Home > A Twist of Fate (A Stitch in Time #2)(4)

A Twist of Fate (A Stitch in Time #2)(4)
Author: Kelley Armstrong

A kitten from the future, who somehow passed through time and found herself trapped in a box that doesn’t exist in her world. She cries for help, and I come running, only to pass through time in the other direction.

That is both perfectly sensible and perfectly ridiculous. Yet if time travel exists perhaps it is like yeast, an inexplicable but proven chemical reaction. Add yeast to the right ingredients, mix in the right environment, and you can make dough magically rise. Add a portal to a house, mix in the right circumstances, and you can blink through time.

Someone in the distant past discovered that yeast makes dough rise. For centuries before that, people ate unleavened bread. Was it not possible that I had made a discovery of my own? One made before me by a girl who met a boy from another time, loved him and then disappeared back to her own realm?

The solution then is obvious. Recreate the circumstances and return to my husband and child.

I plant myself in that spot, matching my dust-cleared footprints exactly. And there I stand through four hourly chimes of the clock below.

I had arrived shortly before the grandfather clock struck three in the morning. Perhaps timing is the key then. That night, I stand on that spot from one until five. I repeat this every night for a week. Then I think perhaps the moon matters, and I wait for it to be in the same portion of the cycle and try again.

I wear the same dress. I position myself as if opening an invisible box. I arrange my features in some semblance of surprise, as if seeing a kitten. Nothing works.

For six weeks, I try to get home. When I need food, I forage or raid village gardens at night. Days and weeks come and go, and I stay. I stay in an empty house, crying myself to sleep, dreaming of my husband and child, becoming a mere ghost of myself.

I stay, and the kitten does not return, and when six weeks have passed, I begin to understand what that means.

I am here, and I am not going back.

That leaves me two choices. Fade away with wanting, drifting into madness as I haunt this empty house. Or make a life for myself here. Make a life while never giving up hope, while never stopping my efforts to return to my family.

I stay until the second change of the moon brings me no closer to home. Then I dry my tears and walk out of Thorne Manor.

 

 

3

 

 

I might not be the writer in the family, but I could pen an entire novel on my first year in the twenty-first century. It would be an adventure, a mystery, a tragedy and a farce, and at times, a tale of horror.

In a terrible way, it is my parents’ untimely passing that allows me to survive in this new world. We may have had little money, but our parents made sure their daughters wanted for nothing. Our mother educated us. Our father hired tutors when we had the extra funds. I was given free rein in the kitchen, even when I ruined a small fortune in ingredients, testing new recipes.

We were spoiled in other ways, too. Relatives breathed a sigh of relief when I neared marriageable age. Here, clearly, lay the solution to my parents’ financial woes. I might be an odd girl, but smitten young men already penned odes to my fragile beauty. I could be married off soon and married off well to a wealthy bridegroom who would extend his generosity to my sisters and help them make equally good matches.

A sensible plan. But if my parents had been sensible people, their daughters would not have been dowryless. My parents were not fools. Nor were they spendthrifts. They were something even less acceptable in society. They were romantics.

My father was the second son of a baronet, whose only chance at a gentleman’s life had been to make either a good marriage or a good career. Instead, he became a physician and married his mentor’s daughter. While he was an excellent doctor, he shared his wife’s charitable heart and—like her father—insisted on charging patients according to what they could afford. We were far from penniless, but my sisters and I were often the only girls at a party wearing last year’s fashions. Worse, we weren’t the least bit ashamed of it.

My parents married for love and found wedded bliss, and so that would be my dowry: the freedom to marry the man of my choice. And I had been in absolutely no rush to do so.

Had they lived until I wed, I’d have gone straight from their home to my husband’s, never needing to worry about the myriad concerns that come with independent life. If I’d been that girl, I doubt I’d have survived my first year in the twenty-first century. Instead, I’d lost them when I was nineteen, alone and unwed, with two younger sisters to care for.

Even with that experience, in this new world, I am like a baby taking her first steps, putting each foot down with care and deliberation, constantly assessing and analyzing her environment. Oh, I suppose there are babies who fearlessly rush into ambulation, accepting the bumps and bruises as an intrinsic part of the process; I was not that child, and I am not that adult. I consider, consider and then consider some more.

That first year is an excruciatingly slow process of learning about my new world. I raid gardens for months while I determine the best and safest way to gain employment. I live in sheds for months more until I have the money and knowledge to rent a room. Others would move faster, but my careful deliberation allows an easy transition. I do not make mistakes that mark me an outsider. Mistakes that might have landed me in a psychiatric ward.

I assimilate. That is the word used for newcomers to a land, and that is what I do. Slow and careful assimilation, all the while telling myself it is temporary.

I return to Thorne Manor every month, matching the moon cycle. With each failure, I fortify my defenses against despair until the day I arrive to find the house occupied. Seeing that, something in me breaks. The change is not unexpected—I noticed a caretaker had been preparing the house in the last month. It is not even an unmovable obstacle—the new owner doesn’t change the locks, and I had a key copied from one found in a kitchen drawer. Yet as the house moves into her new phase of life, it draws back the shroud on a mirror I’ve kept carefully covered, refusing to acknowledge the reality reflected there. The reality that I am not moving forward in my own life. That two years have passed, and I am no closer to home than I was that first night.

That mirror also shows a woman two years older. A mother with a son who will now be three years old. A wife with a husband who . . .

I’ve tried so hard not to finish that sentence. Not to wonder what August thinks happened to me. I tell myself that perhaps time is frozen in their world, and when I return, it will still be that same night. My years away will have been an adventure during which I grew and learned so much. I will return no longer the young bride, cowed and confused by August’s jealousy, but a twenty-first-century woman with the skills and the confidence to correct the problem. To save my marriage without losing myself in the process.

A glorious fantasy. The reality? The reality is that my gut tells me time has not stopped in that world. My infant son is a young boy now and almost certainly has no memory of me. My husband will have thought I ran away, abandoned him, his worst fears come true.

I’ve refused to face these things because they loose a wild, gnashing, all-consuming terror inside me. I’ve been forgotten by my son, reviled and hated by my husband, and there is naught I can do about it.

Has August moved on? Found a new wife for himself and a mother for Edmund? The thought ignites outrage. His wife is alive. Edmund’s mother is alive. Yet when I consider it in the cold dark of night, I must face an equally cold and dark truth. I almost hope August has moved on. For his sake. For Edmund’s.

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