Words of Love - By Hazel Hunter


If the timing wasn’t right, Jesse knew she’d end up in the brown water. She perched at the bow of the Zodiac as Brett maneuvered them closer.

“Don’t go until I say go,” Brett called from the rear.

Jesse quickly turned and nodded.

The mud and water sped past them as Brett gunned the single outboard engine, fighting the river’s strong current. The embankment was steep and the jungle began immediately at its top. There was no room for error.

“Get ready,” Brett yelled.

Jesse stood up, one foot inside the hull and one on top of the inflatable round edge. She steadied herself with her left hand and held the rope in her right.

A month ago, she thought, if someone had told me I’d be on a river in the Guatemalan jungle, I’d have told them they were crazy.

She grinned.

It certainly felt crazy–but crazy good. Crazy–

“Go!” yelled Brett.

Quickly, Jesse stood on the rubbery edge. Although she was slim, it started to give under her weight. Before she could teeter, she jumped–and mostly got it right.

Both feet splashed into the water and, to her shock, she sank to her waist. She gasped and reflexively held her arms up to keep them clear of the water. It was moving so much faster than she’d thought from the boat. Now she understood the necessity of the orange life vests they wore. She immediately started for the embankment and felt the rope go taut.

“Give yourself some slack,” Brett yelled over the straining engine.

She let some rope slip through her hands but didn’t turn around. It took every bit of concentration to keep her footing. One small step after another, she moved toward the low embankment. As she got nearer, she moved more quickly and finally her waist rose out of the water, then her thighs and knees. In another few moments, she was standing in mud.

“Good girl!” Brett yelled.

She smiled and finally turned to him.

Leaning forward, with one hand on the throttle, the only thing he was missing was the leather jacket and fedora. His lightweight shirt and pants clung to him in the humidity. The life vest seemed dwarfed by his broad chest and shoulders. Through the opening in the middle, his shirt was open a few buttons. It’d been like that all day. Her eyes had repeatedly been drawn to the shadowed curves of his chest and then down to his tapered waist. His deeply blue eyes always seemed to glitter and his thick, blond hair was always perfectly touseled. Brett Delacourt wasn’t just the most handsome professor at school, he was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen.

He pointed up the embankment, snapping her out of her reverie.

“You’ll be safer up there,” he said, his other hand constantly moving the tiller to compensate for the current.

Right, she thought. Concentrate. She looked around her. He has nowhere to put the boat but this embankment.

She turned, found a less steep section, and climbed the slick slope. At the top, the rope was taut again.

“Good,” Brett called. “When I beach it, tie the rope around something as fast as you can. The bigger, the better.”

“Okay,” she said, and looked behind her.

“Here I come!” he yelled as she heard the engine whine.

The rope went slack in her hand and she dashed to the nearest tree, about two feet in diameter. Though she heard the boat bottom grate on the embankment below her, she didn’t turn to look. She quickly circled the tree a couple of times and then made a knot.

“Perfect!” Brett called.

Heart pounding and a little breathless, she watched as he turned off the engine. The river pulled at the back of the boat, turning it parallel to the shore, but the front stayed on the mud and the rope held it in place.

“Stay there,” Brett said. “This’ll just take me a few minutes.”

He turned off the engine and raised the rotor out of the water.

As her heart rate slowed, it finally occurred to her to look around.

In every direction, the jungle was thick. The further they’d come up the Pasión River, the narrower it had become and the denser the rainforest. But it wasn’t just any rainforest–it was the heart of the pre-Columbian Maya world.

She took a deep breath and slowly let it go. Words from the Popol Vuh, the creation story of the Maya sounded in her head.

Then, when the gods meditated, they knew that man must appear. They planned the creation, and the growth of the trees and the thickets and the birth of life