I have recently started working on a new WIP (work in progress) called An Island Romance. It was inspired by the recent blizzards in the Northeast (both of which stranded me inside–one in NY and the other in Boston). It is about a woman who gets stranded on Long Island during the Blizzard of the Century and meets a man, who might just turn her whole world upside down.
I am still working on The Winds of Time for the textnovel.com contest that I mentioned in one of my last posts, so don’t fear, there will be more of that soon.
I hope you’re enjoying my stuff.
Ricardo Blane was just pulling into his parking spot at Ricky’s Roadside Bar when he saw a blonde in ice pick heels wipeout on what he presumed was ice. Getting out of his car, he kept one eye on her prone form and another on the ground in front of him for he knew that he would be no help to her if he fell too. It took what felt like a lifetime to get to her, and when he finally did, he felt like laughing. From his car, all he could see was that she had fallen and could not get up, but standing in front of her it was obvious that she had fallen face first. He didn’t think it was possible for someone to fall forward and not put their hands out to stop the fall.
Bracing himself, he lifted her up, and barely managed not to send them into the snow. Luckily, she parked close enough to the door, so it wasn’t too difficult to get her there, but realizing that he needed to unlock the door before being able to get inside, he had to put her on the ground and pick her up again. All of this for some moron who didn’t have enough sense to stay home in a blizzard or saving that to at least wear appropriate shoes.
After a short struggle with the snow-encrusted lock, he got the door open and carried her inside. Surveying the bar, the only place that he could think to put her down on was the pool table in the corner. Laying her down, he tried to shake her into consciousness. No dice. He didn’t want to call 9-1-1 because he doubted that ambulances would be able to get down the block. Seeing it as the only option, he went behind the bar, and filled a pilsner with cold water, and brought it over to the pool table. With a slight hesitation, he threw the water in her face.
Mineola awoke aware of only one thing: she was choking. Trying to sit up in hopes that it would alleviate the coughing, she suddenly found herself being hit in the back by someone with hands the size of a bulldozer.
“Take it easy,” he said, coming around to hand her a glass of water, which she took from him gratefully.
When the coughing subsided, she asked, “What happened?”
“You slipped on a patch of ice and hit your head.”
“So you threw water at me?”
“Yes. You wouldn’t wake up and I didn’t have smelling salts on hand.”
“Did you ever hear of 9-1-1?”
“Did you ever hear of a blizzard? The roads are almost impassable. There is no way an ambulance would have gotten here.”
She paused. “Who are you?”
“Ricardo Blane, and this is my bar,” he said holding his hand out to her.
She took his proffered hand, shaking it, and felt a spark go up her arm. Releasing it, she said, “I’m Mineola Johnson.”
He laughed. “Mineola?”
“Yes. My mom named me after the city. And you should talk, Ricardo.”
“Ricardo is a perfectly normal name.”
“If you’re Spanish, and looking at you, I doubt that that is the case,” she said taking in his appearance. He was tall, probably about 6’4. He had light brown hair, green eyes, and his skin was even lighter than hers. She supposed that he could have been an actual Spanish person, as in someone from Spain, but with a last name like Blane, she doubted it.
“True. Actually, my mom was a big fan of I Love Lucy, and since my dad was Ricky, she thought that it would be cute to name me Ricardo. Honestly, I was the lucky one. When my sister was born, my mother was going through a Bewitched phase, so of course she named my sister Tabitha.”
“Yeah. But my brother has it even worse. Because he was born with red hair, he was named Opie.”
“Why not Richie? I mean if she was going for a Ron Howard character the least she could have done was to name him after the clean cut Cunningham instead of the clean cut Taylor.”
“Richard was my dad’s name, and since I was already Ricardo, she figured Richie was one too many Richard-like names.”
“I guess that makes sense. What did your dad have to say about the names?”
“Nothing. When my mom first got pregnant, they decided that she would choose first names and my dad would pick out the middle one.”
“So, what’s your middle name?”
“You’re a city, too, then,” she said smiling.
“Not Austin. Austen, as in Jane. Before opening this place, my dad was an English professor at LIU. Jane Austen was one of his favorite writers. Before you ask, my sister is Tabitha Jane and my brother is Opie Milton.”
“Poor Opie just struck out on all counts there, didn’t he?”
“Yeah. The kids at school were merciless…until he got too big to tease.”
“As a way to escape the Ron Howard mold, he started working out in high school, and by the time he hit his Junior year he was seriously ripped. None of the guys that tortured him felt it necessary to do so anymore.”
“I can imagine.”
As she spoke, water continued to drip down her face and hair. “Do you have a towel I could use to dry off some?” She asked.
“Sure,” he said, getting up and going to a back room.
While he was out of the room, Mineola got down from the pool table and took her first good look at the bar. It was much nicer than she expected. The floor was wood, and if she gave a guess, she would say that it was a dark walnut. The bar itself was also wood, but it had a slightly lighter finish. The ceilings were high, and there were small wall sconces providing a soft romantic light.
Before she could get a better look at the place, Ricardo was back with a large white towel, which he handed her.
“Thanks,” she said.
“This place is really nice. Why did your dad open a bar after being an English professor?”
“Apparently, my grandfather owned a bar when my dad was a kid, but he had some money troubles back in the 70’s and had to sell. At that time, my dad was already an English major at Rutgers, but he always wanted to go into the family business. During his last year of college, he advisor suggested that he get a doctorate and think about becoming a professor, and since he knew that he wouldn’t have to money to buy a bar at the time, he figured it was worth looking in to. While he loved being a professor, and reading the classics, he never forgot about wanting to own a bar, so when he retired in the late 90’s, he opened this place. He died a couple of years ago, complications from Diabetes, and I inherited it.”
“I’m sorry about your dad.”
“Thanks. He didn’t even know he had the disease until almost two months before he died. He just figured that his vision problems were from getting older.”
Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Ricardo asked, “What about your folks?”
“My mom was your stereotypical Georgia Peach. She was born and raised in Atlanta, but when she turned 18 she decided to explore the world a little bit. She made it all the way to Mineola before she got knocked up. When my grandparents found out, they disowned her, so she decided to make a home for herself in New York. She couldn’t afford to live on the Island, so we moved to Queens, where the rent was a bit cheaper. Anyway, I never knew my dad. From what my mom told me, he flipped when she told him she was pregnant, causing her to cut him loose. He gladly accepted her reprieve, and she never saw him again.”
“None. Apparently, my dad soured my mother on men. As far as I know, she never even dated again after I was born.”
“Does she still live in New York?”
“About a year ago, my grandfather died, and my grandmother invited her back home.”
“So she went back to Atlanta?”
“Yep. It was my grandfather that disowned my mom, so when he died, my grandmother decided to bring her back into the bosom of the family.”
“Not really. It seems that the only reason she invited my mother back was because she needed a ‘companion,’ someone that would be at her constant beck and call. My mother doesn’t see it that way, but I spent a couple of weeks at the family home, and saw it for myself. I tried to convince my mom to come back with me, but she said that she would never return to Yankee-ville, so I left her there.”
Mineola Johnson couldn’t believe she was on the Island. She hated the Island. Everyone there was snobby and pretentious. They also wished that they lived in Manhattan. But they didn’t and she did. She must keep reminding herself of this fact. It was the only way she was going to get through this event. She couldn’t understand why her best friend, Pam, decided to have her bachelorette party in a bumfuck town that she had never even heard of and for the life of her she couldn’t put her finger on what the name was. It was something like Redneck or Hicktown. Hicksville—that’s it! Why would anyone name a town Hicksville? Did they not know what the word Hick means?
Shaking her head, she managed to steer her car through the snow and ice that seemed to be pelting from the sky with greater frequency than she had ever seen in her life. God forbid Pam get married in the summer. No, she had to get married in January! In the middle of the blizzard of the century. Thank God for rental cars with four wheel drive. Even with the four wheel drive, it had taken her nearly two hours to drive from the city, so when she saw the sign for exit 25N, she sighed with relief. Not much longer now, she thought to herself. After exiting the highway, she had to go to the first stop light, and she would be at the bar where the party was to take place.
She switched lanes so she could get off the highway, and as she made the turn, she kept her eyes peeled for the light. She expected it to be right there, but it was nowhere in sight. She kept driving, and finally after ten minutes of driving, she found it. On the right, she could see Ricky’s Roadside Bar, and thanked her lucky stars that her journey was over.
As she pulled into the parking lot, she realized that there was only one other car in the lot, and it was not one that she recognized. Not that that meant anything. She supposed she wasn’t the only person to rent a car to make it to the party. Stealing herself against the cold, she got out of the car, barely managing not to slip on a patch of ice. Wary, she watched where she stepped as she made her way to the door. She attempted to pull it open, but it wouldn’t budge, so she tried to push it open. Still nothing. She stretched up, trying to see into the window above the door, but she couldn’t see anything. The place was completely dark. Just her luck. She made it all the way to the Island, but nobody else did.
She pulled out her Iphone, and sure enough, there were three missed calls from Pam. She wasn’t sure if it was AT&T or the Southern State Parkway, but either way she missed her reprieve. Heading back to her car, she tried to call Pam back, but just as she got through, the call was dropped. “Damnit, AT&T. I’m switching services and getting a crackberry.”
No longer paying attention to where she stepped, Mineola remembered the ice seconds too late. Before she knew what was happening, she was falling, and like a deer in the headlights, she froze, causing her to hit her head on the hard asphalt. The last thing she heard before the world turned to black was the thwack of her head hitting the ground.
Julia awoke to a ringing phone. Forgetting that she wasn’t on her bed, she rolled over, landing on the floor with a thud. “What the—“ she said before remembering why she was asleep on the couch. As she reached for the phone it stopped ringing, but immediately started again. This can’t be good, she thought.
“Julia, we have a problem.”
“Marie? Do you know what time it is?” She asked, glancing at the clock. 2 AM. Definitely not good.
“Never mind the time. You really screwed up. We have been gathering data on the new history you have created by bringing Lord Winchester to the present. Two more women have been murdered, and we still don’t have all of the information.”
“Crap. Who else is dead?”
“Sarah Anne Bradford and Philomena Weatherill. They both look a lot like Lady Witherbee and Constance Millborne.”
“Perfect. I have to get back there.”
“You can’t. The watch isn’t charged and none of the others are going to be available until tomorrow at the earliest. All we can do right now is figure out what changed when you brought Lord Winchester to the prestent.”
“Do you have the information that we collected on him when I though that he was the murderer”
“Yes, and we’re going through it, but it is a slow process.”
“I’ll come in first thing in the morning to help.”
“No, Marshall wants you to stay with Winchester. Nothing can happen to him.”
Julia couldn’t figure out how she could be this stupid. She made a mistake and now three people that were supposed to live were dead. She knew that she needed to fix this or the present could be changed irrevocably. Because they haven’t gotten all of the data yet, they don’t know how big of an effect on the space-time continuum she has had. And there was nothing that she could do about it—at least not at the moment. The one thing she can do is protect Matthew. If something happens to him, there is nothing that can be done about the past. No more wandering around New York; there are so many things that could happen to him out there, especially since he is so unfamiliar with the way things work. He could step into the street and get hit by a car. Or he could walk up to the wrong person and get shot or stabbed. How could she not have seen how dangerous walking around the city could be? She should have taken him straight to her apartment after leaving HQ.
She knew that she needed to chill out, but the longer she sat there the more things popped into her mind. There are so many things that he doesn’t know about or understand! What if he puts his finger into a light socket and electrocutes himself? What if—no, he’s an adult. Why would he stick his finger in an electrical socket?
She needed to get out of there, do something, or she would go insane. She needed to keep an eye on Matthew. She needed to fix things, bring back those women she killed. They should not be dead. Logically, she knew that they should be dead—It has been more than a hundred years since their deaths. There were times when she got back from the past when she felt like she was still there, that the people she knew then were still around that she would get a note from so-and-so, even though chances were that they were dead and buried long before she was ever born.
But this was different. All those other times, she was responsible for making people happy, fixing things that had once gone wrong. Never had she ever been the cause of what went wrong. Not until today. Not until this case. Something about this case was different, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. Suddenly, she realized that the different was her. In all of her cases, no one had ever really noticed her. She wasn’t someone that people noticed. Not until Matthew. He saw her. The reason he was with her when the watch was activated was because he knew that she was watching him. No one had ever realized what she was doing—that was the point of the agency. All agents were trained to be inconspicuous, but something that she did this time made her stand out to Matthew. He figured her out when no else ever did. How?
She needed to talk to him. Maybe he would be able to tell her what she did wrong. But she couldn’t—not yet. He was mourning, mourning the loss of the love that he thought he had but that had never really existed. She wanted to give him some space. At the same time she needed to find out what she did wrong. She couldn’t risk it happening again. Could she be losing her touch—burning out? When she started working at the agency, she was told that there was a high turn over rate among agents, but that only really happened to agents that weren’t able to make a difference. And they were usually much older than her twenty-six years.
She was jolted out of her musings by the ring of her cell phone. She stared at it like it was a snake, poised to strike at the least provocation. Was it Marie, calling to tell her that even more women were dead? Only one way to find out. She picked it up, and let out a breath that she didn’t know she was holding. It was her sister, Celia.
“A-Adam d-dumped m-me,” she wailed into the phone.
“Oh, Cel, I’m sorry. What happened?”
“He—he says. He says that he’s—he’s gay!”
Julia had been afraid of that, but she wasn’t going to tell her sister that. “When did this happen?”
“He left about a half hour ago. Can I come over? I know it’s late, but I can’t look at these walls for the rest of the night.”
She knew that she shouldn’t—not with Matthew here—but… “Sure. I’ll put on some coffee.”
“Couldn’t we have something stronger?”
“Sorry, but I have to work tomorrow.”
“Didn’t you just get back? Shouldn’t you be off for a couple of weeks?”
“I’ll explain when you get here.”
She hung up and began to make the coffee, thinking about the old Dunkin Donuts commercial where the guy was racing to work to make the donuts, the bagels, and the coffee. She missed those old commercials, but she figured that people that remembered them wouldn’t be receptive to a new version since Fred the Baker died in the late 1990’s.
Shrugging the nostalgia off, she briefly considered running to the Seven/Eleven down the block to get some ice cream, but quickly decided against it because she didn’t want to leave Matthew home by himself. While she was no longer afraid that he would stick his finger in a light socket, she was still reticent to leave him alone for too long. So many things could happen to him.
Caught up in her thoughts once again, she jumped when the doorbell rang. As she went to let her sister in, her bedroom door opened.
“What is that?” Asked Matthew, standing in the doorway with a perplexed look on his face.
“It’s my sister. She rang the doorbell,” she managed to say, despite the slackness of her jaw. He stood there with a pair of bagging britches on. Most British noblemen were pasty white and flabby of skin, but Matthew was the bronze of an Italian with the body tone of a god. She knew that he was in shape because even under the layers of mid-nineteenth century clothes she could make out the shape of toned arms, but she never imagined just what he looked like with his clothes off—a good thing since until a few hours ago she thought that he was a murderer.
When the doorbell rang a second time, she shrugged off the lust-filled imaginings of a sleep deprived—and sex deprived—mind. There were more important things going on right now; she can think about the ridge of muscle and the washboard abs after she comforts her sister, even though Adam’s sexual orientation was obvious to almost everyone other than Celia.
Matthew had gone back into Julia’s bedroom as she let her sister in; he figured he should give them some space, but when he heard what sounded like singing less than twenty minutes later, he came out again. A woman, a little shorter than Julia, was singing into a stick, making the sound bounce off of the walls. He had trouble making out the words, but it sounded like ‘and every time you speak his name does he know that you said you would love me until you died,’ but he wasn’t sure and couldn’t understand why anyone would sing such a song to a man. As he was about to go back into the room, the singing turned into screaming when she shouted what sounded like ‘and every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back I hope you feel it.’ Involuntarily he said, “Ouch,” causing both women to turn to him.
“Jules, you didn’t tell me you had company!” Shrilled Celia.
“Celia this is Matthew. Matthew this is my sister, Celia. Cel, I was going to tell you about him, but when you got here I knew that karaoke was needed immediately.”
“You should have told me on the phone. I’ll just get out of your way,” Celia said as she began getting her stuff together.
“That’s not necessary, Cel. Matthew isn’t…He isn’t what you think he is. Actually, he’s the reason I have to work tomorrow.”
“He’s why you have to go to work?” She asked skeptically.
“Yes. Cel, you have to promise not to tell anyone what I am about to tell you.”
“Of course, Jules, what is it?”
“I made a huge mistake today. You know that I am on a case, right?”
Matthew stepped in. “What your sister is trying to tell you is that I grabbed her arm as she was about to leave and ended up here.”
“You’re from the past?”
“The Civil War?”
“Oh.” She turned to her sister, “That isn’t a huge mistake. All you have to do is get him back to the exact moment that you guys left and everything should be just fine.”
“Not exactly. It seems that his leaving changed certain things about the past.”
“Three women have died.”
“I thought you said only Constance was dead,” interjected Matthew. “Who else has died?”
“Two other women that looked like Marybeth and Constance. Their names were Sarah Anne Bradford and Philomena Weatherill. My assistant called a little while ago and told me. I was going to tell you in the morning. Did you know them?”
“I do not think so. How can the fact that I am no longer in my time be the reason these women are dead if I do not even know them?”
“Perhaps you know the person that killed them,” replied Celia.
“It makes sense. Something you were supposed to do must have stopped this guy from killing them, but because you weren’t there to do it, he went on killing,” added Julia.
“How am I supposed to know what I was supposed to do when I have yet to do it?”
“You aren’t. ABIT, the agency I work for, did a detailed review of everything you did from the time you met Marybeth until the day you died. Marie, my assistant, is going through it all right now. Unfortunately, we don’t know when exactly you stopped this person, so she has to go through everything. We believe that what happened probably occurred not long after you disappeared, but it could have been any time during your lifetime.”
“Will she be able to go through everything before we have to return to the past?”
“Hopefully. My boss has authorized the use of other field agents to go through it all if we get a watch before Marie is done.”
“Can I help? I may not know about physics, but I am really good at seeing things from multiple angles.”
“You can’t, and it has nothing to do with the fact that you don’t have a background in physics. Nobody should know too much about their own future. The ramifications could be catastrophic.”
“What do you mean?”
“Imagine that you find out that you’re going to contract a debilitating disease and die in a couple of months and you’re able to figure out how you came to have the disease. Having this information will influence the things that you do, changing what would have been. This may sound like a good thing, but what if your death would have provided the cure for the disease? Because you lived the cure would not be found, and more people would die.”
“Surely it cannot be that bad.”
“Of course it can,” replied Celia. “Think about it this way. Everything that you do has a consequence on everyone around you. I was recently reading about the man who discovered how to treat Small Pox. Apparently, he had an epiphany when one of his servants began developing pustules on her hands after milking his cows similar to those that Small Pox patients exhibited. He deduced that people with ‘cow pox’ could not come down with Small Pox and began inoculating children against the disease. If Dr. Jenner had never noticed the servant’s pustules or if the pustules never developed on the girl’s hands, then he would not have discovered the best treatment for Small Pox to date. Changing one thing can have disastrous effects on the rest of the world.”
“You have made your point. I will not attempt to find out my future.”
“Good. One less thing for me to worry about.”
Julia turned and looked at her sister, hesitating before changing the subject to something that would be a lot less comfortable for her.
“While—while I am on the subject of things that I am worried about, there is something we need to talk about, Cel.”
“Oh, boy. Why do I think that this cannot be anything good?”
“Cel, you do realize that Adam is the third man who has left you for another man, don’t you?”
“Jules, just leave it be. I have to go, and you need to get some sleep if you’re going to work in the morning,” she said as she finished gathering up her things. As she got to the door, she turned around, and addressed Matthew.
“I hope you enjoy the rest of your…trip. Don’t worry about getting back; you’re in capable hands. Bye, Jules.”
“We aren’t finished, Cel.”
Julia watched her sister go, and was glad that Celia hadn’t slammed the door this time. When she attempted a similar conversation after Justin left her for Sammy the pool boy, Celia had reacted by screaming and slamming the door.
“Are you alright?” Asked Matthew.
“I’m fine. It’s just that my sister has this tendency to fall for the gayest men on the planet and not realize it until she either catches them slipping the sausage to another guy or they dump her.”
“I’m sorry, but you lost me. What is ‘gay’?”
“Right. Um. Well, being gay means that a person is attracted to another person of the same sex.”
“Adam is a sodomite?”
Julia chuckled. “Yes, although I am pretty sure that being called a sodomite is really offensive to every gay person ever born.”
“Dabbing it up with another man is legal?”
Julia nearly collapsed with laughter. As a rookie with ABIT, she was taught a lot of Victorian slang, and ‘dabbing it up’ was always one of her favorites. Thankfully, this was the first time that she had ever heard it uttered in conversation because she was pretty sure that she would not have been able to keep a straight face.
“That phrase is…there is no words for that phrase. You Victorians had the best sayings. Anyway, to answer your question, being gay is not illegal, and some states even allow same sex couples to get married.”
“Times really have changed. In my time, sodomy was never even hinted at, and an accusation of it could get you sent to prison.”
“Unfortunately, not everything has changed. A lot of people are still uncomfortable with the idea of same sex anything, which leads many homosexuals to deny who they are for as long as possible. Unfortunately for Celia, this seems to be the type of guy she attracts and is attracted to. The biggest problem is that she is in most cases the only person not to see the truth. Take Adam for example. The first time I met him he complemented my sense of style, but felt he needed to warn me about my overuse of eyeliner. Then there was Justin, who wouldn’t sleep with Celia the entire time they dated. He told her that he wanted to wait until they got married.”
“Well, what’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing. As long as you aren’t boinking your parents’ pool boy at the same time.”
“I see. Your sister seems to have a problem.”
“Yeah, I think that our parents’ deaths hit her very hard. She was 18 when they died, so she was barely out of high school when it happened. She wouldn’t come out of her room for weeks—the only time she left the house was for the funeral. Then all of a sudden she started going to parties. She was a social butterfly almost literally over night. Whenever I brought it up, she told me that I was overreacting, but I think that she has never really gotten over their deaths.”
“Why would any of this cause her to date…gay men?”
“I think that she is afraid of letting herself love someone because if she did and she lost them, she wouldn’t know what to do.”
“And what about you? How were you affected by your parents’ deaths?”
“It hurt, but I had to take care of Celia. I was worried about her all the time, so much so that I barely had time to think about myself. By the time she finally left the house, I realized that I was fine. I could think about my parents’ accident and not want to crawl up into the fetal position.”
“Did you not grieve?”
“Of course I grieved. I just didn’t let it take over my life like it did to Celia.”
“Then are you in a relationship? There are no pictures of men in here.”
“No, I am not in a relationship, but that doesn’t mean that I am not over my parents’ deaths. It just means that I have a very demanding job that takes up a lot of my time, making it hard for me to meet anyone.”
“Are there no men at ABIT?”
“Of course there are men at ABIT.”
“None of them appealed to you, then?”
“I—I don’t know!” Julia shouted as she got up and began to pace. “I’ve never really thought about the men that I work with. That doesn’t mean anything.”
“Of course not.”
Julia stopped pacing, and walked up to him. “Do not patronize me, Matthew. I know exactly what you’re thinking. You think that I am just as messed up as my sister. But, I’m not. I am the one that got up every morning when all I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head and pretend that nothing had happened. I am the one that made sure that she ate and that she – that she — she…”
As she spoke, tears began to silently fall, and if Matthew hadn’t been watching her closely, he wouldn’t have seen them at all. He reached out to her, pulling her safely into his arms.
“Shh,” he said, kissing the top of her head “It will be alright.”
I hope everyone has had a Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Kwanza and a Happy New Year. I have been busy working on The Winds of Time, which I am proud to announce has been chosen as an Editor’s Pick at textnovel.com. I have also entered it into TextNovel’s most recent contest. If you like my writing, please go to textnovel.com to vote for it.
Winchester was enjoying his trip to the future. Most people he knew would have gone all “female” and caught a case of the vapors, but not him. He was both intrigued and terrified of this new time and place, which according to Julia was how many “tourists” thought of New York. The thing that most terrified him wasn’t the amount of people that wandered the streets or the different languages he heard as he and Julia joined them. It wasn’t even the cars that sped along Times Square. It was the height of the buildings. Matthew was a man, who considered himself beyond fear, but what he realized is that he was never presented with anything worthy of real fear. Looking at the way “modern” buildings soared up into the sky, he couldn’t help but shudder. Did people not consider the possibility of those buildings falling on their heads? He could only hope that Julia lived on one of the higher floors, so that if the building fell it wouldn’t fall on him.
His hopes were dashed when they entered the building and Julia guided him to a flat on the first floor of the building. He didn’t want to appear afraid, so after a cursory glance into it, he walked right in as if he owned the place—not that he would ever live in such a small domicile. When he pointed out the size to Julia, she told him that it was rather large compared to the other apartments in her neighborhood. He couldn’t imagine anyone living in a smaller apartment for it took five steps to go from the “living room” to the “bathroom”. That was nothing compared to the distance separating the “living room” from the kitchen. There wasn’t even a wall separating the two rooms! How could anyone live like this?
Despite the small size of living space, Julia had crammed it full of things. Matthew spied books—some by authors that he recognized, like Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, but most he didn’t know. She owned quite a few by some king named Steven. What surprised him most about her book collection was the amount of books written by women. She owned books by that hack Jane Austen, someone named Gertrude Stein, another bunch were written by a Nora Roberts. He couldn’t imagine what their husbands thought about their writing, and he wondered if they even were married.
There were pictures of her with people that he figured were her family. When she saw him studying the photographs, she said, “That was from my college graduation. It is the last picture I have of my entire family. A month after I graduated, my dad crashed his car. He and my mother died. That’s them standing behind me. Next to me is my younger sister, Celia. She’s also studying to be a time traveler.”
“I am sorry about your parents. My father died when I was a child, and I was raised by my mother—not that she was around all that much. When my father passed, it was almost as if she had died with him.” He cleared his throat, hating talking about his past.
Changing the subject, he asked, “How does one study to become a time traveler?”
“In my case, I chose to focus on history, especially European history. However, any one that wants to be a time traveler needs to at least minor in physics. That was the one part of my education that I hated. I was never a science person, but I passed all of the courses top of my class.”
“Why physics?” He asked.
“Time travel is based on a branch of physics, because of this I was required to know at least the basics of what was flinging me all around time and back. It was mainly in case I got stranded somewhere and needed to get back to the present.”
“You said that you chose to study European history. Does that mean that each time traveler specializes in specific times?”
“Sometimes we do. I tend to be sent to nineteenth century England, but sometimes I have been sent further back in time. On my first assignment, I was sent back to the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. That one was a total failure. I was supposed to stop the group of girls from accusing Tituba of witchcraft, but nobody would cooperate with me. When I got back to the present, I almost quit. Later, I found out that I was meant to fail to teach me that not everything could be changed. My bosses had stacked the odds against me.”
“Why didn’t you quit?”
“I thought about how proud my parents were of me when I graduated. I guess I didn’t want to let them down.”
“Would they not have understood if you realized you couldn’t do the job?”
“No. They would have supported me in anything I wanted to do, but because they had just died, I convinced myself that they would be disappointed in me. So, I just picked myself up and dusted myself off, and started my second mission. This time I was sent to the American Revolution. I don’t know how much you were taught about the American side of the Revolution, but there was a woman nicknamed Molly Pitcher, who fought during the war. Anyway, in the original history, she was shot by one of the Red Coats the first time she stepped onto the battlefield. I went back and stopped the Red Coat from firing, and secured Molly Pitcher’s place in history.”
“When I was younger, I made the trip to America. I wanted to see the so-called ‘New World.’ One night, I walked into a pub, and several people were debating the existence of a woman named Molly Pitcher. One man claimed she was someone named Mary Hays, and the other said it was Margret Corbin. Never having heard of the woman at the time, I asked the publican, who told me the story. Since you saved her life, you must know her true identity.”
“I do, but I’m not telling.”
“Some legends should stay legends,” she said with a laugh.
As the night wore on, Matthew found himself watching Julia more and more. He liked the way she laughed and the way she used her hands when she talked. He had never met anyone quite like her, and he reasoned that this might have been because all the women he met were from a different time and place than Julia. She was very much a creature of her time, no matter how often she traveled out of it.
He also noticed that unlike the women of his time Julia could converse on almost any topic. Whenever he was around a woman back home, all she seemed to be able to talk about were parties and clothes, which was why he was more apt to be found on the execution block than at a ball. The only reason he was at the ball where he met Julia was because his mother was after him to marry and produce an heir. If only she had known that until Lady Witherbee’s murder he had planned to marry—not that she would have supported that union.
Just the thought of Marybeth brought the crushing depression that he had been fighting since her death crashing down on him. How could he possibly been thinking about Julia when he was still very much in love with Marybeth?
“Are you alright?” Julia asked. She had been watching him for the last few minutes and all of a sudden he went very pale.
“Hmm? Yes. Yes. I’m fine.”
“Are you sure? You’re so white. Are you having stomach trouble? Was it the pizza? I thought that would be the easiest thing on the digestive tract. I was worried that you would have trouble digesting all of the preservatives in the food—“
“My stomach is not bothering me. I was—I was just thinking about Marybeth.”
“Oh. You really loved her, huh?”
“I did. She was the light of my world. Even though it has been months since she died, I still cannot believe that she is gone. Most days I think about her all day long, from the moment I wake up in the morning until the moment I fall asleep. Today, however, I barely thought of her at all.”
“You have been a little distracted today—I mean it isn’t every day that you travel a few centuries into the future.”
“That’s not it. I was sitting here thinking about how you are unlike any woman I have ever known and that the only reason I was at that ball was because my mother wanted me to marry.”
“And that made you think of your plans to marry Marybeth. I’m sorry.” Julia vacillated between speaking her mind and letting Matthew stew in his guilt, but she was never one to stay quiet about her opinions.
“If Marybeth loved you the way you love her, she wouldn’t want you to torture yourself this way.”
“I know that—Why do you say ‘if’? Do you not believe that she loved me?”
“It isn’t that I don’t think that she loved you, per say.”
“Then, what is it? Exactly.”
“Well. Um. You know that I have been investigating her murder, right?”
“While conducting my investigation, I hired Marybeth’s lady’s maid, and she told me that Marybeth had a lover.”
“Of course she had a lover! I was her lover!”
“No. I mean…You weren’t her only lover. Jennie told me that Marybeth was having an affair with one of the stable boys.”
“What?! She…she would never! She loved me. We were going to run away together. Get married. Sure, he was there with her when he shouldn’t have been, but she told me that he had developed a tendre for her. She couldn’t have lied to me. Not about that.” But she had. He knew it deep in his bones. All the times that he had seen her with him flashed before his eyes. Every time he touched her in a way that only a lover would touch her. Every time she smiled at him.
All this time he was grieving for her, the person he was grieving over didn’t exist. She was a figment of his imagination.
“My God—what a fool I have been.”
“I’m sorry, Matthew. I didn’t want to tell you, but when I watched you beat yourself up over not thinking about her today, I couldn’t hold my tongue. I like you—more than I think I should, honestly, and I didn’t want you to grieve someone who doesn’t deserve it.”
“I—I need to be alone. Is there someplace I can be alone?”
“You can go to my room. Right here,” she said, gesturing to a door that Matthew had not seen before. “If you need anything…”
Winchester could not believe his eyes. Everywhere he looked something new caught his attention. There were people everywhere. The roads were paved, and looked like a black river. Along them rode shiny horseless carriages. He attempted to traverse the street, but one of the carriages screeched at him and its occupant stuck his head out the window, waving his middle finger in the air and telling him to “Get the fuck out of the street.” After which he mumbled, “Fucking tourists don’t know the street from the sidewalk.”
Always one to know when he was being insulted, Winchester was compelled to screech right back at the man in the carriage, but nothing profound—or profane for that matter—came to mind, so he walked back over to the “sidewalk” where Julia stood waiting for him.
“You really should stay out of the street, especially in Manhattan,” Julia said as they ambled down the sidewalk.
“What was that thing?” Asked a perplexed Winchester.
“That is a car. It was invented either in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. I’m not really sure.”
“A car. I suppose they run on electricity?”
“Some of them do, but most of them run on gasoline—I don’t really know how it works. I skipped shop class in high school.”
“I owe you an apology. You were telling me the truth back there. This is the year 2010, isn’t it?”
“It is, but you don’t owe me an apology; I owe you one. I didn’t know that my boss was going to toss you into a prison cell. I didn’t even know we had prison cells!”
“Why was I put in there?”
“Probably because we thought that you were a killer.”
“You really thought that I killed Marybeth?”
“You don’t anymore?”
“Why not?” He asked, growing impatient with her monosyllabic answers.
“Because someone else is dead. Something I did—possibly bringing you back to the present with me—caused another woman to be killed. Originally, the only person to die was Marybeth, but now someone else is dead.”
“The young lady I was dancing with? She is dead? How?”
“The same way Marybeth was.”
“Aren’t you going to do something about it?”
“I can’t. Not right now. The watch—the device I use to travel through time needs to charge. Its battery is drained, so even if it got us back to 1861, there would be no way for me to get back to the present. Usually it takes about two weeks for it to fully charge, but I am working on getting a temporary one within the next day or two. Until, then you’re going to be staying with me at me apartment.”
“What?! I cannot possibly stay with you—unless you have a brother or your father living with you. It would be completely improper.”
“I live on my own, but things have changed since the 1860’s. Women can have a man stay in her home whenever they want—although, sometimes their parents don’t approve, but that’s their problem.”
“Surely you jest. The times cannot have changed that much. It has only been—“ he stopped to do the math—“one hundred and forty-nine years.”
“I’m sure 1861 was just like 1712. Times change. Men and women even call each other by their given names. Titles, especially in America, don’t mean as much as they used to.”
“You mean I could call you Julia?”
“Exactly, and I could call you Matthew.”
“It is decidedly odd, but I think I would like it if you called me Matthew. I never understood what was so taboo about using given names.”
“Neither could I, but I figured I was just a product of my time.”
“I wonder, is it still frowned on to ask a woman her age?”
“Sometimes, but I don’t mind telling you that I am twenty-six. I was born in 1984.”
“That makes me one hundred and fifty-six years older than you, which is probably the strangest thing I have said in my entire life.”
Julia laughed. “I imagine it is one of the strangest things anyone has ever said.”
As they reached the corner, Julia stopped, and waved her arm in the air. “What are you doing?” Asked Winchester.
“I’m hailing a cab to go back to my apartment.”
“Couldn’t we walk around a little longer? There is much more about this city, which I still don’t know the name, I would like to see.”
Julia thought about it. “My boss said I should take you back to my apartment, but he never said that I had to take you straight there. I suppose we could head over to Times Square or Central Park. There are quite a few tourist attractions in New York City.”
“This is New York City?”
“Center of the Universe.”
“Never mind. Come on, we’ll head over to Times Square first. You can get a look at the Naked Cowboy and the New Year’s Eve Ball.”
“The Naked Cowboy? Times really have changed.”
“He’s not completely naked. He wears a pair of patriotic tighty-whiteys.”
“A pair of what?”
“Oh,” he responded, still confused, but willing to go. “Are we going to a ball too?”
“No, the New Year’s Eve Ball is literally a ball that is dropped every year on New Year’s Eve. There’s this television show with a bunch of talentless singers and a countdown to the new year.”
“A television show?”
“Um, a television is a…box on which moving pictures with sound are shown, and a television show is—it is hard to explain. I’ll show you when we get to my apartment later.”
Julia watched as Matthew took in everything that New York in 2010 had to offer. Watching him made her look at the city through his eyes, and she found herself smiling at many of the things that she normally took for granted—things like the mingling of different cultures and the mixtures of different languages. Most New Yorkers, especially those that were born and breed in the city or one of its boroughs, didn’t pay much attention to the languages that they heard all around them, and many were annoyed at how few of the people surrounding them actually spoke English—as if it was an insult to them.
She hated that she had to end his adventure, but it was getting late, and she knew that if they stayed there much longer, she would never be able to get him to leave. After a few minutes of prodding, she managed to get him into a cab. He had been a little nervous getting into the car, but once he got over his fear he treated the ride as yet another adventure. At one point, she was afraid that he was going to put his nose up to the glass window like a dog. Thankfully, his curiosity had him oblivious to the glances the cabbie kept shooting their way. She knew that he probably thought that Matthew was a mental patient. She couldn’t really blame him; if she were in his shoes she would feel the same way.
Getting him out of the cab was almost as hard as getting him into it, and she was sure that the cabbie was now convinced that Matthew belonged at Bellvue. Quickly, she paid the fare and got him into her apartment.
“This is where you live?” He asked, obviously in awe of the building’s height.
Julia was glad that she lived on the first floor of the building because she wasn’t sure if she would have been able to explain an elevator to him or if she would have been able to get him in one.