Authors: Hillary Kanter
Tags: #Romance: Fantasy - Historical - Time Travel - Humor
“I see,” Serenity said.
“Even the movie stars aren’t the same today as in those days. Even guys like Brad Pitt. Do I ever dream of him? Hell no. Now someone like Clark Gable? That’s what I’m talking about. They don’t make them like that anymore.”
The psychic listened intently, then reached into the pocket of her long, flowing skirt. She lifted into view a tiny cut-crystal heart on a chain. “Take this,” she said, placing it in my palm.
“Please. I can tell you’re just the right person for it, and I promise your luck will change,” she added, with a strange smile. “As long as you wear it, until the day you give it away, you’ll have all the romance and adventure and charismatic men you could ever dream of.”
Well, that was quite the claim. Crystal balls, crystal hearts, and clueless as to how the real world worked. But it
pretty. It glinted in the light as though it contained a small fire inside.
“Thanks,” I said, dumping it into my purse.
Yes, indeed. This was the most
reading I’d ever experienced. At least this time I hadn’t flushed down the toilet a hundred-dollar bill that would be of more use wiping my ass.
“Now,” the psychic added, “I’m going to rid you of all negative vibrations.”
Negative? Who, me?
Serenity lit what looked like a fat stick of incense but stank more like poo, closed her eyes, waved the stick over my head, and chanted in some dialect I didn’t recognize. Her chants were intensifying when that stick got a little too close and my hair caught fire—just on one side, thank God. I started screaming. The other women ran to peek around the curtain and stared in horror. The psychic’s eyes snapped open, and she threw her glass of water in my face to douse the flames.
For me, the party was
It is the end to another sucky weekend. I do adore Fridays, though, because of my weekly appointments with my good-looking therapist.
When I tell Mr. Perfect that my time with him is the pinnacle of my week, he tells me that’s “not a good sign.” Well, I don’t think it’s a “good sign” that I haven’t kissed a man in six months! My friend Lola, who happens to be
told me she actually just kissed a guy after throwing back a few mojitos at a bar down in the meat-packing district. Shit. When your lesbian friend is kissing more men than you are, you know you’re in trouble.
Looking for something to do, I took another bunch of photos of my cats again this weekend. Shot after shot after shot. I’m no great photographer, but I think they’re pretty good. For three weeks in a row, I’ve emailed them to my sister. She finally emailed me back, wondering if I’d ever actually thought of including people in any of my pictures.
I never answered back.
THE LAST DAIQUIRI
If we’re honest, do we ever really know what life’s shocks—physical or psychological, real or imagined—will do to us?
I certainly didn’t.
It had snowed for the past three days in Sun Valley, Idaho, and white glistened on the branches of the evergreens like diamonds in the sun. I was “flying solo” on this ski trip, having just broken up for the umpteenth and final time with Mr. Sociopath. A little thing such as a break-up was no reason to cancel a trip I’d so looked forward to.
The jolt, if I can call it that, happened on the last run of my fifth and final day. The late-afternoon shadows were growing long, the temperatures beginning to fall. This was no easy mountain. It was intimidating and steep, never allowing me to catch my breath. I was cold and tired. A narrow catwalk led to another part of the slopes, but even that trail did not run flat.
I lost my balance and fell, spinning around, hitting my head so hard that I saw stars. I lay splattered in the middle of the trail like some skier road-kill, the wind knocked out of me, my hat and goggles and ski poles scattered in different directions.
A lady stopped and told me she was a nurse. She asked if I was okay, if my vision was blurred—which it was not—and several other questions to determine whether I’d suffered a concussion. I had not. I told her I felt good enough to ski down the mountain, and I proved it by doing so—albeit, a bit shakier than when I’d started the day.
By that evening a big bump had appeared on my head. I didn’t feel quite right, so I ordered up dinner from room service and crawled into bed with a book.
Between the covers—of the book, of course—I snuggled up with Ernest Hemingway. Ahem … I mean his letters. I found a book that contained ones he had written throughout his life to various friends and lovers, and let’s just say I was enamored. I definitely could have fallen in love with this guy, had I lived back then. I clutched my new cut-crystal heart to my throat, and thought about how romantic and interesting Hemingway must have been. Not at all like the men I dated.
Eventually, these thoughts lulled me asleep, and when I later awoke, I could only surmise that I had slipped into a dream. I had no reason to believe otherwise—until, of course, much later.
This was the first of many odd journeys I would forge into the past.
I opened my eyes to the 1920s …
It was a hot spring day, and I was traveling by train from Miami to Key West. I’d been lucky to grab an empty seat by a window. The train was crowded. There were men a little rough around the edges whom I took to be fisherman, and couples in linen pants and fancy hats that I supposed were upper-class tourists who had heard about Key West while vacationing in Miami. The man across the aisle from me was reading a brand-new, shiny, hardcover copy of Ernest Hemingway’s
The Sun Also Rises.
As my train wound its way to the southernmost tip of the United States, I touched the hem of my blue silk dress, noticing the strange shoes and hat I was wearing. These clothes did not reside in my closet. I did not recognize them. All the women on the train wore the same garb, typical 1920s or ‘30s attire.
From my window, I caught a familiar glimpse of the Florida Keys. The water reflected the color of the sky, varying from deep shades of turquoise to light emerald green. It sparkled in the sun, stunningly, blindingly beautiful. Masses of mangrove trees teemed with herons and waterfowl. We passed clapboard bungalow houses raised on stilts—to allow storm surges to go under, as opposed to over—and an occasional diner or two; in essence, just small shacks serving fish.
Upon arrival at the station in Key West, I was greeted by a man and woman who seemed to recognize me. As a history buff, I had seen their pictures—Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley. I had no idea why they were waiting for me, but hey, here they were.
And apparently they knew me.
The newspaper in Hadley’s hand stated that it was May 7, 1926. This confirmed my earlier suspicions on the train.
“Ariel.” Looking radiant in her flowing white skirt and straw hat, Hadley gave me a hug. “Come meet Ernest.”
“Well, hello.” Ernest stretched out a large hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Gulp. “It’s nice to meet you too,” I said, barely able to speak. After looking me up and down for several moments, he said, “Say, what an interesting necklace you have there.”
I looked down and saw a familiar tiny heart dangling from my neck. I had forgotten I was wearing it.
“Uh, thank you,” I said.
“This is great, Ariel. I’ve heard so much about you.”
I gulped hard again and hoped he did not sense my astonishment. Maybe he was confusing me with someone else. How could he know anything about me? After all, I had only written articles for a few magazines—in my own timeframe, over eighty years from now!—and my first book had yet to be published.
“Likewise,” I played along. “And … congratulations on your new book.”
He nodded. Wearing khaki trousers and a white linen shirt with sleeves rolled to the elbow, he was tall and ruggedly handsome, but it was his genuine smile that most captured my attention.
“Come on,” Hadley said. “Let Ernest give you a hand with your things, and we’ll take you to the house where you can freshen up. You must be awfully hot and tired.”
She was right. I felt like a wilted, dead thing. I climbed into their convertible, and after the lack of air-conditioning on that train, the drive with the wind blowing in my face revived me.
Their house stood at 907 Whitehead Street. Ah, yes. I had visited this famed Hemingway residence as a child, when my family brought me to the Keys.
Nothing had changed. Funny that what I was seeing now in the ’20s I had visited in the ’70s. I remembered my parents telling me the design was commonly known as a “Conch” house. Built in 1851, it had wrought iron railings and wraparound terraces from front to back. Coconut palm trees surrounded the property. A large orange cat with six toes—one of many cats on the premises—sprawled lazily on the front steps licking its paws.
In my small room on the second floor, I began unpacking.
Hadley knocked at the door. “At six, we’re going to a restaurant around the corner for the best fish you’ve ever had in your life. Are you hungry?”
“I’m starving,” I replied.
“Well, come downstairs when you’re finished, and we’ll fix you a drink. I imagine you could use one.”
Right again. I’d say finding oneself on a train in the past, headed to Key West for God knows what reason,
being met by Ernest Hemingway and his wife who apparently
, were good reasons for a drink.
After freshening up, I joined Ernest in the large living room. Leopard- and tiger-skin rugs spread across the old wooden floors. Several deer heads with beady black eyes stared down at me from the wall, and I shivered because they were just a little too real. Ernest had shot them in Africa, where, as my own literary readings informed me, he was known as the “great white hunter.” I bypassed comfortable-looking couches and sank with a sigh into one of the overstuffed rattan chairs, between tropical blue and green pillows.
Hemingway intrigued me. The men I was accustomed to did no such thing, and I had no desire to jump forward to that world again. With zero idea where this was headed, my best option was to sit back and play along.
Hadley walked in with a baby. I saw the nanny hovering behind her in the doorway. “Ariel,” Hadley said, “this is Bumby. His name’s actually John Hadley, but we usually go with his nickname. It’s past his nap time, but I wanted you to meet him.”
Bumby looked like a two-year-old clone of his father. I reached out and shook his tiny hand before his parents sent him off with the nanny to the nursery.
Ernest walked to the corner mahogany bar and turned to me. “Would you like to try one of my specialties? I make a mean strawberry daiquiri.”
He poured me one, handed another to Hadley, then made one for himself. “Be careful, if you’re not used to drinking much. This stuff will have you speaking in tongues.” He laughed.
I don’t know what was in it. I don’t remember tasting the alcohol at all. We had two a piece, which produced an unbelievable high—and did so quickly. Reality faded behind a thin veil.
“We’d better go get some dinner before we can’t even walk,” Hadley said. She left the room in search of her purse.
“I’ll second that,” I said, at the same time as Ernest.
I don’t think Hadley heard our synchronized response.
The restaurant was only a block and a half from the house, and we walked through a balmy night with seemingly every star in the galaxy visible. We were shown to our table where, some might say, Hadley was the one to blame, if anyone, for the coming events.
was the one who seated me between her and her husband. And it wouldn’t be the last time either. She did so, I can only imagine, because she thought it would be easier for Ernest and I to become acquainted.
Before long we were drinking daiquiris again and laughing. Ernest relayed stories of their travels to Spain; of their good friends, the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda; and of Ernest’s personal passion for fishing. By the third drink, I felt I had known him a long time.
The three of us formed a strange little triangle. Ernest was flirty with me, which I, of course, tried my best to ignore. Hadley didn’t seem to notice … and that
surprise me. Was she simply too tired and distracted, being the mother of a toddler? Or was there trouble on the home front?
At one point, Ernest turned to me and said, “Ariel, Hadley tells me you’re a writer too, and you’re working on a book.”
“Guilty as charged,” I replied. How did Hadley know, since we’d just met? It was one mysterious thing after another. “But it isn’t published just yet.”
“I’ll look forward to reading it when it is.”
I chuckled inside. He would have to live, what, like another eighty-years-plus to see that day? That would make him over a hundred years old in my time.
The next day, after swimming and browning ourselves in the sun, the evening cocktail hour found us partying harder than ever. Ernest took us to his favorite bar, Sloppy Joe’s. With small wooden tables and numerous large fish mounted on the walls, it was little more than a shack with peanut shells on the floor. But this was his watering hole, a festive place where all the locals and bartenders knew him.
Tan and happy, I felt Ernest gazing at me. He leaned in closer to talk, his hand grazing my bare shoulder and sending electric currents through my body. I was sober enough at that point—which I would not be for the rest of the evening—to actually think about what was going on.
Then again, I had only had
daiquiris and the night was young.
Not long after, the three of us left to dine down the street at the same place as the night before. Hadley once more seated me next to Ernest, and this time placed herself across the table. Ernest, again in fine form, entertained us with funny stories and jokes.