Authors: Elle Strauss
Tags: #Romance, #science fiction, #1800s fiction, #time travel, #novelette
I sat up straight. “A couple weeks?”
That’s what I said.”
Uh huh, okay. So what’s happening in America in 1860?”
Casey took a deep breath in and rolled over slightly to face me. I watched her face through the warm transparency of the fire, still feeling like this whole exchange was some kind of lucid dream.
Her voice carried over to me. “Abolition is a big issue. It’s hard for many to imagine a functioning economy without slave labor. The women wear these humongous hoop slips under their dresses, totally inefficient, just another example of fashion restricting women in the name of beauty. And of course, Abraham Lincoln gets elected president on November sixth.”
She was so earnest and so cute I couldn’t help but grin. “You know your history.”
She fell onto her back. “Wouldn’t you if you were me?”
I rolled onto my back as well, suddenly feeling aggravated. I was alone in the woods with a pretty girl I barely knew who was feeding me a line of bull as I waited for the guys to say “boo” and bring an end to the nonsense.
I sat up. “Anyway, it’s been fun and all that. Haven’t been punk’d like this before, but time’s up.” I sprung to my feet. “Let’s go.”
She stared at me, the flickering light of the flames reflecting in her hazel eyes. “Go where?”
Back to the dance, home, wherever. We’re not really going to spend the night here are we?”
Casey huffed. “Well, if you want to go
, feel free. You know where to find me when you change your mind.” She rolled over turning her back to me. This girl was serious. Seriously crazy.
I had two choices. Leave her alone, as she obviously wasn’t going to come voluntarily, or wait it out.
I ran a hand through my hair and lay down in defeat. Since I couldn’t leave a girl, even one as stubborn and nutty as this one, alone in the woods, “wait it out” it would be. I couldn’t imagine a crazier day. I was sure things would be sorted out by tomorrow.
I was wrong.
I woke up the next day to bright sunlight, loud bird noises and a cool breeze tickling my face. I heard myself groan as I reached for a blanket, annoyed that my hand only grabbed at air. I narrowly opened one eye taking in the thickly leaved trees that applauded around me.
So, I wasn’t dreaming. Funny, I couldn’t remember executing a camping trip.
Good morning,” someone said. Someone of the female persuasion. I snapped open my other eye.
Casey Donovan? She stood beside me wearing the cute little yellow dress she had on at the dance, though on second glance it looked messed and wrinkled, like she’d slept in it. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, but shorter curly strands had escaped and framed her face. She offered me her water bottle.
No guys?” she said with a smirk.
Then I remembered.
I couldn’t believe they punk’d me like this. I still couldn’t figure out how they did it.
No,” I said, wiping my mouth with my sleeve and passing the water bottle back. “I’m going to pummel them when they show.”
Casey picked up the long dress she’d used as a blanket and shook it out. She took it with her behind one of the bushes, but I could still make her out through the branches.
Turn around,” she said.
Fine. I positioned my back to her.
I could hear her rustling in the grass and then she gasped.
I turned, “What?”
Don’t look,” she snapped.
Oh, sorry.” I spoke to the dead fire pit in front of me. “What are you doing?”
I’m changing my dress. I can’t go out there looking like this.”
Looking like what?”
Like I just came off a dance floor in the 21st century.”
So we were back to that story, were we?
After a few moments she returned, short yellow dress in place and long nightgown thing draped over her arm. She stuck out her bottom lip. “It doesn’t fit.”
Oh, the nightgown. Whatever. I stood and brushed damp grass off my clothes. “Let’s go find a bus.”
You still don’t get it, do you?”
I got it. She
crazy and I was starving.
She covered her face with her hands, and for a moment I was afraid she would start crying.
Casey? Are you okay?”
She drew in a deep breath and thrust her chin out. “I’m fine,” she said. “I know of a place near here where we can get some clothes.”
Yeah,” I said. “I wouldn’t mind getting into some jeans, watch a game on my flat screen.” Beat up my friends.
We’ll have to pretend that you’re my brother.”
Let’s go,” she said, and turned on her butchered heel-less shoes.
Remind me again why I’m following you?”
She let go of the branch she’d pushed out of her way and it smacked me in the face.
Because,” she answered, “I know where I’m going.”
My foot sunk in the compost forming under the fallen leaves. “Is that why we’re hacking through brush in the ditch instead of walking on the road?”
Yup.” Casey’s foot slid and my heart dropped as I imagined her landing unceremoniously on her butt, but she saved herself by grabbing onto the bare branches.
Okay.” I thrust my hands in the air in defeat. “It was a funny joke, but, you know, it’s getting old.”
Before she could answer, I heard the clopping of horse hoofs and the rickety sound of old wagon wheels, much like I’ve heard in movies. A carriage looking like it rolled right off the pages of a fairy-tale came into view and once again I felt Casey grab my arm, forcing me down, where we squatted side by side out of sight.
What was that?” I asked after it passed out of sight.
Exactly what it looked like.”
She walked on, remaining in the ditch, and I fell in behind. I suddenly felt light-headed. I needed food, pronto. “Where are we, anyway?”
Like I told you yesterday, we’re just outside of Cambridge.”
I couldn’t be more disoriented and I renewed my vow to beat the guys up as soon as I saw them.
Eventually, we came to a house. Yes, civilization. Sort of. It was the only house I could see for miles, more like a farm. A bunch of little boys ran around the yard, chasing a yapping puppy. Daycare? Casey squatted low and motioned for me to do the same.
We’re going to have to wait it out,” she said.
Wait what out? Why don’t we just go ask to use the phone?” I stood and then felt a strong tug on my arm which pulled me off balance. Next thing I knew, I was on the ground, pressed up close to Casey’s body.
Her breath was warm on my neck. I felt my heart race at her closeness, and I couldn’t stop myself from staring into her eyes. My previous assessment was correct. She was very pretty. I wondered for the first time what she thought of me, and why she didn’t immediately push me away.
I swear I felt her shudder.
Sorry, Nate,” she said softly, “but you can’t let them see you.”
We were interrupted by a screechy voice calling the kids in for breakfast. I pushed away from Casey to peer through the shrubs. A tall stocky woman dressed in what looked like an ugly nightgown, with a dirty apron tied over a swollen belly, stood on crooked wooded steps. She let the door slam behind her after the boys and the puppy went inside.
An older girl, also in her nightgown, appeared from a chicken coop with a basket hanging over one arm. She walked into the house and then all was quiet except for the braying of a donkey in a nearby field.
Wait here,” Casey said. Before I could stop her, she was sneaking through the yard like some kind of secret agent.
I scratched my head. What was she doing? Then my eyes bugged wide as I watched her snatch clothes off the line. She was crazy!
She jogged back to where I was “hiding”, when, unbelievably, I heard the cocking of a gun!
The woman had a rifle aimed at Casey’s head. “Come back with my laundry, you low life trash!”
A boom filled the air, and nicked the tree just to the left of where Casey stood.
Run!” she yelled, as she dashed by me. She didn’t have to say it twice.
We sprinted into the dense forest. I heard two more shots and ducked my head in response. Casey yelled for me, her slippery shoes causing her to fall behind. I reached back and grabbed her hand as we dodged branches and hopped over tree trunks.
After more than a few minutes of racing away from the scene of the crime, I felt Casey lag and slowed for her to catch her breath.
I think she stopped,” she said, puffing.
I stared at her and pulled my hand free. “What the heck?”
She tossed me the trousers she’d stolen. “I’ve never been shot at before.”
I couldn’t believe this girl. “You’re a freaking thief.”
She gave me a sideways glance. “I like to think of it as a loan.”
I shook my head.
I’d put those on if I were you.” She pointed to the trousers in my hands.
No way. I’m done playing around.”
Her lips turned up and her eyes glinted mischievously. “Fine, but you split your pants.”
I twisted around to look. Damn. Sure enough, my blue boxers were peeking out through a tear.
She had enough decency to look away and then headed the opposite direction to change into her own stolen garment.
It only took me two minutes to change, so I decided to take a little tour, see if I could figure out exactly where we were. Massachusetts was a fairly populated place and you couldn’t go too far without running into some sign of civilization. I searched the horizon through thick brush and trees, and could see nothing. I even climbed a tall evergreen, something I hadn’t done in years. From that vantage point I could see far and wide, and yet could see nothing. Perplexing.
I heard Casey calling my name. I moved toward her voice, which sounded panicky.
I’m over here,” I said, trotting casually out of the cover of the trees.
Don’t do that to me!” Her face was flushed red, and I could see the vein in her neck pulsing.
She had a really beautiful neck.
I shook the thought off. “What?” I said, deciding a dose of sarcasm was in order. “Were you afraid? Little Miss I Know How to Survive?”
I’m not afraid for me.”
My eyes moved from her face to the long dress she’d put on. Something about it was very appealing on her.
I heard my mouth say, “That dress suits you.”
She pressed her lips together. “Shut up.”
Hey, it was a compliment. Don’t bite my head off.”
She considered me, probably wondering if I was joking or not. I wasn’t.
Just stick with me from now on,” she said. “Okay?”
I saluted. “Yes, ma-am.”
She scowled and stormed away. I rushed to keep up with her. As crazy as she was, I had to admit to being entertained.
What’s next?” I asked. “Food, I hope. The guys better have a meat lover’s pizza waiting.”