Authors: Elle Strauss
Tags: #Romance, #science fiction, #1800s fiction, #time travel, #novelette
She snuck a glance at me and I kept my expression grim. I felt ill when she gave her approval.
We heard yelling when we stepped outside. “Fight! Fight! A group of southies picked a fight!”
I was captivated by the brawl. About a dozen men, lit by the light of the moon, were going at it.
Oh, no!” Casey said, grabbing my arm. “Look!” Samuel was in the fight, and Casey shouted his name. He looked our way and I could see the whites of his eyes, wide with fear.
I couldn’t stop myself. I saw my buddy Tyson in Samuel, and I’d jump in a fight any day to save him. I punched a face or two, my fists stinging from the blows, and ducked under sweaty arms, looking for Samuel. I could hear Casey calling after me. I should’ve known by now she wouldn’t stay out of it.
I felt the tug on my shirt. “Nate! Stop it right now! This is NOT your fight!”
The severity of her words had distracted me and suddenly I was bent over in pain. One of the guys got me good in the gut.
Nate!” Casey reached for me, pulling me out of the crowd. Then I heard her cry out.
She had her hand over her face and I cursed myself for drawing her into a harmful situation. I heard Willie’s voice calling us and I took Casey’s hand, moving toward his voice.
You’ve been hurt,” I said to her when we reached the carriage.
I’ll be all right,” she said, but her voice was a thin whimper. “I caught someone’s elbow. It didn’t break the skin.”
The police had arrived with bats in their hands, pounding at anyone in their way and aiming especially at the backs of the men in the mob. The street had exploded with onlookers, and those just wanting to get into a good fight.
Get in the carriage!” Sara demanded, her head poking out of the window. I helped Casey inside and Willie took the reins. The sudden jerk thrust Casey up against my side. She didn’t try to right herself. I slipped my arm around her shoulders.
I hope Samuel is okay,” Sara said. She held a handkerchief to her blanched-out face. We rode the rest of the way home in silence.
Once back, Sara offered to tend to Casey’s cheek, but she declined. “I’ll be fine, Sara. I’ll put a cold cloth on it in the cabin.”
Except we didn’t make it there. Casey pulled me sharply out of sight behind the hedges. Next thing I knew, I was blinded by a white light and felt like my legs were knocked out from underneath me.
And then suddenly, I was back in the gym holding Casey, swaying to a top forty tune. She wore her cute little yellow dress and I was back in my blue suit. I felt dizzy and drew in a long breath. Everything was exactly the way it had been when we left it. Casey’s friend stood against the wall, watching us like we were the only couple in the room. The guys grinned stupidly by the punch bowl, still chuckling over the dare. Jessica had her arms wrapped around that sophomore, but her eyes were set on me, full of fire. All of this was sprinkled with the jarring motion of scattered light cast by the large disco ball hanging from the rafters.
Wow,” I finally said. “Did that really...did we really...?”
We were mid song, and it would’ve looked strange to everyone else if we quit dancing, forcing awkward and untruthful explanations to nosy friends. Casey laid her head on my shoulder. I could feel the rapid pulse of her heart.
Everything was different now.
The song ended, but I didn’t want to let go. I whispered in her ear. “This is so unreal.”
She steadied her gaze on me. “You can’t tell anyone. Promise me.”
Were we really, uh, just
I stared back at her, hard. She was frightened, and quite frankly, so was I. “It’s okay,” I said. “I promise.”
I pulled her close and brushed her cheek with my lips.
My life had changed, and as I watched that amazing girl walk away from me across the dance floor, I didn’t realize how much.
I felt like I’d just wakened from a crazy dream, and couldn’t stop myself from rubbing my eyes. Jessica stormed over and took a piece out of me.
Did you just kiss her?”
I denied it. “No.”
It sure looked like it. What were you talking about? You were so intense. Why were you dancing with
I shook my head. “I don’t know. The guys dared me.”
They dared you to dance with Casey Donovan?”
So, if they dared you to jump off the roof, would you?”
Jessica, it was nothing. Don’t make a big deal out of it.”
Tyson punched me playfully in the arm. “Did the girl clock you in the face, man?”
I yawned. “What’d you mean?”
Your eyes, man. They’re black and blue.”
Then I remembered what Casey said about dark rings around the eyes. I did notice that hers looked darker, but thought it was the bad lighting on the dance floor.
And extreme fatigue. I let go of another yawn.
Are we that boring?” Jessica said.
Yeah, kind of. Next to Casey....
I wasn’t going to look for her, but I couldn’t help myself. I snuck a peak over at the wall where she and her friend had been hanging out. They were gone. I scanned the gym and couldn’t spot her anywhere. She must’ve left already.
Which was exactly what I wanted to do.
Sorry, I’m not feeling well,” I said. “I’m checking out.”
But, how am I getting home?” Jessica whined.
I’m sure your sophomore will take you.”
I spent the weekend in bed.
And dreamed about Casey Donovan. I couldn’t deny what had happened. I’d traveled to the past! Had this amazing adventure I couldn’t tell anyone about.
Fell for a beautiful girl.
Someone I could never touch again.
As exciting as traveling to the past was, it wasn’t something I wanted to repeat. Now that I was back to the present, I felt like someone who’d survived a plane crash. Casey had promised to bring me back and she did, but what if next time something happened and she couldn’t deliver. As much as I liked her, I didn’t want to get stuck in the past.
It was too risky.
When I kissed her cheek at the dance, I already knew this. It was a kiss goodbye. I just wished now I’d kissed her properly, Jessica be damned.
But that opportunity had passed. Now I had to face Monday morning, face going back to school. Face seeing Casey again.
It happened as soon as I drove up in my old BMW. She was standing by the front door. I couldn’t miss her. She was taller than the girls that stood around her and the wind was blowing her curly hair across her face. She tucked it back behind her ear and looked my way. Our eyes met and my heart leaped.
It was weird to see her in normal clothes, jeans and a jacket. She looked really good. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling as I approached, just a little, an acknowledgement that we shared something secret and special.
Then I spotted Tyson and Josh. I didn’t want them to make a scene, say anything that would embarrass Casey about the dance. I brushed by her, pushed along with the crowd of kids going inside and said nothing.
Like a jerk, I know. She might hate me for it, but in the end it was the best thing for both of us.
I made it through the whole day without seeing her, though I confess I was kind of looking. Maybe she had come to the same conclusion and was avoiding me, too.
It was for the best
. Just sever all ties. Forget what’d happened. Remember it only like a dream or a movie I’d seen long ago.
That was how I chose to handle it. The only serious challenge I had to staying the course was during the English class we shared. I sat in front of her in the same row. As long as I didn’t turn around, I was fine.
I didn’t turn around.
By Friday I was sure I’d reached escape velocity. I would forget about Casey, the Watsons and all that insaneness, and live my own life like a normal person.
Then I went to the computer lab to work on a late assignment, and stopped short. Casey was there. She saw me standing in the doorway and it would be too rude for me to turn and leave. I didn’t want to purposefully hurt her feelings.
I chose a computer in the front of the room so I could keep my eyes off her. I was astonished at how much it hurt to be so close to her again.
I heard her chair push out. This was stupid. I had to at least say “hello.” I turned and opened my mouth but nothing came out. That was because I saw the dark rings under her eyes. She’d just traveled! Right then while I was busy doing my chemistry homework. Did she see them? Sara and Willie? Did that slob Robert go after her again?
She left the room before I found my tongue. I was such an idiot.
It took me all weekend to recover from that encounter. Knowing Casey had traveled without me shook me in a way I couldn’t understand. I tried to tell myself it wasn’t any of my business. I found distraction from my anxious thoughts by surfing sports channels, attending a party at Dylan’s, and letting Jessica talk my ear off with her unrelenting banal chatter.
By Monday I thought I was fortified enough to take on school and any chance encounters with Casey that might arise.
She’d been avoiding the cafeteria at lunch times, so I was kind of surprised to see her there. She sat with her friend from the dance at a table by the door with other kids my crowd would consider nerds and dorks.
I focused hard on Tyson’s animated retelling of a basketball blunder that had happened on national TV over the weekend. Jessica and her gals joined our table and she pressed in beside me, rolling her eyes at Tyson, not at all interested in the game that had riled him.
Despite my best efforts I couldn’t keep my eyes from darting in Casey’s direction. She never once looked my way, so maybe she really was over me.
If she was ever into me at all in the first place.
She’s just so weird.” Jessica was blowing steam with one of her groupie cheer friends. They loved gossip and usually I could tune them out.
But not today.
I mean, the way she dresses with that height...and her hair! She so needs a make-over, you know?” Jessica was looking toward Casey’s table and I knew in that instant who she was talking about. It made my blood boil.
What do you have against her, anyway?” I said.
What?” Her eyes darkened as she glanced up at me. “And why do you care?”
Just leave her alone.”
Jessica’s face turned crimson and the whole table grew awkwardly quiet.
Why?” Jessica challenged. “What’s she to you?”
Nothing. Just drop it.”
It was like Casey knew we were discussing her. She stared at us, at me. I turned away from her penetrating gaze. When I dared to look back, she was gone.
Jessica gave me the cold shoulder for the rest of the day, but Tyson handed me a high five in the change room at practice. “Way to put your woman in her place.”
She’s in her place,” I said.
I knew Tyson didn’t like Jessica, and quite honestly, I didn’t much like her either half the time. But, as vain as this sounded, she served her purpose. I couldn’t face being “on the market” right now. And Jessica wasn’t all bad. She could be cute and funny. Despite her popularity, or maybe because of it, she was really quite insecure. And I knew I wasn’t helping. Girls could tell when their guy was drifting.