Authors: Lucy Yam
A child about six with shaved head ran to them across the courtyard, yelling “Uncle Nobul!”
“Come here, you little rascal!” Nobul held that child up high and he giggled.
The child climbed up to the seat of the motorcycle, honked the horn, and pretended to drive.
“Binma! Where are you?” A woman’s voice got their attention. The child ran back to where he had come from.
While Sharon was wondering who the child might be Sadama studied her face carefully.
“Amazing,” she mumbled.
“You look exactly like, like someone I know.”
“I see.” Sharon nodded. She probably had some tourist in mind.
Sadama patted on her arm, “Are you tired? Coming from such a long way! Come rest in the living room. Let Nobul carry your luggage to your room.”
“I’m fine. Thank you. I’ll rest later.” Sharon reached out for one of suitcases after Nobul had taken the other. But Sadama wouldn’t let her. She grabbed the suitcase from Sharon’s hand.
Sharon tried to stop her. “It’s heavy. I’ll get it. At least let’s share it.”
But Sadama ignored her. She carried it as if it was a toy box. Sharon was amazed by the woman’s strength.
They went up to the third and the top floor and walked down the veranda overlooking the courtyard, and stopped in front of a room.
“She’s here!” Nobul opened the door and said to someone inside.
“She is?” Sharon heard the joyous voice of her sister before she saw her.
Charlene was sitting in her bed holding a book in hand.
Seeing Sharon, she threw the book aside and extended her arms, shouted “Sharon! My big sister!”
Sharon gave her sister a big hug. “Charlene! How are you feeling?”
“I’m feeling fine. I’m able to sit up slowly without feeling dizzy.”
“What did the town doctor say?” Charlene hadn’t seen the doctor before Sharon got to the airport that night.
“He said it was caused by ear stones gotten out of their proper place. And he taught me some exercises to guide them back to the right place.”
“Ear stones?” Sharon frowned and switched to English, “I’ve heard of kidney stones and bladder stones…Listen, Charlene, darling, you need to go see a real doctor. Not any magic performing shaman or vegetable vendor/doctor. Anyway, I came to take you back to LA.”
“No you didn’t!” Charlene looked surprised.
“Yes I did. I was worried to death.” Sharon murmured.
“Oh I’m sorry, Sharon. But I’m getting better… The doctor isn’t bad at all. He’s very experienced. He had practiced in the city before returning home many years ago.”
“Still. What if it’s the sign of some bigger problem. He wouldn’t know, would he?”
“Stop it, Sharon, you sound like an old lady. I’ll be fine, really!”
Sharon sighed. It would take her some effort to convince her little sister. Turning to Sadama and Nobul, who stood patiently aside, she said, “Thank you very much for taking care of my sister. I’m sure she’s been difficult.”
“Not at all!” Sadama said quickly. “She’s a good girl.”
“And no more difficult than her sister,” Nobul added.
Sharon didn’t retort since Sadama was already scolding him. But Charlene giggled.
“Sorry about the truck thing, Sharon. Oh, did you get wet?”
“A little. But we stayed in a cave for a while.”
“You did? Oh those caves are my favorite spots,” Charlene said.
“Clever idea to use them for rest stations, right? After I get well I’ll take you to all the caves around here. The best one is of course the Goddess Cave on top of the Gemu mountain. It’ll take us half day just to get to the top of the mountain.”
Sharon suppressed a grimace. She wasn’t an adventurous type. Besides she wasn’t looking forward to sit on the hard stone floors and be crawled on by some cave worms. Her butt still hurt. As if being reminded of something she looked around, and then she said to Nobul, pointing at the bamboo couch in the room, “You said that chairs weren’t your culture?”
“Really? You said that?” Charlene looked at Nobul who was smiling, and then looked back at her sister, “and you believed him?”
“Of course not!” Sharon lifted her chin.
Not until that moment Sharon noticed how messy Charlene’s room was. Books, clothes or other articles strewn on every piece of furniture. Half of Charlene’s queen size bed was covered with books.
“Am I going to sleep on the top of those books?” Sharon shook her head.
“No,” Sadama said quickly, “We’ll open another room for you.”
“But…” Sharon looked at Charlene.
“Don’t worry about me,” Charlene said, “I’m not that sick and don’t require 24 hour assistance. Besides there are phones and I can call your room if anything goes wrong.”
“You can stay next door if you wish.” Sadama said.
“Sure,” Sharon nodded, then asked with curiosity, “Is there a bathroom?”
“Yes there is.”
“Don’t worry, sister,” Charlene smiled, “it’s an executive suite. Usually reserved for high ranking officials. And the price is very reasonable.”
Nobul opened the door of the next room for Sharon and motioned her to enter with a slight nod of his chin. The room was spacious. It had the combination of rustic charm and modern luxury. Night table and a couch were made of bamboo. Except the lamp and the ceiling lights that were made of marble, everything else was wood and wood carving seemed to be a theme of the room. The bed panel and frame, the wardrobe, and the partition that separated the living area and the bed, were all carved with exquisite patterns of nature, and unpainted. The bathroom was luxurious: a shower compartment and a marble bathtub took each side while in between was a huge vanity table also made of marble. It was more than she had expected. The lake view was gorgeous from the glass door that opened to the balcony. And when she stood on the balcony she could see the entire lake and its islands, the mountains beyond, and some houses on the other side. She was absolutely stunned.
Seeing her silence, Sadama apologized, “We’re mountain people. These are all we could provide. If you need anything else, we’ll try to accommodate you.”
“Oh no!” Sharon cried, “Everything is perfect. I can’t ask for more. Now I know why my sister hasn’t gone home for ten months.”
Sadama laughed humbly. There was again smug on Nobul’s face but Sharon didn’t mind.
“Namu is making dinner. It will be ready soon.” Sadama said to Sharon, “so whenever you’re ready, please go down to the dining room. I’ll take Summer with me.”
“Oh, I can take care of her,” Sharon said quickly, wanting a moment’s privacy with her sister before dinner. There was so much she wanted to say to her!
“Ok,” Sadama nodded, “Surely you have a lot to talk to your sister about.”
Upon leaving Nobul said to her, “but don’t linger too long. The fried fish don’t taste good when they’re cold and hard.”
The thought of sizzling fried fish made her month water. Sharon nodded vehemently, “Yes, Prince!”
Strangely her words made him blush. He withdrew from the room immediately, before waiting for his mother.
What a puzzle. That man, Sharon thought as she closed the door and entered the bathroom.
She needed a shower desperately after that long trip and the cave and everything…
The marble tub was so inviting that her need for a shower soon turned into the desire for a bath. Without a second thought she turned on the faucet to fill the tub.
While waiting for the tub to fill she went next door to Charlene and told her she was going to take a bath.
When she was in that camisole again she caught her own reflection in the mirror.
All the sudden the scene in the cave flashed back. Being held in his arms like this? She shuddered as a heat wave rippled through her belly. Gosh! What had she done? She should be ashamed of herself for getting in a compromising situation with a stranger like that. But then she couldn’t help but savor the feeling once again… Was she sex-starved? Impossible. Five years without the touch of a man wasn’t hard because she had buried herself in work. She was content and thought that she could probably live like that for the rest of her life. Could she? Already she missed the sight of the bronze bare chest and the musky scent.
She still wondered how it would be to kiss those beautiful lips... she imagined they would be hotter than they looked… Devil or Prince, he was going to be either a curse or a blessing, or both. Why did he react that way in her mention of their custom? Was he proud or ashamed of it? Or was he unhappy about it? A mysterious man… She took a deep breath and tried to get him off her mind. It was none of her concern. She wasn’t here to do research like Charlene. Neither was she interested in an affair with a mountain prince, especially when she was doing so well with her life: She was a successful senior programmer / web-designer, making a living doing what she enjoyed doing. Life had been good to her and she should be grateful.