The Birth of Bibbly
The Birth of Bibbly
(Or How Jessica Came to Adopt Bitty Baby Fatterson)
November 2, 2002
Back of a City Bus Pretend Friend Ville Boston Massachusetts
Mr. and Mrs. Fatterson were the fattest people in all of Pretend Friend Ville. The fact that they had some giants blood flowing through their veins didn’t exactly help matters any and their lifestyle choices definitely weren’t doing them any favors. They prefer to go by the names Mama Pork and Daddy Potato Chip with of course these names summing up their entire existence very well.
All they did was eat. And eat. And eat. Nothing healthy. They were the biggest bottom feeders anyone had ever seen before. Some food companies paid them to try out their new addictive formulas. A thumbs up from the Fattersons meant the latest food product they cooked up in their labs would sell well in the land of PFV. Then the companies realized that they didn’t need to pay the Fattersons, they’d do it for free.
The Fattersons had no jobs, all they did was eat and watch TV and go on cruises. There was nothing they loved more than lounging on the deck of a cruise ship while they enjoyed those all you can eat buffets. Neither one had ever truly worked a day in their lives. Daddy Potato Chip’s great uncle Leo died and left the Fattersons rich behind their wildest dreams. Mr. Fatterson was the sole heir to a vast fortune. So, for a while at least they could afford to go on cruises all year round. On cruise ships they were free to be the gluttons they were with no judgement from the other tourists, provided of course that their sheer weight didn’t sink the boat. Laying around like bloated whales, never moving even the tiniest muscle in their pinky toes while they stuffed their faces day in and day out, they truly were living the American dream. To never work and fill up on delicious treats, isn’t that what the American dream is these days?
Mr. Fatterson a.k.a. Daddy Potato Chip was literally the size of five houses. His clothes were custom made by a nice old lady who lived across the street from where his rich old uncle used to live. Even though the amount of money Daddy Potato Chip inherited was enough for most people to live on their whole entire lives and still not use all of it, the sheer amount of food the Fattersons ate as well as all those cruises meant they were on the verge of bankruptcy. There was no money left. Despite this, they still had no intention of ever getting a real job. They would swindle and cheat and take on loans and debt living like they always did except now they owed money they would never be able to pay back.
The officials and regular citizens of Pretend Friend Ville never arrested them or tried to stop the Fattersons from living the way they did. There was simply no jail big enough to hold them. It wasn’t any of their business to bud in on the Fatterson’s personal lives. They were merely a goofy, odd couple that was just there like a crazy unwanted distant relative at a family reunion. Even though you don’t like them and can sometimes barely tolerate them you don’t kick them out. They allowed it because really the Fattersons weren’t harming anyone but themselves.
Mama Pork, who was usually the size of ten walruses, was closer to the size of fourteen walruses because she was nine months pregnant. The threat of a coming baby did not change the Fatterson’s lifestyle choices at all whatsoever in any way shape or form. This baby was not their first child. Their firstborn son would always be a disappointment to the Fattersons because he chose not to live like his parents did. He was a genius child who graduated from Harvard at age ten. He changed his name from Hog Fatterson to Neil Armstrong. He was the first human astronaut to go to Pluto. It was a hard, impossible mission and he was missing in space for several years. Everyone on earth thought he was dead, and to Neil that was preferable to living with his parents and forever being associated with the Fatterson name. Neil was in his 30s now, a successful brain surgeon with a beautiful wife and two little kids. He disowned his parents and refuses to have any contact with them of any kind which is why he spent so much time on Pluto. Daddy Potato Chip and Mama Pork were not happy with their son’s achievements. They were in fact bitterly disappointed in him. They didn’t particularly plan on having kids. It just sort of happened. But if they did end up with kids then they definitely wanted their children to be exactly like them. Neil refused to accept and acknowledge them for who they are, so he was no longer considered their son. The Fattersons were hopeful that this new baby would follow in their footsteps exactly and continue the eating legacy of laziness that they started.
On November 2, 2002 Mr. and Mrs. Fatterson were on their way to a 30-day cruise leaving out of Boston Harbor and headed for the Bahamas. That’s why they were on the bus that fateful day. They had just gotten off one cruise ship in Portland Maine and now they were trying to board the next one in Boston. Mr. Fatterson was fuming because they were stuck in so much traffic. He was not worried about his poor wife who was probably already in labor, but he was frantic about possibly missing the ship.
The Fattersons sat at the very back of the bus because there was more space back there. There was a powerful screech of metal as the back half of the bus so weighed down by their big bodies scraped the pavement. The whole bus angled upwards at the front. It was a Peter Pan bus. In Pretend Friend Ville, Peter Pan buses can fly. That’s the point of them actually, to fly above the traffic and get people places quicker. However, because the Fattersons were on board this bus could not take off and fly.
The driver of this bus was a generally angry, bald middle-aged man. Normally he didn’t mind his bus route, but today he was upset that he got stuck with the Fattersons as passengers. If only he hadn’t been on time to his stops! Then some other bus driver would be stuck in traffic with this load.
There weren’t many passengers because most of the seats were taken up by the Fattersons. There was one old cat lady who had some knitting and three cats in her purse. Their vicious eyes peered out of the dark bag giving a frightening glow to anyone who dared look inside. There was one disheveled, anxious businessman who was tearing more hair out with each passing minute. There was an old construction worker in faded blue overalls. He was trying to sleep with his yellow helmet tipped over his eyes.
And there was a girl with brown hair and bangs with her nose buried in a book. The strange thing about her was that she had a pet Turkey on a leash who was loudly squabbling his displeasure. Her name was Jessica and although she was just a little girl in the real world in Pretend Friend Ville, she was considered a full-fledged adult. Once a week she left her cozy home on Play Road and traveled into the big city to run errands. She always brought the Turkey with her because she hated to go alone. He was her best friend since her sister was still just a slobbering baby and not yet an intelligent creature like herself. Sometimes Jessica would bring her adopted daughter along too. She was a baby too, but she was way more sophisticated than any real world child. This day, however, Big Dolly was at daycare with her favorite teacher Ballerina Bear.
Mrs. Fatterson was growing more and more uncomfortable. At first, she thought it was food poisoning from the clams she ate last night, but then she remembered the baby and how traumatizing the ordeal had been with her son Hog. Even though he insisted on calling himself Neil now, he would always be Hog to her. Children=discomfort and pain. Mrs. Fatterson didn’t like those things. She spent her whole life trying to avoid them. Hopefully this baby would wait until they got to the ship. They have such nice little infirmaries aboard. Mrs. Fatterson went there once when she burned a finger on her fried dough. Lovely place. They could make all the pain go away.
But it soon became clear that this little baby was not going to wait until they got to the ship. Mrs. Fatterson screamed loud enough for every single person in the city of Boston to pause and wonder what was going on. She screamed again. “BABY!”
In the rearview mirror, the driver’s eyebrows shot up. He let out a soft curse. It really was his unlucky day for the famed Fatterson woman was about to blow. All over his new, clean bus no less.
The cats sprang out of the old woman’s purse and injected their claws into the sleeping construction worker’s face. “Get these filthy, flea bitten creatures off me!” He leapt to his feet and began violently thrashing around as he tried to pull the hissing cats off him.
Jessica and Turkey cowered under their seat while the businessman jumped out the emergency exit window into moving traffic. He ran down the highway wildly waving his arms and yelling, “That bus! That bus! Thank god I’m off that bus!”
The old woman started beating the construction worker with her cane. “Stop hurting my poor little kitties you bad, bad man!”
“Ma’am, they’re the ones hurting me!”
“Not my little babies! Never!”
Not knowing what to do, the bus driver sighed and kept his eyes fixed on the road in front of him. Mr. Fatterson didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t there when Hog (Neil) was born. “Can’t this wait until we get to the ship?” He growled in irritation.
“Oh, I wish!” His poor wife murmured between contractions. “I never wanted a baby!”
Another hour passed with the bus still sitting in traffic. The cats never settled down, but they did release their clutches on the construction worker. He was allergic to cats, so his entire face broke out into hives. The old woman was too busy chasing the cats around to notice the groans and wails coming from the back of the bus.
Turkey pecked at Jessica’s ear. “We’ve got to do something!”
“Like what?” Jessica hissed back. “Jump out like that smart businessman?”
“No! Something to help that poor creature trying to get born back there.”
“I’m not going anywhere near the Fatterson woman!”
“You don’t have to,” Turkey whispered calmly. “Just get someone else to do it.” He flapped his wings in the direction of the old woman.
“Oh. Right.” Mustering her courage, Jessica approached the old lady. “Lady?”
The old lady didn’t acknowledge her.
“What?! Oh, my goodness you scared me half to death! What do you want?”
Jessica swallowed hard. Those cats had the look of the devil in their eyes. But if it meant that baby back there could live. . .. “I’ll watch your cats for you if you go help Mrs. Fatterson.”
The old woman narrowed her eyes. “And what makes you think I know anything about delivering babies?”
There was an awkward pause, but then the old woman’s wrinkly face crinkled into a smile and she laughed. “Well, that’s a good guess. I used to be a midwife until I retired in order to take better care of my kitties.”
“What’s a midwife?” Jessica whispered to Turkey.
Turkey patted her arm with his wing. “I’ll tell you later.” He flew a safe distance away from her. He didn’t want to end up as a cat’s dinner.
“Here, hold Lemon and Ginger.” The midwife shoved two cats at her. “Veronica should be kept in the purse, she’s afraid of buses.” With that said, the midwife rushed over to help the Fattersons. Some time passed.
Soon a healthy cry of a baby filled the bus. Everyone, Mr. and Mrs. Fatterson, the midwife, the construction worker, the cats, Turkey and even the bus driver all exhaled in relief.
“Ta-dah!” The midwife sang as she wrapped the baby in one of the knitted blankets she happened to have in her cat purse. “A beautiful baby girl. Does mom want to—-”
“No!” Mrs. Fatterson shuddered. “I don’t want to look at it. It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen!”
“Okay,” the old woman said slowly. She seemed at a loss as far as what to do. Then her eyes landed on Jessica. “Trade ya.” She took the cats from Jessica and placed the baby in her arms.
Jessica didn’t want to hold the Fatterson kid, but she really didn’t have a choice. Time stood still as she gazed into the face of that little, itty bitty baby. Size wise she was nothing like her parents. “Hello, itty bitty baby,” said Jessica. She was under no illusions about how awful life would be with the Fattersons. Her heart was flooded with compassion for the unwanted baby in her arms. “Poor kid. I wish I could take you home with me.”
For the rest of the slow agonizing ride to the cruise dock, the Fatterson baby stayed with Jessica. The midwife gave her a bottle of warm milk that she happened to have for her cats. “What are you going to name her?” Jessica asked the Fattersons.
Mr. and Mrs. Fatterson looked at each other. “Uh, err, um. . ….” It was like they hadn’t put any thought into it at all. Which they probably hadn’t.
Just then the baby spit up and made a loud gurgling noise that sounded like she was saying, “Bibbly!”
Mr. Fatterson exclaimed, “That’s what we’ll call her!”
“Bibbly,” Mrs. Fatterson sighed. “Sounds perfect though not as great as—-”
“Hog.” Mr. Fatterson hung his head sadly.
Jessica made a face. Turkey said what she was thinking. “That’s the worst name anyone could ever give a child.” No one except Jessica could understand him because he only spoke in special turkey language. Jessica knew she would probably never see Bibbly again, but in her heart Bibbly would always be Bitty Baby.
Suddenly the bus jerked to a stop at the cruise dock and the unimpressed driver called out, “Last stop. Everybody off.”
“Hey,” said the old woman, “this isn’t the bingo hall.”
“Or the work site,” said the construction worker.
“I don’t care,” said the driver. “I’m only making one stop today, so you better get off and catch another bus. I’m done. I’ll never drive another bus as long as I live.”
“Cruise!” The Fattersons hurriedly tried to squeeze off the bus.
“Don’t forget this.” Jessica placed Bibbly in her mother’s arms.
“Oh, right.” Mrs. Fatterson struggled to conceal a wince. She held the baby by one-foot upside down as she exited the bus.
Jessica, Turkey and the other passengers followed them off. Although the driver dumped them right at the gangway there was no cruise ship in sight. “You just missed it folks,” said a man at the ticket booth.
“NOOO!” Mr. Fatterson wailed.
Mrs. Fatterson sobbed and shook the baby. “This is all your fault!”
“When’s the next one?” Mr. Fatterson asked the ticket man.
“One week from today. And then there won’t be any more until spring.”
“Come on dear,” said Mr. Fatterson as he steered his wife away from the empty dock. “We’ll stay nearby at the Grand Hotel until then.”
Mrs. Fatterson could barely contain her whimpered sniffles. The cat lady and the construction worker walked off arm in arm together. Jessica was quiet when they ran their errands. This greatly concerned Turkey for she was rarely this silent. He knew she couldn’t get that Bibbly baby out of her mind. He couldn’t either. What child could survive with parents like those? Neil Armstrong did, but something told Turkey that this second child probably wasn’t going to be another genius.
Later that evening, Jessica sat both Turkey and Big Dolly down for a very serious conversation. “I think we should adopt another person.”
“What?!” Big Dolly panicked. “Aren’t I enough for you?”
“Don’t you want a sister?” Jessica countered. “Aren’t you lonely with just animals for company?”
“But—” Big Dolly started yet Turkey’s wing on her shoulder silenced her protest. “Alright. Yes. I want sisters.”
Jessica smiled. “Good. What do you think, Turkey?”
Turkey knew he had to answer very carefully. “I think that’s a great idea.”
“We’ll start touring orphanages tomorrow. There are so many children we could help by adopting. If we can’t find someone like the baby we saw today then I want someone just like her.”
So, for the next week, Jessica, Big Dolly, and Turkey went to many different orphanages and found no one acceptable. Big Dolly was secretly pleased for she really did not want any sisters at all. Turkey, however, knew that Jessica would not be satisfied with anyone who was not Bibbly Fatterson. And Turkey knew that the way the Fattersons were treating that baby was probably very bad.
Unbeknownst to Jessica, Turkey made the call to social services. In his perfect imitation of Jessica’s voice, he told the social worker all about the birth on the bus and fear of what that child’s life would look like with the Fattersons for parents. The social worker promised to look into it. Turkey urged speed since the Fattersons were due to leave on the last cruise ship of the season that very day.
Later that afternoon, Jessica got a strange phone call. “Hello?”
“Yes, this is an agent at a secret government facility for children taken away from their parents for legal reasons.”
“Um, why are you calling me?”
“I have here that you are interested in a specific child.”
“And who would that be? The only child I’m interested in is probably very far away on a cruise ship.”
“Thanks to you, a Bibbly Fatterson was taken away from her parents today.”
“What?” Jessica nearly dropped the phone.
“It’s a very good thing, believe me. Had the government known the Fattersons were going to have another baby then we probably would have stepped in sooner. Spare the world another Neil story. They didn’t put up much of a fight to keep her. Too busy dreaming of their cruise, I suppose. Are you interested in adopting or not?”
“Yes. I’ll be down to get her in a few minutes.” Jessica went alone to the secret children’s government facility. Not even Turkey went with her. She signed all the right official papers and then they led her to Bibbly.
The baby was crying in a crib next to a boy whose crib was labeled Parker.
“Hello, itty bitty baby,” Jessica said. When she saw Jessica, she suddenly stopped crying. “That’s right stop your tears. You’re coming home with me, Bitty.”
The boy Parker wailed. He stood up and waved goodbye as Jessica carried Bitty away.
For the next ten years, Jessica tried very hard to keep Bitty Baby from learning who her real parents are. She did not want Bitty to ever know about them. She didn’t want Bitty to wonder about them or even worse make contact or try to fulfill her parents deluded dreams of her being just like them. She changed her name from Bibbly Fatterson to Bitty Baby Daisy. When Jessica adopted Samantha Parkington, she gave Bitty Samantha’s last name. Bitty needed a last name for official things and to differentiate between her and Jackie’s Bitty Baby and Jessica sure as heck wasn’t calling her Fatterson. So, she became Bitty Baby Parkington for a while.
Bitty was confused. For the longest time she thought Jessica was her real mother. When Big Dolly tried to explain adoption to her, Bitty thought Samantha was her real mother. It wasn’t until Gwen, Logan, Parker, Big Dolly, and Bitty Baby Quansa (then O’Malley since she had Nellie’s last name) all went on a quest to discover their birth parents did Bitty start to wonder about her own birth parents. So, she went questing with them and discovered Mama Pork and Daddy Potato Chip. They found Jessica’s binder of official adoption papers. In that binder, Jessica kept all the letters from their birth parents. She did not want the adopted kids to read the letters from their birth parents, so she kept them buried under the adoption papers.
Against Jessica’s wishes, Bitty met her parents. She went on a cruise with them. They told her about Neil and Bitty vowed to never disappoint them like that. Bitty felt divided. More than anything she wanted to be with her parents, but she knew a life would them would be impossible. Plus, she would miss the Playroom. Once she ran away from home to go live on a cruise ship with her parents. Bitty Baby Quansa, her best friend, along with her almost mom Samantha convinced Bitty to come home, that this family of adopted kids was where she really belonged.
Bitty still visits her Fatterson parents sometimes. She goes on cruises with them and her friend Bitty Baby Quansa. Some people in the Playroom think this is a bad thing, but others say an occasional visit with the birth parents won’t harm her. Now that Bitty Baby Fatterson is a rich and famous director she pays for her parents cruises and works hard to pay off all their debts.
So that’s the story of how Jessica adopted Bitty F.
Made in China
How Big Dolly Chinchon ended up in the Playroom
Made in China
(Or how Big Dolly Chinchon ended up in the Playroom)
Once upon a time, precisely 1999, in a land far away, Pretend Friend Ville China to be exact, there lived two American missionaries. They lived in Panda Valley deep in the bamboo forest between the Great Wall of China and a secret government nuclear power plant. Even though Christianity was illegal in this country that did not stop this husband and wife from sharing the gospel with their Chinese friends. The man’s name was Mr. Big because as an American he was bigger than all the Chinese men around them. His wife was called Miss Dolly because she was so particular about her make up that she looked just like a porcelain doll.
As a missionary, Mr. Big needed a day job so that they could afford to keep living in their tiny hut in the center of a small village. Their church back in America told them not to go to this particular village located right next to the nuclear power plant because the Chinese government might think they are spies and that could get all the Christians in the area in deep trouble. However, Mr. Big and Miss Dolly insisted on going to this particular area. Their American church warned them that it would be a bad idea and so they refused to support them financially. So if Mr. Big and Miss Dolly wanted to stay in China and reach this particular village they needed a way to make money. Mr. Big joined the Chinese warriors guarding the Great Wall. At first the other warriors were skeptically about allowing an American to join their forces, but when Mr. Big proved himself as a capable warrior and fiercely loyal to the Chinese people they welcomed him in with great esteem. While Mr. Big was off patrolling the wall and converting the other warriors around him, Miss Dolly stayed in the village and ran the underground church. Mr. Big and Miss Dolly made a great team and continued their mission in China for ten years.
There came a time when they longed for a child of their own. They loved every Chinese orphan that made their way through their church, but they wanted a baby of their own to keep the mission going when they grew old and died. Miss Dolly longed for a daughter to hang out with while Mr. Big was off on his warrior patrols. Mr. Big longed for a son to train as a warrior. The problem was that it seemed impossible for them to conceive, they tried everything over the course of a few years and still no baby. They began to grow desperate and instead of turning to God they went to the local seer/fortune telling/witch doctor.
Now, magic in PFV is a good thing and can be used for good. However, there is also dark magic that is very, very bad. Mr. Big and Miss Dolly thought that this seer was good. Most seers in PFV are good and can even be Christians and so they reasoned that they had no choice but to turn to this witch doctor woman hiding deep in the bamboo forests of China. So Mr. Big and Miss Dolly went on an adventure to find this magical seer woman hiding in the woods. People in their church begged them not to go. With their newfound Christian faith, they now believed that it was wrong to turn to a fortune teller instead of God. They believed that this particular fortune teller/witch doctor was of the evil variety and not the normal good kind. Mr. Big and Miss Dolly laughed off their concerns and went ahead in their desperation.
After nearly a week of camping in the bamboo forest and searching, Mr. Big and Miss Dolly almost gave up. But then they heard singing and saw an old crone bent over a sick baby panda. She pulled out a glowing red stick and touched the panda on the nose with it. Instantly, the panda was no longer sick. Mr. Big and Miss Dolly gasped. “How did you do that?” Mr. Big asked. He had an uneasy feeling that maybe they shouldn’t have come after all.
Miss Dolly started to say, “Are you the—–”
“Yes, dearies,” the old crone crackled. “I’m the one you are searching for and I know why you are here. I saw you coming in my crystal ball. Now, come into my lair and I will give you what you want.”
Mr. Big pulled on Miss Dolly’s arm and whispered in her ear, “Maybe we shouldn’t, maybe our congregation was right, maybe this is a bad idea.”
Miss Dolly jerked her arm away from him and stared straight ahead at the woman. “I didn’t come all this way just to go back barren. We both agreed to do this, we can’t turn back now.”
Mr. Big gulped down a lump of fear and nodded. Together they followed the crone into her hut. On the outside, the hut appeared small and run down. Yet on the inside it was a hug glittering palace with all the greatest comforts of America from hot tubs to massage chairs. The crone ripped off her black robe to reveal her red bikini and spryly jumped into the nearest hot tub to sip a pina colada. She beckoned them to join her, but they shook their heads and stepped back. She shrugged and muttered, “Suit yourself.”
After a few minutes of the couple awkwardly watching the wrinkly crone relax in her hot tub, the crone suddenly stood up and zapped herself dry in smart business suit. With another snap of her fingers they all magically appeared in a fancy conference room. The crone pulled out a brief case and opened it on the table. “Now, let’s get down to business. You want a baby.”
Miss Dolly nodded vigorously while Mr. Big stared at the floor.
“I can make that happen for you guys with great ease. But there will be a catch, you see. You want a baby, and I want an apprentice. I want a child who has my magical gifts that I can train in the ways of evi—, I mean in the ways of my talent. When you have your baby, I want you to bring it to every month for one whole weekend. Do you agree?”
“Yes!” shouted Miss Dolly while at the same time Mr. Big shouted, “No!”
The crone’s eyes shot up. “Ah, disagreement between the happy couple? What can I do to sweeten the deal? Make it the most beautiful child in the world? Give it a special gift beyond even your wildest dreams?”
Mr. Big said, “No, there’s nothing you can do to help us, I suppose we’ll be going now.” Again, he reached for his wife and again she pulled away from him.
“We’ll do anything for a child,” said Miss Dolly. “Except sell our souls to the devil. We can bring the baby to you only on Saturdays, on Sundays the child will belong to the Lord.”
The old crone shrugged. “I care not what days you bring the kid to me so long as it’s once a month.”
Mr. Big begged his wife, “Please no. Who knows what that crazy woman will do to corrupt our child? We can’t—-”
Miss Dolly’s hands curled into fists. “We agreed. Isn’t it better to have a child who might be corrupted than to not have a child at all? Besides, maybe—-”
“Do you agree?” the crone interrupted.
“Yes!” Miss Dolly said.
Mr. Big hung his head and murmured, “Yes.”
The crone shook hands with first Miss Dolly and then Mr. Big. Mr. Big didn’t like the evil glint he saw in the witch doctor’s eyes, but there was nothing he could do about it now. His wife was too overcome with her desperation for a baby that they would just have to live with the consequences of today’s actions.
The crone took the glowing red stick that she had used on the panda and whispered a few unintelligible words to it. She took it and tapped Mr. Big on the head and poked Miss Dolly in the stomach. For a moment nothing happened. Then red sparkles flew in the air as Miss Dolly’s belly jiggled and expanded until she was eight months pregnant. Miss Dolly groaned in pain while Mr. Big rushed to her side. The old crone laughed. “Have fun finding your way out of the forest now. And remember, bring the girl to me when she is born. Every first Saturday of every month for the rest of her life. If you don’t, then I see traumatic death in your future.” Suddenly, the crone vanished and so did the palace hut so that Mr. Big and a newly 8 month pregnant Miss Dolly were alone in the bamboo forest.
It took the couple a lot longer to find their way home than it did on the way out to find the fortune teller. With Miss Dolly so big and clumsy, it was harder for them to trek through the forest and Mr. Big swore that the crone was deliberately messing with their path to toy with them and make the journey longer and harder than it needed to be. Finally, exactly one month since they met the crone they arrived back at their village where Miss Dolly collapsed on their doorstep and gave birth to a healthy, completely normal looking baby girl. Now that they had the child in their arms, both Miss Dolly and Mr. Big agreed that they wouldn’t go back to the crone ever again.
Within a few days, Mr. Big was called away on a warrior patrol of the Great Wall. He hated to leave his poor wife and newborn baby especially since they hadn’t yet given the child a name. but it couldn’t be helped. He had duty to his job and to his countrymen and so off he went. It was easier for Miss Dolly to let him go now that she had a baby to shower all her affection on. Life seemed perfect until the crone appeared in Miss Dolly’s soup and told her that if she didn’t bring the child to her then her husband would never return home. Frantically, Miss Dolly make the trek back through the bamboo forest so that the baby could meet the seer witch doctor for the first time.
The baby seemed distressed at traveling through the wilderness and became even more distressed once she saw the crone. Miss Dolly didn’t want to let the crone hold her baby, and neither did the baby want to be held by the crone, but neither one had a choice. The crone snatched the child from Miss Dolly. With a branding iron, she burned the words “Made in China” on the back of the baby’s neck. The baby screamed, Miss Dolly screamed, and the old crone laughed. She announced that Mr. Big was allowed to live for now as long as Miss Dolly brought the child for another visit in exactly one month when the crone would put seer magic into the baby’s eyes to give her the talent of seeing the future. Miss Dolly was horrified, but miserably agreed to return.
Thankfully, Miss Dolly and the baby arrived home before Mr. Big. Miss Dolly wanted to keep her visit to the crone’s a secret from her husband but when he saw the words “Made in China” burned into the back of his daughter’s neck he was livid. He quit his job as a warrior of the Great Wall and spent all his time at home playing with his daughter who still didn’t have a name. The baby came to every secret church meeting and was a star among their congregation.
One day their one month was up and it was time to go back to the crone. But they didn’t. Mr. Big refused to allow his wife to leave his sight and go back to the evil crone. Miss Dolly knew they had to, but she too hated the crone and wanted to keep her baby as far away from there as possible. So they stayed home. At first the torment from the witch wasn’t so bad. A face appearing in soup here, a haunting nightmare or death threat there. It was nothing a little prayer couldn’t cure and so they assumed they were safe from the crone’s wrath.
Until one day a few months later Chinese authorities discovered their house church and persecuted the whole village terribly. Mr. Big was burned at the stake as a martyr. As they tied him to the stake, Chinese authorities held up a picture of his baby girl and told him renounce Christ and live for her sake. Mr. Big sadly shook his head and refused to deny Jesus saying that for her sake he must not renounce his faith.
Meanwhile, Miss Dolly was hiding with the baby deep inside the nuclear power plant. One of the workers at the power plant was a Christian and he showed her where to hide. Chinese authorities would never expect the Christians to hide in their secret government power plant and so it was the safest place to be, hiding in plain sight from the government. She looked out the window with tears in her eyes as she saw her husband about to be killed. As flames started to lick the body of her husband, the crone’s face appeared in the fire. She was smirking as she said, “I told you traumatic death was in your future. Now the deaths of your husband and your entire congregation are on your head alone for you refused to keep your part of our deal.”
“No!” Miss Dolly sobbed as she snuggled her baby closer. They were alone in the power plant, but Miss Dolly suddenly stopped crying when she heard footsteps. The crone called out, “Come out, come out wherever you are. I know you’re hiding in there, dearie.”
The baby cried at the sound of the crone’s voice. Miss Dolly tried to quiet her, but it was too late. The evil witch doctor/fortune teller/seer/old crone found them. “Ah-ha! Caught you both! Now you’ll both be coming with me to be my prisoners forever.”
“No,” said Miss Dolly. “No, we won’t.”
Without any warning, Miss Dolly placed her baby carefully on the floor and wrestled the crone to the ground. She grabbed the red glowing stick out of the witches’ black robe and held it against her throat. “Give me that!” The witch screeched.
“Never,” said Miss Dolly.
As they fought over it, magically sparks flew everywhere.
“Stop!” the crone demanded. “You’ll kill us both!”
Miss Dolly didn’t listen. She threw the glowing red stick with all her might. Instead of flying out the window like she hoped, the magical red glowing stick ricocheted off the walls of the nuclear power plant causing the biggest explosion the world has ever seen. Both Miss Dolly and the witch died in that explosion. Miraculously, the baby lived. As the witch exploded in the inferno of magic and nuclear power, her magical talent to foresee the future flew into the nearest living being, the baby.
The baby cried as she squirmed in the smoking rubble, but there was no one left alive to hear her screams. And instead of looking like a normal healthy baby, her once round head was deformed by the explosion to look like a potato and so was her spine which caused her to have a hunched back. Her eyes were also damaged by the explosion, yet her eyes also held the witches’ burden of seeing vague images of the future.
Now on the Great Wall of China, there just happened to be a group of American Tourists who heard the blast. In that group of American Tourists, there was a girl named Jessica who used her binoculars to examine the wreckage. She spied a baby of all things and rushed down to go help it. As Jessica approached the newly deformed baby she asked, “What is your name, kid? Who are you and how did you end up here?”
She didn’t expect an answer, yet the baby kept muttered over and over again, “Big. Dolly. Dolly. Big. Big. Dolly.”
Puzzled, Jessica picked up the child and said, “Okay, I guess your name is Big Dolly then. Come on, I’m taking you home with me.” The PFV Chinese government allowed Jessica to adopt Big Dolly and take her to America immediately because no one knew who this kid was or where she came from. “That is, if you want to come home with me. I have a pet Turkey you could be friends with, he’s really nice.”
As Big Dolly looked at Jessica, one eye was focused on her new adopted mom while the other eye stared far off into the distance seeing an image of a wood door with a colored, decorative sign that read Playroom. Baby Big Dolly didn’t know what it meant, but that image filled her with warmth and happiness and she knew that it meant safety. So she nodded her big potato shaped head and clutched onto Jessica as tightly as she could.
Felicity’s Secret Scandal
Felicity’s Secret Scandal
(Or how Jessica tricked Felicity’s parents into giving her up and convinced Felicity to be adopted by her)
Williamsburg, Virginia August 1776
Felicity ignored the annoying voice calling her and kept running down the cobblestone street beside her friend Ben. Even though she hiked her skirt up as far as she dared, up to her knees, the blasted petticoats holding her back made it so she could never dream of keeping up.
“One of these days, Ben, one of these days I swear I’ll—–”
Ben turned around and grinned at her. “I didn’t think a lady was allowed to swear.”
Felicity scowled and kept running so that she soared past him. “I’m no lady.”
“Tis a good thing then or I wouldn’t be allowed to do this.” Ben came running up behind her and scooped her up by the waist. He spun her around as Felicity squealed in delight.
Felicity again ignored the voice as she tackled Ben to the ground, and they began mercilessly tickling one another.
Finally, Ben pulled away. “I think someone wants your attention.”
Felicity sighed in frustration. A strange guest had arrived at their doorstep that morning and she wanted to speak privately with Mother and Father. Rules of proper society dictated that both Felicity and Ben be in the parlor too, since they were part of the household and old enough to be included in grown up visits, but the strange lady was adamant that she only speak to Mother and Father privately. Felicity didn’t get a good look at the woman nor did she really care to. As long as she was dismissed, she wasn’t wasting any time in sticking around lest she should be forced into doing something polite and proper.
So, Felicity dared Ben to a race. Running wasn’t proper for a girl, but Felicity didn’t care and neither did Ben. Lately, secretly, when no proper adult was around Ben and Felicity had been challenging each other to races. With his long legs and breeches Ben should have won every time, but sometimes Felicity won too. She has a sneaking suspicion that Ben was letting her win for his lame excuses about being unusually tired out from the day’s work just didn’t add up. If only she didn’t have to wear a skirt all the time! Then maybe Felicity could win for real.
And now Felicity’s prim and proper sister Nan was policing Felicity in Mother’s absence. Felicity hated being called out by her little sister. “Felicity Merriman!” Nan shouted. “What on earth are doing? Playing with a grown man in the street like that! Tisn’t seemly!”
“Tis not a man,” said Felicity. “Tis just Ben.”
Nan glowered. “A young lady—-”
“This fine creature here assured me that she’s no lady,” said Ben. “If she was—”
“What do you want Nan?” said Felicity. “Besides wanting to ruin my every chance for fun.”
“I only want to help you, Lissie—-”
“Well, don’t.” Felicity grumbled.
“I’ll tell Mother.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
Ben put a hand on Felicity’s arm. “Easy girl. If your Mother forbids running, then we’ll find something else to do.”
That’s what Felicity loved about her friend Ben. He never gave up. And he wouldn’t let them totally turn her into a lady.
“Did the visitor leave yet?” Felicity asked Nan.
“Good. Then leave us be to finish our game.”
“I was just trying to help,” Nan mumbled. “They’re talking about you, ya know.”
Felicity gasped. “Why, Nan, a lady should never spy or eavesdrop.” Ben chuckled quietly while Nan’s face flushed scarlet. Then Felicity grew suspicious. “What about me?”
Nan shrugged. “The whole conversation is about you. You’re the whole reason she’s here.”
“Well, what did they say?”
“I just thought you should know.” Nan turned away and slipped back inside.
Felicity tried not to let fear consume her. She put on a brave face for Ben, but she didn’t have to for her friend could guess where her thoughts were going. “Twill be alright, Lissie,” Ben squeezed her hand.
Felicity swallowed hard. “Thanks, Ben. I think I have some eavesdropping to do.” She turned away from Ben and ran to the house. Slowly, carefully, she tiptoed down the hall and stood with an ear cocked at the parlor door.
“I don’t know, Martha,” Father was saying. “Tis an awfully big decision to make in a moment.”
“Well, I think it’s the best thing we can do for her,” said Mother.
“This is our little Lissie we’re talking about,” said Father.
“Exactly! Edward, just think of what it could do for us. The headaches it could spare me. She’ll come away knowing how to be a proper—–”
“Excuse me,” the strange visitor interrupted, “but I think someone is at the door.”
Both Mother and Father turned to see Felicity in the doorway. Felicity cringed and tried to hide in the growing late afternoon shadows in the hall. The strange woman had a fancy pair of spectacles, the fanciest pair Felicity had ever seen, and she had a strange hairstyle with little fringes of hair covering her forehead. Felicity swore she saw a turkey flickering in and out of her skirts, but anyone else watching would have said Felicity was off her rocker to even suggest such a thing.
“Miss Felicity Merriman!” Mother gasped. “Do not hide away from our lovely guest like some common criminal. Get in here and introduce yourself.”
Felicity gulped down a big lump of fear and annoyance. She normally wasn’t afraid of strangers, but this woman unnerved her for she seemed a little off or different from everyone else here in the Thirteen Colonies. Felicity entered the room and curtsied clumsily in front of the stranger. The woman nodded and with a twinkle in her eye said, “I am Miss Jessica. And I am very delighted to have finally met you.”
Felicity’s confusion was evident on her face. “What brings you to Williamsburg, Ma’am?”
Mrs. Merriman beamed and put her hands on Felicity’s shoulders. “You do, darling. Isn’t it wonderful?”
Felicity was still puzzled and growing more alarmed by the minute.
Mr. Merriman nodded towards Miss Jessica. “This lady is from the most prestigious finishing school for young ladies in Boston. She has traveled all this way, alone I might add, just to see you and take her back to the school with you.”
“Finishing school?” Felicity echoed. The word came crashing down like a death sentence, like a noose that only needed a little more tightening before the end came. “What about me needs finishing?”
“Everything,” snapped Mrs. Merriman. “If you refuse to learn at home with me then I have no choice but to send you off to a finishing school.”
“How ever did you hear of our dear Lissie?” said Mr. Merriman.
Miss Jessica smiled. “I am great friends with Miss Manderley. She raves about you; it was actually on her recommendation that I enroll you in my school.”
“Praise be!” Mrs. Merriman exclaimed. “Thank you for this opportunity, I am sure Miss Merriman won’t squander it.”
Miss Jessica smiled. “Oh, I know she won’t. Now, let’s be off Miss Felicity dear.”
“Hold on just a moment,” Mr. Merriman held up a hand as a signal for everyone to pause. “We haven’t yet agreed. I heard trouble is brewing in Boston.”
“Oh,” replied Miss Jessica. “That’s not an issue anymore. We sent those British dogs packing months ago. Boston is actually the safest place to be right now, what with loyalist and British troops flooding in this direction. Yorktown, that town nearby to here, will be a far more dangerous place than Boston in the days to come. Don’t you worry, sir, your daughter, in fact all the girls at finishing school are in very safe hands with me.”
“But I’ll die at finishing school!” Felicity blurted out.
Mr. and Mrs. Merriman gasped at Felicity’s outburst.
“Physically I might be safe,” continued Felicity, “but my spirit will die. And that’s no better than the way Jiggy Nye crushed Penny. It’s no better than the way the British treat us. Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, please don’t send me away!”
Mrs. Merriman struggled to contain her anger with her daughter. “With an attitude like that you’re definitely going! Pack your bags right now missy and be off with you!”
Mr. Merriman laid a hand on his wife’s arm. “Now, Martha, don’t be rash. Let’s think—”
“That girl has got to go,” snapped Mrs. Merriman. “If she think she can change the world then by all means let that fancy finishing school in Boston crush her spirit. Somebody ought to do it!”
“Tut, tut,” said Miss Jessica. “There will be no crushing of anyone’s spirit at my finishing school. In fact, we aim for girls to thrive and let their spirit soar, within the bounds of reason of course. Miss Merriman’s roommate is to be a smart and very proper girl named Miss Samantha Parkington who loved teatime with her grandmother. I think she could testify to the fact that no one is getting their spirit crushed at our school and she will be a good influence on Felicity. Besides, I think Miss Felicity will be a good companion for her other roommate Gwendolyn, she’s descended from royalty and that is as proper as you can get. Yes, Miss Felicity will have a lot of fun with Miss Gwendolyn.”
“Fun at finishing school?” Felicity snorted. “Yeah, right.”
“Descended from royalty?” Mrs. Merriman nearly fainted. “Edward, our Felicity will be rubbing elbows with royalty! There’s no better way to get a leg up in fine, high society.”
Mr. Merriman grunted. “Getting rid of royalty is the goal of this revolution.”
“Please, Edward,” begged Mrs. Merriman. “This is the best possible future we could give to our Felicity.”
Miss Jessica grinned. “Best future indeed.”
Mr. Merriman looked back and forth between the eager face of his wife and the desolate face of his daughter. He sighed. “Oh, very well. Even though I shall miss my dear Lissie very much this seems to be what is best for her. Yes, Felicity will go to that fancy finishing school in Boston and learn to thrive as a lady in society.”
“Yes!” cried Mrs. Merriman. “Oh, thank you, Edward. I pray she won’t disgrace us anymore than she already has.”
Miss Jessica shook Mr. Merriman’s hand. “Yes, thank you. Like I said earlier, you daughter is in very good hands with me. And I promise that you will see her for a few visits here and there.”
“NO!” shouted Felicity. “No! I won’t go and you can’t make me!” Felicity turned and ran out of the house as fast as her legs could carry her. She ran to the stable and threw open the door to Penny’s stall so fast Penny spooked. Felicity muttered a kind word to her horse and then vaulted over her side bareback. Felicity kicked Penny into a gallop, but before they even made it to the door Ben was there.
He held up his hand as Penny reared up on her hind legs. “Whoa there, easy girl.” He grinned, but then noticed the look on Felicity’s face. “Ut-oh, I take it the stranger’s visit wasn’t pleasant?”
Felicity scowled. She only had to say two words for her dearest friend to understand the depth of turmoil in her heart. “Boston. Finishing school.”
Ben’s face fell. He had always feared that the Merrimans might consider sending Felicity away and now it seemed his greatest fear was being realized. He stepped aside and Felicity was off riding like the wind.
Felicity rode Penny hard. Her face was blotching and red as angry, anguished tears lashed down her cheeks. Who did they think they were deciding her future without giving her any say in it at all? Who were they to force her into being the very think she detested the most, a respectable lady? Felicity was mad at the world for not giving her a place and a voice for being a girl. She was mad at history for making her live through a war about freedom yet never giving her any free choice of her own. Felicity kept riding through meadows and over streams, across valleys and past big Southern plantations. As she saw the slaves laboring in the fields she felt as though she didn’t have it any better than them. Land of the free? Not a chance. There was no freedom to be found here. Not for slaves, not for horses, and certainly not for women.
Felicity suddenly realized that Penny was breathing hard. She slowed her to a walk. A few feet up ahead, Miss Jessica appeared in a puff of smoke. Felicity blinked and rubbed her eyes. That wasn’t possible. One minute nobody was there and the next Miss Jessica appeared out of nowhere and reached up to grab Penny’s halter.
“What do you want?” Felicity growled.
Miss Jessica didn’t speak for a moment as she petted Penny.
Felicity grew impatient. “I said, what do you want?”
Again, Miss Jessica didn’t speak. Felicity wanted to run her down and keep riding, but then Jessica said, “I know you don’t want to go to finishing school. So, I am going to tell you something that I hope will convince you to come with me anyway.”
“There is nothing you can say to me that will make me want to come with you.”
Miss Jessica arched an eyebrow. “Oh, really? Then how about this: I am not taking you to finishing school.”
Felicity’s mouth fell open. “What?”
“I am not taking you to finishing school,” Miss Jessica repeated. “I am taking you to the year 2007, a year where girls wear pants like boys and where they can be or do anything they set their minds to. I am taking you to a magical place to be adopted into a family of time travelers where yes, there is a girl named Samantha Parkington who drank tea with her grandmother but that was back in the year 1904. And yes, there is a girl named Gwendolyn who is descended from royalty but it’s elf royalty not humans. You’ll learn lots of new stuff but most of it has to do with electricity and modern inventions and magic. You’ll wear pants and carry guns to your heart’s content. You’re a girl ahead of your time, a girl who could never be happy trying to belong here in colonial times so I am doing you a favor by bringing you into the 21st century.”
“2007?!” Felicity couldn’t fathom it. It all sounded too fantastic, too absurd to be real. Maybe it wasn’t finishing school they were sending her off too, maybe it was the insane asylum where doctors tortured victims for the sake of making them conform. Felicity shuddered.
“I can see you don’t believe me,” said Miss Jessica. “So, I am prepared to show you something.” With the snap of her fingers she was no longer wearing an ankle length gown but rather jeans and a t-shirt. Felicity gasped, but the show wasn’t over yet. Jessica pointed at the sky and a giant rectangle opened up. Inside the rectangle images flashed across as if it were a big TV though Felicity had no concept of TV yet. There were metal boxes on wheels zooming in circles around with people dressed like Jessica flying around. “Ta-dah!” said Jessica. “2007, your new home. So, you wanna come?”
“Oh, yes!” squealed Felicity.
Jessica pressed a big red button and the rectangle with fantastic images disappeared. She snapped her fingers and was again dressed colonially. “But we cannot tell your parents the truth about where I am really taking you to live. To them, you’re just going to finishing school in Boston 1776, not Boston 2007 with cars and trucks and TVs. If you want to come with me, you must keep this moment a secret between the two of us.”
Felicity paused. She didn’t like the idea of deceiving her family, but she realized that Jessica was right. It was the only way. They could never understand and if they could understand time travel then they sure as heck wouldn’t send their daughter to a place like that. Felicity nodded. “Our secret. Please, let me go with you!”
“Well, you’ve certainly changed your tune.” Miss Jessica smiled. “Now let’s get back to your family to say your proper goodbyes. Then we’ll board the train.”
“What’s a train?” Felicity asked.
“You’ll see,” Jessica said mysteriously. She snapped her fingers and suddenly they were back home in Williamsburg. Felicity watered Penny and put her back in the stable for what was perhaps the last time. She wondered if she would ever see her beloved horse again or Elizabeth or Ben. . . . .
Future. The mere thought of 2007 gave that word a whole new meaning. She would miss certain parts of life in colonial Williamsburg, but in the long run it would be best for her to go. Felicity ran into the house yelling, “Mother! Father! I want to go to finishing school! Oh, please send me with Miss Jessica! I have to, I simply must go with her!”
The whole Merriman household rushed to meet Felicity in the front entrance. “What’s this?” said Mr. Merriman. “My daughter actually wants to go to finishing school?”
Felicity nodded. “More than anything else in the world.”
Mrs. Merriman got teary eyed. “Maybe there is hope for her yet.”
“Oh, Felicity,” gushed Nan. “You’re so lucky!”
Ben crossed his arms and grunted. Felicity cringed as she tried and failed to meet his gaze. But the rest of the family was so aflutter at Felicity’s sudden change of heart that none of them noticed Ben’s surly attitude. Mrs. Merriman, Nan, and the servants were in a tizzy trying to pack Felicity’s trunks although Miss Jessica assured them that there was absolutely no need for Felicity to pack anything. Mr. Merriman hugged his daughter one last time before heading out to meet with fellow patriots at the tavern. Ben stormed off in a huff, and Felicity followed.
“Ben!” Felicity shouted.
He didn’t stop walking.
“Ben!” Felicity hiked up her skirts and hurried after him. “Ben, please. What’s the matter?”
Ben stopped. “What’s the matter?! What’s the matter?! You’re going to finishing school!”
“So?” said Felicity. “You’re supposed to be happy for me, happy that I have this opportunity to become a great lady.”
Ben snorted. “Since when do you care about being a lady? That’s not the Felicity I know and love.”
Felicity froze. “You love me?”
Ben turned red. “As a sister.”
“Oh,” said Felicity. “I’ll miss you.”
“And I you. But you can’t go!”
“You’re going off to war soon anyway,” said Felicity. “What will you care if I’m gone?”
Ben’s hands curled into fists as he struggled to control his temper. “I care because they’ll try and tame you, they’ll try and break your fiery spirit.”
“I won’t let them,” Felicity said softly.
“You say that now, but it will be impossible not to.” Ben ran his fingers through his hair. “We both know that finishing school will be the death of you. They’ll turn you into a fine lady just like everyone else in this blasted society. If I wanted a fine lady, I could have any girl the colonies but I don’t when I have you who is so vastly different from anyone else—-”
“This particular finishing school is the best option for my future,” said Felicity.
Ben sighed in aggravation. “I can’t understand why you’re suddenly all gung ho about it when a few minutes ago you were just as upset as I am right now.”
“I’m not going to finishing school,” Felicity said without thinking. Remembering the secret she shared with Miss Jessica, Felicity quickly clamped her hands over her mouth.
“What?” said Ben. “What do you mean. . . . .?”
“I can’t tell you,” Felicity said miserably.
“Why can’t you tell me? We’re friends, right? And we’ve shared plenty of secrets before.”
“Not this time.” Felicity shook her head. “Even if I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”
Ben took her hands in his. “Try me.”
Felicity took a deep breath and let all the words out in one big whoosh. “Miss Jessica is a time traveler who is taking me to the year 2007, where girls were breeches and use guns, to be adopted into a family of other time travelers. I’m going to ride a train, whatever that is, and learn how to play with some metal boxes on wheels called cars and magic.”
Ben dropped her hands. “You were right. I don’t believe you.”
“Ben, please, give me a chance to explain.”
Ben backed away slowly. “Maybe finishing school isn’t the institution that they should be sending you to.”
“Ben, wait! It’s true, it’s all true. I saw it all. I’m not going to be forced to be the lady we both don’t want me to be—-”
Ben didn’t even turn around as he called over his shoulder, “Farewell, Felicity. Godspeed.”
“No! Ben. . . .” Felicity slumped down into the dirt and cried.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to see Miss Jessica staring down the lane after Ben. “Don’t worry about him.”
“But he’s the best boy I’ve ever met.” Felicity hiccupped as she sobbed. “And he’s my friend. And I love—-”
“He’ll come around someday. I have no doubt that you will see him again. Now, let’s be off, shall we?” Miss Jessica held out a hand. “Are you ready to step into the future?”
Felicity picked herself up and dusted herself off. She wiped her nose on her apron and tried to block her last conversation with Ben from her brain. She didn’t know if or when she would ever see him again, but she knew without a shadow of a doubt that she had much better chances of belonging in 2007 than she did in 1776. Felicity took Miss Jessica’s outstretched hand. “I am so beyond ready.”
Emily’s Leap of Faith
A Leap of Faith
(Or how Emily Bennett ended up in the Playroom)
Jefferson, Illinois 1947
Emily Bennett sighed as she closed the empty mailbox with a resounding clang. She looked left and she looked right down the road trying to see if the mailman was in sight but she saw nothing except flatland as far as the eye could see and maybe a cow or two here and there. This land was unnaturally flat and treeless and once again she longed for her beloved England. Empty mailbox and no mailman meant that there would be no letters from her friend Molly today. This deeply disappointed Emily. Ever since she arrived in America during the war, Molly McIntire was her only friend. Now Molly was off in Boston. Doing what exactly? Nobody knew for sure. In the letters Molly wrote to Emily she spoke of a magical time traveling adopted family in the future. Molly was known as a dreamer and a schemer to all her friends and here on the home front so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility for Molly to be making the whole thing up. Emily truly didn’t believe her friend’s talk of magic and time travel, but Molly was still her only friend and the letters were funny and amusing.
“Emily?” croaked an old woman’s voice.
“Coming Aunt Primrose,” Emily called. With another lonely, mournful sigh Emily neatly leapt up the front porch stepsand hurried to get her ailing aunt’s afternoon tea tray ready. Aunt Primrose was an ancient woman and not even technically Emily’s aunt. She was her great aunt and the only living relative she had left. The war may have been over, but Emily could never go back to England. It would be too painful and she was just a child who didn’t have the funds or the means to get herself there or a family to go to once she got there. Her dad had been a city bus driver. When Bennett’s house blew up in the Blitz, dad was busy at work while Emily was at school. It meant Mum and her dog were home when the Nazi bomb hit the house. She came home from school to find their walkway and perfectly manicured flower garden leading to a pile of smoking rubble. She heard the whimpering of her dying dog before she saw the mangled pieces of Mum. Dad went off to war that night. And she was sent to her grandparent’s castle in the countryside. She loved her grandparents and enjoyed gardening and taking care of the castle with grandpa. But they decided to send her to America where she would safer. She didn’t even know they had any obscure relatives in America, but grandpa’s sister Aunt Primrose emigrated during World War I because she fell in love with an American soldier. Emily begged her grandparents not to send her away, but with the dangers of the war lurking above in every passing plane they felt they had no choice.
On the ship over to the U.S. Emily got a telegram saying that her grandparent’s castle had been bombed because the Nazis thought that they were hiding royals. It wasn’t true and now her grandparents were blown to pieces too. Emily had no stomach for gardens after that. So no, going back to England was impossible no matter how much she wanted it. And that was why Emily had no friends besides Molly. Even though the war had been over for two years now, these silly American girls would simply never understand what she had been through. Molly didn’t quite get it sometimes either if she could afford to dream of princesses and magical time traveling families.
“Emily?” the voice croaked from the upstairs bedroom.
“I’m coming, Aunt Primrose.” As waited for the tea kettle to whistle, she cut the crust off of Aunt Primrose’s liver paste sandwiches and arranged them nicely on the plate. When Emily first arrived in America, she couldn’t stay with Aunt Primrose right away as Aunt Primrose was naturally ailing at that time. So, Emily stayed with the McIntires for a couple of months. Aunt Primrose recovered enough to take Emily, then she quickly had another bout of illness. Aunt Primrose was so old that she was ailing all the time. Nosy neighbor Mrs. McIntire tried to check in on them. Occasionally she would drop by with a casserole or some other strange American meal and ask how Aunt Primrose was faring. Although Emily didn’t have time to be a kid because she was constantly taking care of her elderly aunt, Emily assured Mrs. McIntire that all was well. Emily didn’t want to go live with the McIntire again.
If Molly had been there then Emily would have jumped at the chance. But Molly wasn’t there anymore, she was in Boston dreaming of magic spells to lie about. Was Molly in an insane asylum? Is that why the McIntires refused to ever speak of where she went or why? Emily was doing just fine on her own with sick and dying Aunt Primrose. Her biggest fear was what would happen when Aunt Primrose finally died. What would the American Government do with her? Foster care? Send her back to England and throw her to the mercy of a London Orphanage? Emily shuddered at the horror of it.
Her dog Yank, another memory of Molly, barked to go outside. Emily sighed in aggravation and paused to let him out. Suddenly there was a whoosh of an oncoming train. There was no train station nearby. It seemed perfectly sunny for the moment but fear gripped Emily’s heart. These crazy American tornadoes seemed to come out of nowhere. “Yank!” Emily screamed.
Yank had already bounded out into the yard. He sniffed the air. He looked back at Emily, and then turned to scamper off to do his business. There was not a cloud in the clear blue sky, but the sound of an oncoming train kept getting louder and louder. A funnel cloud swept down from the sky, and Emily stood frozen gripping the edge of the front door in pure terror, but it wasn’t a tornado. It was actually a train! It descended down on the clouds as if it were a real track on the ground. The sides were painted with bright, flashy tie tied colors that read: TIME TRAVEL EXPRESS.
Emily gasped. Maybe Molly wasn’t totally bonkers after all. The train whistled and people wearing the most fashionable clothes stepped off. The conductor called out, “One hour until our next stop: July 2010!”
Before Emily could move, Aunt Primrose called out again, “Emily? Emily, please, I’m dying.”
As much as she wanted to investigate the train, Emily did the right thing and ran up the stairs to her dying Aunt. Emily rushed to her side. Aunt Primrose coughed. “Emily, dear, I’m sorry.”
Emily tried to be a brave Brit and smile, but she couldn’t. Tears for Aunt Primrose, tears for the loss of her entire family, tears for the war rolled down Emily’s cheeks. “Don’t be sorry.”
Aunt Primrose was coughing up blood now, and Emily handed her Aunt her own handkerchief. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry I couldn’t be better for you.”
“It’s not your fault,” Emily almost choked on the sobs.
Aunt Primrose shook her head. “I’m sorry. But now I’m trying to make it right. I contacted someone who will make things right for you, someone who will take you to another time and place.”
What? Emily tried to stifle a gasp of shock. Aunt Primrose called the time travel train here? Would it take her to Molly? How did Aunt Primrose even know? So many unanswered questions swirled around in her head.
“Goodbye, Emily,” Aunt Primrose barely coughed out. And then she died.
As Emily sobbed over the body of her dead great aunt, she did not hear the footsteps come into the room behind her. Someone cleared their throat and Emily jumped out of her skin. She turned to see a woman with bangs and glasses nothing like Molly’s. “Hello, my name is Jessica. And you must be Emily Bennett, right?”
The lady wore typical 1940s clothes, but she had a strange rectangle in her hand that was buzzing and lighting up. “Excuse me for just a second.” She held the rectangle up to her ear and said, “What do you want? No, I haven’t got the girl yet! Jack, stop interrupting me, I’ll be back on the next train with the girl. Okay, I see. Hey, that’s not my fault! You figure it out. See you soon, bye.” She slipped the rectangle into the bodice of her dress. “Well, are you coming with me or not?”
Emily didn’t know what to do. She was paralyzed with fear and confused beyond belief.
“Oh, sorry,” said the weird lady. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. Now, would you like to come with me and see Molly again?”
“In Boston?” Emily managed to squeak out.
The woman laughed. “Not quite, but yes.”
“On that train I saw?”
Jessica dropped her rectangle. “You saw that? Not many people do.”
“Well, I guess that’s a sign that this was meant to be. Would you like to go on a train ride with me to go see Molly in Boston?”
Emily wasn’t sure what was waiting for her in this so called Boston, but she had no one here and she knew without a doubt that she wanted to see Molly again. “Yes.”
“Sorry, what was that you said?”
“Yes,” said Emily a little louder. “Yes, I’ll go with you.”
Jessica smiled. “That’s what I was hoping you’d say.” She took Emily by the hand and together they stepped outside to where the train was waiting.
“All aboard for 2010!” the conductor called out.
Emily gulped down a wave of nausea and prayed she wasn’t in the midst of being kidnapped by Nazis pretending to be crazy time travelers. As soon as the train started moving, Jessica snapped her fingers and she was no longer wearing a 1940s dress but rather pink short shorts and a big oversized T-shirt while several stains and rips in it. She settled into her seat and closed her eyes. “Wake me when we get there.”
Emily looked out the window and saw not scenery but squiggly glowing lines and giant flashing neon numbers that read in order, 1948, 1949, 1954, 1964, 1974, 1984, 1994, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and finally the whirling train came to a stop at 2010. “Everybody off for 2010!” the conductor yelled out.
Jessica smiled and took Emily by the hand. “You ready to see Molly?”
“And meet a whole new family?”
Emily took a deep breath and said, “Well, I had no one back there so I might as well.”
Jessica laughed. “You know, I think you might turn out to be good medicine for some of these clowns.”
Emily wasn’t sure what that meant so she chose not to think too deeply on it as she boldly stepped into a new life in a whole new world.
(Or how Caroline Abbott ended up in the future)
Sackets Harbor, New York 1818
Sixteen year old Caroline Abbott smiled brightly as she lifted the latch on the gate to her family’s front walkway. With a basket of goodies tucked over her arm she strode down the lane towards the lake with one important purpose in mind. Their annoying neighbor Mrs. Shaw called out, “Yooohooo! Caroline!”
Muttering something unpleasant under her breath, Caroline forced herself to stop and turn around to be polite to Mrs. Shaw. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Shaw.”
“Caroline!” The woman waved and rushed out to greet her. “Is it true?”
Caroline frowned. How did their nosy neighbor find out already? Caroline herself had barely gotten the news. She forced a cheerful smile. “Oh, yes. Isn’t it grand?”
“Congratulations! I just love weddings and you’ll be a beautiful bride though dearly missed around here—-”
“What?!” Caroline sputtered and nearly choked. “What wedding? Me, a bride? I’ sure there’s some mistake! I’m just going down to the lake to greet my friend Seth—-”
“Oh!” Mrs. Shaw blinked and clasped a hand over her mouth though it didn’t stay there for long. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you didn’t—”
Caroline thought her nosy neighbor must have picked up the wrong rumor. That was the trouble with old busybodies who had nothing better to do than wag their tongues with gossip. She was thankful that her own grandmother, who had only died last year and whom Caroline still missed terribly, had never been all that interested in gossip. “A simple mistake, I’m sure. Well, I’ll be off now. There’s an important navy ship that I have to greet.”
“A mistake, right,” said Mrs. Shaw backing into her doorway faster than Caroline had ever before seen her move. Caroline shrugged and went on her way. That was odd, she thought but didn’t dwell on it long as she practically ran down to the harbor. A pleased smile came to her lips as she thought of her friend Seth whom she hadn’t seen in four long years. Seth Whittleslee used to be a poor, orphaned, homeless mail carrier who stopped by their house for meals and to play with Caroline. They were dear friends who had been writing to each other ever since Seth had gone off to join the navy during the war. Though the war had long since ended, work for the navy never seemed to end. Seth couldn’t come home, or well back to her since he never really had a home, until all the end of the war work was done. That day never seemed to come, and Seth even hinted in some letters that he may never return because as a homeless orphan the navy was better than living on the streets.
Caroline begged Seth to return to Sackets Harbor in every letter that she sent, he could have a job at her father’s shipyard and life would be perfect if only he come home. Though Caroline deeply loved her parents, she sometimes thought that Seth was the only one who could truly understand her dreams. He was her friend and confidante, life while he was away at sea was lonely and unbearable. Besides, if he came back to Sackets Harbor (where he belonged, Caroline might add) then maybe one day Papa would let Caroline and Seth captain a ship together. Caroline wasn’t totally stupid. She knew that she was a girl trying to survive in a man’s world and that though Papa might be hesitant to give Caroline her own ship he would surely trust the two of them together working as a team. Yes, Seth needed to come home because Caroline missed him and because he was essential to her future plans though he didn’t know it quite yet.
Caroline’s thoughts were racing as she neared the harbor so much so that she was too distracted to notice where she was. Then she saw it. The grand navy ship that Seth wrote her about, the ship that her Papa himself had built. Caroline let out a low whistle. She was beautiful with her guns glistening in the sun, her decks polished to a shine and the blue lake water shimmering underneath her hull. But this ship was even more special to her because it had carried her friend Seth all the way to England and back.
Caroline nervously watched the crew disembark, straining on her tiptoes to see Seth. Although she had changed and grown a lot in the last four years it never occurred to her that Seth might have changed too. She pictured him the day he had left for war, that last image of him being burned into her mind forever. She remembered the way he had cautiously asked if they could write to each other, her solemn promise that she would. She especially remembered the tentative kiss he left on her cheek and how she had held her hand over that cheek sighing dreamily as she watched him stride down the lane towards his doom. She thought of how Grandmother chose that moment to come by and put her arm around Caroline saying, “It’s never easy sending them off to war like that. Damn British, stealing all our boys. I sincerely pray that young lad stays alive long enough to come home to you, unlike my own dear husband.” Grandmother chuckled at Caroline’s red face and muttered something about young love which only enflamed Caroline’s cheeks more.
Snapping her thoughts back to the present moment Caroline said, “Oh Grandmother, how I wish you were here to celebrate this day with us!”
“Grandmother?” said a deep voice behind her. “That’s who you’re waiting for? I don’t recall their being any old ladies on that ship though if there was one granny who could give the British a run for their money it would have been your grandmother.”
Caroline whirled around. Behind her stood a tall, handsome burly sailor man that was almost unrecognizable save for the twinkle in his eye and a vague aura of familiarity about his face. He looked nothing like the scrawny boy of her memories, but she would have known him anywhere. “Seth!” Caroline dropped her basket and threw her arms around his neck. “My, you’ve gotten tall!”
Seth laughed and held her tight. “All I got is tall while you’ve suddenly gotten pretty, perhaps the prettiest girl in all the world.”
Caroline’s cheeks flashed red. “Uhh—”
There was a polite cough behind them. Caroline and Seth jumped apart. “It’s good to have you back, son.” Papa shook hands with Seth. Caroline beamed. If Papa could call Seth son then maybe. . . . .
“It’s good to be back, sir.”
“I hate to break up this happy reunion,” said Papa looking at his pocket watch. “But we must get home to supper. Goodbye, Seth.”
Seth’s face fell. “Yes, sir. I understand.”
“Wait!” Caroline cried. “Why doesn’t Seth join us for supper?”
“That’s not necessary,” Seth protested.
“Perhaps another time,” said Papa.
“Please,” Caroline begged. “He’s just returned and has nowhere to go and we always used to invite—-”
“It’s fine,” said Seth clearly growing more uncomfortable by the minute. “Caroline, maybe we can catchup another time—-”
“I don’t think so,” Papa said coldly.
Caroline looked at him in shock and horror. “But Seth is our friend. Please, Papa?”
John Abbott tried to ignore the pleading face of his only daughter, but he couldn’t. Those big, green puppy dog eyes softened his heart into melted butter. “Oh, very well. Seth can join us for dinner.”
“Sir?” Seth looked up in surprise.
Mr. Abbott sighed. “I may regret this, but yes, you can join us just like the good old days. But for tonight only.”
“Oh, thank you, Papa!” Caroline linked arms with Seth on one side, Papa on the other and together they walked to the Abbott’s house. Caroline was laughing as she felt all was right with the world, but John Abbott felt the weight of the world on his shoulders while Seth tried not to feel too guilty about intruding where he was clearly not wanted by everyone.
Having Seth join her family for dinner was better than Caroline could have imagined. They talked and were happy just like they had been before the war. Seth truly belonged with the Abbott clan, Caroline thought and she tell that he was happy to be with them once again. Caroline sighed contently as she thought of all the blissful future evenings that were in store for them now that Seth was finally back from the navy. Although Caroline was pleased with his presence, Mama and Papa were secretly exchanging looks that told a different story.
Papa cleared his throat. “So, young man, what are your plans now?”
Caroline sat up straighter and listened even more intently.
“Well,” said Seth. “Before I can settle into any permanent arrangements I must make a trip to Connecticut.”
“Connecticut?” Caroline squealed.
“Interesting,” replied Papa. “We have plans to go to Connecticut ourselves.”
“We do?!” Caroline was so confused. Connecticut was so far away. What business could Papa and Seth both possibly have there? “What’s in Connecticut?”
Seth said, “I made some friends there and I must help them with some business before I can do anything else.”
“What—-” Caroline started.
“That’s all I can say,” said Seth. “It’s somewhat of a secret.”
Caroline frowned. “I thought—-”
“Well,” interrupted Papa. “Perhaps we could travel together. We leave tomorrow at dawn.”
“John,” Mama hissed clutching his arm. “It wouldn’t be proper.”
Papa sighed. “I suppose you’re right. But there’s only one stagecoach out of here—-”
“Don’t worry, sir,” said Seth. “I’ll buy a horse—-”
“With what money?” said Papa. “You simply must travel with us, as an escort for my family.”
“John,” Mama hissed. “I don’t think—-”
“Nonsense woman,” said Papa. “Everything will still go according to plan.”
Seth nodded. “Very well, sir. I’ll accompany you and your family to Connecticut.”
Caroline stood up abruptly. “Would someone please tell me why on earth we’re suddenly going to Connecticut?”
Mama gave Papa another strange look that Caroline couldn’t quite read. “Caroline sit down,” said Mama. “We have something important to tell you about your future.”
Caroline did not sit down. “My future?”
Mama nodded. “We’ve already made arrangements for your future. This is what we think is best for you so please don’t fight us on this. We waited until now to tell you because we weren’t sure how you’d react.”
“But doesn’t that tell you something? That maybe this, whatever it is you’re plotting, isn’t right?” Caroline felt her lower lip begin to tremble but she was determined not to cry. She felt as if the whole earth were crumbling beneath her feet and she was powerless to do anything to stop it. Caroline slowly slid down into her chair. She glanced at Seth, who was sitting next to her. He gave her a sad smile as he reached his hand under the table to clasp hers.
“Caroline,” said Papa. “You’ve become a young lady now.”
“A young lady who knows how to speak her mind, who already knows what she wants for her future.” Caroline bit her lip knowing she had gone too far yet not regretting that she was pushing her luck.
“A young lady who will obey her parents,” said Mama, “and a young lady who will someday soon obey her husband.”
“Husband?!” Caroline knew that she needed to shut up, but she couldn’t not while she was watching her dreams dissolve into dust before her very eyes.
Papa nodded solemnly. “A young lady of your status and breeding is meant to marry a rich gentleman—–”
“And I suppose he’s old and fat and bald,” muttered Caroline. Seth stifled a laugh.
“At least he still has all his teeth,” said Mama.
Caroline’s eyes nearly bulged out of her head. “You’re seriously considering this?”
Papa sighed in defeat. “I’ve got no choice, Caroline. You and your antics of late forced our hand. Matrimony is the only thing for you. If—–”
“If I had been the son you’ve always wanted but never had then you’d have given me a ship of my own.” This time Caroline did start to cry. “But I can still do it, Papa, I can still do it even though I’m a girl I can still be a captain—-”
“No, you can’t, Caroline,” said Papa. “Ships are a man’s world and I won’t have any daughter of mine—”
“This isn’t fair!” Caroline stood up and shouted. “Just because I’m a little different from what everyone in this society says I should be doesn’t mean that you should marry me off to some stranger in Connecticut. And why Connecticut of all places?”
“He’s not some stranger,” said Mama. “They’re family friends with Papa’s family.”
“I grew up in Connecticut,” said Papa. “The best ship builders in the country come from there. And I know you have your heart set on ships. So, I have considered your wishes in this. You’re to marry a whaling Captain.”
“Whaling?!” Caroline wrinkled her nose. “But that’s a nasty business.”
Papa held up his hand for silence. “It is not unheard of for the wives of whalers to join their husbands on their three to four year voyages. So, you do get your dreams of going to sea as well only it’s in a way that is proper and fitting for a lady of your station.”
Caroline recoiled in horror. “No, you haven’t considered me at all. I’m to give up my home and my dreams and my freedom in order to be a baby maker and an exotic bird in a cage for a fat old whaling captain of Connecticut. Well, I won’t do it! I’ll never get married and if I do it will be for love and nothing else!” Caroline stormed out of the house as fast as her legs could carry her.
“Caroline!” Papa called faintly.
Mama hushed him and said very softly, “Just let her go.”
Caroline ran blindly through the forest. She paid no heed to where she was going, but her feet automatically brought her down to the edge of the lake where she threw herself on the ground and sobbed. She pounded the dirt with her fists wishing her parents would let her blossom into the strong, independent and single young lady that she was meant to be. She didn’t need some whaling captain to take care of her, she could take of herself. Caroline slowed her sniffling and stood as she heard footsteps crunch up on the dead leaves behind her.
“What a way to be welcomed home,” said Seth.
Caroline fought the urge to giggle.
Seth continued, “I wish I had come back sooner. I didn’t realize—–”
Caroline started to cry again.
“Oh, darling.” Seth enfolded her in the greatest hug she’d ever received.
“I can’t do it,” Caroline mumbled with her face pressed into his shirt. “I just can’t do what they are asking of me.”
“I know,” said Seth.
“Marriage was never in my plans, but if. . . .if I had to, then I had always hoped it would be you.”
“Oh, Caroline.” Seth stepped back and took her hands in his. “I think we both know that your parents would have never let you marry the likes of me. I’m nobody.”
Caroline wanted to protest and say that of course her parents would have indeed let her marry a homeless orphan, but now she knew better. They did care more about status and society and wealth and standing more than their only daughter’s feelings. Caroline wished Grandmother were still alive, she seemed to like Seth and she probably wouldn’t have stood idly by while her parents did this.
“I’ll accompany you to Connecticut,” said Seth, “because I really do have my own business to take care of there. But I won’t attend the wedding. It would be too painful for both of us.”
There won’t be any wedding if I can help it, thought Caroline fighting more tears. She did not dare ask Seth for help because she wasn’t sure yet if he would and she couldn’t risk the consequences if he had said no. So instead of saying run away with me like her heart wanted to, she said, “What exactly do you need to do in Connecticut?”
Seth smiled. “I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”
Caroline started to laugh, but then realized he was serious. Her heart fell in disappoint as she realized that he truly wasn’t going to trust her with whatever secret he was hiding.
“Come on,” said Seth. “Let’s get back to your parents. The future is waiting.”
The trip to Connecticut was extremely awkward and horrible. They all hated travelling by land for Stagecoach is a clumsy way to travel what with all the dirt and the ruts in the road, but they didn’t really have a choice. Caroline refused to utter a word to her parents the entire six day journey, she only spoke to Seth. She wished with all her heart that this was not to be her fate, that she could go and be a captain with her parents blessing or at the very least marry Seth instead. She could see that Papa’s heart was breaking, but he did nothing to stop or change where this journey was headed.
When they arrived in Mystic Connecticut, they found a thriving seaport. Caroline’s eyes lit up when she saw all the tall ships sitting proudly in the harbor and the hustle and bustle of sailors hard at work. But there was no time to linger, the Abbotts and Seth were off to Uncle Arthur Abbott’s shipyard.
“Brother!” Arthur squeezed Papa in a hug. “Long time no see! We all thought you’d be gone forever when you deserted us for that desolate frontier you’ve been living on. Never thought you’d come back to the city to visit us. Glad to have you back, John.”
“Good to see you too, brother,” said Papa. “This is my lovely wife Judith and—-”
“Ah, this must be the beautiful bride to be Miss Caroline,” said Arthur taking Caroline’s hand and kissing it. “Captain Somper will be pleased to finally meet you. He’s been aching for some lovely female companionship ever since his last wife died.”
“How did she die?” Caroline asked. Her mother frowned at Caroline as if that were an improper thing to ask her Uncle. Caroline was beyond caring at this point and it seemed Uncle Arthur had no trouble spilling the beans to anyone who asked.
“In childbirth during a three year whaling voyage,” replied Arthur as if that were the most natural thing in the world. “They buried her at sea. Captain Somper is aching for an heir to inherit his vast fortunes, whale oil brings in lot of money if you do it right. Maybe you’ll be the one to give him the son he’s always wanted, he’s lost three wives so far and still no heir.”
Her parents wanted her to marry this Captain Somper dude? Would she be the next bride body to be tossed overboard? Caroline teetered as if she were going to faint. Seth stood beside her protectively as if to catch her should she decide to actually faint after all.
Uncle Arthur noticed Seth and slapped Papa on the arm. “Didn’t know you had a son.”
“I don’t,” said Papa. “Seth is just an old family friend helping us get Caroline situated in her new life here.”
“Hmm,” said Uncle Arthur stroking his beard thoughtfully as he examined the way Caroline clutched Seth’s hand. “I see. Well, best not introduce him to Captain Somper. He tends to be a bit jealous. Come now, John, I’m excited to show you the yard and to hear about this place you’ve set up in New York. My wife Amy will get your girls and that boy settled in my house.”
Amy Abbott was a short plump woman who lead them to the house with a big smile on her face. She pinched Caroline’s cheeks Mama was shown to one room and Caroline to another while Seth was told to sleep on the hay in the stable. As soon as she was alone, Caroline locked the door and flopped down on the musty old bed. The room was painted bright yellow, but that didn’t make Caroline feel any sunnier. She sobbed as she plotted and planned any way to get out of this. The only thing she could thing about was Seth and his secret business in Connecticut.
Hours passed as sunlight flickered into sunset. “Caroline,” begged Mama. “Please come down to dinner and meet Captain Somper. Trust us, sweetie, trust that we know what we’re doing and will do right by you as our daughter.” Caroline refused to budge.
Another couple of hours passed and then Papa’s stern, gruff voice called loudly as he rattled the doorknob. “Caroline. Open this door right now. We do not deserve to be treated this way and neither does your future husband.” Caroline still refused to open the door. She knew she was breaking her father’s heart, but she would not, could not go through with this facade. A few more hours passed and this time Caroline was not idle. She made a rope ladder out of the bedsheets and other linens in the closet. Then she sat by the window and stared outside waiting for a certain fellow to walk by.
When Seth finally did walk by, it was almost midnight. Quickly, Caroline opened the window and threw down her makeshift rope ladder. Quiet as a cat, she scurried down and followed Seth. Seth lead her on a convoluted path winding and turning sporadically, though Caroline was sure she could never make it back to Uncle Arthur’s house on her own she was certain they were heading towards the harbor.
There was only one ship with people scurrying about. The Captain was extremely handsome and he was muttering in French. He wore a billowing white shirt and a sword at his side. His men were also whispering in French and scurrying around like little ants desperate to get all the work done before winter.
Caroline hid in the shadows as Seth approached the Captain. “Sir?”
“What do you want?” said the Captain in an exasperated whiny tone. He spun around to see Seth and he fairly leapt off the gangplank to greet him. “Ah, Seth, my man. Where are those kids you promised? We didn’t come all this way to leave with no one.”
For a moment Caroline was horrified as she thought Seth might be involved in the slave trade. But why do it secretly in the dead of night when they could do it legally during the day? She noticed that the side of the ship read, Les Corsaires de Ti-Marie. Caroline didn’t know much French, but she knew enough to recognize Ti-Marie was a name and corsairs meant pirates. Whoever Ti-Marie was these were her pirates and they were kidnapping helpless children. If a little woman could run a shady business like that then surely Caroline could become captain of something better.
“The orphans are waiting in a building down that street.” Seth pointed to where Caroline was hiding.
The Captain nodded. “Good. Let’s hurry this up so I can get home—-”
“To his precious fiancée,” a crew member snickered.
Seth looked up in surprise. “Congratulations, monsieur. If I had known—-”
The French Captain sighed. “It’s no matter. I didn’t think I’d be getting married this week which is why we need to hurry up and get back to where we belong.”
“It’s not that big a deal,” said one crew member. “We can just time travel back to the moment that we left and they’ll never know we were gone.”
The Captain smacked a hand to his forehead. “Of course. Come on men, let’s get those children to safety so we—-”
“Can get to the wedding of the century!” the crew shouted.
The crew stampeded toward Caroline and she hunkered down afraid they would see her. Seth said to the Captain, “I wasn’t sure what year to send the letter to, you said 200 years from now, whenever now is.”
The Captain nodded. “Roughly, that’s where we’re at. We first met in ’15, right?”
Seth nodded. “Bitter end of the war.”
“Well, it was ’15 for us too. The next time you need me maybe skip ahead a few months so that you’re not interrupting my honeymoon. And I don’t suppose I need to tell you that this is all very illegal and if I get caught I’m dragging you down with me?”
“Aye, aye, Captain.”
“You’re absolutely certain every single one of these kids would have died soon anyway if they stay here?”
Again, Seth nodded. “I used that machine you gave me and looked at the lives of each one. Every single one will have died tragically in horrific ways here as children.”
The French Captain said, “Good, good. Because if any of these kids would have had kids here—”
The Captain flew past Caroline after his crew. When Seth walked by, Caroline grabbed his arm and put a hand over his mouth. “It’s me, Caroline.”
“Caroline?” Seth’s face went pale. “How much of that did you hear?”
Seth swore under his breath.
“I must admit that I don’t understand what’s going on,” said Caroline. “You’re helping a bunch of pirates kidnap orphans?”
“You wouldn’t understand,” Seth pushed her away. “And for your own good you must not tell anyone about this.”
Caroline raised an eyebrow. “Time traveling pirates who kidnap orphans? Who would believe me?”
“The time travel police,” said Seth. “And they don’t kidnap orphans, they rescue them and bring them to better lives.”
“Great,” said Caroline, “cause pirates who rescue orphans sounds so much better!”
“Caroline, please, I’m deadly serious. Please don’t tell—”
“My Papa? That idiot I’m engaged to? Seth, I’m your friend and you can trust me. Now, tell me how you met these guys and got involved in this whole business.”
“All ashore who’s going ashore!” The French Captain and his crew had already gotten all the sickly looking orphans onto their ship and were getting ready to sail away.
“I would,” said Seth, “but it’s a long story and there’s no time.”
“What?” said Caroline in utter confusion.
“If you want to get on that ship it’s got to be right now!”
“Why on earth would I get on that ship?”
“Because you have to,” said Seth. “If you stay here and marry what’s his face your life will be ruined. If you pretend to be an orphan and end up in the future they’ll never be able to find you.”
“An orphan,” whispered Caroline. “Just like you.”
Tears sprang to Seth’s eyes. “Please, Carol, it’s the only way. We both won’t be able to bear it if you marry that oaf.”
Caroline’s eyes widened. “That’s 200 years from now! I don’t know—-”
“These men can be trusted,” said Seth. “They saved my life; I know they’ll save yours too.”
Caroline thought of her Papa and her Mama and their beloved home in Sackets Harbor. Even if she stayed here in 1818 she’d never see Sackets Harbor again, things could never go back to the way they were before this unpleasant trip to Connecticut. “Yes, I’ll go.”
Seth hugged her one last time. Before Caroline could process what was happening, he kissed her hard and frantically. Her first kiss. Thank goodness it wasn’t from ugly Captain Somper. Caroline was dizzy and breathless as she said, “Come with me?”
“I can’t, the Captain knows who I am and this is all extremely illegal.”
“Captain!” Seth yelled. “You forgot one!”
The Captain of the French Pirates heaved an angry sigh. “Alright, send her up here.” Seth picked Caroline up and reached her up to the nearest waiting crew member who pulled her on board. The pirate captain stared at Caroline in disbelief. “You’re an orphan who is about to die tragically if we don’t get you out of here right now?”
Caroline nodded sheepishly.
“Mighty finely dressed to be an orphan, but whatever, I trust Seth. Let’s go.”
Caroline reached over the bulwark and grasped Seth’s hand one last time. The ship began to pull away from the dock, ripping Caroline away from Seth and everything she used to know and love. “Goodbye!”
“Perhaps we’ll meet again someday,” Seth called. “I hope you become the captain they’d never let you be here.”
The ship sailed out of the harbor and into open waters. Caroline stared back at the shore where Seth’s silhouette was getting smaller and smaller. What just happened? Caroline didn’t have time to dwell on it as the Captain pulled out a glowing circle with a bead in it. “Next stop: 2018!”
Caroline gulped down a rush of fear and hurried below decks to where the other orphans were just as scared and frightened as she was.
When the ship finally docked, Caroline had no idea where or when they were. But she knew she had to get off that ship before the pirates realized that she wasn’t an orphan or before they tried to adopt her into a new family. A new family was the last thing Caroline wanted right now. She had to getaway and explore how she was going to make it on her own here, wherever or whenever here was.
So, she squeezed out a porthole and swam to shore. She started to run through what appeared to be a city though she wasn’t sure where she was because there were so many strange sights and sounds that she didn’t comprehend. Eventually, Caroline crossed a border. It was the border between Pretend Friend Ville and the real world, the border between an invisible magic land and a dreary hopeless place called reality. She left the magic land and entered the real world though she didn’t know that’s what it was called. She didn’t know what it was as she couldn’t really see it, but suddenly all the people where giants and she was tiny among them. At one point a lady called out, “Hey you!”
Caroline kept running, but she was no match for the giant’s legs. A giant woman scooped her up and said to her face as if she wasn’t even real, “You’re a great find for my consignment store.” And she tucked Caroline into a bag.
The bag moved as the woman walked. It made Caroline more seasick than she had been on the ship. When the bag finally stopped moving, Caroline opened her eyes to find that she was in a strange store of sorts where there were girls her size and dressed in outfits from what she guessed were many different time periods.
A short blond haired girl grinned at Caroline. “My name’s Kit and I’m from the 1930s. Who are you?”
“Well, Caroline, hope you get sold soon—”
“Sold?” Caroline said fearing that this place was somehow connected to the horrors of slavery that she had known back in time.
Kit laughed. “Don’t be so scared. It’s fine.”
Caroline backed away slowly, she wanted nothing to do with this crazy Kit girl or being sold. Maybe she should have stayed with the pirates. The lady grabbed her and placed her in a coffin sized paper box and locked her behind a glass case. “Here we go, you belong here until your new owner claims you.”
Caroline lived in a coffin for a year replaying that last scene with Seth over and over again in her mind. From her glass prison she could see Kit occasionally waving at her. Caroline waved back. Then one day a couple of sisters came into the shop. Their names were Jackie and Jessica. Jackie picked up Kit while Jessica approached Caroline’s glass tower. Caroline laid completely flat and still while Jessica picked her up. Caroline held her breath praying that this time she would be chosen, that this time she would be free to leave this place forever and go anywhere it didn’t even matter where or when.
“Yes, I want you,” Jessica whispered. Caroline’s heart beat fast as Jessica continued. “Yes, you’ll be good friends with Samantha and Felicity and Emily and Marie-Grace and Kirsten. You’ll learn about time travel and magic, you’ll star in musicals and save the world, you’ll go on lots of grand adventures like and sail away with French pirates who rescue orphans for a living. . . . .”
Jessica kept talking, but Caroline didn’t hear. One thought echoed over and over again in her mind: sail away with French pirates who rescue orphans, sail away with French pirates who rescue orphans, sail away with pirates. . . . .
Goodbye 1905, Hello 2005
(Or how Samantha Parkington ended up in the future)
Mount Bedford, New York 1905
Samantha let out a big breath as she stepped out of the automobile arm in arm with her best friend and adopted sister Nellie O’Malley. “I can’t wait to see Grandmary again,” said Samantha staring up at the mansion that used to be her home. So much had changed since Samantha had lived here. Grandmary had finally given in and married the Admiral, Samantha moved to New York to live with Uncle Gard and Aunt Cornelia, and best of all Nellie was now adopted into her family. For Samantha, life couldn’t be more perfect. She had the perfect home, and the perfect family. She had real sisters and she felt like she truly belonged forever. And yet, staring at Grandmary’s perfectly manicured lawn she felt an odd sense of bittersweet reminiscence. A part of her longed for the good old days when she lived here with Grandmary and battled the annoying neighbor boy to her heart’s content. It didn’t make sense since she had been lonely and miserable inside Grandmary’s mansion, but her dislike for change, even good change, brought a joyful colored lens over an otherwise unhappy situation.
“Gosh,” said Nellie staring up in wonder at what she considered Queen Grandmary’s palace. “The last time I was here I—-”
“Was just a lowly servant,” taunted a rather annoying voice.
Samantha groaned. “Eddie, go away!”
Eddie stuck his tongue out at her. “And how are you going to make me?”
Samantha growled as she lunged at him.
Nellie gasped. “Samantha! Don’t—-”
“I have to put him in his place, Nellie.”
“Yeah, Nellie the servant girl,” said Eddie. “You must share your precious Samantha with high society.”
“Which you are not a part of, Eddie Ryland!” Samantha shouted.
“That’s what you’d like to think! But—-”
“If you don’t shut up and leave us alone, I’ll tell your mother. . .um, I’ll tell her. . . . .”
Eddie laughed. “You don’t have any threats to blackmail me with, Samantha Parkington! Been gone so long you don’t know anything anymore.”
That slung like a slap to Samantha. She had always prided herself on having a ready comeback to throw at her neighbor and now she had nothing simply because she didn’t know much about him anymore. Eddie fiddled with something in his pocket.
“What’s that?” Samantha asked.
“None of your business.”
“Whatever it is, I’m going to find it and throw it in the river.”
“You’ll have to catch me first!” And he took off running.
Samantha followed, but Nellie stayed back not wanting to get involved with the mean neighbor boy. She couldn’t understand why Samantha was so obsessed with besting Eddie Ryland. Would Samantha spend their whole visit to Grandmary’s hunting down Eddie? Nellie was sure she couldn’t take it.
“Samantha! Nellie!” Mrs. Hawkins called. “There’s a visitor for teatime.”
“Samantha!” Nellie ran after her friend and tugged on her arm. “We have to go.”
Samantha smirked at Eddie. “Yes, we have more important things to do than mingle with riffraff like this anyway.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder in what she imagined was a high society snooty way.
Eddie Ryland couldn’t help but grin as he watched them walk slowly and stately, not run, towards Grandmary’s big mansion. That was the most fun he had had since she left. Wow, it felt good to have the Parkington girl back in his life if only for a fleeting visit.
When Samantha and Nellie arrived in the parlor, Grandmary, Uncle Gard, Aunt Cornelia, and a strange lady were already sipping tea. The stranger had brown hair and bangs like Samantha though it was straight as a board and not wavy like Samantha’s luscious locks. She also wore a watch on her wrist. Some upper class ladies were known to wear watches, men did not as they had their pocket watches, but lady’s wrist watches were mostly another piece of jewelry meant to be decorated beautifully and encrusted in gold and diamonds. But this lady’s wristwatch was not beautiful at all. It was functional and ugly and unlike any watch Samantha had ever seen before with lots of weird buttons and glowing parts.
“Girls,” said Aunt Cornelia. “I’d like you to meet Miss Jessica.”
Nellie curtsied. “How do you do, ma’am?”
Grandmary coughed, and Samantha stumbled into an awkward curtsy. Samantha had a hundred questions like who was this lady and why was she here? But Samantha held her tongue knowing that it was not proper for her to ask any of them.
Grandmary said, “Miss Jessica is one of the head mistresses at a Young Ladies Academy.”
Samantha frowned. She didn’t like the sound of this.
“It’s a boarding school in Boston,” explained Uncle Gard.
“Boarding school?!” This time Samantha couldn’t hold her tongue. Nellie had almost gone off to a school in Boston, but Samantha, Uncle Gard, and Aunt Cornelia had changed her mind or so Samantha thought. Was Nellie trying to leave them again? “And why—-”
“Samantha!” Grandmary scolded.
“It’s quite alright,” said Miss Jessica. “All of the girls who come with me have some doubts at the beginning, but after a while—–”
“Go with you?!” Samantha squealed. “But we’re not—–”
“Samantha,” Uncle Gard said. “Miss Jessica is here to take you back to Boston with her.”
Samantha felt the ground shake under her feet. She grabbed Nellie’s hand for support.
Grandmary said, “This is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I don’t want you to waste it.”
“But I’ll be far away from you all.” Tears sprang to Samantha’s eyes. Her worst nightmares included being ripped away from all the people she loved and being alone in foreign place. And after all this family went through together, Samantha just couldn’t believe that they would consider this. Did they not want her anymore?
“Actually,” Miss Jessica interrupted. “Nellie will join you in one year’s time. And you can come back and visit.”
“But a visit just isn’t the same!”
“Samantha,” said Cornelia, “We love you, but we are sending you and eventually Nellie to school in Boston.”
Samantha turned to Cornelia with tears in her eyes. “You’d really send me away?”
Cornelia sighed as she took Samantha’s hands. “It’s not my first choice for your future, but we must honor Grandmary’s wishes.”
Samantha jerked out of her grasp. “Uncle Gard?”
Solemnly, Uncle Gard nodded. “I’m sorry Sam, but we—–”
“I thought you wanted me, I thought you all did!” Samantha turned an accusing eye on Grandmary.
“Samantha.” Grandmary gave Samantha her frosty glare and Samantha squirmed with guilt in her chair. “I would not do this if I did not think it best for you. Do you doubt me?”
“No, Grandmary,” Samantha whispered.
“Good. Do not blame your aunt and uncle. Though you live with them, I still have the final say when it comes to you for I am still your legal guardian. And it was always my intention to send you to this school in Boston for that was where your mother went.”
Samantha clutched her locket. She took a deep breath to steady herself. She didn’t want to leave everything she’s ever known and loved to go off all alone to Boston. “Surely, there are other schools here in New York?”
Miss Jessica shook her head. “Not like the one I’m taking you to, no.”
Grandmary added softly, “Your mother went there. And she appreciated the opportunity. It was where she met—-”
“But I am not my mother.” On trembling legs, Samantha ran out of the room as fast as she possibly could.
“Samantha!” Grandmary called out on horror. “A lady never runs—-”
Cornelia laid a hand on her arm. “Perhaps today should be an exception.”
Samantha tore down the hall, down the steps two at a time and out the door. Tears poured down her cheeks so much that she could barely see and so she ran straight into a couple of maids struggling with a big basket of laundry. Laundry spewed everywhere, but Samantha didn’t care and kept running across the lawn to the Ryland property. Her petticoats were flashing for all the world to see and for the first time in her life she didn’t feel guilty for deeply disappointing Grandmary. As she scurried up her favorite climbing tree, Samantha’s precious locket with the only keepsake of her parents inside, scraped against the bark and the threads holding it to her dress popped loose to leave the brooch trampled into the dust below.
Samantha didn’t even notice; she was so upset. How could they consider sending her away? Weren’t they a family that truly loved and cared for her? Weren’t families supposed to stay together forever? Was it all because she was the orphan, the one whose very presence still made them feel the pain of losing their Lydia? She sobbed for several minutes until a taunting voice coming from another branch of the tree said, “Samantha Parkington, you’re such an ugly crier. Sobbing like a big baby, it’s no wonder you’re so ugly all the time.”
“Shut up, Eddie Ryland!” Samantha unbuckled her shoe and threw it at him. He ducked.
Eddie laughed. “Na, na, na, na! Missed me, missed me, bet you want to—-”
Samantha threw her other shoe and this time it hit the mark which was Eddie Ryland’s face. “Ow!”
Samantha stuck out her tongue at him. “Serves you right.”
Eddie aimed his slingshot at her.
Samantha gasped. “Don’t you dare.”
Eddie smirked. “Make one move and—-”
“Please,” Samantha sobbed. “This day has been bad enough.”
Eddie had never seen Samantha so upset before. He lowered his slingshot. “What happened in there?”
Samantha wiped her nose on her skirt. “They’re sending me away.”
“Big whoop. You’ve already gone to New York and Europe and—–”
“This time it’s different. They’re sending me alone. To Boston.”
Eddie’s eyes widened. His mother was always threatening military school for him, but thankfully she had never actually done it. Yet. “What did you do?”
Samantha giggled. “Nothing.” Her smile fell. “Except be a burden, apparently.”
“Don’t call me that!” She snapped. “Only Uncle Gard is allowed to call me that and you’re not—-”
“Sam. Sam. Sam. Sam!”
Samantha’s hands curled into fists. “I don’t know why I even bother. You’d never understand.”
“Not understand your fears of being unwanted and alone?” Eddie scrambled near her so that they were sitting close on the same branch. “Not understand that the changes that life throws at us are hard and horrible? Not understand the fear of being thrown headfirst into the unknown when you don’t think you’ll ever be ready?”
Samantha looked at him in wonder. Did those mature words really just come out of Eddie Ryland’s mouth? She stared into his eyes and for the first time she saw something else besides obnoxious mischief, something a little more serious and grown up.
Eddie brushed a piece a bang out of her eyes. He lowered his voice, “Because if you think for one minute, Miss Samantha Parkington, that I don’t understand any of that then you’re wrong. Dead wrong. I’m not always as stupid as I look. Because I know exactly how your brain works.”
He leaned closer at the same moment Samantha did until their lips met in a kiss. Her first kiss. And it was stolen by none other than Eddie Ryland. She gasped and pulled back wildly while he grinned feeling quite pleased with himself.
“Eddie Ryland, you monster!” Samantha put both hands on his chest and pushed for all she was worth.
“Ahhh!” Eddie floundered backwards as he fell out of the tree. There was a painful thud as he hit the ground, but Samantha didn’t care. She scampered down neatly, landing light on her feet like a cat, and took off running.
“Wait!” Eddie cried, jumping up on his feet no worse for wear.
Samantha didn’t stop or turn around.
“You forgot your shoes!”
“I don’t care!”
“But Grandmary will!” He pelted both shoes at her and she fell into the dirt. He ran towards her. “Here, allow me.” Eddie grabbed a shoe and knelt to put it on her foot. Samantha picked up the other one and whacked him over the head with it. She wretched the shoe out of his grasp and marched off stocking footed and steaming mad.
Eddie watched her go and didn’t make any attempt to follow. He turned back to the tree and stared at the branch where he had his first kiss. It wasn’t as gross as he imagined it would be. He didn’t know what had come over him, but he supposed it didn’t matter now. What’s done is done. Out the corner of his eye, he saw something sparkling on the ground. Greedily, he dove for it. He held it up and grinned for he recognized exactly what it was and where it belonged.
Samantha Parkington stood by her vanity with a pitcher, a bowl and a big bar of soap. Nellie and her sisters were outside playing. Samantha could see them from her window and she was sure they were enjoying the fact that Eddie Ryland was nowhere to be found for the moment. She wondered if he was washing his mouth out with soap right now like she was. A young girl dreams of her first kiss being something romantic and lovely and something so wonderful that you’d cherish it for the rest of your days. Too bad Eddie Ryland had to rob her of that moment. Her lips tingled, and she touched them as she remembered how it felt. How it lacked disgust. She was disgusted with herself for not being more disgusted! Samantha was determined to tell no one of that moment. This was a secret that would go to her grave.
“Knock, knock.” Miss Jessica rapped on the door as she opened it anyway. “Can I talk to you for a moment?”
Since Miss Jessica was already sitting on Samantha’s bed uninvited, all Samantha could say was, “Sure.”
“I know you don’t want to go to boarding school.”
Gee, what made her figure that? Samantha wondered to herself sarcastically for she knew better than to say it.
“Nobody does,” continued Miss Jessica. “Which is why I’m not taking you or Nellie to boarding school.”
“Then where are you taking us?” Samantha was suddenly filled with fear. A cold, dark fear that perhaps even Eddie Ryland could understand after all.
“I am taking you to an orphanage of sorts.”
“Orphanage?” Samantha’s voice was barely a whisper. “Like Cold Rock House?”
Miss Jessica laughed. “No, nothing like that at all.”
Samantha let out a breath though she still didn’t feel any better.
“I’m also taking you to the year 2005.”
Samantha laughed. “Yeah, right. That’s a hundred years from now!”
“No, it’s true,” Miss Jessica insisted. “I’m a time traveler and you will be soon too.”
Miss Jessica didn’t bat an eye; it was almost as if she were expecting or waiting for Samantha to ask. She pressed a few buttons on her watch. It glowed neon green and the whole room spun in circles. Samantha closed her eyes. She was dizzy by the time the spinning stopped. When she opened her eyes, she wasn’t wearing her normal clothes. Both she and Miss Jessica were wearing tight fitting leggings made of a scratchy, chafing, uncomfortable material and they had tight shirts that was almost like a chemise but shorter and with nothing covering them. Samantha felt naked. Her room didn’t look like her room. There were ropes blocking part of it off and a group of tourists snapping pictures of everything. A tour guide lady droned on. “And this is where the murder happened on August 15, 1942. See those blood stains? That’s where Peter James Edwards the fourteenth was stabbed to death by his crazy wife the night before he was supposed to ship out as a soldier in World War II.”
Samantha gasped. Murder in her bedroom? World War II? Did that mean there was a World War I? She rushed to the window as a security guard tried to pull her back. “Miss, you can’t disrupt the museum—-”
Samantha didn’t care. Out the window, she saw lines of parked automobiles that were very different looking from her Uncle Gard’s automobile and there was not a single horse in sight. Her favorite climbing tree was still there, but it was bigger, older, and scratched into the bark was a heart that read: Eddie loves Samantha. Forever and Always. No Matter What Time It Is.
Samantha was horrified, but then she frantically thought that there were lots of people named Eddie and Samantha in the world and that heart probably wasn’t about her. Maybe the futuristic museum security guard was named Eddie, and maybe that droning tour guide lady was named Samantha and perhaps they had lunch under that tree every day and fell in love through their jobs. Yes, that must be it.
“Seen enough?” asked Miss Jessica calmly.
Samantha nodded. Miss Jessica pressed more buttons on her watch and suddenly they were back in her bedroom. With relief, Samantha realized she was wearing her own clothes again. “I hate the future!”
“That’s too bad,” said Miss Jessica, “since I’m taking you to 2005 with me tomorrow morning whether you like it or not.”
“No!” Samantha threw herself onto her bed and shouted into her pillow. “I won’t go!”
“You don’t have to wear jeans and a t-shirt. You can wear your own old timey clothes. Will you at least consider it?”
Samantha looked up at her. “No.”
Miss Jessica sighed. “Well, I tried. Guess I’ll have to find someone else to help me run my orphanage of time travelers.”
“Wait,” said Samantha. “The other orphans are time travelers too?”
Miss Jessica nodded. “Most of them yes, though there are a few from my own time too.”
“Why do you need me?”
“Because you have something very special to offer them that others don’t. Because I’m very busy and I need someone like you to look after them in my absence. It is no secret that you’ve always wanted a big family. You once told Nellie that you’ve always wanted sisters. That when you see children hurt and hungry and poor that you want to help them all, to hug them all and never let them go—-”
Samantha gasped. “How do you know that?”
Miss Jessica whipped out a book that was title Nellie’s Promise on the cover. There was a picture of Nellie in her blue dress wearing a cross necklace with Samantha in the background.
Samantha was burning with curiosity. “What is that book?”
“Hush, you’ll understand once I get you back to my house in 2005. Ah, here it is. Page 59. ‘I wished that I could help all the children at the settlement house and make their lives better like Bridget and Jenny’s and it made me sad and angry to know that I couldn’t.’ And on page 61 you say, ‘Don’t you see, Nellie? We’re trying to start a whole new family.’” Miss Jessica slammed the book closed. “So, you see, Miss Parkington, starting a whole new family of time travelers is exactly what I’m trying to do. And I need both you and eventually Nellie to help me do it. By coming to 2005, I’m giving you the chance to help every lost, hurting, and confused orphan that you see.”
“But everyone I’ve ever loved is here in this house, in 1905.”
“But as you yourself said, you’ve already helped Bridget and Jenny. There isn’t anything more that you can do for them,” said Miss Jessica throwing Samantha’s own words back in her face. “These people here don’t need you the way my time traveling orphans do.”
“You can still come back and visit any time you wish. But that family of orphans in 2005 needs you than the people here ever will. And you will come to love them just as much if not more than you already love these people here. As Grandmary said, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. You’d best not waste it.”
“Does Grandmary know?”
Miss Jessica shook her head. “Grandmary does not know about time travel and I’d like to keep it that way. No one here, except Nellie, will never know about time travel which is why they need to think you’re going to boarding school.”
“Grandmary said my mother—-”
“Your mother did not time travel, if that’s what you’re wondering. She did go to a boarding school in Boston where she met your father, but that is not at all where I’m really taking you.”
Samantha’s head spun. 2005? Time travel? A big family of other time traveling orphans? It all sounded too crazy to believe. And yet, Samantha believed Miss Jessica. A small part of her wanted to leave right now while the rest of her screamed no. Curiosity won out as well as the thought of all the good she could do in the future, different from here and now, but possibly more wonderful at the same time. Was the future filled with stifling rules about properness? Based on what she saw she didn’t think so and that idea delighted Samantha most of all. “Okay.”
“You’ll come willingly so that I don’t have to knock you out and kidnap you against your will?”
Miss Jessica smiled. “Nothing. But you will come?”
“On the condition that Nellie will eventually join me, yes.”
“That’s not a problem. That will be arranged when the time comes. Now, say your goodbyes and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime.”
Samantha and Nellie sat outside on Grandmary’s big porch swing. Bridget and Jenny were painting with Aunt Cornelia. Cornelia knew that the girls needed time alone to discuss the earthshattering news and so she offered to occupy the younger girl’s attention. Though Bridget and Jenny loved Samantha, the thought of her leaving them wasn’t such a hardship for them to bear. It was when Nellie left a year from now that would be the probably, but Nellie had a year to prepare them for that moment.
“I don’t want to go,” Samantha whimpered.
Nellie sighed. “I don’t, either. But I don’t think we have a choice.”
“Of course we have some say! Isn’t Cornelia the one who is always—–”
“Samantha,” Nellie said gently in that patient way she had with always explaining things to Samantha. “It’s not the end of the world. School is temporary. You’ll write to us and visit and we’ll be together again in a year. It’s not like they’re sending us back to an orphanage or something.”
Or something. What would Nellie say if only she knew what Samantha knew? Was it really temporary? Would time traveling to 2005 be just as temporary as boarding school would be? Samantha wasn’t sure, and she didn’t want to risk losing everything she had here if it didn’t work out. Would Nellie say the same thing if only she knew where Miss Jessica was really taking them? Miss Jessica made it clear that Samantha shouldn’t tell anyone about where they were actually going. But Nellie was different and if she was going to know soon anyway. . . . .
“Nellie, Miss Jessica told me something unbelievable,” Samantha began. She reached to touch her locket for support only to realize that it wasn’t there. She gasped.
“What?” asked Nellie in alarm. “What’s the matter?”
“My locket, it’s missing!”
“When did you for sure remember you had it last?”
“I always have it,” said Samantha crawling on her hands and knees around the room. “And I bet I know who stole it!”
Nellie rolled her eyes. “It probably wasn’t stolen. You probably just misplaced it, or it fell off your dress. Come on, let’s go look.”
Samantha and Nellie searched through every inch of Grandmary’s house but did not find it. They asked all the servants to keep a sharp lookout for it. Then they went outside and searched the yard. They searched the hedge, and under the tree where Samantha admitted she had been earlier. Samantha was careful not to tell Nellie what had happened up in that tree with Eddie, she only said that this was where she ran to earlier when she had been upset. They carefully combed through the dirt, but still the locket was nowhere to be found.
“At least Eddie isn’t here to bother us,” said Nellie.
“Yes,” agreed Samantha but inside she was feeling quite suspicious because when Eddie Ryland didn’t capitalize on an opportunity to tease then it meant that he was plotting something even more horrible.
Finally, Samantha and Nellie had to give up the search and go to dinner. Dinner was quiet and strained that night. Miss Jessica didn’t show for she had already retired to the guest room for the night because she wanted to give Samantha this last night alone with her family without intruding. Even then things were still awkward and quiet because everyone knew that this was Samantha’s last night with them before she left tomorrow morning and that in her heart of hearts Samantha did not want to go.
After dinner when Samantha and Nellie retired to Samantha’s old room that night, Samantha was still terribly upset about her missing locket. “I don’t understand it, Nellie. We searched every inch of this property and still no locket. It’s bound to be somewhere. A locket just doesn’t get up and walk away on its own. And I’m leaving with Miss Jessica tomorrow! We have to find it before then.”
Nellie shrugged. “Perhaps it’s not the most important thing in the world. I don’t need a locket to remember my parents.” When she saw the look on Samantha’s face, Nellie hastily apologized. “I’m sorry, Samantha. I didn’t mean—-”
“What’s this?” Samantha was distracted by a note tucked into her windowsill. There was a small round hole in the window that Samantha knew hadn’t been there earlier. A folded piece of paper was tied to a smooth blue rock that Samantha recognized as the gem of Eddie Ryland’s rock collection. He must have shot it up to her window with his slingshot. “Oh, no. No, no, no.” With a sinking feeling in her chest, Samantha tore open the note: If you ever want to see your precious locket again, come to the hedge at midnight. Alone. —E.
Nellie read over Samantha’s shoulder and gasped. “You’re not actually going to do it, are you?”
Samantha crumpled up the note in her fist and said grimly, “I don’t have a choice. This is war and I’m not going to let him make off with my locket. He might do something rash like melt it down or throw it into the river. And I am not going to let that happen.”
“But Samantha,” Nellie argued, “at night? All alone? What would Grandmary or Aunt Cornelia say?”
“Grandmary is never going to know. Please Nellie, I have to. If I’m not back by 1 o’clock then you can worry. But it’s just Eddie, I can handle him.”
Nellie huffed out an aggravated breath. “Alright, but I’ll be watching by the window just in case.”
At a quarter to midnight, Samantha quietly slipped out of the house. She wore her play outfit with the pinafore because she was not going to meet Eddie Ryland in her nightgown and she knew that whenever he was around things were bound to get messy. She decided not to wake up Nellie though Nellie had asked her to. She didn’t want to disturb her sleeping friend and she didn’t want Nellie watching from the window just in case Eddie Ryland tried to kiss her again. Her cheeks flamed red at the thought especially since she wasn’t sure if it would totally be a bad thing.
“Eddie?” Samantha called softly as she entered the hedge. “Eddie?” Samantha heard some branches snap and she jumped in fright. “Eddie, whatever trouble you’re trying to cause—”
Eddie emerged from the shadows and Samantha screamed. Eddie clamped a hand over her mouth. “You trying to get us in trouble? Quiet. Yes, I’m here, Sam.”
Samantha pried his hand off her mouth. “It’s Samantha to you, buddy. Not Sam.”
Eddie grinned. “Sam.”
Samantha rolled her eyes. “Just give me my locket.”
“Uh-un. Not until you pay up.”
“How much money do you want?”
“Money isn’t going to cut it this time, Sam. I want something else.”
“What do you want from me, Eddie Ryland?” Eddie didn’t answer. He just dangled the locket in her face. Samantha tried to snatch it, but he just held it higher. “Give me that locket!”
“Not until what? I kiss you again because you love me?” This time Samantha clamped her own hand over her mouth. Both of their faces flashed hot and red.
Eddie threw the locket into the dust and started to storm off. “Just forget it.”
“Wait!” Samantha knelt to grab her brooch. She noticed that something had fallen out of Eddie’s pocket. She grabbed that too. It was a pocket watch with the name Ryland carved into it.
Eddie saw it whirled around to grab Samantha’s wrist. “Give me that!”
It was Samantha’s turn to grin. “No way.”
“No!” Samantha turned it over in her hand. She realized it probably belonged to Eddie’s father who had died turning the Spanish American War. She dropped it quickly.
Eddie dove for it. “You’re not the only one who has lost a parent, Samantha Parkington. Even though you act like yours are the only ones that matter.”
“I—-” All this time they had been fighting with each other when they could have been bonding over the grief of losing their fathers. And now it was too late. Time had run out for them since Samantha was going to the future tomorrow. Wait, bonding with Eddie Ryland? What was wrong with her? That kiss must have really addled her brain. Her face flashed red again. “I’m sorry,” Samantha choked out.
Eddie staggered backward as he cupped a hand over his ear. “You’re what? Do my ears deceive me? Did Samantha Parkington really just say—-”
“Why did you want me to come out here tonight anyway? So you could gloat over the fact that you stole my locket?”
“Yes,” replied Eddie.
Samantha shook her head and started to leave.
Eddie grabbed her by the arm. “Wait.”
Exasperated, Samantha nearly shouted. “What? What do you want from me?”
Eddie released her. “I just wanted to say goodbye.”
Dumbfounded, Samantha stared at him.
“You’re leaving tomorrow and. . . . .” Eddie shrugged. “I just wanted to have one last go around.”
“One last go around, huh?” Samantha thought for a moment and then she smiled a smile that meant trouble. “That can be arranged.”
“No!” Eddie cried as Samantha scampered off to plot up one last prank. “That’s not what I meant—-”
Samantha turned around to smile sweetly at him. “Isn’t it?”
Samantha didn’t want to ask her next question, but she had to be sure in order for this last trick to work. “Do you love me?”
Eddie Ryland’s face turned red. Then he laughed in her face. “No, I hate you.”
“Good, cause I hate you too. Which will only make this last go around all the more satisfying.”
Eddie lurked around the hedge for a while waiting to see what Samantha would do next. When Samantha was completely sure that he had finally given up and gone to bed, Samantha ran to the carriage house and looked for Mr. Hawkins’ paint. There was a big white picket fence outside the Ryland’s front yard and Samantha aimed to redecorate it. And then she planned to round up all of the neighborhood boys to view Eddie’s latest masterpiece. . . . .
Samantha woke early the next morning. Everyone gathered in the parlor to say their goodbyes. First, Samantha presented herself to Grandmary who was wiping her tears with her handkerchief. “My darling Samantha.” Grandmary hugged Samantha close. “You’re just as beautiful as your mother.”
Samantha smiled. “I’ll try to do you proud, Grandmary.”
“I know you will, child, I know you will.”
Next Samantha turned to Aunt Cornelia and Uncle Gard. “Thanks for everything.”
“Oh, you’re very welcome, and I will miss you very much,” said Cornelia.
“You go get ‘em Sam, you go get ‘em,” said Uncle Gard with a twinkle in his eye.
As Samantha hugged him she whispered, “You’re like a father to me.”
Without any words, Uncle Gard patted her back.
And finally, Samantha turned to Nellie. The two girls hugged for a long moment. “It’s only a year,” said Nellie. “And then we’ll be together again. Boarding school won’t be so bad, you’ll see.”
Samantha’s throat was tight. Nellie still didn’t know about time travel yet, but for now it had to be that way. It wasn’t Samantha’s place to tell her, even though she knew that Nellie would experience it herself soon.
“Ready?” asked Miss Jessica.
“Ready,” Samantha said. As soon as they left the parlor, Samantha bolted in front of Miss Jessica and ran outside to the front of the Ryland yard to see a whole group of neighborhood boys laughing and pointing at what used to be a pristine white picket fence. Now it was a bright pink fence with little red hearts. There was a giant heart in the middle with a badly drawn picture of Eddie wearing a court jester’s costume. It read: Eddie is a fool for Samantha.
They were laughing and teasing and chanting, “Eddie’s got a girlfriend!”
“No, I don’t!” Eddie screamed.
“Eddie and Samantha sitting in a tree—–”
“Stop it!” Eddie shouted at his friends but they didn’t listen.
“Wow, Eddie,” said one kid. “Didn’t realize you liked the Parkington girl that much.”
“Edward Troy Ryland!” Mrs. Ryland stormed out of the front of the house. “What on earth is going on out here? What did you do?”
“I did nothing—–”
Mrs. Ryland gasped when she saw that every inch of her perfect white fence was now pink. “Eddie Ryland! You wash this off immediately! I don’t care if you’re a fool for the girl, you won’t be showing it with my fence as a display board!”
“But, ma’am, I didn’t—”
“Edward.” Mrs. Ryland had her hands on her hips. “Fix this mess right now.”
Eddie hung his head as his mother stormed off. The kids were still laughing at Eddie, but they quickly scampered off not wanting to get stuck helping him. When Eddie looked up, he saw Samantha. His eyes blazed. “You.”
Samantha giggled. “That last go around good enough for you, fool?”
“I’ll get you someday, Samantha Parkington! I’ll get you good! Even if it’s the last thing I do!”
Samantha grinned as she stepped up into the automobile with Miss Jessica quite certain with the idea that Eddie Ryland would never find her in the year 2005. “Ha! I’d like to see you try, Eddie Ryland! I’d like to see you try!”