A/N: I return! With my promised companion piece to Choosing Her Own Path. This story is still a work in progress, though I have the overwhelming majority of it already written. I wanted to publish the first chapter to give me incentive to work through the writer's block I'm experiencing for the bits I have left. It's summer now, so that should be easy. Anyway, I hope you enjoy.
I still wasn't used to the muggy London air.
Even though it had been four, almost five years since I'd left the New World-Virginia, as the English settlement is coming to be called-the fresh, clean air had never left me. I breathed it in my dreams, the dreams I had almost every night of those primeval forests and sparkling rivers. In my dreams everything was golden tinged, even though I'd long ago stopped believing that there was gold buried in that land. My dreams, however, were the only indication that I truly missed America, the place where I became a man.
The morning the letters arrived was another one of those muggy days, and as always when it was particularly stifling, I found myself daydreaming of Jamestown-specifically, the Powhatan lands that surrounded it. The place held so many memories, happy and sad, but in my daydreams I focused on the happy ones. I recalled the day we first set up camp and how absolutely ecstatic I was at the prospect of adventure and wealth; the hunting parties we went on that consisted of game shooting as well as game playing; all the times Captain Smith had taken me into the forest to show me how to cut and identify a trail or some other useful explorer's knowledge. I even let myself remember Pocahontas for a moment-after John left we'd struck up a friendship, and for much of the rest of my time in Virginia I spent every spare moment that I had listening to her stories or canoeing the rapids with her. Yes, she was responsible for the happiest of my memories, but I knew I couldn't think of her for long without guilt, for I knew that I was the ultimate cause for the shadow of sadness that descended upon her and hadn't lifted even two years later, when I sailed back to England.
I was in the middle of remembering a particular incident that involved Pocahontas and some chicken-chasing when a rapid knock broke into my reverie.
Who the devil wanted to see me at half past eight in the morning?
Annoyed, I wrenched the door open unceremoniously only to find myself looking down into the kindly eyes of Aaron Pederson, the unofficial mail carrier for the small hamlet in which I lived that sat just on the outskirts of London. Every week he'd make the short journey to London proper and gather any mail that was addressed to residents of our community. He refused pay, saying it was merely his neighborly duty. My expression immediately changed from frustration to good humor.
"Pederson! I'd forgotten today was mail day. You wouldn't believe how annoyed I was when you knocked at the door. I'm sorry if I scared you," I finished, slightly embarrassed, remembering how forcefully I'd flung open the door. However, he didn't seem to mind at all.
"Thomas, boy, I knew you'd probably had something on your mind. Don't worry about it at all, we all have those mornings. But there, I've got something that's sure to cheer you up-" he broke off to reach into his sack, searching for something. In a few moments he pulled out a large, heavy-looking package wrapped in canvas and tied with several strings.
"This is for me?" I exclaimed. I was shocked. I knew I hadn't ordered any tools or manuscripts, so it couldn't be that. Someone had sent all this to me. I had never received a package that large in my entire life.
"That's not all. There's this, too." Still holding the canvas package in one hand, he reached in his bag once more to produce a rather thick envelope. Placing both of my packages into my hands, he winked and said, "I hope you'll be sure and tell me the story about what's behind all these fancy packages and letters, son. This place don't hardly get much excitement, but this!" Laughing, he mounted his horse once more.
"I just hope it isn't anything horrible! Good morning, Pederson!" As I watched his retreating form make its way down the road, I couldn't bring myself to look at the sender's name. Fear had gripped my heart; I was sure I had received tidings that my father or sister or little brother had died, and the package contained some of their belongings that they wanted me to have. It had been a while since I'd heard from them and I was growing anxious-this package only served to intensify my anxiety. But I knew that whatever the news was, my not looking at it didn't make it any less true, so, with some effort, I forced my eyes to the corner of the letter.
Captain John Smith-Jamestown Settlement, Virginia
It couldn't be.
I hadn't heard from John in seven years.
Yet here it was, staring me in the face. Quickly I checked the canvas-wrapped parcel, and it shared the same label. My anxiety was rapidly turning into confusion. Surely all of this had to be good news. But what in the world could it possibly be? There was really only one way to find out. I picked up the letter first, slitting the seal open carefully with a slender penknife. Opening it slowly, I began to read, my breath tightening in anticipation with every word.
I hope this correspondence finds you in the best of health. I really can't believe I'm writing this to you. I never thought that I'd be alive to ever get in touch with you again, and certainly not to tell you of my upcoming wedding. Yes, I'm getting married-I who, at one point, vowed never to let a woman tie me down. I suppose you can guess who my betrothed is given the location from which this letter was sent. I've finally returned to Jamestown, and to the single most incredible woman and admirable person I've ever met, Pocahontas.
I know that you're wondering all sorts of things right now, so I'll explain what's happened since I last saw you. I spent several months recovering, and after I was discharged, the British Army declared that I had not finished the term of service that I had signed up for when I accompanied the Virginia Company and sent me notice that, as I was well once more, I would need to resume my service. However, they were reluctant to send me back to Jamestown-although my innocence in the matter with Ratcliffe had been proven, they were concerned that I would be "distracted" from the goals of the colony because of my obvious loyalty to the Powhatans. They offered me several positions, but the one ensuring the highest pay was as a leader of a colonization force in Grenada. I needed the money so that I could return to Virginia and purchase a plot of land there-you really have to be rather wealthy to come here now-so I accepted.
Those years were the longest of my life. I had never had a problem "taming savages" before, but after what happened in Virginia-after Pocahontas-I found the whole business repulsive. I tried to make the whole thing go as peacefully as possible and I believe that I succeeded in preventing an all-out revolt of the natives. Still, there were those who shot at the natives for sport, saying that they loved to see them run. I hope God forgives our country for the evil we've perpetrated.
Finally, my term of service was up. I had made more than enough to get settled in Virginia, and I was free to venture there, no longer as a member of any council, but as a planter. I purchased a one-hundred acre tract (after I made certain that it was certified English land, agreed upon by the Indians) and made my way back to Jamestown, where I reunited with Pocahontas. Thomas, you would be proud of her. She has been an ambassador between the white settlers and her people, and all of the Englishmen I have encountered speak of her with the highest esteem, even reverence. She tells me that you and she became great friends in the two years after I left. It seems strange that you have known Pocahontas-that is, been familiar with her-for longer than I have. You might even have some things to tell me about her that I couldn't have learned in the short time I've known her. But though I have only several months' worth of experiences with her, I know that I want to spend the rest of my life with her.
That brings me to the main reason for this letter. You've probably been wondering about the parcel-I only hope you read this before you open it, it provides a lot of explanation. The package I sent contains my collected writings. Not all of them, mind you; I intend to publish a good number of other writings as books that chronicle my experiences in the New World. But the manuscript that I have sent you contains all that I would not have the rest of the world see, at least not yet. Mostly, it tells the story of Pocahontas and I, how we fell in love, and how she taught me to see past what I had been taught and to truly appreciate the world around me. As one of my two dearest friends (that would be you and Pocahontas), I felt that you would be the best person of anyone to know my story. Perhaps you can pass it on to your children, and they to theirs, and when a time comes that people are more tolerant, more understanding-then, maybe, it can be released to the world.
I wish you all the very best, and moreover, invite you to be present at my wedding, which is to take place in six months. Pocahontas has written you a letter as well that goes more in depth on that subject.
My head was still spinning from all of the revelations in John's letter, and I itched to open the parcel, but I wanted to read what Pocahontas had written before I delved into what looked like a lengthy history. Her letter was slim, tucked almost unnoticeably into the envelope in which it had arrived. Upon opening it, it read as follows:
It has been long since we trod on the same earth. I pray with all my heart that you are well and safe, and that your years in London have been happy. Perhaps you even have a wife and children of your own; if so, please give them my warmest regards. Grandmother Willow says hello, by the way-though I know that you were never convinced of her existence.
I still smile when I think of the friendship we shared-you were a still a boy then, and I was a girl, and our youth lent itself to all sorts of adventures that I will never forget. I never told you this, but it was because of you that I was able to forge such a strong bond with the settlers. Without John, I had few ties to them, but you gave me an avenue to understanding them. Perhaps I did the same for you.
John and I hope that you can attend our wedding. In addition to my best friend Nakoma, I have made many friends among the settlers, and my people number greatly, but the celebration would not be complete without you. You mean so much to both John and I. Hopefully you can come-we set the date in enough time for you to be able to arrive here in April with time to spare.
I hope that you will be uplifted by the story John has sent you. It brought me to tears upon reading it, and I doubt you'll be able to escape the same fate. He really put his soul into it, which is a testament to how much he trusts you, and how much you mean to him, though I know he'd never say it aloud. I know that you are worthy of that trust.
I, too, have a gift for you. Enclosed in the parcel is the stone necklace that I once wore always. It guided me on my path when I was lost, but now that John is here with me and the relations with the settlers have become more peaceful, I have become more secure in the knowledge of what steps I must take. I know that it is time for this to be given as a gift again, and my mother would certainly be happy to see it given to you. I know that you won't be able to wear it as a necklace, but I wanted you to have it nonetheless, because seeing it can remind you of all that you have done for John and for me.
Wingapo, my brother.
Tears had already sprung to my eyes in the middle of her letter, but upon reading the last sentence, they began to flow freely. I picked up her letter and John's and stared at them, tears falling from my cheeks and onto the paper, splattering the black ink. I cared about those two more than anyone else in the world, but I had had no idea that they felt the same for me. I longed to see them again, and smiled at the thought of being present at their wedding-as soon as I finished reading John's writings, I'd book passage on the next ship sailing to Jamestown. I'd already made up my mind that I would read John's words from start to finish, no stopping, no matter how much sleep I lost.
With trembling fingers, I untied the strings from the parcel, and unwrapped its canvas covering. As soon as I did, Pocahontas' necklace bounced out onto the table, the blue and gray stones shimmering just as brightly as they had been the last time I'd seen them. Laying them carefully aside, the image of the woman who once wore them floating in the corners of my vision, I grasped the leather-bound stack of papers that held my greatest friend's deepest secrets. I took a deep breath-and opened the cover.