The Divorcee is a Wicked Black Belly Chapter 54: Stay and be with her
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An Ning went to the room where Sam is, at the back of the cave with a view of the mountains and river. The twins' eyes anxiously followed An Ning who saw the worry on their faces and stopped. Lux was near tears and Cas was nervously twisting his fingers. An Ning enfolded them in her embrace, murmuring words to calm them down. The kids then left with Sarai, their eyes on the room where Sam slept.
Sam was awake when An Ning entered. She turned her head then looked away when she saw who it was. An Ning sat down on a chair beside the bed, not saying anything. Sam leaned back on the pillows, still not looking at her.
"It's kind of gory trying to kill yourself by tying a stone around your neck to drown. Poor Matt is traumatized," An Ning said. "The next time you do it, just take some pills or something. Easier to go and less messy."
Sam swung her head around, her eyes stormy with anger.
"I'm just saying," An Ning said, shrugging. "What do you think will happen if you had really killed yourself? Not only is Matt traumatized, so are the twins. And why do it here? I mean, why not do it where my children can't see you? Like your own house for example. It's kind of unfair to us, you know. We invite you here for a visit and you repay us by trying to kill yourself. By the way, that river is sacred around here. It has certain magical powers you can't even understand. If you really want to kill yourself, don't do it here. We don't appreciate cowards who run away from their problems."
Sam, who was listening to her in gathering wrath, stood up and attempted to walk to the door. She fell to the ground with a thud. An Ning looked at her with indifferent eyes. Sam didn't move but after a while An Ning saw that the thin shoulders were shaking. Her sobbing was thin and pitiful, like she didn't want anybody to hear. An Ning sighed and helped her up. Sam resisted but An Ning had already taken her arm and dragged her to the bed before she knew what was happening. She looked at An Ning with wet eyes, taking the glass of water An Ning was holding in her hand. She sipped at the water like a delicate cat which really stretched An Ning's patience.
"Stay here as long as you need," An Ning said. "We don't have to be friends or anything like that. Take it as a favor to Matt. He is very worried about you and even if he's never said anything, I know he wants you to stay here where people can look after you. Saravia is the best place for you right now. You can heal here faster than anywhere in the world. If you want to do anything stupid next time, then leave. I won't stop you."
An Ning didn't wait for an answer. She walked to the door and close it quietly behind her. Matt was outside, waiting. She met his anxious eyes and motioned with her hand.
"I think it would be best if you stay here and look after her," she said, leading him outside. "I don't mind if she stays here for a while but we are after all strangers to her. If there is a chance for her to heal at all, then she needs someone familiar to her. Saravia might look provincial but it's actually not. We have a hospital and doctors who can look after her. If you're worried about your job, don't be. The whole place is connected online so all you need is your laptop."
"You've thought of everything," Matt said, somewhat overwhelmed.
"I won't invite you to stay here though. I don't want gossip in the village. Besides, I don't think you want to be cooped up in here with us. Go out and mingle. Take your girlfriend with you later when she's comfortable going out. It will do you both a lot of good."
"She's not my girlfriend," Matt said with a red face.
"Could have fooled me," An Ning answered wryly. "Okay, take the car and go to the hospital. Look for Taey. He lives in the hospital barracks. Just tell him I sent you. Maybe they still have room for you in there or he can direct you to someone who's willing to rent to you. Don't worry about not finding anything though. We have lots of unoccupied houses in the village. You can buy one if you like. Just tell me and I'll take care of it."
"Thank you for doing this for us," Matt said, his voice solemn. "I hated to ask but I have no choice. There's no one else, you see."
"What the heck happened, Matt?"
"Her mom died," Matt said, a grim look in his eyes. "Yu Yan promised them a pair of artificial legs that's why Sam did what she did and betrayed us. But when they operated on the mom, they found out her body was too weak to undergo another operation so...Sam was devastated. She was close to her mom who turns out had a harrowing history of her own. She came from a wealthy family but when she fell in love with a married man and eloped with him, her family disowned her. The dude died when Sam was still a baby and the mother did everything she could to give Sam a future. She went back to her family but they all behaved like assholes to her. They left and it's always been Sam and her mom all these years."
"Hmnn...," An Ning said. "So now you see yourself as prince charming to the rescue, eh?"
"It's not like that," Matt protested.
"I won't say I understand but it is after all your life," An Ning said. "I have no right to interfere so do what you think is best and stay here and be with her. I'll do everything I can to help. That I can promise."
"I owe you one, An Ning," Matt said. "And thank you."
Matt eventually found a house thirty minutes away from the Grove. He still worked full time but his afternoons were spent with Sam, who little by little started to emerge from her shell and slowly integrated herself in the life of the village. Their presence, however, gave An Ning some misgivings. Saravia was growing. It was still a village now but if people start arriving and teens start having sex and birthing babies then the entire peninsula will undergo a rapid change. It's not necessarily bad in her opinion but the system currently in place had to change as well.
Foremost in her mind was the village's security. It was not enough to rely on Taey's presence or the men he had with him. Saravia first and foremost was governed by the strong tribe of the Amazons, who were admittedly not pussies who will sit by and expect a man to protect them. Threat or not, the tribe had to be pulled back from the edge and encouraged to participate in the growth of the village. Young and old, all of them now will have to take a position in what direction the village will follow in the future. It just doesn't concern An Ning and her family but all of them. Yu Yan was dead and it was now time to prepare for the future without her threat hanging over them at last.
An Ning thought about it for a while and made a decision.
Two days later, the representatives of the tribe, which included Nyra, the four queens, and An Ning and the outsiders represented by Taey and the three doctors, gathered together in the main house for a meeting. At first An Ning didn't know how to start the conversation. Maybe it was too premature yet to talk about Saravia's future but her doubts vanished when Nyra said something which was not totally unexpected.
"I heard that Matt is planning to buy a piece of land and thinking of staying here for some time. He'll probably end up marrying that girl and staying here forever. What do we do about that is the question. How do we proceed about this, An Ning?" Nyra asked.
"That's precisely why we're having this meeting. I think you'll all agree that the village is changing. Give it a couple more years and it's not going to be just us anymore. Outsiders are already here. Young people are getting married and will start families pretty soon. We need to make a plan about land sale, zoning, police protection, jobs, transportation and other stuff. We can't just wing it this time, guys. We need to take care of the future now. Any ideas?"
One of the queens shyly raised her hand.
"Yes?" An Ning asked.
"I don't really know why we're here," she said in a low voice. "We all thought you called us here for the contest."
An Ning laughed.
"Winning that competition means you've won yourselves a place in this meeting. You represent your age group and honestly, that was not just a mere competition. To emerge from Li Cheung's maze in under five hours? That's quite an accomplishment."
"A group of us tried it once and it took us almost a day to get out," Nyra agreed, laughing heartily. "I remember Hippolyta was so disappointed she refused to take us anywhere for a month. We spent that entire time getting in and out of that maze. It took us almost that entire month to memorize its ins and out. Li Cheung was so annoyed he changed half the route and we had to memorize it all over again."
"Grandfather sounds like a petty man," An Ning smiled.
"He was okay," Nyra said, shrugging. "He just didn't like it when we pull one over him that's all."
The four men listening to this conversation pretty much wanted to ask who Li Cheung or Hippolyta were and how was it that Nyra, who looked like in her early 20s, would know the person who designed the maze, which looked about a hundred years old. But they didn't voice out their thoughts. That had been their stance since that night on the island. They've seen many weird and unusual things since then but they were men who were trained to take everything in stride, even the fact that the women in the village look almost alike in age and manner. That the women were fierce fighters they already know. But what sealed their silence and loyalty was the condition in which they found the women that time on the island.
Military men were supposed to be sanguine about war and carnage but the sight of those women and children was a nightmare most of them were still trying to get over. When they arrived in Saravia, the men were stunned by the pristine look of the village. Every house and building stood as if suspended by time, the air was fresh and crisp, and there was something about the place that awakened their sense of adventure, their chivalry, so in the end it wasn't that difficult to make the decision to stay.
"I don't want to make suggestions about jobs or land sale but I do know about police matters," Taey said. "What we have now is basically a guard unit. And there's only a handful of members in it. It has no structure or purpose other than security. We need to professionalize and militarize it eventually."
"Militarize?" An Ning said with a frown. "I don't like the sound of that."
"It's nothing like that," Taey assured her. "It's my way of saying that we have to make it more structured and professional. We need to follow rules and identify our purpose. We can't just run around carrying guns for whatever reason."
"Must we do it this way, An Ning?" Nyra asked. "Are you sure Saravia is ready for this?"
"Saravia is already a military state, Nyra," An Ning pointed out. "We just didn't have a name for it then. The Amazons have and will always be warriors. It's in our DNA. We fight and win wars. But the war we're fighting right now is different. We can't keep out the outside world any more so we have to prepare for it. If my grandmother was here, I think she'll agree with me."
"What does Ceres say about all these?"
"My mother practically allowed Enxuo the run of the village for nearly thirty years," An Ning pointed out. "I'm not saying he did a bad job, what I'm saying is that he did such a good job we have to do better because he already laid out the groundwork for all of us. But Enxuo is not here to help us anymore so its now up to us to make this happen."
"We might have to send out two thirds of the population to study and learn the basics and about technology," one of the doctors said. 'It's well and good to hire people from outside but we need people from around here to know these stuff as well."
"What if we just build a school and hire teachers to come and teach us?" Nyra said. "No need to empty the entire town while the kids get their education."
The doctor, a young man in his late twenties, was silent. In his opinion, building a school was more expensive than sending out people to universities to study. But then, he underestimated the wealth Saravia had gained throughout the years. Ceres' empire was growing, so was Yu Yan's which now belonged to An Ning.
Between these two conglomerates, they could easily build an entire country with lots of change to spare. It was just a matter of priority just as An Ning said. The priority right now was to help Saravia prepare for its future. And there were enough resources to make that happen. A school building which will cater to the education of some eight thousand students was not even big enough to dent these resources.
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