Authors: Nancy Loyan
Tags: #Romance, #paranormal
She had the urge to laugh at his ranting and raving and his thinking that she was a gypsy because she was from the future. This wasn’t a laughing matter, though. She was as confused as he was about the turn of events. How can one explain that which defies explanation?
“Is that what you really think?”
“What else am I to think? That you dropped out of the sky from one hundred years hence? What nonsense!” He pulled the cloth off her forehead and threw it in the basin, causing a splash.
“You’re a doctor, a scientific man. I should think if anyone could understand my plight it would be you.”
He stood. “Don’t toy with me. As soon as you are well enough, you can reunite with your clan on the Barbary Coast. You can go cast your spells on some unsuspecting oaf!”
He abruptly turned and marched out of the room.
She lay in bed wondering what was to become of her.
Faith gazed in the oval hand mirror that Bridget had lent her. The haunting reflection made her gasp. Gone was her perfectly chiseled face, replaced by sunken cheeks, angular bones, and hollow eyes. Her glowing ivory complexion had turned pasty and sallow. Her eyebrows needed tweezing and dark roots were growing out from the center part of her hair. “California blonde” was returning to mousy brunette. In disgust, she threw the mirror at her side on the bed, closed her eyes and settled back against the pillows. No wonder Doctor Forrester had been avoiding her.
A gentle knock rapped on her door.
“Come in,” Faith said, opening her eyes.
Bridget ambled in with a silver tray laden with a tea set, scones, and teacakes. She set down the tray on the bedside table with a rattle and turned to Faith.
“Tea time, ma’am. Some sweets to put some meat on your bones.”
“Don’t drill it in, Bridget.” Faith sighed. “I know how dreadful I look.”
“Nothing that some food and time can’t heal.”
“And some Clairol.”
“What ma’am?” Bridget tilted her head, stray strands of carrot red hair escaping from her starched, frilled cap.
“Oh, you wouldn’t understand. I just took so much for granted: peroxide, hair coloring, makeup, manicures,” Faith said, inspecting her ragged nails and chipped red polish.
Bridget shook her head, her gaze puzzled.
“I just want to return to normal.”
“Ma’am, if your appearance is bothering you, perhaps I can be of some assistance. Before coming to work for the good doctor, I had been a lady’s maid. I can help you with your toilette,” Bridget said, beaming with self-assurance.
“I would be a challenge.”
“It would be my pleasure.” Bridget smiled, her apple cheeks glowing.
“Looking good is akin to feeling good.”
Faith met her gaze. “You have been so kind to me. I’ll put myself in your hands.”
“After you’ve had your tea I’ll return with my bag and I’ll see what I can do.”
• • •
Later, Bridget returned and eased Faith into a wicker chair. She opened her satchel of grooming aids. Faith watched in fascination as Bridget withdrew items from the bag like a magician revealing props. These props, though, were grooming aids from another era. The five-prong waving iron, a braided wire hair roll, a tortoiseshell pompadour comb, and boar bristle brush were considered antiques by Faith.
“It’s been so long since I’ve worked for a lady,” Bridget said, picking up the hairbrush, she stepped behind Faith and began to brush her thick and tangled mane in caressing strokes.
The effect was soothing and was the first grooming Faith had had since entering this bewildering time and place.
“You work magic with that brush.”
“That’s quite a compliment, ma’am, coming from a gypsy and all.”
“Do you really believe I’m a gypsy?”
“I don’t know otherwise. I’ve always been quite fascinated with gypsies.”
“Sorry to disappoint you but, contrary to what Doctor Forrester believes, I am not a gypsy. I’m a schoolteacher.”
“Ma’am, it isn’t my place to question but … ” Bridget hesitated.
“I was wondering. Where did you come from?”
“If I told you the truth you’d think me insane. Let me say that I come from a strange place far away that no longer exists. I am a refugee without a home or family.” She choked on her words, feeling as lost and alone as an astronaut on Mars. The worst part was, she didn’t know how or why.
Bridget stopped brushing and stood for a moment in contemplative silence.
“Bridget, I’m sorry I can’t answer your question more thoroughly now. In time you’ll learn the truth,” she said, glancing back at the maid.
Bridget took a step back.
“Please, trust me rather than fear me. I really want to be your friend. God knows, I need a friend.” Faith met Bridget’s confused gaze.
“Oh.” Bridget sighed as if a load had been taken off her back. “Why should I fear you? I, too, am a refugee. Left my homeland in Ireland. Left my family and all my friends to begin a new life here.”
“So you can understand my plight?”
She nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
While Bridget continued to brush her hair, Faith tried to contemplate her future. Wasn’t it ironic that she would be starting a new life in a different place and time? Rather, same place, different time. If she was back in her modern world, she would also be starting over. Either way, hers would be a new life without Brad. Just thinking about Brad made her seethe. This entire predicament was his fault.
“Ouch,” Faith squealed as her hair was yanked.
“Sorry, ma’am, just a nasty tangle.”
Faith glanced back at Bridget and smiled. She really did need a friend. She needed someone to help her adjust to life in this old new world. Bridget, who seemed so trusting and caring, could teach her. After all, she had come over from Ireland and had learned to survive. One thing Faith knew was that she, herself, was a survivor.
• • •
“Now, isn’t that better?” Bridget asked with a contented grin. She handed Faith the hand mirror and stepped back to admire her handiwork.
With hesitation, Faith accepted the mirror and peered into it. This time, the reflection shone more to her liking. The upswept pompadour hairstyle was quite elegant and refined. Faith had never worn her hair up before and was surprised at the Gibson Girl effect. Bridget had even done a commendable job of hiding the dark roots. She sighed. If she only had her foundation, blusher, mascara, and a dab of lipstick.
“Is something wrong, ma’am?” Bridget asked.
“You’re a genius at hair styling. If I just wasn’t so pale.”
“But a lily-white complexion is a sign of beauty.”
Faith shook her head, setting down the mirror. There was so much to get used to.
“Bridget, my hair is lovely but I can’t go about in a nightgown. Could you bring me my clothes?”
“You mean the things you were wearing when the good doctor found you?” She frowned.
“Yes, my clothes.”
“Ma’am, you can’t be seen out and about in those.”
“And why not?”
Bridget made a clucking sound with her tongue, turned on her heels, and walked over to the dresser. Out of a drawer she removed Faith’s clothes. She waved the tan leather miniskirt like a flag in front of her.
“Your clothes have shrunk. This is most indecent.” She tossed the miniskirt on the bed.
She picked up the silk ribbed turtleneck. “This is unacceptable.”
She threw the sweater on the bed and retrieved the nude pantyhose, a thong bikini, and a lacy Wonderbra. “And these. I don’t know what they are but they seem like something a proper lady wouldn’t be caught dead wearing!”
Faith covered her mouth with her hand and laughed. Bridget stood before her, hand on her hips like a den mother with a stern gaze and an attitude to match. Faith continued to laugh. The whole scene seemed too preposterous to be true. After the laughter came tears. She looked at each article of clothing and grasped them to her chest, one by one. They were all she had, the only reminders of her previous life, a life that was her past, and, seemingly, not her future.
“Ma’am?” Bridget glanced down and smoothed her apron. “I’m sorry if I’ve upset you.”
Faith sniffled. “No. You were just being honest. You’re right. I can’t wear these things. It’s 1906, isn’t it?”
Bridget nodded, looking up.
“What does the well-dressed woman of 1906 wear?”
“You really don’t know?”
“Not exactly. Can you help me?”
“I can go up to my quarters and see what I can do. This past year I’ve gained a wee bit of weight and some of my clothes just don’t fit. Perhaps they can be altered for you.”
“Oh, Bridget, you are a saint. Please go check.”
• • •
The cotton shirtwaist was a little big but Faith’s padded bra did fill it out and the white blouse did tuck neatly into the gray Melton cloth skirt. Even without a corset, the skirt fit well, a credit to Bridget’s skill with a needle and thread. Over Bridget’s objections, Faith donned her pantyhose and slipped her feet into a worn pair of Bridget’s black oxfords. Though a little snug, they did complement the somber outfit. She just wished that she hadn’t lost her kidskin pumps in the Bay during the accident.
Faith stood, and with Bridget’s assistance, paced her bedroom. At least her strength had returned and she was able to walk, albeit slowly. There was so much to learn and re-learn. When she approached the rosewood wardrobe, she stopped to inspect her appearance in the full-length beveled mirror. She looked like a dowdy nun even though Bridget assured her she was in fashion. Though she was fully attired, something was missing. As she touched her forefinger to her earlobe she remembered.
“Bridget, what happened to the jewelry I was wearing when I came here?” She hoped that they hadn’t been stolen prior to her arrival. The way things were going, anything seemed possible.
“The jewelry, ma’am?”
“Yes, my earrings, necklace, wristwatch, bracelet, and ring?”
“Oh. Doctor Forrester put them away for safe keeping.”
“He did, did he? Now that I’m feeling better I would like them returned.”
“You will have to ask the doctor.”
Faith pivoted to face her. “Let’s go and ask him. He is home? I heard voices in the house.”
“He’s entertaining in the front parlor. It may not be wise to disturb him.”
“Considering the fact that he’s rarely home, I think it’s as good a time as any.”
Faith hobbled toward the open door and stepped out into the upstairs hall. For a moment she stood still, surveying the flocked wall covering, glimmering stained-glass window and transom on the landing, and the handrails and banisters of the mahogany staircase. Everything was almost the same as when it was her home in 2006. Even the wall covering had a similar neutral pattern and beige hue. The familiarity of the surroundings made her shiver. She hugged herself.
“When I descend the staircase, the front parlor is on the left. The fireplace mantel is carved marble, a French antique,” Faith murmured, remembering.
“How do you know?” Bridget asked. “You’ve never been downstairs and I’ve never told you.”
“I just know,” Faith replied, beginning her descent down the steep stairs, grasping the handrails for support and calculating her every step. As she looked down, she noticed that even the Persian runner was similar in design to the one she had purchased and placed.
Bridget hovered close behind.
“This isn’t a good idea,” Bridget whispered.
“It’s my idea. What are you afraid of?”
Upon reaching the newel post, she stepped into the foyer. The parquet floor was as shiny and buffed as she had kept it. A complementing Persian scatter rug was placed in the exact same spot where she had hers. She drew a deep breath. Even the scent of freshly cut flowers wafted from a vase set on a hall table just as she would have in her home. Wasn’t this her home, too?
She turned and glided into the parlor with an air of confidence.
Doctor Forrester’s dark eyes met hers. Under slanted brows they glared like the burning embers in the hearth that he stood adjacent to. A woman’s back was facing the door. Her petite hourglass figure was silhouetted in front of the doctor’s dark, towering form. Both were formally attired in fine silk, he in a black tuxedo, and she in a navy ball gown.
“What is it, Doctor?” the woman asked in a girlish whine, turning to face the doorway and the subject of his rapt attention.
She was an attractive young creature. Strawberry blonde hair was pouffed up in a pompadour in front and taken up at the back to a chignon on top of her small head. Three pale pink feathers decorated her hair. Her features were delicate, set in a classically oval face. Her complexion was flawless, unblemished by age or the elements. Her pale green eyes, though, had a fire in them, revealing a girl who was used to getting her way, Young and spoiled, Faith thought. She also thought that the navy gown was a bit harsh, even with its pale pink cummerbund and underskirt, for such a young woman.
Faith looked away from the girl and focused her attention on the doctor, who looked a little too old to be with such a young woman and seemed agitated to have his liaison interrupted. Even men in this era are after young stuff, Faith thought.
“I wish to speak to the doctor,” Faith requested, trying to ignore his icy stare, feeling as if she were being x-rayed.
“Who are you?” the young woman asked, and turning to the doctor, fluttering her spidery eyelashes, “Who is she? A patient you keep locked away in the attic?”
“She — ”
“Miss Donahue is the new governess,” Bridget chimed in, entering the room from the foyer.
“What?” Faith choked on the word.
Bridget came to her side and nudged her with an elbow in the ribs. “Yes, Miss Donahue is … is … the new governess. That’s who she … is,” the doctor stammered.
“But, darling, I thought it was decided I would be choosing Andrew’s new governess. I am, after all, your betrothed and soon to be Andrew’s new mother.” The young woman pouted, gazing up demurely at the doctor.
“I know, Constance, but … but Andrew needed someone now. With all the poor lad’s gone through you can surely understand?” the doctor assured with a forced smile.