CHAPTER ONE

 

His fingers fall over the strings, vibrating the instrument. The music sends chills through my body. Slowly he strums, his thumb flicking the top string every few notes. A deep humming drowns out the other sounds.

A sea of blue flowers surrounds me. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful. The morning air is crisp entering my lungs. I breathe in the scent of the bluebonnet flowers. Dew covers the leaves on the massive tree in front of us — his favorite tree. A pink and green sky reaches across the meadow making the perfect backdrop for Trev’s final resting place.

I turn toward Colt and the others, wiping my eyes before anyone can see a tear present itself. He smiles at me briefly, but I know it’s hard for any of them to be happy today. Why is it so much easier for these Mecans to conceal their emotions when I’m the one that was forced to suppress mine all my life?

As we look over the Sapphire Fields and I watch as Mark and Ann lift their arms to release the ashes of their youngest son, the crowd begins to hum. I will never forget the first time I heard this song, the desert air and the Joha sand that filled my lungs. Now as I stand here on a completely different planet, listening to the melancholy sound coming from everyone around me, my lips begin to move. The deep humming fills the air and the words spill from my lips as if I’ve always known them.

 

The day has come, the fight is done.

Don’t worry now, your battle’s won.

Your fight was great, you made us proud.

We’ll sing for you; we’ll sing it loud!

No fear or pain can haunt you now,

No why, no what, no when or how.

Don’t say goodbye, we’ll see you soon.

You’ll light our path; you’ll be our moon.

It’s all right friend, the fight is done.

Don’t worry now, your battle’s won.

 

As the air lifts the ashes into its sail, rolling over the meadow like a ship at sea, the group begins to fall back. The space between the guests and the family grows and grows, but the humming remains.

Aby, my fellow Johan, grabs my arm and we leave the family who helped rescue us from Joha, our home planet. Colt, Krew, and Vin stay behind to play their guitars. The strings fade but the humming follows us, all the way back to the ranch.

Reaching the large ranch, we immediately start setting up for Trev’s family to return. When the Mecans lose someone, they gather and eat food with the family, to celebrate a life greatly lived.

We arrived on Meca, a planet the Mecans call earth, a few days ago. Aby and I were given a room to share on the ranch. Colt’s family graciously took us in, as they’ve taken in so many others. Colt and Krew have been busy setting up our rooms and helping Trev family make plans for the service, so we haven’t seen much of their world, at least I haven’t — this being my first time here.

“You two head to the kitchen. Liv has some rolls in the oven that should be about done,” Colt’s grandpa, Bud, yells to Aby and me; nearly drowned out by the screaming kids who are running their three-hundredth lap around the house’s wrap-around porch. Liv and Bud have made quite a home here. This ranch is the home for so many. No one on Joha would ever behave in such a way. They didn’t believe in helping others.

“Yes sir,” we reply together. After seeing one of the younger kids being yelled at for not answering respectfully to their elders, we made sure to make it a habit quickly.

We’ve also been helping around the ranch since we arrived. Everyone who stays here works here too. “You only learn to appreciate something if you have to put your own mind and sweat into it!”  I’ve heard Bud use that line multiple times, watching him with the kids, yelling in his deep, raspy voice, smiling and laughing anytime he accidentally scares one of them. He’ll grab the little boys and rub his knuckles on the top of their heads then they’ll laugh and run away from him.

“Oh bless you both!” Liv, Colt’s grandmother, says as we walk in. “You two are so kind to be helpin’ out so much. Here, grab some of those mitts over there. The rolls are ready.” She reaches into the fridge, pulling out bowl after bowl, setting them on the counter.

We grab the mitts and we each head to a stove. They have two. There is a huge island down the center of the kitchen, a massive sink, and enormous windows lining the entire backside of the bright house.

I’ve never seen a house like this before. The walls are covered in phtotos. There’s something in every corner of every room, furniture enough for dozens. My eye catches on a photo hanging on the fridge. Six people sit around a massive fire pit; I recognize it as the one out back. They’re all laughing, holding on to each other.  They look so happy, happier than I’ve ever seen anyone. I recognize Colt first, then Olivia and Bud, Colt’s grandparents. The other three must be Colt’s parents and his little sister, Noel.  I haven’t met them yet. When we arrived at the ranch, they weren’t here. Colt said his sister was having her last surgery up north. There were some minor complications, and their return had been delayed. He promised I’d meet them by the end of the week.

Once we have enough food to feed a small village, set out on seven different tables outside, people start to arrive. Colt and Krew walk into the kitchen, smiling from ear to ear. Just half an hour ago they both looked so solemn. “Sometimes their emotions still confuse me. Don’t worry…you’re not the only one,” Aby says, nudging me in the arm. She winks at me then runs to Krew.

“You doing okay?” Colt asks, bending down to kiss me on the cheek. Sometimes I still flinch at his touch, especially when people are present. As time has passed, it’s gotten easier to react as I truly feel, instead of masking everything I’m trying not to.

“Yes. How are you? Did something happen?” I ask, wondering how their emotions can switch back and forth so quickly. Although I’m grateful to see his smile again.

“No, no. We’ve had our time to grieve. It’s just time,” he says, grabbing the bowl of potatoes I’d just picked up, out of my hands.

“Time for what?”

“Time to celebrate a great friend, brother, and son. Of course, we’ll always be sad and miss him, but nothing will bring him back. So now we rest easy knowing he’s in a better place and celebrate the time we had with him,” he says, smiling my favorite crooked smile. “Come on, let’s go out.” He pulls my hand, cradling the bowl in his left arm, leading us outside.

Not sure what he means about a better place. I’ll add that to my list of questions later. In the few short days I’ve been here, I’ve come up with a lengthy list of things I don’t understand. I can Besides going to an office building when we first arrived, I haven’t seen much else besides the vast lands that surround the place I now call home.

We walk outside and people immediately start greeting him, Krew, Vin and of course Mark and Ann’s family.

“How was it up there this time?”

“I’m so sorry to hear what happened, it’s just awful!”

“We’re so sorry for your loss.”

“Good to have y’all back.”

“I wish none of you ever had to go back!”

“Good to see you.”

“So sorry for your loss.”

“We love y’all.”

“Is this….” a boy asks, walking up to Colt, pointing at me. The attention breaks my trance.

“This is Lia,” Colt replies. “Lia, this is John. He’s been a friend of the family for years.  Yes, John, she is one of the Johans we brought back with us.” He puts his arm around me.

“Looks like a little more than just a Johan you brought back.” A girl with long brown hair walks up, her eyes moving over his arm.

“Hi, Shannon. How are you?” Colt asks her, barely looking at her. His eyes locking on mine.

“I’m great Colt! Let me know if you ever want to stop by!” she says — the tone of her voice pulls my attention to her. She gives him a look I’ve not seen, before turning to walk away, rolling her hips in a wiggling motion; I’ve never seen anyone walk in such a way. I’d like to add her to my list, but I probably won’t.

I slowly back away from Colt when the line of people around him gets deeper and deeper. I find Aby, and grabbing plates, we pile them high with Olivia’s goodies. She’s by far the best cook I’ve ever met.  The first time I tried her fried chicken I thought I was dreaming. I literally pinched myself when I bit into her salted caramel brownies.

We slip sideways through the crowd, heading toward the peace of the barn.  There are too many stranger’s eyes upon us, so the tranquility of the horse stalls are welcome.  The noise outside makes the fighters compound on Joha seem quiet.

“How are you adjusting?” Aby asks, for only the third time today. Fewer than yesterday, so that’s an improvement.

“I’m fine,” I reply. At first, I tried really hard to convince her, hoping she’d stop asking. Now I know it’s a waste of time, so I make no attempt.

“Freaked out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional?” she laughs. “I got that one from a movie! You have to start watching them with me Lia. They’re amazing! And I’m learning so much!”

“I will,” I lie.  I walked in while she was watching something called Jaws and didn’t sleep that night, but I’ve learned not to say no to Aby. She’ll just keep pestering. “How are you doing? Your eye almost looks completely healed.” Changing the subject to her or Krew usually works. Although, reminding us both what happened back on Joha isn’t my favorite topic.

“Never felt better!” She pops a lemon square into her mouth.

“There you two are!” Krew calls from the entrance into the stalls. “They’re over here!”

Colt walks in with two plates. “Oh. I got y’all some food. Sorry, I didn’t know you already had some.” He turns and walks toward Krew. “I guess we can eat th—”

“No!” Aby and I shout in unison.

“We’ll have them!” Aby yells shamelessly, running over to snatch the plates from his grasp.

Krew and Colt burst into laughter and we quickly join in, too obsessed with the food here for any embarrassment.

Two boys run through the stall, chasing each other around the hay we sit on.

“Hey! Beat it!” Colt yells at them, laughing. He kicks one in the bum and we hear them snicker as they run out. “Oh, that reminds me. Once everyone leaves, we’re having a bonfire for close friends and family. The kids have something they’ve been working on for Trev’s family. You are both welcome as our dates.” He winks at me.

“We wouldn’t miss it,” Aby responds.

Almost all the guests have left when the sun begins to dip behind the trees in the distance. The sky here is so different from ours, so is their mini-moon. It is a sight I always love to see. The stars are bright here, and there are millions. Not like on Joha, where the brightness of the moons blocks out any stars that might otherwise be visible.

“You doing okay?” Colt asks, wrapping his arm around me.

“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” And to be honest, in my entire life, I’ve never been better. Even on a sad day like today, my life has never been so full.

“I’m always okay,” he whispers. “As long as you’re in sight.” He kisses my cheek, giving me what Aby has confirmed to be butterflies in my stomach. Which are also small flying bugs on this planet, so it really is quite confusing.

Many things confuse me here. During meals, one person says something they refer to as a prayer. They always begin by greeting someone in particular. Not sure who he is yet, but I think he’s the father of someone here at the ranch.

I also don’t understand their animals. They have so many. Some of them are dangerous, some are not. They use some for food and some for travel or even fun. We have animals on Joha that resemble the cows here, but that’s about it.

“I’m going to bring some piles of wood over. You want to grab a spot and save me one?” Colt says, leading me to the fire pit.

“Yes, of course.” I watch as he leaves, hoping it’s not too long. He’s my comfort zone here. Anytime he’s around, I feel more like myself, safe, and at ease. Aby usually can help with any worries or questions I have. But even she still has questions about our new world. I don’t think even the Mecans have all the answers.

“Hey!” Aby runs up slapping me on the back.

“Geez! Stop doing that!” I gasp, gasping the lost air back into my lungs.

“Just trying to gradually scare the Joha out of you,” she smirks.

We watch as Krew and Colt come flying towards the pit, each rolling a wheelbarrow full of cut wood. “At least give me some competition!” Colt howls. “You owe me a drink,” he huffs, shoving Krew into the side of the pit.

“You both are so very weird,” Aby sighs. “Oh my gosh! Speaking of drinks! Lia, have you had a Dr. Pepper yet?” she shrieks, turning to grab my arm. “It literally tastes like you’re drinking the stars! No, I’m serious! The stars!”

Krew and Colt laugh, joining us on the bench.

“She’s not wrong. It is the best drink known to man,” Krew adds.

“What are y’all doing sitting there? Get this fire started,” Bud barks, poking Colt and Krew in the legs with his stick.

They jump up immediately to start the flames.

*****

Thank YOU for reading our last teaser for Meca: A Life Within! Hope you enjoyed and we are excited to hear what you think! Don’t forget, release day is only a week away! Get your copy on March 7, 2017!

To see all other posts on Meca: A Life Within or Joha: A World Apart, click on the category to the right or below.

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