Shawn still had a few months left of interning in Africa when he flew back to the U.S. for Fae’s wedding. This was the first time during the past three years that they would actually be in the same place. He’d met her fiance over Skype after she and Martin had started dating seriously, and Martin seemed like a nice guy. Her marriage to Martin meant that she would not be returning to Santa Fe and it was the end of their dream of opening up a vet clinic together. Even so, Shawn was still very happy for Fae.
“Shawn! Finally! I couldn’t wait to see you, and so I thought I’d come and surprise you!”
Shawn wrapped his arms around her too and lifted her off the floor, joyfully! He had missed her even more than he had realized. Then he lowered her to the ground and looked at her. He didn’t immediately release her as he had intended to do. Something felt different between them, and as he looked into her eyes, he could see that she felt it too. This reaction to each other was completely unexpected. Shawn released Fae, and they stepped apart.
He could see how shaken Fae felt. He was shaken too. He didn’t know what to say. Fae found her voice.
“I… Are you hungry? I thought we could have dinner and catch up. Then I’ll take you to your hotel. Martin is out somewhere with his best man. So you won’t see him until tomorrow. He said he knows what it’s like when old friends get together. You talk about old times and memories. That’s what he’s doing with his friend tonight.”
“Is Cara flying in tomorrow?”
“You haven’t talked with her?”
“No. She hasn’t returned my calls. The last time I spoke with her, she said that she was looking forward to seeing me at your wedding. She seems to be extremely busy.”
“Yeah. It’s hard for me to keep in touch with her too. She called and told me that she’s not going to be able to come for my wedding. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her. Kaylee, Nicky, Cara and I planned to meet up during our college breaks regularly, but Cara always cancels. I miss her.”
“I miss her too.”
Since Fae hadn’t mentioned it, Shawn knew that Cara hadn’t told her what Cara had told him during their last conversation. So he didn’t tell Fae what Cara had said. He and Fae both reached out at the same time to get the salt, and as they did, their hands touched. The strong attraction flowed between them again. Fae snatched her hand away, and Shawn could see the disquiet in her eyes.
“Faye, Martin seems like a great guy. I’m happy for you.”
“He is a great guy. He… he loves me a lot.”
“Of course he does!”
They were both silent and lost in thought as they continued to eat dinner, but also extremely aware of each other.
“Tomorrow you’ll get your tux, and we’ll have the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. Your family is going to arrive tomorrow. I’ll get to hold Sharlee’s little Logan. I’ve seen pictures of him. He’s a cutie like Skylar is.”
“I guess we will eventually.”
“Do you agree with that?”
“Somewhat, I guess. I agreed to wait.”
“So, he’s really got your future planned.”
“Yes, he does.”
She changed the subject.
“Wow, that video of your friend Kasim and his grandfather with the elephant and lion was amazing! I was stunned when I saw you with them too! Martin said that it was staged, but I told him that you wouldn’t lie to me like that.”
“Oh, you showed it to Martin?”
“Not intentionally. He came into the room while I was looking at it and asked what I was watching. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, and so I let him see it with me. I hope that was okay. I haven’t shown it to anyone else though, and I won’t.”
“It’s okay. I understand.”
Shawn did understand, and he knew that he and Faye could no longer have the close friendship that they had had since childhood. It hurt, but of course her relationship with Martin was more important.
“So, have you found a job yet?”
“I have a couple of positions that I’m considering, but there isn’t much of an opportunity to work with horses here like there is in Santa Fe. Martin’s family lives here, and they own a well established accounting firm. So of course, he’s going to continue working at the family firm now that he has his degree. Eventually, the firm will be his. So, we have to live here. What about you? Have you decided what you’re going to do?”
“I think that going to Africa for my training was a great decision. I’ve gained skills that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else. I’ve learned so much more than I expected. I just wish…” His words trailed off, having started to say something that he hadn’t intended.
“You wish what, Shawn?”
“I wish that I could have shared that experience with you. I think you of all the people that I know would have felt the magic of Africa, the rhythm, the balance of what really matters in life just like I did. I really wish that you could have visited Africa before…”
Shawn didn’t answer.
Despite trying to smother it, Shawn yawned. Fae burst out laughing and Shawn did too.
They talked some more still avoiding the subject of their strong, unexpected attraction to one another. After dinner, Fae dropped Shawn off at his hotel. Neither of them slept well that night.
“Is something wrong?”
“Hey, little guy!”
Shawn hugged Logan. Alissa knew that despite Shawn’s denial, something was bothering him. She hoped that he’d eventually open up and tell her what it was. They all left the hotel and went to meet Faye, Martin and her family for breakfast.
She wasn’t the only one who had seen it. Fae’s fiance, Martin, had seen their expressions as well. Fae’s mother also saw it. It confirmed what she had guessed ever since Fae had been with Shawn the night before.
Shawn knew that Martin was warning him off. He wondered why Martin had felt the need to do that. Fae walked over to them.
Shawn answered. “Sure, we’re good.”
After breakfast, Shawn and the other groomsmen went with Martin to pick up their tuxes and to get any last minute alterations made. Shawn went back to the hotel afterwards. The wedding rehearsal wouldn’t be until later that day followed by the rehearsal dinner.
Alissa wanted to talk with Shawn privately after what she had witnessed. However, she knew the folly of interfering in her children’s romantic lives. She decided that it would be better to let him come to her if he wanted her advice.
“Shawn seems to be doing very well.”
“How does it feel seeing him again?”
“Fae, I can see that you have strong feelings for Shawn, and he feels the same about you. I’m not talking about your friendship. That friendship appears to have developed into something stronger between you two. Are you sure that you want to marry Martin tomorrow? If you have any serious doubts that he is the man for you, then don’t marry him, Honey. That wouldn’t be fair to him, to you or even to Shawn. It’s not too late to cancel everything. Your happiness is more important to me and to your father than any amount of money that we’ve spent on this wedding.”
“I love you too, Honey.”
“Hi Shawn. I need to talk with you. Can we go up to your room?”
“You’re mostly the same, but you’ve changed too.”
“Definitely in a good way.”
Shawn smiled at her.
“I’m supposed to get married tomorrow Shawn.”
“Yes, I remember it.”
“Can…” She hesitated. “I want to try that kiss again.”
Fae walked out the door feeling dejected. However, she knew that because of her feelings for Shawn, she couldn’t marry Martin.
He stood there for a few moments thinking. What was he doing! Fae was the missing piece in his life. His feelings for her were the reason why none of his other relationships had developed into anything serious. He rushed to pull the door back open. Fae was walking down the hallway.
“Yes, I’m in love with you too!”
They went back into Shawn’s room. As Shawn held her, it felt so right to both of them. Fae had no doubts that she had made the perfect choice for her. After accepting Martin’s proposal, she’d pushed away her increasing doubts about marrying him, and now she knew that had been a big mistake. She did care about Martin, but now she realized that her feelings for him were not strong enough for a successful, happy marriage. She was in love with Shawn!
“When are you going to tell Martin? Do you want me to go with you?”
“I’ll call him and get him to meet me at our place. I’ve been living there since we bought it, and he was going to move in after the wedding.”
“No, I need to talk with him alone. I’ll be alright, Shawn. He really is a good guy, but he’s just not the man for me. I should have realized it sooner. I hate doing this to him, but my mother is right. Marrying him wouldn’t be fair to him, to me or to you.”
“Your Mom told you that?”
“Yes, this morning. She saw how we feel about one another.”
Shawn knew that Martin had sensed it too. That was why Martin had tried to warn Shawn off. Fae left the hotel and called Martin asking him to meet her at the apartment.
As soon as he saw her face, Martin knew what she wanted to tell him. If he were honest with himself, he’d known it was over when he had seen Shawn and Fae together. Fae took her engagement ring off and gave it to Martin. She had tears in her eyes.
“I’m sorry. I never wanted to hurt you.”
“I don’t think that it would have lasted long any way. We’re too different.”
“Are you sure, Fae? I know that I love you enough to make it work.”
“It would have worked for a while, but I don’t do well with 30 year plans. I like my life to be more spontaneous than that. I would have eventually set us off course and that would have made you miserable. I was already bending my dreams and hopes to satisfy your wishes. I don’t know how long that would have continued before I started to resent you and push back. Please don’t blame Shawn. It isn’t his fault. Seeing him again just made me remember who I am, and what I want for my life.”
He left sadly. He was more analytical than emotional, and Fae knew he would probably recover from the disappointment quickly. Fae felt sorry that she’d hurt him, but she also felt happy and hopeful again. She was looking forward to the future.
Her father hugged her, knowing that she had made the right decision. They decided to host a party for their family and friends who were in town since it was too late to cancel the caterer and the reception venue. Fae called Shawn and he and his family came to join them at the apartment.
Fae had already graduated and had her veterinary degree. Although Shawn had his degree, he still had to return to Africa to complete his internship. They made plans for Fae to come to Africa and spend a week there with him after his internship ended. Then they would both return to Santa Fe together.
They either spoke on the phone or by Skype almost everyday after Shawn finished with his interning duties. So, when several days passed without Shawn calling her or answering her calls, Fae became very worried.
She called Dale, and Dale told her that they hadn’t heard from him either. He tried to reassure her by telling her that sometimes the cellular and internet service wasn’t reliable in the part of Africa where Shawn was located.
Even though he’d told her that there wasn’t any reason to worry, Dale did feel a bit uneasy after his conversation with Fae. He called the emergency contact number that Shawn had given them, and there was no answer there either. Dale kept trying to reach someone throughout the day and evening, but there was no response to any of his attempts. Now Dale was worried too!
After talking with Dale, Fae caught a flight out of the country. She was going to see Shawn. If everything was fine, good. She knew he’d be happy to see her anyway. She called Dale after she landed.
Dale had mixed emotions about her being there. The part of Africa where the reserve was located had not experienced the uprisings that had occurred in other parts of the Central African Republic, but Shawn had told him that there was a lot of poaching activity. He told Fae to be very careful and to stay in contact with him, Alissa and her parents. If she needed help, he would catch a flight there.
Her parents as well as Dale and Alissa had been very pleased that Shawn and Fae were in a serious relationship with one another now. Although her parents had liked Martin, they hadn’t felt that he was right for Fae. Shawn had always brought out the best in Fae. Just as she had always done for Shawn. Fae and Shawn had offered to repay Martin, Martin’s parents and Fae’s parents for the wedding expenses, but they had all refused to accept any money. Now Fae felt that she could leave her relationship with Martin in the past and had moved on with a clean conscience.
The customer service agent called a supervisor over to speak with Fae. He had been informed of Fae’s request.
“Ms. Mayburn, I am sorry, but travel to and from Bayanga and the surrounding area is temporarily prohibited. I can arrange lodging for you here or a flight back to your home country and notify you when the ban is lifted.”
Fae felt deflated.
Meanwhile, Shawn and some of the other interns were camping out in the bush with one of the game wardens/eco guards. The reserve director had changed the wardens job title to eco-guard because he felt that name was more fitting to their duties at the reserve. Shawn couldn’t sleep, and so he’d left his tent. As he did so, he saw Mosi leaving camp.
On an impulse, Shawn followed him. Mosi had become a friend during the time Shawn had been working at the reserve. He’d even met Mosi’s wife and children. Shawn didn’t know it, but he too was being followed.
Two men suddenly grabbed Mosi and pulled him out into a clearing! They quickly took his weapons. When Shawn got closer, he heard a man giving an order to shoot Mosi. Without thinking twice, Shawn sprang out and jumped in front of Mosi!
Shawn wasn’t fluent in the dialect that the men were speaking, but he knew enough to understand most of what they were saying. The man who seemed to be the leader was speaking.
Shawn’s heart sank because he knew what they intended to do. Dzanga Baï was a forest clearing in the reserve where many elephants gathered day and night because of it’s rich soil with nutritious plants. It was a wonderful place where he and the other interns and reserve workers went to easily observe those awe-inspiring animals. The poachers intended to slaughter them, and there was nothing that Shawn could do to prevent it.
“We are wasting time! Shoot them both!”
An eco-guard who was now working with the poachers spoke up loudly! “It is true! Kasim and the American possess the geskenk! I have seen it! You must not shoot them! It will bring bad “juju” for our children and our children’s children!”
They argued some more and then the leader told Shawn and Kasim to leave.
Shawn and Kasim remained between Mosi and the poachers as the three of them backed out into the jungle. They quickly put distance between themselves and the poachers and headed back to camp to warn the others!
“Someone is hiding inside!”
They heard a female voice cry out in relief!
“I came after you to warn you! The capital, Bengali, and the reserve have been seized by Seleka, and they are working with the poachers to raise money for their group. They were searching the reserve facilities to locate the director and the westerners. Thankfully, the director and his family are out of the country visiting relatives and Shawn and Dieudonne are with us. That was the only message we received before the transmissions were jammed. We cannot return! The others are packing up the camp and waiting for us.”
They went to get the others and Mosi led way to a place where he thought that they would be safe. Kasim and Chioma followed behind erasing the group’s trail so that the poachers and Selenka could not easily track their route. After a day and night of walking, Mosi led them to a peaceful waterfall oasis deep in the jungle. They dejectedly set up a camp there, not knowing how long they would have to remain.
Imari was thinking sadly of her husband in Johannesburg. He’d insisted that she accept this opportunity even though it had required a long separation for them. She knew that he would be worried sick about her. She missed him badly and prayed that she would see him again soon.
“I know I will.”
I know I said that Shawn’s storyline would be just two chapters, but I added more to it. It was way too long for just two chapters. It will definitely end in the next chapter though, and most of the pictures are finished for it too! I’ll post it next week. 😀