fiction

Sung Home: Chapter Thirty Eight. {fiction}

That night, after Joe had gone to bed unusually early, Victorio and I settled onto the couch again with our current book. But the book remained unopened that night.

Something had changed between us during his absence, visiting the Forest People.

We held each other silently on the couch for a long time before I said quietly into his neck, “Do you want to try kissing?”

“Y-yes…,” he said uncertainly.

“Oh! I mean, uh, oh, if you don’t want to…,” I stammered, sitting abruptly upright.

“No. Yes, I mean, yes, I really do want to kiss you!” he said as he sat up too, now looking as alarmed as I probably did. “I-I just, you know, I mean… I mean,” his eyes widened helplessly for a couple of beats before he finally blurted out, “I’ve never kissed anyone before! I mean, not a girl — a woman, you know, like that…”

“Oh!” I said, then again, “Oh!”

We sat for a few long moments in silence.

I turned to him and said, “Well, me neither. There wasn’t anyone my age, except Robert, and he was too much like a brother…”

We sat some more. I realized that he had literally not one person he could have had a first kiss with. Everyone was either much too old or children. Not until I came along.

“It’s not like either of us exactly had a chance to date or anything,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Not like we could go to prom together…”

“No.”

“So maybe we can learn together,” I said.

Taking my hands in his, woodsmoke gaze searching my face, he said, “Yes.”

After that, Victorio and I practiced kissing each night, then fell asleep on the couch together, not wanting to part but not wanting to take it further either. Joe had taken to retiring to his room soon after dinner, somewhat pointedly I thought. We took our time venturing further into this unknown territory. Bit by bit, we explored each other, tentatively, curiously, happily.

“Are you and Victorio…?” asked Hallie one day, raising her eyebrows suggestively as she plucked several lettuces from the garden for dinner.

“No!” I said, a little too fast. “I mean, not exactly…”

She grinned as brightly as the clear, sun-washed southwestern sky above us. “Okay, I see… well, whatever it is you’re doing, I think its sweet. You seem really happy these days.”

“Yeah,” I smiled back at her. “Yeah, I guess I am happy…” An orientation to pure survival had been such a strong, necessary habit for so long, I felt surprised to realize I was really and truly happy — content — for the first time since I could remember. Something about my increased intimacy with Victorio had a deeply soothing effect on me.

Noah, Kate, Frank, one male goat and two females, ventured off for another visit to the Forest People. Now that the first group had gone and returned successfully, none of us were as worried as before. We set about our usual daily tasks, and before we knew it, they were back.

I was happy to see that Kate’s eyes were brighter than usual, and she was more talkative upon their return. I had never seen her so bubbly before, at least not since before the virus.

“I met a man there, Antonio, who keeps bees for the Forest People. He was real interested in the goats because he used to have some when he was growing up. He had already built a tidy little corral for the ones we brought, since Frank had told them he’d ask me for some. I showed him all about how to care for them and I’ll probably go back some other time to check in.

He also promised to teach us how to build beehives and show me how to care for them next time I come. By next fall, we could have our own supply of honey instead of having to risk our necks raiding the hives in the forest.”

Noah and Frank had helped with more cob-building, completing the roof on the hut started during the first visit. They all tried to get to know the people there, especially their de facto head-woman, Barbara.

Frank said, “She said that the group had become restless, wanting to either move on or to settle there for good. Together they chose the latter, but hadn’t decided on how they would construct their permanent homes. Noah teaching them how to build with cob came just at the right time. It’s easier and faster than cutting trees for post and beam, or frame construction, or making adobe bricks from scratch.

She also said that they wanted to visit our home too, which seemed reasonable. I agreed to bring a few of them back with us on our next visit.”

Frank had been given permission to speak on our behalf before they left, so no one was surprised by this development. We had agreed to abandon our protective concealment forever, if only to a select few for now.

Not only that, but Kate and Frank returned without the goats and without Noah. He had stayed on to help with the building, as a guest in Juan-Carlos’ yurt, news which was received with grins and raised eyebrows. It appeared that Noah would not remain celibate after all. This was turning out to be a romantic summer in our little corner of the Gila.

Mine and Victorio’s quiet romance continued to develop until one night, after we had been kissing and sliding over each other for a while, he took me by the hand and led me into the quiet coolness of his bedroom. We were like children learning to swim by being thrown into a deep eddy in the river, thrilled and scared and clumsy all at the same time.

Of course, I could have looked at the books on sexuality in the library, or we could have looked at them together, but I didn’t want to. I figured that sex must be as natural and instinctive as eating and sleeping, and I wanted to uncover its secrets bit by bit with this man, together.

Like learning to sing a song with someone else, we bumbled a lot at first. Gradually though, we learned to sense into each other, anticipating the other’s yearnings, harmonizing touch, movement, tempo and pitch more easily with each encounter.

Soon Victorio began accompanying me on my stays at the library cave, and to my surprise, I didn’t mind trading a little of my treasured solitude for more time with him. Private time. I’m sure it was a relief to Joe too, not having to tiptoe around us while we were gone.

Summer solstice had long since passed, and while the days were still hot and the nights stayed warm, fall loomed large on the horizon. Crops matured and were harvested in turn. All the available adults worked in long shifts picking, cleaning, slicing, canning and drying garden vegetables, as well as hunted meats and gathered nuts and berries.

I remembered all too well my own fervent efforts the summer before, working non-stop in my little cabin to prepare enough food for winter.

I had been slicing a mountain of zucchinis for drying for what seemed like hours when I became suddenly aware of Victorio standing on one side of me and Hallie on the other, also slicing zucchinis. It was as if their selves extended beyond the boundaries of their skin and washed right into and through me.

Grandpa Joe perched on a tall stool on the opposite side of the counter, facing down his own zucchini hoard, grumbled that he didn’t really even like zucchini much. Devon laughed beside him at his grumpiness as she hurried to arrange the zucchini slices onto drying screens, trying to keep up with us.

My head swam for a moment, as if buffeted by a sudden gust of wind. For the first time since I had come to live with these people, I felt how truly a part of them I was. We were preparing for winter together. I belonged. I felt a deep settling inside me, as if some gnats had been buzzing in my veins for years, and had only now gone quiet.

Silently I thanked the powers that be, whatever or whoever they were, for that.

Devon, Yazmin and Ching Shih made the next trip to the Forest People, only two weeks after the last group returned. With fall looming on the horizon, we had only so much time to establish a more solid relationship with our new allies. The first snowfall would make it much harder and dangerous to travel that far. After that, it was unlikely we would see our new friends before spring.

Devon was torn between taking the trip and staying to oversee the remaining harvest, but we convinced her that we could make do without her for a week or so. She deserved a break, since she was the hardest worker of all when it came to the garden.

We saved a large portion of the seeds from our harvest for next year’s planting and Devon carefully wrapped samplings in colorful swatches of cloth, as if they were precious jewels, as a gift for the Forest People. “I’m hoping they’ll feel like returning the favor,” she said, eyes gleaming at the vision of more varieties to plant come spring.

This is an ongoing series from a forthcoming fiction novel by Laura Ramnarace.
Tune in weekly for the next chapter in ‘Sung Home’.

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Laura Ramnarace, M.A. was driven to earn a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution while on her quest to find out why we can’t just all get along. She has published a book on inter-personal conflict, ‘Getting Along: The Wild, Wacky World of Human Relationship’, published a newspaper column also titled ‘Getting Along’, and submits regularly to Rebelle Society. Since 1999, she has provided training to a wide variety of groups on improving personal, working and inter-group relationships. ‘Sung Home’ is a work of eco-fiction set in southwestern New Mexico.

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