Authors: Michelle Madow
Drew’s grandparents were waiting for us inside the living room. They introduced themselves by their first names, Richard and Sara. After the introductions, they offered us tea—it was so British. Then again, we were in England, and they were British, so it made sense.
The antique furniture made me feel like I was in a museum, and I sat down gently on the velvet couch as to not hurt it. Which was silly, since it had survived all those years, but I’d never been in a home this extravagant. Not even Drew’s compared.
“We’re glad you were able to make it,” Drew’s grandma said to me warmly. She reminded me of a queen—slender, and dressed in an ivory dress suit and pearls. “Drew’s told us so much about you, and it’s lovely that you’ll be spending Christmas with us.”
“Thank you for inviting us,” I replied. “And for having us stay with you. Your home is beautiful.”
“We need a reason to fill up these guest rooms,” Drew’s grandpa said with a hearty laugh. “Don’t get me wrong—I love living out here—but country life does get rather quiet.”
We talked for about twenty more minutes—mainly Drew’s grandparents asking Drew, Chelsea, and me about school and New Hampshire. Then the jet lag caught up with me. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop from yawning. I felt bad, since we had only just arrived. I didn’t want Drew’s grandparents to think they were boring me, but I felt like I hadn’t slept in over a day.
“Did you get much sleep on the plane, dear?” Drew’s grandma asked, placing her teacup down on the saucer.
“Not really,” I managed in between yawns.
“Lizzie didn’t sleep at all on the plane,” my mom decided to speak on my behalf. “She read the entire time.”
“You didn’t sleep at all?” Chelsea’s dad looked horrified.
“I tried, but it was hard to sleep in the seats,” I said with a shrug. I didn’t look at Drew or his mom, since I’m sure it was easier for them to sleep in the cushy first class seats that leaned back into private beds. I didn’t want to be jealous, but I kind of was, a little.
I shouldn’t be thinking that way, though, since I was lucky to be here at all.
“Perhaps you want to rest up before dinner?” Drew’s grandma asked. Then she looked around at everyone else, and I noticed that I wasn’t the only one with dark circles under my eyes. My mom tried to stifle a yawn, but I could tell she was tired as well.
“It seems like you all need a good nap,” Drew’s grandma concluded. “I’ll show you to your rooms—I know how tough travel days can be, so the staff has already prepared them for you.”
I was so tired that I didn’t show as much surprise as I normally would have at the fact that they had an entire staff. I was like a zombie as I followed her down the hall.
First she led Chelsea and her dad to their room, and the next one was for me and my mom. It was bigger than the master bedroom at our house, and the traditional furniture looked fit for nobility.
I didn’t have much time to admire it, because the moment I got into the bed, I closed my eyes and instantly fell asleep.
* * *
When the alarm on my phone sounded to wake me for dinner, I could have sworn it was the next day already and I had accidentally slept through the night. I needed ten more hours of sleep if I would ever feel awake again. But Drew’s grandparents had mentioned at tea that they were having dinner prepared for us to welcome us to England. As much as I would have loved to have slept through until morning, I forced myself to get out of bed and change out of the travel clothes I’d been wearing since I got on the plane in New Hampshire, which was who knows how long ago.
Dinner was served in the formal dining room, and it was extremely elegant. I felt like a lady in Downton Abbey, one of my favorite television shoes. Also, Drew’s grandma had no part in preparing the meal—besides deciding what she wanted on the menu. They actually did have a full staff, so their personal chef, Zesa, made our food. When each course was served, she told us details about the dish. I would have been more than happy with a cheeseburger and fries, but the Beef Wellington we had as an entrée was delicious. I barely had room for dessert, but I managed to force some cake down to be polite.
“Are you more awake after your nap?” Drew asked once the meal was over.
“Sort of,” I said, rubbing my eyes and holding back a yawn. “I’d heard about jet lag, but I never knew it was like this. I’ve never felt so tired before.”
“If you can manage to stay up for a little longer, I would love to give you a tour of the gardens,” he said.
“At night?” I asked. “And in December?” Just thinking about it made me shiver.
“Winter gardens have a certain charm to them,” he said. “And while they’re beautiful during the day, I prefer them at night.”
I wasn’t surprised. Drew was more of a night owl than me.
“I might be able to force myself to stay awake for a little bit longer,” I said with a smile.
He squeezed my hand. “Glad to hear it.”
After thanking Drew’s grandparents and Chef Zesa for the meal, Drew and I bundled up in winter gear and headed out to the gardens. I was worried that Chelsea would try to come with us, but either she got the hint that we wanted to be by ourselves or she was extremely tired, because she said she was exhausted and went to bed.
I wished I felt more awake, but this was the first chance I had to be alone with Drew since arriving to England. I was at least going to pretend to not be tired.
The garden was huge, and unbelievably beautiful. It had stone walls around it, and to enter we walked through an archway that looked like it led to another world. It was so quiet that even the sounds of our feet on stray twigs sounded loud. We strolled along the cobblestone pathway, and I was enjoying myself despite the cold, which was saying a lot. But English winters weren’t as bad as the ones in New Hampshire, so it was bearable.
I didn’t say much as I took in the view. All the trees except the evergreens were bare and covered in snow. White Christmas lights wrapped around the occasional tree, transforming the garden into a winter wonderland. Carved stone pots looked like they would hold flowers in the summer, but in the winter, with icicles dripping down the handles, they had a charm of their own. Once more, I wished for my sketchbook.
“It’s beautiful,” I said, leaning closer into Drew as we walked. I loved being near him, and the proximity kept me warm.
“I like gardens best in the winter,” he said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because that’s when the garden is in its purest form,” he said. “Sure, it’s more colorful in the summer, but in the winter you see the bare bones of what it is, of what keeps it alive.”
Looking around now, what he said made sense. I would have loved to see what the garden looked like in the summer, in complete bloom, but now I was seeing the heart of what made it up, the part that never died.
Then I glanced up at the sky and saw the moon. It was three-quarters full. It would have been beautiful, but instead it reminded me that I only had a week to fix what Chelsea had done.
Drew must have seen the worry etched on my face, because he pulled me closer. I rested my head on his shoulder, loving being near him. I wished we could stay like this forever—the two of us together, enjoying a nighttime walk through a garden in the middle of winter. If only we didn’t have so much to worry about. Then we could be happy, like we were meant to be.
“Want to sit?” he asked when we came across a wooden bench. It had a covering above it, so the seat wasn’t wet with snow. The wood was old and peeling, making the bench look like it belonged in a cottage instead of a semi-noble estate. “This is my favorite place in the garden.”
He put his arm around me when we sat down, and I snuggled into him, breathing in the coldness of winter tinged with his forest-y cologne. For the rest of my life, I would associate the scent of the forest with safety, happiness, and love.
We looked up at the moon and stars, my hand clasped in his, neither of us saying a word.
“I can’t believe everything Alistair wants us to do,” I voiced what had been on my mind since speaking with him at his store. “It feels so impossible.”
“I wish I could tell you something that would make it all okay, or help prepare us for what’s to come, but I have no idea about this time travel stuff, either,” Drew said. “I want it to work, but whenever I think about it, it sounds crazy, and like you said, impossible. It’s our only option, though, so we have to try.”
“We can’t lose anything by trying.”
“Exactly.” He nodded. “And we’ll lose everything if we don’t.”
“Every time I think about it, it makes my head spin,” I told him.
“How come?” he asked.
“For instance, let’s say it’s possible, and the time travel works,” I started. “In the timeline we have now, we never went back to the past. Everything that exists in this life happened
of what happened in the past. Us meeting again, stopping the accident so we could be together in this life, etcetera. If we go back to the past and change it … what if we come back and everything is different? We could be completely different people. And if everything changes, will we remember everything from this timeline—the life we’ve lived up until now—or from the new one we’ll create by going back to the past?”
Drew took a minute to process everything I’d said. I couldn’t blame him, since it was all rather confusing.
“You’re getting ahead of yourself,” he finally decided. “There’s no point in worrying about things like that. Because this time line—what’s going to happen if we can’t go back and change everything—ends in Chelsea’s spell taking hold of you, and you know how that will end. If we can change anything, it has to be better than what’s going to happen if we don’t.”
“You’re right,” I said. “I just hope we don’t cause a major paradox.”
“Did you watch some crazy sci-fi movie on the plane?” Drew asked with a laugh.
“Not on the plane.” I laughed too, even though I was stressed out. “But I’ve watched them before, and seen TV shows about it and read books about it. The moment time travel gets involved in a story, everything gets confusing. The smallest change in the past can have huge effects on the future.”
Drew tucked a curl behind my ear. “You can’t think about it like that,” he said, serious now. “This is the only chance we have to fix things. Whatever happens once we’ve finished, it has to be better than what we’re facing now.”
He kissed me then, sweet and loving, the warmth of his lips making the cold disappear around me. In moments like this, it was only me and Drew, and nothing could touch us.
If only those moments could last forever.
After breakfast the next morning, Drew, Chelsea, and I met in Drew’s room to start our search. Just like at Alistair’s, we set up a map of the area, and Chelsea held the pendulum as I pictured the ring. But as hard as we tried, we couldn’t get it to work. It was like the balance of power was off.
After multiple tries, we admitted defeat.
“Without the tracking spell, how are we supposed to find one ring in the entire county?” Chelsea had no problem pointing out the grim reality of our situation. “It’ll be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”
When she said it like that, it did sound extremely grim.
“I’ve already thought about this,” Drew said confidently. “You know how Lizzie has Alistair in New Hampshire, and he’s her Memory Guide?”
“Yeah …” Chelsea nodded, looking doubtful about whatever he was about to say.
“Well, I have a Memory Guide here in Hampshire County. She’s the one who helped me remember my past life on that trip to England two years ago. Her name is Misty, and she has a shop in town.”
“So we can visit her and figure out where to go from here,” I concluded what Drew must have been thinking.
“You got it,” he said with a knowing smile.
It was decided, then. Drew told his grandparents that he was going to show us around town, they called in the driver for us, and we were off.
* * *
The town he was referring to was called Winchester, and it was the most charming place I had ever seen. We passed so many beautiful buildings on the drive—a huge cathedral, a castle, and other historic sites that I wanted to run inside of and explore. But we were on a mission, and that mission unfortunately did not include site-seeing like a tourist.
Marshall dropped us off, and Drew led Chelsea and me down a pedestrian-only street called Winchester High Street. No building was taller than three floors, and each one had an individual antique front. I felt like I was on a set for a historical movie. There were flower boxes in lots of the windows, and I imagined they would have been beautiful in the summer.
We walked down the stone walkway until we reached a wrought iron clock jutting out of one of the buildings. Across from the clock was a shop with a Tudor-front and thatched roof, the hanging sign reading “Misty’s Antiques.”
“Good, she’s still here,” Drew said.
“You didn’t know if she was still here?” Chelsea rolled her eyes. “What would you have done if she wasn’t?”
“Worried about it then?” Drew said nonchalantly.
“Good to know you’ve got this under control,” Chelsea shot back. “So glad to be trusting you with something so important.”
“It doesn’t matter, because she
here,” I said. If Chelsea and Drew kept picking on each other, I was going to get annoyed fast. “Let’s go in and say hi.”
We walked into the store, and the bell on the door jingled to announce our arrival.
The shop had a similar feeling to Alistair’s—small and dark, with antiques pushed together in every possible space. I could spend a long time searching through everything to discover something truly special. The store was a lot busier than Alistair’s, though, with what looked like tourists and locals alike browsing the items and chatting with each other.
Misty was in the back, ringing up items for a customer. Because of Alistair, I expected her to be old and mysterious—the stereotype antique owner. But she was nothing like that. She was young—maybe in her upper twenties or lower thirties—her brown hair styled in trendy curls and wearing a lacy green dress that looked like it came from a designer store. If I had seen her on the street, I would have thought she worked at a fashion magazine, not a musty antique shop.
“Is that her?” Chelsea sounded as surprised as I felt.
“Yep,” Drew said.
“I expected someone more like Alistair,” I said. “She looks cool.”
cool,” Drew replied. “Did you think my Memory Guide would be anything but?”
I laughed, glad that Drew could joke around despite everything we were dealing with. Of course now that I thought about our situation, the weight of it came pouring over me, but it was nice to have those few seconds when my imminent death wasn’t consuming my every thought.
“Drew Carmichael.” Misty smiled as we approached, and had a younger employee she called Lauren take over at the register. “And I’m guessing you’re Elizabeth?”
“Yes.” I wasn’t surprised she knew who I was—Alistair had known who Drew was without me introducing them, too. It must be a Memory Guide thing.
“And you are?” Misty looked at Chelsea, confusion on her made-up face.
“Chelsea Givens,” Chelsea introduced herself. “I love your dress.”
“Thanks!” Misty smiled, and it was like the two of them were friends already.
“Sorry to come by when it’s so busy,” Drew said. “But we need to talk to you about something important.”
“No worries,” Misty said with a wave of her hand. “I have a bunch of holiday workers who would love to help out. I’ll let them know, then we can get tea nearby and chat.”
“This isn’t the sort of conversation we can have in public,” I whispered to Drew.
He repeated what I’d said to Misty.
She nodded, and after letting Lauren know what was going on, led us to a back room that I guessed was her office, although it was so messy it was hard to tell.
We sat down on the couches and chairs, and caught her up on everything until now.
“Do you think what Alistair wants us to do is possible?” I asked once we finished telling her the story.
“I’ve heard rumors of such things, but I’ve never witnessed it myself,” she said. “Everything in the Universe must line up perfectly, and it’s rare when that happens. But we’ll never know if we don’t try, right?”
She was so optimistic that it was hard to disagree.
“Do you have an idea how to help us find the ring?” Drew asked.
“I was wondering when you would ask,” Misty said, a smile on her glossed lips. “The tracking spell didn’t work earlier because there were only three of you in the room. It’s easiest with four, since it relates to the four directions of the compass—North, South, East, and West. Now that the three of you are here with me, we’ll be able to do the tracking spell with much more accuracy.”
“It’s also more accurate when the person doing the spell is closer to the object, right?” I asked.
“Correct,” she said. “When you were in America, you were able to narrow the location of the ring down to Hampshire County. Now that you’re here, and your energy is closer to the ring, the connection will be enormously stronger. We should be able to get it to an exact location.”
“What are we waiting for, then?” Chelsea said. “Let’s get started.”