A seal upon your heart, p.38
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.38

           Pepper Pace
 

  Martier’s hand had been crossed in front of her lips. Her breath came back in a quick gust, she had been holding it until she was now nearly light headed. He’d come back?

  “You were just sitting in…” He looked away. “You’d been sitting there for two days next to…” He wasn’t able speak those words—even though he was responsible for the deed and even after all of these years. “Even after everything you still looked at me with those eyes that cut through everything else. I gave you some water, which you accepted and then I led you into the closet. I said, ‘don’t talk.’”

  Tears appeared in her eyes. He was the one that told her not to talk, and she didn’t for two years...

  He wouldn’t look at the tears that appeared in her eyes and averted his eyes one last time. “The Red Cross found you the next day even though they wouldn’t start looking for bodies in Kigali for several more months later. That was the least that I could do. It’s not…it’s the only thing that a twelve year old boys knows to do to try to fix what he’d done wrong.” He cleared his throat. “No one knows about Chuma or what I did for you.”

  Kokayi walked away and Martier finally bent, placing her hands on her knees and then she gave in to her tears.

  ~***~

  Several hands stroked Martier’s hair and someone pressed a bottled drink into her hand and then helped her take a sip of the sweet fruit juice. Someone else helped her to find the right bus to return to the heart of the city and then she walked back to her apartment quietly contemplating all that she had learned. What did Kokayi mean with those last words? No one knows about Chuma or what I did for you…

  She found the number for the airport and arranged for a flight back to Cincinnati as soon as she stepped into her apartment. She now knew that there was no more closure than what had happened in the marketplace. It was finished.

  It was late in the evening and both her body and mind were exhausted, but Martier was determined to stay up past three in morning so that she could call Tim by eight am. Kigali was seven hours behind in time and though she needed desperately to hear his voice, she wouldn’t wake him up.

  While she waited she baked pies. It soon became therapeutic to roll out the crust and drop the various sugar coated fruit pieces into the dough lined pie pans. At three am she picked up the phone and then put it down three times wondering if Tim hated her, blamed her for turning away from him for her own selfish purposes. Regardless of everything that she needed to do in order to improve herself, the result is that she had hurt Tim by turning away from him.

  She finally dialed the office number, happy to hear Linda answer the phone with the familiar; “Mr. Singleton’s office, may I help you?”

  “Linda, this is Martier.”

  The younger woman squealed. “Martier! I’m so happy to hear from you. How are you?”

  “I’m doing well. How are you?”

  “I’m great. Mr. Singleton is such a great boss! Thank you so much for asking him to let me fill in for you.”

  “No, thank you for doing it. Is Tim around?”

  “He stepped out but I don’t think he will be long. He didn’t take his briefcase or files.” They chatted for a few moments while Linda described what was going on around the office; mostly gossip and Martier realized just how far removed those things were from her now. She’d just spent weeks reviewing the files of people that survived heinous acts of torture and Linda was excited over which attorney was sleeping with which secretary.

  “Wait a minute, Martier. He’s back.” She heard Linda cover the phone and speak and then Tim was suddenly there.

  “Hello Martier?”

  Her heart swelled in her chest. How could it be possible that just the sound of his voice made her feel safe?

  “Tim, hi.”

  “Hi,” came his soft response.

  “Oh…you sound so wonderful,” and she meant it.

  “You do too. How are you, honey, how is Rwanda?”

  He called her honey and with that one word everything seemed okay. “I…I met the man that killed my brother.”

  “Martier, I’m going to switch phones, can you hang on, baby? I’ll be right back, okay?”

  “Yes.”

  The phone went silent but only for less than five seconds. And then Tim was there again. “Martier, are you okay?”

  “I think so…well, I don’t know. It’s just that everything feels so strange.”

  “He didn’t threaten or hurt you did he?”

  “No.” She quickly assured him. “He was very polite. He actually apologized.”

  “Apologized? An apology for what he did to you and your family…wow. What fucking nerves.”

  “I think I’m happy that he did. He explained why he spared my life. He explained that he called the Red Cross to get me, he came back to hide me from the Interahamwe. He’s the one who told me not to talk.”

  Tim was quiet. “I’m sorry. He was a kid—a kid made to do horrible things. But then he did something very courageous. He helped you and it was like when your father helped the Tutsi’s. That boy could have been killed and he must have known that.”

  Oh my God…Now she understood Kokayi’s last statement to her. No one knew that he had helped her. He surely would have been put to death and branded a traitor. But what about now, after so many years? Surely he could have used that bit of information to gain some compassion—but he didn’t. He just allowed people to think that he was nothing more than a butcher.

  And what did he mean by speaking of the boy Chuma? Chuma had been her age and he had been with the boys that had come to her house that day. She remembered him trailing behind the others, no weapon but he was there.

  But the reports never mentioned Chuma. Had Kokayi and the others protected him from the stigma of being called a murderer?

  She rubbed her face tiredly. “I’m returning to the states.”

  “Okay.” He said cautiously.

  “I…I was wondering if I can come home to you?” She held her breath.

  “Martier, I’ll be here for you. However you need me honey.”

  “Okay.” She swallowed back the emotions that were swelling up inside of her and threatening to overtake her.

  “When? I’ll be at the airport to get you.”

  “I can just take a taxi-”

  “Martier, I need to pick you up. Do you understand that?”

  “Yes. I would like you to pick me up.” She gave him her flight information. She wouldn’t arrive at the airport until 5 am the next morning.

  “I’ll be there.” He said.

  “I—” she nearly told him that she loved him but stopped herself. Maybe after all this time it would be inappropriate. “Thank you. I’ll call you if anything develops.”

  “Do that. Do you need me to do anything in the meantime?”

  “No. I’m fine.”

  “Bye sweetheart. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

  She smiled. Yes. She would see him tomorrow.

  Chapter 45

  Martier showered and then dressed in fresh clothes. She hadn’t been to sleep but it would be a long flight and she knew that she could sleep then. For now she had several loose ends that needed taken care of and this time she would do things the right way.

  She didn’t have many possessions, mostly clothes and a few pairs of shoes. She packed these in her book bag and in a suitcase with wheels. She then placed the two pies carefully in a shopping bag. Martier looked behind her at the small apartment and then closed and locked the door knowing that she would never see it again.

  It was just a short walk to the Centre, which is one of the reasons that it had been perfect for her. The sun was just rising and she could already tell that it would be a hot day. It was the short dry season that they had right before the rains. The rains would replenish the lush tropical plants, preparing them for the long dry season.

  She paid close attention to the sites and smells of Rwanda. The world was awakening, preparing for a new day. The ghosts of the past p
ut to rest as life moved on. She had to remember that; life moved on. She finally reached the Memorial Centre. The offices weren’t yet open but she had a key to enter the documentation center, which was just one department of the entire facility. She set one pie in the conference room and the other she took to the office and placed it on Geoff’s desk. She was happy that she had offered to make him the pie. Now it would be a way for her to say goodbye and thank you.

  She then logged into the computer and typed her name into the database. The information quickly populated. She was mentioned in only three areas; in connection with her father, her testimony given only a few short weeks before and then finally when she was counted as a survivor of an attack that had taken the lives of her brother, mother and two sisters.

  She read the account again as well as the accounts of the other people involved. Not one of them ever mentioned Chuma. Afterwards she researched Kakayo and discovered that the last act of murder he had confessed to was that of Yook Besigye. Lastly she pulled up the name Chuma—she didn’t recall the boy’s last name. The only time the name was mentioned was within her testimony.

  Chuma would now be a twenty-three or twenty-four year old young man, and if he was anything like her than he was on the brink of adulthood and he was unsure, afraid, confused.

  Her testimony had yet to be cross-referenced. She quickly entered her password and then she deleted the six year old boy’s name. No one knew…and now no one ever would.

  ~***~

  When the plane finally landed at the Greater Cincinnati Airport, Martier felt as if she had come from hell and back. She was tired, sore and she was convinced that her hair was a mess all over her head. She wanted a bath and a hot meal. More importantly she wanted to see Tim.

  Nervous tension built in her belly as she stepped off the plane. And as she entered the terminal she didn’t have to look around. She saw a tall shaggy white man pacing, holding a cup of coffee and looking about as disheveled as she felt.

  She smiled. He was beautiful. She quickly moved past the few people milling around and she saw the smile brighten his face as his eye caught sight of her. She began running and he opened his arms and scooped her up. The security of his embrace revived her until her body was singing with unspent energy. She clung to him, her face buried in his neck as he held her elevated from the floor. She smelled his soap and shampoo and the maleness that was all Tim.

  Every bit of tension moved from her body. Maybe it would return when they sat down and eventually talked but for now she was at home in his arms.

  Tim had nearly forgotten how beautiful this woman was. Was it possible that she had become even more beautiful than before? She was different; that was a fact. Her deep brown skin tone was darker as if she had bathed in the sunlight while her warm brown eyes held a sense of knowledge and loss innocence. He didn’t know if that was good or bad. Her long hair was a halo of wild curls that flowed around her head and although she was still slender—maybe even too slender, she stood with a sureness that she hadn’t possessed before.

  Martier had grown; he was proud and sad all at once. He closed his eyes and just relished the feel of her in his arms. He didn’t think he’d ever have an opportunity to feel her like this again and all he could do was to hold her close so that he could convince himself that it was real.

  They were grinning like insane people when they finally moved a part to look at the other.

  “I missed you.” She said quietly.

  “Me too. I…” Tim cleared his throat and then looked down at her carry on bag. He took it from her. “We should get your bags.”

  She spotted the cup of coffee in his hands.

  “Oh may I please have that?”

  “Well its nearly gone and it’s probably cold.”

  “Oh I don’t care.” She took the coffee and drank down the remainder of it, eyes closing in pleasure. “No one drinks coffee in Rwanda.” She exclaimed. “Even though they grow it they prefer tea!”

  He chuckled. “Come on, there’s a coffee shop in this terminal and I think they have some of that lemon loaf cake that you like so much.”

  She gave him a quick look. “I thought you liked lemon loaf cake.”

  He shrugged. “I prefer donuts.” She laughed. “What?” he asked.

  “Oh never mind-”

  “No, please tell me. I want to know.”

  “When I first started working for you I went down to the canteen to get you donuts from the vending machine and Claudette told me that…well that your wife always got you lemon loaf so I thought I’d get that for you, as well.”

  He gave her a curious smile. “You did that for me?”

  “Of course.”

  “Honey, I don’t like lemon loaf all that much. I’d prefer a packet of powdered sugar donuts from the vending machine. Or even a bear claw. But Corrine said that I got powdered sugar all over my suit—which I did. And she thought bear claws were hideous so I basically got what she liked or I got nothing.” He chuckled. Martier looked stricken. All this time she had done things that Corinne had done because she thought the other woman did it better—but that wasn’t necessarily true.

  She finally smiled. “Well let’s get that coffee. Oh yeah and my suitcase. My coat is in it and I see that there is snow outside.”

  “Yes. We just got another two inches dumped on us.”

  Martier glanced out the large picture windows at snow flurries that fell like confetti. This was Cincinnati. This was home. “It was very hot in Rwanda. I think I will relish the snow,” she said quietly.

  “I’m glad that one of us will.” They walked arm and arm to baggage.

  Later, after Martier had finished off an extra large coffee and they had split a package of powdered sugar donuts Tim’s expression grew serious.

  “Martier, I put the house up for sale.”

  “What?” She gave him a surprised look.

  “Yes, its okay for you to stay at the cottage until it sales but I don’t live in the house anymore. All of your things are still there. I just covered the furniture with dust covers because…well I didn’t know if—uh when you’d be back.”

  Martier was surprised at the flash of pain that Tim’s words had brought. He was selling that beautiful house and her cottage. There were so many memories wrapped up in that house—but she supposed that was the reason he was selling it. However the cottage represented everything that was important in her life; her independence, her womanhood, her love for Tim. Eventually she nodded.

  “Are you okay with selling the house?” She asked, trying to keep in mind that his experiences with the house were quite different than hers.

  “Yes. I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want those memories.”

  They were quiet for a while. “I appreciate you letting me stay there.”

  “That’s your home until it sales.” But what about after?

  As they drove to Tim’s old house Martier glanced at him. How did she broach the subject of their relationship? It had to be her to do it since it was her that had changed the rules.

  “Where do you live, Tim?”

  “Lytle Tower.”

  “The big complex by the river?”

  “Yes.”

  “I heard that was very nice.”

  “It suits my needs.” Basically it was a place to sleep and to work when he wasn’t in the office.

  She watched the scenery pass as the sun began to rise over the Cincinnati skyline. Soon they were driving up the familiar drive to her cottage. Tim got out and opened her door and then led them into the darkened house. Together they began removing the dust covers from the furniture and then she turned on the kitchen light. A mouse scurried across her floor and she barely noticed it as she opened the refrigerator to check its contents. Eeek. It was scarier than the mouse.

  Tim gave her a sheepish smile. “I think I forgot about that.”

  He turned up the heat and then made sure that all of the lights worked. He checked the locks on the doors and windows as
she trailed behind him. He turned once and she was right behind him and he nearly bumped into her. She didn’t move back but he cut around her barely touching her.

  “Tim…”

  “Yes?”

  “Uh. I’m sorry about the way that I left. I truly wasn’t myself.”

 
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