"Past or Present" Chapter 3
Stephanie sat on the bed in Victoria’s room and wondered what would happen if she fell asleep? Would she wake up back in her own life time? She hoped so, she didn’t have much faith she would, but she hoped so.
The wind outside whistled as it whipped around the farmhouse and it rattled the bedroom windows. Stephanie hugged herself for warmth because the loose fitting nightgown of soft cotton offered very little protection against the chill in the room and without her warm, body hugging underwear, that her dresser drawer at home was filled with; she was chilled in unusual places.
When she'd walked into the farmhouse earlier she was informed by the maid, whose name she couldn’t ask, that her husband had retired for the evening. Thankfully, the maid noticed her leaning on the large stick and helped her to her bedroom. It was also a plus that Victoria and Harrison apparently didn't share a bedroom, but Stephanie wasn’t surprised by that fact. The maid also offered to help her undress but she declined that offer.
She’d tossed off the dress, petticoats and bustle and that last offensive garment was hanging off the chaise lounge where she’d thrown it. She promised herself she’d find a way to leave it off, if she were still here tomorrow. Hopefully, she wouldn’t be.
The howling of the wind grew louder and another chill raced through her as she pulled the blanket from the bed and wrapped herself in it for warmth. If she could have packed for this trip, she’d have been better prepared. She knew it would be freezing on December nights in Hastings on the Hudson and with that thought she paused to consider the strange circumstances that led her here.
How did she end up in Hastings anyway?
The man she was going to interview lived in Dobbs Ferry and she’d programmed the directions into her cell phone’s GPS. When and why had her GPS stopped working, taking her off the right path, making her lose her way and causing her to have that accident by the tree? The tree that was down the road from this farmhouse. Was it a coincidence? Not very likely; it felt predestined, as if fate were playing with her existence.
Stephanie shivered but this time the cold she felt was internal and bone chilling deep. How could she survive a time line she didn’t belong in? Tomorrow was a scary monster waiting to consume her unless she woke up from this nightmare?
The deep darkness outside her window only added to her gloom. The house was deathly quiet and she was wide awake and without a clock in her room she could only guess at the time but it didn’t matter; she was not one eye sleepy and her fear was an energetic companion.
It was pointless to stay in bed. She pulled the blanket tightly around her and walked to the small desk in the darkened corner of the room and lit the oil lamp. It illuminated the area.
The writing desk gave her a feeling of déjà and she suddenly had a clear memory of sitting at this desk.
The little mahogany, writing desk had been a present to Victoria from her father when she’d turned sixteen but it was Stephanie remembering that moment now…and she remembered something else too…something secretive. She sat down at the desk and opened a tiny drawer hidden from view in an intricate pattern on the left side of the desk. She reached her hand into the back of it and smiled when she felt the tiny latch she knew would be there. It clicked softly and a panel under the desk opened to reveal a hidden drawer. She opened the little drawer and smiled when she saw what it held.
She’d just found Victoria’s diary.
Victoria had faithfully written in that diary everyday from the age of sixteen, posting her first entry on her birthday and all of her most intimate thoughts thereafter. The discovery would certainly help her navigate this life more convincingly and might even help her to fix what had gone wrong between Victoria and Harrison.
The leather bound book was held tightly in her hand as she walked back to the bed and sat down. She fluffed up the pillows behind her then snuggled back comfortably as she opened the diary to page one, dated June 12th 1895.
Victoria was growing tired of all the sorrowful looks this nurse, who had told her she was in a hospital, was giving her. Why didn’t they leave her alone? Why didn’t they let her go home? Even with her detested husband she would gladly leave here.
The nurse took her pulse and asked yet again if her name was Victoria?
“Yes, it is Victoria but I am beginning to think you do not believe me, so what name would you prefer I have?” she asked haughtily.
The nurse smiled kindly and said, “Maybe you'll remember what happened if I tell you what we know.”
“Remember what exactly?”
“Your name is Stephanie Mitchell.”
“Stephanie Mitchell?” Victoria repeated the name. She’d heard it before but the memory was just beyond the fog of her thoughts and she couldn’t retrieve it.
“Does it sound familiar?”
“No. Yes. I don’t know but I do know it is not my name,” she declared with vehemence over the sudden buzzing in her head. The pain was back and her eyes wanted to close out the bright lights.
The nurse worried she’d upset her patient and quickly changed the subject.
“Maybe you’re hungry, would you like something to eat?” The nurse moved the tray table holding a covered tray of food closer to the bed.
Victoria turned her head slowly and touched the odd little white fork next to the plate; it felt unlike any material she’d ever felt before. Would it be sturdy enough to bite down upon? It didn’t appear to be. She reached beyond the odd utensil and picked up a glass filled with water but on closer inspection it appeared to have tiny sparkling bubbles in it and then she heard the nurse say something she didn’t understand.
“What did you say?”
The nurse repeated. “Your friend Melanie said you’d like 7Up but I can get you Pepsi or some other soda, if you like.”
Victoria stared uncomprehendingly at her. What was she talking about? What is a seven up and who is Melanie?” Her head throbbed with a blinding pain and she put the glass down. “I just want to sleep, I need to sleep…” she mumbled softly and fell back upon the pillows.
The nurse quickly moved the tray able away and fixed the covers over her patient. “A concussion will do that, I'll let you sleep for a little while but I’ll have to wake you again in an hour.”
Victoria didn’t answer; she’d already fallen into another dreamless sleep.
Stephanie read Victoria’s personal thoughts and warmed to the glimpses of her happy family life. A life she herself was not a part of but she’d begun to feel an affinity with, as if it were her own life; maybe because she’d been tossed into it.
She turned the next page of the diary and it was a Christmas entry from 1897. Victoria had written lovingly about her family’s celebratory moments and her brother’s silly antics. Her rendition of events blurred Stephanie’s vision with laughter and then tears.
Obviously, Victoria loved her parents and her younger brother Michael very much and their family camaraderie had filled her younger days with so much happiness. It was all laid bare in her writing; the fresh bloom of youth, the innocent dreams and hopes of a young girl whose heart was wide open to love, all evident in her flowery passages.
Stephanie had to wipe tears from her eyes reacting strongly to the thought of family because she missed her own family dearly; a family she may never see again. Her tears fell faster with heart gripping fear that she'd never go home.
Who did this to her and why? And suddenly she stopped to wonder… where had Victoria gone? Could Victoria be living in her life now? If that were true, how the hell were they ever going to make this right again?
Stephanie wanted to reverse this odd life switch but there was no road she could take from here to there, no car to drive and no phone that could connect her to her family. She had no way out of here, no connection to anything back…except for...Harrison.
Now that was a truly depressing thought but it solidified the fact that if she wanted to go home, she’d have to change this life first. It had to be the reason and this date she’d been sent to must be significant too. Okay, these are the clues she'd follow to find a solution just like she did with any news story. Clue one, today was the day this marriage ended so clue tow had to be saving it. That was the most apparent motive for being here, but her journalist's mind wasn't satisfied and wondered...Could there be more to it?
She rifled through the pages of the diary and found where Victoria had first begun to write of Harrison. She wrote that she’d fallen in love with the timber of his voice, the handsomeness of his face, the strength of his shoulders and his kind smile.
Stephanie nearly gagged at the sickeningly sweet prose and loving declarations.
“All this after just one meeting?” Stephanie thought it unrealistic and naive and thinking of Grant in place of Harrison found it totally impossible to believe but reading further, Victoria thought him to be the kind of person she could love for all her days and believed he would be a very loving husband.
Stephanie cringed at her words because all she saw was Grant’s mocking face and felt sick knowing he and Harrison were the same soul, and worse, that these had actually been her sentiments for him, once upon another life. It was so foreign a concept to her now. She just couldn't relate to these emotions of Victoria's.
Family love she understood but Harrison/Grant as her true love…not at all.
She put the book down and lay her head down on the pillow.
Victoria’s memories, as if in defense of her sentiments, crept into her thoughts. Those feelings for Harrison were weaving into her conscience as if they had been her own and Stephanie wasn’t thrilled with the sudden feeling of longing for him they'd brought with them.
She sat up with a sigh of annoyance.
What she needed to know, she decided, was less about what Victoria felt and more about what Harrison felt. It was Harrison she’d have to change and to do that she needed to know what was going on inside his head. She wished he’d kept a diary.
She could go downstairs and search those rooms while every9one was asleep but she couldn’t just run downstairs in her nightgown.
The large wardrobe in the room held Victoria’s clothes. Stephanie riffled through it and found a robe, at least it kind of looked like a robe, but maybe it was more of a dressing gown. It was full length with a sweeping hemline and an intricately embroidered pattern of leaves and flowers outlined with gold thread. It was certainly no ratty, comfortable bathrobe but it was probably what a proper lady wore around the house in 1899.
She fastened the frog clasps on the robe and opened the bedroom door and peeked out; she stood a moment listening to the creaks of the house as it settled. The strong winds outside were still buffeting the house but there were no other sounds, no voices from below stairs. She took a deep breath and stepped out into the hall closing the door with a soft click behind her.
She crept down the stairs, pausing on every step, not wanting to make a creak that might wake someone but actually not wanting to wake him, and then her stomach growled loudly.
Stephanie froze in horror foolishly thinking he might hear it; it sounded loud enough to her. She was hungry, she hadn’t eaten since breakfast that morning and that was hours ago or a century ago either way you looked at it, her stomach wasn’t happy.
She continued down the steps but now her focus had changed from rummaging through Harrison’s personal study to rummaging through one other particular room, and she really hoped there would be something to eat in that primitive kitchen she’d seen earlier.
Grant walked back into the ER’s waiting room and froze at the sight of Sam and Mel waiting for him. What could he tell them, what should he tell them? He didn’t even know what to tell himself.
Sam walked over to Grant.
“Mel said you were able to see Stephanie…so how is she?”
How is she? Grant had no clue what was wrong with her. In fact, he’d need a psychologist and a couple of strong drinks to help him figure out what the hell had happened in that room.
At Grant’s silence Sam prodded worriedly, “It isn’t good?”
Mel started to cry.
Grant shook his head and quickly reassured them both.
“She’s going to be okay. There was a large bruise on the side of her forehead and a smaller one on her left cheek but she was waking up and talking to the nurse just before I left her room.”
Sam and Mel visibly relaxed and Grant was glad he’d calmed them, even if it wasn't the whole truth, it was mostly true. He wasn’t about to elaborate on Stephanie’s strange mental condition. They’d find out soon enough; if they did get to see her tonight and if not there was a good chance she’d be back to normal by tomorrow, so why worry them.
“If she's doing okay, why do you look so pale and worried?” Sam asked skeptically, always the reporter.
“Yeah Grant why?” Mel nodded, thinking he wasn’t telling them everything.
It's hard to fool seasoned journalists, Grant thought, still- he was going to give it his best shot.
“Of course I’m concerned; she looked fragile in that hospital bed but she was waking up and that has to be a good sign, right?” Grant put on his best poker face, he had to, they’d see through anything less then a stellar performance.
Sam nodded but his eyes were still speculative, “I’m sure that wasn’t easy for you and you’re right it is good she’s awake.”
Mel was still concerned, “I hope so but it’s going to be a long night.”
Sam saw that Mel was exhausted. “Hey, if you want to go home Mel, Grant and I can wait here and we’ll call you if there’s any change.”
“No, I couldn’t go home. I’d worry too much. Besides, her mom and sister are trying to get plane tickets right now and I’d just be up talking with them anyway. I may as well stay here and wait,” Mel said and walked back to the seating area.
“Okay, Then Grant why don’t you g-”
“That’s a good idea; I’ll go home and get some sleep. I’ll stop at the office in the morning, make sure everyone knows you’re here and then I’ll come back early, so you both can leave. Sounds like a good plan Sam, I’ll see you both tomorrow.” Grant couldn’t agree or leave fast enough; he needed a good nights sleep and a stiff drink and not in that order.
Sam stared at the violently swinging ER doors Grant had just sprinted through. He didn’t think Grant had really told them all he knew about Stephanie’s condition.
Maybe it was time he talked to one of the nurses or the doctor on duty and asked a few questions of his own.