Authors: Nancy Loyan
Tags: #Romance, #paranormal
As she walked, she felt more like a guest on vacation than a resident of Pacific Heights. In a way she was, going back 100 years. She wondered if their destination had existed in 1906.
Lafayette Park had been her oasis from the concrete jungle that San Francisco had been in 2006. She smiled as they approached the familiar four-block square of community park. Gone were the joggers and Frisbee-dog teams. In their place were governesses pushing babies in netted perambulators or picnicking with their charges. She felt a little out of place. The other governesses were attired in crisp, starched uniforms with matching hats and long gloves. They cast her a frigid glare. She felt naked and, in their eyes, was probably as close to naked as a woman could become in public. Without a hat, elbow-length gloves, and dark stockings, she did look out of place. Why hadn’t Bridget or the doctor warned her about her appearance? Wasn’t the doctor ashamed to have her watching over his son? Maybe he just wanted her to fail as a governess. She began to get knots in her stomach.
As she looked around at the lush green grass and sturdy trees, an eerie fear crept up in her stomach, making her nauseous. The date was April 12. In six days this tranquil city would be destroyed and forever changed by a devastating earthquake and fire.
“What’s wrong, Miss Donahue?” Andrew asked, peering up from the wagon.
She turned to meet his wide-eyed gaze. “Nothing’s wrong, Andrew. Everything will be just fine.”
From that moment on, she assured herself, everything would be fine. She’d see to it. They would get through one of the greatest American catastrophes unscathed. She reached down and lifted Andrew out of the wagon. He grasped his blankie and bear securely in his dimpled hands. He sat on the grass and she knelt down to face him. “Let’s play in the park this morning and enjoy this lovely weather and the calm while we still can.”
• • •
After the excursion to the park and time for cleaning up, Faith joined Andrew in the dining room for lunch. The oval dining table was covered in pastel coral linen and set with sparkling china, sterling, and crystal. Faith set the boy in a booster seat and sat next to him. Bridget entered from the butler’s pantry with a pitcher of freshly squeezed lemonade that she poured into their glasses. As she walked out of the dining room, Doctor Forrester stepped in.
“Miss Donahue,” he said, standing by his chair at the head of the table. “From now on I must ask you take your meals in the servant’s quarters. I also had Bridget move your things up to an appropriate room. It is only proper that those in my employ reside and dine in their appropriate quarters.”
He pulled out his chair, sat, and fanned his linen napkin on his lap. “And what of Master Andrew and his learning of proper etiquette?” Faith asked.
“Miss LaDue will be handling that task after we are married.”
“I hate her!” Andrew squealed.
“Who?” the doctor asked, staring at Faith.
“Miss LaDue! Yuck!” Andrew banged his tiny fist on the table and scrunched up his face.
“You mustn’t say such things. Miss LaDue is to be your mother,” Doctor Forrester said, glancing at his son and Faith, “Apparently your teaching the boy proper etiquette isn’t effective.”
Faith held her tongue, rose from her seat, and stepped away from the table, throwing down her napkin.
“You will have to excuse me. I’m going to have lunch in the servant’s quarters where I am welcome.” She scurried to the doorway, ignoring his intense gaze and satisfied grin.
“Miss Donahue,” the doctor called.
She reluctantly stopped and swiveled to face him.
“I was informed that Andrew enjoyed his visit to Lafayette Park this morning. I’ve planned a picnic for supper. He and Miss LaDue are joining me in Golden Gate Park to fly a new kite.”
“I hope you have an enjoyable time,” she said, turning away. She wanted to tell him where he could fly his kite but bit her tongue.
“Miss Donahue,” he called again.
She turned, rolling her eyes.
“You are coming with us to supervise Andrew.”
• • •
The wide expanse of lush green lawn was the perfect setting for a Saturday outing. A warm, gentle breeze kicking up from the bay made the diamond-shaped kite billow overhead streaming its tail of fabric bows. Andrew touched the string to which the kite was tethered. His eyes were transfixed on the multicolored kite as it climbed higher and higher riding on waves of air. Faith held the ball of string, releasing it through Andrew’s fingers. She feared giving the whole ball to him, knowing that the pull of the kite was far too strong for his grasp. She also didn’t want to lose the object of their entertainment.
She cast a glance at Doctor Forrester who stood poised like a military officer. His hands were knotted behind his back and a satisfied grin shone on his face as he watched his son giggle over the kite. She wondered what he was thinking while gazing at the miniature duplicate of himself. Perhaps, it was of his wife, the boy’s mother. Or was it Constance LaDue, who stood at his side fidgeting from boredom.
Faith wondered what he saw in the girl. She was pretty but not breathtakingly beautiful. Her figure was fair even with the boosts a corset and bustle could provide. Standing next to the doctor, she looked small, like his child, not his betrothed. Faith wondered if she’d ever understand men.
“Oh, the wind is mussing my hair and the bugs, oh, they are so unbearable,” Constance complained, swatting the air with her kidskin-gloved hands.
Faith stifled a laugh at hearing her. Constance hadn’t stopped complaining since they arrived at Golden Gate Park. As a matter of fact, she complained as they motored on over. There was the dust, the speed, and the wind. The girl found a problem with everything and everyone. Faith was sure that she was also an object of the girl’s scorn. Constance always arched her thin brows and huffed when their eyes met. She scrutinized Faith’s disheveled appearance, shaking her head in disapproval.
Faith knew that she looked different but couldn’t help it. Refugees, after all, were never known for their fashion sense or social savvy. If Constance didn’t like her gold jewelry, bare hands, or nude hose, Faith didn’t care. She knew that there was one thing Constance did like. Thanks to Faith, Andrew was kept away. The farther away Andrew was from Constance, the better. The girl lacked the patience and understanding necessary to deal with children, probably because she wasn’t far from being a child herself.
“Oh, Doctor, how long must I stay out here? I shall get freckles,” Constance said, gazing up at the doctor with her fluttering lashes over doe eyes.
“As long as Andrew wants. I promised him an afternoon frolic in the park and a picnic.” He looked down at her with a grin. “Besides, my dear, with your netted hat, parasol, and long gloves, not one sun ray will touch your creamy soft skin.”
Constance drew her hand up to her face to hide her blush.
“That kite has plenty of lift, son,” the doctor yelled.
“Yes, Papa! It wants to carry Miss Donahue away!” Andrew replied.
“I wish it would,” Constance muttered under her breath.
“What, dear?” the doctor asked.
“Lovely day,” Constance said with a smirk.
Faith removed Andrew’s fingers from the string and released more string from the ball, allowing the kite to soar higher. The kite, silhouetted against the blue sky, swayed in the air like a tethered bird fighting to be released. As she let go of more string, Faith ran across the lawn with Andrew in tow. They turned and ran, laughing aloud in joyful glee. Faith hadn’t flown a kite since she was a child and it brought back distant memories.
“Shall we reel her in?” she asked Andrew, standing still.
“Yes! Oh, yes!” Andrew screamed, jumping up and down.
“Here we go.” Faith began to wind in the string. The action took strength, the wind fighting her every step of the way. She pulled and pulled while Andrew cheered her on.
“Papa, Papa! We’re bringing her in!” Andrew yelled.
Doctor Forrester grasped Constance’s arm and led her toward his son and Faith.
Faith struggled with the kite, trying to reel it in but knew that she was losing the battle. She was no match for the powerful air currents. Her fingers were stinging from the string as it slid through them. With one jolt, she felt the string snap. The quick release of tension sent her sprawling face down in the grass.
Andrew stood over her laughing and clapping his hands. When he saw his father approach, he pointed up to the sky where the kite was sailing away on a wave of ocean air.
“Well, she won her freedom,” Faith said, sitting, smoothing her skirt, and regaining her composure.
Doctor Forrester offered her his hand. At first she was going to ignore his offer of assistance and get up on her own. She was an independent woman, wasn’t she? One look at Constance’s appalled expression made her change her mind. She was reminded of her status as a woman in 1906.
“Thank you, Doctor,” Faith said as she accepted his firm grip in getting her back on her feet. His touch was so smooth and warm that for a moment she didn’t want to let go.
“Are you all right?” he asked, still grasping her hand. His eyes were soft and sympathetic as they met hers.
“I’m fine … no broken bones … no harm done,” she stammered, wavering. She wasn’t sure if it was the fall or his gentle touch and gaze.
“Are you certain?” he asked.
“Yes, Doctor Forrester,” she said, taking a deep breath.
He released her hand.
“Now that our kite is off on its own adventure, what do you say if we all have supper? Bridget, I’ve been told, has prepared a feast.” Doctor Forrester took Andrew’s hand and Constance’s arm.
Faith stepped behind them as they strolled to the grassy knoll where the wicker picnic hamper was set on a checkered cloth.
Doctor Forrester removed the straw boater from his head and set it on the edge of the cloth. He went to the picnic hamper, unbuckled its leather straps, and lifted open the lid. He reached in and removed linen napkins that he handed to Constance, Andrew, and to Faith, who hesitated. She was still uncertain of her place.
“Miss Donahue, since you’ve proven yourself to be quite a kite-woman, won’t you dine with us?” he asked, noting her discomfort.
“If no one objects,” she replied, noting Constance’s icy gaze.
“No one objects,” he said, handing her the napkin.
She accepted it with caution.
“Are we going to sit on the ground like commoners?” Constance asked, standing while the doctor, Andrew, and Faith sat comfortably on the cloth.
“My dear, this is a picnic,” the doctor said, patting a spot at his side.
“When we picnic at home it is with wrought iron chairs and tables in the garden.”
“Constance, this is a park. Come now, don’t be concerned. Look about. Others are doing the same,” he assured.
She cast her eyes around the park and saw other groups of genteel people seated on blankets and tablecloths. Reluctantly, she eased herself down at his side. Ever so carefully, she smoothed her skirt and assumed a discreet and proper pose, making sure to cover her ankles and to sit erect.
Faith stared at the girl wondering if this was the way a proper woman of the era would act or if Constance was the exception. Faith, in turn, adjusted her own body to appear more feminine. She had been lounging a bit, forgetting the time and place.
• • •
After a hearty supper of cold chicken, salad, muffins, bread, cheese, soda pop, and decadent chocolate cake, the doctor suggested a stroll. At first, Faith suggested that he and Constance go while she stayed behind and occupied Andrew. The doctor, though, insisted that they tag along.
Faith realized how much had changed in 100 years. Golden Gate Park had been just a park. The Golden Gate Bridge, its most noteworthy attraction, had yet to be constructed. Many museums had yet to be built, recreation areas planned, the famous carousel created, and paths set.
Faith reveled in the beauty of the Conservatory of Flowers as they walked amidst the tropical foliage, ferns, and scented orchids. She always admired the ornate wood-frame building and had been saddened when it was severely damaged in the storm of 1995. Many had thought it was beyond repair. To see it in its newly built splendor was almost worth the trip back in time. The expansive greenhouse and its blooming exhibits awed her. For a moment, she closed her eyes to draw in the sweet, humid air.
A shriek up ahead disturbed her peace. She opened her eyes to see Constance flailing her arms and jumping around as if she had seen a mouse. As Faith approached, she noticed Andrew cowering behind a green palm frond. His slingshot, armed with a dried pea, was aimed at Constance’s backside. A contented grin shone on his face as he aimed and fired.
Constance jumped, screaming in a near tantrum. She twirled around, touching her backside with her hands as if expecting to find serious damage. The doctor stood at her side trying his best to calm her “ants-in-her-pants” hysterics.
His eye caught Faith’s as she grabbed Andrew in surprise, the slingshot dangling from his hand. She covered the boy’s mouth with her hand to suppress his protests. As she set him down, she took his slingshot and hid it in her skirt pocket. The doctor let out a sigh, as if relieved over her quick actions.
Constance, who was too worried about herself to see Andrew’s indiscretion, was so flustered she begged to be taken home at once.
• • •
That evening, after tucking Andrew into bed, Faith was met by the doctor in the dimly lit upstairs hallway.
“Is David asleep?” he asked, startling her.
“Of Goliath fame.” The doctor chuckled.
“Oh, yes,” she said, smiling. “He’s sound asleep.”
She felt in her pocket and removed the slingshot. She handed it over to the doctor.
“He’s quite a handful, isn’t he?” he asked, brushing her hand as he took the slingshot. He inspected the weapon. “Like father, like son.”
“I wanted to tell you what a fine job you’re doing with Andrew. I haven’t been the most cordial employer. I’ve had my reasons. I just wanted you to know that your trial is going very well. Andrew likes you, but more than that, he respects you.”