Marcus the Roman god
Amber sat on the floor cross legged with her laptop open. She and Marcus were supposed to be studying their homework for the next day at the Huber home and Marcus’ mother Alishia would frequently appear around the corner to check her son and the neighbor’s daughter were acting properly. She’d felt uncomfortable when her neighbor Brenda Jackson had asked if it would be possible for her daughter Amber to study at their place of an afternoon for her work as a nurse required her to be at the hospital until her shift finished at six o’clock on weekdays. Amber’s father Tad was one of the higher ranks in the army and his schedule was unpredictable with sometimes long absences from home.
Alishia was a first-generation migrant to the country and maintained strong religious beliefs that made her feel responsible for her son’s behavior. She was proud of him but had not yet adjusted to the freedoms given young people in this country of adoption. While her impression was the Jackson family were an honorable family one could never be too careful. She had the additional responsibility now to protect this young girl under her supervision but how could she refuse as the Jackson’s had been so helpful in introducing the Huber family to neighbors and seeing they got to know this new city. Andreas Huber had expressed his reservations about the request when Alishia had first told him, but she’d assured him she’d see all was proper. They wanted to maintain continuing warm relations with the Jacksons.
As Alishia was making one of her frequent visits passed the open door to her son’s room to glance in she heard Amber begin to speak and paused out of sight in the hallway to listen.
“Marcus take a look at this.” She chuckled as she swung the laptop noisily around on the floor so Marcus could see it from his desk, but it was too far away for Marcus to read it clearly, so he came over and squatted on the floor in front of the laptop and read out loud words written on the screen.
“Marcus is a masculine given name of Ancient Roman pre-Christian origin derived either from Etruscan Marce of unknown meaning or referring to the god Mars. Because Mars was identified as the Roman god.” He blushed as Amber laughed again.
“I’ll think of that whenever I use your name in future. Roman god! Does that mean I have to salute you whenever I need to get your attention?”
“No of course not!” Marcus responded crossly. He got up and went back to his desk as Amber swung the laptop back where she could see the screen clearly and consulted her textbooks again. There was much to do, and she needed to get on with it for her mother would be soon coming to collect her and would expect her to be finished and ready to help in the kitchen and help clean sections of the house. Everyone chipped in at the Jackson place when home and as Brenda had announced she was expecting another baby after unsuccessful attempts for more than ten years Amber knew it was important for her to go the extra mile. She knew Brenda was worried about this pregnancy as she was technically above normal childbearing age and complications were possible for mother and child she knew as a nurse. Soon she’d have to take a pause from her nursing duties until the expected child was weaned and it would be possible for her to return to work should they manage to get grandmother’s help while Brenda was at work.
From that afternoon for several weeks Amber would salute Marcus when coming into his room to do her high school homework. At first Marcus was irritated but after some time he began to relish the ceremony and would solemnly salute back and put on his most god like pose while doing it indicating, she had permission to sit. Then both tired of the game and returned to their normal routines with occasional requests for help with each other’s homework problems. As they attended different schools during the day their homework assignments were slightly different though they attended the same class levels at their respective schools. During that time Alishia finally gave up on her parades around the corridor to check on the two judging they both understood boundaries and responsibilities while they were together and were trustworthy.
Then one day Brenda Jackson when picking up her daughter after returning from work informed her neighbor Alishia that Amber would no longer need to come to Huber home after school as she’d quit her job to rest up before the baby was due and ensure it had the best start on life. Being on her feet on the wards now was extremely wearing and she needed to rest.
It was only when Amber failed to appear the next day Alishia realized just how much she’d relished that knock on the door and Amber present herself for the afternoon homework session. There would be the initial trip to the kitchen where Marcus and Amber would sit around the kitchen counter on bar stools while Alishia pressed drinks and German snacks onto the hungry couple making sure they were full before sending them off to do their homework. Alishia now looked on Amber as an extension of her own family and had long given up on the possibility of a large family originally planned by her and her husband which had not eventuated after several tries.
Alishia made it a point to check in each morning on Brenda taking with her daily a selection of German pastries she’d come to know Brenda enjoyed in her pregnancy. Tad Jackson was now on temporary assignment overseas and trying to get released for a while in the light of his wife’s soon coming birth.
Then one day she noticed an ambulance in front of the Jackson home and smiled in anticipation of a birth and sharing the joy of her friend’s new baby. She rushed over to talk with her friend before the ambulance whisked her away and offered to care for Amber until Brenda returned home and this was gratefully accepted. Alishia left a notice on the front door of the Jackson residence asking Amber to check with the Huber’s as soon as she came home after school. That afternoon Amber knocked on the door and learned her mother was in hospital and she would be cared for by her neighbors. Alishia accompanied her home, and they packed a suitcase together and moved over to the Huber guest room. It was like a second home now to Amber and she was glad she’d have company while her mother was in hospital.
That evening the Huber family drove Amber to the hospital to see her mother and the new baby. They inquired at the reception desk for the room anticipating a happy meeting but were asked to wait in the reception lounge area and after a brief wait a man in white doctor’s clothing approached them. He went to Andreas Huber.
“Are you Mr. Jackson?”
“No Mr. Jackson is on army duty overseas and we have bought his daughter to see her mother and the new baby.”
“What is your relationship to the Jacksons?”
“We are neighbors but looking after their daughter in their absence.”
The doctor thought for a moment. “When do you expect Mr. Jackson to arrive and do you have a contact number for him.”
“He can only be contacted through army headquarters.”
“What is your name Sir?”
“I am Andreas Huber.” Andreas was beginning to feel uncomfortable with the questions.
“Andreas would you be kind enough to step into my office for a minute. The family can remain where they are. It won’t take long.”
Andreas followed the doctor to his office and the doctor indicated he should sit. He sighed.
“I’m afraid I have bad news for you. You see nurse Jackson presented to us today with complications that required emergency treatment. It seemed to us we needed to do a c section urgently as all indicators were that the baby inside Brenda was dead and we needed to see if it was possible to revive the child but, in any case, a normal extraction of the baby was not possible. Our suspicions were right but while the operation was in progress Brenda had a heart attack. Brenda was one of our most valued experienced nurses so you can rest assured we pulled out all stops to revive her, but we were unsuccessful. We need to be in contact with Mr. Jackson urgently. Do you happen to have any idea how we can do that? Not sure how to deal with Brenda’s daughter. Somehow, she needs to know her mother is not coming home.
Andreas teared up on hearing the news. Amber had become like a daughter to them over the years and he wondered how to break the news to her appropriately.
‘Doctor this young lady is like a daughter to us and we will care for her until her father can be found and released to come home and care for her. We will take the responsibility to break this sad news to Amber.”
The doctor got out of chair and came around to shake Andreas’s hand. “There is one more formality if you are up to it. We need to have someone closely connected with nurse Jackson to formally identify the body. Obviously, we all know who she is but if you could just add your signature after a viewing that would help.”
Andreas accompanied the doctor to the elevators, and they went down to the hospital basement and into a room. A sheet was pulled aside, and Andreas nodded then turned away as the tears flowed. He followed the doctor back to reception and silently indicated they should head for the car. The family followed puzzled plying him with questions all the way home, but Andreas remained silent until they reached home then he indicated they should come to the living room with him. He sighed and looked at Amber who was beginning to tear up not understanding what was happening.
“Amber, do you know how we can contact your father?”
Amber sat shaking on the lounge with her eyes averted not knowing why they’d not been able to see her mother. She shook her head.
Andreas swallowed then spoke. “Amber, I have some sad news. Your mother and the baby died during the operation. You will be staying with us until your father makes it back from wherever he’s serving now overseas unless you’d prefer to go to your grandparent’s home while you wait for him.”
Amber wept loudly and Alishia leapt to her side and cradled her in her arms rocking her slowly. When she recovered, she quietly spoke. “I’d like to stay with you thank you.”
Marcus and his father came over and hugged Amber then departed silently leaving the two women together.
Alishia spoke soothingly to the stricken girl. “I’ll stay with you tonight, Amber, and think perhaps you should not go to school tomorrow. I’ll phone them and explain the circumstances.” Amber nodded. The girl clung to Alishia through the night.
Tad Jackson arrived at the Huber home several days later and collected his daughter. His plan was to send her to live with her grandparents, but Amber would not hear of it. They lived far away from her home, and she felt closer to Alishia than she did to them. After arguments lasting several days eventually Tad approached the Huber’s and asked if they’d be willing to keep her until she finished high school several months later and he could arrange a boarding college of her choice. It was Ambers wish if they were prepared to take her.
The Huber’s said yes, and Amber bonded even more closely in the months to follow until she had eventually to reluctantly follow her father’s wishes and enroll in a boarding college of her choice for further education. She now looked on the Huber’s as her second family to the consternation of grandparents from both sides and delighted to return there on vacations when her father was not in residence. Her father was in the process of seeking release from the army so he could give more attention to his daughters needs as she grew into womanhood. Eventually she graduated and found work in the capital as arranged by her father. Her visits home became less frequent, but she did keep up occasional correspondence with Alishia and Marcus who’d attended his post high school education in their city. He had little interest in boarding but wrote frequently to Amber while she was completing her college work in another city.
To be continued.
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