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Mors

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One

Sarah looked away from the small screen in front of her, the theme tune of the television programme still playing through her headset. She noticed a slight frost forming on the small oval window of the plane as she gazed out into the black of night.

It was just over six months since her time travelling adventure in London, and now, she was winging her way to the United States.

Sarah was one of two students from the elite girls’ school in Liverpool that had been invited to attend the special summer classes at the prestigious Yale University. If all went well, this experience could lead to a scholarship.

          ‘God you’re weird, always watching those stupid history programmes.’

Sarah inwardly groaned at the sound of the familiarly irritating voice. As excited as she was about this trip, she was disheartened by the fact that the other girl invited to attend Yale for the summer was her nemesis Elizabeth.

          Elizabeth was not only her intellectual rival, but someone who enjoyed nothing more than making Sarah’s life a complete misery.

Unlike Elizabeth, who came from a very wealthy family and was used to getting everything she wanted, Sarah was on a scholarship at the prestigious Liverpool school, and as a result was an outsider by the other girls, especially Elizabeth.

          ‘It’s bad enough that we’re made to fly economy, but being stuck next to you, a charity case, makes it all the worse,’ moaned Elizabeth dramatically.

          ‘Yes, I guess it must be tough for you knowing full well that the scholarship kid is far smarter than you,’ Sarah taunted.

          ‘You’re not smarter than me!’ Elizabeth snapped.

          ‘Really? And I was so sure that you came second in the exams to get into Yale.’

          ‘The only reason you came first,’ Elizabeth said with great indignation, ’is because you cheated. I mean, how else could you possibly know so much about Emmeline Pankhurst?’

          ‘Everyone should know about the Pankhurst’s,’ replied Sarah, tired of constantly having to justify herself to Elizabeth. ’If it wasn’t for them, heaven knows when women would have finally been given the right to vote. You should watch the movie Suffragette. It’s in the movie catalogue on this flight. You never know, you might learn something, not enough to beat me in a history test of course, but maybe enough to get close.’

          ‘You spend way too much time in the past Sarah, and I for one have no intention of joining you there.’

          ‘Carey Mulligan is in it.’

          ‘Really?’ Elizabeth’s interest was piqued slightly, for the actress, not the topic. ‘Carey Mulligan you say? I really like her.’

Sarah reclined her seat and closed her eyes, pleased that Elizabeth took her up on her suggestion to watch the movie.

The gentle hum of the powerful engines and the subtle clatter of the drinks trolley lulled her into the blissful state of half awake, half asleep.

Her mind drifted back to 1912, and the night she spent in jail with Emmeline Pankhurst. She could almost see the gruff, burley guard who told her she belonged in Bedlam.

Of all her time travelling experiences, and all the people she met, she thought that meeting Emmeline Pankhurst, her daughter Christabel and friend Mrs. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, was what most changed her personal beliefs.

Up until then, Sarah hadn’t been overly interested in politics, and truth be told she still wasn’t. Even now she wasn’t completely sure which political party she was going to support, but she did know one thing, and that was she was going to vote, because too many great people in history had fought too hard for her to gain the right to vote and not use it.

‘Warm towel?’ whispered the female cabin attendant to those in the cabin that were still awake.

Sarah kept her eyes closed and cast her mind back to the suffragettes, Jane Austen, Sir Richard Owen, and all the other historical figures that she met as she travelled through historical London.

Had it not been for the horrific experience with The Ripper, she would have relished the opportunity to re-enter the corridors of time and meet them all again, however, her encounter with the world’s most notorious serial killer was enough to keep her safely ensconced in the 21st century.

And then there was Jack, the boy from the Cotswolds’ whose family had moved to London, who also found himself trapped in time.

Sarah hadn’t seen Jack since 1891, but their shared experience as they survived the grueling challenges that historic London threw at them, meant they shared a special bond that no one else could ever possibly understand. Thanks to Facebook, Messenger and Zoom, the two managed to locate each other and keep in touch, but this was the first time they were actually going to see other in the modern day.

What a strange coincidence that we are both going to be in New England of all places atthe same time, she thought, as the plane hit some turbulence, settling into a gentle rocking motion. It must be fate. Why else would I be visiting Yale at the very same time that Jack’s school fencing team is touring New England?

The plane bumped and rocked as it flew bravely through the turbulent air.

Beep, came the warning sound as the ‘Fasten Your Seatbelt’ sign lit up overhead.

‘Sarah.’ Elizabeth shook her roughly, waking her from her thoughts. ‘The movie has cut out because of the turbulence. I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but you were right. The suffragettes were amazing, although the one who got herself run over by a horse might have been taking things a little too far.’

‘Desperate times call for desperate measures,’ said Sarah. ’Women had been actively trying to get the vote peacefully for over a hundred years, maybe longer, well certainly outside of New ZeAlland anyway, before the Pankhurst’s came along. The suffragettes simply raised the stakes. I’m not saying they were right to smash windows or resort to violence, I’m just saying that if I was there, I might have joined them.’

‘Yeah right,’ laughed Elizabeth. ‘As if a goody-goody nerd like you would ever do anything that would land you in trouble.’

Sarah shrugged nonchAllantly. ‘Some things are worth getting in trouble for. Did you know, it wasn’t until 2015 that women finally got the vote everywhere? Well, technically not everywhere. They can’t vote in the Vatican City, but neither can the majority of men. The only vote that can be taken in the Vatican City is for the Pope, and only Cardinals can vote for him. You never know, one day we might even get a female Pope.’

‘A female priest would be a start,’ said Elizabeth. ’But I can’t see that happening anytime soon, can you?’

‘No,’ nodded Sarah, thinking, wow, this is the first time ever I have agreed with her.

The girls continued to chatter in a surprisingly civil manner. To the casual onlooker, they looked like two friends on the trip of a lifetime, and not the academic nemeses which they were.

‘So, who’s Jack?’ Elizabeth asked out of the blue. 

‘Jack? Oh, just a friend,’ blushed Sarah.

‘When did you meet him?’

‘On our trip to London last year. How do you know about Jack?’

‘Your Facebook page, and there’s no way you met him in London, because you weren’t out of my sight long enough. And trust me, if I saw you, or any of the girls talking to someone who looked like him, I would have noticed. He’s cute.’

Sarah felt a pang of jealously at Elizabeth’s remark. She considered Jack her special friend, and certainly didn’t want Elizabeth in the mix.

‘Well, you must’ve been distracted at some point, because we did meet in London. Actually, our paths crossed a couple of times and we’ve been friends on Facebook ever since.’

‘Friends?’ teased Elizabeth. ‘Have you seen him since?’

‘No,’ Sarah nodded. ‘I haven’t been back to London and he’s never been to Liverpool, but we’ve Zoomed a few times and we constantly talk on Messenger.’

‘Messenger?’ laughed Elizabeth. ‘So not for public consumption?’

‘It’s not like that,’ Sarah protested. ‘It’s just easy, that’s all.’

‘Whatever.’

The captain has turned on the seatbelt sign in preparation for landing, came the invisible voice over the intercom. Please ensure that your seatbelt is securely fastened, your tray table is stowed away, and your seat is in the upright position. All luggage is to be placed in the overhead locker or under the seat in front of you.

‘I can’t believe we’re about to land in New York and I’m not going to be anywhere near the fabulous shops of Manhattan,’ Elizabeth grumbled. ’And I have three emergency debit cards. It’s a total travesty.’  

‘You can keep the shops, but I have to admit I’d love to get to Manhattan. They say the American Museum of Natural History is absolutely amazing,’

‘Oh My God! What is it with you and dinosaurs? You really do make it hard to like you, but I’ve decided to try, at least why we’re here,’ Elizabeth smiled magnanimously, as if she had offered Sarah the opportunity of a lifetime. ‘Let’s make a deal. If we have a free day on Saturday, let’s go into the city together. If you come to Saks with me, I’ll go to the museum with you.’

‘Sorry,’ nodded Sarah. ‘But I have plans.’

‘The Yale University Library will still be there on Sunday.’

‘I’m not going to the library. I’m going to watch fencing.’

‘Fencing? As in sword fighting?’

‘No, as in people building fences,’ Sarah replied sarcastically.

‘What fencing?’

‘Jack’s school fencing team is touring New England.’

Elizabeth’s face brightened as she saw an opportunity present itself to meet Jack.

‘And he’s on the team?’ she said impressed. ‘That must be some school he goes to.’

‘He’s the team captain actually,’ Sarah added proudly. ‘As for the school, I think it makes ours look like a bog standard comprehensive. I think half of the government cabinet went to his school.’

‘I thought Jack played rugby?’

‘He does, but he also fences. His dad was in the army fencing team, and he and Jack used to fence together, that is, until he was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.’

‘Jack’s father is dead? How awful,’ Elizabeth gasped. ‘I have an uncle who was in the army, but he’s retired now. I guess we were lucky. He never served on the front line.’ She then waved her hand and said, ‘enough of this gloomy talk. We’ll go to the fencing on Saturday, and then afterwards, the three of us will go into Manhattan. Is his fencing match far from Yale?’

Oh no, Sarah thought, desperately trying to think of a valid reason to say no to Elizabeth’s suggestion. Normally, she wouldn’t care about offending or upsetting her, but since they were going to be spending almost every hour of every day together over the next month, she figured it would be far easier, and far less stressful, if they were on friendly terms.

Choate Rosemary Hall,’ she mumbled. ’It’s abouttwenty minutes from Yale. I was going to get a taxi.’

‘I can do better than that,’ Elizabeth exclaimed. ‘As well as the three debit cards, my father also gave me two credit cards in case I need to buy anything online. I’ll simply book a limo to take us to the school, and then another to take the three of us into Manhattan. We might as well travel in style. I’ve had enough of ruffing it in economy to last a lifetime.’

Sarah sighed as Elizabeth prattled on. ’Economy. The word itself is enough to make me shudder, and now that I’ve experienced it firsthand, it’s even worse than I ever imagined.I must talk to my parents to make sure I’m upgraded to First Class for the flight home,’ she mumbled as an afterthought.

Minutes later, the Boeing 767 bounced onto the runway and began its taxi to the terminal.

‘I have to make a quick stop at Duty Free,’ Elizabeth said, as the bright neon sign flashed before them. ‘I have a few essentials that I need to pick up.’  

‘They won’t sell you alcohol here,’ scoffed Sarah. ’They’re really strict. I think you have to be twenty-one to buy it.’

‘Don’t be such a loser Sarah,’ mocked Elizabeth. ‘I don’t want to buy alcohol. I need perfume and makeup. If I’m going to meet Jack and his fencing buddies, I need to look my best.’

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