Sarah, Returned

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Chapter Seventeen

It’s ridiculous, I know, but in my eagerness to reach the top of the hill before the portal closes, I feel like I can get there more swiftly on foot than by car. I leap out of the cab, leaving Matt to pay the driver, fumbling awkwardly with his wallet, and finally just throwing a handful of cash at him so he can run and catch up with me. As I make a dash to the access road to the park, I hear his footfalls right behind me. A barricade is up at the road’s entrance tonight, no doubt a new development since my disappearance there a month ago, but I leap over it in one bound. As far as I can tell without looking back, Matt does the same.

“Sarah, wait!” he calls, but I keep going. Someone is coming through, and I want to be there when they do. Maybe it’s Grandma. Whoever it is, there’s a chance I can piggyback off of their portal and use it go to my family. If I can get to the top before the portal closes, I stand a chance of jumping through it.

This has got to be meant for me to see. After all, I never knew portals existed until I got pulled back to 1685. I’d never seen one before. That this is happening now, just when I’ve discovered exactly how to get home, has got to be meant to be. It’s too convenient to be a mere coincidence.

I should have taken the cab up, I realize about half-way up the steep incline. I’d be at the top by now. But, it’s one of those situations where you irrationally think the car is keeping you from your destination. I scramble up the almost vertical road, tripping and falling more than once, ripping a hole in the knee of my jeans on one particularly nasty stumble. Matt is right on my heels. If I’m leaving now, he is determined to be there to see me go.

It seems to take forever to reach the summit, gravel from the road covering my elbows, trickles of blood running down my arms where I’ve scratched them up in my many falls. My fault for wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt. Doesn’t matter. The injuries are minor. All that matters is reaching the summit before the portal closes. In my limited experience, they don’t stay open long.

In fact, this one is continuing to shine well after it should have closed. I don’t know how long it was open before I saw it, but it’s been a good three minutes since I leapt from the cab, and it’s still shining like the sun on top of the hill. Other people in town have got to be seeing this. Dover is a sleepy little village, but Matt and I can’t be the only people outside right now.

About three-quarters of the way up, it occurs to me. Is it really a portal? It doesn’t seem to be attracting any attention, except from us. Maybe a magazine is up there doing a nighttime photoshoot. There could even be a crew filming a movie. Both of those things use insanely bright lights. Could they form an oval like a portal if they were positioned just right?

God, I hope I’m not putting scars on my arms for nothing. But, I have to know.

And, just like that, I’m at the summit. The light is shining just beyond the tower, near where I made my hidey hole in the bushes before I traveled the first time. There’s no one here. No cars, no signs of people, nothing at all except that light.

It’s oval. Just like a portal. It’s got to be one. I know it is.

I pause only a moment at the crest of the summit, Matt breathing heavily by my side as he finally catches all the way up to me. Is that a shadow I see against the light? I think it is. A person coming out of it? The disk of light firmly in my sights, I dash across the park toward it. Matt keeps perfect pace with me this time.

About three yards from the light, I definitively confirm I’m looking at a portal. I feel the pull from it, gentle at this distance, but still unmistakably pulling on me, trying to drag me in. The shadow is gone, but another, smaller one follows it.

Could there be more than one person coming though?

“I feel it pulling me,” Matt whispers in wonder, looking down at his hands as they lift of their own accord.

“You need to stand back,” I instruct, putting a protective arm in front of him. “The force can be pretty strong. It pulled me in against my will both times. This is good, though, because at least now we know you can travel.”

“Won’t it pull you in if you get closer?” he asks, worried.

“Maybe,” I admit. “I haven’t tried to resist it, like Grandma did in the video. This might be it, Matt. If it’s an open portal, I have to go through it. You know I do.”

“I know. Just in case I don’t see you again….” He turns and wraps me in a tight hug, which I return with fierceness, trying to infuse all my love for him into it, so he will carry that love with him always. If I never come back, I want there to be no doubt in his mind, ever, about how much he is loved by me.

He lets me go with reluctance, and I give him a hopeful smile. Time to do this.

I step toward the portal, the pulling becoming stronger as I do. The light is blindingly bright, totally obscuring whoever came out of it, and I know at least two people did. Those shadows couldn’t be anything other than humans.

One more step. Then another. It’s going to be really hard to keep this journey under control. The portal exhibits a force almost like an earthly black hole.

One more step.

“Mother?”

I freeze. A high-pitched voice that sounds like it belongs to a little girl comes out of the darkness, its owner hidden by the supernova-like rays of light coming from the portal. I know that voice. The tone and inflection are unmistakable, written on my very soul from the moment she was conceived.

Oh God. Can it be?

The portal’s pull immediately loses all power over me, and I drop to my knees in the grass, sobbing before I realize I’m doing it.

“Clara?”

With a familiar whooshing sound, the portal snaps shut, leaving me stranded in 2017, but maybe--please God, maybe--with a reason to stay.

Everything is hazy and wavy from the tears filling my eyes. Still, with the blazing portal gone, I can see three little figures before me, clearly outlined in the dark by reflections of light from the town below.

Clara. David. Hannah.

Hannah is holding David’s hand, Clara a few steps in front of them.

My babies. Here.

I wipe the tears away on my arm, leaving a stain of mascara behind. They won’t know I’m happy if they see me crying. Well, Hannah might. Clara and David are too young to understand that emotion. I don’t want them to think I’m sad they came to me.

But, where are Thomas and Patience? Where is Joshua? The portal closed, and they’re not here. What happened?

No matter. I’ll figure it out later. The only thing that matters is that three of my children are here with me, regardless of the century.

“Oh, come here, come here,” I call to them, still on my knees, so I’m at their level. All three run the half dozen yards or so to where I kneel on the ground, and throw their tiny arms around me. I spread my arms wide and take them all in at once, holding them to me and snuggling.

“Mama, where were you?” David’s tiny baby voice asks. He’s so smart; David started talking younger than any of the other children. At only two years old, he’s already speaking in complete, complex sentences. In a century with technology, he might be a great scientist or inventor. A century like this one.

I can’t think about that now. All that matters is he’s here, with two of his sisters. “I had to go visit my cousin and uncle, sweetie. You remember me telling you about Matt, who was like a brother to me? And Great-Uncle Jacob? They missed me, and I needed to visit them. I was coming back to you, I promise.”

“Papa said you might not be able to come back,” Hannah says, upset. “He said we had to go to you.”

“I would never abandon you,” I fiercely assure her. “I always intended to return.”

“We know,” Clara whispers into the crook of my neck. “Papa wasn’t sure if you could return. We all knew you wanted to. He said it was a perilous and uncertain journey.”

So caught up am I in my unexpected reunion with half of my children, I don’t remember Matt is here, standing behind me, until he speaks. He must have walked up after the portal closed. “Are you going to introduce me to your friends?” he asks with gentleness, understanding the sensitivity of the situation. He’s got to know these are my kids. It’s also clear there are children missing, and my husband is not here.

I look up from the jumble of tiny people in my arms, the place I always want them to be in any century, and crane my neck back to see him, smiling. “Matt, these are your cousins, my children. Hannah, Clara, and David. Children, this is your cousin Matt, the one I always told you about who helped my grandmother raise me. Remember?”

“Of course,” Clara says, and David and Hannah nod their agreement. Matt moves around to my side, and all three children run to him as he opens his arms to them. A smile pulls at the upper corner of my lip. I can’t help it. It’s so touching to see them all together. I never imagined a moment like this would come. It’s magical.

After the introductions and welcoming hugs, we all sit on the grass together, David in my lap, Clara in Matt’s, and Hannah in front of us. It’s time to find out why there are people missing from this family reunion.

As I suspected, Hannah knows more about the real story than the other kids. Clara and David are just happy to be with me; Hannah is, as well, but she also has information and is eager to share it.

“Is this 2017?” she asks, looking all around her, taking a particular interest in the lights coming up from the town below the hill.

“Yes,” I say, truthfully. “Papa told you?”

“Yes,” she nods. “When you disappeared, he said that’s probably where you went. He said you would be turning over heaven and earth to find a way back to us, but he didn’t know if you could. After you’d been gone for two months, he said we had to find a way to go to you.”

“I was gone two months?” That’s surprising. Then again, it was a surprise to find out I’d been gone a month here, when I’d spent 14 years in the 17th century. That explains why David looks a little taller. They grow so quickly at that age.

“It was a long time, Mama,” Clara says, almost accusingly.

“I didn’t mean to be gone that long, darling. It’s only been two days since I arrived here. Time moves differently at home than it does where Cousin Matt lives.” It’s not much of an explanation, but it’s be best I can come up with at the moment. Thankfully, she accepts it, and resumes playing with Matt’s hands, as she looks off toward the side of the hill.

The kids are going to be so fascinated by the street lights when we go down there.

“Papa told us you came to Dover by touching an old earring that belonged to your grandmother. It’s a magic earring, isn’t it, Mother?” Hannah asks.

“That’s a good way to describe it.”

Joshua and I never taught the kids anything was evil just because we didn’t understand it. Considering how I got to the 17th century, and the fact my grandmother traveled through time, and her mother before her, we thought it best to raise them with open minds. It was definitely a departure from every other Quaker family in the colonies, but suitable for our situation. Thankfully, Quakers are big believers in minding your own business, so no one ever questioned us on our parenting techniques.

“Did you use something of mine to come here?” I ask.

“Your grandmother’s memory box,” Hannah is once again the one to take on the task of explaining. “Papa said no one ever touched it but you. He thought it might work. He wrapped it up in some wool, and took it outside, all the way to the back part of our fields, past the cows and chickens, beyond the crops, and we all went with him. Once we were so far away from the house no neighbors would see us, he unwrapped it and put his hand on it. But, nothing happened. So, he asked me to touch it, and when I did, this big white circle of light appeared, and started pulling me, Clara, and David toward it. It pulled so hard, we couldn’t turn back to look at Papa again. He had a piece of paper with him, which he put in my hand, and told me to keep it safe. I’m supposed to give it to you. He called out to us as we were pulled into the light, and said he, Thomas, and Patience couldn’t come, that the light wasn’t pulling them like it was us. He asked me to hold onto David, because he’s so small, and the light pulled so hard. I heard him say he loved us, and to tell you he loves you, too. Then, we were in the light, floating. And, after a moment, the light pushed us out, to you.”

I consider all Hannah just told me for a moment. My kids are here. That’s wonderful. But not all of them could come, and my husband is still not with me. Obviously, that is unacceptable. We all need to be together, not just some of us. I’m not having my family broken up by a mere thing like time. Still, I’m not doing any time traveling tonight. It would be too much to ask the kids to go back through another portal so soon after their first trip. And, I need to figure out the best next move I can make from this point. That’s going to take some serious thought.

It is bliss to have part of my family with me, but it’s wrong for us to be parted from the others. Thomas and Patience need me just as much as these children do, and Joshua….well, Joshua is my soulmate. I know he feels the same way about me. I won’t leave him behind. We’ll have to open a portal eventually, and go back to them, since they can’t come to us. It’s so endearing that he tried to come to me, though. He was truly willing to give up everything and everyone he ever knew for me, the very thing I told Matt and Jacob I would never ask of him. He’s such a prince.

I look at my three beautiful children and notice for the first time that none of them have age-regressed. Of course, there’s not much regressing David can do, besides being a newborn again. Maybe there’s a minimum age someone has to reach before they regress when going through a portal. I never thought the kids would go through one, so I never considered it. It’s a topic to explore at another time. These three can go through portals, so measures will have to be taken to protect them. That means understanding more about how portals and time travel work. Age-regression is one of the few remaining mysteries left to Matt and me to uncover by Grandma and Professor Johnson. I suppose I can do research from 1699 just as well as from here.

We’ll stay here a little while longer, I decide. Knowing I can go back to Joshua, Patience, and Thomas, arriving just after I left, so it seems I was never gone, gives the situation a little less urgency; having Hannah, Clara, and David with me also helps ease my desperation to go back as soon as possible. I can give Hannah, Clara, and David a fun tour of the 21st century. And, I’ll sleep easy with them for the first time ever, knowing with certainty they are safe and not at risk of being kidnapped to Canada in another Native raid….because I know more are coming….,or getting caught up in a smallpox epidemic. The most primitive type of inoculation for that particular scourge is still decades away from being invented back home.

Actually, while they’re here, I can get them vaccinated for everything that might hurt them back home. Yes, I’ll do that, and I’m sure there are other steps I can take right here to ensure their enhanced safety for when we go back.

“Grandma and the professor were right about not everyone being able to go through a portal,” I say to Matt, blinking back tears so the kids don’t see them. Fortunately, they are quickly drying up, my happiness at having the children with me temporarily overriding my sadness about the others not being here. “I’ve still got a husband and two children stuck in 1699. Can you believe it, though, Matt? Joshua tried to come to me. He believed everything I ever told him about where I came from and how I got there, and he saw me disappear through the second portal. He figured it out how it must work on his own. But, he couldn’t come through himself. You know I still have to go back to him and my other two kids.”

“I know,” Matt says, and hugs Clara to him, rocking her back and forth.

“I don’t know if Papa wants you to come back,” Hannah says with sympathy.

“What?” I exclaim, stunned. “Why? Is he mad at me for leaving?”

“No,” Hannah quickly assures me. “He said something about it being safer here, where you are, when he was getting us ready to leave. He also knew we might not be able to go, or some of us might not be able to. It’s probably in the letter he gave me to give to you. Will you read it to us?”

She reaches into her dress pocket, pulls out a neatly folded piece of hemp paper, tied with twine, and hands it to me.

All the kids except David have been taught to read and write, but they still like it when Joshua and I read things out loud to them. And, this letter is addressed to me. My name is written across the top in Joshua’s distinctive script, large, plain, and easy for even the most modern reader to decipher. No curly embellishments. That was always his rule. He considered fancy script to be vanity.

I hate that I’m thinking of him in the past tense. What do I do if he really doesn’t want me to come back? How can I live without him, and without Thomas and Patience?

“Yes,” I say, my voice shaking a little, as dozens of different emotions dash in and out of me like arrows.

Slowly, I untie the twine and unfold the letter, settling David over to my left side so I can smooth half the thick paper out flat on my right leg, my right hand underneath it to support its other half.

“Phone?” I ask Matt. He reaches into his front jeans pocket and hands it over, so I can use the flashlight on it to read by in the dark.

“Here we go,” I say, trying to sound hopeful for the sake of the kids. I know Joshua. I think I know what this letter is going to say, and, as much as I hate it, I also understand why he’s going to say it. I’ve been thinking the same thing since the second I realized the kids came through the portal, though I wasn’t about to admit it out loud. If Joshua puts words to those feelings, though….well, I should actually read the letter first, before I make any decisions.

“My love, my Sarah,” I begin, and immediately have to clear my throat several times to keep from crying. The sheer emotion in those four words shatters me. The kids, and even Matt, are all looking at me with expectant faces, so I push down my desire to curl up in a ball and sob, and continue reading the letter out loud. “If this missive finds its way into your beautiful hands, then I was not able to join you in the future. I will regret that for all my days. You can trust in this, my darling wife, I will never love another, nor will I marry again. You have my heart forever. I hope you know that. Also know I do not expect the same from you, nor would I have it. It is my desire that you move forward with your life and find new happiness with another. You, Sarah, are meant to be loved. Please, go out in your world and find someone who will love and cherish you the way you deserve, and who you love in return. Keep your heart open to it, because I wish you to live the best possible life. I ask this of you as your husband. One day, we will meet again in a place where time cannot part us.”

Oh, man. Shit, Joshua. Of course I have no desire to marry anyone else, or even date again. Don’t you know you’re my one true love? I’ll no more seek a new husband than you will a wife. I don’t care if you want me to. I won’t betray our love that way, ever.

I swallow hard over the rock-like lump in my throat as I hear his deep, soothing voice in my head, reading the words to me, and continue the letter.

“You can assume my experiment with your grandmother’s box proved fruitful if you are holding this letter. I did try to come through to you. Please know I did. There has never been anything as important to me as being with you, and raising our family together. But, as you once told me, no one is quite sure how this all works, and the question of whether a person can travel more than once, or at all, is still there. Obviously, my inability to come to you means this gift is only bestowed upon a lucky company of compatriots. At least I was able to open a portal; I doubted I could do such a thing. Now, regarding the children. If they all came to you, that is wonderful, and exactly what I desire, besides my being there with all of you. Raise them to be good, Christian people, as I know you will, and tell them about their father when you think of it. Let them know how much I love and will always love them, just as I will always love you. Tell them the story of how we fell in love, so they can use it as an example of what love should be, when they are old enough to look for husbands and wives of their own.”

“If there are children who did not come to you, know they are safe with me, and I will raise them the same way I wish for you to raise the ones with you. I have to assume at least one child made their way into your loving arms, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this letter now. I know my century is not as safe and secure as yours. There are dangers coming of which you have warned me, and others which I cannot plan for at all, and I know you will be concerned for our welfare. I promise I will do my best to be a good father, the one you would want me to be, and the ones who stayed with me will feel like they knew you well, because I will speak of you to them every day. And, Sarah, I will protect them with everything I have and all that I am. It is not the same as if they were with their mother, nor as good, for I am but a poor excuse of a man, and know how well fortune smiled on me when she opened your heart to love me. I was unworthy, but did my best to be the husband you deserved. I hope I did well. I would prefer all the children be with you, but if they cannot, I will rise to the occasion, and be the best man I can be for them, just as I always tried to be for you. Of that, you can be assured.”

“Finally, my love, do not try to return to me. It is not that I do not wish to have you in my arms again. I do, more than anything on this earth. No. I shall dream of you every night and think of you every day until we are reunited in the world beyond this one. You may not be able to return to me even though I know you desire it, as I do recall you saying the destination of the portal was unpredictable. I know I am taking a chance sending our children through the one I opened. Make no mistake, I told them all to turn around immediately and come back before the portal closes if they did not see you after going through. Somehow, I know if they go to the right time, you’ll be there to greet them. All I could think to do was envision your lovely face when I touched your grandmother’s box. I hope it was enough. If you are reading this, then it must have been. If so, then we know how to control where the portal goes, and maybe this means you can return, but please do not. Again, it is my express wish that you stay where you are, and keep the children with you.”

“I know your time has its own issues and dangers. The earth is imperfect in any time, because man is in it. Poorly educated as I am, I have read my share of history, and know of the violence that plagues it in every century, every decade. Yet, I also know our children will grow up in a safer world with you. A world with no smallpox, no Native raids, no slavery, no famine, with cures to things that cannot be cured today, and with ways to heal injuries we will not have for another two hundred years. They will live with comforts we cannot comprehend here, the ones you told me about, such as controlled indoor climate, light without the need of fire inside a house, indoor plumbing with both hot and cold water, freedom from the plague of pests, their own beds in which to sleep, and a world of information at their fingertips for their education. Please, Sarah, as much as you may want to reunite with me, and as much as I deeply desire it, I beg you, do not take our children away from a world that can offer them those things. Raise them with the traditions and beliefs we treasure here, with the future amenities they deserve, that you deserve. I won’t have you return here just to be another farmer’s wife, with the hardship that brings, when you deserve so much better. I know you can have the good things you deserve in your own time. I cannot bear the thought of you or the children leaving the kind of life you can have there just to return to this one.”

“I know husbands have no say over what their wives do in the future. You made that quite clear, as I will always recall with much humor. That is why I ask you to honor this one last request I make of you as your husband (not a command, I promise)….do not return to me. Stay in your own time, and raise our children there. It is the thing that will make me happiest, next to having you in my arms again. Since that cannot be, because I will not have it, for your own good as well as that of the children, please give me the happiness that will come with knowing you honored this wish. And, try to understand why I made it. I know you, Sarah, and I know your first inclination after reading this will be to come to me straight away. Do not. Take some time to consider why I ask this of you before you do anything rash, and you will understand my reasoning. Maybe, you will come to agree with it, even if you do not approve of it.”

“One more thing before I close, my love. Remember that I loved you from the moment I first saw you, when you scandalously pulled off your cap the moment you stepped beyond the borders of the Otis’s garrison fence. And again, when I spied you conversing with that Native in the woods. Long before we spoke to each other the first time, I loved you. We were made to be together, Sarah, even if only for a short time in this life. We enjoyed each other while we were together, and we loved one another well. I have no doubt you love me as much as I love you. I think I may have loved you before I met you. I know I will love you long after your presence is a distant memory in this place. Sarah, I will love you forever. Never forget it. Do this for me. All my love for all time, your devoted husband, Joshua.”

Well, if I wasn’t going to cry before, I certainly am now. In fact, I think I’ve been crying for the entire last half of the letter, though I can’t be sure. All I know is there are fat tears rolling down my cheeks, plopping like raindrops into the grass on either side of me and making the soft blades rustle. How did I read it without my voice wavering? How did I even see it to read it? God, my vision is so obscured from all the water in my eyes, I can barely see my hands shaking as they hold the thick paper in front of me.

Sobbing with abandon now, I hand the phone flashlight back to Matt, while gripping the letter tightly with one hand and my son with the other. So close. Joshua and I were so close. He was just on the other side of the portal. If I’d just let it pull me in, taking the kids back with me, I could be with him right now, where I belong. I can almost smell his distinctive meadow scent, musky and fresh at the same time. And, now he’s asking me to stay here, away from him, forever? How can I possibly do that, knowing there’s a way back to him, not to mention reuniting with Thomas and Patience?

Hannah and Clara are old enough to understand their father’s words, and why I’m crying. That Matt understands is a given. All three of them sit quietly, giving me my space, knowing there is nothing they can say to make me feel better. Matt reaches out a hand and puts it comfortingly on my shoulder, while Hannah leans forward and puts one on my leg. I’m sure Clara would, too, if her arms were long enough. They let me know they’re with me, and won’t leave me for anything in the world.

I love them all for it, more than I ever thought possible.

It’s my little son, David, who has no idea what is going on. Only two years old, he probably understood precious little of Joshua’s letter, let alone its deeper emotional meaning. He’s a smart one, but even the brightest two year old can only grasp so much of the adult world.

So, when he turns around in my lap to face me, reaching up and tracing the track of a single tear down my face with his chubby finger, I struggle to pull it together. It must be so distressing to see one’s mother this upset.

But, wait. He’s got this quizzical smile on his face. He’s not upset at all. He’s curious. Why?

“Don’t be sad, mama,” he says, his baby voice high, soft, and full of love. “Papa still loves you. He said so in his letter. And, you have me and Hannah and Clara. We won’t ever leave you, I promise.”

The sheer innocence of this statement nearly undoes me once more, and I bite my bottom lip hard to keep back an even more violent fit of weeping. The world is so simple to David. He loves me. His sisters love me. His papa loves me. He and two of his sisters are here with me. So, why would I be sad?

Hannah and Clara smile at their brother, enchanted by him as always. Even Clara, though she is only nine years old, understands far more about this situation than a girl of the same age would in this time. Children have to grow up so fast in the 17th century. Girls her age know almost everything they need to about the adult world; innocence vanishes quickly, out of necessity. We’re lucky it can be preserved a little bit longer today.

And in that instant, I know Joshua is right. I have to keep the kids here. They can enjoy fuller, longer childhoods, and while there are dangers here that didn’t exist back then, they will be safer overall, and definitely more comfortable. With our inheritance, Matt and I can protect them and give them a more magical childhood than most.

Truth be told, as soon as I saw them standing in front of the portal, I knew they belonged here. That wasn’t going to stop me from going back to Joshua, though. True love trumps raising your children in the perfect environment, at least in fairy tales. It’s a shame this isn’t one. I’m no Disney princess, and this isn’t the Enchanted Forest. I have to be practical. David’s purity of spirit and sheer innocence of any evil in the world decides it for me.

Hannah is already old enough and has seen enough to be pretty jaded, though she’s still just 12. That’s almost marrying age in 1699. Maybe I can bring some innocence back to her life. With just a little prompting, there’s a good chance Clara will easily transform into a typical 21st century nine year old. David needs no coaching at all on how to be a child, and will grow up with all this century has to offer being perfectly normal to him. I owe it to him as his mother to keep him innocent and joyful as long as possible, and the only way to ensure it is to keep him here.

“Well,” I say, wiping the last tear away with the back of my hand, “your papa is a wise man. I suppose we better go home, then. You’ll all get to see the house I grew up in, and we’ll be living there. Isn’t that exciting?” I try to force some enthusiasm into my voice, and put on a bright, entirely fake smile I know Hannah can see right through. She shrewdly says nothing.

“I’ll call us a cab,” Matt says with softness. “We may have to walk down the hill a way before I can get a signal, though.”

“We better get going, in that case. It’s a long way to the bottom.”

“Mother, this hill looks familiar,” Clara says as we all stand up. I carry David in my arms, as the road is too steep for a child as small as him.

“It should,” I tell her. “It’s Varney’s Hill.” I give her a playful wink with a twinkle of happiness I do not feel.

“It has changed,” she notes.

Ah, contractions. I had to remember to avoid them when I realized I was in 1685. Most people would say “it’s” in this century. I’ll have to teach the kids about contractions, so their speech will seem normal to the new people they will meet.

“It has,” I agree. “Let me tell you about it.”

I regale the children with tales of the hill and how it has changed through the centuries since they left their papa and siblings. They listen with rapt attention until Matt finally gets a signal about halfway down the hill and calls a cab. We make a detour from the history lesson to discuss what a phone is and how it works, which keeps me distracted until we get to the bottom of the hill to wait for our ride. I continue the talk about the hill, but there’s a whole other conversation going on in the back of my mind.

Joshua is correct. The children are better off here, and this is where I’ll keep them, as he asked. If I’m honest, I’m better off here, too, except for him not being with me. I’ll stay. That doesn’t mean I won’t try to bring him and my other two children to me. Joshua said nothing about refraining from that kind of experimentation.

I don’t know how, and I don’t know if there’s even a way. Regardless of the laws of time and space, I will do it. I’ll reunite my family even if I have to punch a hole through the fabric of time itself, with my own hand, by sheer force of will. I will do it.

I will not be separated from Joshua, Thomas, and Patience forever.

One way or the other, I’m bringing them here, to me.

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