I can't sleep.
I turned over in my disarrayed bed, searching for the comfy place that will enable me to get to sleep. I bashed the pillow and turned it over to the cooler side. My covers resumed their memory-shape and settled around me.
Even that annoyed me. I yearned for crisp, resistant cotton, and heavy scratchy blankets.
After another half an hour I gave up. I lay on my back and let myself think.
I took myself back to the beginning of this situation. The letter from the past that changed my future.
Why did I have to go back?
Because it was my ancestor that was in danger of not taking the right path; of not taking the course that led to me.
I frowned in the dark.
I thought of the Chief's odd behaviour today. All that smiling had been unnerving.
I had another thought. The Chief had let me go on the assignment with hardly even a token protest. I was so keen to go that I didn't look too closely at what was happening around me before I left.
Mike had been in an odd mood that day too, now I recall.
My memory tends toward the visual; thinking back to the day I left, I can clearly see the underlying sadness in his expression. Almost as if he knew that I was going to meet Chris and fall for him.
Almost as if he knew.
I was wide awake now. I sat up.
Mike was the department's best and most experienced programmer. I had always considered ours to be the Alpha Team, the one that got the best gigs and although I felt a little sorry that Mike had a 'thing' for me, I was always glad he was 'ours'. His emergency recall had probably gone a long way towards saving my life, particularly as he had already started the calculations.
He had already started them.
My once secure world seemed to be unravelling. Was I seriously considering the thought that there was some big conspiracy to send me into the past and have my great-times-eight grandfather fall in love with me deliberately?
No. Don't be stupid; get a grip. In all the time I've been working we are so careful to avoid the dreaded Paradox. While I know it's not impossible, it is extremely unlikely.
Okay then. That must mean that I had to go back for another reason.
I lay back down, trying to put the conspiracy theory to the back of my mind. The timeline must have been repaired because I still exist. So that means that Chr...Foyle married Sam and had at least one child. The man that I met and accidentally fell for, who, I'm reasonably sure, fell just a little bit for me, too.
Maybe that was the key. Would he have considered remarriage if we hadn't opened up to the possibility of romance?
But why me?
I suddenly felt quite stupid. For the first time in awhile it occurred to me that I might not have all the facts to hand. Supposing Chris wasn't the only one who had to learn from this experience? It wasn't outside the bounds of possibility that someone else had something to learn.
Like Sam, for example.
She had certainly had her fair share of men flocking around her, but apart from Barbara, there hadn't been hordes of women flocking around Foyle with any seriousness. Perhaps I'd been there to shock her into noticing Foyle as a man. But, again, why me?
I made myself comfortable on the pillows and went through all the data that had been collected about the jump before I left; the file I had asked for about a certain DCI and his feisty sidekick had been part of my info dump. I'm sure much of their story had been left out, but there were case files that had survived the Second World War and the others after it. I also still had access to Sam's Diary. I ran through it all now, regardless of relevance; I no longer needed to worry about getting ahead of myself, time-wise.
Oh, poor Paul! I can't believe anyone would think for a minute that that lovely man would kill his wife...Chris gets a new family with his niece and her son, while Sam...
"...manages to get herself blown up yet again..."
I shook my head. How did she manage to get away with it all?
Illegal rambling? Ha, good one. Sam could have done with an electric typewriter; she could make her mistakes far more quickly.
I huffed with amusement.
I was heartened when I found an entry in Sam's diary for April 1944 where she had faithfully recorded the comment 'dear Mr F' had made about her possibly returning to working as his driver.
'Well, I've thought about little else.'
30th April 1945;
Oh Yippee! Blackout has officially ended. Five years and 123 days since it started. I can finally walk out after dark without worrying that I shall fall into a ditch or trip over a courting couple (well, it was only once, and I did apologise).
The next snippet made me gasp.
4th May 1945.
Andrew asked me to marry him today. It was nice in one way to have a proposal, but he really made it very matter of fact; 'why don't we..?' Rather than 'I love and desire you, be mine forever'. I rather feel he's missed the point. He's changed, older, more than his years. The War, I suppose. Thank God it's over. But I don't feel 'that' way about Andrew anymore. I most certainly don't want his father as my father-in-law. He will never notice – or acknowledge noticing – that things have forever changed between us?
I puzzled over that last entry. Was Sam referring to Andrew or Christopher?
I also had no idea that Andrew had proposed to Sam.
I said that I thought only of him as a friend. He thinks he can wear me down. Were my feelings not engaged elsewhere, maybe he could have done, but I'm holding out for love, real love, the one love that I will chose to be with, not the one I'd settle for. Does that make me selfish? Marrying Andrew for the wrong reasons would be an injustice to him, to me, to love and especially to his father. My father preaches that for all things there is a season. I think, for now, that I'll wait.
Sensible girl. Or young woman, I should say.
Paul's wife Edith has just had a little girl, they're going to call her Clementine after Mr Churchill's wife...it was quite dramatic; the baby started at the station – probably couldn't wait to join the excitement! Mr F drove them to the hospital. I was quite shocked; I didn't think that he could drive. He told me later that he simply didn't want to drive. I said to him that he never needed me after all. I felt quite spiffy when he replied that he 'wouldn't say that'. I do wonder what this new world order will bring at a local level. I do think that the future will be quite a different kettle of fish.
The Future. Well, yes, it had been a very different kettle of fish indeed.
I suddenly felt really shattered, as if I'd been exercising for hours. I shut off the diary, slid down in the bed and closed my eyes.
I had a vague thought about Clementine Milner and wondered what she had looked like. A fuzzy black and white image popped into my head of a toddler in bonnet and knitted jacket sitting in a baby carriage, then a child at the seaside, a young girl in her teens - in the early nineteen sixties I'd say, her short skirt very brightly coloured, a young bride blushing - in full colour video now - beside an equally young man. Three children of their own joined them; the picture clarity improved with the passing years and generations until I was overwhelmed with faces of strangers that bore little resemblance to Paul and Edith.
I stopped the images, taking a few minutes to relax my overworked brain. I really wanted to take the same journey through Sam's future, but I wasn't sure I was ready for that trip yet. I wasn't even certain about what I wanted to find. I wanted Chris to be happy with Sam, but, impossibly, I wanted him for myself – again. I couldn't ignore how I felt. I felt a sudden shiver go through me; supposing Chris had been the one...
No. He was Sam's, I was sure of it. Besides, there must occasionally be more than one match per person, or a helluva lot of people get together and/or married for reasons other than love. I mean, look at me. Whining over a man that I would never have been able to meet at all if it hadn't been for my work.
Plus, I couldn't forget that unexpected frisson with Mike.
I had more to think about, but now I was finally tired. I think my last thoughts were about starting a diary and I was just deciding on whether or not to splash out on the expense of a real paper one, when I slid into sleep.
Foyle woke up earlier than was usual for him. He couldn't blame the early morning sunlight or the familiar sounds outside of people on their way to work, he simply no longer wanted to sleep. Since his now permanent retirement was in effect, he was quite caught up with his rest.
He turned his back to the curtained windows and caught sight of the little trinket box. He hadn't opened the box for several weeks; he was trying to push the past to where it belonged – back in the past. Lily. Sweet, funny, dear Lily.
Foyle picked up the box and ran his hand over its surface, feeling the delicate decoration, and allowing himself to remember as much as he could about Lily. He knew with sudden clarity that he was saying goodbye to that chapter of his life. He would never see Lily again, he knew it. His memories of her were in no danger of being idolised; she was real and fallible and lovely. He missed her, but it was time to move on. He just wished he had had the chance to say goodbye properly.
Suddenly energised, Foyle threw back the bedcovers and climbed out of bed. He had been patient long enough, it was time to get going.
Time may seem to stand still, but the future is always coming and he wanted to meet his end without regret for what he should have done with his life.
Samantha Stewart wandered along East Beach Street, the sea, gleaming and blue on her right, the buildings and the road to her left. Her brain pointed out various pieces of information that it thought she would like to know, but her uppermost thoughts were not of the early morning sunshine lifting the light sea mist, nor the wheeling and cawing of boisterously squabbling seagulls above her head.
She frowned as she regarded the pavement at her feet. She wondered if years from now people would realise that the slightly mismatched paving along the seafront was where the path had been repaired when the guns had been removed after the war ended.
She sighed heavily for the umpteenth time. She was distracting herself from the task she needed to do and she knew it.
Life wasn't always plain sailing. She had had difficult moments in her past - her memory of finding both Lily and Christopher in a state of partial undress and her own subsequent flight to this very spot seemed suddenly very vivid, No doubt, given her tendency to act first and think later, she would have difficult moments again, but right now, she was thinking of the future, her own future specifically. The War was long over. Her purpose in life was in a state of flux. She was out of uniform now, and out of a job since he had retired - again. The economy was in decline and probably would be for years to come, the returning men had gone back to work, displacing the women, who were left with few options.
Sam stopped at the junction of Rock-A-Nore Road and The Bourne. She crossed the road and her feet carried her along The Bourne without any real sense of purpose, as if they knew that the part of her that was in charge didn't really have both oars in the water. The same lacklustre amble turned her left into Courthouse Street, where the slight incline hinted at the fact they were moving away from the seafront. At the top of the lane Sam turned left onto the High Street, where a couple of the bombed shops were in the process of being rebuilt. The already irregular buildings would have some newer additions to their fine, if shabby, Georgian neighbours.
Having sighed heavily again, Sam caught the aroma of baking bread on the air and her stomach rumbled. Having left without having any breakfast (what would father say?) Sam realised that she was quite hungry now. She hurried along to the bakery to see what was available. Five minutes later, the purchase of four crisp rolls, still warm from the oven, cheered her temporarily.
The incline of the road became steeper along Swan Lane, but it didn't bother Sam at all. Her stride had gained purpose. If she came bearing gifts maybe her news wouldn't seem so bad.
Maybe my news won't bother him at all. He doesn't really need me any more. His book is finished – no more illegal rambling to be had. He can drive, but doesn't have anything to drive anyway.
Her internal musings had carried her past the old Parish Church and along the lane to the steps at the foot of his house. She wondered only briefly if it was too early to call on her former boss before taking the steps up tothe front door.
Foyle had only just got the kettle on when he heard the heavy knocker bang. Frowning in surprise, he checked that he was decent before he went to open the door.
Having been thinking of this lovely young woman only a few moments ago, Foyle was taken aback to see her standing there in the flesh. He hadn't seen her for at least a month.
Sam didn't take in much more than the frown and the dressing gown.
"Oh, sorry. Have I come at a bad time? Did I get you out of bed? Oh, I knew I should have waited longer, I -"
Foyle allowed only a small part of his grin to escape in a gentle smile as he interrupted her with the ease of old.
"Not at all, Sam. I've just got the kettle on, would you like a cup of tea?"
As always, her smile lit up her face.
"Oh, yes, please. That would be heavenly."
Her relief palpable, she stepped into the hall. As the door was closed behind her, she proffered the paper bag.
"I passed Judges on the way here; the smell was so good I picked up some rolls for breakfast."
"That was very kind of you. They do smell wonderful."
Foyle took the paper bag and indicated that she should precede him to the kitchen. Sam appeared quite at home there and for a small moment, Foyle allowed himself to imagine her there on a less temporary basis.
It was the work of only a few minutes to set out plates, knives and teaspoons, butter, jam and conserves to accompany the rolls, but it gave Foyle time to think. He made the tea, a generous full pot that would easily do for a refill each and then took the chair opposite Sam's.
"This is very nice, Sam, but it will taste better if I can put to rest whatever is bothering you first."
Her dismay was almost comical. She dipped her head and fiddled with the sleeve of her cardigan for a moment before lifting her head and giving a wry smile.
"I don't need to ask how you know, do I?"
Foyle didn't answer, he just raised his eyebrows as if to say 'out with it' while he poured the tea.
"Well, the long and short of it is that I'm out of work again."
Foyle paused in surprise.
"I thought that you were doing well with the Clement family; helping with the children and the household, wasn't it?"
Without her bidding, Percy Clement, age four and already a trial, popped into Sam's head. As for his mother...
"Yes, it was, in the beginning, but the oldest boy is a complete beast; since her husband's return from deepest darkest abroad, Mrs Clement has taken to her bed indefinitely, and she has developed odd fancies."
Foyle had been about to take a sip of tea, but he paused, his cup halfway to his lips. An eyebrow tweaked upwards.
Sam nodded; her voice was forthright with innocence, but her cheeks were tinged in pink.
"Yes. She seems to think that I'm after her husband."
Foyle's teacup hesitated again.
"Husband, yes. According to her I've been chasing him all over the house, attempting to seduce him into leaving her high and dry."
Foyle's tea cup clattered onto its saucer. He suddenly felt very under-dressed in only his pyjamas and dressing gown. The image of Sam running around a house in seduction mode was disconcerting to say the least. However, the idea that there was any truth in it was ridiculous.
Unbidden, the half finished sketches of a nude Sam popped far too easily into his head.
"I take it that there's no...that is to say, Mr Clement...?"
Sam happily sipped her tea, oblivious to Foyle's inner turmoil.
"Oh, no. Mr Clement is an absolute sweetie. I don't know what happened to him exactly, a prisoner of war in Japanese hands from what I can gather, but he doesn't pay me any attention at all, other than to thank me for the help with the children and his wife. But she's got this idea into her head and she's making his life difficult."
Foyle had another go at his tea.
Sam had already made progress with the first half of a roll, and chewed thoughtfully.
"Of course, if you ask me, it has more to do with three children in four years before he left than anything I've done. Or not done, as such."
Sam reached for the jam again.
"So there you have it. I had to go, but they gave me two weeks severance in lieu of notice, and a reference. Well, he did, anyway."
"Umm, well, that's something."
Foyle was somewhat at a loss as to what Sam wanted him to do about a situation that appeared to be as resolved as it was likely to get. He didn't have to wait long.
"The thing is, I've heard from my father again. Uncle Aubrey accidentally let slip that I was off the leash again; he didn't mean to, poor soul, but you know my father, drip drip drip, until you give in."
Foyle didn't like the direction this appeared to be taking.
Sam sighed heavily. Foyle had the impression that it had not been for the first time today.
"The thing is...well, in Father's eyes the 'good works' I was doing for the War Effort was eventually decided to be a good thing – with your help, of course – but now that the war is over and I'm free, or at least available... Mother is unwell again, and they're both getting on a bit – his words, not mine, he's only fifty-nine for goodness sake, hardly in his dotage, anyway, he's decided that I have to return home."
The last part came out in a rush.
Distressed, but trying to hide it, Sam took a hurried gulp of her tea.
Foyle's appetite disappeared and he put down the bread roll carefully.
And he did, all too clearly. Reverend Stewart wanted his daughter home to help with her mother, then there would be one extra little task, then another and another, until this bright and intelligent woman was buried under the burden of it all. A golden girl in a gilded cage and her father wouldn't even realise he was killing her spirit.
Sam was absently picking to pieces the last piece of bread roll on her plate. Her abrupt loss of appetite mirrored Foyle's own. Her eyes suddenly met his.
"I love my parents dearly, and I wouldn't mind going back to see them for a while and help out for a week or two, but not...forever. Does that make me a bad daughter?"
Foyle shook his head.
"Of course not. Simply a realist. Can't you tell him you have another job already lined up?"
"I could, but he'd want details, then I'd elaborate, but forget what I'd added on, then I'd contradict myself and he'd just know."
He contemplated the top of Sam's head as she looked at her hands, which were still abusing the bread. He knew for certain what he wanted; had known for a long time, but now was not the right time. She would question his motives.
Sam looked up suddenly and caught him staring. In all the time she had known him, there had only been a handful of occasions where she had been able to tell what he was thinking. Whatever she had been about to say lodged in her throat. She had been thinking about her parents and her lodgings, and the fact that she was dipping into her meagre savings to pay her rent, but those thoughts had been instantly derailed. Her heart swooped and plunged, making the breath in her lungs hitch.
No, it couldn't be; it just couldn't.
The moment was passed in an instant; Foyle's expression was shuttered again, his thoughts hidden as before, but now Sam felt quite different. She wasn't sure yet what to do, armed with this new suspicion, but she suddenly felt a lot more optimistic about the future.
Her tone was therefore quite bright.
"Don't suppose there's another cup in the pot?"
Another morning and I'm still here; whatever happened, it worked. Is still working. Whatever. I looked at the time and turned back over to try to get some more shuteye. I'm so tired.
About one second later – though my watch confirmed it had been half an hour – I heard my entrance door chime, followed by the sound of the door opening. Either I had left the door unlocked (unlikely), I was being burgled (very unlikely), or Mike was being prudent in case I wasn't dressed yet. Though tired, I felt a puckish mood upon me. I grinned in anticipation.
"Hey, Mike, what took you so long? I've kept your side warm!"
It had become our running gag since the night he had soothed my nightmares away. It let me avoid thinking about how close we had become in such a short space of time. He always had some funny or witty or pithy comeback, and I was waiting for today's offering.
He was taking far too long. I was suddenly wide awake and wondering who the hell had just let themselves into my place.
Just as I was wondering what I had available to incapacitate a burglar (bludgeon with slippers? Strangle with dressing gown belt?), I heard footsteps coming closer.
Call me old fashioned, but I'm fairly certain the criminal fraternity rarely wear high heels in the commission of a burglary.
A waft of very expensive perfume came my way.
I grinned and relaxed. I'd know that signature scent anywhere.
"Grammas, is that you?"
The very attractive older woman who stood in my bedroom doorway looked pained. She took off her designer sunglasses and peered haughtily at me.
"Just because I have passed my century is no reason to remind me of my grand-parenting status. Kindly call me Katherine."
The haughtiness fell away and we both laughed like drains. I hope I'm at least half as fit as her when I'm a hundred and five.
I clambered out of bed to hug my great grandmother, Katherine Keller St Just.
"Okay, Katherine it is. When did you and Gramps get back?"
She waved her sunglasses airily.
"A couple of days ago, but never mind that, my sweet. I'm far more interested in meeting this 'Mike' creature who apparently has a side being kept warm for his return. Do tell."
It wasn't a request.
But where to start?
Under Grammas penetrating stare I felt like I was fifteen again.
"He's a colleague of mine and a very good friend."
"I should hope so if he's sharing your bed, darling, but when did all this happen? We go away for a few paltry months, and look what happens! Our baby gets a boyfriend."
"Um, not exactly."
Grammas looked disappointed. Then she brightened.
"Friend with benefits?"
She waved her arm expansively.
"Oh, don't 'Katherine' me as if I've said something wrong. I may not be sixty anymore, but I'm not stupid. If he makes you happy, go for it."
Oh, thank goodness Mike wasn't here. I rubbed my forehead, trying to think. I couldn't tell my family the whole truth, my work was confidential, but I had to explain, or at least try to, without alarming Grammas.
"There was an accident at work, and Mike has been keeping an eye on me. Don't worry, nothing's wrong or anything, I was just...um...shot."
Nope, couldn't say that.
"Well, Mike is - "
"Right here, honeybun. Sorry I was so long with the croissants, but there was a huge queue. Did'ya miss me?"
In a move that looked as natural as breathing, Mike slid an arm around my back and pulled me to him; my heart rocketed around my chest like an old pinball. He kissed the top of my head and turned to my great grandmother with a grin and held his hand out.
"You must be Lily's Grammas. I've heard so much about you, I feel like we've met already."
Katherine raised a perfect eyebrow as she looked him in the face for the longest moment; I waited for the icy blast that would shoot Mike down in flames, as it had done to so many of my would-be suitors in the past.
Oh, this is going to be awful.