While I rewrite the stories that appeared in my 2014 book, The Green Crystal Stories, I’m offering the original stories here in chapter-by-chapter installments.
“The past is but the beginning of a beginning.” —H.G. Wells
Chapter 4: April 15, 1988
He was on his back. For a moment, Daniel thought he was floating. Then his head cleared and he saw that he was beneath some pines, on a dry mattress of grass and pine needles, sprawled on his back, his pack pressing uncomfortably against his spine. He rolled over and realizing he was holding his breath, gasped for air until his breathing became normal. A faraway whoosh came from automobile tires passing over blacktop nearby. He brushed himself off and set off looking for Addison.
~ ~ ~
The news was fifteen years old but current to the people of this time. Daniel put away the newspaper. When he looked from the rear booth and across the diner, the teenage boy sitting at the counter had to be Tom Matthews. The girl at his side was definitely Addison Johnson, destined to become Addison Matthews, and later, Addison Taylor. She and Tom would graduate high school later this year.
Daniel sipped at his coffee and waved for his check. The bleached-blonde twenty-something cashier-slash-waitress nodded. She spoke to Tom and Addison who were on their way out after finishing a basket of fries and two milkshakes.
He watched Addison leave with Tom and kiss him goodbye on the sidewalk. He observed her cross the street, her red hair blowing in the April wind. When she was out of sight, he took from his jacket pocket a small but fat blue book and began to read.
Catherine’s Diner was slowly filling with Ridgewood’s elderly shuffling in for supper. A young, red-haired woman came from the kitchen and placed a slice of apple pie on his table.
“I didn’t order this,” he said.
“On the house,” she said. “I’m on my break and noticed you sitting here all alone, looking like you lost your best friend.” She studied him with beautiful green eyes. “Where are you from?” She sipped at the Pepsi she had bought along through a straw. “I’ve never seen you before.”
“I’m from someplace far away.”
“I was born in Minnesota, a long time ago.”
She smiled. “How long ago was that?”
He shrugged. “Enough to make me feel very old.”
“I don’t think you’re old.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Usually to someone your age, I’m considered ancient.”
“I’m different than others my age.”
He agreed. “And how old is someone your age? Twenty one?”
She laughed. “I wish.”
“I graduate college when I’m twenty-one. Then I’m going to Hollywood to be an actress.”
He held his breath, and then said, “I bet you’ll become famous.”
She smiled. “Flattery may get you some ice cream on that pie.”
“I’m good, thanks.”
She looked at the clock above the lunch counter. It was four-twenty-five. “It’s time for me to go back to work.” She started toward the back. Daniel bit his bottom lip and looked down at the table. He had placed the salt and pepper shakers side by side. Now he moved them apart and watched Valerie enter the kitchen. Her sister Kay came over, laid the bill by his elbow and set about clearing the table of his dishes.
“The meatloaf was good,” he said.
“You’re awfully old to be gawking at young girls,” she said.
“She just brought me some pie. There was no gawking.”
Kay chewed the life from her gum. “I’m talking about my kid sister … the one that left earlier with her boyfriend. Our dad’s a police officer.”
Daniel nodded. “A good man, I hear.”
“You wouldn’t want to get on his bad side. Or my mom’s” She nodded in the direction Valerie had gone. “We’re a close family — always have been. There’s nothing that will ever separate us.”
Daniel glanced at the clock, then closed the book and put it away. He handed her his cup and pie. “Tell your mom that she’s a great cook. And tell your sister that I’ll take a rain check on the pie.”
When Kay headed for the kitchen, he took a handful of change from his pants pocket and carefully counted out a tip, putting back the coins minted after 1988. Then he took from his shirt pocket his wallet and the oldest bills he could find. The newer ones, the ones Addie — his Addie — referred to as “big-head dollars,” he tucked deep in his wallet along with his driver’s license. Then he picked up his backpack, pushed himself out of his seat and went to the register.
Kay returned and rang up his bill. She gave him his change and said, “You have a nice day.”
Daniel nodded and left. Outside, he looked west, up at Myers Ridge. Then he drew in the cool air of the last days of winter and buttoned his khaki jacket. If he had calculated correctly, Aunt Peggy was getting ready to attend a birthday party for one of the staff members at Holcomb Manor. He took out the battered diary from his pocket and rechecked the time. The wind caught the pages and turned them to the back of the book, past the final entry that Jane — his Addie — had recorded in 2000. The picture of his crippled wife fluttered as the wind tried to blow it loose. He snapped shut the book and started toward Peggy Johnson’s bookstore.
There was an awkward moment before he set off for Peggy’s Good Used Books when he recognized a few more ghosts, these ones walking in the pinkish light across the street. As he entered the bookstore, he knew there was little likelihood of ever returning to his proper time.
But he was here for Addie. She was his kismet, after all, put here by a strange twist of fate.
~ ~ ~
“I’m from the year 2003.”
Daniel stumbled to say the words. Once they were out, he wondered if this Aunt Peggy would believe.
He closed his eyes and prayed while he rubbed the back of his neck. Then he looked at the money spread out on the woman’s kitchen table. Aunt Peggy studied one of the twenty-dollar bills with the large, off-centered portrait of President Jackson on it.
“If you hold it to the light,” Daniel said, “you’ll see a watermark on it. The currency was developed to cut down on counterfeiting.”
Aunt Peggy put down the bill minted in 2003 and picked up a coin from the same year. She put it back, then opened the diary again and skimmed through it. She took out the square Polaroid picture of Jane, studied it, and shook her head. “How can this be possible, Mr. Taylor? I see the money and driver’s license and the camera that takes pictures without film, but how do I know they’re not counterfeit? And the diary. It looks so much like the one Jane carries with her wherever she goes. I saw her with it today. But now it sits before me with passages of text from the future. Surely a forgery by someone out to trick and deceive a sixty-eight-year-old woman. But it isn’t trickery you want … I can see it in your face.” She looked hard at Daniel. “So, why me? Why have you come with such an incredible tale? What is it you would have of me?”
“Because you’re all I have. Because it was you — the future you — who knew Jane when she finally remembered that she was Addie and was transported through time to the past.” The circular fluorescent light above the table buzzed, and then quieted. Daniel sat forward. “You told me on that Christmas of 2000 when Addie met Jane — when she met herself as an old woman — that Jane was someone who wasn’t supposed to be. And you were right. That’s why I didn’t die on Myers Ridge. I survived to change the past and make things right.”
He watched Aunt Peggy stare at him from across the table. He watched her look down at the money, his driver’s license, the camera and photograph and diary. A cuckoo clock sounded from another room. It was six o’clock.
Aunt Peggy picked up the diary. “According to this, I’m at a birthday party with Jane right now.”
“With a book of poetry by Frost as a present for someone named Rachel.”
Aunt Peggy rose and left the room, then came back with a gift in blue paper. Inside was thin book. She gave the book to Daniel. It was a volume of Robert Frost’s poetry. She looked at him and sighed.
“So what is it you’ll have me do, Mr. Taylor?”
He handed back the book and wiped away the tears from his cheeks.
“Help me get her back.”
~ ~ ~
Daniel stood behind his wife’s aunt, teetered on wobbly legs at the mansion’s threshold, and with a trembling left hand held tight to the short, elderly woman’s delicate right hand. He sucked in the cool April evening air and barely noticed the feel of spring cracking away the shell of winter. Thunder rumbled overhead as a storm approached from the north. He loosened his grip and steadied himself, catching his breath and giving Aunt Peggy a nervous smile. She looked at him and nodded.
“Remember,” she said, “Leave out any mention of time travel. All you want is to get Addie back, and then worry about whatever future you two may have.”
Daniel nodded. Then Aunt Peggy pressed the doorbell. Daniel’s heart leaped when a maidservant answered the door. Her beauty surprised him. Her hair was the color of darkest sienna, her skin as dark and smooth as the large mahogany-stained door she pulled open. She was the kind of woman that painters spent lifetimes painting.
He saw her look at him with large brown eyes full of warmth and pity and happiness and sadness all at once. Her image swam like ripples of heat through an unseen fire and Daniel felt panic grab his heart. He looked away and then stumbled inside while he followed close the old woman that had arranged for the meeting.
The birthday party for Rachel had ended. The maidservant Aunt Peggy called Esmerelda offered to take their coats, but she and Daniel declined since the large house was chilly. Esmerelda led them down a wide, carpeted hallway through the center of the large, Greek revival style home with white columns, high ceilings and enormous chandeliers, onward through dark oak double doors and to a library. She gestured at a semi-circle of four brown leather chairs in the middle of the room and before she left, told them that Miss Rachel would be there shortly.
A crackling fire in the marble fireplace behind them warmed the room. The large, well-stocked library gleamed from polished dark oak trimmed with gold. Daniel and Aunt Peggy sat side by side, facing the doorway and waited.
~ ~ ~
A crackling fire in the fireplace warmed Jane’s room. She sat reading an Ellery Queen novel next to the fire when Nurse Rachel knocked at her door.
The man who entered her room with Rachel and Sara’s teacher looked familiar. He was tall and thin and quite handsome, although his face seemed lined with worry and sadness. And when he saw her, he seemed anxious and unsure of what to do with his hands. Rachel led him and Peggy Johnson to her. His blue-gray eyes held a glint of confidence, which helped Jane relax for a moment. But lightning outside her windows flashed steadily. A storm was developing but no one else in the polished, dark oak room seemed to notice.
“This is Mr. Taylor,” Rachel said to her.
The man offered no hand to shake, so she nodded and then looked away from his intense gaze.
“How did you find her?” he asked.
“She was badly hurt,” Rachel said. “She’s been in my care ever since waking from a coma.”
“I am greatly indebted to you.”
Rachel waved him off. “You owe Mr. Holcomb nothing, except perhaps the reason why it has taken you this long to come for her.”
The man interlaced his fingers, pressed the heels of his hands together and said nothing.
“Are you here for me?” Jane asked. Her heart pounded with excitement. “Do you know who I am?”
Peggy went to her and took her hands in hers. Jane was surprised by the sudden affection.
“Oh, honey,” Peggy said, “look at him closely and try to remember.”
Meanwhile, Rachel said, “Her blood-type is O positive. But that’s a common type. And she has the misshapen freckle on her left shoulder, which more than one redhead may have, I’m sure.”
“I hate that thing,” Jane said. “Ever since I was a little girl.”
The room grew silent.
“Is that a memory?” Peggy asked.
Jane shrugged. It didn’t feel like one.
“I think we should leave,” Rachel said, “and let her rest. We can continue this tomorrow.”
“I was hoping she and I could leave tonight,” the man said.
“Tell me, Mr. Taylor,” Rachel said, “where are you from? And don’t lie to me.”
“Why does it matter?”
She reached into a blouse pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. “I took the liberty of borrowing this from Jonathan’s journal. He’s the one who found Jane.” She unfolded the paper until it became a five-dollar bill. “This was on her.” She handed it to the man.
Anticipation fell from his expression. He looked suddenly old and frail.
“It’s genuine money, isn’t it?” Rachel said. “Brought here from the future.”
The man’s mouth made smacking noises as he tried to speak. He stopped and shook his head.
“That’s an absurd accusation,” Peggy said.
“No, wait.” The man stopped shaking his head. “No more lies.” He pulled a blue book from a pocket inside his coat. “Her diary,” he said and handed it to Rachel. She held out her hand and he returned the five dollars.
“I am from the future,” the man said. “We both are. But other than that, she’s still my wife — just as I explained downstairs. All I want to do is get her back.”
Rachel raised an eyebrow. “Back to your own time?”
“I don’t know. The two of us passed through separate time rifts. How it happened, I can’t explain.”
“You have no way back?”
“None that I know of.”
“How curious,” Rachel said, “and frightening, I’m sure.” She opened the diary. “It looks genuine.” She sounded surprised. She took the matching book from Jane’s table. As she brought the books closer, small sparks erupted from their covers. When she drew them apart, the sparks stopped. A rapid succession of lightning outside lit up the windows.
“Electricity, the spark of everything that is.” She handed back the book. “Tell me about the future.”
The man returned the diary to his coat pocket. “Electricity,” he said. “Of course.” He looked at Jane. Wonderment filled his eyes. He dropped to his knees before her. A buzzing sound filled the space between them. Peggy stepped away and Jane pressed against the back of her chair, uncertain what was happening.
“Addie,” he said, “It’s me: Daniel.”
Addie. The name meant something. She had heard the name in her head upon waking, coming to her like a faraway yell from a fog. A woman called it.
He reached in a pocket and drew out a pair of rings. “These are yours, Addie,” he said.
Addie, it’s time to come in.
“Is that my name?” she asked the man peering at her.
He took her left hand. A spark flew as he placed the rings on her finger.
The buzzing grew louder.
Addie, it’s time for dinner.
“Am I Addie?”
“Yes,” he said. “You have always been Addie.”
Addie, it’s time for school. Wake up, lazybones.
~ ~ ~
Fifty-year-old Jane looked up at Daniel who had tears filling his eyes. Her own eyes flooded, and her voice was hoarse as she said her true name.
“Yes,” Daniel said. “You wrote that name in your diary.”
“Not yet. Not now. But in the diary I brought with me, you wrote how much you like that name. It was a memory but you didn’t know it.”
Jane swiped at the tears with the backs of her hands. “I’m Addison. And you’re Daniel. You’re my husband.”
Despite Rachel’s protests, Daniel took both her hands in his. A spark of electricity from the wheelchair shot in the air. Thunder pounded again from outside. A flash of lightning lit up the room and the air moistened.
A knock sounded at the door and a frightened sixteen-year-old Sara entered the room. “The loud thunder spooked me,” she said. “Can I stay with you?”
Jane saw her and called out. “I remember, Sara. I remember who I am.”
“Oh, Jane, that’s wonderful.” Sara skirted past Rachel and hurried to Jane’s chair where she fell to her knees and embraced the woman. Another spark of electricity shot from the wheelchair. Then, a warm wind began blowing inside. The flames in the fireplace flickered and danced while the wind circled the room. At its center, Sara and Jane still embraced. That is when Daniel touched his wife’s shoulder and sent another change in motion.
The wind increased velocity, slammed shut the room’s door, and pushed Rachel and Peggy to the floor. Tongues of fire lashed from the fireplace, but the flames did not catch. Papers and magazines from the table flew and circled around Daniel who now leaned over his wife and embraced her. The room’s air chilled and extinguished the fireplace’s flames. Skeletal fingers of electricity danced around the three at the wheelchair and lashed out at Rachel and Peggy, keeping them immobilized. A gale force grew around the wheelchair until its intensity caused Rachel and Peggy to take refuge beneath the bed.
A blinding flash and a loud pop filled the room.
The wind stopped.
When Rachel and Peggy looked, Jane and her wheelchair, along with Daniel and Sara, were gone.