Sarah, Returned--Chapter 16 (A Steemit Original Novel)
August 14, 1699
"Joshua," I call across the meadow. "Do not let Thomas get too close to the edge."
I hug David to me and laugh, watching my husband and children run across the top of the Great Hill. It's name is already changing. Since Ebenezer Varney and his wife, Mary Otis (Richard's granddaughter who was rescued a few days after the raid, before she could be taken to Canada), built there house at the bottom of it on the site of the old Otis garrison four years ago, the locals have begun calling it Varney's Hill. That's what it will be known as for the next century and a half, when Garrison Hill gradually becomes the preferred name. Either way, it's the same hill I've known my entire life, both here and in the future.
Joshua has been promising the kids for weeks that we would climb to the top of the hill as soon as the crops were planted. The hill is inviting for children in any century. We finally brought them all up today, and I realized with some surprise that it was the first time I've climbed up the hill on foot. In my previous life, I always drove up, and in the 14 years I've been in the 17th century, I've somehow managed to not go all the way up until today.
It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Most of the hill is developed farmland now; our own farm is just a quarter mile away from the bottom, thanks to the acre of land Richard Otis unexpectedly and generously left me in his will. Instead of scrambling through tangled vines and thorny bramble, it was a relatively smooth walk up through our neighbors' lands. The sides of the hill are still steep, though, and Joshua and I were winded by the time we got to the top, since we had to carry the two youngest.
Going back down should be fun for the children, since they can roll part of the way. They will enjoy that.
It is not often we get a day for leisure like this. Farm work is not just a full-time job, it is a round-the-clock lifestyle. Even now, I know I will have to double up on chores tomorrow; laundry and candle-making at the same time, while still getting three meals on the table throughout the day. Joshua will spend longer in the fields than is his norm. Most people do not bother to take a day off.
Since I come from a time when recreation is known to be important to your health, I pushed for it when the children wanted to take this adventure, maybe harder than I should have. I'm still glad we did it, and Joshua does not seem to mind. In fact, he appears to be having just as much fun as the children.
Who knew after 14 years in the 1600's, I would finally be loving my life here? I never thought I would be here this long, much less want to stay. Now, with Joshua and the children, I never want to leave.
I gave up trying to find a way to open another portal when our first child was born. When I held little Clara in my arms for the first time, Joshua and three-year-old Hannah by my side, I knew this was where I belonged, with my beautiful little family. And now, that family has grown, as I've given birth to Thomas, Patience, and David.
There could be more children still; after all, I am only 26.
When I first walked up to the gates of the Otis garrison all those years ago, a newly small girl in an odd dress that was way too big for me, I never would have imagined the handsome 19-year-old Joshua Hanson who greeted me with his friend, Micah Ames, would be the one to become my husband.
Joshua and Micah were Richard's blacksmith apprentices back then. Both returned to their families a few years later, deciding to be farmers like their fathers. Still, I saw them both around town and at meeting on Sundays (after all this time, it is still strange to me to refer to church as a meeting, but it is what Quakers do). Joshua always had a smile for me, and I could sometimes feel his eyes on me as I walked past. He noticed me, but never spoke, not even when he lived at the garrison with me.
No wonder it was such a surprise that he said yes when I asked him to marry me.
A few weeks after the raid, when Hannah and I were boarding with Humphrey and Esther Varney out on Dover Neck, we took a walk into town so I could see how the rebuilding was going, and to deliver some fresh baked bread to the tired and hungry townsfolk. Joshua was there, helping clear away the remnants of Richard Otis's garrison. I stopped to stare at the wreckage, tears stinging the backs of my eyes. One does not easily let go of a place they have called home for four years, especially when it was a happy one.
Joshua saw Hannah and I standing there, hand in hand, and gave us a small wave, since he was not wearing a hat to tip. He was so handsome.
I do not know what came over me, because young women were definitely not supposed to make the first move, but I took Hannah and walked over to him. He was far enough away from the other men helping out at the ruined garrison that no one else heard us, and if they thought anything, it was probably that we were exchanging news as I fed him some bread.
I gave him the bread, yes. But, as I did so, I told him about Hannah and how I wanted to keep her, how her mother wanted me to stay with her. Everyone in Dover already knew I rescued her from the burning garrison, which raised my standing with them even more; if I hadn't been considered "one of them" before, I certainly was now.
I told Joshua the only way I could keep her was to get married. To this day, I do not know why I did it, but I blurted out: "Will you marry me, Joshua Hanson?"
To my utter astonishment, he said yes without batting an eye. "I've loved you since the first moment I set eyes on you at the garrison gate, Sarah Morgan," he said. I had no idea. Joshua is what 21st century folk call the strong and silent type.
We made our intentions known to the local meetinghouse, and the bans were posted. We were married a month later.
For the first two months, we lived with his parents, while he built our farmhouse on the land Richard Otis left me. Once we were wed, no one questioned my unofficial adoption of Hannah; she was simply mine, and Joshua's. There is not any kind of legal adoption in the colonies yet; keeping a child that is not yours is a matter for the selectmen to decide. The selectmen of Dover said nothing about Hannah's living arrangements, which meant it was a de facto approval of Joshua and I taking over as her new parents.
Joshua loved Hannah as his own from the beginning, simply because I loved her. It did not take him long to begin thinking of her as his daughter, and by the end of the first year of our marriage, Hannah was calling us "Mama" and "Papa." She forgot Grizel and Richard, as very young children do. To her, she never had other parents but us.
Joshua loved me with a fierce passion, and I loved him because he was willing to marry me and take on Hannah as his own. It was a friendly love on my part for a long time, and he knew it. He was also content with it, assuring me with confidence more than once that I would fall in love with him like he was with me. All I needed was time.
He was right.
We worked as a team in setting up and running our farm, hiring help as we saved enough money to do it, helping rebuild Dover, and assisting others in building their own houses. We went to meeting with Hannah every Sunday, visited our neighbors, and ate breakfast and supper together every day. I took lunch (also known as dinner in the 17th century) to him in the fields six days a week, and sometimes stayed to eat with him. We read together at night by candlelight, taking turns reading out loud from the Bible, which was the only book we could afford for the first few years. And, we slept in the same bed every night.
Somewhere in the middle of all that togetherness, I did indeed fall in love with him. Hard. By the time I announced I was pregnant with Clara two years later, Joshua Hanson was my sun, moon, and stars. He was and is everything to me.
Why would I ever want to leave him?
Even if I could open a portal and he could go through it with me, his entire family and everything he knows is here. It would be cruel to take it from him. Whereas with me, I have never become entirely comfortable with the primitive life of the 1600's, but I grew used to it enough to make my peace with it. I can stay here and be fine. Even if I couldn't, any hardship would be worth it to be with Joshua and our beautiful family.
So, I put Grandma's memory box away in a locked metal chest where there would be no chance of anyone accidentally touching it, and forgot about returning to 2017. I found my home, my true one.
The only time I mentioned 2017 after putting the box away was to explain to Joshua what it was, what it did (and why he should not touch it), as well as my true origins. To my surprise, he accepted the entire story without question. "God works in mysterious ways," was all he said. "The way you appeared out of nowhere at the garrison gate, wearing that strange clothing, it all makes sense. It was His way of bringing us together."
Stoic. Joshua is stoic to a fault.
Every now and then, he asks me to tell him something about 21st century life, and I oblige. Otherwise, we do not talk about it.
Over the course of 14 years in this place, I have learned to adapt. I've become an expert at things I had no idea how to do in my previous life, like cooking, sewing, tending livestock, making candles, growing food, using herbs in a medicinal way, and avoiding the use of contractions when I talk. No one had any idea what I was saying when I first arrived, as words like "can't," "won't," "don't," and "wasn't" were all common parts of my vocabulary. Contractions are not part of English speech for a long time yet, maybe not until the 1800's. I still think in them, but I do not say them. Breaking myself of that habit was actually the most challenging thing I had to learn to adapt to life here.
I am finally content with my life here, and this family day out on the hill, with just Joshua and the children, is my reward for being patient with getting to this point.
Patience and Hannah are digging a hole nearby, Hannah carefully showing her little sister how to move the dirt they remove to the side so it does not fall back in. I have no idea what they are looking for. A mole, maybe? Hannah is fascinated by moles and their mysterious underground lives.
"Mama," Patience calls. "Can you help? We are stuck."
"The stick will not go down any farther," Hannah, now 12 years old, clarifies. "There is something hard down there. I would think it was a tree root, but there are no trees up here."
Probably a rock. I stand up, put David on my hip, and walk over. The stick they are using to dig the hole is clever. Hannah has used another, sharper stick to carve out a little bowl on the end of it that acts like a scoop, allowing them to easily shove it into the ground and lift out dirt. The stick is thick and sturdy enough it will not break, either, at least not with the limited force two little girls can put on it.
I set David down in the soft, waving grass next to Hannah and look inside the hole. It's a good six inches deep, which is impressive, and only wide enough for an arm to go in, which means there is no chance of a child falling into it and getting trapped. I do not see anything down there, but I reach an arm in anyway. There might be something just under the dirt at the bottom that is getting in the way of their digging.
Yes, it feels like a rock. I push my fingers into the dirt, feeling it cake up under my fingernails. I will have to give those a good scrubbing later. Two or three inches wide, thin edges, and rather flat. Hmm....I would guess it was a river rock if we were not on top of a hill.
I soon get my fingers around it and pull it up, freeing the way for Patience and Hannah to dig deeper. As I brush the soil off the rock, I realize it is not a rock at all. It has a definite shape to it, oblong, with a pointed tip and what looks like edges that used to be serrated.
This is an ancient Native knife, probably from several hundred years ago. You find a lot of that kind of thing around here, and even more that is new. The Penacook still hunt the woods around town.
I hold it up to the sun, about to show it to the children, who will no doubt be excited by the find. However, the sunlight expands around it, turning into a familiar bright white oval.
No. Not now. Not when I have decided to stay.
"Take David and get back," I command Hannah and Patience. "Get back as far as you can."
I drop the knife and back away, but it is too late. The light is already surrounding me, pulling me in.
Joshua, Clara, and Thomas are on the other side of the summit. Do they see what is happening? If I disappear and Joshua does not witness it, will he think I left them on purpose?
He will know where I went. That is, assuming the portal takes me to my origin point. I could be going anywhere.
I do not want to.
"Mama!" I hear Patience and Hannah screaming behind me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Joshua, Clara, and Thomas running toward me.
Then, I am in the white void once more.
Catch up with the entire "Sarah, Returned" series here: