I hope you love this chapter. The next chapter is mostly from Shea's point of view. R&R please. I would love feedback.
Walking back was difficult for Chelsea. Avoiding tree roots and foliage was hard enough for her, but now she was barefoot. With boots in hand, and her socks stuffed inside, she followed Shea with cautious steps, praying that mud was what she was stepping in. When one lives on a farm full of animal droppings, one learns to question the ground. Nevertheless, the jungle floor was cool and moist, and by the time the two reached their destination, Chelsea's feet had a lovely earthy coating that she was more than eager to remove. Shea signaled for her to wait, and continued inside with the basket of fish. After a minute or so, and some muffled talking, he reappeared with a small cloth.
"For feet." He said, handing it to her.
"Thank you." Chelsea wiped as much as she could off her feet, but it was no replacement for a good shower. She was still slightly damp, and now smelt much like the jungle around her. She would have to deal with it later because Shea was beckoning for her to come inside.
Shea looked annoyed, walking over to the doorway beside the bear statue. "Wada say woman stay here. Shea go clean fish." His arms were crossed and he huffed, "Chelsea no leave yet, ok? Wait for Shea."
"Are you sure? I know how to scale and gut fish. I can help."
"See, Wada?" He gestured his arm in her direction, "Can help! Why no let Chelsea…!"
"Shea….Go!" Wada cut the argument short with an even shorter sentence. His glare was authoritative, serious, and downright creepy. Chelsea wasn't sure what she did to cause the argument, but being left alone with Wada was the last thing she wanted. Shea knew better than to keep protesting, and stomped outside. "…Come…..sit" Wada's voice was suddenly calmer. Chelsea looked over at the man who was patting the pillowed seat next to him. The situation was growing even more uncomfortable. The tribesman seemed composed, but Chelsea was still uneasy as she slowly made her way across the room and sat. There was an uneasy moment of silence until Chelsea attempted to apologize, though for what she wasn't sure.
"I'm sorry I…Well, I didn't mean to cause…" The nervous girl quietly began.
"…but," He held out his hand to cut her off again.
"…..Wada…..explain…..Woman…..not tribe….not yet." It was hardly a coherent explanation. The man was choosing his words wisely and Chelsea could guess why: a secret. Whatever was behind that house, Wada obviously didn't want her to know about it. Her mind raced through images of human skeletons… bloody sacrificial altars… a boar's head on a pike that whispers – Wait! As usual, her imagination was getting out of hand. Though she had just met them yesterday, Chelsea was sure that they were good people. Granted, they were strange, but they had never tried to hurt her – not on purpose anyway. Whatever was back there must be important to their tribe. She was an outsider and it was unrealistic to expect them to trust her right away. She would just have to be patient and resist the urge to sneak behind the house later on. Her thoughts now restrained, Chelsea noticed Wada staring at her, waiting for a reaction. What was she supposed to say?
"…I understand that I'm not part of your tribe. I promise I won't go back there." Wada grinned, looking very goofy in the process.
"Thank!….…Woman…..always…..welcome….." He gave her three hard pats on the back and got up and checked the pots over the fire. The aroma was mouthwatering. Ascending from her seat, Chelsea stared into one of the pots. There was… cabbage boiling. Cabbage! It was impossible. Cabbage was a spring crop, and it wasn't like the tribesman had a grocery store to go to. Wada was sprinkling some spices into another pot when he noticed Chelsea glaring at the cabbage. The girl looked disturbed, sitting motionless with so much intensity in her expression. He positioned himself beside her and stared at the boiling vegetable. "…What wrong….?"
"Oh Goddess!" The comment made her jump, bumping into his head. She wasn't expecting him to be so close. Wada stumbled back rubbing his face, "I'm sooooo sorry! Oh…I didn't mean…Cabbages! CABBAGES!" Chelsea dramatically pointed at the pot. Wada raised an eyebrow, but before he could question the girl Shea ran in from the back.
"What happen? Chelsea hurt?" His hands were covered in scales and blood.
"No! I'm, I'm fine. Sorry for yelling," She turned to Wada, "Sorry for hurting your head..." She looked down, embarrassed that she caused so much commotion.
"Shea almost done. After wash hands come back…" He returned to his duties outside. As Wada continued checking on the food Chelsea sat down, keeping out of the way with her thoughts to herself. She could smell the cabbage – its scent silently taunting her.
Eating dinner was less eventful than preparing it. Chelsea thanked her fish again before consuming it, and Shea kept offering her more food than she could handle. The two men weren't really much for talking, and nobody questioned her outburst from earlier. Chelsea was amazed that the cabbage and the other out-of-season vegetables tasted so fresh. Still, she kept quiet. These guys were definitely hiding something and these vegetables had something to do with it.
It was when the room began to glow with the sky's oranges and reds that Chelsea knew she had to go home. The last thing she wanted was to get lost in the jungle at night and "meet" the wildcats whose relatives had become clothing. She stood up and walked over to her boots.
"It's getting late," she continued as she applied her socks, "I need to get back to town before the sun goes down."
"Oh…Shea walk Chelsea again?" He walked over and knelt by her side.
"If it's not too much trouble." He smiled and walked over to his spears. He selected one but before taking it off the rack he looked back at the colorful girl putting on her boots. Yesterday he thought she was a dream, a vision of some sort. She came out of nowhere. Waking up this morning, he was worried she didn't exist. But she returned, they hunted fish, and now… "Ok, Shea! I have everything. We need to hurry if we're gonna beat the sunset." Shaken from his thoughts, Shea nodded and took the spear off the rack, "Thank you for letting me come over, Wada. I'll keep my promise. Goodbye!"
"I be back, Wada." He walked out the door, spear in hand and knife in its sheath, wondering what promise she made. It was a good thing he was taking her back because Chelsea had already started her trek in the wrong direction. After turning her around, he and the red-faced girl continued on their way to the bridge.
The night crept up on them fast, and they could hear the smaller animals of the jungle scurrying back to their homes. The harmless rustlings of the jungle fauna gave way to louder, more ominous ones as the predators began their nightly prowl. Shea was alert, but used to the noise. It was Chelsea who was uneasy. She had left her tools at home and felt very defenseless. She couldn't comfort herself with conversation either; Shea had already indicated that she be quiet. The jungle seemed a lot less magical this evening, and Chelsea realized how reckless she was for coming here alone in the first place. She silently thanked the Goddess that her new friend was willing to escort her back. A distant growl made her quicken her pace, closing the gap between her and her protector. The jungle boy could feel her inching closer to him and sensed her fear. He stopped and turned to face her, his manner serious.
"Warriors not show fear. Fear tell animals you weak. Eat you then." He puffed out his chest and gave her a nod before turning around again. Unfortunately, the "pep talk" sent Chelsea's mind on a rollercoaster of trepidation, playing out varying scenarios in which wildcats, bears, and other beasts viciously mauled her and ate her alive. It was when she was envisioning tiger-printed squirrels eating her brain that Chelsea slammed into Shea. The slightly dazed girl, now on the ground, looked up. The young man looked at her for a moment and then returned his gaze to the world over the bridge. She watched him, his mouth slightly ajar, his eyes curious yet fearful. His grip tightened around his staff, his shoulders tensed, and his breath was still. What was it that he was so afraid of? The new-ness of it all, or the idea of a town itself? After all, he knew what a town was, and there were abandoned houses when they first crashed on the island. But something wasn't right – Shea said he had never met another person.
And there they were: she in the dirt and him frozen in place. Both were silent. Both in wonder about each other's worlds. The autumn wind blew gently past the edge of the jungle. It seemed that time froze in the silence, but time couldn't stop forever and the silence had to be broken.
"Chelsea…" He was still facing the bridge.
"Yes?" She pushed herself up out of the dirt, and maneuvered herself so she could stand next to him. She looked up at the taller, darker boy who still hadn't finished his sentence. He turned his head and looked at her, their eyes meeting.
"…is this real?"
"The town? Of course."
"Is Chelsea real?"
"Yes!" She laughed. What kind of question was that?
What he did next she wasn't expecting. He dropped his spear. A strong hand grabbed her arm, the other hand her cheek. What…what was he doing?
"Chelsea is real!" He smiled in relief. He released her arm and was now gripping her face with both hands, squishing her cheeks together. Chelsea grabbed his wrists and tried pulling away, but Shea made sure she was staring at him, and kept her in place, "Chelsea not disappear! Forbid it! Promise Shea."
"Ok, I promise. Let go of my face!" she pulled back and he released her. She took a few steps back placing herself out of his reach.
"Now can't break promise. Shea happy Chelsea not disappear."
"I still have to go home. Uh…I have lots of farm work I need to catch up on, so I won't be able to come back tomorrow" She looked away as she rubbed her cheeks.
"I won't disappear! I'll be here in two days. So, not tomorrow, but the day after. Ok?" She saw his eyes sadden and his smile vanish.
"…Ok…" he sighed, "Just… no break promise."
"I'll be back in two days!" She smiled trying to lighten the mood. She ran across the bridge, enthusiastically waving back at the jungle boy when she made her way over. He lightly waved back, and watched her walk away, fearing that she would vanish into thin air. The sky grew darker and he knew he should head back, but his eyes desperately followed her shape until only her red boots were faintly visible, and with a blink he lost sight of her.