Wednesday

Belize Survivor, part 37

Max and Alexis checked the tiny local library in Nevada City and, finding nothing, made the thirty mile trip to Auburn just to get more information. As they sat together at the table in the Public Library scouring book after book, they tried to come up with any random information that would be helpful to their quest. Belize. Now it was all Max talked about. Obsessed with the hunt for information, they were finding that the country was virtually unknown. The only maps of Belize were in the encyclopedias, so Alexis was obliged to copy them dutifully and highlight the districts and towns. As Max’s interest waxed, his patience for living in the United States waned, and he became increasingly moody and negative as he harped about the failings of the country.

"You just don't understand, Ntombi. Here in the States I feel like Big Brother is watching," Max complained. "I considered straightening out my ID problems, but there's too much red tape and bullshit. This country is good for only one thing – making money and getting the hell out." He went on to explain how much money they'd need, and what could be done to get it. Meanwhile the vegetable garden was producing, but selling organic broccoli and lettuce would never make them rich.

But on the way back from Auburn, the van made the decision for them when its engine suddenly blew up. As quickly as their plans had been made, they collapsed. "You mean, because of this expense, Central America is out of the question right now?" asked Alexis.

"Yep, for the time being. We’re going to have to rebuild the engine, and it's going to cost us plenty. We can't just pick up and go to a foreign country on a shoestring. With vehicle expenses, we simply don't have enough money."

"So what are we going to do instead?" she continued tenuously.

"I guess we're going to have to devise a moneymaking scheme and work for a couple of years first,” he replied. “I hate the thought of staying in the United States, but maybe we can find a nice farm somewhere temporarily. Realistically, we should have at least five or ten thousand dollars to make our new start."
Although excited by the thought of a unique culture, overall, Alexis was relieved. She didn't want to admit it, but she wanted to stay in the States, and somehow the thought of going alone with Max to another country was no longer her idea of paradise. He was too intense; sometimes he scared her.

* * * *

After rethinking their plans several times, Alexis finally talked Max into going back east to live somewhere near her parents' home in Pennsylvania as a temporary move. Over the phone, Liz and Frank immediately offered them a place to stay until they could locate one of their own. After tying up loose ends in California and saying their goodbyes, they packed their belongings, made the long trek across the U.S. – over the Rockies, across the Great Plains, through the cornfields of Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio until they arrived, at last, in Alexis' hometown in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Max was less than thrilled with the prospect of living with his in-laws, and the resentment was mutual. Alexis’ father, Frank, had an aversion to his son-in-law from the moment they'd met at the wedding, and his dislike was further piqued when Max approached him for a loan to finance carrying their daughter off to another country. The long hair was one thing, Frank said, but there was something else he just didn't trust. Although Liz shared this opinion, she took a more philosophical approach. Since there was nothing they could do about it, the best bet was to give the marriage as much emotional support as possible, and be there for Alexis if she needed them.

The first incident occurred just a few days after Max and Alexis moved in. Frank was at work, and Liz had gone grocery shopping. Staying in the guest room downstairs, they were alone in the house when the argument erupted. "My parents are not cheap," Alexis insisted, “I'm sure they had their reasons for not wanting to lend us money."

"Well, of course you're going to defend them; they're your parents," Max said. "But I still think they're cheap. What's wrong with them anyway? Talk about ‘conditional love.’ My folks would have helped us in a heartbeat if they weren't twelve thousand miles away; they would have lent us money on a handshake. Your father wanted collateral, and terms, and a deadline – like I wasn't family or something."

"Give them a chance, Max,” she said, as she folded the laundry on the bed. “We made the decision to come east, and all of a sudden we're living in their house. They hardly know you. Hell, the way you've been acting lately, I feel like I hardly know you."

"What's that wisecrack supposed to mean?"

"I don't know," she said, her eyes downcast, taking a chance and telling the truth. "You're different, ever since the wedding, maybe even before. I don't know. All the rapport we had – it doesn't feel like it used to. It's almost as though now that you've got me, you don't have to be nice to me any more."

"Just what the hell are you saying?" demanded Max.

"Maybe I don't even know who you really are.” She stood up to face him. “I don't know much about you, except what you've told me. I married you without even meeting your parents. Maybe it's Africa that I've been in love with all along. Tell me the truth, Max. Did you just marry me so you could stay in the United States?"

"You little bitch," he hissed vehemently. His hand shot out and he smacked her across the cheek. The unexpected blow caught her off balance and she fell. "You better have more respect than to ever talk to me that way again. If you're going to act like a black kaffir, then you can expect to be treated like one."

Alexis sobbed as she heard her mother come in the front door. Max left for the kitchen abruptly and she could hear him talking to Liz as she put the groceries away. "I just don't know what got into Alexis," Max said. "She became hysterical for no reason at all. I had to slap her to bring her out of it. She's probably just pre-menstrual."

A few minutes later, Liz saw the black and blue imprint on her daughter's face when she came up the stairs. A terrible feeling of foreboding came over her.



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