I’m sweating and shaking when I finish; it’s an exhausting tale, and I’m still sick with fury. However, releasing the secret into the world is strangely cathartic; my anger at Matt hasn’t diminished, but I still feel more relaxed. I had no idea how tense my secret was making me. The only question now is, how is Matt going to react?
I don’t have to wait long to find out. As soon as the final word of my tale leaves my lips, I look up at him, and instantly wish I hadn’t. My cousin’s horrified expression tells me all I need to know. All the doubts about my sanity Karen carefully planted in his subconscious are right there, on the surface, plain enough for anyone to see. I can’t blame him, really. It’s an incredible tale; I can’t say I would believe him if the tables were turned. I knew it was probably a mistake to tell him, but his incessant pushing pushed me beyond my limits of patience. I don’t regret it. Let Matt do what he wants, think what he chooses. It doesn’t matter, because it changes nothing. I am still returning to 1699 at the first opportunity. No one is keeping me from getting back to my family. Not even Matt.
“Oh my God,” he whispers, voice shaking, a hand flying to his mouth. “Is that really what you believe?” His blue eyes are practically bugging out at me, like in those Bugs Bunny cartoons. In any other situation, it would be comical.
“It’s not what I believe, it’s what happened,” I snap, daring him to question me further.
“I didn’t want to believe it, but it’s true,” he says, alarmed. “Karen may be a gold-digging whore, but she was right about one thing. You’re delusional. Delusional and being stalked by someone who wants to hurt you. I’ve got to call the police.”
“And what?” I demand, slamming my hand down on the house phone that sits on the kitchen counter. His cell is in the living room, and he’ll have to beat me to it if he wants to make a call. “What are you going to say, Matt? Tell them your cousin actually is crazy, just like Karen warned you? I’ll deny everything. It will be your word against mine, and I know how to be convincing. I’ll make them think you’re working with whoever tried to break in here last night, and are a danger to me. It won’t take much to convince the police you want me out of the way. You have more motive than anyone. Try to cross me, Matt, and I’ll make you a suspect again. Enjoy your inheritance from behind bars, because I will testify against you.”
Oh, geez. That was harsh. And, after we’d just made up, too. I didn’t mean to take it that far. But, if he has me put on a psychiatric hold, it might be days, weeks, or longer before I have another opportunity to get back home. I can’t let him stand in my way.
I don’t want to leave with things on a bad note between Matt and me, but I will if I have to. Nothing is more important than returning to my family, not even him.
He’s silent, stunned. I’m not the Sarah he thought he knew. The look on his face says it all. “I didn’t think you could be so manipulative.” There’s sadness in his voice, and a hint of anger, too.
“I didn’t know you could ever turn against me.” That much is true, and I’m still mad about it. We always have each other’s backs; that’s been our first rule since childhood. He broke it.
“I’m not,” he insists. “But, you do need help. Karen may be a conniving bitch, but she wasn’t lying about what’s going on with you. I just didn’t want to see it. Well, now I do. I’m calling the police to get you a psychiatric evaluation. Unless you come with me willingly, that is. Can we make this peaceful, Sarah?.”
Yeah, right. I laugh scornfully. “Screw you, Matt.”
I turn and head back up the stairs, determined to search the rest of Grandma’s floor come hell or high water.
He won’t do it. It’s a bluff. Matt knows it will come down to he said/she said. Won’t it? Let’s think about this. I don’t want to do anything to give him an advantage. Any slipup on my part could delay me going home.
Okay. What are the facts of the situation? I’m the one who disappeared for a month, not him. That disappearance comes with a good reason, and the police know it, but will it make me seem less stable than someone who stayed and fought it out with their tormentor? Oh man, Matt might actually have the edge here, even if it’s only a slight one. My disappearance, because I was mad at Matt and Karen, may make me seem emotional and manipulative when it comes right down to it. It could be enough for a psychiatric evaluation to be ordered. No way am I letting that happen.
I turn, half-way up the stairs, to see what Matt is doing. Shit. He’s going for the kitchen phone. I should have ripped it out of the wall when I had my hands on it, but didn’t want to appear violent, not with Matt already questioning my sanity. I can’t believe he’s actually doing it. Bastard! So much for our rule. With the power of an angry kangaroo, I leap down the stairs, clearing them all in one jump, and race around the kitchen counter.
“Yes, I need to call in a psychiatric hold for my cousin, Sarah Morgan,” he’s saying into the receiver. “She’s been missing for a month, and now that she’s back, she seems delusional. I want her to get examined. No, she’s not being cooperative.”
I make a grab for the phone, but he pulls it away from me, twisting and turning to keep it just out of my reach. I have to stop him, convince the people on the other side that there’s no reason to come here.
“Examples of her behavior?” he asks with some difficulty, as I grab the back of his shoulder-length brown hair and pull him almost all the way into a backbend. “She’s saying she traveled back in time, for starters.”
I slam my knee into the back of one of his, causing him to lose his balance and fall to all fours on the floor.
“Ouch!” he cries, then grunts in pain. “She’s being uncharacteristically violent, for another.”
How the hell does he still have the phone in his hand?
I jump on his back while he’s still down, and dig my elbows into his ribs.
“Ow, ow, ow! Damn it, Sarah, stop it!” he shouts bucking back and forth like a steer to try to get me off him. “Yes,” he grunts into the phone. “It’s the same Sarah Morgan with the police guard on her house. We still need them to make sure no one breaks in here. Can you send someone else to get her? It’s important. I’ve never seen her act like this.”
Well, there’s no way they’re not coming now. After hearing me beating up on Matt, they’ll at least give me an evaluation, and it won’t be voluntary. I can’t let it happen. Who knows how long I may be there? They might examine and question me, and let me go right away, or they might decide to hold me. If they do, I’m at the psych ward for a minimum of three days. I can’t wait that long.
If there weren’t police outside the house right now who are no doubt getting word about my altercation with Matt on their radios, I could let Matt chase me, lose him in town, then circle back to the house and finish my search. Unfortunately, there’s no time for that now. Dover is a small town; a cop car will be here in minutes. There’s got to be another way to find something of Grandma’s that she brought with her from 1864.
Great-Uncle Jacob! If anyone has what I need, it’s going to be him. He knew more about Grandma’s history than any of us, until I met Grizel. I need to get to him.
But, how? I don’t even know where he lives, except it’s in Portsmouth. Portsmouth is a big town by New Hampshire standards. I’ll never find him without an address. Well, maybe if I went door to door, I might find someone who knows him. Portsmouth may be big, but it’s still small enough for most neighbors to at least know each other’s names. Unfortunately, I think my car keys are upstairs in my purse. There’s no way I can get them and make it back into the garage without getting cornered by Matt, and Portsmouth is too far away to walk there.
What to do, what to do? I know! I’ll hitchhike. One thing about this part of New Hampshire I’ve always liked is that it’s pretty safe. It has to be. Too many people are connected by centuries-old family relationships. We all look out for each other. And, everyone hears about everything that happens, even several towns away. Honestly, I think the police outside are keeping the local newspapers away, or they’d have reporters here interviewing me about my return by now.
One thing being in the 17th century taught me is how resourceful I can be when necessity calls for it. Once I get to Portsmouth, I can figure out how to find Great-Uncle Jacob. I just need to ditch Matt first.
I turn my head toward the back door, and smile. Can it be true? Yes! There is a neat row of shining keys on rings, dangling from a decorative key organizer on the wall, just like always, including mine. They’re not in my purse after all. Matt or Karen must have moved them back to their proper place at some point. Thank God for small miracles. I jump off Matt just as he’s giving the dispatcher our address, and make a dash for them. His Scooby-Doo keyring is hanging right next to my Union Jack one from my trip to the UK last summer (well, my last summer in this century), as always. I grab them both.
Matt hears the clinking of keys and turns around. I grin and hold both sets up to him, shaking them a little, to let him know if he wants to catch me, he’s going to have to do it on foot, since he can’t take his car or mine.
“Sarah, no!” he shouts, still on all fours, and reaches a hand out toward me.
I shake my head. “Sorry, Matt,” I say with genuine sincerity, since I may not ever see him again if all goes well when I find Jacob. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but he instigated it. Once I’m back home, maybe he will finally entertain the idea I was telling the truth, and look for me in the historical records of the town. With an apologetic smile, I slip out the back door, and am gone.
I pass by the cop assigned to our back door immediately, and he just smiles and nods at me. He must not have gotten the news yet. That’s an unexpected bit of good luck. I point toward the front of the house, like I’m just going around there to get something, or maybe talk to the cop at the end of our front driveway. He waves, and I slip around the corner of the house and out of his line of sight in an instant. I’m just unlatching the gate on the vinyl privacy fence when I hear the back door slam. Crap. That was quick.
As I run past the gate, I can see the officer in the car at the front of the house leaning down, looking at something either on the passenger seat or the floor. Excellent. I crouch down so as to not be easily spotted in a rearview mirror, and sprint across the rest of the front yard to the low iron fence with the pointy tips that separates our yard from the neighbor’s. These fences were really popular among the New England elite in the late 1800’s, and they’re pretty, but such a bitch to climb over, as I know from childhood experience. It’s worth jumping it, taking my chances with a few scratches, and heading down the street to the left, rather than crossing back in front of our driveway to the right. That’s my best chance of eluding both Matt and the officer in the front yard. With any luck, I’ll be out of the immediate neighborhood before the third police car arrives to take me to the psych ward at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital.
The gate on our backyard fence slams shut with a bang behind me, and I turn my head just in time to see Matt spot me. He doesn’t waste any time in bounding across the front yard, intent on catching me before I get away, so there’s no time to waste. I scramble over the iron fence as quickly as I can, miraculously avoiding tearing my jeans in the process, and I’m off, plowing through the neighbor’s front yard. In another few long running leaps, I quickly reach the freedom of the street.
Only, it won’t be free for long if Matt or a police officer catches me. I know the ones at our house can’t leave, but that doesn’t mean every other police car in Dover won’t be looking for me. Everyone on this street has privacy fences, or I’d just go through their back yards. I’ll have to use the next best thing….the driveways. One thing about being in the 17th century for so long, is it taught me how to be stealthy. It’s an essential survival skill in this place in those days. Running from one driveway to another, ducking and hiding behind cars as I go, I eventually make it to the four-way stop at the entrance to our neighborhood. Matt is a few houses behind me, and I know he’s getting a glance of me every now and then, but my opportunity to lose him, at least for a little while, is already here.
Looking behind me as I crouch down behind another car, I wait. When Matt doesn’t glimpse me for a few minutes, he stops running and starts looking around. While his head is turned in the opposite direction, I make a crouching dash across the street, and head off to the right, swiftly becoming invisible behind some bushes. The right is the least likely direction for me to go, because what I just did put me in full visibility to anyone who might be looking, though just for a moment. Matt will think I probably turned left, which would have kept me hidden behind shrubbery. He won’t consider that I might have kept going straight, because that would be a stupid move, and he knows it. I would have been in his sights all the way to the main road. No, he knows I’m smarter than that. He’ll think I turned left.
Hopefully, that will be enough to throw him off my trail until I can make my way back up to Central Avenue and hitch a ride. Assuming, of course, I can avoid any police cars on the way.
I’m not sure if it’s better for me to be doing this in broad daylight, where I’m easily seen by anyone, or under cover of darkness, where I can hide in the shadows. This way, I’m more visible to the police, but at night, I would be more vulnerable to whoever is trying to hurt me. There’s not really a good choice here.
Honestly, when did it come to this? Who in a million years would ever have imagined this particular scenario? Me, fleeing Matt, who is intent on taking me in for a psychiatric evaluation against my will? It’s ridiculous. He never once talked about my mother’s family history growing up, or seemed to have any concerns about me in that regard, until he met Karen. He may know what she really is now, but that doesn’t appear to have changed her brainwashing of him toward me.
One thing I know for sure….Grandma would be horrified. She always beamed with pride when she told people how Matt and I were as close as brother and sister. She would not approve of Matt’s actions. No way.
Then again, would she approve of mine? She traveled forward in time and stayed there. If she tried to get home, it seems she gave up on that effort soon after she arrived here. What would she think of me wanting to go back to 1699 after I’ve only just made it back to 2017? That’s traveling through a portal three times, assuming I get one to open again. We don’t know enough about it to know if it’s safe. How many people have walked into a portal and never come out the other side? Does that happen? There are just so many unknowns with what I’m trying to do.
I would like to think she would understand me trying to get back to my husband and children, even if she didn’t totally approve; I believe she would even help me. She never gave up hope that her sons were alive and might come back. If she knew there was an opportunity, no matter how small, of me being with my husband and children again, I know she would want me to take it.
I must have been pondering these questions pretty deeply, because I have no idea how I made it up to Central Avenue. I’m not even tired, and it’s two miles from the house; I’ve been running the whole way, and it feels like I just casually strolled there. You may get younger when you go through a portal, but the muscle conditioning of living the life of a 17th century farm woman for fourteen years apparently remains the same. Either that, or I’ve been moving on pure motivation.
“Sarah!” Matt screams behind me. How did he catch up with me so quickly? I guess his motivation is as strong as mine. It’s touching to know he loves me that much, but it doesn’t change anything.
“Sarah!” he calls again, more urgent this time. It’s not the scream of an angry person. He’s trying to get my attention. But, why?
His voice is coming from far enough behind me to mean he’s not a threat, so I turn my head back to see what he wants. He’s way down at the other end of the block, two blocks away, but I can still see him frantically waving his hands above his head. And….what’s he doing? Is he pointing?
The screech of tires on pavement brings my full attention back to what’s going on in front of me, and just in time to give me the split-second I need to jump on top of the low stone fence bordering the house to my left. As soon as I’m on top, I make a headlong dive into the bushes framing the occupant’s front yard. Just in time. The moment my hands and feet hit the dirt in a modified crouch, there’s a deafening crash, and the whole yard shakes. I think some stones may have fallen off the fence, because a sound below me is just like hail on metal.
I can’t get up. I’m shaking too hard. My brain is still trying to process what my body just did, and why. It all happened so fast, I moved on pure instinct, and now the same adrenaline that shot through me, allowing me to make that acrobatic move, is keeping my hands and knees rooted to the ground.
A red sports car, coming toward me on Central. I was too absorbed in my own thoughts to notice it, but Matt did. It swerved up on the sidewalk, going right at me, taking out a utility pole, and would have smashed me against that stone fence if I hadn’t dived out of the way.
Oh my God.
My stomach wants to be nauseous, because someone just straight up tried to kill me, but I’m shaking too hard to feel anything other than stunned. In fact, I’m rather surprised I don’t start an earthquake, with all the shaking I’m doing. It’s like it’s twenty below zero and I’m outside naked.
No one has ever tried to kill me before, not even the Natives in the 1689 raid. We were friends. I made sure of it. I’ve seen other people get killed, and have even been chased by a few wild animals, but this…I can’t wrap my mind around something like this.
Who? Who would do it?
I want to lift up my head above the hedges and see the culprit, the one who tried to take me out, but it’s impossible. I may never move from this spot again. My shaking may bore a hole right to the center of the earth.
There’s a commotion down below. Shouting, a police siren, slamming doors. The distinct sound of someone being punched in the face. The fence is only about three feet high, but the hedges I rolled into are higher, and thick; I can’t see anything beyond them.
“Where is she?” That’s an unfamiliar voice. Not Matt or one of the officers from our house. Another one, then? The one Matt called, or just one who happened to be in the right place at the right time?
“Over here, I think.” That’s Matt. “I saw her dive. Let me look.”
Footsteps behind me, then the crunching of grass under a tennis shoe. The tall grass and twisted branches of the shrubbery around me are moved to either side to make room for me to stand up, but I can’t. I can’t.
Large, strong arms around my waist, lifting me up, holding me close against a broad, muscular chest. A lightly stubbled chin resting gently on my shoulder from behind. Warmth. Safety. Love.
“It’s okay,” Matt whispers in my ear, soothing me. “Just relax. You’re safe, Sarah. It’s over.”