Disclaimer: I own squat.
This one-shot is an alternate ending to Anne Patchett's State of Wonder.
I recently finished reading State of Wonder as a summer reading book. As I finished it, I imagined how I wished the book had more or less ended instead of what I had been presented with. Well, this was the outcome.
Home with the Lakashi
Doctor Marina Singh stared at the grainy television set in the corner of the room, her mind filled with memories of her time with the Lakashi. Thoughts of 'what-if's' had plagued her mind ever since she stepped off of the boat and onto the dock in Manaus. What did she have to go home to? A full closet she could easily live without, an empty house, work, which if she was honest with herself, seemed entirely unimportant to her after what she has seen in her time in Brazil.
Not to mention her relationship with Jim Fox. After spending so long with only thinking of Mr. Fox as her superior, her boss, Marina fell into submission easily when in his presence. She never interrupted while he was speaking, gave up quickly the few times they had any sort of argument, no matter how few times it was. Anything he asked of her, she did it. Anything from trivial to life changing requests were met with an affirmative answer on her part; her time in Brazil being a testimony to that. Marina didn't want a superior and an inferior relationship. She wanted a love like Barbara and Jackie Bovender; two people able to love one another as equals. For a time, Marina hadn't seen anything wrong with her relationship with Mr. Fox. Now, however, she realized that it was one she couldn't ever fix, nor could she ever learn to just live with it.
Her heart just wasn't in it anymore. It had become obvious to her when she had first seen Mr. Fox on that boat that she would never be able to see him just as a partner, a friend, a lover. He would always be her boss and that is how things were meant to stay between the two. Marine heard Dr. Swenson in her head then. "Really now, Dr. Singh. You're going to go back to Minnesota for an empty house, a man you don't really love, and research that you no longer have a passion for? You're going to leave behind all of what you've seen here, all of what you have come to love, just for a life that you no longer belong in? That, is the decision of the Marina Singh who blinded an infant. Are you going to go back to being that woman now or are you going to stay and be who you have become? Hurry up and figure it out, Dr. Singh, I don't have all day. Two options. Stay or go. Your choice."
Marina looked up at the sound of her name. Anders Eckman's form loomed over her sitting one from where he stood. "They just called our flight. It's time to go home."
Home. What the word brought to Marina's mind was not the same as what Anders would have been imagining. Marina took a breath, opened her mouth, closed her mouth. She tried again. "I can't."
"What do you mean?" he asked. Anders paled slightly. "Are you sick?" he whispered fervently. "Do you have malaria? Oh, please Marina, tell me you're all right."
"I'm fine, Anders, but I can't go with you."
"Marina, what's going on? What's going through your head? We're finally going home. We can get back to our normal research, away from all the dangers of this place. I can see my family again." Anders' voice broke at the mention of his family.
"Go home, Anders. Go back to your wife and kids. Tell them what has happened to you, and then tell Karen I told her that she was right and that I'll miss her. Tell her that I'm staying, that I'm where I belong. Then tell her that you'll never come back to a place like this and then hold onto her. Hold onto your family and never let them go because they are your life."
"What about your life, Marina? You can't last out here forever. What about everyone back home?"
"This is where I want to stay, Anders. Whether I die from a sickness next week or I die as an old woman, this is where I want to be. I'll try to write, but we both know that only a fraction of my letters will ever be received."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure. Goodbye, Anders. It was an honor to work with you and I am glad to call you my friend." Marina held out her arms and Dr. Eckman stepped into them, wrapping his own arms around her waist.
"Goodbye, Marina," he breathed into her hair. Anders pulled back, gave Marina a quick kiss on her cheek, and smiled, if somewhat sadly. "We'll all miss you."
"You too. Better hurry though, before they close the gates." Anders nodded and bent to pick up a small suitcase containing what was left of his belongings. Marina had given him the letters to his wife on the boat ride to Manaus.
"Anders," Marina called. Anders paused and looked over his shoulder as a flight attendant quickly checked his passport and ticket. "Please tell Mr. Fox that I'm sorry."
"He'll know." Anders nodded once more and then he was off. He walked through the doorway and into a hallway that led to his plane home, and as the flight attendant closed the doors behind him, Marina memorized the sight of the man happy, alive, and headed to where he most wanted to be in the world.
Marina stood on the front steps of the airport, unsure what to do next.
She remembered her earlier regrets that she hadn't run off with Milton. Marina knew that, one way or another, she was going back to the Lakashi, and most likely, that way would include having to call Milton. It was his own brother who had the friend with a boat; the only boat she knew of that she could use without questions. She needed Milton to help her get back, to help her get home. Maybe, just maybe, that home could include him.
Marina walked back inside the airport, using her limited knowledge of other languages to guide her to a sign pointing to two old coin operated telephones.
"Milton, it's me, Marina."
"Marina!" He sounded happy, if slightly confused. "I thought you and Dr. Eckman would be on your plane home by now."
"Anders has gone, but I've decided to stay."
There was a short pause on the other side of the phone. "I'm glad to hear that, Marina."
The sides of Marina's lips lifted a bit at how sincere his words were.
"I was wondering if you could come and pick me up. I'm at the airport still and I'd like to talk to you about my plans."
"Are you planning to go back to the Lakashi?"
Marina gave me a laugh. "You've figured me out."
"I will call my brother, then. I'm on my way to get you now. I'm hoping that by the time we get back Rodrigo will have convinced his friend to let us use his boat."
"Thank you, Milton. I'll see you soon."
Milton had agreed to stay with the Lakashi for a few days, per Marina's request. However, he was quick to see what Marina saw in them, in their surroundings. A few days turned into a few weeks, then into a few months. Rodrigo's friend's boat had long since been returned when Milton had asked a trusted trader to drive it back to Manaus when Milton had seen him paddling down the river one day in his small canoe. Glad for an almost effortless, and much shorter terms of transportation, the man had easily agreed. It also helped that Milton gave the man a few bills to make sure he wouldn't say no.
When Milton had first come back with Marina, the Lakashi had happily started patting her all over, along with her new guest. Milton laughed, patting a few random heads, chests, and arms as he walked, hands of the tribe patting him from all angles. The other doctors had been only slightly surprised to see Marina return, and none of them were happier than Dr. Swenson, even if she never admitted it. Everyone quickly accepted the new person into their lives, the Lakashi happy to have their trusted doctor back and eager to learn about the man she had brought with her.
When Milton took his cot into Marina's room a while after their arrival, the other doctors only smiled. When the pair announced their intentions to stay for good, the Lakashi had prepared a wonderful feast over a roaring bonfire, dancing and singing into the night. Milton walked with Marina through the woods to see the Martins and Ross plants, along with a tour of the rest of the surrounding area. Eventually the two would go off occasionally on hikes, venturing out a little further from the tribe with only a flashlight incase they stayed out too long and a machete for anything that didn't agree with the two continuing to live.
After a particularly long hike, Milton and Marina arrived back in their room to see their cots removed and a larger, more permanent looking bed suitable for two. They had spent their hike discussing a rescue mission for Easter. Two months later and they have what they believe will make the cannibalistic tribe give up the boy without giving them Rapps. When they arrive, Easter is happy enough, but misses those who make up his real family. His acceptance back into his home tribe hadn't been completely successful, but the boy was thankfully given back without too much of a fuss after the gifts had been given out. Easter was welcomed back with hardy pats from the Lakashi and warm hugs from the doctors.
Half a year later and the Milton and Marina are delighted to announce that Marina is pregnant, which then results in tribe members approaching and rubbing Marina's still flat stomach in careful, circular movements. Five years later and Marina and Milton are happy stopping their family at two boys and their baby girl. Easter becomes the oldest brother in their family, the one to look out for his new siblings as they grow.
When Dr. Swenson passes at the age of eighty six, Milton is there for Marina when she cries, Easter curled up in her lap. The Lakashi start to take Dr. Swenson off for the burial rituals, but stop and open their arms to Marina and her family in invitation. The rituals are beautiful, with flowers in every female's hair and a few males', dances with complex steps and graceful movements, and a long, sad song throughout with a happier tune to finish.
Marina carries her daughter while holding Easter's hand, Milton holding the hands of their own two boys as the entire tribe walks home quietly. The children are given dinner and put to bed without protest. Milton and Marina lay down together on their bed and Milton encircles Marina with his arms, his warmth, his love. Marina thinks that this may not be how she ever envisioned her life to turn out, but she knows in her heart that it is right, that her home is here, with Milton, with her family, with the Lakashi.
I hope you liked it! Please leave a review, I'd love to know what you thought! -A