Annie’s feet were aching. They had been walking through the forest for over two hours. For the millionth time, Annie wished that she had thought to shove her tennis shoes in her bag. Granted they may not match her outfit, but at least she would’ve had some foot support. She had thought about striking up a conversation with Cameron, but she was unsure of what they could talk about, at least in the open. She had a distinct feeling that the area would be crawling with British soldiers and Tory supporters. So she remained silent, contemplating exactly where to go from here.
“How are your feet?” Cameron’s question interrupted her thoughts.
“They’re fine,” Annie lied. There was no point telling him the truth. It’s not like he could do anything.
“We’ll be in Setauket soon. We can get a room at the inn there and come up with a strategy.”
“Okay,” Annie replied. They continued on in silence. Annie continued to follow behind him, studying his demeanor, which was unchanged from when they had arrived here a few hours past. Inwardly, Annie gave a sigh of relief. It appeared that he had not noticed her bizarre reaction to the kiss he had given her. She was sure if he had he would have asked her about it. The fact that he hadn’t was just fine with Annie, because she had no intention of sharing that piece of herself with him. It appeared, at least for now, that her odd behavior had gone unnoticed.
At that exact moment, Cameron was thinking the exact opposite. Annie had been virtually silent ever since he had kissed her. He had known in the back of his mind that it had been a bad idea. But it was the only thing he could think of that would dispel any suspicion by roaming guards. No one would question a discrete liaison between a man and a lovely young woman. He had expected her to be shocked, hell, he would have if the tables had been turned. What he had not expected was the sheer terror she had displayed. The moment his lips touched hers she had frozen. He had felt her hands go icy cold on his skin. Ordinarily he would have pulled away, asked her what was wrong, but their precarious situation prevented him from doing so.
Once they were safely hidden in the woods he had intended to talk to her about it. But every time he looked back at her she had a faraway look in her eyes. A few times he had thought that he had seen tears well up in her eyes, but that impression left as quickly as it came. Deciding that he could no longer ignore the issue he stopped, only resuming his step when Annie had reached his side.
“I am very sorry for my actions earlier this morning. I should have asked your permission before pursuing such an intimate action,” Cameron stated.
“It’s okay,” Annie mumbled.
“Something is troubling you. Is it something that I did?”
“No,” Annie replied a little too hastily. “I’m just really tired. I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep this last week.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Any particular reason for your sleeplessness?”
“Several. But I don’t want to burden you. I can handle them myself.”
“Nonsense. It would not burden me at all. Please, tell me what is on your mind.”
Annie was silent for a moment, contemplating if she should share the past week’s burdens with him. She hadn’t actually talked to anyone about all of her feelings. Ordinarily she would have talked to Katelyn about her troubles. But with the dig in Africa their chats were infrequent and hasty at best. Oh, she knew that if she had really needed to talk, Katelyn would have made the time for her. But Annie would feel horrible if she interrupted Katelyn’s potentially history changing work just so she could lament about her dead grandfather. The more she thought about it, the more and more she realized that her personal problems were relatively insignificant. People lost family members every day, and there were plenty of people out there with hateful and cruel siblings. Granted most people did not see ghosts or have time traveling men show up in their homes, but Annie had already gotten over that.
“Annie,” Cameron said quietly. “Is everything all right?”
“So, would you care to share the cause of your sleeplessness with me?”
“I appreciate your concern Cameron, but I really will be fine.” Annie’s statement was firm, leaving no room for discussion.
“Very well,” Cameron replied. They walked in silence for a few more minutes, Annie staring straight in front of them, Cameron glancing back at Annie. Finally, they reached the outskirts of Setauket. The first light of dawn was breaking through the sky when they reached their destination. Cameron secured an open room. Breakfast for two was brought up a few minutes after they entered the room, after which they were left alone.
“Thank God,” Annie exclaimed as she plopped down on the bed. She removed the ruined shoes and her stockings, flinching when she noticed the blisters that covered her heels and toes. It reminded her of when she was still doing ballet. She limped over to the water basin and soaked a cloth in the lukewarm water, then returned to the bed and cleaned her feet.
“Your feet certainly do not look fine,” Cameron declared, falling to one knee to inspect the damage.
“They’ve been worse. I’ll be fine.”
Cameron frowned at her declaration. The only way they could have possibly been worse is if they had fallen off. “I highly doubt that.”
“I assure you, they have been worse,” Annie replied. He looked skeptical so she continued, “I used to dance ballet. The pointe shoes I wore were absolute murder. In all honesty, for a good two years my feet looked like this, or worse, pretty much daily. I could tell you tales that would make your stomach turn. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine.”
Cameron looked at her, trying to imagine her as a ballet dancer. It was easy enough to do. “Did you enjoy dancing?”
“Yes and no. I loved the moves, the music, how I felt while I was performing. I hated how my body felt afterwards.”
“How old were you when you quit?”
“Fourteen,” Annie replied. “In all honesty I had too much on my plate. I was dancing, swimming, and taking AP classes. I was always exhausted. I had to give something up. I knew I would never make a career of ballet so I quit.”
Cameron nodded. He could understand having too much on one’s plate so to speak. Something always had to give. Still, her explanation was a little confusing to him, most likely because he was unfamiliar with her more modern terms. “I see. What exactly are AP classes,” Cameron inquired. He found himself fascinated by Annie. He wanted to know what her life had been like before he had dropped in and turned it upside down.
“AP stands for Advanced Placement. They’re like college classes, but you take them in secondary school,” Annie explained in the simplest way she could.
“So I would be correct in assuming that you receive credit for these classes then?”
“Yes, if you pass the test.”
“Fascinating. Is it common for women to go to university?”
“Very. In fact there are more women attending college than men. At least where I come from.”
“It seems society has taken great strides in the last two centuries.”
Annie nodded, considering how much she should tell him. It’s true that society had jumped leaps and bounds in the two-hundred and thirty some odd years since the revolution. But there was still much more that could be perfected upon.
“What else can you tell me?”
“I’m not sure,” Annie replied in a whisper. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t know things. It’s just, well, I’m afraid that if I pass along the wrong information it could change the outcome of things, and not for the better.”
“I understand. Well then, tell me about yourself. That is if you feel comfortable.”
“That’s fine. What would you like to know?”
Everything, Cameron thought to himself. He wanted to know about her childhood, her family, her hopes, her dreams, her fears. “Whatever you feel comfortable sharing.”
Annie took a deep breath. “Well, I was born on October 30, 1993 in New York City. I lived in White Plains, New York, with my parents and little sister until I went to college at the University of Massachusetts. My favorite color is blue. My favorite time of day is twilight, and I’m a big fan of Irish beer.”
“You have a sister?”
“Yes. I’d rather not talk about her.”
“I take it you two are not close.”
“No,” she replied firmly. Given the choice she would much rather remove an ingrown toenail without painkillers than talk about her little sister. One of the few upsides about being sent back two centuries was the fact that she wouldn’t have to deal with Catherine. “We need to come up with a plan of action,” Annie said, changing the topic.
“I know,” Cameron replied.
“I have some things that I think may help us,” Annie said, reaching for her bag. She pulled out the notes and cipher that she had found in the attic and placed them along with her notebook and pen on the bed.
“What are those?”
“I found them in my attic the day before you showed up.”
“Have you deciphered them all?”
“Yes and no.”
“What do you mean?”
Annie did not reply. Instead she showed him the first letter.
Annie, if you are reading this, then the time
has come for your journey to begin.
Your actions in the next few months
are essential in determining the fate of this great nation.
Each of these letters will guide you on your journey.
It is essential that you complete the task set before you.
These letters are not meant to be read all at once.
It is important that you read these letters on the
date indicated. Do not read ahead!
Ignoring this action will result in devastating
effects for your country as well as you.
If you do not complete this task,
the world as you know it will cease to exist.
Cameron was perplexed by the letter. He looked at the date written on the letter, July 22, 1780. This note was written two days ago. Yet it appeared to be addressed to Annie.
“Are you as confused as I am?”
“Yes,” he swallowed. “When is the next letter dated?”
“Have you read it?”
“No, not yet.”
“But you brought it with you, yes?”
“We should look at it.”
“Okay.” Annie pulled out the second note and placed the cipher over it. “Hand me that notebook,” Annie ordered, then started to transcribe the second note:
Annie, your journey has begun.
If everything has gone as it was supposed to
you have met Cameron and you have
traveled through the hidey-hole in the attic.
I hope that you chose to stay in 1780 as opposed
to returning to modern times. You are needed in the past,
and the future holds far too much danger as of now.
Now it is time to begin your mission. Trust Cameron,
he is to be your guide through these tumultuous times.
Remember your studies and your true passions.
Cameron and Annie stared at the note for a long time, pondering its meaning. In all truth, the letter raised just as many questions as it answered. True passions? Remember your studies? What was the writer talking about, Annie thought to herself. That could mean any one of a hundred things. Her mind grappled with the cryptic message. At least it made one thing clear: trust Cameron.
“Well, Cameron, it seems that I am at your mercy. So, what do you want to do?”