gah, sorry this took so long! thank you soooo much for the encouraging reviews. they mean a lot! (: i hope you all enjoy this chapter!
The journey to see Grandmother Willow was the same as always, though Pocahontas felt almost unsure of her footing as she clambered over the twisted roots of the tree. She pushed her way through and sat on the smooth stump in front, pulling her knees to her chest. She waited patiently, quietly, as the smooth lines of the tree changed, forming the wise old face of Grandmother Willow.
"Hello, Child. I have not seen you in a while."
Pocahontas dropped her head guiltily, awkwardly shrugging and chewing on her bottom lip, "I know. I have been… preoccupied."
She could feel her knowing gaze, which only made her feel guiltier. Pocahontas kept her head down, unwilling to look her confidant in the eye. With a simple look, she felt as if Grandmother Willow could completely unravel her, make her melt into a puddle of emotions. She couldn't risk it, so she didn't look. She slowly traced the contours and dips of the wood with her finger, admiring how smooth it was after so many years of doing so.
"How long has it been?"
She didn't even have to ask what she meant, but shrugged anyway, "Since what?"
If a tree could sigh, she would have. There was a long moment of silence before, finally, she young woman consented, her face full of distaste and clearly upset, "Five years." She tried to keep her voice light, as if it didn't bother her, which was quite silly, seeing as she was talking to Grandmother Willow, who had known her forever. She'd known her and her mother before and before her; there was no escaping her. For the first year or two, Grandmother Willow had tried to talk to Pocahontas, but she'd been stubborn; there was nothing to talk about. He was gone, and he was probably never coming back. Why would he? He was probably happy in his home; content with the tall buildings and the civilization. The few Englishmen that were still here were friendly enough, although often drunk and destructive. She could imagine why he would like it at home, away from the savages. Away from her people.
Finally, after what seemed like a terribly long time, she looked up, "My father says time will heal all wounds, but I don't believe him. It's been five years, Grandmother Willow, and my heart still aches."
The old tree seemed to hesitate, her face passive, almost as if she had not heard Pocahontas. She watched the tree expectantly, hand flat on the stump, now sitting cross legged, leaning closer. She wanted to know if maybe she was strange; maybe her father was right, and Pocahontas was defective.
"You say that your heart aches after five years," Grandmother Willow finally said, "What do you think?"
Looking down, Pocahontas suddenly felt more confused than before. She looked down, her brow creasing as she thought. Maybe her father was simply wrong; his wife, her mother, had died years ago, and Pocahontas could swear that occasionally she saw glimpses of the pain. His face fell and his breath came in quick gasps. It only lasted moments, but Pocahontas understood the pain. How could he say such things when he didn't even appear to be over it?
When Pocahontas looked up to share these thoughts, the tree was smooth again with no sign of Grandmother Willow. She let out a long breath, lying back to stare up at the sky. It was clouded by the long branches, but she could see glimpses of the red-orange sky. It was times like these that her mind wandered, that she remembered all that had happened. She thought of the way that, when she first saw the sails of the boats, she thought they were strange clouds. He had told her the truth, laughing at her guess.
"Ha! No," the blonde haired man shook his head, a grin on his face, "they're not clouds. They're sails."
"Sails?" Pocahontas asked curiously, watching him intently, awaiting a thorough explanation to the strange word. Sails.
The man hesitated, as if unsure how to explain it, "Sails help out ships – boats – glide across the water. They catch the wind, and the wind pushes the sails, and we glide faster. We can manipulate them to change directions, to change speed; that kind of stuff."
What a curious thing. These white men had the strangest names for things. Helmets, compasses, sails, buildings, streets. Everything seemed so foreign, so strange to her, that it was almost hard for Pocahontas to wrap her mind around the idea that there were others who lived so differently. No huts, no houses like theirs – they lived in buildings as tall as trees, walked streets paved black.
"Does that mean something?"
His voice pulled her from her thoughts, and she looked to where he was pointing. She observed her arm with the orange band around it. A faint smile tugged at her lips, and she nodded, "Yes. I am the daughter of the tribe leader Powhatan." She began to point at each of the points, "And each point represents something different. Wisdom, strength, beauty, honor, and so on and so forth."
"Your people have the strangest customs."
Pocahontas stared at him before laughing, shaking her head, "I could say the same about you! You shake and kiss hands, and not to mention your strange weapons and names."
When Pocahontas finally surfaced from her thoughts, she realized that a few tears had leaked from her eyes. She sat up quickly, wiping them away with frustration. Was she so weak that mere thoughts of him made her weep? She had to move on; she had to do something to remove him from her memory. If she didn't, there was no way she was going to survive without him. It was time to move on from him. But, once she did, what was she to do? She felt as if her whole life was put on a standstill once he left; she needed to start her own life, but she spent so much time clinging to his memory. She clung to the hope that maybe, just maybe, he would come back.
But it had been five years, and it was too late.
"No matter what happens to me, I'll always be with you. Forever."
Forever was too long for Pocahontas – how could she hold on to something that was so far away? Forever was impossible for her to comprehend, and the thought of waiting that long for him to return burned her heart. She wanted to love him, she wanted to wait, but she knew that if she waited too long, she would be lost. Pocahontas did not want to lose herself to false hopes and dreams. She wanted to continue, to be helpful to her tribe. She wanted to be someone. Something.
Pocahontas sat up slowly and ran her fingers through her hair, gathering it over one shoulder. She realized that it was time. Five years had passed without a word.
John Smith was not coming back.