Sarah, Returned--Chapter 23 (A Steemit Original Novel)
Jacob waits in my bedroom while I shower. And, my God, that shower is transcendent. I can’t believe I forgot just how magical hot and cold indoor plumbing is. There’s nothing like it, washing in a stand-up shower with water pressure so strong it blasts the dirt right off of you.
The first blast of warm water sends tingles of pleasure right down to the tips of my toes, and even raises a few goose bumps on my arms. It’s that good. Funny how you become used to bathing in wooden tubs heated by fire-warmed water poured in by the bucketful, just because nothing else is available. Even cleaning up in a cool stream when the weather is good becomes an average part of everyday life after a while. You forget how awesome a real shower can be. Liquid soap, high-end shampoo and conditioner, a soft washcloth, and a loofa all feel like the ultimate spa experience as I strip fourteen years’ worth of dirt and grime off me.
It’s not like I’ve been filthy the entire time I’ve been away. Ancient Quakers are all about cleanliness, but it’s been nowhere close to this; the mechanisms for total cleanliness aren't available in the 17th century. You simply can’t compare old-fashioned bathing with modern showers. They’re not even in the same realm.
I luxuriate in the shower far longer than is necessary, just because it feels so damn good. There’s concealed dirt coming out of places I didn’t know it was hiding, and the squeaky, pristine sensation it leaves behind when I scrub it off is amazing. Eventually, the hot water begins to run cold, as it must, and I reluctantly turn it off, open the glass door, and step out. I pat myself dry with what feels like the fluffiest towel in the universe, then rub it over my hair to soak up the excess water that’s dripping onto the floor. Once I’m dry, I wrap the towel around my torso, tuck the ends under to hold it there, and step in front of the steamy mirror.
When I wipe it clean with the side of my arm, I realize it’s the first decent look I’ve had at myself since I walked through the portal all those years ago. Mirrors aren’t a new thing to mankind, and it’s not like I never saw one in the 1600's. I even owned one, a wedding present from Joshua's sister and her husband. Humans have been using mirrors since ancient times, but they’re kind of a luxury item in colonial New England. Like all the antique mirrors I saw in museums as a kid, the one Joshua and I owned had a darkness to it, where even if you held it right up to your face in full sunlight, you still didn’t get a pure, clear view of your reflection. The polishing process wasn’t perfected until much later, to allow a clean view with no shadows or distortions. Still, considering the expense, we were lucky to have it, and you make do with what is available to you.
Happily, it appears I haven’t aged a day since I left, which I expected. Though the difference between 20 and 26 years old is subtle here, it makes a world of difference in how you look in the 1690’s. Life is hard in colonial New England, and people age faster there than they do here. Even with my healthy 20th century start, those few years there were already catching up to me at age 26. I had a decent supply of grey hairs sprouting, my sun-exposed skin was starting to wrinkle on my face and arms, and my stamina was beginning to take a hit (although, I think that was the kids...five kids will wear you out in any century, at any age). I knew those things wouldn’t happen to me for another three or four decades here, but a shorter youth felt worth it for the privilege of being with Joshua and the children. And, though I’m thrilled to once again look and feel like I could still be in high school, I still believe the sacrifice is worth it. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Funny how your priorities change. I never thought I would love Joshua as anything more than a friend; he was simply a means to an end for me to keep Hannah. Then, one day I woke up, and he was my world. In time, the other children came, and my little family became my entire universe. Yes, being back is fantastic, and has so many advantages. Yet, nothing as simple as material comforts or as shallow as personal vanity can compare to the absolute joy of being with my husband and children. Not even my newfound fortune left to me by Grandma. Let Matt and Karen have it. I have something far more valuable waiting for me about 320 years ago.
Jacob is still waiting for me on the bed, playing with his phone like a teenager, when I exit the bathroom. I've combed out my hair and slipped into the comfortable jeans and light, long-sleeved T-shirt I brought into the bathroom with me. It only feels strange to wear pants again for a moment, then my body remembers this was my typical outfit for most of my life, and it's normal again.
I dump the wet towel in the hamper beside the door and come in, smiling. Jacob lights up the room merely by being in it. There aren’t many people with that kind of sunshine built right into them. He smiles back as I enter, and pats the side of the bed for me to come sit next to him.
“Happy to be back?” he asks, grinning.
“Yes,” I answer, and it’s the truth. I'm enjoying it like I would any vacation...appreciating the out-of-the-ordinary luxuries it offers, while looking forward to going home and getting back into familiar routines.
Jacob stares at me in fascination for a long moment, and I start to wonder if he’s just glad I’m okay, or if he genuinely doesn’t know what to say. We still don't know each other well, though it feels like I've known him forever. I start to ask him about Grandma’s belongings. Anything she had before she met Grandpa will do as a test item. However, he jumps in before I can open my mouth, manicured white eyebrows shooting up like he just remembered something of utmost importance.
“Did you take Lizzie’s memory box with you?”
Well, that’s a weird question to ask someone who’s been missing for a month.
“Um, yes. How did you know?”
“Matt and Karen have been going crazy looking for it. Karen is convinced it’s full of extra money and maybe jewels. She wanted to file charges against you for stealing it, when they discovered it missing. Matt had to remind her the box belongs to you now, just as much as to him, and you can take it anywhere you like.”
I laugh. Of course Karen would accuse me of stealing from my own home. Just like the Evil Queen thought she had every right to take Snow White's castle.
“Did you find anything interesting in it?” Jacob presses.
“I sure did. It’s full of old photos from 150 years ago, and some really interesting letters. They’re some of the last things I looked at before I….”
How do I finish that sentence?
“Before you left,” he finishes for me, his tone quite matter-of-fact. Again, it's an odd turn of phrase. Wouldn’t “before you went missing,” or “before you were kidnapped” be more appropriate responses?
“Yeah, before I left.” I stare into his clear, blue eyes. There’s nothing but happiness there. Not even curiosity. Yet, he's clearly pushing me for information on the box.
What does he know that he's not saying?
Catch up with the entire "Sarah, Returned" series here: