Well, at least this time I didn't land on my knees or have a blinding headache.
It was the only good thing about this travel-through-a-bracelet thing that I swore I'd never do again. I searched for my small hand case and found it behind me.
It was night-time and raining. Heavily. I breathed deeply of the cool wet air and the nausea faded. I sneezed suddenly and had to grin. I don't know why, it just seemed funny. That made me think of Gene Kelly dancing in the rain. Gene Kelly with a feverish temperature on the day they were filming that iconic scene. He was a professional, a trouper. Did his job.
Not like me. He didn't fall in love with someone forbidden to him, or have a baby with that someone, or fall in love all over again with someone else...
The tang of the sea was heavy and familiar and oddly comforting. I started walking towards the coast, feeling a little more optimistic about my chances of success. If I made it home again – admittedly that was a big 'if' - I would be in a fair amount of trouble, but at least he would be okay.
My other 'he' should be also be okay. The note I'd left explaining why I'd broken in (well, okay, I used my pass) to my own place of work in the middle of the night and sent myself on an unscheduled, unsupervised and unauthorised field trip – well, it didn't explain everything, obviously; I didn't need to be arrested when I got back, if I got back – but I digress. The note should clear Mike with The Powers That Be, from the idea that he had helped me. Preposterous idea really; if he'd known I was coming here he would have come with me, at least as far as the chamber...actually, now I think about it, he would have stopped me, end of story.
1950. The country was still suffering the after-effects from the war, including meat and bacon still being rationed, but at least they hadn't started the slide into nuclear misery and paranoia of the sixties. My nondescript clothing should stop me from standing out in a crowd, and trousers on a woman weren't so unexpected nowadays. Pity really, I liked the fitted and flared look of the fifties. But I'd gone for the Lauren Bacall rather than the Grace Kelly look. The only downside was that Lauren Bacall went more or less straight up and down, and I, well, didn't.
Couldn't be helped.
I found a room at a local pub under the name of Lily Davis; I still had my paperwork for that name, so it seemed the best in such short notice. I ignored the look I got from the woman on the desk who was obviously wondering why I was out in the middle of the night and bad mannered enough to be dripping on her carpet.
Miss Frosty-Tone seemed to be implying that woman who stayed only one night were obviously up to no good.
"Mm, yes. I'm travelling."
She didn't say anything, but her sniff could only be described as disdainful.
I signed the register and absently noticed that the date was wrong.
"Um, it says the 26th..?"
The woman's arch stare dared me to contradict her.
"Yes, that is correct. Friday 26th May 1950."
Frack. I'm too early. Still, in time travel terms, I suppose it was better than too late.
I gave a smile that hopefully would tell her I wasn't an escaped lunatic.
"I'm sorry, being on holiday, I've just lost track of the days. I was convinced it was...never mind. In that case, I will need to be here for three days."
Miss Frosty thawed slightly at the prospect of more money and, presumably, less naughtiness.
Five minutes later I was in the room and wondering what to do until Sunday. I had to stick around Steep Lane to intervene at the right moment, but I also had to stay out of sight. I could not afford to be seen by either Sam or Christopher. Just because I no longer had black hair didn't mean they wouldn't recognise me. I got ready for bed and slid reluctantly between the crisp cold sheets that reminded me of another occasion all together. I was not sleepy.
Another thing that I had not allowed myself to think about until now was how I could get back home. Not being an authorised visit, I had no retrieval scheduled, and even if someone figured out what I'd done, how would they know where I'd gone and most importantly, when?
Mike would be my best hope for the where and when; he would figure out that I wouldn't – couldn't – just let things be. Tomorrow morning, when he woke up and found me gone, I'd bet my life – which would be accurate – on him realising where I'd gone. But he wouldn't know when, exactly. He could guess it would be close to the day of the accident, but he would need specifics. I could post him a letter, the same way I'd posted one to Zak, but that could risk being lost or intercepted. I needed something that I knew still existed in my time that Mike could find.
Its image popped into my head immediately.
The silver trinket box.
If I could get the message to Mike in that...
It was a big 'if'. I had to get into Sam and Christopher's home unnoticed, leave the message, and get out again also without being detected, or worse, arrested. And I had to do it in the next two days.
I frowned as I remembered Mike's seeming obsession with the box. It puzzled him that he kept thinking about it. It baffled me, because it had been in my family, not his.
I was still plotting ways to get the Foyle's out of their home, temporarily, when I fell asleep. I was more tired than I thought.
Foyle heard Sam's slow tread coming down the stairs as he finished making a pot of tea. The British brew, commiseration for many a problem over the years. Making it calmed him, and he waited to see how Sam was feeling. He looked up and she was standing in the doorway of the kitchen. He pulled a chair out for her to sit down before he got the milk from the pantry.
"I'm sorry, you..."
They had both spoken at the same time, and Sam smiled tiredly as she took the proffered chair.
"Me first, please. I'm being very silly, and I am sorry. You told me the truth, just as I asked, but I wasn't very grown up about your answer, because it was the answer I feared."
"Although you married me, and I don't in any way doubt your love for me, I have always suspected that you loved Lily. To hear it confirmed was still a shock."
"But I love you, I -"
"I know, and I love you so much too, but I didn't like the idea that you could even think of anyone else. And Lily isn't just anyone, she is – was – an impossible dream of perfection, because in your mind she will never get old, or grey, or fat. She will still be that shining ideal of what might have been. I couldn't possibly compete with her."
Foyle looked at Sam, seeing perhaps more than she herself realised.
"You worry that I picked you because I couldn't have her?"
Sam looked at him in such distress that he moved around the table to sit beside her. He took her hands in his.
"You were always my impossible first choice; the one I thought that I couldn't have because I was so much older and I didn't want to spoil your life. Looking back, I wonder if part of my attraction to Lily was that she reminded me so much of you. If you had married someone else, even Andrew, God forbid, and been genuinely in love, I would never have intervened. I loved you enough to let you go. You were so young, and had so much living to do."
"So, you might have settled for Lily?"
"I wouldn't have 'settled' for her, but we might have taken some time to see where we were going."
"But you said you loved her."
"Well, to be fair you didn't really give me much leeway with a yes or no option. If we had courted, I could very easily have seen Lily as part of my life."
Sam looked at their joined hands. He was so very dear to her, she loved him so much.
"I've been so silly."
"Not at all. I'm very flattered. Two woman after me, who would have thought?"
Sam hiccupped a laugh, and sniffed inelegantly.
"Foyle's are hard to resist, apparently."
"So I've heard."
Everyone went to church on Sunday, there was almost nothing else to do and most places would be closed for the day, even on the coast.
So, it would be cutting it fine, but I'd have to make my move on Sunday morning, straight after the family had left for the morning service. I still had my lock picks. The front of the house was very exposed, but the back would be impossible.
With the church in mind, I went out for a walk. Being a Saturday, there seemed to be a lot of people about, but I realised that there was hardly any traffic. Was this why Christopher had been taken aback so far as to end up being hit by a car? Their presence was that rare?
I found myself walking through the graveyard, but I had not consciously thought about what I was looking for until I found it.
1902 - 1932
Only thirty. No age at all. I wonder if she was aware at the end, worried about her husband and son, wondering how they would cope. I thought of Mike and little Jonathan. I suddenly realised how selfish I'd been. I wanted to save a man who had already been dead for a long time, and was willing to sacrifice the time I could have had with my family to do it.
I felt rather weepy all of a sudden, most unlike me. The old me, anyway.
I wanted to leave some flowers at the grave, but it looked well-tended, and with tomorrow being Sunday, there was always the possibility that Christopher might visit the grave and notice fresh flowers had been left. Instead, I picked a few daisies and sprinkled them over the grave. They looked sufficiently as if they had arrived there quite by chance.
You and me both.
I sighed and turned to leave.
And was horrified to see Christopher coming up the path towards me. I managed to stop myself from running off like a loony and attracting his attention, but the grave yard was very open, with almost nowhere to hide.
Fortunately he was looking down at the child whose hand he held. The pretty little auburn-haired girl was toddling confidently, and chattering away. She looked about two, which was what I would have expected of his daughter. I couldn't make out what she was saying, but her high treble and the responding base tones were happy. This little girl was my link to the family, my many-great grandmother.
I took all that in in an instant as I turned my back to them, frantically looking for an escape. I dawdled away without haste from the pair, steadily making progress over the uneven ground and mentally apologising for the all the graves I was stepping on. I managed to get to the lynch gate and scuttle off without anyone calling after me. Thoroughly shaken, I went back to my room at the pub and vowed to eat in my room tonight.
The following morning I was almost too nervous to eat, but managed some toast and scrambled eggs. I packed my small bag and made sure that no trace of me was left in the room. I sat down to write Mike the note that might save me. I had to word it so that it meant nothing to anyone else, but that would be notable for Mike.
I folded the note as small as I could and set off for Casa Foyle. I double checked the time, and gave it an extra ten minutes before I ambled along to Steep Lane. I was considerably reassured to see the Foyle's set off en famille, and waited yet again. Fortunately the weather was still wet and most of the people rushed along with their eyes on the ground, intent on getting under cover again. After a long look around, I hurried up to the Foyle's front door and knocked gently. There was no answer, thankfully, and it was the work of a moment to get the door open. After a quick look up and down the lane, I slipped inside the house and shut the door behind me. I wiped my feet to make sure there would be no tell-tale water marks on the floor as I took in the familiar smell of the house.
It was different, naturally, from my last visit. The place had been redecorated and smelled faintly of beeswax. There was a definite sense of a 'woman's touch' present and the house felt welcoming and happy. I suddenly realised that I was smiling.
I shook myself out of la-la land and looked for the trinket box. I had to hurry, I wasn't sure when the family would be back and I had no idea if Chris would have kept the box out or not. I just hoped that it wasn't under the floorboards!
It wasn't downstairs. Feeling like an interloper and a thief I trotted up the stairs – making myself jump on a squeaky step on the way – and headed for the main bedroom.
Thankfully it was easy to spot the box straightaway. Sam was keeping her earrings in it on the dressing table. I tipped the earrings out on the bed counterpane and upended the box, looking for a safe hiding place. There was nothing on the outside, so I pulled up the stiffened baize lining the base and stuck the note inside. Tucking the baize back into place it didn't look as if it had been disturbed. I only hoped that Mike would find it. I quickly stuffed the earrings back inside and placed the box back on the dresser.
Two seconds later my blood almost froze in my veins. I heard the front door open and moments later the squeaky stair tread. Brisk steps coming this way. I looked around and there was nowhere to hide, I didn't have time. How ironic.
Five seconds later I held my breath as Christopher entered the bedroom, went straight to one of the dressing table drawers and took out a ladies small handkerchief and a bigger white square of a man's one. He seemed to hesitate for a moment and I didn't move a muscle as I stood behind the open door. I willed him to leave without noticing me. If he turned around and saw me, there would be no way to explain my being here.
Agonizingly long hours later – which was probably three seconds in actuality – Christopher turned and left the bedroom. I only started to breathe again when I heard that wonderful squeak on the stairs and the bang of the front door. I gave it another five minutes for him to get back to the church and tip-toed back downstairs. I had to unlock the door again to get out and relock it again after me, but luck or the gods of time-travel were on my side and I made it across the road to the footpath that went between the houses and down to the beach near the net sheds. Adrenalin had my hands shaking and my heart thumping, but I felt giddy and glad to be alive. I could see why adrenalin junkies went in for this sort of thing.
Tea and a bun on the seafront would have calmed me nicely, but it was Sunday and everything was shut. The sea looked muddy and the sky was still grey, although at least the rain had stopped. I figured I had about forty minutes before Christopher and Sam returned home, but it suddenly occurred to me that he could have left the church again before the service ended. Supposing he had been knocked down on his way for the hankies? Or on his way back? I had been lucky so far, but I ought to get back up to Steep Lane and sharpish.
I stuck my case in someone's front garden on Croft Terrace, hiding it under a bushy green shrub. If I had to make a quick exit, I could grab it on the way past without too much bother. I walked back up to Steep Lane and wished I'd had the foresight to bring a hat, partly to hide my hair but also to keep off the drizzle, which had started again. The road was wet and slippery and my stomach churned with nerves. I also kept an eye out for anyone I could spot from my own time, just in case they sent someone after me, which wasn't as unlikely as I hoped it would be. I looked at my watch and sighed. It was difficult to window shop when there were no shops, so if anyone was watching, they would wonder what I was up to, wandering up and down the lane. Only three cars went past me in nearly an hour and my legs were aching. I had just perched against someone's low garden wall when I heard another car enter the top of the lane. Something about the car caught my attention and I realised that unlike the other cars, this one was making no effort to go slowly down the narrow lane. The driver's face as the car sailed past me was a picture of panic. His arms were braced on the steering wheel and he was shouting something that I couldn't hear. I was up and running in an instant.
He had no brakes.
I looked ahead expecting to see Christopher's oblivious back to me, but to my horror it was a flash of auburn hair and white dress that ran out into the road.
No wonder he stepped in the path of a car; who would not, to save their child?