Authors: Nancy Loyan
Tags: #Romance, #paranormal
He scoffed. “You will not be a part of this household for long if you continue speaking of such nonsense. Talk of being from the future, of earthquakes, and fires. I have the mind to send you packing so you can go back to where you came from.”
“I wish that were possible.”
He rose from his chair, his eyes wide and aglow. “Miss Donahue, I think that April 18 will be your day of reckoning!”
“I can’t believe I’m actually listening to you. If the good doctor knew what we were doing behind his back, he would send both of us on our way,” Bridget said, removing delicate crystal glasses from the rosewood china closet while Faith wrapped them in newspaper and packed them in a wooden crate.
“The good doctor will be appreciative when he learns that his heirlooms have been saved from the destruction of the earthquake.”
“If there is, indeed, an earthquake.”
“Come on, Bridget, you can’t be doubting me, too.” Faith snatched a goblet out of Bridget’s hand.
Bridget turned to face her. “When I’m out and about the city, I just find it hard to believe. The whole event seems so unlikely.”
“Yet, you follow my ideas?”
“Mainly because there’s something so different about you, some far-off, unexplained wisdom. You don’t seem like someone from this world.”
Faith’s eyes sparkled. “So you believe me when I say that I come from the future?”
“I don’t know what to believe, really.” Bridget sighed. “Just what you say and how you say it frightens me enough to want to believe.”
“Thank you for having an open mind.”
Bridget reached up to remove another goblet as Faith wrapped the one in her hand and knelt down to set it in the crate. She smiled. Someone believed in her. Someone had faith in Faith.
“Little Master Andrew is still asleep, isn’t he?” Bridget asked, handing her a water tumbler.
“I hope so. He naps until two and then he’ll be ready for a snack and play.” Faith took the tumbler and began to wrap it.
“He’s really grown fond of you and minds you better than he did his other nanny.”
“He’s still quite a handful.”
“Like his father,” Bridget muttered.
“And why is that?”
“Doctor Forrester sometimes lacks all reason.”
Faith snickered, bending to pack the tumbler. “When?”
“When Miss Constance LaDue entered his life. She places so many demands on him and they are not yet married. I don’t know how he’ll be able to carry on the practice with her under foot. She’s in constant need of attention.”
“She’s just a spoiled child who needs to grow up.” Faith stood, placed her hands on her waist, and stretched.
“A man in his position needs a wife who is a responsible woman. Where is his common sense?”
“For men, sense is not common.”
Bridget laughed. “Men don’t marry for the right reasons, do they? They’d rather be chasing youth and beauty.”
Faith smiled. Some things stayed the same through the centuries. She thought about Brad and his cute, young blonde. Funny, she had been so wrapped up in adjusting to her new life, she had pushed thoughts of him to the back of her mind. For the first time, she wondered if he missed her, if anyone missed her.
“You look worried, ma’am. You have no need to worry. You’re young and pretty.”
“Young and pretty? That’s an opinion,” Faith said. If she was so desirable, why did Brad dump her?
Bridget made clucking sounds with her tongue and said, “I’m thinking that you have been jilted by a suitor and that’s why you left your home.”
Faith froze in place.
“I’m right, am I not?” Bridget asked in a “told you so” tone.
“Partly. My husband left me for a much younger woman. I didn’t leave my home by choice, though. Coming here was some sort of fluke accident.”
“Ah, you left home by fate.”
“Yes … I’d say so.” The word “fate” gave her pause.
“’Tis a pity to have a man walk out. My father walked out on my mother. That’s why I vowed never to marry.”
“Oh, Bridget, even after what I’ve gone through, I do believe there’s someone out there for everyone.”
“Maybe if one had centuries to look.” Bridget reached up and handed her another tumbler.
“Centuries,” Faith repeated, thinking about her strange journey through time. Was it fated?
“You know, Doctor Forrester would do well to leave that little Miss LaDue alone. He needs someone like his late wife, someone with intelligence, a sense of humor, someone loving and caring of his child.” She paused, turning to Faith. She met her gaze and her face glowed. Her grin was almost a laugh. “Now that I think of it, he could do well to marry someone like you.”
The tumbler shattered on the parquet floor before Faith realized she had dropped it. Shards of broken crystal littered the area at her feet.
“I’m sorry,” Faith said, trembling. “I just can’t believe what you just said.”
Bridget stooped down to inspect the damage. “I only say what I think is true. Ever since I met you, I thought, ‘Well, there’s a girl for the lonely good doctor.’”
“This is preposterous.”
“I don’t think so. Doctor Forrester finds you mysterious and interesting. It’s only a matter of time.” Bridget winked.
“Bridget, have you been sneaking brandy again?”
“Only a nip here and there. Not enough to affect my mind.” She rose. “I’ll go fetch a dustpan and remove the mess.”
“And please remove the silly ideas.”
• • •
Later in the afternoon, before dinner, Faith sat on a wrought-iron bench in the garden. Flipping through an issue of the Saturday Evening Post, she drew a breath of the sweet scent of azaleas, cherry blossoms, and rhododendrons. Sunlight filtered through the trees while a comforting breeze caressed her face and hands. Though she was attired in her new black uniform, she removed the coordinating gloves. Willing to abide by society’s standards in public, what she did in her private moments was her own business. She just wished she could remove the ground-sweeping linen dress with its high starched collar altogether. The color absorbed the heat and the long sleeves and design prevented air from circulating. It was no wonder women carried vials of smelling salts.
Andrew was lounging on a blanket spread on the lawn waging war with his tin soldiers. Faith was determined, that for at least ten minutes, she’d have some peace and quiet before he made demands. She looked down at the magazine spread on her lap trying to learn more about life in 1906 and trying to block out thoughts of the earthquake. There was really nothing more for her to do but to wait.
“Miss Donahue, is the sky falling yet?” Doctor Forrester asked, startling her from her thoughts.
Looking up to meet his dark gaze and snicker puckering his lips, she arched her brows in irritation. “May I help you, sir?”
“I was just wondering if we were all safe from catastrophe today. It’s such a glorious afternoon, I thought, perhaps, I was missing something.”
She slammed the magazine closed on her lap and drew a deep breath for restraint.
“I’ve been trying really hard to take my mind off the inevitable and here you are making me think about it.”
“I think it’s rather interesting how you’ve drilled my staff and prepared my home. Not a glass or plate is to be found in a cupboard or cabinet. Not one breakable object is to be found on a shelf or wall. I’ve been told of the packed crates.” He stood before her, stroking his chin with his hand. “The pantry is stocked with dry goods and jugs filled with water. Are my windows to be nailed shut, too, or, perhaps, we’ll just bolt the shutters?”
She smiled sweetly just to irk him. “One can never be too prepared.”
“For an earthquake and fire that you’ve dreamed up in your pretty little head?” He cocked his head and chuckled, though his laugh was more scornful than humorous.
“For an event that is to take place in the early hours of tomorrow morning. This is merely the calm before the storm,” she warned in a deadpan serious tone, her gaze boring into him.
“You really believe it, don’t you?” He was staring.
“I know it.”
“I hope you’re not frightening my son with details of this?” he asked.
She pointed to Andrew, intense at play. “Does he look frightened? There’s no need in scaring a child.”
“At least we agree on something. Miss Donahue, I wish you to, rather I order you, to refrain from panicking my household staff. My home is being turned into a fort. Tomorrow, I want my belongings returned to their rightful places. I want apologies from you, and … I want your resignation. I will not have my home held hostage by your pandemonium.” His lip curled back as he said the words.
She stood to meet him, face-to-face. “Doctor, what will you say or do if my predictions are true? If I have, indeed, saved you and your home from harm, where would I stand? If I’m right, will I be guaranteed a full-time position as governess?”
“It will not happen.” He stood firm, like a solid oak.
“It will happen. What will you say? What will you do?”
His face turned crimson, his eyes heated to black. “I have the mind to make you leave now!”
“Sir?” she asked, unwavering.
“I am looking forward to tomorrow!”
He abruptly turned and stalked toward the house.
Faith sighed. Tomorrow.
The torment of awaiting impending disaster was almost too much to bear. Faith sat in her bed, fully dressed, hugging her knees to her chest. The seconds ticked into minutes as she stared at her bedside clock.
After a hearty, yet unusually quiet, dinner with Bridget, she retreated up to her room. She needed rest knowing that the coming hours would require all her strength and a clear head.
This wasn’t her first experience with earthquakes, she kept reminding herself. Tremors were a common occurrence, something one expected, when living on fault lines in San Francisco. A few broken dishes, an occasional traffic jam, the safety drills in her classroom, the momentary panic were a way of life.
Soothsayers had been warning about the “big one” for years, always citing the 1906 earthquake as an example. Faith always felt that the odds were in her favor that she’d never experience the “big one” in her lifetime. Never in her wildest nightmares did she ever imagine that she would go back in time to experience the original “big one.” Even now, she kept hoping that she would awaken from this warped nightmare.
Many a night she would lie in bed praying to return. Try as she might to squeeze her eyes shut and chant like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz that “there’s no place like home” with hopes of returning to 2006, nothing happened. Whatever weird force propelled her back in time to 1906 seemed intent on keeping her there.
All she could do was brace herself for the inevitable. She quivered with the knowledge that this home would be safe while others would tumble like building blocks and others burn to the ground. Some people would die, others suffer permanent injury, and there was nothing she could do. She knew that she couldn’t change history without changing the future. If every resident were warned and heeded her advice, the outcome of the quake and fire would affect future generations, good and bad. She could only sit back helplessly and allow history to happen.
The house was eerily quiet, as if her foreboding had affected everyone. Bridget had been unusually quiet and fidgety between swigs of brandy. Doctor Forrester ignored her completely, busying himself with visiting homebound patients. He even insisted on tucking Andrew in bed.
This evening, the doctor had a dinner engagement with Miss LaDue and box tickets to the Grand Opera House. He was anxious to hear Enrico Caruso open the opera season with the Metropolitan Grand Opera Company. Faith wished that she could have been in Miss LaDue’s place to hear history’s greatest tenor. The performance would have taken her mind off the impending sense of doom for a few hours. She was certain she would have appreciated Caruso’s talent more than the ditsy Miss LaDue.
Once again, thoughts of Brad entered her mind. He and his blonde were probably thrilled to have her out of their lives. Having her out of the way would mean no dueling lawyers, court dates, and alimony.
She had been so upset when he asked for a divorce that she thought her life was over. The reality was that her marriage was over, not her life. In retrospect, her marriage had been over long ago but she had been too blind to notice. Affairs didn’t just happen. Handsome, fast-living, smooth-talking attorneys like Brad were never content with one of anything. She knew that he was as devious outside the courtroom as he was within and that he used people his entire life to get what he wanted. Didn’t he, after all, use her? After marrying him, she had put her life on hold for him. She had been so caught up in the elite lifestyle that she helped to create that she paid little attention to the personal side of their relationship. Brad had never been affectionate, a once-a-day kiss and sex when he was in the mood, holding hands just to show off in front of friends. They led such separate lives for so long that she ignored the writing on the wall. Their life together had been nothing but a public façade.
Without the mementos to jog her memory, the familiar furniture and people, there were no reminders of the life they shared. Being in this strange, new world was like starting over. The weird thing, she realized, was that she hadn’t missed Brad. She had been too busy finding herself. Yawning, she laid back in her narrow bed, on top of the coverlet, her head on a goose-down pillow. She curled up in a comforting fetal position and fell asleep, a dream swirling in her subconscious.
Amidst the scented wildflowers in a fog-shrouded meadow, a man and a woman danced. He held her gloved hand against his chest while his other hand encircled her waist in an intimate embrace. The man was attired in formal black tail, the woman in a flowing white gown of satin and lace. The yards of fabric rippled in the gentle breeze created by their graceful waltz. They danced to music only privy to their ears. Out of the fog stepped a child. Upon seeing him, the couple stopped dancing and turned their heads to face him.
Faith awakened with a startled gasp. The woman’s face was her own, the man Doctor Ian Forrester, the child Andrew. She shook her head wondering if it had any significance and figured it didn’t make sense. Why was the doctor dancing with her instead of Miss LaDue? He loved Miss LaDue and despised her. She drew a deep breath to cleanse her mind.