The Tests of Time (Book 1) ✔

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Deep Conversations & Layla-isms

Present Day

Elinor groaned softly as she stretched her tense muscles, confused as to why she was limited on room to stretch. Opening her eyes slowly, she winced from the discomfort she felt in her head. She was surprised to see that she was tangled up in some blanket, laying on a couch in an unfamiliar area. Waking up on the couch with a dull throb festering in her head reminded her of the many days she’d wake up in a stranger’s house, hungover and sick to her stomach. She questioned if she had relapsed and went too far again but then her eyes landed on a chair just to her right, reminding her where she was.

Ivan was surprisingly sound asleep in a small, cramped chair. She cringed at the sight, wondering how he had even found the capability to sleep comfortably with his tall build and long legs.

Sitting up, she removed her blanket to lean over to wake him up but she froze before she could even lift herself from the safety of the couch. Her eyes took in the dress she was wearing yesterday, the one that Autumn had forced her to wear. The memories of everything that took place yesterday came rushing back, causing her head to spin.

Swallowing hard, Elinor forced herself to stand from the couch quietly so as to not wake up Ivan. She wanted to walk around the lab for just a little while, to be alone with her thoughts. What she really wanted was to figure out where the damn restroom was, that way she could lock herself away from prying eyes.

She wandered down a dimly lit hallway, glancing at the different doors along the way as she tried to gauge what could be the door to the restroom. A loud thud startled her from the other end of the hallway, causing her to turn back from the direction she had come from. The noise reminded her of the many times her alleged bookstore ghost had startled her. Muttering under her breath a reminder that her bookstore ghost was no longer in existence, she turned to continue her way down the hallway when she had collided with someone who had popped out of one of the side doors.

Elinor let out a surprised gasp as the other person let out a small mumble. Elinor was slightly relieved to see that the person wasn’t anyone like Brackston or Carter. Instead, standing before her was the dark-haired, bright-eyed woman she had seen when she exited the time machine.

“I’m sorry,” Elinor sighed, shaking her head. “I’m just trying to find my way around, miss…?”

The woman gave her a small smile, a warm expression crossing her face. “Layla,” she stated, “And you’re perfectly fine. It took me a little a while to figure out the layout, too.”

Elinor nodded slowly, giving her a weak smile. Layla seemed like a nice person but Elinor was hoping to move on from having a longer conversation. She felt like she was seconds from having a slight meltdown and she couldn’t fathom having another crying spell in front of someone again. She was just about to bid Layla a goodbye when the woman glanced down at Elinor’s 1930’s outfit, frowning slightly.

“Oh my, please tell me you didn’t have to sleep in that?” Layla asked, before beckoning Elinor to follow her into the room she had just stepped out of. “Come on, I have something comfortable you can change into.”

Elinor was more than disappointed that this woman was being so kind to her. She felt that she was the last person right now that deserved any help at all, seeing as she only brought more problems to their lives. She stepped into the room quietly, watching as Layla dug through some drawers for something for Elinor to wear.

“Brackston told me that you tend to like more vintage clothing but I’m afraid the closest thing I have to vintage is an oversized Atari t-shirt. If you want, I can let you borrow-” Layla turned her head to look at Elinor, her voice stopping at the sight of Elinor’s dark expression.

Layla could see that Elinor’s face was growing slightly red, her eyes glossy as tears pooled in the other woman’s eyes. Layla began to wonder if she had said something that was upsetting. “Hey,” Layla spoke softly, turning away from the dresser so that she could face Elinor. “What’s up?”

Elinor sniffed softly, looking at Layla embarrassed as a couple of tears streamed down her face. “I’m sorry,” Elinor apologized, wiping her cheek with the palm of her hand. “I’m just… I don’t deserve this.”

Layla glanced at the woman quizzically, pursing her lips slightly as she tried to figure out what Elinor was getting at. “Deserve… an oversized Atari t-shirt? Trust me, it’s fine. Brackston won’t even know that it’s gone,” Layla tried to tease, hoping that it would lighten the mood.

Elinor shook her head, opening her mouth to respond before clamping her mouth shut.

Layla frowned a bit at Elinor’s behavior, her forehead creasing as she raised her eyebrows. Pulling out a chair, Layla tilted her head as she gazed at Elinor softly. “Why don’t you sit down? Then we can talk about things a little bit,” Layla suggested, smiling warmly.

Elinor was somewhat surprised by Layla’s willingness to help her out, especially since Layla knew nothing about her. Wringing her hands together, Elinor cautiously sat down in the chair as Layla sat down on the bed across from her.

Propping her head in her hand, Layla glanced at Elinor. “So why don’t you start by explaining why you think you don’t deserve this,” Layla spoke softly, watching Elinor’s expression carefully. “What don’t you deserve, exactly?”

Elinor tilted her head towards the ceiling, her eyes taking in the minor details as she tried to think of a proper way to respond. “I don’t deserve your hospitality,” she acknowledged finally, releasing a heavy sigh. “I don’t deserve anything you guys have done for me. I’ve been nothing but a big pain in the ass from day one and I didn’t even know it.”

Layla raised her eyebrows questionably at Elinor’s choice of words. “How is any of this your fault?” Layla challenged her. “It’s like you said, you didn’t even know. How would you? Besides, our helping you isn’t an attempt to make you feel bad. It’s because we’ve all been there before.”

Elinor lowered her gaze, staring at Layla intensely. Ivan had alluded briefly to the fact that they all had been through some pretty interesting stuff, though she was sure that none of them had ever experienced anything to the magnitude that she had been through in the last couple of days.

Layla pressed her lips firmly together, removing her chin from where it rested in her hand. “My point is that if you need us, we’re here for you no matter what. Whether you need to just vent about whatever is bothering you and cry your eyes out, or if you need to borrow an oversized Atari t-shirt and a pair of sweats,” Layla chuckled, shaking her head.

Elinor pondered Layla’s words for a moment, her teeth drawing in her lower lip as she blinked back new tears that were threatening to form. There was one thing weighing on her mind currently, something that had been gnawing at her since she had arrived in 1931.

“I think Ivan deserves better,” she admitted finally, looking down as she fiddled with the bow on the front of her dress. “He shouldn’t be stuck with a high risk target who is likely to die just like his family.”

“Maybe you should let him decide whether or not he deserves better,” Layla offered, shrugging her shoulders. “I know I don’t know you all that well yet, but from what Brackston has told me, and from what little I’ve seen, it’s clear that Ivan obviously feels something for you. If I’m going to be painfully honest, in the short period Ivan has been here I have yet to see him look at anyone the way he looked at you after he helped you down from the time machine yesterday. He’s always so tense and cold… but with you, he seemed different.”

Elinor lifted her head to shake it in disagreement but in remembering the different times she had caught him gazing at her, she knew that Layla was absolutely right. She had no clue what was going on between them but she knew that it was more than just playful flirting. She was beginning to question if she could imagine a life without him, to the point that it brought a new fear to her already racing thoughts.

“I can’t lose him,” she voiced finally, releasing a shaky breath as more tears filled her eyes. “I’ve lost so much to Whittaker. I can’t lose him, either.”

Layla sat up suddenly, the pieces falling into place. Something about Elinor’s behavior throughout this entire conversation had felt so familiar and it finally hit her as to why. It was the same way she felt and had reacted to the accident that ultimately led to the death of her parents.

“Pushing him away isn’t going to protect him,” Layla piped up, staring at Elinor’s tear filled eyes firmly. “If you want my advice, I say you need to run after him, be forward with him, let him know how you feel. Because I’ve been where you are,” Layla sighed, shaking her head at the memory. “I don’t know what you know about me, but… due to an unfortunate incident, I lost my parents. Believe me, I know what it’s like to be in your shoes. There’s nothing like watching the people you love dying and being unable to do anything about it, not being able to say what you’ve always wanted to say.”

Elinor’s lips parted in surprise, her eyes narrowing as she watched Layla’s expression carefully. She would have almost questioned Layla on her confession but decided it wasn’t her right to judge. “What happened?” Elinor questioned softly, her curiosity getting the better of her.

Layla let out a shaky sigh, glancing down at her lap. “I mean, it didn’t happen quite as tragically as what you went through. By that, I mean I wasn’t there to witness it. A family member called, told me that there was a shooting. You hear stuff like this all the time, to the point that it’s almost numbing now. It makes you angry but what can you do about it? Then, all of a sudden it’s someone you know and care about, and it’s a rude awakening. They were just walking in a park, and some guy targeted them. My dad was pronounced dead at the scene and my mother died the next morning.”

Elinor swallowed hard, her hands nervously smoothing out the material of her dress as she sucked in a breath. “I’m sorry.”

Layla shook her head, offering Elinor a weak smile. “Don’t be. Like I said, it was a bit of an awakening. After all of that, I realized that I needed to embrace what I had for the little time that I have it, because despite having lost what I did, I knew I had so much going for me. I never got to tell my parents about it but I was approved for a scholarship to The Altman Institution. That was a big deal, seeing as we weren’t exactly wealthy. Then I met Brackston and next thing I know I’m working with Professor Altman on a once in a lifetime opportunity. I guess what I’m trying to say is you never really know what day might be your last, so it’s up to us to make the call on what we’re going to do with the days that we have,” she admitted, softly glancing up at Elinor. “Which means that you need to stop wasting your time sitting here crying to me, put on some comfier clothes, and find Ivan. Because you never know what moment with him might be your last.”

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