A seal upon your heart, p.28
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.28

           Pepper Pace

  The next morning was wonderful. Maybe the most wonderful morning that she had ever had! She opened her eyes to find her head snuggled against Tim’s shoulder and chest, which rose rhythmically as he slept soundly. She looked at him with a new awareness, allowing her eyes to sweep his broad chest with its sprinkling of salt and pepper hair. His arm held her even as he slept and she felt protected. It was a strange feeling.

  They lingered in bed as if they were honeymooning but then the phone rang too many times to ignore and they were forced to begin their last day in New York. Tim answered the phone as Martier ran a bath for them to share. He watched the direction that she had retreated and craned his neck unconsciously when she moved out of his sight.

  “Tim? You there?”

  “What? Yes.” It was Jakob.

  “Do you two want to meet for brunch? Or…are you busy. I’m not interrupting anything am I?” He asked with a wicked chuckle.

  Tim frowned and focused on his phone call. “Keep your mind out of the gutter. It’s not that. Martier and I haven’t had any time to ourselves and I want to show her around New York.”

  “We’re still on for tonight, right?”

  “Yeah, of course. And we can do dinner before the show.”

  “Sounds like a plan.”

  The two friends made plans to meet later and then Tim quickly hung up. He walked into the ensuite bath and stopped at the sight of Martier stepping into the oversized tub, her dark skin a tantalizing contrast to the bubbles that she’d applied. The way that she moved with graceful curves froze him. She had no idea how beautiful she was. She gave him an inviting smile as she sank into the water’s depths. He wasted no time joining her.

  Later they skipped indulging in a big meal in order to eat as they went from place to place. He took her to a place in Harlem called the Schomburg Center. She’d never heard of it and felt so young and naïve. This was one of the most important institutions to document black culture in the nation, and she had never even heard of it. She became absorbed in the displays and squeezed Tim’s hand for knowing that this was a place that she would enjoy.

  Next they went shopping, but this time for Tim. It was the first time that she had ever accompanied him when he was shopping for more than groceries or a pair of socks. He was a force! He never asked the price and knew just what he liked. If the sales man suggested something that he didn’t like he told him flatly no and the salesmen suddenly didn’t like it either.

  They took his measurements and then he selected the style of suits that he liked, consulting with her although she liked everything. He chuckled. Then he selected the fabric that he wanted, as well as shirts and ties. They went to a different store for shoes and yet another for coats. Martier wasn’t bored in the least, she was still blown away by the prices but happy that she wasn’t the only one spending his money. They drank hot chocolate and ate donuts while looking into the window of an exclusive jewelry store.

  “Come on, he said.”

  Her eyes got big. “Are we allowed to eat in there?”

  He scowled. “If they want my money then they won’t have a problem with it.” She laughed. Tim was used to having his way. That was the effect of being raised in the real world vs. in a convent. She knew only to do as she was told…it wasn’t always easy to remember that she was now the master of her own destiny.

  Tim bought her earrings; gold hoops, silver hoops, diamond studs, but it was the bangles that stopped her.

  “Do you like those?” He asked as he watched her eyes lingering on the colorful display of bracelets, watches and bangles.

  A frown had creased her pretty brow. “I remember…the sound of them clanking together.” She remembered the way they looked on sleek brown arms; many bangles that made a special music whenever the wearer moved. She remembered them on her arms. But beyond those images there was just blankness. Yes she had plenty of cheap costume bracelets and she liked them a lot but they weren’t the same as the ones in her memory…


  She looked at him and her expression cleared.

  “They don’t cost very much. Pick out ten of your favorites.”

  “Yes, but I’m buying these for myself. No arguments, Tim!” She said firmly as she selected the bangles that she wanted. He kept his mouth shut.

  Once they returned to the hotel, there was only enough time to get dressed for dinner…well they made time to kiss and hold each other before hurrying to the lobby to meet their awaiting friends. Martier smiled because she could honestly consider Tim’s friends as her friends.


  Martier couldn’t keep the smile from her face as she sank into the red, plush velvet seat. She felt as if she was in a palace! There were chandeliers and rich brocade curtains with tassels and beads. The carpet was intricately woven and everyone present was dressed richly. She stopped feeling self-conscious at the black satin dress that hugged her frame and showed every curve that she possessed. Back in the room Tim kept running his hands over her form and she was hard pressed to make him stop so that they wouldn’t keep Jakob and Elaina waiting.

  Tim had a hard time keeping his eyes off Martier. Her excitement renewed his interest in the theater. He had long ago grown bored with shows where actors were overly dramatic and the venues reminded him of bordellos that had seen better days. But through her eyes he was able to remember how exciting this all was. He clasped her hand, holding it against his leg and she smiled at him with bright eyes. Next time he would get box seats for them.

  Elaina leaned in to Martier to describe how acclaimed the dance troupe was. “The dancers are from all parts of Africa and so are the musicians. I probably won’t know the difference between one type of African music from another but the playbill says that they have several types that they will be playing.”

  “I’m excited.” Martier exclaimed.

  “You were a child the last time you were in Africa,” Jakob began, “do you think you’ll remember any of the dances?”

  “Well…” she hesitated, “I don’t have much of a memory of my time before the convent-”

  Tim spoke. “It’s understandable considering the trauma she went through.”

  No one spoke as they thought about what Martier must have endured and she felt a little uncomfortable that they would spend any amount of this enjoyable experience worrying about her. She cleared her throat.

  “If I remember any of the dances I promise to recreate them for you when we return home.” With a chuckle the chitchat resumed. Soon there was a single drumbeat that filled the room and Martier watched the stage excitedly. Elaina smiled as she glimpsed the young woman’s open enjoyment. She honestly liked her and not just because she was with Tim. Maybe she would have only thought of someone like Priscilla as a companion to her friend but somehow Martier and Tim seemed right together.

  Lights shined onto the stage and several men and women dressed in simple but colorful flowing bits of fabric danced onto the stage. Martier thought it looked partially like ballet and partially like praise dancing. And then more dancers entered the stage amidst the sounds of thundering drums that seemed to move through your very bones. She sat riveted to her seat, eyes glued to the performance.

  Tim noticed that Martier barely moved as she watched in fascination at the performance. He felt bad that they hadn’t done much in the way of culturally diverse activities. Maybe she wanted to go to a movie featuring an all black cast, or a concert or…he didn’t know. He’d never had a reason to think about things like this before. Maybe he’d talk to Claudette about it. He didn’t want her to suffer culturally just because she was with him instead of someone like Karl French.

  As the show moved onward, Martier began to feel the music as much as she was able to hear it. In her mind her body was swaying and she was dancing…but not like them. She was dancing in the sun. Everything was so bright and then suddenly she could focus and she saw a field and she gasped softly. She couldn’t move as she visualized surroundings that felt familiar
but weren’t. She suddenly knew that she was running free and laughing and with the backdrop of the dancer’s feet thumping the stage and the drums and horns Martier was suddenly transported to a different place and a different time.

  In her mind’s eye Martier was playing with the others. She knew them, couldn’t imagine that she could have ever forgotten them. She was the baby and they were older but her brother and sisters gave chase for the soccer ball, their long legs slicing through the air with impossible speed and precision and even at six years old she kept up easily.

  Soon it was time to end the game and Fifi collected his soccer ball and headed home for dinner while Martier and her brothers and sisters headed back to their own home. Yook stayed close and Martier didn’t really understand why, but every since Papa went away he never let the younger ones out of his sight. All Martier knew is that she got to play with her big brother more often. Bad things were going on, she knew that. She wasn’t allowed to walk to the store anymore and Mama didn’t let her watch the television today or yesterday.

  Finally she just told Yook to take them outside so that they could stretch their legs. They had a lot of land because Papa sold the coffee that grew on the many trees but their land also contained a washing station. It was one of the few places that people from all over could bring their beans and then Mama roasted and brewed coffee all the time for the white people to taste.

  Martier liked the smell but Mama didn’t drink it. She liked tea. Martier had asked her why she didn’t grow tea then and Mama had shook her head and smiled.

  Her sister Maiba had to use the toilet and rushed ahead holding her crotch. The eight year old girl dashed into the house and it was her screams that caused Yook to sprint in after her—almost knocking Martier down. She followed, her heart in her throat and from her position at the entrance she could see that there were a lot of people in the house. Yook’s friend Kokayi was there…but he was swinging a machete. Martier didn’t understand and there was so much confusion and screaming and then she saw Maiba on the floor. One moment she had been running to the toilet and the next she lay still on the floor.

  Time seemed to stand still but couldn’t have been longer than a few seconds. Yook came running out of the house and he picked her up, sprinting back the way they had come. Martier clung to him and watched in terror as a gang of boys all carrying machetes and knives came running from her house after them. There was Kokayi and Dum that worked at the store. A boy named Chuma was with them and he wasn’t much older than her.

  Yook was a fast runner, the fastest that she’d ever seen…without her added weight he could have easily outrun them. But then the raised machete came down and a young Martier screamed out HAGARARA! STOP! Yook stumbled, his grip on her tightening as he landed to one knee and tried to scramble up. His back had been sliced open, the flesh splayed apart in vivid reds and pinks. How could this be happening? And then the machete came down one final time and her brother dropped, covering her with his twitching body.

  Her arms stayed around his neck, her knees locked around his body as the blood finally began to pool out from the wounds in his back. She couldn’t breathe though her mouth had opened to scream. But the wind had been knocked out of her…or maybe just the words were lost in all of the confusion, or locked in her small body. Kokayi came to a stop above her brother’s twitching body and his eyes were big, his machete rose again and the two locked eyes. She saw creases suddenly form in his smooth face and before her eyes he aged twenty years and then he lowered the machete and turned away. His companions watched him momentarily and then followed him. Kokayi was twelve years old--the same age as her brother.

  Tim’s eyes were riveted to the stage when he felt Martier’s grip tighten and her body stiffen. He looked at her, thinking she was excited and for a few moments he had no idea that it was anything different. Her eyes stared forward and her breath was held as if she was engrossed in the show. But it only took a moment before he realized that tears streamed down her brown cheeks and her parted lips sucked in shallow breaths.


  Her wide staring eyes never moved.

  “Honey?” He turned fully in his seat towards her. Elaina, on the other side of her looked curiously from Tim to Martier, not realizing that something was wrong.

  Martier slipped from beneath the still warm body of her brother once it became night. She didn’t want to move—she was supposed to stay with Yook. Mama said that he was supposed to look after them and she remembered that her mother’s pretty face always looked worried since Papa’s job had sent him away. ‘Don’t worry little one. Papa will be home soon.’ She began running home, her feet smacking the hard ground…her shoes were gone. Where? How? She didn’t remember and Mama was going to be mad that she’d left them somewhere. She darted into the house and the door was open. That wasn’t right that the door would be standing open like that…her thoughts felt very fuzzy in her head but she remembered to shut it. She needed Mama, but she stumbled over something in the dark. Her sister…

  “Ndashaka, Mama!” Martier suddenly exclaimed and Tim placed his hands on her shoulders.

  “Tim, what’s wrong?!” He heard Elaina’s urgent question but he was too alarmed at the way her body shook to remember how to answer.

  “Ndashaka, Data!” Martier screamed. “DATA!” He turned her face so that she was looking at him.

  “Martier! Look at me, honey,” but she was there and not there. People around them turned and watched them and yet the performance continued. Ushers converged on them, Jakob was suddenly standing there beside them and Martier was pulling away, trying to back into her seat. “MAMA!” she screamed over and over.

  Tim came to his feet and lifted her bodily from her chair. He held her like a child in his arms and she clung to him, her face buried against his neck, her eyes tightly squeezed shut and her body quaking. He pushed past the concerned ushers and hurried up the darkened aisle and out of the auditorium with Elaina and Jakob right on his heels.

  Attendants met them at the entrance, closing the doors after them—blocking the muffled wails of the young woman from the performance. They tried to help, they tried to ask questions or to direct him but he brushed past them to the nearest couch where he sat her on his lap, rocking her and holding her tightly.

  “Martier? Martier?” He repeated while she cried out in her native language, shaking and sobbing into his chest. One of the attendants was a young man and after recognizing the language she was speaking he tried speaking to her in her native language, his voice lyrical and soothing. But all she would do is to repeat the same phrase over and over while keeping her face buried into Tim’s neck.

  “What is she saying?” Tim asked while rocking her.

  The young African was frowning. “I want Mama and Daddy…”

  “What’s wrong with her?!” Jakob asked as he knelt beside them.

  Tim met his best friend’s eyes fearfully. “She’s finally remembering.”


  Martier was tucked into bed. She was quiet, sleeping. It had taken an injection from a doctor that was called in by the hotel to finally quiet the trembling young woman. He shut the French doors to the bedroom and dropped down on the couch in the front room where Jakob and Elaina were waiting.

  “Tim,” Elaina began, “She’s going to need a doctor-”

  He met her eyes. “You want me to put her in the hospital.”

  Her gaze was unwavering. “Yes.”

  “No.” He said flatly. “I don’t want them treating her like she’s a mental case when all she’s doing is remembering.”

  “You have no idea what damage is going on in her mind.” Elaina replied.

  “She’s right.” Jakob said. “We’re dealing with post traumatic stress, Tim. She’s blocked something horrible for most of her life and suddenly she’s having to face it. She needs help doing that.”

  Tim didn’t respond for a long time. He finally sighed. “Okay…but not here. I want her back home. And I don
t want her in a hospital-”

  “You can’t put her on a plane like this.” Jakob said.

  “Then I’ll rent a car and drive her home! But I don’t want her in the psyche ward. Period!” Jakob nodded after a moment.

  “I can make a few calls,” Elaina spoke. “I’ll find someone for her.”

  Tim nodded. “Thank you.” He stood up and began pacing. He realized that he was still shaking himself. He made himself a drink and rubbed his tired eyes and Jakob joined him at the bar. “She’s going to be alright. She’s strong, she’s smart and she has you.”

  Tim nodded, too emotional to speak. “I should have…” he cleared his throat. “Should I have gotten her a therapist when I first found out about her amnesia?”

  “You didn’t do anything wrong.” Jakob placed a hand on his shoulder and then looked over at his wife who watched them with concern. “Get some rest, Tim. Hold her and let her know that outside of her mind someone is waiting for her to return, someone who loves her.”

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