Author Topic: Visiting Home (closed)  (Read 169 times)

Jeremy Owens

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Visiting Home (closed)
« on: January 28, 2018, 05:23:37 PM »
(rped scene with Jeremy and Layla.)
Last month they had discussed going to his homeworld, and once that was decided? There was nothing left but to submit the paperwork.

And the paperwork was maddening. That was not an accident; it seemed by intentional design his homeworld discouraged travelers from entry. To say they were xenophobic would have been correct, even if it hinted towards something slightly more violent, more subversive, than what he felt they were. Jeremy felt that they were just? protective, the way a rich man is protective of his wealth. They had something the universe wanted and a big enough bully might just try to elbow them out of the way and lay claim.

There were five portals, which seemed tremendous until one considered that they touched down on enormous areas of a planet. To be ?close? to your destination could still means days of travel.

Jeremy was outside of Layla?s shop door, his backpack shouldered and their applications gingerly pinched by his other hand. In a month they had applied, the hoops had been jumped through and now, finally, it could begin. They had a one week visa, it was difficult to gain anything longer than that without it being for work.

This was the last moment-- the moment where her door would or wouldn?t open. Where they would or wouldn?t go. Most of his heart said she would be there, but he found some sliver of insecurity causing him to hold his breath until he grew dizzy, until she opened the door and relieved him.

The paperwork was daunting. If Jeremy felt concern that Layla might back out at the last minute, he wasn?t entirely unjustified: the Egyptian had asked him more than once if he wouldn?t just prefer to go visit his family without her during the arduous process. She still couldn?t quite believe that they?d done it correctly, couldn?t quite believe her eyes when it came back with that ?approved? stamp.

Layla had woken up early that morning. She?d packed her modest bag, unpacked it and then repacked it again. She fidgeted and paced and fretted and worried. She kept making herself cups of tea only to abandon them, forgotten and growing cold, on the kitchen counter. She checked that she had all the necessary documentation and then checked again, and once more to be sure. Remembering how nervous she?d been when she?d made the initial flight to Rhy?Din, she spent some time trying to talk herself out of her fears, telling herself out silly it was to be worried, how an entire world made up of people like Jeremy couldn?t possibly be that bad, the anticipation was always more frightening than the reality.

Even so, she jumped a little when the doorbell rang. Pulled out of her preoccupation, Layla hurried up the steps and across the darkened showroom to let him in. Greeting him with a nervous smile at the door, she stepped back immediately to usher the man inside.

?Hey,? he said when she opened the door, his smile brightening with the joy and relief he felt at seeing her. All of what he needed was in the backpack that hung off of him, pulling at his shoulders, the cloth of his shirt wrinkling under the tug of its weight. When she stepped back he moved into the offered space, ?Are you ready to go?? He reached into the back pocket of his pants, withdrawing an envelope that was bent in half, ?I have the tickets for it, we have to be at the station in an hour.? There would be other buses, of course, but he didn?t want to travel through the incredibly late hours of the night, arriving home around 1 am.

Jeremy had been slightly nervous when he first reached out to his family. There was some annoyance from them that he had been gone, that he had not spoken to them more. The separation, though? That had been part of keeping things okay between everyone. They knew it, quietly, but he had left before anything bad happened. He?d left before it had become a problem-- they didn?t really see what problem had prompted him to go.

Her smile spread in answer to his. She nodded, her sepia eyes darkening with self-deprecating humor. Always striking, those bottomless near-black pools largely dominated her face these days, given the way she now tended to cover the long lengths of her silky black hair and the slender column of her throat with solid colored scarves. ?Yes,? came the reply, and with it a breath that hinted at laughter. ?I have changed the contents of my little bag probably ten times since I woke up this morning, but I am fairly confident that it is right now.?

Layla was nervous about meeting his family. She worried for herself, of course, that they would dislike her, that she would be too strange and too foreign for them.  She worried that even if they did like her, or at least found her tolerable, they still would not approve of her relationship with their son and brother. She worried that Jeremy would suddenly remember that he was happier among people more like himself-- sometimes she feared she was too strange and foreign for Jeremy, too. Maybe he would want to return home permanently, knowing that she could not stay with him. Maybe he would leave with her anyway out of some sense of duty or obligation, even though he would have preferred not to. Her mind had chased itself in dizzying circles of self-doubt that way fairly frequently since the trip was first proposed.

But she was also worried for him. It was his difference from his people, his dreaming, that had driven him into these far away lands in the first place, and eventually into her own arms. His dreams had not stopped in the time they had been together, from what he?d told her, they?d grown only more intense. What if his family found out, and shunned him? Concern for him furrowed her brow, and she reached out to run her fingers gently over his shoulder, up the side of his neck to his jaw. ?Are you ready?? She wasn?t asking about his backpack.

Jeremy had packed his worries away for the moment. For him, the point of concern was past them. Layla was coming. The paperwork was approved. The trip was going to happen! He could have gotten distracted by that alone, but her hand cruised up his outline and to his face. He  smiled and bent down to kiss her before speaking, ?Yeah, for sure. I think you?re really going to like them.? One of his hands caught her just under the chin where he kissed her for the second time. Then, he broke away, his hands gripped his hips and his bright, flatly colored cobalts shifting over the room, ?Where?s your bag? I?ll get it.? Jeremy might have believed he could carry a whole world on his shoulders.

Jeremy was still, more or less, the man she met. That man was different from what his family knew. Tree climbers and coffee bean harvesters were known for being fit, but Jeremy was more than that. From some military training, work as a blacksmith and a woman who kept his meals regular, he had put on bulk from when they had known him. The harsh lines of his lean build had softened after he met Layla, and with her they had built up but he never went back to the look he had before. The work he was doing was different, moving metal and steel required the sort of muscle mass that kept a man?s shoulders broad and his core thick. Flitting from tree to tree required being light and lean and being able to grip. Jeremy hadn?t noticed how much he had changed, it was likely Layla only saw a few details because she had not known him before. His family, though? It would be a surprise, one he didn?t know he?d deliver without using a single word.

Meeting his first kiss with affection, Layla closed her eyes for the second, the fingers of the second hand joining the first in cradling his face. She broke away when he did, breathing deeply, like his kiss alone could calm her nerves. To some extent, it did.

And anyway, his enthusiasm was infectious. Jeremy believed that everything would be alright and so she believed it with him, turning towards the interior of the darkened showroom. There, directly in front of the counter where purchases could be made, almost exactly where Jeremy himself had been standing the first time they met, was a compact suitcase with hard plastic sides, the kind that could meet the height and weight requirements of any airline carrier on Earth. It had a handle and free-spinning wheels that could move in any direction. Over the top of it, her small, square purse was draped. ?It is just right there. It is not heavy.?

?Not worried if it was.? It was a little boastful, but Jeremy believed he could manage anything when he was in a good mood. It was lucky for her that there never seemed to be any violent downward swings inversely proportional to his joy.

He picked her purse up incorrectly, grasping the body of it instead of the straps, his hand sticking it out towards her, ?Did you bring any books or anything?? He wasn?t altogether certain that he could talk the whole time.

Layla collected the purse by its long thin strap and draped it over her head, tucking one arm underneath it so that it laid at her hip, across her body. Smiling up at him in his buoyancy, she nodded. ?Yes. How long is the journey??

?It?s about fourteen hours. It?s nine on the bus and then four by boat. Then we disembark and have to kinda? go through the hoops to take the portal home.? There was a lot of time to sit, to watch the world go by. Luckily, there was also enough time to grow bored of the traveling, for the nervousness of the voyage to melt into the annoyances that came with travel. Jeremy found that the longer the journey was the more disenchanting the trip could be.

He gripped the handle of her suitcase and nodded towards the door, ?After you.?

Jeremy Owens

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Re: Visiting Home (closed)
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2018, 05:48:39 PM »
?Oh, one moment,? she said abruptly, reversing course. ?I will be right back.? Flashing an apologetic smile, she disappeared from the showroom, walking quickly across her workspace to the stairs that led down into the living quarters. Layla reappeared maybe three minutes later with another bag draped over her shoulder, sized somewhere between the purse and the suitcase. It was one of those reusable shopping bags made of canvas, and it mostly just contained snacks for the long journey ahead.

Leading the way to the door, she held it open for him with the luggage, then locked it once he was clear. ?I have not travelled by boat since I left Egypt.?

?It?s quicker than just staying on the bus but? not as expensive as a flight.? It was about half the cost, and though it caused them to spend more time at sea, Jeremy wasn?t in a place to pay for that sort of travel. Just getting there and back this way would have to be enough.

?Good idea,? he could spot a snack bag when he saw one. Once all of that was situated, he grasped her suitcase by the handle and began walking. He was excited-- he had to remember not to walk too fast.

She smiled, pleased that he was pleased, and then fell into step beside him. Or tried to, anyway, given his height and his excitement, Jeremy?s stride easily outpaced hers, and there were times she had to almost jog to catch up. ?It will be nice to see the sea again, I think,? she said at one point, thinking of the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean, the mysteries that were hidden beneath the Red Sea.

?Where I am from, there are two entire cities underneath the water,? she told him. ?One on the Nile, which is a very big river, and one in the ocean.?

?Oh? We have a few but? I didn?t grow up on them. We had a few rivers that would flood when the ice melted in the mountains,? it was nothing, of course, compared to the Nile. The flooding was only by a few feet,and the rivers themselves were not as broad. There were some that might have been comparable, but Jeremy had not seen them or grown up with them, they were as real to him as the Nile.

They waited at the bus station. Jeremy would say at times a few things about home, to prepare her. Layla would let him know where she related, sharing stories of a home and the parts of it that were similar to his own. The topic of homes and what they were like dominated conversation for the better part of three hours, at which point, he napped on the bus, his body leaned against hers since she had the window seat. Jeremy was considerably taller and heavier than her, it took some finesse to comfortably balance his body?s sleepy lean against her. At one of the stops they ate the food at a local diner which seemed to survive on patrons that were too hungry to argue and too short on time to have any other choice.

By the end of it, Jeremy thought his bones were always vibrating from the hours-long rumble of the bus ride. The usual slowness at disembarking left them not far from the pier. They were at the point where the other members of the bus splintered off. Some had arrived at their destination, some had other places to go and a handful were headed, like them, towards the boats.

?I forgot how long that bus ride was,? he could feel it in his back and bottom from having sat so long. His neck, from being rolled against her shoulder, ached. Jeremy rolled his head two to three times to loosen it before he shouldered his backpack and took her bag by the handle, ?I think that?s the way,? he nodded to the trail other bus survivors were walking towards the ocean, ?It?s supposed to be pier eight. I think.? He dug into the back pocket of his pants to confirm what the tickets said.
Layla had been on buses before, but never for so extended a period of time. She?d never been so still for so long, either: nine hours hadn?t seemed like an eternity in the abstract, but the reality of it was a different matter.

She?d done her best to commit the details of his homeland to memory, hoping she could keep the particulars straight and not do anything that would embarrass or shame him. She wanted so much to make a good impression, to make him proud to have her there with him. For the longest time, she couldn?t sleep, her body unaccustomed to the prolonged sustaining of the same awkward position. She read while Jeremy slept on her shoulder, carefully turning the pages so as not to disturb him. Eventually, the steady rhythm of his breathing, the warmth of his body where it pressed against her and the endless rumble of the bus? turning wheels lulled her into to something like slumber.

Her dreams were vivid, a chaotic jumbling of her native lands and his, the bold blue of the river Nile a brilliant streak slashed across the cool whisper of wind in the coffee trees.

It felt like she might never experience solid ground again when at last they emerged from the belly of the mechanical beast. Closing her eyes, Layla could smell the strong salt of the nearby sea when she breathed, and it brought on a wave of nostalgia so thick it nearly knocked her over. Swaying on her feet, the dancer stretched, coaxing aching muscles to cooperate with her just a little longer. Following the direction he?d pointed with dark eyes, she slipped one finger into the folds of the scarf underneath her chin and eased it along the curve of her neck, then nodded. ?Seems to be. That is where everyone else is going, at least.? She gave him a smile. ?I am glad to be away from the constant drone of that engine.?

?Just for a minute. I don?t remember the boat being very quiet.? With the smaller vessels the noise and vibration could be worse than a bus. At least it was different and there would be a pause for them.

?There,? he nodded, but the pier was empty, which caused his eyebrows to knit as he muttered, ?I guess they?re running a little behind. We?re not supposed to launch for another forty five minutes.? He was rambling the thoughts and details to her as they walked. The heat of the sun on the back of his neck was as refreshing as the air that shook off the lethargy that bogged down his legs. A few times during the bus ride he had gotten up, walking the aisle for some relief. Jeremy was used to being active, but walking at the downward slant towards the pier was more satisfying that the bus aisle. It was as if his body knew the difference.

There were other people around them, but it wasn?t crowded. As they approached the entrance he saw a man in a red hat taking tickets and pointing in the direction they should go like a concert usher. Jeremy?s eyes moved to the right where he saw a brightly colored kiosk, the umbrella used to shield the vendor from the sun a bright rainbow of colors.

?You want one?? he nodded towards it and smiled in that way which said he wanted it, but couldn?t seem to give himself license to do it unless she did.

?It is a less...cramped kind of loud,? Layla replied, her brows furrowing. She wasn?t sure she?d settled on the right word, and tried to indicate what she meant with gestures. Liftng her hands up, she held them flat, fingers straight, and pressed them together. ?...Cramped.? Musing, she tried another. ?Close? You know, when there are too many people in too small a space and the noises are all louder because of the echo?? Claustrophobic.

The engine on the boat could be loud, but it would be intermingled with the gentle roar of the sea, and the wind would carry some of the sound away with it as they moved. Layla was looking forward to being able to walk its planks, to seeing the land from its rolling boards. With any luck, the seas would be calm for them, the weather clear and warm as it was now.

Peering at the brightly colored umbrella, her dark eyes blinked in confusion, turning back to him expectantly.

?What it??

?It?s something sweet,? he admitted with a smile, shedding his backpack so that it slumped to the ground. When it dropped, the movement was on the threshold of being too fast, as though the bag might bounce after landing. It didn?t. The bag took the fall like a hit on the chin.

?I?ve had some and I think you might like it. They?re really sweet but if we share one? I think you might like it.? His smile was for her, but he seemed more excited about whether or not it was a new experience than the ice cream having value. Jeremy bit his lower lip as he looked at her, gauging her reaction to the idea. She could be conservative, he tried not to push her too much but always, always, left that door open.

 ?Oh, they sell ice cream here?? Layla had tasted ice cream before, once, with Jeremy himself. They had shared a scoop of strawberry on their very first ?date?. Looking up at him as he dropped the backpack from his shoulders, she nodded readily, a smile curving her lips. ?I would share one with you again, yes. I think it is too sweet to have one on my own. Will it be strawberry again??

Her smile spread to see the look of anticipation on his face, though she didn?t immediately understand its origin. Lifting one hand, she gently smoothed a wrinkle in his shirt along his shoulder, where it had bunched up underneath the weight of the backpack?s straps. It was an excuse to touch him, more than anything.

?We could do that or something else,? there was a nod at the menu, ?most people like chocolate.? He noticed her touch, but his smile was brief because he was focused on the treat at hand. His smile suddenly broke his lips further as he said, with amusement, ?They have a coffee flavored one!? His eyes turned on her as if some secret joke had been made.

?You?ve had coffee before, right?? It occurred to him, then, that he had no memory of her drinking coffee, nor did it seem like it had been exotic to her in the time they had spent together.

?Coffee flavored?? This private joke was one that she actually understood, and the soft rush of her laugh was as much from the pleasure of having gotten it as it was the joke itself. ?We simply have to try that one, then,? declared Layla with a smile as her hand fell away from his shoulder. There was a nod of assent for his question, her dark eyes straying past him to the brightly colored umbrella stand once more. Its colors stood out against the deep grey blue of the ocean beyond, and perhaps that was the point. A beacon to distract weary passengers from what lay ahead, or perhaps behind, them.

?I have, but the coffee we have at home is not like the coffee that is here,? she turned away from her contemplation of the ice cream vendor to look up at him once more. ?And I expect it is not like what you have at your home, either.?

?It?s different,? he agreed, but it was from his own point of view, from how he had experienced coffee. She caught that, though, at the last moment and he smiled, nodding in a way that was more than just agreement. It was appreciation.

He turned from her to talk to the vendor, offering up some coinage for the ice cream. There was a brief discussion about currency and the exchange, and what a headache it was for him to sell at the port because of it. Jeremy smiled in an understanding way and took the ice cream cone. It was one scoop on a handmade (or made to look as such) waffle cone. He offered it up to her so that he could take their bags and continue the walk towards the pier.

?Where you are from,? he paused, his eyebrows coming together in a look of concentration before he continued, ?were you rich??

Layla was quiet during the exchange, smiling politely at the merchant when he glanced briefly in her direction though she never quite met his actual gaze. She accepted the waffle cone when Jeremy handed it to her, taking a step back so that he could gather the bags unhindered by her proximity.

His question took some contemplation to answer, her dark eyes thoughtful as they walked. ?I...suppose,? she said after a time, and the effort it took to formulate an answer had distracted her from trying the ice cream in hand. The day was hot, and it would begin to melt over her fingers before long if she wasn?t careful. ?Me, personally, no. But my father was -- is -- a well respected merchant with a large family, so he must be. I presumably would have been married to someone of equal or better standing, had I stayed, so? I guess so??

She shrugged helplessly, looking up at him as they walked with a little shake of her head. Her smile was apologetic. ?I have never really thought about it. I have never paid any mind to money until I came to this place.? A surefire sign that she had been.