Sarah, Returned--Chapter 44 (A Steemit Original Novel)
With a familiar whooshing sound, the portal snaps shut, leaving me stranded in 2017 for now, but maybe--please God, maybe--with a reason to stay. Everything is hazy and wavy from the tears filling my eyes. Still, with the blazing portal gone, I can see the shadow was not one, but six people....five little figures before me, and one tall one, clearly outlined in the dark by reflections of light from the town below.
Clara. David. Hannah. Thomas. Patience.
Hannah is holding David’s hand, Clara a few steps in front of them. Joshua holds Thomas by one hand and Patience by the other. My babies. My love. Here. How?
And, the children are the same ages they were when I left them. Joshua, however, is noticeably younger; he was 32 when I left him. Now, he looks like he could be 20, like me. Jacob said the number of years someone reverse ages depends on how old they are when they travel. Maybe Grizel was right when she once theorized anyone who hadn't reached puberty yet wouldn't age regress; we talked about that one day when wondering how the age regression thing would work with a baby. I guess I have our answer.
I wipe the tears away on my arm, leaving a stain of mascara behind. They won’t know I’m happy if they see me crying. Well, Hannah and Joshua will. The other children are too young to understand that emotion. I don’t want them to think I’m sad they came to find me. It’s a freaking miracle.
“Oh my God,” Matt whispers behind me, stunned. “It’s real. It’s all real. Grandma’s video could have been faked, though I didn't think it was, but this….this….” He trails off, amazed. I understand. It’s like discovering Santa Clause is real. There will be time to help Matt process everything later. Right now, I have a husband and children to welcome back to me.
“Oh, come here, come here,” I call to them, still on my knees, so I’m at the children’s level. All five run the three or so yards to where I kneel on the ground, and throw their tiny arms around me. I spread my arms wide and take them all in at once, holding them to me tight. Joshua follows at a discreet distance, giving us our moment of reunion. There will be time for a more private one with him, later. Just knowing he’s here is enough for now.
“Mama, where were you?” David’s tiny baby voice asks. He’s so smart; David started talking younger than any of the other children. At only two years old, he’s already speaking in complete, complex sentences. In a century with technology, he might be a great scientist or inventor. A century like this one.
Are we staying?
“I had to go visit my cousin and uncle, sweetie,” I tell him, brushing my hand through his baby-fine brown hair. You remember me telling you about Cousin Matt, who was like a brother to me? And Great-Uncle Jacob? They missed me, and I needed to go be with them for a while. I was coming back to you, I promise.”
“Papa said you might not be able to come back,” Hannah says, upset. “He said we had to go to you.”
“I would never abandon you,” I assure her, putting a hand on her shoulder. “I always intended to return.”
“We know,” Clara whispers into the crook of my neck. “Papa wasn’t sure if you could return. We all knew you wanted to. He said it was a perilous and uncertain journey.” She mimics Joshua perfectly and I let out a little laugh. At nine years old, Clara is a keen observer of people and nature, and eager to learn everything. She’s also a bit precocious, which is an underappreciated trait in children in the 17th century; I, on the other hand, have always found it adorable.
So caught up am I in my unexpected reunion with my family, I forget Matt is among us. When he steps up behind me and puts a hand on my shoulder, I almost jump, thinking it’s a stranger who witnessed six people in colonial garb coming out of a portal of light. His voice relaxes me in an instant, as I remember he came up the hill with me.
“Are you going to introduce me?” he asks softly, not wanting to startle anyone. He’s got to know these are my kids and my husband. I don’t think any of that needs to be said.
I look up from the jumble of tiny people in my arms, the place I always want them to be in any century, and crane my neck back to see him smiling at us. “Matt, these are your first cousins, one time removed. My children. Let me introduce you to Hannah, Clara, Thomas, Patience, and David. And, this handsome gentleman standing behind them is my husband, Joshua.” It’s the first time I’ve acknowledged Joshua since he came through the portal, and I glimpse a hint of a smile on his lips where he stands in the shadows when I say his name. “Children, this is your cousin Matt, the one I always told you about, who helped my grandmother raise me. Remember?”
“Of course,” Clara says, and the others nod their agreement. Matt moves around to my side, and all five children run to him as he kneels and opens his arms. A smile pulls at the upper corner of my lip. I can’t help it. It’s so touching to see them all together. I never imagined a moment like this would come. It’s magical.
Matt then stands up, tiny hands and arms still clinging to him, steps forward, and shakes hands with Joshua, clapping him on the shoulder with one hand. I feel a lump forming in my throat as tears well up in my eyes. Matt is officially welcoming them all to the family. He does it so easily, accepting all these people from the distant past he’s never met before, making them all welcome with one simple gesture. I love Matt so much. Karen was never worthy of him. Next time, I’ll be the one to play matchmaker for my cousin.
After the introductions and welcoming hugs, we all sit on the grass together, Matt and Joshua on either side of me, David in my lap, Patience in Matt’s, Thomas in Joshua’s, and Clara and Hannah in front of us. It’s time to have a real family reunion.
As I suspected, Hannah knows more about the real story than the other kids. They are all happy to see me, but she also has information and is eager to share it. Joshua is happy to let her, as she is practically bouncing with excitement.
“Is this 2017?” she asks, looking all around her, taking a particular interest in the lights coming up from the town below the hill.
“Yes.” I nod. “Papa told you?”
“Yes,” she affirms. “When you disappeared, he said that is probably where you went. He said you would be turning over heaven and earth to find a way back to us, but he did not know if you could. After you were gone for two months, he said we had to find a way to go to you.”
“I was gone two months?” That’s surprising. I’ve only been back in 2017 for two days. Then again, it was a surprise to find out I’d been gone a month here, when I’d spent 14 years in the 17th century. That explains why David looks a little taller. They grow so quickly at that age.
“It was a long time, Mama,” five-year-old Patience says, almost accusingly.
“I didn’t mean to be gone that long, darling. It’s only been two days since I arrived here. Time moves differently at home than it does where Cousin Matt lives.” It’s not much of an explanation, but it’s be best I can come up with at the moment. Thankfully, she accepts it, and resumes playing with Matt’s hands, as she looks off toward the side of the hill. The kids are going to be so fascinated by the street lights when we go down there.
“Papa told us you came to Dover by touching an old earring that belonged to your grandmother. It’s a magic earring, is it not it, Mother?” Hannah asks. At 12 years old, Hannah is the only one of the children who calls me Mother instead of Mama, something she started doing a couple of years ago. I wonder if Clara will start doing it, too, when she turns 10 next year.
“That’s a good way to describe it,” I agree. Joshua and I never taught the kids anything was evil just because we didn’t understand it. Considering the way I got to the 17th century, and the fact my grandmother traveled through time, and her mother and grandfather before her, we thought it best to raise them with open minds. It was definitely a departure from every other Quaker family in the colonies, but suitable for our situation. Thankfully, Quakers are big believers in minding your own business, so no one ever questioned us on our parenting techniques.
“Did you use something of mine to come here?” I ask, looking to Joshua. As much as I’m loving hearing Hannah’s vivid tale, I think he should field this one.
“Your grandmother’s memory box,” he says, that gentle baritone voice of his washing over me like a mystic rain, calming and soothing me to my soul. It’s so good to hear it again, when I wasn’t certain I ever would. “No one ever touched it but you. Remember how you would not allow it? You even locked it in that chest and threw away the key.” He laughs at the memory of my fierce protection of my family, lest anyone touch that box and be lost to me.
“Based on what we talked about, with what happened to your grandmother and great-grandmother,” he continues, “I thought it might work. So, after you had been gone long enough I thought you might not be able to come back, I took matters into my own hands. I used a hatchet to smash through the lock on the chest, and removed the memory box. I picked it up with a piece of wool, remembering your warnings. With the box wrapped in wool, I took it outside, all the way to the back part of our fields, past the cows and chickens, beyond the crops, and brought all the children with me. Once we were so far away from the house no neighbors would see us, I unwrapped it and put my hand on it. When I did, a big white circle of light appeared, and started pulling the children and me toward it. It pulled so hard, we could not even turn around to look at our house and lands one more time. The next thing we knew, we were all in the light, floating. And, after a moment, the light pushed us out, to you.”
I consider all Joshua said for a moment, amazed. It worked. Just like Grandma and Professor Johnson thought it would. Just as Grizel and I theorized it might. It worked. And, it brought my family to me. Because Joshua could come, maybe anyone can travel; there might not be a genetic component to it. Or, Joshua shares whatever gene my family has that allows us to do it, the same gene Hannah inherited from Grizel, and my birth children inherited from me. Either way, it is an absolute miracle, and I am beyond grateful to the powers that be for opening the way for them to come to me.
And, I was right to not let anyone touch that box. Honestly, I feel a bit vindicated, as Joshua always teased me so much about my overprotectiveness of it. He said I was more careful with Grandma’s memory box than I was with the children. But, it turns out, it was with good reason.
Going by Grandma's findings, the box could have opened a portal for me again, when I thought it wouldn't; since I was the one who brought it through time, it would have had to be an intentional opening on my part. But, anyone else with the ability to travel could open a portal to anywhere just by touching it. Joshua must have been thinking of me when he did it, for the portal to bring him to the correct place and time. He knew what to do, without anyone telling him, before I even knew the true mechanics of time travel.
True love can do amazing things.
I look at Joshua, shaking my head in amazement. “Joshua Hanson, you are a wonder of a man.”
“I know,” he grins, his whole face lighting up with delight, even in the dark at the top of the hill. “It is nice to hear you say it, though.”
“Well, what shall we do now? Will we open another portal and go back? Or, are we staying?”
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