I flip on the light and close the door behind me. Everything in my room is exactly as I left it, almost like Matt has been keeping it as a shrine. It looks untouched, but I can’t help but wonder if Karen snooped around in here while I was gone, looking for any evidence to prove her accusations of my madness.
It is weird being back in my old bedroom, I’ll say that. Though I’ve only been away a month to everyone here, it’s been 14 years for me. I built a whole other life in a different century in those years, and never once considered I’d ever see this place again. Actually standing in the room is like being in some kind of especially vivid dream, real and not real at the same time. It’s disorienting as hell, and for a moment, I wonder if I am crazy. Finally alone in my bedroom from a lifetime ago, with nothing but my thoughts to entertain me until Matt is asleep, I begin to wonder if this is all real, or if I will wake up in the morning next to Joshua on our feather bed, little David in the cradle beside us, and Patience in her trundle bed on the floor.
This is exactly the way I felt when I first realized I was in the 17th century.
It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder what is real. I can’t let myself go down that road. I understand how Grandma came to accept it after spending decades here, but this going back and forth messes with your mind. Am I the only one to ever do it, to cross back and forth? And, I’m about to do it a third time, if all goes according to plan. How crazy will I feel when I return to my husband and children? Maybe time travel isn’t something you should do more than once. So little is known about it. Who knows what weird side effects may be involved?
I’ve got to keep it together. This disorientation can’t be unusual. I’m doing something that would make anyone question reality. I am perfectly normal. Though madness does run on Mom’s side of the family, she didn’t suffer from it, as far as I know, and neither do I. Karen’s hateful accusations from so long ago must be forgotten. Karen must be forgotten. I know what happened to me, and I know what is real. I need to focus on that. I have gone through something extraordinary, not imaginary. And, I can do it again. I must.
I sit down on the edge of my bed, the comforter silky under my skin, the mattress softer than any luxury feather bed in 1699. People today don’t know how good they have it compared to their ancestors. Even a century ago, things were much harder. Technology has made us soft, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It just makes it hard to adapt if you happen to travel back in time. I know I struggled mightily. All those nights I cried myself to sleep because there was no air conditioning or heating, the mattress was scratchy and full of fleas, and there was no light to turn on or music to play to take the edge off the all-encompassing darkness and deafening silence once everyone in the Otis house went to bed. Oh man, that utter silence, where there is no background noise at all, not even the gentle whir of appliances most of us don’t ever notice until it’s gone, that was the hardest thing to deal with for a long time. Now, I long for it, if for no other reason than my husband is in that darkness with me, and wherever he is, that is where I belong.
I’m beyond tired, and the soft bed is enticing. I can’t let it pull me in, though, because I know I would fall fast asleep and lose my chance to get back to my family tonight. I know it’s a flimsy chance. Even if I do find the appropriate artifact, I don’t know if it will take me back to Joshua, or somewhere else entirely. Though I’m sorely tempted to open a portal at the first opportunity and jump in with abandon, trusting it will take me where I need to go, it’s not the smartest move. If I find anything that looks antique in Grandma’s room, the best thing is to avoid directly touching it until I can find and communicate with Professor Johnson. He is my best shot at getting home. I don’t want to blow it by being careless; I could end up separated from everyone I love in that long ago century and this one if I walk into another portal without some instruction on how to navigate it, assuming such instruction even exists.
It’s going to be a long night. Should’ve had Matt make me another cup of coffee, after all. Maybe I’ll go down and make myself one. I think I still remember how to do it.
Matt usually falls asleep within about a half hour of laying down, so I’ll try to stay awake sans coffee until then. Though coffee sounds heavenly, and I may not get another chance to have a cup before I leave, I don’t want the bean grinder to wake him up. He would want to stay up with me, which would, once more, make me lose my chance to search Grandma’s room before Officer Baker comes to pick me up tomorrow. Even if I don’t go through a portal tonight, I need to at least have something in hand that could be used to open one, and the sooner I get it, the better.
I wander around my room, thumbing through my old things. There are items in every corner I remember well and think of fondly, but have no real need of anymore. My iPod, books, and laptop. Posters on my walls of philosophers, artists, and innovators. The diary I kept in high school. A stuffed tiger Carter won for me at the county fair. All symbols of a life I treasured, but left behind for something greater 14 years ago.
Looking in my closet, I see Matt even hung my purse back up on its hook just inside the door. I left it behind at the park when I got pulled through the first portal. I wonder….
I unzip it and rummage about inside. There’s my cell phone, still turned off. I wonder if I’m still on the family plan, or if Karen insisted on removing me. I can’t imagine the police would allow that during an open investigation, but then again, the phone looks like it hasn’t been used since I left. They obviously weren’t expecting any calls from me on that phone. The clothes I stuffed inside the purse are still there, untouched. My wallet, cash, credit cards, driver’s license…everything is in perfect order, like someone simply zipped up the purse and put it away. Did anyone even look through this thing? It seems like it would be an important thing to do in a missing persons investigation.
Did Karen pay off someone to keep the investigation light? She’s got money, and possibly friends or acquaintances in the right places. If she didn’t want them looking too deeply into what happened to me, she had the means to make it happen, while still putting on a good show for Matt. Hell, for all I know, Karen found my purse before anyone else, and hid it until she could slip it back into my closet, unnoticed.
It makes sense. I would poke around at that theory some more, except I notice the time on the clock on my wall. It’s been about half an hour since I came in here. Matt should be asleep. It’s time to get to work.
A quick and ever so quiet check of Matt’s room, which involves me slightly lifting up on the old wooden door and pushing it open so slowly it doesn’t creak…a move I perfected in high school…confirms he is far away in dreamland, exactly where I need him to be. Poor guy is exhausted, so he’ll be slumbering for a while. Perfect.
I tiptoe down the hallway to Grandma’s room, thankful for the long, decorative throw rugs along its length dampening the sound of my feet on the ancient wooden floor planks. Her door is also made of wood, covered in crackling white paint, with a 1920’s-era crystal doorknob, just like the other bedroom doors in the house. We like to keep it looking old-school but classy at Morgan Manor. I used to think it was so cool how ancient our house was, and how my grandparents lavished it from top to bottom with picture perfect antique items. I had no idea what antique really was until I went to where those items were new, or not even made yet.
If I decided to stay here, I could make a killing on the antique dealers’ market. I lived where antiques are born, bitches.
The thought makes me smile at its absurdity. If I stayed, I’d have no need to go into business, as my inheritance pretty much guarantees I can spend my life doing whatever makes me happy. Work to earn money for basic necessities wouldn’t be part of my 21st century existence. The antique dealers would think I was either doing it as a hobby, or simply eccentric. Besides, I’m not staying, so there’s no need to go down that train of thought.
Grandma’s room is dark inside, and I shut the door behind me before turning on the light, just in case it spills across the hall and disturbs Matt. I can’t have him coming in here.
Oh my God.
While my room has remained virtually untouched, Grandma’s has not. Shit. It’s been ransacked.
The bed is stripped down to a bare mattress. All the art is off the walls, and the framed family pictures that dotted her dresser and desk are gone. Oh, tell me Matt and Karen didn’t clean out her room while I was away. Matt and I talked about doing it, keeping what had sentimental value or actual monetary value, and donating the rest. Would they really do that while I was missing, and unable to lay claim to anything of special value to me?
Ugh. Of course they would. Karen would want to get her hands on anything with real world value and claim it for herself. What better time to do it than when I wasn’t here, and Matt was vulnerable to the suggestion, needing something to do to distract him from my probable kidnapping and/or murder? Oh man, what if they took everything? What if Karen has what I need to go back, or worse, they donated it to charity? I’ll be stuck here, and my only reunion with my family will be in the local archives and courthouse with the documents they left behind. I’ll have to watch my children growing up without me, on paper, and maybe even discover my husband re-married once it was clear I wasn’t coming back.
No, no, no, no, no!
There has to be something here. Something they overlooked or didn’t care about that they left behind. That very thing I need, that Grandma brought with her from the past, and no one else with the ability to travel has touched in all that time. It has to be here.
I start going through her bureau drawers, where I initially found her memory box, but every one of them is empty. I even pull the drawers out of the bureau to look inside, just in case anything slipped through the cracks, but it’s entirely bare.
A search of her desk drawers reveals an equal amount of nothing, as does my violating of her closet. Everything is gone. Everything.
This can’t be it. I’m not out of options. No. No way. It’s too unfair. Why would the universe let me find my true love and have children with him, only to separate us forever by centuries? There’s got to be something else. Something I’m missing.
The floor! It’s got an area rug, and there could be space under those boards. This house was built in 1703, only four years after I returned to 2017. If it’s built anything like the farmhouses I helped raise, the floor boards will be raised a couple of inches from the base of the floor in a kind of primitive insulation technique. It’s my only shot left, before I have to start stalking the local antique and thrift stores. If I want to find my traveling item tonight, it’s got to be under the floor boards.
I drop to my hands and knees and throw the rug aside. Nothing. Not that I thought there would be. Under a rug is too easy, and might make for a tripping hazard if anyone put something there on purpose. Okay, the floor boards, then. One by one, trying hard to keep my cool and not break down into sobs, I crawl over them, gently knocking up and down each one, hoping to hear a hollow sound, or find a loose one. A tiny object could have fallen under the boards, or Grandma might have deliberately hidden something there. Surely no one else would look, so it’s up to me. My ticket back to 1699 has to be under there somewhere.
After a couple of hours, I’ve searched about half of the floor with no luck. It’s getting discouraging, and it’s almost daylight, but there’s still the other half left. I simply can’t believe what I need is not here.
I lean forward to pull up on another board.
A deafening shot rings out, accompanied by the sound of breaking glass. Worse, it came from my room.
Damn it. That can only mean one thing. Someone is trying to get into the house, and Officer Baker, or whatever officer relieved him, just made an attempt to stop them.
Whoever tried to cut my brakes is close, and they’re going after me again. Grandma’s empty room may not be the only thing that keeps me from getting back to my husband and children after all.