Sarah, Returned-Chapter 25 (A Steemit Original Novel)
When I reach the bottom step on the stairs, Matt is beaming with pride behind the kitchen bar. Before him is a beautiful sandwich and a bright orange bowl of soup set on a bamboo place mat, a real cloth napkin pulled up into a pyramid beside it. A steaming ceramic mug full of the coffee I requested sits beside the food. As its sweet aroma hits my nose, I almost cry with pleasure. Oh yeah. That’s amaretto-flavored coffee, the good stuff, with freshly ground beans. My favorite. God, I must have been suppressing how much I missed it, because I'm hit with the realization that I’ve craved this every day I’ve been away.
Carter is sitting at the barstool next to the one with my meal in front of it, a mug of something in his hand. Probably tea, as he’s not a big coffee drinker. He loves black Darjeeling from India, unsweetened.
Whose idea it was for him to sit there? I know he’s glad to see me, and happy I’m okay, but he’s probably also upset at all the police questioning. I mean, I would be, if the situation were reversed. We hadn’t been dating that long when I left, and weren’t even officially exclusive, though it was kind of an unsaid thing. It’s not like we were in love. At least I wasn’t, not yet. Was he, and he never told me? Or, is his strategic positioning just Matt’s way of trying to make everything go back to normal as quickly as possible?
Karen, unsurprisingly, is still sitting on the sofa, thumbing through a magazine, and pretending not to notice me.
I sit down next to Carter….yep, that’s Darjeeling in his mug….and pick up the sandwich, inhaling my fill of the heady aroma. There are few things as delicious and decadent as grilled cheddar and Brie on whole grain. Welcome back to my mouth, you wonderful little sandwich. I take a bite. Oh my God, it’s heaven! Matt used real butter to grill it, not that butter-flavored spray he typically favors. He pulled out all the stops to please me. This is amazing, even better than the shower, and I haven’t even gotten to the soup yet.
I chew with deliberate slowness, savoring every molecule of flavor. This was so worth the three century wait. I finish the sandwich way too soon, and almost ask Matt to make another. But, there’s the soup. A fresh, golden carrot ginger concoction that I’ve adored since childhood. I’ve got to lick the bowl clean of that soup first. Then, maybe I’ll ask for seconds.
Everyone is silent, just watching me eat, but I don’t care. I’m too caught up in the scrumptious circus of flavors dancing on my tongue to wonder why they’re staring at me. I barely register Great-Uncle Jacob coming back downstairs until he takes a seat on the bar stool opposite Carter. Matt is smiling, so I guess he is happy my reappearance comes with a hearty appetite to match. Clearly, I can’t be too injured if I’m devouring every morsel and drop of food in front of me.
I down the entire bowl of soup in what must be record time, and am half-way through the rich, creamy coffee, when there’s a knock on the back door. It’s the police, of course. I knew they were coming. Seeing as I’m in coffee heaven at the moment and am in no hurry to finish, they can wait until I’m done. I don’t even bother to lift my nose out of the mug, each swallow of the beautiful brown liquid a tiny piece of paradise to my senses. I’ve got to find a way to bring a metric ton of this back to colonial Dover with me. How did I live without it for so long?
I’m so involved in savoring my coffee, it’s a little startling when I do lift my head and see two uniformed state police officers waiting with calm patience for me on the sofa across from Karen. Carter and Jacob have joined them in the chairs. Only Matt and I remain in the kitchen.
I look at the empty plate, bowl, and mug, and a mixture of remorse and longing washes over me. I want more. Two or three extra servings would be perfect. Though I'm full, I feel like I haven’t eaten in years. Considering the sparseness of food in 1699, and how difficult it is to prepare things if you are lucky enough to obtain the ingredients, that analogy isn’t too far off. Oh well. Maybe when the police are gone, before Matt and Karen go to bed, I’ll ask him to hook me up with additional fare. Knowing Matt, he’ll be happy to do it.
Ugh. I guess I have to talk to the police now. Crap.
With great reluctance, I leave the bar and walk over to our assembled guests, Matt right by my side once more. There is a stillness in the room, making everyone seem like they’re frozen in time and place. Added to the perfect quiet, it makes the entire room seem unreal.
Am I losing it? Is the stress of being away from my husband and children, back where I started, making me crack?
No. No, that’s not it. Looking at each one of them in turn—Jacob, Karen, Carter, the two police officers, Matt—it hits me. They’re waiting for me to say something, and they’re almost on the edge of their seats to hear what it will be. I guess I can’t blame them. Not a single one of them knows what actually happened. I haven’t given anyone a clue. All they know is I’m back and I’m safe. They are all like eager children waiting for their swashbuckling bedtime story. I have a captive audience.
Not that anyone here will be getting the real story, or course. Jacob suspects the truth, which means he has to know more about Grandma’s origins than he let on. If he wants to talk about it later, that’s fine, but I won’t be the first to bring it up. Karen’s presence means I can’t, and he knows it.
So, what am I going to tell them? This is what happens when you keep telling yourself you’ll think about it later--later eventually arrives, and usually sooner than you think. I’ve been luxuriating in my temporary re-introduction to modern amenities, and haven’t given my upcoming police interview more than a passing thought. This story is going to be totally on the fly.
Here we go. Fingers crossed whatever I say is believable.
“Welcome back, Ms. Morgan,” the female officer says as Matt and I approach. We stand in front of the sofa where Karen is sitting. The officer's badge identifies her as Lieutenant Daniels. Matt lowers himself down beside Karen, leaving the only open spot for me on her other side. No way am I sitting beside Her Evil Majesty.
With both hands, I push Matt against her, careful to make it look gentle, and he pushes on his fiancée in return, indicating they both need to make room for me to sit beside him. Karen gives a little “hmph” of indignation, and the quick flash of anger in her eyes lets me know she wants to argue. However, the presence of the police keeps her on her best behavior, especially since she knows she is a suspect. With a loud sigh and a put-upon expression, she moves over.
“Thank you,” I say, taking my prize of a seat. “It’s good to be back.”
“You understand we have some questions for you regarding your whereabouts during the past month,” the male officer says, more of a statement than a question. According to his badge, his name is Sergeant Baker. “I do,” I nod, smiling, doing my best to come across as helpful and cooperative.
“Can you tell us, in detail, what happened to you the night you disappeared?” Lt. Daniels asks, taking out a notepad and pen. Sgt. Baker turns on a small electronic device that is probably a recorder of some kind.
Sure. I got pulled through a portal in time, found myself in 1685, and stayed there for 14 years. I changed history by rescuing a child from being massacred in a Penacook raid, helped build several of the antique homes still standing in this town, met my own time-traveling great-grandmother, got married, and gave birth to four children in a primitive farmhouse on the same bed I slept on. Any other questions?
“I needed to get away from my cousin Matt and his fiancée, Karen,” I hear myself saying, as if from far away. Looks like my subconscious is taking over on this one. Fine with me. It’s probably got a more creative answer than I can come up with off the top of my head.
“Why, exactly?” Sgt. Baker wants to know.
That one is easy. I tell them the whole story, beginning with Karen badgering and stalking me during Grandma's celebration of life, up to her purposefully injuring herself and the ensuing car chase, all of it. Every last bit of it that took place in this century, I re-tell with excruciating detail. It’s been 14 years, but I remember each moment of that night in crystal clear, high-definition quality. You don’t forget that kind of thing. Not ever.
Karen tries to protest several times during my tale, but the cops shut her down each time. It’s my turn to talk. Knowing she is aware she must bite her tongue to avoid incriminating herself in my attempted murder is almost as satisfying as the goose bump-inducing shower and moan-worthy meal.
“What happened after you took refuge in the bushes at the park?” Sgt. Baker asks. This is the hard part, because I have no idea what to say. May as well let my subconscious take over again. It did well the first time.
Catch up with the entire "Sarah, Returned" series here: