Authors: Elle Strauss
Tags: #Romance, #science fiction, #1800s fiction, #time travel, #novelette
She huffed. I couldn’t help but think about how cute she was when she was mad.
I persisted. “There should be a highway or something, somewhere.”
We’re on a main road now.”
I mean something paved.”
You could be waiting awhile.”
Finally, we came to another farm. My back and feet were aching, but Casey hadn’t complained, so I wasn’t about to. The place was huge for a farm house with a wide swath of lawn set in from the road. I could see a barn in the back and a lake further on.
Wow, they did a great job restoring this place.” I was unaware a property like this existed so near my house.
Actually,” Casey said,” in our time, it’s a shopping mall.”
A red-headed girl about our age was hanging clothes up on the line. She had her hair in weird loopy braids and, interestingly, she wore a dress similar to Casey’s.
Jonathon and Michael,” she called to a couple little boys playing tag in the yard. “Quit fooling around. If you want to eat this winter, you’ll mind me and get to work.”
There was some serious role playing going on. How did the guys set this up? They just weren’t this smart.
The redhead spotted us. “Cassandra? Is that you?”
Yes, it’s me,” Casey said. “And I brought my brother, Nate, uh, Nathaniel.”
What? Now she was making up names? And why did the redhead call her Cassandra?
The girl reached out to shake my hand. “Like the author.”
Hawthorne,” she said, seeing my confused look. “Nathaniel Hawthorn. I’m Sara. It’s nice to meet you.”
She turned back to Casey. “Cassandra? What happened to you? You told Robert you were faint and left Faneuil Hall before Abby Kelly Foster even started her lecture. We searched everywhere for you. I was worried.”
Who was Robert? And she couldn’t mean
Abby Kelly Foster? Wasn’t she some kind of civil war, equal rights activist? And there was another thing bothering me. “Where are the power lines?” I asked.
Sara wrinkled her brow at my question but didn’t answer.
Casey jumped in. “Sara, we’ve had a long day of travel and my brother isn’t feeling well…”
Oh, excuse my manners. Come in for a cup of tea and I’ll fix you something to eat while you explain everything to me.”
I could use a few explanations as well. I reached for Casey’s elbow. “I’m weirding out here.”
I already tried to explain,” she said. Sara glanced over her shoulder at us and Casey lowered her voice. “Let me do the talking, okay.”
Is this a commune? Why does everyone dress like that?”
Shh. Just keep your mouth shut.”
Casey strode elegantly to the back door of the house and I followed her inside where we each took a seat behind a long wooden table. My eyes scanned the room. There was a wood burning stove and grill, a small icebox, and a pitcher with a large bowl for water.
I felt like there should be a velvet rope barring it all off, that somehow we’d entered a museum with live actors. But, if that were the case, we were the only visitors and that Sara chick was nailing her part.
Children!” she commanded and all the little “actors” fell quiet. “Josephine, please take a plate up to Mother.”
Sara turned to us to explain. “Missy comes in three days a week to help out. Today is her day off.”
A tall boy entered through the same back door and dropped a newspaper on the counter before sitting in the chair at the head of the table. He had curly red hair and features that resembled Sara’s. Clearly, they were related. Were all these actors from one family? Must be a family business. I decided to play along.
Casey reacted strangely when the boy sat down, lowering her chin and letting her curls hide her face. Did she know this guy? Maybe they were once more than friends?
I felt strangely jealous at the thought, but pushed the feeling away.
Fortunately, I was distracted by the food Sara offered us. Casey and I dug in, like starving dogs.
I’m sorry,” Casey said. “Our manners are atrocious.”
I’m afraid my manners are dismal as well,” the red-headed kid said. “Sara, I haven’t been introduced to our new friends.”
This is my brother, Willie,” Sara said. “Willie, this is Cassandra and her brother Nathaniel.”
I would’ve reached over to shake his hand, but his eyes were glued to Casey. Not in the way a guy looks at a girl he’s finding unbelievably beautiful (though I wouldn’t blame him if that were the case), but more like he had just spotted a ghost.
You couldn’t miss the hurt in the guy’s voice. Something weird was going on.
You’re a girl?”
Yup. Definitely, something weird.
Willie,” Casey said, speaking quickly, “I pretended to be a boy, because it was easier for me to get work.”
Willie stammered, “But, we, uh, I…”
Then he stood with a start almost knocking his chair over. “Sara, you knew about this?”
Her face went redder than her hair. “It’s a recent discovery.”
Casey stood and began pleading. “I didn’t mean to deceive you.”
Willie wasn’t appeased. He picked up the newspaper off the counter and slapped it onto the table before storming out and slamming the door.
Was I the only one who was completely in the dark? Casey shot me an apologetic look and eased back into her chair. I reached for the newspaper and felt the blood drain from my face. It read:
The Boston Journal, October 11, 1860
All this craziness started to make sense. The strange clothes and manner of speaking, the lack of modern conveniences–I hadn’t seen one car since... yeah, since the weird light-flash thing that transported me from the school gym to the middle of nowhere. In some wacky, out of this world way, I suddenly knew it was true. Casey had been telling the truth.
Are you okay?” Casey asked.
My voice went tight. “I thought you were joking.”
You don’t look like brother and sister,” Sara said, and a flash of panic crossed Casey’s face. But then she added, “Although, I don’t look like half of my siblings, either.”
She walked to the door like she expected us to follow. “We have an empty workers’ cabin out by the lake. I’ll take you there.”
I felt brainless, like a zombie, as I followed Sara and Casey to the cabin. I still couldn’t believe this was happening.
The cabin was a small, simple wooden structure, maybe twelve by twelve. Sara opened the door, and then the lone window.
You both look like you could use a good night’s sleep,” she said. “Cassandra, I’ll expect you in the kitchen when the rooster crows tomorrow morning. Nathaniel, you can meet up with Willie in the barn.”
Casey’s jaw slackened, and I was certain she was expecting a bit more. Like, two rooms.
We’re sharing?” she squeaked, but Sara was already gone.
I chose the first bunk and sat down. This was about to get interesting.
We faced each other across the small room, almost knee to knee. I rubbed my hands nervously along my thighs. Casey had her hands folded in the lap of her dress, looking quaint and sweet, despite her obvious discomfort at being in close quarters with me.
Start talking,” I said. I had questions and I wanted answers.
She looked up at me from under her eyelashes. “What do you want me to say?”
Was she kidding?
She drew in a long breath. “I told you from the beginning, I did some time traveling.”
Yeah, an unusual hobby.”
Do you want me to talk or what?”
Right. Don’t interrupt. I pressed my lips together and nodded.
Sometimes, I travel, but I always go back.”
Back to when?”
Right back to where I left.” She nodded reassuringly. “No one will even notice that you’ve been gone.”
That’s good. Jessica would be so ticked if I took off without telling her.”
Was it may imagination, or did Casey wince at that?
You don’t like her?” I prompted.
Casey picked at a piece of fuzz on the cot blanket. “So what if I do or don’t.”
No reason. Just wondering.”
She doesn’t like me.”
Why wouldn’t she like you?”
Casey glanced up and held my gaze. “She’s your girlfriend. Ask her yourself. And really, since we’re getting so cozy here, I have to ask, what do you see in her?”
In all honesty, I wasn’t sure. I just shrugged. I didn’t bad talk one girl to another.
Whatever,” she said, crossing her arms. “I don’t care.”
So,” I sighed, suddenly feeling exhausted. “How do we get back?”
Um, I don’t know how that works exactly.”
What? Not the answer I was looking for. “You don’t know how it works?”
Not really, it just happens.”
Oh, no, I get a bit of lead time going back. It’s coming here that I’m caught off guard.” She paused then continued. “Otherwise, well, I’d be here alone.”
She looked so soft and forlorn when she said that. It occurred to me for the first time that this wasn’t just happening to
. “How often do you do this?”
When I was younger, maybe once or twice a year, but recently, it’s really picked up. Not sure why.” She swallowed then added, “I think it has something to do with stress.”
I couldn’t resist the fatigue. I straightened out on the cot and lay down with my hands behind my head on a thin pillow. “This is so sci-fi. But kind of cool, when you think about it.” We were in freaking 1860! Who got to do that?
Casey’s eyes scanned the room and I followed her gaze, taking in the details of our surroundings. Wooden floors, two cots with a night table between them—a candle and box of matches the only thing on it—and a larger table under the window with a pitcher and bowl for washing up. A small brick fireplace was built into the corner with a little pile of kindling and a stack of wood against the wall.
I closed my eyes nearly dozing when I heard Casey’s cot creak. I peeked over to see her lying flat on her back.
How old were you the first time it happened?” I asked.
That must’ve been scary for you.”
It was. Mom tucked me in and had just turned out the lights. The red digital numbers on my clock read 8:31. Even though I was afraid of the dark and monsters under the bed, I’d done a stupid thing and watched a scary B movie that afternoon. As soon as Mom closed my bedroom door and left me in the dark, I panicked. I lost my breath, felt dizzy and fell into the brightness.”
You must’ve freaked.”
I did. I cried and screamed myself silly, all by myself in the middle of the forest. And, to make matters worse, it was pouring rain and my PJ's were soaked. I managed to find a large tree with a hole worn out on the side, and crouched in it. I spent the whole night shivering, scared out of my mind.”