1: Is That You?
It was a beautiful day - a warm breeze cut through the humidity, tugging at the leaves on the trees. The sky was a brilliant shade of cobalt blue, with only a few wisps of clouds to be seen. It was beautiful, yes - almost ironically.
Crew members carried trunks down the haphazardly made trail through the trees to the shore, loading them into rowboats to be brought back to the ship. The clearing where the Porter's camp had once been was clear again - the only proof they had eve been there being the disturbances in the dirt. Jane looked around, picking up her small valise. "Ready to go, Daddy?"
"It would appear so," Archimedes said, "I do wish we could have stayed longer, though. Just a few more days - that's all I'm asking, really. I don't see why-"
"Daddy," Jane interjected, "There's no use fretting now. You know I want to stay as much as you do, but we don't have any time left." Her father nodded resolutely. "But, I can't help but wish he were here."
"You know who," she sighed, "We never got to say a proper goodbye, and I'll…never…you know, be able to, mm, come back."
"I know it may be foolish, but perhaps, in a few years, I'll be granted to the funding to come back here again. It's nearly impossible - but perhaps."
"Oh, what's the point in holding out hope, Daddy?" Jane said as she began making her way towards the trail that would lead them to the shore. "You said it yourself, it's nearly impossible that we'll ever come back. I see little point in holding out false hope."
As they walked, Jane gazed up at the trees around her. Never again would she them. Never again would see hear these bird calls, or run her hands through the sand as she watched the sun rise and set each day - never again, never again. She knew that she had stored away a small lavender flower in one of her books. She hoped to press it and frame it when she returned to London; her one memento of this trip, and the person she so desperately hoped would appear at any second.
Soil and overgrown grass soon turned to sand and rock, and they had reached the shore. Archimedes turned to look behind him, back at the jungle, with trees tall enough to touch the clouds. "We best be going," he sighed, taking the lead in making his way to their rowboat that would take them to the ship. Jane followed closely behind, trying to savor each fleeting moment,
Taking her seat, the crewman pushed them out into the water, quickly getting into the boat himself. The gentle rocking of the boat in the waves lulled Jane's mind. London awaited them - not only London, but friends, family, the university's zoology and botany departments … so many people to see and places to go.
Turning around in her seat, Jane cast a glance back at the increasingly more distant shoreline. "Stop," she said, before she could fully comprehend what she was saying. The words seemed to fall out of her mouth.
"What do you mean, Miss Porter?" the crewman asked,
"I…don't know - well, I do, but, you see…" Archimedes raised his eyebrows, urging Jane to continue. She could see a glimmer of hope in his eyes. She was sure he could see the same in hers. The further away they got, the stronger the pull felt, a pull backwards beckoning them to come back. "I want to stay," she all but whispered.
"But, Miss Porter, you know you can't."
"But, my good sir," her father chimed in quickly, "Who are we to deny this young lady her heart's desires? I mean really. If you insist, Jane, we'll stay. Only if you insist."
Jane smiled; she could hear the playful tone in her father's voice that maybe only she could detect. There was no doubt in her mind that he wanted to stay as much as she did. With a reluctant sigh, the crewman began maneuvering the boat to return to shore. "I doubt anyone will be happy to hear this news," he grumbled. As the boat hit the sand, Jane all but jumped out, stumbling a bit in the shin-high water.
Struggling to get her footing in the sand, Jane scrambled out of the water, her father, still in the boat, in close pursuit. "Daddy," she panted, I have to go find him."
Knowing what she meant, her father motioned for her to go. Still short of breath and gripping fistfuls of her dress in her hands as not to trip, she ran off into the jungle. "Professor," the crewman said, "You can't be serious, can you? Staying here … there's nothing around for miles - just trees."
"Well, maybe there's more here than you think, sir."
"Perhaps," he sighed, not sounding too convinced, "I'll go inform the others, and the captain. We'll begin bringing your belongings back at once."
"What a good chap!" The Professor exclaimed.
Jane found her way back to the clearing where their camp had once stood. Carefully, she scanned the treetops - he could have been there, hidden, watching them leave. She couldn't be entirely sure though. Much to her dismay, there was no sign of him here. With a great huff of determination, she gathered up her dress in her hands once more, and began walking in the direction of the treehouse. She had no idea whether or not he would be there, but there were only so few places she knew in this jungle that it was as good of a guess as any other. It was a rather hot day - only exacerbated by this trek made in less than proper attire. Loose strands of her chestnut brown hair stuck to her forehead, held there by perspiration,
Finally, she reached the treehouse, if one could call it that - a house, It was a ramshackle old place by now - having seen many years of unrelenting weathering. It was not too high off the ground, but high enough in the branches that she wondered how she would ever reach it. Grabbing hold of a sturdy looking vine that hung from the tree, she pulled herself up, eventually able to grab ahold of one of the wide, rough boughs well enough to hoist herself the rest of the way.
The treehouse was small, and dark. She hesitated to go inside, fearing that the old wood would not hold her weight and she would plummet to the ground below. She had seen Tarzan scale this tree and go inside before - but she was not Tarzan - nowhere close. She was a civilized woman - not someone well versed in climbing trees and swinging from vines.
Gently, she reached out her nimble white-gloved hand and pushed open the flimsy door. It was oddly smooth and stuck a bit when she tried to open it. Pushing her way inside, she looked around - not that there was much to see. What was once likely a blanket lay on the floor, now little more than a tattered rag. Aside from this, the floor was bare, with the exception of a few stray bits of paper that lay on the ground.
A figure in the corner caught her eye. Their back was turned, but even so - there were few other people she imagined it could be. "Tarzan?" she softly called out, "Is that you?"