Home > A Twist of Fate (A Stitch in Time #2)(6)

A Twist of Fate (A Stitch in Time #2)(6)
Author: Kelley Armstrong

The woman with William is tall with chestnut-brown curls and a full figure. She’s also pregnant, and though I can’t see her face, her figure nudges at my mind. I’m chasing that nudge when she smacks her husband on the arm.

“If you’re going to mock my love of bakeries, William, perhaps you shouldn't bring treats to the flat every evening.”

“Mock? Did I mock? Never. I happily indulge your passion for pastries. I simply wish that if you were to discover the most magical of all magical bakeries, it could be located somewhere other than this.”

He turns to look meaningfully along the narrow cobbled road with its cutesy shops and gaggles of tourists. I have to smile as he shudders. His companion rolls her eyes, her response swallowed by passing college students in Harry Potter robes, shouting, “Expelliarmus!”

It is only then, as the students pass, that I realize William has turned. That I see his face, and that it is, beyond any doubt, his face. And the woman with him is his “girl” from the future.

The latter might seem wild conjecture. After all, buxom brunette is hardly an uncommon descriptor. Yet I see her face now, and I am, for a moment, back in twenty-first-century Thorne Manor.

I might have lived there for two months, but I’d never paid much attention to the house itself. I’d paid particularly little attention to the objects that make a house a home. The books on the shelves, the photos on the walls, the papers on the desk. Those were all reminders that I was trespassing on another’s property, invading another’s most private place. Yet when I see the woman’s face, I cannot deny that I’ve seen it before. An old photo at Thorne Manor, one of a young girl with her parents, all of them in modern dress.

This woman was once a girl with a connection to Thorne Manor. A relative of those who owned it in the present. That was how she met William, how she’d passed through time to spend a teenage summer with him.

More than that, I know her. Not the girl, but the woman. I see her face in full, and recognition strikes like lightning. She has come to my shop thrice in the past week. We’ve spoken on the last two occasions, but even on that first one, I’d noticed her.

I can picture her, standing in my shop, eyeing the pastry display, her daughter on one hip. I noticed her, not because she was beautiful or unusual. I noticed her because she was happy. A mother perhaps nearly a decade older than me with a baby on one hip and another in her belly. A mother glowing with contentment and joy. I saw her, and I’d retreated into the back. As I did, our eyes met, and hers widened, and I’d thought it was because she realized I was backing away.

When she came two days later, I made a point of serving her, shamed by my first reaction. She’d asked questions in an accent I’d mistaken for American. As we talked, I learned she was a history professor from Toronto, married to an Englishman. They had a summer house in North Yorkshire, but her husband was in York for a horse show, and they were spending the week at a holiday flat.

When she’d come by yesterday, I’d found myself smiling, happy for the excuse to chat. I even offered her my card and said the shop shipped throughout Yorkshire. We don’t ship anywhere, actually, but I’d felt the urge to reach out. I’ve come to realize I’ve omitted one very important part of a satisfying life: companionship. So I was seeking that, whether with this woman or with Noah. Baby steps toward a fuller life.

Now, seeing the woman with William, I know exactly why her eyes had widened that first day. Why she’d returned twice more and made a point of talking to me.

She knows who I am.

She has seen a portrait or photograph of me in my world. Her husband was August’s best friend. She would know his wife had vanished, and she might even know my former profession. One day, she walks into a bakery in York, and who does she see? She cannot believe her eyes, quite literally, and so she comes twice more, striking up conversations as she continues her assessment. When she has decided I am indeed Rosalind Courtenay, she brings William to confirm.

I watch them. Her face is turned up to William’s, his own countenance as joy-bright as hers. Tears spring to my eyes. I could not be happier for him. He is a dear friend and a good man, yet there has always been a shadow in him. Now it is lifted, and he glows with its leaving, and I want to run to him and throw my arms around his neck.

William. Dearest William. It is I. Rosalind.

Yet my feet do not move. I only stare, and that moment of joy on seeing him freezes in my gut as one tear trickles down my cheek.

William.

I want to run to you. Throw myself at you. Beg you and your lovely new wife for help. You are here, in my world, and you can take me home.

Tell me you can take me home.

What if you cannot? What if you are trapped here, too? Only for you, it would be a blessing. You have your wife. You have your daughter and another child on the way. You have your home and even your beloved horses. You will miss August dreadfully, but otherwise, there would be nothing tying you to that other world.

Even if William and his wife can move freely between worlds, that does not mean they can take me back. What would we do then? Have William return to tell August that I’m trapped forever in the future?

As I watch, William and his wife continue toward my bakery, and my feet remain rooted to the cobblestones. They are nearly past the alley when William half turns, frowning. My breath catches, but his gaze only slides across the shadows before he continues on.

I wait until they are gone, and then I run. It is time to go back to Thorne Manor. Back to that spot that brought me here, in the hope—the wild hope—that seeing William means I can finally return home.

 

 

4

 

 

By dinner hour, I’m climbing the hill to Thorne Manor. I have texted my shop clerk to let her know I was called away on a family emergency, which is not untrue. She will close the shop doors in my absence, and I have scheduled her weekly pay deposit for the next two months. I will make long-term arrangements through William. That presumes I will cross over, but I cannot think of any other possibility and therefore will act as if it is a given.

Once at Thorne Manor, I slip in the back door and race up the steps, as if the portal is a door already closing. Yet even as I pass through the rooms, I take more notice than I have during my last few visits, and I marvel at how truly single-minded I must have been to have missed the changes.

When I dart into the tiny bedroom, now an office, I see a photograph on the desk that has me stopping, shoes squeaking on the wood floor. It’s a shot of William holding his daughter on a pony. Leave it to William Thorne to teach his daughter to ride when she can barely walk. What gives me pause is the clothing. It clearly comes from my time. The picture, though, is taken with a modern camera.

They can go back. Take a camera, snap a photograph and return.

That’s when I notice the other two subjects in the picture. A man and a boy. The man stands back a step, laughing, as the boy sits behind young Amelia, his hands firmly on her waist. The boy could be holding the child in place, but his expression suggests he’s holding on for dear life, as if this baby will save him should the horse bolt.

I look at the boy, and my tears well, and in a single blink, they’re streaming down my face. The preschooler is the spitting image of the man behind him, the laughing, impossibly handsome man with dark blond hair and green eyes.

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