This post is doing double duty on two different blog hops so I hope you’ll visit both links above and see what others are doing as well. Also, that’s my excuse for it being a bit longer than usual…
One day when school let out, Annalyn walked beside little Nambe, the daughter of the family who provided her hut, toward the gardens where she hoped to find the tribesmen with whom she’d started a cooperative. The co-op was working as well as could be expected with no rain, but she feared the unity wouldn’t last when she wasn’t there to answer questions and fix quarrels, of which the tribesmen had many. She glanced at the dusty earth under her feet. Dry and parched, it nonetheless mirrored her soul. When she’d made the desperate decision to leave behind all she knew, she hadn’t realized how much she would miss the magic of rain. Here in Africa, though, she’d discovered a purpose, a life worth living, even if it was without Jack…
“May I walk with you?” Annalyn recognized the voice behind her and scowled.
She didn’t turn as she said, “I thought you’d be at the clinic after all that time you spent at school.” She bit her lip. “I mean—”
“I know what you mean,” Leon Dubocs said, intercepting her. His eyes, usually too serious or filled with mirth, were now, what, sad?
“Annalyn, I must replenish some supplies before I leave and wondered if you would go to town with me.”
“When are you leaving?” Annalyn shaded her eyes to peer up at the Frenchman to whom she’d taken an immediate dislike.
“In a few days.”
“When are you going to town?”
She didn’t want to go anywhere with him, but even Nambe had commented on her rudeness to the charismatic pediatrician from Doctors Without Borders. “Tomorrow would be better, if I go.”
“Tomorrow is fine.” Dr. Leon, as the villagers called him, grinned and his sadness disappeared. She stepped back, astonished at his reaction to her answer.
“Nambe should go also,” she said, desperate to not be alone with him.
He grinned as if he’d read her mind. “Nambe, would you like to come too?”
“Oh yes! After I water the gardens?”
“Of course. I’ll help so we can leave earlier.” Dr. Leon winked at Annalyn, and she frowned. But Nambe hopped with excitement.
Dr. Leon bent down, “Sh, petite. Don’t dance too loudly or the others will want to come.”
The next afternoon, in the tiny van that the DWB rented, Dr. Leon, Annalyn, and Nambe rumbled through the savannah and into town. Once parked, Dr. Leon called to Annalyn as she started off with Nambe. “Where are you going?”
“You go ahead with your plans...”
“Which are to be with you.” He took Nambe’s hand and said, “Come, before work we must find a treat.” He glanced at Annalyn. “Nambe, tell your friend to smile a little. Her scowl needs a rest.”
Journal Friday August 15
Went to town today with Dr. Leon and Nambe. Enjoyed the trip because Nambe was there. Dr. Leon’s “charm” and “easy manner” is wasted on me. I wish he’d get on with his work and leave me to mine.
The long drought is stunting the gardens and the animals show their lack of fresh water. The elders of the village pray every day for rain. Occasional wisps of clouds drag their heels across the sky. Nothing comes of them. Feels like my life, just empty, dry promises.
Conserving water is a habit, as is my bickering when I must work with Dr. Leon.
The next morning Nambe woke Annalyn. “Annie! There are clouds!” Groggy with sleep, Annalyn stepped out into the gray dawn. Clouds rolled across the eastern sky in angry swirls. Lightening crackled on the horizon. “Nambe, perhaps this time the gods will answer the elders’ prayers,” she said. The villagers honed in on the implied promise of rain. Even the med crew did, standing by their tented clinic, eyes glued to the distant roiling sky. The villagers could stay if the rain came. Without it they would have to move to another location and leave all their hard work behind. Annalyn had seen it happen elsewhere and knew the cost.
Routine activities continued; school, tending the patients in the med tents, readying a wagon for market, and as if daring the clouds to come closer, the villagers watered the gardens. A wall of rain began to fall so far away it made no difference to them.
But in the gardens with Nambe and the others, Annalyn too, watched and watered, retracing her steps to the well over and back again. Then, air whipped up with a playful coolness around her ankles, her torso, and her hair. Annalyn tilted her face to the sky. Moisture hung in the air. She filled her lungs with it and something deep inside her moved. The villagers stood still as if of one accord.
The wall of water thundered closer, encouraging promise into certainty. Annalyn glanced toward the med tents. The staff stood transfixed as the rain arrived, overwhelming them all. Annalyn gasped as the sheets of solid wetness plastered her hair to her head, her clothes to her body. Hooplas drowned in the rain pouring from the now blackened sky. Every foot danced, every arm hugged another. A medley of slick little bodies clung to Annalyn and sang with joyousness. Her feet beat the muddy earth and her heart yearned to dance. She hadn’t danced since she’d lost Jack, especially not in the rain. Torn between her past and her present, she licked at the water on her face and tasted tears. Closing her eyes she felt each stinging drop revive her drought-ridden soul. Nambe reached for her hands and together they danced in the crazy rain. Annalyn laughed and wept as half-remembered joy challenged her painfully familiar melancholy. When Jack had gone she’d thought never to be happy again, thought she’d failed. But Nambe’s little hands tugged her into the now, into the pounding rain and she yelled, “Nambe! It’s raining!” Nambe laughed as they ran and leapt and flailed their arms over their heads in complete abandon.
When Annalyn stopped to catch her breath, Nambe hugged her waist. Annalyn hugged her right back and kissed the top of her soggy little head. Then, Leon Duboc’s dark eyes captured hers with a knowledge she’d avoided since their first meeting. Releasing Nambe to dance with the other children, Annalyn stood still in the midst of all that movement, in the midst of all that rain. Leon strode toward her with a purpose she felt in her bones. She silenced her broken heart and took a step toward the man coming for her. She knew that he would ask of her what she hadn’t been able to give for two years.
|From The Notebook