5Here to There
By the time they were to leave for Peru, Rachel was practically a new person. She was not the pale girl in extremely ugly clothes anymore. She had a nice tan from working on the school, she was learning how to style her hair, and she was wearing normal clothing. She fell in love with flip flops in Bolivia. They called them “chinelas” and she bought several pairs in bright colors. It was a little sad for her to say good-bye to her team mates in Santa Cruz. She had become good friends with most of them; especially Mi Ling. “Thanks for helping me so much. I am, um, going through a difficult time in my life,” she told her. Mi Ling hugged her and said good-bye.
She and Scott flew out the same day. It was really weird being alone with him, but she decided to just focus on their assignment. They settled into a hotel in Lima and then went out for dinner together. That was very awkward as well. The next day they found out that the incoming team was delayed and would not arrive for another day. Scott came to her room later that evening and handed her a letter, “This just came from the main office.” She took the letter and went out to the lobby to read. She liked the soothing fountain and the large sofas. She ripped open the envelope and saw that it was a letter from Franklin.
“Dear Rachel, Thank you for your letter. I am doing well. I sold my office and am now working from home. Nice and comfy in my p.j.’s. I hope you know that it is my joy to support you and your new life. You are like a daughter to me. You can continue to travel with HtW until you decide you want to do something else. I will support you no matter what you decide. You are a good girl, Rachel.
I suppose I ought to be the bearer of news from your home as well. Your brothers stopped coming to look for you a couple of days after you left. They haven’t filed a missing persons report either. I guess that’s all there is to tell you.
Keep it up, girlie! Love, Franklin”
Her eyes were full of tears as she finished his letter. Partly, she was so thankful for Franklin and missed him; and partly she knew in her heart that her family had already written her off. She was now dead to them, like she never existed. It hurt deeply that they only cared about their own reputation, not that their daughter was gone. Scott came upon her in her tears. He sat down next to her and put his hand on her shoulder. He stroked her hair lightly with his finger tips. “What’s wrong, Rachel? Do you want to talk about it?” he asked. “Well, it’s a super long story, I’m not sure you want to hear all of it,” she replied, trying desperately to regain her composure. “Let’s go get dinner and you can tell me the whole story then,” he said. His eyes said he was completely genuine, so she followed him to the restaurant and prepared to tell him everything. “I’m glad to see you eat well. I can’t stand girls who pick at their food like chickens,” he said trying to lighten her mood. After she had eaten half of her supper, she began to tell him her life story. He sat quietly eating, but making sure that she knew he was listening. She finished her tale after they had scraped the last of the dessert off of their plates. He sat back and smiled at her. “Rachel, I want you to know that I care about you also. I will not desert you or leave you hanging. I’m going to do my best to keep you in HtW as long as possible because you are a wonderful asset to the organization.” She bowed her head shyly, but soon looked up and said, “Thank you so much. I’ve been so fortunate to find people who have helped me with my new life.” They passed a small plaza on their way back to the hotel and she thought about sitting for a while-until she noticed the number of amorous couples making use of the dimly lit park. Embarrassed, she turned quickly to catch up with Scott.
The Peru team showed up on time the next day and Rachel helped Scott get them checked into the hotel. They were refurbishing a school a few blocks away from the hotel, so they could walk to their jobs every day. Rachel loved Lima. It was an exciting city; yet had a laid back Latin vibe. She was picking up more Spanish and continued to study with a book she had gotten from Scott. The Peru team was only going to work for two weeks and so they had a lot to accomplish in that time period. They worked later since they were so close to the hotel. Rachel was so happy that her room had a bath tub. She had long warm soaks at night to soothe her achy body. Painting for hours on end had its repercussions. She didn’t get to know the team very well since it was such a short assignment. She did borrow a couple of books from some of the travelers. Rachel decided she would have to always ask team members what they had brought to read on the plane. She was ravenous for reading anything and everything. She had twenty one years of culture to catch up on. She found herself becoming much more confident and no longer thought about Platzville and what it thought of her. The day came all too quickly to see off the team at the airport. Once again, she had no idea what to do, but she wasn’t worried.
As they left the airport to go back to the hotel, Scott reached up and touched her pony tail. “I guess I should tell you where we are going next, shouldn’t I?” She thought quickly about how many times he had touched her hair in the past two weeks. “Must just be a friendly gesture,” she thought. “Well, we will be in Honduras tomorrow. Be prepared for a sad job. We are going to rebuild homes for hurricane victims,” he explained. She had to really think about the few times she had seen a map in her life to remember where Honduras was. She tried to imagine having her home swept away by torrential waves and winds. She closed her eyes and thought of having to leave her own home, not knowing where she was going or where she would live. So, in a very small way she could relate to these people. The cab driver jerked the car around a corner, bringing her out of her deep thoughts. As they reached the hotel Scott asked her if she would like to walk down to the beach. “Sure! I’ve never even seen the ocean up close before,” she said. She then thought she probably should not have revealed so much of her lack of worldly experience. He smiled and batted her pony tail, “Let’s go see the ocean up close, then.” She blushed and lowered her face to hide it. They talked casually on the way to the beach and Rachel began to think that he reminded her of Roy. It was like talking to a big brother and she felt comfortable with him. At least that is what she convinced herself. Any other feelings had been so strictly forbidden her whole life that she was afraid to even consider them. The beach was beautiful and she felt breathless at the sights and sounds of the ocean. Scott allowed her to take it all in without interruption. He wanted to put his arm around her as they stared out at the waves together, but was afraid of scaring her and kept his hands to himself.
The following morning she slept in and was jolted awake by a knocking on her door. She ran to the door and found Scott. He was quite amused that he had caught her sleeping. “Time to go, sleepyhead,” he said with a mischievous grin. “Ok, I’ll be ready in ten minutes,” she said hastily. She packed and dressed frantically and then paused to look around the room. “I really like it here,” she thought as she opened the door and headed for the stairs. Scott was waiting out front with a taxi. She put her things in the trunk and then joined him in the back seat. He smiled and handed her a pastry and a cup of coffee. “Oh goodness! Thanks! I completely forgot about breakfast,” she said. “No problem, have to keep my workers fed,” he joked and then batted her pony tail as he did so often. As it turned out their flight was delayed giving them plenty of time for breakfast in the terminal. Rachel just sat and read a book and Scott walked around wiling away the time. The seats were small in the plane made for South Americans. Rachel felt like she was practically sitting in Scott’s lap for the trip to Tegucigalpa. It was a long flight and she wished that she had more material to read. Scott seemed to sense her quandary and pulled an e-book reader out of his bag. He showed her how to use it and the list of books he had downloaded. This was better than a million dollars to her and she read with a big smile on her face for the rest of their flight. She was wishing she didn’t have to return that little rectangle of gold when they pulled into the gate at the Honduran airport. Again he read her mind and said, “Keep it, I’ve read everything in there anyway.” She wanted to hug him, but simply told him, “Thanks.”
They checked into their hotel, where they would only be staying one night. Scott spent an hour at the front desk trying to arrange for a bus to pick up the team and drive them all the way to Palacios for their assignment. He was wishing that Rachel had stayed with him to help out with Spanish. Finally an arrangement was made and he trudged up the stairs to his room. He stopped by Rachel’s room and knocked. She came promptly to the door, her long hair loose around her shoulders. He wanted to touch it, but thought he had better not. “Tomorrow we need to be down at the airport at nine to meet the team. So, you need to be downstairs at eight. Ok?” he asked. She nodded and smiled. “Oh, I guess we should go get some supper in a minute. It kind of slipped my mind. I’ll come back for you in fifteen minutes.” With that he turned and hurried off to his room. She finished brushing her hair and put it back up in a pony tail. She looked into the mirror and decided she needed to change things up a little. She took down her hair again and just pulled back a little bit. She clipped it at the back of her head and let the rest of her hair lay long on her back. As soon as she was satisfied with her adventure into variety, she put on her flip flops and waited for Scott. He was there when he said he would be. He stared a moment at her hair and then they headed off to find a good meal. They were both tired and went to bed after returning to the hotel.
At seven in the morning, Rachel was already dressed and packed. She went downstairs to see if they had any coffee and bread. She sat at a small café table and drank the strong coffee and ate sweet bread. Scott came down and joined her. They smiled at each other, but didn’t say anything. Neither one of them was a morning person and preferred respectful silence until after the coffee had taken affect. They were both ready to go to the airport early and had to wait around in the lobby for the bus. The driver was nearly a half hour late and Scott was not happy. He hoped this was not a premonition of what was to come. They did eventually make it to the airport just in time to see their new team come through customs. A familiar face was in the group and Scott sighed, “Oh no, it’s Lisa. She will spend the next four weeks trying to get me to propose to her.” Rachel just giggled; she didn’t know what else to do. They directed the new group toward the bus and it’s extremely relaxed driver. They were to drive directly from the airport to Palacios. It would be a long trip and Scott didn’t want to get stuck next to Lisa; who had already become his smiling shadow. He grabbed Rachel by the arm and said loudly, “You have to sit with me. We, uh, need to talk about the assignment.” Rachel whispered jokingly, “Are you sure you don’t want to sit with her?” He furrowed his brow and said, “Not funny!” With all of the luggage and people, the small tour bus was crowded. Rachel wanted the window seat, but Scott took it before she could sit down. Once on their way, he discussed a few matters about their assignment and then put all his papers in his backpack. It appeared he hadn’t really needed to talk about anything, but needed the excuse to have Rachel sit with him. A big tall fellow from Texas leaned across the aisle and asked Rachel, “Are ya’ll married?” She shook her head. He grinned and said, “Ok, good.” She wondered what on earth that was about, but thought it wise not to ask him. Midway to Palacios her early rising caught up with her and she fell asleep. When she woke again they were almost there and her head was on Scott’s shoulder. “Oh, I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize my head had fallen on you,” she lamented. He just laughed at her embarrassment and told her it was fine.
Palacios was hot and sticky, and everyday it threatened rain. They worked hard rebuilding two homes hit by a hurricane. Rachel had thought she was prepared for this, but it was much more heart wrenching than she had imagined. Children stood in rags in the mud that was as far as she could see. There were no clean asphalt roads; or even gravel. Everything was muddy and the emotional climate seemed to match the mud. Hundreds of families were homeless and had absolutely no hope of rebuilding their lives. She spent many days crying while she worked. The Texan was all too willing to comfort her, but she tried her best to deter him. In this state of emotional upheaval, she had no interest in bonding with anyone of the opposite sex. She continued to work hard and prayed hard for people to come and help this forlorn country.
Poor Scott had his own problems. Lisa hounded him like Beagles on foxes. She insisted on helping him at all times. She bought him gifts and tried her best to win his affection. She flirted and dressed in a way that left him with no doubt as to her desires. Rachel was trying her best to not think harshly of Lisa, but it was difficult because she was so driven by her goal. Finally after over two weeks, Scott had enough. He found Rachel and told her his plan to discourage Lisa, “Rachel, I really need you to help me. Lisa is driving me insane. I…I have tried everything I normally do, but nothing is working. We need to try to convince her that you are my girlfriend without us actually saying it. Ok, here she comes. I’m going to put my arm around you like this and I want you to look up at me and smile.” He put his arm around her waist and gripped her side with his left hand. He pulled her close to him. Her shoulder was so tight against his chest that she could feel his heart pounding. “Why is your heart beating so fast?” she whispered while obediently looking into his face. His eyes darted momentarily and then he replied, “You have that effect on me.” He smiled and she felt butterflies flipping around in her stomach. Lisa walked up with her hands on her hips. Scott pulled Rachel to face him; thus making a barrier between him and Lisa. She uttered an “UH!” and then walked away. Scott held Rachel until he was sure that Lisa was out of sight. “Well, I think that might work. Thank you so much. You’re the best,” he said and then released her. “You are welcome. I think,” she replied. “What does he mean I have that effect on him?” she thought as she walked away a bit light-headed. She had to convince herself that it was just business and nothing happened between them. “I’m just helping him with Lisa, that’s all,” she told herself. The rest of the assignment he would put his arm around her or stroke her hair if Lisa was anywhere around. Their charade actually served two purposes: Lisa left Scott alone and the Texan left Rachel alone. Scott would tease her about the Texan when no one was around, but she got the impression he didn’t want the guy to be with her.
At the close of four weeks they had completed two homes, but hardly put a dent in the number of families who still needed them. They had done all that they could do and two families were exuberant to occupy their new homes. Scott and Rachel both were very tired and ready for a break. It was fortunate that it was time for them to check in at the home office in Miami. “Let’s go to the U.S. What do you say?” he teased Rachel as they boarded the plane to Miami.