I held it in my lap and chirped experimentally at me. He made me smile as I gently ruffled his chest feathers and I realized that I was smiling a great deal compared to what I had before. There was still a great lightness in my chest and I set aside the soup as I began to grow drowsy again. There was so much that needed to be decided, so much that was still wrong with my world. A decision that still needed to be made. It seemed that for all my life there had been that one, single question. Come with me? The answer was no easier now than it had been those long years ago. I lay back down, careful of Flit, shifting so that the heat of Meeko and Percy’s warmth could soak through against my back. These blankets were soft, warm, and the strange softness of the bed was coaxingly embracive. I would sleep again now. Later I would think of what would come. And for the first time, in a great long time, I felt as if somehow, someway, things would turn out right after all. Over the next many days, I grew steadily better. Always, either Alan or, more often, John was waiting near me when I woke. And it was a good thing. Slowly, my strength returned to me. Day by day, the weakness faded more. Soon, John was carrying me up above decks and I would sit in the sun and watch him as he ran his ship. Those were lazy days, full of easy smiles and few words beyond words of gentle love and care. The questions were still there, always hidden behind our eyes. Would I ask John to give up his dream to stay by my side? Would I give up protection of my people to stay by his? Would there be only more good byes at the end of this path? I caught at every moment I had with him for it was precious to me. Just to watch him, standing strong and confident at the wheel, wind in his sun gold hair, was a treasure to me. Always it seemed he was near me, pausing in his duties to point out a new ocean creature to me, sitting down next to me on the steps to teach me about one of the strange devices he used to guide his ship, sometimes just coming up to stand with his arms around me and watch the waves the ship made as it passed through the ocean’s waters. And slowly, he was teaching me to read. Each evening, as I grew stronger, after dinner, he would join me under the stars near the prow of the boat. There he would lay out paper, quill and ink, a book or two. "A" he would begin, "is for assimoest." And then he would draw the letter on the paper. Next to it he drew a fox, tiny legs flung wide in a gallop. "Assimoest?" I laughed, holding the paper away from me and squinting at the strange creature. Lips twisted in a crooked smile, he shoot me a look, snatched the paper away. "B" he continued, paused as he searched for a word in my tongue that began with such a letter, gave up with a grin and a shrug. "B is for beaver." The letter was joined by the picture of a exaggerately large toothed creature with a flattened tail. "Beaver. B" I nodded solemnly, trying hard to contain my laugher. John looked at his picture, started to chuckle. "Good thing we’re working on letters and not critters." His eyes danced as they met mine and my laugher spun over then, joined his like a river in flood. Yes, this was right. My heart, my bones sang it to me. Our weeks together flew by in such a way and it was good. There was much laugher and much tenderness between us. Though he said nothing it warmed my heart to see the way he was careful that no one should think that he shared my bed. In the way of a woman, I knew it was not because he did not want to. It was because I was too precious to him to have me thought of as a light thing, because I was important to him and he would not have others think less. Because he respected me. It was all together different from Rolfe who had done such things because it was the honorable thing to do. I did not much see Rolfe. Without words it was as if we had agreed upon it. It saddened me in my heart, for he had been a good friend to me. But it would not have been right to continue our friendship, knowing that he wanted more. It would have been cruel to tease him in such a way and I was not a woman to do such things. But for me, for most of the times, it was very like a dream. So much that I had wanted for so long was now mine. I came to love the Rogue for simply being home to me. And I came to feel that the steady beat of the waves was the beat of my heart. The sailors delighted in entertaining me, I played with my animal friends and the children who were onboard with their settler parents, I devoured John’s lessons, both about his ship and about his letters, even teasing him by drawing a hugely toothed creature next to my ‘B’ each lesson. And each day I learned a bit more about the man I loved. My journey home had become my home. But all journeys end sometime.
To Be Continued...
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