Chapter Fifteen- A Time to Heal

Before we get to the chapter, I wanted to quickly slip in today’s countdown verse!

Matthew 1:20

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Now onto today’s chapter!!

I squinted and tried to lift my head. I felt so weak. I tried to look around but I still couldn’t move. I could feel someone’s arms around me, carrying me, but the sun was too bright for me to see. 

“You are going to be okay Antepi.” Joeté’s voice drifted through the haze. Why was Joeté carrying me? “You have to stay awake.” I could hear him panting. “Please wake up. I couldn’t live without you.” 

I could tell that it was him now, but he sounded so far away. I could feel myself slipping away again. 

“Antepi, stay awake. Cemeo. You have to wake up.” I could sense other people around me now but I couldn’t tell who they were. I only saw dark blotches against the brightness of my surroundings. The darkness started to close in around me again. I gave up fighting and the darkness took over.

A sharp pain filled my arm as I woke up. I looked around but everything was still blurry. As the room and its contents came into focus, I saw Mica and Hypoleta standing over me, one on each side. Mica had taken the metal band off my arm and was cleaning my arm. So that was why it hurt so badly. But why was I here? What had happened? Then it all came flooding back. The battle; getting injured; catching Jeekis; and Joeté carrying me. I groaned. Mica and Hypoleta both looked at me with concern. Hypoleta wiped my forehead.

“Tepi, can you hear me? Don’t try to speak, just nod.” Mica asked.

I nodded.They both breathed a sigh of relief. 

“Are you hungry or thirsty?” Mica asked again.

Suddenly I realized that I was hungry and thirsty. In fact, I was extremely hungry and thirsty. I nodded as vigorously as I could. As Hypoleta moved away to get some food, I looked down at my arm and then my leg. My leg did not look horrible, but my arm looked like a bloody mess. Hypoleta brought me some soup and started spooning it into my mouth. I pulled my head away. 

“Just because one of my arms is injured doesn’t mean the other isn’t. Really Leta, I can feed myself.” I tried to prop myself up but couldn’t with just one arm.

“Young lady, you may sit up- only because I don’t want you to choke- but you will not feed yourself. You are always serving other people and doing things yourself. For just this once, let us take care of you.” She helped me move into a sitting position but still wouldn’t give me the spoon. She smiled and gave me another spoonful. 

“You are enjoying this too much.” I glared at her.

“I see someone hasn’t lost their spirit completely.” We all turned at the same time to see Matthias, Titro, and Joeté standing in the doorway. I smiled weakly but avoided Joeté’s gaze. Mica finished bandaging my arm and put the metal band back on. 

“Just a scratch. I will be fine by tomorrow.” I smiled broadly, trying to show confidence I did not feel. Mica laughed and shook her head.

“Oh no, you don’t. Not by a long shot.” She stopped smiling and looked at me seriously. “I am afraid that it might have to be something closer to three or four weeks.” 

“But I feel fine. I don’t need time to heal, I am fine. It doesn’t… it doesn’t hurt.” I searched their faces frantically, hoping at least one of them would be on my side. They all knew I was lying when I said it didn’t hurt. 

“Antepi, you need to calm down. You are only going to hurt yourself more. It isn’t just a scratch. You are lucky that you still have your arm. That hit some serious nerves and caused a lot of damage to your arm.” Matthias walked up next to my bed and put his hand over mine. 

“I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but you need to rest. You need to relax for a few days.” Titro came and stood next to Mica on the other side. He held my free hand and squeezed it. 

“What I need to do is get back out there. I need to be down in the caves helping people, taking care of people, seeing my niece. Making sure she is okay.” 

Mica pushed me gently back until I rested against the wall. “Senepha is fine. She is still down in the caves with the other kids. We already checked on them and there are people down there right now.” I huffed a breath out and pulled my hand away from Matthias’s. I reached down into the dagger pocket on my sandal, that was surprisingly still on, and pulled out Renaglo’s key. 

“I need to go to the caves. I don’t care how I get there, I just need to get there.” Matthias and Titro stared at the key as understanding dawned simultaneously on their faces. 

Matthias nodded and gently nudged Hypoleta aside. Joeté, who had remained silent through all of this, came over and took hold of my arm to make sure it didn’t get jostled as Matthias picked me up. I looked down at his hand on my arm and then looked up at him. At the same time he looked down at me, concern clouding his eyes. I quickly looked away, hoping he hadn’t read my thoughts. It didn’t matter if he had, he was engaged. If he knew that I really did still care for him, it still didn’t matter. He was bound by duty to marry Hannah and that was the end of that.

Matthias carried me all the way to the caves and brought me in front of Renaglo’s cell before setting me down. He put his arm around me and supported me while I stood. Renaglo came to the edge of his cell and looked from me to Matthias to Titro. He nodded quickly at Titro and then turned and looked at me. I smiled and put the key into the lock. I turned it and pulled the door open. Renaglo stood for a moment as if unsure of his freedom and then came and hugged me. I clung to him with all my strength before  stepping back and letting Matthias and Titro hug him. 

“How? How did you get the key to get me out?” He asked after he had hugged everyone. 

“Respato’s schemes were found out and he is in prison at the Capital right now. He won’t be coming back.” I replied. He nodded his head.

“I am sorry that it had to end this way.” He sighed a little in remorse. “This wasn’t how I would have wanted it to end. When we were children, he always wanted to be the man who betrayed the rest. I am sorry that he took that as far as he did.”

“It was his choice and not yours. You don’t have to apologize.” I said quietly. “But we have much happier things to focus on right now. I know for a fact that there is a little girl in the other caves that would like to see you very much.” 

He smiled hopefully and Matthias picked me up again. We all walked- or rather they walked and I was carried-  across the valley and down into the other caves. 

When Senepha saw Renaglo she gasped and ran up to him. She stopped for a moment and looked him up and down as if to make sure it was really him. He held out his arms and she jumped into them and hugged him as hard as she could. He rubbed her back as she clung to his neck. How similar her and I’s reactions were. 

“I’m so happy that you are here Pasha! I didn’t think I would ever see you while Uncle Respato was here. He never let me come and visit you. I was sad when he had to leave, but he helped Tiana Tepi find out that the English were coming back, so I am proud of him.” She leaned back and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. 

“We are together now, and that’s all that matters.” There were tears in his eyes as he held her. I saw him look upward and mouth something. Whether it was a thank you to god or a message to Sophi I wasn’t sure. Either way, I knew that being here with Senepha was something that he had waited so long for. Senepha leaned back and looked at me. 

“It’s my Pasha!” 

I laughed. “It is!” 

Her stomach grumbled loudly and she giggled. “I think I’m hungry.” 

“Lets go and get some food.” I smiled. 

Matthias picked me up and all of us went back to the surface. Joeté and Hannah joined us as we walked back to my hut for some food. Everyone was talking and laughing except  Joeté and I. I could feel him glancing at me every so often, but I refused to look at him. I didn’t know what was going through his head, but all I could think of was that if Hannah knew what I was feeling, she would never forgive me. 

When we all had finished eating, I stood up by myself and looked around the room. Sahara and Senepha sat together on the floor. Joeté, Titro, Matthias, and Renaglo all sat talking about all that had happened in the past few years. Gracia, Hypoleta, Hannah, and Cat stood by the stove exclaiming about how happy they were that everything had come out alright. Jarika and Mica both sat on the floor with the little girls, entertaining them. Pasha was lying sprawled out on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. I rolled my eyes and smiled. All the people I loved the most in one room. I sighed quietly. Everything was going to be okay. 

No one was looking at me so I quietly made my way to the door. I hurried quickly down the steps and out to the stables. Amor and Chaga were both in their stalls, unsaddled and well-fed. I rubbed Chaga’s nose and patted Amor’s neck. I rubbed down Amor and made sure that he was comfortable before moving to Chaga’s stall. I mucked out some of the manure and wiped my brow. 

“Shouldn’t you be resting?” I whirled around to find Pasha relaxing on some hay bales. I laughed and limped over to him. I sat down next to him and leaned back against another hay bale. 

“I’m not tired.” 

He laughed a little. “But you are hurt. That automatically means that you need to rest.” 

I shook my head. “They all think I should lie in bed all day and do nothing. I just can’t do that. You know that I have to be productive and help people. I need to be doing something.” 

“They are just trying to take care of you Tepi. You know that.” He looked at me seriously. “They want to make sure that you don’t get hurt again.”

I scooched closer to him and leaned on him. He put his arm around my shoulders lightly. I smiled and looked up at him. “When did you become so mature? I feel like I am the younger one now.” He laughed.

“I have learned to grow.” He sighed. “I’ve had to.” 

“You’ve been through a lot, Shasha.” He smiled and laughed a little at his nickname. “Not many people could walk through something like that and come out on the other side strong.” 

“You did.” He looked down at me. 

I shook my head. “What I went through was different. Not any less hard, but different. I lost my parents, but so did you. I lost my fiance, but you lost your sense of security. God has thrown a lot at both of us, I suppose. But he won’t let us break. We have both had to mature quickly. We have both had a lot of responsibility on our shoulders before we were ten years old. That makes us stronger than most people.” He nodded. 

“Maybe I am not the wiser one.” He observed, laughing. 

I laughed and for the first time since I was little, it was a pretty laugh. I stopped short. I never laughed like that anymore. The silvery, beautiful laugh. When I started fighting more, it turned into a less joyful laugh. At least I thought it had. Maybe I was just noticing things like that for the first time. 

I heard shouts outside, everyone calling my name. I turned to Pasha, a mischievous look in my eyes. “You think they’ll look behind the hay bales?” 

He grinned. “Not until they’ve checked the rest of the valley.” We both ran quietly behind all the hay bales and sat down. 

“It is good to have you back. We have missed you- I’ve missed you.” I sighed.

“I have missed everyone here too. If it had been up to me, we never would have left.” He sighed a little. “But Meisha and Pasha thought it would be safest if we left for a while.” He looked down. “Maybe if we had stayed then things would be different. Maybe the baby would have surviv… ed.” He trailed off before finishing his sentence. I looked at him sharply.

“What baby?” He hung his head. “Pasha, what happened while you were gone?” 

He shook his head in chagrin. “I wasn’t supposed to tell you.”

“Well you have, so tell me the rest!” I leaned forward and waited for him to answer.  

“When we had just started traveling, Meisha and Pasha told me that Meisha was going to have a baby. But when it came time for the baby to be born, she survived for one day, and then the nurse told my parents that she died.” I put my hand on his arm. 

“That could have happened anyway. Just because you weren’t here doesn’t mean that she would have survived.” It was quiet for a few moments. “What was her name?” 

He smiled a little. “Walia. Her name was Walia. And she was the sweetest baby for the time that she was alive. Meisha loved her and when the nurse told us that she was dead, it crushed her. She hasn’t talked about it since. They were planning to tell the family soon, but since I just let the cat out of the bag, you won’t be surprised.” 

“I know how it feels to think that maybe if things had been a little different, it would have stopped something.” I sighed. “I used to think that maybe if I had shown more love to Joeté, he wouldn’t have gotten engaged to Hannah. But it doesn’t matter what happened then. It only matters what happens now, and what happens now is you moving on. Titro and Gracia might have another baby, they might not.” I reached up and ruffled his hair. “I know they have their hands full with you.” He smiled sadly. 

“Thank you for telling him that Tepi.” We both looked up sharply. Titro stood in between some hay bales, chewing on some straw. 

“How long have you been standing there?” I asked laughing slightly. 

“Only five minutes.” He rubbed the back of his head. “I’m sorry we didn’t write to you. We wanted to, but thought it would be best to surprise you with the baby, if you were even alive. But then it happened and we decided that we would wait until we returned to tell you about everything. It was too hard on Gracia to talk about it before now.” 

“I understand. And I won’t say anything to the others until the two of you feel that the time is right.” I added.

“Thank you Antepi. And now I think that there are a lot of people looking for you.” He winked and laughed a little. I groaned. 

“Do I have to?” I put my lower lip out and widened my eyes. “I can’t stand their loving overbearance anymore.” 

They both laughed and Titro reached down to me. I grabbed his arm and pulled myself up. Pasha scrambled up and stood beside me, ready to catch me if I lost my balance. 

“They are trying to take care of you. You don’t make it easy on us, you know.” He looked me straight in the eye. “You are the hardest person to do something for, because you think that you can do everything for yourself, and don’t need anyone. I would know, since we are practically the same person. Gracia could tell you just how similar we are. So speaking from experience, you need to let us take care of you sometimes. After all,” he got a mischievous glint in his eye, “you are the baby of the family.” I glared at him. He knew I hated being called that. Then I thought of something. 

“Well, not really anymore.” He looked at me quizzically. “While I was at the Capital a few days ago, I found out that Wanepi is my twin sister. And I am the older one. So, no, I am no longer the baby.”

 He sighed. “So you finally found out?”

“Wait- you knew this whole time, and never told me?”  

He nodded slowly. “Pasha- not you,” he laughed at Pasha when he made a face, “told us a long time ago. He made us promise never to tell you or Meisha. Sorry?” He offered weakly. 

I rolled my eyes at him. “You can’t just tell me stuff? You have to keep things secret for years?” Now I was actually upset. “All three of you knew? And you never thought that I would like to know that I had a sister?”

“Tepi…” Titro said quietly in warning. “You know that I didn’t have a choice. And I’ve regretted it every day since. If it had been my choice, you would have known from the very beginning. But Pasha thought it would be in your best interest not to tell you.” 

“Can you just tell me these things next time?” I asked quietly.

He nodded. “I won’t keep any more secrets from you, I promise.” 

Matthias and Renaglo appeared in the doorway. They must have heard my raised voice. The anger in me suddenly reignited. 

“And you, Matthias. You never thought I would want to know that you were married for eight years before I met your wife?” I looked from Titro to Renaglo, who were both looking down. “You both knew, didn’t you? You knew that he was married and had a daughter.” Respato nodded, but Titro shook his head a little. 

“I had a feeling, but I never knew for sure.” He answered.

That made me feel a little better, but not enough to make me let it go. “Why? Why all the secrets?” I looked from one to the other. All three couldn’t look me in the eye. “This isn’t family. Family doesn’t hide things from each other. It doesn’t get married and not tell everyone. It doesn’t hide a sister from the other. Family doesn’t face a tragedy and-” I stopped myself before I revealed a secret that wasn’t mine to tell. “If this is what you think family is, then I don’t want to be in yours.” 

I brushed past all of them and limped as fast as I could go back to my hut. No one followed me, though I heard Titro start to go after me, and Matthias and Renaglo stop him. So not only would they hide things from me, but they wouldn’t allow anyone to console me. 

The next morning I woke up with a feeling of dread. Memories of yesterday’s argument flooded back to me. I sat up and rubbed my eyes. The movement sent a pang through  my arm. I looked down; only a little blood had soaked through the bandage. That was a good sign. 

“You’re awake. Good.” I looked up. Gracia sat in a chair across the room. She must have slept there because her hair was rumpled and she had a blanket covering her. “We weren’t sure if after last night you would sleep at all. When I came in last night you were sound asleep. How do you feel?” She spoke seriously, but without a hint of tiredness. She must have been awake for a while. 

I threw the blanket off my legs and got up. I limped to the bowl of water and cupped my hands. I splashed it over my face, instantly more awake and refreshed. “I feel fine. All things considered, I feel better than most.” I looked over at her. “How many people heard?” 

“Not many. Just the family.” She shook her head, laughing quietly. “Hypoleta wanted to drag you out and make you apologize to your brothers. I don’t think she quite gets familial arguments yet. Especially between you four.” She sighed. “Shasha told me what happened. That you knew about the baby.”

“That’s not what I was upset about. That was a secret that you had every right to keep to yourself. That was a sad secret. The others were ones that were happy.” I shook my head as I couldn’t find the words to explain myself. “I should have known a long time ago that I had a sister- a twin sister in fact. I should have known that. But they kept it from me, even after Pasha and Meisha died.” 

“It hurts. It hurts that they didn’t tell you. I get it. I had no idea either. And that is hard on me too. The fact that Titro knew all these things- your sister, Matthias’s marriage- and didn’t tell me is hard. But they all had their reasons. We have to accept that and let them be. You have secrets that you haven’t told them, I am sure of that.”  

“But they are secrets that don’t affect others. They are personal.” I sat back down on the bed. “I love my brothers. I do, but this isn’t what family does. Family supports each other and helps each other. They don’t push things into the dark corner and try to pretend they don’t exist.” I sighed and looked at her. “My brothers and I have always been on the same page. Growing up, I had to be tough because I grew up as the only girl. And we always understood each other. We could know what each other was thinking just by looking at them. Especially Matthias and I. We never kept secrets from each other. And up until today, that was how things were. But now? Now I have no idea what any of them are thinking.”

Gracia got up and sat by me on the bed. 

“They were trying to protect you. That is all they will ever do. They never meant to hurt you.” I nodded. “And I don’t know about the others, but Titro didn’t sleep at all last night. He spent the entire night either pacing or sitting up in bed. Whenever I was awake, he would ask me about ways to make it up to you.” She brushed my hair away from my face. “He really cares about you, Tepi. I know your other brothers do to, but he really does.”

“It’s good to have you back.” I smiled weakly.

She stood up and pulled me up. “They are all having breakfast at Matthias’s hut. Do you want to come?” 

I shook my head. “I want to talk to them before going there. I already know exactly what Leta is going to say, and I personally don’t want to talk about it to her.” 

Gracia smiled. “Oh, we have quite the sister-in-law. I can already tell.” She walked to the door and opened it. “I will tell them to come here.” I nodded gratefully. Gracia had always known what to say. She grew up around us almost constantly and knew just how to soothe over our tempers. 

Five minutes later, the three of them filed in meekly. I rolled my eyes at their quietness. This was not my brothers- quietness was never their strong suit. 

“I think I am just going to leave you like this for a little bit. Very peaceful; this is the first time in six years that all three of you were silent at one time.” They all peeked up at me from their lowered heads. A grin broke out on Titro’s face. 

I took a deep breath. “I’m sorry I got mad at you all. I don’t want us to keep secrets anymore. We are a family and we stand by each other no matter what. And that means that we trust each other with our secrets.” They all nodded. 

“We are all sorry too.” Titro said. “We talked about it, and we were wrong to keep things a secret  from you. We should have told you everything before.” We all came in and suddenly I was enveloped in a huge bear hug. Everything was going to be okay, as long as we had each other, and that I was sure of.