Beneath a Southern Sky - By Deborah Raney
The fingers of the jungle breeze swept across the village, playing the palm fronds like so many harps. Under the conductorship of the wind, the symphony of the rain forest rose to a crescendo. Over the plip, plip, plip of the raindrops’ chorus, thunder struck its clashing cymbals before the clouds moved in, lowering a curtain on the sun.
Daria Camfield looked up from the skirt she was mending, and her eyes scanned the village for her husband’s tall frame. Though the rains weren’t usually severe this time of year, she always breathed easier when Nathan was nearby.
As though her thoughts had summoned him, she spotted Nate loping down the pathway, holding a large banana leaf over his head. She knew his makeshift umbrella was not meant to protect him as much as to shield the book he was carrying close to his chest.
“Hey,” she hollered in greeting as he jumped the narrow stream that separated their hut from the village proper. The wind had begun to blow the rain underneath the thatched roof of the stoop where she sat, so she wove her needle safely into the thin cotton fabric of the skirt and rose to greet him.
Nathan leapt gracefully onto the stoop of their stilted hut, flashing Daria a wide smile. “Hey, babe. What are you up to?”
“Oh, I’m trying to fix this stupid skirt I tore yesterday,” she huffed. “What I wouldn’t give for a sewing machine.”
He gave her a long-suffering look. Nate had never been sympathetic to her complaints about the lack of modern amenities in this remote South American village. She let it go and tilted her head to receive the kiss he offered.
He tossed the soggy banana leaf over the side of the stoop and took his precious book inside the hut. Daria followed him in, leaving the door open behind them.
“I’m hungry,” he said, glancing around the small room as though food might materialize at his declaration.
She threw him a smirk. “What else is new?”
“Hey, I’m a growing boy!” he said with mock indignation.
She reached up and tousled his damp hair affectionately as if he were a little boy, but when he reached for her, it was a man who took her in his arms.
“I love you, Dr. Camfield,” she whispered huskily. They had been married for three blissful years when they arrived in Timoné, but during their two years as missionaries here, she and Nathan had found new meaning to a scripture they’d only thought they understood: And the two shall become one. What had grown between them made their earlier romance seem like an adolescent crush. Nathan Camfield was her life, and she loved him with a love so fierce it sometimes frightened her.
Extricating herself from his arms, she went to the narrow shelf that served as their pantry. She sliced a banana in half, then reached for the thermos. Without electricity or an indoor stove, she’d gotten in the habit of making extra coffee over the fire each morning so they could share a hot drink during the afternoon rains. She poured a mug for Nate and one for herself, then took them to the table where Nate had opened his book. It seemed her husband always had his nose in one science text or another. She wondered what he’d do when he’d finished reading everything they’d brought with them.
The rain on this day proved unrelenting, reminding her of the rainy season they’d recently endured. She finally took up her mending again and they sat together, listening to the drops on the roof, enjoying this excuse for a rare respite from the hard work that life in Timoné demanded.
She put her needle and thread aside and watched her husband now. His head was bowed over the book, and his forehead was furrowed in concentration. But any minute, she knew, he would look up with the light of discovery in his eyes, and read a passage aloud to her.
As though he’d read her mind, his voice broke into her thoughts. “Listen to this, Daria.”
She started laughing.
“You are just so predictable, Dr. Camfield,” she chuckled.
He rolled his eyes, then, ignoring her laughter, he began to read to her from his book, his voice deep and authoritative. He hadn’t finished one paragraph when a shout rose from below their hut. “Dr. Nate! Dr. Nate!”
Nathan and Daria jumped from their chairs and ran out onto the stoop. Quimico, one of the young men from the village, was hurrying toward them. Next to him was a native