Wrong Face in the Mirror: A Time Travel Romance (Medicine Stick Series)

BOOK: Wrong Face in the Mirror: A Time Travel Romance (Medicine Stick Series)
6.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Wrong Face in the Mirror

Barbara Bartholomew


Wrong Face in the Mirror

Published by Barbara Bartholomew at Amazon Kindle

Copyright 2013 by Barbara Bartholomew


Cover Design by Cover Shot Creations

[email protected]

Books by the Author


The House Near the River

The Ghost and Miss Hallam (Lavender series)

Letters From Another Town (Lavender series)

Leaving Lavender (Lavender series)

Lavender Blue (Lavender series)

By The Bay

At This Time of Year (novella)

Nightmare Kingdom


For Younger Readers

The Time Keeper (Timeways series)

Child of Tomorrow (Timeways series)

When Dreamers Cease to Dream (Timeways series)

The Second Jeep Harris

Dreams of Earth

Finding Endymion

Royal Blood

Princess Alice

Chapter One

As she drove to her hometown Hart couldn’t help but think how strange it was that she could remember her favorite book was Rumer Godden’s
Take Three Tenses
but had trouble recalling her own name.

Hart Benson. Hart Benson. That was her name
or so everybody told her, even though it never seemed to actually fit. But her memory of that name was lost with whatever accident or illness had robbed her of the past.

And she knew how to drive a car, though her foot automatically reached for the clutch as she slowed down to the stop where she would turn south to her destination in the western Oklahoma town of Mountainside.

She had a home and family there; again that was what she was told. After months in a care center, she was going back to the place where she belonged.

But she remembered none of it, not the prairie farms that she passed, nor the towns she went through, driving herself like the grownup she was for the first time since she’d come to consciousness in the hospital.

Only when she reached the town of her destination did she feel the same flicker of recognition that had allowed her to remember her favorite book, set during World War II in London and featuring a lost love affair. The houses, even the streets were unfamiliar to her, but the ancient mountains hanging so close to the town, scraped bare by the winds and waters of centuries were another matter. She knew these mountains; they were bred into her very being.

But she didn’t know why. She remembered nothing of her history here.

The man on the phone who said he was her brother told her to look for 411 Mountainside Road. It was, he’d said, the street next to the mountain.

He’d wanted to come for her and to bring her himself from the rehab center in Oklahoma City, but she’d laughingly told him she was perfectly able to drive herself across a couple of hours of western Oklahoma countryside. So he’d agreed that they would be here waiting for her, him and his family. Her family.

The truth was she’d wanted a little time to herself between leaving the cloistered environment of the facility that had housed her since she’d been dismissed from the hospital and joining these Bensons who said she belonged with them.

As far as that went, Hart felt she was being sent to live with strangers.

When she’d refused to see them, saying she had no idea who they were, they’d sent photos of a man who looked to be about thirty. He had cotton blond hair beginning already to fade back from his forehead, a broad plain face with a wide nose, and a smile that made you want to like him.

His wife, her sister-in-law supposedly, had straight brown hair
clipped close to her head in a well-shaped cut. Fun sparkled in her eyes and from a mischievous grin.

And there were two little girls: both of whom looked like the man who said he was her brother. Mandy was eight, the letter that came with the pictures said, and Christy was six.

It was hot, dry summer, the hottest and driest since the 1930s the television news had reported and she saw little attractive about the landscape.  The grass across the sprawling pastures was dried out and brown. The black cattle in the fields hid under the shade of an occasional tree, seeking refuge from the burning sun. Half eaten haystacks showed they were being fed in late August when fresh green grass should be providing their meals.

Ponds were dry, crusty with long dried mud, and creeks showed only a
puddle now and then where the last rain, probably in April or May, had left a trace of water.

The landscape seemed without color, tones of beige and brown
prevalent everywhere. The center of the state had been rich in greens and the variegated colors of the crops, but here it was like a black and white film, like Kansas before Dorothy swirled away to the colors of Oz.

Hart felt her spirits sink. She shouldn’t have come, she didn’t want to be here in this terrible place, condemned to live with strangers. And yet, what choice had she? They’d made that quite clear at the care center. She had just recovered from major trauma and her brother had promised her a home, family and even had found a job for her.

Now with the low mountains in the distance clearing from the hazy purple that formed their identity from a distance into close up gray with huge granite boulders and only scraggly growth peering between the cracks in the rocks, she knew she was closing in and only wished she could turn the little rental car around and head back to the city she’d left behind.

She didn’t feel like she belonged here. Nothing in her sensed familiarity, not even in the dusty dry air she breathed.

Then she rounded a curve and was there.

The town of Mountainside lay in the shadow of the mountains and the street where Tommy Benson lived was huddled right next to one of them, so close that she wondered that the huge boulders didn’t tumble into his yard.

The modest home had been built from the granite itself and fit neatly into the monotone look of the land. She drove her car in next to a bright red pickup truck and came to a stop, her heart pounding the message, ‘not here, not here’ with each beat. Strangely she felt the rising of something almost like fear.

How could that be when she was coming home to her own family, people who wanted and loved her, or so they said?

The instant she turned off the engine, a child’s voice shouted, “She’s here! Aunt Hart is here?”

A scrawny,
wide-faced girl well-covered with freckles and wearing shorts and a t-shirt ran from the porch to stand staring in her car window with open curiosity. Here it comes, Hart thought. Have to face up to your new life, my girl.

She stepped out, leaving behind the lingering cool of the air conditioned car, coming out to a blazing hot sun
lit day that seemed so lacking in air that she could hardly breathe.

The child stared at her, neither friendly or unfriendly
, and Hart felt as if she had been rebuffed. This girl didn’t look like somebody welcoming home a dearly beloved aunt.

By the time she had both feet on the ground, the others came out of the house to greet her. A broadly built man with fair skin with a reddish
tint and that cotton blond hair, a short plump woman, and another little girl who looked much like the other one, though younger, stood looking at her, wide rather nervous smiles on their faces. Then the man took her in his arms for a bear hug that made her feel even more uncomfortable. “Welcome home, Hart,” he said, stepping back from the hug to look into her face.

She tried to smile. “You must be Tommy,” she said, feeling totally inadequate. This was not, surely, how you were expected to greet family members you hadn’t seen in months.

“And I’m Nikki.” The woman stepped up, giving Hart a strong handshake, her broad face glowing with apparent good humor.

“Nice to meet you,” Hart heard her own voice as something disassociated from herself as though she were an onlooker and not a participant in this scene. She smiled at the girls. “And this must be Mandy and Christy.”

The two girls continued to regard her with a mixture of solemnity and what looked like fear. Why should they be afraid of her? Immediately she answered her own question. Because they’d heard the stories of how she’d been found nearly dead on a street  in Oklahoma City, over a hundred miles from her home, and that when she’d awakened in the hospital she hadn’t known who she was or where she came from.

Her brother must be a brave man to bring such an enigma into his home with his wife and small daughters.

Tommy insisted on getting her one bag out of the car and leading the way into the house, Nikki walking at her side and the two girls following.

The inside of the rock house was artificially cooled, feeling somewhat dark and cave
-like. It wasn’t a large house and she supposed it must be a sacrifice for the family to make a place for her here, but even the rooms with their well-worn furnishings struck no notes of familiarity in her mind. And yet she must have been here many times.

“I’m hungry,” Christy said. “We’ve waited and waited. Can’t we go eat now

Guiltily Hart guessed she must be later than expected. She had driven rather slowly, feeling stiff and uncomfortable in the rental car and though she was told she had a driver’s license and should be ready to drive again, she had proceeded with caution and had a feeling of too much speed as trucks raced past her and other drivers honked at her turtle-like movement. The seventy mile per hour limit on the interstate highway had seemed impossible to achieve and, a few miles out of the city, she’d taken to side roads, looking at her map as she cut across country, relaxing a little on narrow, sparsely traveled
country roads.

Now she quickly apologized. “I’m so sorry. You shouldn’t have delayed your meal.”

“It’s okay,” Mandy spoke for the first time. “But we’re going for pizza and Christy and me like pizza.

“So do I,” Hart returned, managing a little smile.

“But can you remember pizza?”

“Mandy!” he
r dad reprimanded. Apparently they’d been coached not to remind Hart of her condition.

“Actually I didn’t,” she responded honestly. “But we’ve had it at the care center so I know what it is now.”

“What’s a care center?” Mandy asked.

She’d forgotten about children and their open curiosity. “Kind of like a hospital but you don’t have to stay in your bed all the time. They help you get well.”

“Are you well now then? Mom said you don’t ‘member things,” this time Christy spoke.

The smile faded from Hart’s lips, but she tried to keep things light. “I’m on my way,” she said.

“Mom’s afraid you’re dangerous,” Mandy said.

“Mandy!” her mother’s face flushed a deep red as she scolded her older daughter. “Oh, Hart, I didn’t mean . . .”

“It’s all right,” Hart interrupted. “I understand what you meant.” She was only being polite because she didn’t understand at all. What was there about losing your past that made you any kind of threat? She could only suppose that for some people anybody different was scary.

Her opinion of her sister-in-law dropped a notch however. They didn’t want her here. They’d only taken her in because of a sense of family obligation.

She wished she could crawl away and hide in a hole somewhere.

BOOK: Wrong Face in the Mirror: A Time Travel Romance (Medicine Stick Series)
6.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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