Authors: Elle Strauss
Tags: #Romance, #science fiction, #1800s fiction, #time travel, #novelette
I was definitely drifting.
During English Lit the next day, the teacher, Mr. Turner, scratched the words,
on the chalkboard, followed by the word,
He scanned the room putting his index finger to his chin in that annoying way he always did.
He called on Casey. A perfect excuse to turn around and look at her. I shouldn’t have but I did and briefly caught her eye. She looked terrified. Of me, or Mr. Turner, I wasn’t sure.
Casey?” he said again.
Um, well,” she started. “I think it means that while the play ends happily the road to the end is often tragic.”
Of course, he’d call on me right after Casey. This situation was almost Shakespearean.
Mr. Turner pressed. “Can you elaborate?”
Sometimes the tragic situations lead us to believe it will be something other than a happy ending.”
I really was trying not to read into this. The moral of
didn’t have anything to do with me, with us.
Mr. Turner ended his lecture by sending us to the library to work on an essay on the many themes of the Shakespearean tragic comedy.
Casey was out of her chair and out the room before I had the chance to walk to her desk. She clearly didn’t want to talk to me and I didn’t blame her. I decided in that moment that I had to at least explain myself. I hated how she was hating me.
I pulled up the empty chair beside her. “I’ve been looking for you.” It was the truth. Even when I was desperately avoiding her, a part of me was always looking.
She shot me a withering look. “Funny, because it seems like I’m in your space all the time and yet you don’t seem to see me.”
I know. I’ve been a jerk.”
She let her gaze drop to the table “Okay, you found me. What do you want?”
I know you’ve been back.”
Casey took this moment to examine her fingernails. She really was pissed. “So?”
So, how are they? Did you find out what happened to Samuel?”
Nate, those people have been dead for a hundred and fifty years.”
Are they dead to you?”
She sighed. “No. No one knows what happened to Samuel. He disappeared the same day we did. I can’t find any info on him or his brother on the internet. They were born slaves, so there’s no record of their births. And Jones is a common surname.”
I sat back and ran a hand through my hair, reminded just how big and crazy this was.
Maybe you’re used to this, but it’s been so strange for me. It took me a couple weeks just to process what had happened, and to be honest I was scared to be around you.”
Casey closed her eyes, shutting me out. “That’s okay.”
It’s just that you and I, we hang in different crowds. It’s not that…”
It’s fine. I get it. I knew this would happen all along. Don’t worry about it.”
I’m sorry. I just wanted you to know.”
I whittled the rest of autumn away by finishing up with football and starting into basketball. Sports gave me relief from my incessant thoughts of Casey Donovan and our fantastical trip to the past. When I was in the game, my brain shut off to everything else. Still, I found myself looking to the bleachers, past Jessica and her cheer squad, for a tall beautiful girl with wildly curly hair.
She was never there.
It was Saturday morning, and I lay on my back on my bed, hands behind my head and thinking about how I used to lie this way while watching Casey’s silhouette through the thin blanket in the cabin we shared. I felt my face pull up into a grin and then I caught myself. If I was going to forget Casey and everything that came with her, I needed to keep busy.
I reached for my phone about to text Tyson when I saw I had four missed messages from Jessica. She must’ve called while I was in the shower.
She could tell I was distracted and it drove her crazy that I wasn’t gushing over her all the time. She loved to be the center of attention and I honestly couldn’t take her dramatics anymore. I planned to break up with her soon. Probably by the end of the day.
It buzzed and I hoped it wasn’t Jessica again. It wasn’t. It was Tyson, wanting to meet me at the mall. The food court was a popular hangout in the winter, when it was too cold out to do much else.
It took ten minutes longer than usual to get to the mall because of the falling snow and sand trucks slowing down traffic. I turned the tunes up loud to keep my brain occupied.
The lot was crowded with holiday shoppers but I finally found a place to park. I blew on my reddened fingers, thankful for the warmth of the mall, even if it was shoulder to shoulder with people in puffy winter jackets. I stepped onto the escalators to the second floor, ignoring the Santa set up beneath me and the Christmas music, knowing I’d have to give in to the commercialism of the season and buy presents soon.
But that could wait. Right now, I just wanted to eat. I was famished.
Tyson, Dylan and Josh were already there and waved me over.
Hey!” I said, taking a seat.
We got you a burger,” Tyson said, pushing the metal foil covered sandwich my way.
Yeah, well the lines are major. We’d be done and gone if we waited for you to order.”
I owe you.”
I saw Casey after my second bite. She was with her friend, Lucinda, sitting in a table directly in my sight line. I felt my throat go dry and the last thing I wanted to do was have a choking fit with her watching. I grabbed Josh’s drink and took a gulp.
Hey!” he said, snatching it back.
I put my burger down, my appetite suddenly gone. I couldn’t keep my eyes from drifting back to her table. Finally, I stopped trying. She froze when she spotted me staring. She quickly looked away, forcing herself to pay attention to whatever it was that Lucinda was saying, but her gaze kept flitting my way, too.
Our eyes eventually locked and the next thing I knew, I was on my feet walking over to her. She pushed a curl behind her ear and took a deep breath, bracing herself for me.
I couldn’t blame her for not wanting to talk to me. I’d hate me too if I were her.
But I didn’t think she hated me. If she did, she would’ve left the food court as soon as she’d spotted me.
Hi,” I said.
I noticed gift bags on the table. “Looks like it’s someone’s birthday?”
I sat down beside her before she or Lucinda could protest.
It’s mine,” she said.
Really? You never mentioned you had a birthday coming up.”
She squirmed a little. “Well, you know, I’m kind of a private person.”
I held her gaze. “Yes. I do know that. Happy Birthday.”
In that instant, the one where she looked up at me under long eyelashes, and her lips softened into a smile, I knew I didn’t care anymore. In fact, I wanted this. I did. I wanted Casey and everything she came with. The Watsons, Samuel, life on the farm. I wanted to protect her from slime balls like Robert Willingsworth.
I wanted Casey Donovan and I’d take everything and anything life threw at me to make it happen. Even trips a hundred and fifty years into the past.
I knew Casey well enough to know that this conversation, my presence, was making her nervous and stressed. I could see it in the redness that crept up her neck and how she fiddled with her hands on her lap.
Maybe enough to bring on a
I wrapped my arm around her and pulled her into a hug. I grabbed her bare hand and squeezed.
A blast of light thrust us through a tunnel. Funny, I thought I heard the sound of Jessica’s voice, screaming.
Next thing, I was standing alone in the forest with Casey, just the birds and squirrels as our witnesses. Casey gasped, her hazel eyes bright with shock.
I still had her hand in mine and I squeezed it, hoping to comfort her. “This is my fault, I guess.”
I meant it as a joke, but Casey didn’t smile. Her eyes went to our interlocking fingers, and a tear ran down her cheek. It killed me to see that.
I’m sorry,” she said, releasing her hand. She thought she was to blame for this.
I suppose you could call it a calculated risk on my part,” I confessed.
I reached up and wiped away the lone tear, my finger resting on her soft cheek.
I wanted to kiss her. In all honesty, I’d been dying to kiss her for weeks.
Should I try? Would she kiss me back?
I leaned forward. Energy crackled between us. I was sure she’d meet me in the middle, but then she backed away.
I’d scared her.
I stepped back, trying to regain my dignity. I deserved to be rejected. “Uh, I just, it’s nothing.” I sounded stupid. I felt stupid.
The best I could come up with was to feign a bow, like a servant. “Back to the Watson’s?”
I was a fool to think I could turn things around in an instant. But, I thought she’d forgiven me, or at least, was in the process of forgiving me. I guessed we’d have to see what this second trip back in time would bring.
I was certain it would be an adventure.