Sarah, Returned--Chapter 19 (A Steemit Original Novel)
Matt’s little red Hyundai comes roaring out of the darkness, into the gas station parking lot, breaking every speed limit in town. I smile, amused. He’s usually such a careful driver.
In an instant, he parks the car directly in front of me and leaps out without bothering to take the key out of the ignition. In two long bounds, he’s got his arms around me, giving me only a split second to notice the tears streaming down his cheeks. I almost choke up when I see it, because Matt never cries. I mean never. I’ve never seen so much as a glimmer of a tear in the corner of his eye. Even at Grandma’s funeral…even at his own parents’…his eyes were as dry as if it were any other day, his face perfectly even and stoic. My dear cousin is one of those stoic New Hampshire guys who hides a sensitive soul behind a passionless exterior. Like Joshua. Only those few of us who are lucky to intimately know him realize he’s a poet inside, and a real softie, too. Those tears streaking his clean-shaven face are startling, but endearing, too. I never doubted his love for me, but if I needed proof, this is definitely it.
The hug he grabs me into is joyous and powerful, lifting me off my feet. I am sure he didn’t bother to look at my filthy 17th century clothing. All he saw was my face, and that was enough for him. At least my hair is long and loose, not tucked up into that little white cap, as usual; that would have been too obvious to hide, even in his enthusiasm to be reunited with me.
I hug him back, tightly, so happy to be with him once more. I would be thrilled to spend all night in the gas station parking lot, getting re-acquainted with my honorary big brother, but there’s an element of time at play here. I need to get into Grandma’s room without delay. Farmers with children don’t stay single for long in 1699. I have to get back to Joshua before he gives me up for lost and marries someone else.
The mere thought of another woman replacing me in his affections, in our home, and especially in our children’s lives, makes me curl my hands into fists behind Matt’s back. No. There will be no remarriage for Joshua if I can help it. Wait for me, Joshua. I’m coming. I push the silent words out of my mind and into the universe.
Please, God, let them find him.
Matt is so overjoyed at finding me again, I’m starting to feel a bit guilty. He must have been a wreck, thinking something terrible happened to me. I can’t do that to him again. When I leave, I’ll make sure he knows where I’m going, and why. A note, maybe? And, a time capsule. Yes, that's an excellent idea. I’ll leave one for him in 1699, with instructions in a note in 2017 on where to find it. That will give him reassurance that I’m okay, and where I want to be, while showing him time travel is real.
After what seems like an eternity, Matt finally puts me down and looks me over from head to toe, making sure I’m in one piece and unharmed. He never takes his hands off my shoulders. Once satisfied I’m fine, he drags his gaze back up to my face, shrugging one green sweater-clad arm up high enough to wipe the glistening streaks of salt water from his eyes, and his look of concern transforms to one of wonder.
“You….you look fine,” he stammers, still not quite believing I’m real. “Dirty. God, you need a shower. But, fine. Though, those clothes…?” He gives me a quizzical look.
“It’s hard to explain,” I say, gently. What else is there to tell him? That I’ve been kidnapped by a bunch of rogue archaeologists and forced to work as a museum docent in period costume for the past month?
“Are you really okay?’ he pushes.
“Were you kidnapped?”
“In a way.” Yeah, the same way Grandma, Grizel, and who knows how many others were kidnapped. Via time portal.
Matt laughs a little, shaking his head in confusion. “What does that even mean?”
“I’ll tell you all about it later,” I promise him. “Not here. At the house.”
Hmm...funny how I can’t bring myself to call it “home.”
Matt glances up at the gas station as if seeing it looming there behind us for the first time. He nods, understanding dawning. “Of course. You want to go home. This isn’t the place for proper reunions or explanations. You want to get home, get cleaned up, maybe change your clothes, enjoy familiar surroundings, while knowing you’re safe.”
“Something like that.” Oh, Matt. If you only knew.
“Let’s go. We’ll get you home, make you comfortable, let you rest. Whatever you want. I’ll even make you a nice cup of tea. You should know, though, I called the police on the way here. Since your disappearance is an active investigation, I had to let them know you are back and alive. They’ll be coming by the house later to get your statement, but agreed to wait a couple of hours for you to get settled back in. Is that okay?”
“It’s fine, Matt,” I say, giving him a warm smile. He’s so eager to make sure I’m both fine and happy to be back. There’s this tiny hint of worry in his voice that I might not actually want to be here. Anyone who didn’t know him as well as I do would miss it, but he can’t put anything past me after all these years together. I think he’s concerned I’ve been Stockholm Syndrom-ed by whoever kidnapped me, and I want to go back to them.
He’s not entirely wrong. Not in the strictest sense.
He leads me by the hand to his car, and even opens the door for me. Man, he is determined to not let me out of his sight now that he has me back. As I snuggle down into the comfortable, velour-covered bucket seat, I’m struck by just how much I’ve missed modern conveniences without realizing it. I mean, sure, I keenly felt their absence for the first few years, but once Joshua and I had Clara, that all went away. Now, sitting in a soft, air conditioned car, it dawns on me that I just pushed those longings to the back of my mind. Why wish for something that won’t be invented for another 300 years?
Ah, this is really nice. There’s nothing this soft to sit on where I just came from, at least not in New Hampshire. Rich people in the bigger cities like Boston and Salem, as well as royalty, have stuffed, upholstered furniture back then, but not us practical, working class Quakers. I wonder what other things I took for granted I’ll gain a new appreciation for during my brief return here?
We drive in comfortable silence for a while. Matt keeps one hand on the wheel and one hand holding mine, which is so sweet I could kiss him. I smile at him as he drives, then look out the window at the town where I’ve lived my whole life. Technically, I’ve never lived anywhere else, because I was still in Dover in the 17th century. It’s odd, looking at these familiar surroundings now. They are just as I remember them, but strange, too. The lay of the land is similar to the way it is in the 17th century, but so many new buildings, electric wires, utility poles, street signs, and paved roads obscure some of the natural landmarks I’d begun to think of as the “real” Dover during the past 14 years.
As I gaze out at modern Dover, I can see ancient Dover superimposed over it, as if those long ago days are only a step away, into a dimension just beyond our own. Because I still don’t know how time travel works on a quantum physics level, that might actually be true, and my family is right here, close enough I could reach out and touch them, if only I could find an opening in the veil.
About halfway back to the house, Matt breaks the silence.
“The police found evidence of tampering with your car.” ________________________________________________________________
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