The sound of the knock carried no premonition of coming change. Even when Mejikia opened the door and saw the military uniform of the man beyond, she did not yet realize. For indeed, nearly all men wore it these days. All of the men who had lived through the war, that is.
The silence lasted long enough that Mejikia raised her eyes slightly and murmured, “May I help you?”
“Tva Mejikia.” Her name. That was all he said.
She dared raise her eyes to his. She found something in their depths that gave her pause, gave her the first hint of what was happening. Yet still it was not enough.
The man’s shoulders sagged. “It is I, Tva Pten.”
Two emotions sprang out of Mejikia’s heart, stronger than all the others, strong enough to make her freeze. The first was embarrassment, shame that her own husband had been forced to tell her his name before she knew him. The more prevalent was shock.
She stepped back to let him pass in. Only when he stooped to pick up his bag did she notice the luggage. He stepped through the door, lay his bag on the floor. Prepared to stay.
Of course she had known this day would come. But yet it had not. For so long there had been no Pten. No husband to lead the household. No father for Etan. Mejikia had been on her own for five years, doing things her own way, as she saw fit.
They stood in the middle of the tiny room, looking awkwardly at each other, at the walls. She ought to say something, welcome him. Nothing came to her lips.
Something behind her caught his gaze. She turned to find young Etan standing in the hall, staring at them. “Your son.” She answered the question in Pten’s eyes.
She called the boy to her. “This is your father, Etan.” This stranger had come to be a parent to a child he hadn’t known he had. To join their lives. Mejikia held her son tightly. Would this man take over, change everything?
Pten knelt and smiled, showing a trace of the boyish man from Mejikia’s faded memory. Etan greeted him politely, looking to his mum for answers she didn’t have. Pten reached out fingers to touch the boy’s fine dark hair.
His fingers brushed hers. She was surprised at the memories the simple touch caused. Tentative passion that first month of marriage; that only month of marriage. Appreciation in his eyes when he first had seen her on their wedding day. Friendship that had begun to form.
“I thought perhaps you would be with your mother and family.” He looked at her. “Have you been alone all this time?”
Mejikia wished she knew how to read him. Was he disapproving that she had not stayed in a family unit as the cultural norm, or happy to have found her here? She shrugged slightly. “The train tracks were destroyed. They’ve only just opened.”
“Yes, that’s why I was delayed.” He looked into her eyes. She could feel him searching, wanting her to want him. Needing confirmation of their relationship.
Relationship. What relationship did they really have? Four short weeks five long years ago. Was that enough? It would have to be. Culture dictated. And yet, Mejikia wanted more than a culturally mandated union. She found his eyes, and deep in her heart she found the answer to his unasked question.
Mejikia smiled. “Welcome home.”
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