Sarah, Returned--Chapter 39 (A Steemit Original Novel)
The drive to Jacob’s house in Portsmouth takes longer than our stop at the police station. Since two officers were present to witness Carter’s attempted mow-down of me, as well as hear his and Karen’s confessions, giving our own statements was a swift process. What more could we add to what the police already knew? The processing of our temporary restraining orders went even faster, though we will have to go to court at a later date to ask the judge to make them permanent. Jacob and Matt can go without me; my permanent restraining order is a new life in 1699.
About ten minutes after Matt, Jacob, and I walk into the station, we walk back out. We didn’t have to see or talk to Carter or Karen. Ah, the benefits of having witnesses.
There was still the matter of Matt’s previous call about me and my questionable mental state. Thankfully, he cancelled the request to have me brought in under a psychiatric hold, stating it was just the stress of the past two days making me act strangely. Now that Carter and Karen were behind bars, he was sure I’d be fine, he assured the Dover police department.
He did it with extreme reluctance. The entire time he was withdrawing his request, he was eyeballing Jacob, no doubt wishing he could request us both be brought in. At least he’s leaving that topic alone, even if it’s just for the time being. That’s all I need.
In the end, we all left the station together, piled into Jacob’s sleek, black sports car that reminded me of K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider (I swear, I’ve never sunk into plusher seats in a car in my life, or seen as many entertainment and wireless options in one), and headed to his mysterious home. I always imagined Jacob must live in something resembling the Bat Cave, but, as we pull up, I recognize it on sight as a standard early 18th century clapboard house, pure white with a yellow door and green shutters, the paint clearly new. Like all houses from the early colonial period, it is much bigger than the typical modern middle-class American house, because it was built to accommodate a large family. This one was probably built not long after I returned to the present. It’s definitely larger than the modest farm house I share with Joshua.
It was never a garrison house; I would recognize one of those in an instant, even with modern renovations. They look too distinctive from any other form of house in history to ever be completely obscured by 21st century architecture. It must have been built after most of the issues with the local Natives were resolved, and the citizens felt safer in this new American frontier.
Like our own, similarly aged house, Jacob’s home has been modernized, restored to as much of its original look as was recoverable, and then updated to have that “new antique” look that is so popular among the higher-end historic homes in New England. There is a white picket fence around the small front yard, a bright red brick walkway going up to the front door, and tenderly cared for native landscaping that includes a variety of bright flowers in a rainbow of different colors. It’s utterly charming.
We don’t go in the front door, though I hoped we would; I wanted to get the authentic colonial house experience. I miss it. Instead, we enter through the garage, a modern addition I would guess became part of the house sometime between 1960 and 1980. An almost futuristic laundry room occupies space in the garage, with a high end stainless steel, energy efficient, front-loading washer and dryer duo taking center stage beside shiny metal shelves, all the cleaning products one could desire lined upon them with grocery store precision. To the side is a large hemp cloth hamper with wicker sides and rollers on the bottom for transporting clean and dirty clothes with ease, and a metallic ironing board is built into the concrete wall in the back.
Man! The laundry room at our house hasn’t been updated since the 1940’s, because we’ve seen no need. Jacob, on the other hand, spared no expense on the garage and laundry facilities. What must the rest of the place look like?
He leads us in a side door, through a narrow hallway, and into a gorgeous and bright chef’s kitchen that opens out onto an expansive living room filled with white furniture positioned around a brick fireplace. The fireplace and chimney outside are original to the house; I can tell by their shape and positioning. When the house was new, that chimney was also used as an oven, and everyone in the family gathered around it to keep warm in winter. Now, while you can still use it to build a fire, I suspect it’s mostly decorative, like so many fireplaces in ancient New England homes.
The thought almost makes me sad. Families were so much closer back then, even though they were also far larger, and had so much less than we do now. We lost something as a civilization along the way. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but whatever it was, it was important.
Jacob motions for us to sit in the living room, so we do. My God, the softness of the larger sofa is even better than the seats in his car, and I thought they couldn’t be topped. You just sink right into it, but don’t feel like you’re sliding off, in spite of the smooth, silky fabric. Was this made with the feathers of the goose who laid the golden egg? I wouldn’t be surprised. Wherever Grandma got her money, I think Jacob was in on it.
Actually, his house is laid out a lot like our house, at least downstairs, except it is much more sumptuously furnished, and has had a total update at least once in the past twenty years. He must have spent a fortune on an interior decorator alone, unless he did this all himself. If he did, kudos to him. This kind of decorating takes some serious talent.
“Can I offer either of you something to eat or drink?” Jacob asks, the perfect host, refusing to sit before all our needs are met.
“No thanks,” Matt grumbles. “Just show us what you brought us here to see, so I can get Sarah to the doctor. If you won’t go, I can at least make sure she does.”
“Still don’t believe us, eh, Matt?” Jacob asks, chuckling. He’s so full of good nature. I wonder if anything ever gets him ruffled. Even when he was outing Karen, he was nothing but cheerful, even to her. “Well, I think I’ll change your mind soon enough.”
“Actually, I would love a little something,” I speak up, and Matt scowls at me. I treat him to my sweetest smile in return. Yes, it’s fun to rag on him a little, since he’s been such a jerk about all of this (even if he did save my life), but I am feeling a bit lightheaded from my run, the near smashing by Carter's car, and the whole Karen revelation. I could use something on my stomach to steady me and clear my head.
Jacob seems to sense this just by looking at me. He’s quite intuitive, and this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed it. He’s there when you need him, and knows what you require, sometimes even before you do. It’s cool. You can’t learn that kind of thing; it’s inborn.
He all but skips into the kitchen, and is back in less than a minute with a lovely slice of almond cake and sparkling apple juice on a silver tray for me to put on my lap. The cake is on fine china with a rose pattern painted along the border, while the juice is in expensive crystal. A cloth napkin and a real silver fork complete the ensemble.
“Protein in the cake to steady you, and sugar in the juice to perk you up,” he says. “I hope you like it.”
“Thank you. It’s wonderful. You didn’t have to use your special dinnerware just for me, though.”
“Special? Oh no, dear, this is for everyday use. The really fancy stuff is in the china cabinet over by the back door. You can’t see it from here, because the wall at the far end of the bar is blocking it. It’s what I use for holidays and other special occasions.”
“I can only imagine what that looks like if this is what you use every day,” I exclaim, looking at the delicate objects in my lap. I feel like I’m eating at one of those restaurants with a dress code.
“I’ll show you later, if you like. Now, you get your sustenance, Sarah, and I’ll go get the things Matt needs to see. I’ll be right back.”
Springing like a rabbit, he bounds away from us and disappears up the stairs. Matt says nothing while I eat and drink. He just sits there, arms crossed, using body language that suggests he is not open to considering anything Jacob and I have to say. It doesn’t matter. I’m sure Jacob has something good, or he wouldn’t have brought us here. Besides, I’m more ravenous than I thought, and though I’d like to savor the delicious cake, I’m too busy downing it in two bites to talk to Matt.
By the time I’ve finished off the juice three gulps later, Jacob is back in the living room, a black, three-ringed binder in hand. “Oh, you’re finished,” he exclaims, eying my empty plate and glass. “Would you like some more?”
“Thank you,” I reply, grateful. I needed that so much. “I think I’m good for now.”
“If you want anything else, just ask,” he says, winking at me, then tilts his head toward Matt and rolls his eyes with exaggerated comic effect. I stifle a laugh. Great-Uncle Jacob clearly thinks Matt is just as much of a dour grump as I do.
He takes the tray from me as with as much swiftness as he brought it, laying the binder down on the coffee table before he does, then returns so quickly, I wonder for a moment if he actually teleported. To tell the truth, nothing would surprise me at this point. Once you’ve stared a time portal in the mouth twice and lived to tell about it, everything else, no matter how fantastical, moves into the circle of things you’re willing to believe.
Once he’s satisfied he’s served both his guests to their satisfaction, Jacob sits, taking the tall-backed plush chair at the head of the coffee table, facing the fireplace. Matt sits on the love seat across from me, and to Jacob’s right. Even his living room furniture is arranged similarly to our own. Matt has got to be noticing this. He’s just too annoyed with everything about this day to comment on it.
Yet, there are too many similarities here to ignore. Jacob and Grandma either were better friends than he let on, or they share the precise same taste in home décor. Maybe they exchanged decorating tips over the phone. Jacob did say they had constant phone contact with each other, even when they weren’t visiting anymore.
“May I?” he asks us, leaning toward the binder.
“Please,” Matt mumbles, his voice rough. He should have had a drink when Jacob offered. “Let’s see what’s in that thing and get this whole insane business over with so I can get Sarah the help she needs.”
“As you wish,” Jacob concedes. “And, to make it interesting, I will go too, if what you see in here doesn’t convince you Sarah and I are telling the truth. I don’t think I’ll need to follow through on that promise, though.”
I sit up and lean forward, eager to see what Jacob has in that binder. Matt does the same, but with far less enthusiasm. Inside the binder are a dozen more beautiful daguerreotypes of Grandma and her family back in the 1850’s and 1860’s, when she was a young woman. Neither Matt nor I ever saw a picture of our grandmother before she married our grandfather, until I saw the daguerreotypes in her memory box, but the girl in the photos is unmistakably her. The round face, deep-set almond-shaped eyes, bow-like mouth, thin and slightly upturned nose, and impossibly high cheekbones are all her. You can almost see the progression nature imposed upon her from pre-teen to elderly woman.
A few of the photos are of her with her parents and siblings, one of her and her sisters, one of her and her brothers, one of her and both parents, and one of her and her mother together, while the rest are of her alone. Grandma's family must have had money, even back then, because these early photographs were not cheap. To have so many of them in one family is almost unheard of. Most people of the time were lucky if they saved enough money to afford one.
Oh, but that picture of her and her mother. I reach out for it as if in a trance, but catch myself as I do. Grizel. She’s unmistakable, even here, where she must have been about a decade older than when I knew her, thanks to backward aging. Even though a century and a half separates us in the photograph, she was the only one who understood how much things changed for me when I went back to the 17th century. She was my guide, my confidante, my rock. I don’t know how I would have made it through those first few months in 1685 without her.
She went back nearly two centuries, while I went back close to three and a half, but we both ended up in the same place, and it was so much more primitive than either of us expected. We both did without so many luxuries we took for granted in our original time periods. We helped each other. And, she’s still there, with Margaret, who will one day be known as Christine, with no hope of ever seeing any of her other children again. Not even Hannah. I so wish I could get to her and help her in some way. Return her to her original family in the 1800’s, even though her eldest daughter, my grandmother, won’t be there. Maybe Margaret could go with her. The history books wouldn’t change in any appreciable way.
A single tear escapes the corner of my right eye; I miss the great-grandmother I never would have met at all had it not been for our shared family tendency to attract time portals. She was more than my long-lost great-grandmother. She was my friend.
Jacob notices the tear, and hands me a cloth handkerchief. I didn’t realize he had one nearby. Matt doesn’t notice. He’s still scowling at the photos. I knew these wouldn’t be enough to convince him, even though the eldest girl in them looks exactly like a young Grandma.
“They’re old family photos,” Matt says, shrugging. “They’re cool. I mean, I’ve never seen them, or any old photos from Grandma’s side, which these obviously are. But, what do they prove?”
“Don’t you recognize the tallest girl? The one who is in every single photo?” Jacob asks, prompting Matt to see what’s right in front of him.
“That’s how I know these are from Grandma’s side. The girl looks just like her. Who was she? Grandma’s own grandmother? The photos are old enough it could be her grandmother as a young girl.”
“You really don’t get it, do you?” I murmur, shaking my head at Matt. He’s smart. He’s so smart. How can he be so dense at the same time?
Matt looks from me to Jacob. We’re both staring back at him, waiting for the truth to hit him. I see it the moment he gets it, when his eyes light up with realization. He lets out an incredulous laugh, like he just discovered he is the only sane person in a world full of lunatics.
“Oh, come on,” he cries, exasperated. “You can’t expect me to believe that girl is Grandma. Living back in some other time? Really?”
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