A Change of Grace: Chapter 24

Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 24 of 41
Author: Sheryl
Rating: PG-13
Summary:
Taylor ends up traveling back in time to New York in the 19th century. There he meets Kathryn, Benjamin, Joshua and Grace among many others. The story follows both Taylor’s adventures in the past and Isaac and Zachary’s search for him in present (1997/1998) time.

Chapter 24

The knock sounded as his hand touched the knob. “Good call, Ben…” He opened it, grinning at Grace’s scowling face. “Hey Grace… don’t look so happy…”
Her eyebrows arched as she stepped in, tapping him lightly on the shoulder. “Hi, Emma… I’m beyond redemption” She pushed past him, face nervous, plopping down onto the sofa. In her agitation she didn’t notice Taylor, still frozen in place, barely breathing, eyes wide and horror stricken.

“Emma? What the…” He could feel his face flushing, as visions of Baby Spice whirled through his head.

Oblivious, Grace rambled on, nervously biting at her nails. “Honestly Taylor, I can’t
believe I’m doing this! I lied to my mother! I told her I was spending the evening with my girlfriend.” Grace continued on, her story of moral decline in creating an excuse to make an escape, lost on her audience, who was still immersed in the horror of being called a Spice Girl. “Wait, wait, hold on. Stop right there. Emma?????” “God” he thought, “even now, even HERE I get Spice Girl comments?”

Grace’s eyes narrowed, as Taylor once again erupted with unintelligible commentary. “Taylor, what are you talking about? Spice Girls?”
“Well why’d you call me Emma?!”
“You didn’t hear a word I said, did you? Taylor… are you about to become odd again?”
His apparent insanity was beginning to make her nervous, as well as becoming annoying.
“Just tell me why you called me Emma! I mean…”
“Taylor, if you had been listening to me, and not standing there having some sort of episode, you would know. Emma is a friend of mine, I told my mother I was going out with her…”
“Your friend?”
“Yes Taylor, my friend. Listen to me.”
“Ok.”
“Are you paying attention?”
“Yeah, what?” His temper was short, the Emma comment having unreasonably unnerved him.
“I want you to do something for me. It’s very very important… I want you to try… very hard… not to be a lunatic. Since I’m being seen in public with you.”
Taylor, openmouthed with indignation, stuttering, just stared at her.
“I am not a lunatic!”
“Well, what were you just talking about? What did I say that started you talking about spices?”
He grinned then, unable to help it. “Nothing, nothing… Spice Girls… they’re… they’re just some people from home. I get teased a lot for looking like one of them, and her name’s Emma… never mind, okay? It was just a… a knee-jerk reaction. I promise, I won’t do anything weird tonight. I’ll stay out of the trees, won’t kiss any horses, y’know… I’ll be normal… but you have to do ME a favor.”

“That all depends Taylor, you scare me when you ask me to do things.” Grace smiled, taking the sting from her words.
“Don’t call me Emma. Don’t call me anything but Taylor. It makes me oogie. And I won’t do anything weird out in public. Deal?”
Grace giggled, and patted his arm. “Fine, we have a deal. And it wasn’t you swinging from trees I was worried about. It’s all the strange things you say, Taylor. WHAT is oogie, by the way?” “Nevermind” Taylor sighed. “You ready to get ready? I’m starving to death here, let’s get Kathryn to help, so we can go find someplace to eat.” “Oh. Um. Er…” Grace suddenly averted her eyes, obviously uncomfortable. “I know you told me not to eat much, but Mother made me
eat supper before I could leave. She wouldn’t hear of me waiting. I couldn’t eat another bite, I swear.” He rolled his eyes, sighing theatrically. “Figures. Fine, I’ll just starve to death. No problem…” She shot him a look that reminded him unaccountably of his mother, and he backed up a step. “It’s no problem, Grace, really. I’ll grab something at some point, while we’re out.”
She nodded, and stood up. “Ok, well are we getting ready to go or not?” She brushed past him, favoring him with a look of appraisal. “You look very nice, yes you do… now where are my things?”
The glitter in her eyes made him laugh, and he gestured down the hall. “My room, but I’ll stay out… don’t get all nervous… Kathryn said she’d be happy to help you… down there, second door on the right, and I’ll go get Kathryn, okay?”
She nodded, still biting her nails, giggling now. “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be…”

Taylor gazed into the purple twilight, feeling good. It had taken a couple of hours, all told, between Kathryn and Grace, but the end result was stunning. His heart sped up every time he looked at his companion, breathtaking in the gown, with her hair elaborately curled and beribboned. The faint trace of lipstick Kathryn had convinced her to try had an amazing effect, and her eyes positively glowed, picking up the lavender light, and reflecting the rose of the dress. “God, she’s beautiful…” He continually made himself look away, telling himself she was NOT his date.
“Oh darn it…” Grace stopped suddenly, stooping to pick something up. “Look, I lost a bead…”
Taylor nodded. He’d thought it was going to go, too loosely woven into her hair to begin with.
“That’s okay, you don’t need it… hey!” He grinned. “Give it over.” “What?” “Hand it to me, please?” She handed it over, smiling in confusion. “What are you doing?”
Laughing, he pulled his braid forward, gently unknotting the end. She watched, fascinated, as he folded the ends of the hair, and slid the bead onto it, deftly tying the end of the hair around the bead. “There… now I have one too.” He grinned delightedly, and she giggled. From Taylor, a beaded braid just didn’t seem all that abnormal. That he was hatless, and wearing his hair down, did, however, and she found it difficult to take her eyes off him. He was really very attractive, and the unusual hair was quite striking. “He’s really something…” Smiling, pleased with her escort, she laughed again, the fun of the situation flooding her. “Taylor, this was a wonderful idea. Simply wonderful”

Kathryn joined Ben on the couch, patting his hand comfortingly. “Well, let’s hope this goes the way it should, Ben. He’s worked very hard on this, you know.” Ben grunted, less than sanguine.
“Only by luck, I think, Kathryn.”
“Don’t be so hard on him. His way is not your way, I know, but it IS working. You’ve seen the strands, Ben.”
Snorting, Ben just shook his head, and buried himself in his paper.

Taylor and Grace excitedly chattered, as they made their way to the pub, anticipation firing up their adrenaline.
They drew glances of approval from passing people, their infectious laughter bringing smiles to those who heard them. Even Taylor’s hair couldn’t detract from the smiles their obvious pleasure brought to peoples faces.

Drawing near to the pub, Grace was almost overwhelmed at the number of people milling about outside.

“Taylor! Look at this crowd! Are they all here to see Josh?” Grace was amazed at how respectable most of them looked, and how many she recognized! They really weren’t all floozies, and drunks, and Irishmen!
She saw shopkeepers she recognized, from respectable stores, with their wives. She
saw a group of young ladies she knew were nannies, for good families. No society people, but that was just as well, she didn’t really want anyone she knew to see her here. God knew what would happen to her if it ever got back to mother.
Laughing, Taylor squeezed her arm. “Yep, they’re all here to see Josh and the boys. They’re really popular, Grace, I told you that. You’ll see why, when you hear them, they’re SO good.” He pulled her closer, as the crowd waiting to get into the pub thickened, and became a bit more raucous. His ingrained nerves about crowds kicked in hard as the good natured, but excited mass of people jostled him. He could feel light sweat breaking on his face, and forced himself to calm down. There would be no grabbing hands or hair pullers here, he could relax.
Grace noted his discomfort, and eyed him curiously. “Are you alright?” He nodded, eyes distant. There was a little too much nostalgia here, and he was anxious to get inside and sit down. “I’m fine, I just don’t like being stuck in a crowd… they need some media coverage, that’d help them alot.” He quickly changed the subject, wanting to draw his own attention away from it.
“Media?” Taylor sighed. “I mean the newspaper, Grace. If the newspaper did an article about them, or a review, it would help them get better bookings than a pub. They need to play a good hall someplace, to make them ‘respectable’.”

As they talked, the man with the camera escaped their attention.
Watching the crowd from across the street, looking at the sign in the window of the pub, advertising Josh and the boys, the man shook his head…
The NY Times had sent him to do a review of this group, why he had no idea.
Any group that sang in a pub couldn’t be very good, certainly not good enough for the Times. Still, they really did draw a crowd. He scanned the throng of people, looking for a shot. There were plenty of interesting people, but were there any that looked press worthy? “I’ll take a crowd shot,” he thought, eyeing the lot of them.
“I’ll wait until I get inside to take a shot of the band, listen to a few songs, get out of there.” Annoyed at having to spend his evening this way, he started across the street, a flash of rose, followed by a glimmer of gold, catching his eye. “Ah…” He smiled and stepped back onto the curb. “What a pair THEY are!” A lovely girl with beautiful ash brown hair, side by side with the oddest looking young man he had ever seen. The boy had hair as long as a girls, and as bright as spun gold. As he loaded his camera, watching them intently, the two moved to the left of the advert sign for the group inside. “Oh, perfect, perfect, now don’t you two move…” He set up the shot as the girl reached out, and caught some long piece of the boy’s hair in her hand. They were both in profile, a perfect shot. He took his picture, the flash of the powder startling some nearby horses, but garnering little attention from the crowd
now starting to enter the pub.
Satisfied, he nodded, gathered up his camera, and hurried across the street, flashing his press card, moving ahead of the crowd, and out of view.

“What the hell…?!” Taylor, startled by a flash, spun around, forgetting Grace had hold of his rat tail. “Ow! Let go let go…” She dropped the braid, alarmed.
“What is it, Taylor? The flash? Someone took a photograph, I’d say, that’s all. Relax.”
“Photograph?”
“Yes, I’m almost certain of it. Are you alright?”
“Why would a photographer want to take our picture?”
90’s paranoia flooded him, and he found himself unconsciously eyeing the street for a crowd, stalkers, teenies, mumbling vaguely to himself.
“Taylor, why would you assume someone was taking a photograph of us? It could easily have been of anyone else in this crowd”
“I don’t know… usually if there’s a photographer around, it’s us he’s aiming at…” His mind had drifted, briefly blotting out the reality of who he was with, his thoughts flashing back to himself and his brothers. Had that really been the flash of a camera?
“And why would you think that? What is it that could possibly cause anyone to want to take our picture?”
Curious, Grace waited for his answer. She was storing all these little odd remarks away in her head, hoping someday it might all become clear to her. She was doomed to dissatisfaction however, as the crowd moved them to the door of the pub, and Taylor ignored her question, yet again.

Taylor paid their way in, accosted almost immediately by Andy, who grabbed Taylor’s arm unceremoniously and hauled him to a table so close to the stage it was nearly touching it. “Sit… hello miss…” Andy smiled bashfully, tipped his hat toward Grace, and darted away, giving the impression that he was doing at least twelve things at once. “Hey, Petey, is this for us?” Taylor pointed to the small “reserved” sign in the center of the table, calling up onto the stage, where the boy was setting up stools. “It surely is, Taylor,” Petey jumped off the riser, and removed the small sign from the table. “And so are these,” he smiled, as he handed over two beers taken from a passing tray. “Bottoms up! Oh, hello miss.” Petey looked Grace over, not knowing her, but admiring her fully. “Petey, this is Grace. Josh’s Grace.” Taylor looked at Pete meaningfully, as the boy’s eyes widened, and he glanced towards the
backstage area. “Don’t mention it to Josh, ok?” Pete nodded, and grinned, leaning close to whisper in Taylor’s ear.
“Josh is daft, I swear, she’s lovely” He held his hand out to Grace. “Nice to meet you, Grace. I hope you’ll enjoy our show.”
He grinned infectiously, and Grace shook his hand. “Taylor assures me I will, Peter.” Petey winced. “Call me Pete, or Petey, please! Only my Ma calls me Peter, and then only when she’s mad.” He grinned again, at Grace’s faint blush.
“I’d best be getting back to the rest, we go on in a few minutes. This place is packed to the rafters!” He clasped Taylor’s hand for a moment, his excitement and enthusiasm overflowing. “Wish us luck, my son, yes?” “Yes.” Taylor grinned as the boy clambered back up onto the stage, and let his gaze wander the room. No sign of Andy, or Josh, or Mick. They must already be backstage. A wave of longing washed over him, as he eyed their setup. How he missed being onstage. “It must be an addiction, it hasn’t been a week and I feel like I’m dying…”

Left alone with Grace at the table, unavoidably part of the audience rather than the show, Taylor picked up his beer, glancing around. Petey was right, the place was full. SRO, he thought, this is good.
“Grace, cheers!” He held his glass up, waiting for her to pick her’s off the table. “Taylor!” He saw the church lady emerge as she eyed the glass. “I can’t drink beer! I just can’t!”
“Sure you can, it’s all that’s here. Everybody’s drinking it, lots of respectable people, and it’s not going to hurt you. If there was anything else, I’d get it for you.” He smiled winningly, and nodded. ” Pick your glass up, wet your whistle. Drink slow, you’ll be fine. Be warned though, this beer bites back.” He grinned, clinking his glass to hers, and downing half the glass, unaware until he’d done it that he was so thirsty. Reminding HIMSELF that the beer bit back, he set the glass down. He watched, as Grace gingerly sipped at the
beer, the lace gloves absurdly incongruous against the thick glass. In here, she was even more lovely.
Her hair glowed softly in the gas lights, the sparkly ribbon catching the light as
she turned towards him. “Taylor, I can’t drink any more of this, I…”
He forestalled any objections she may have been planning to make, by pointing out Josh coming onstage. “Here we go, Grace. Hold on, this is gonna be good.” He waved at Josh, who had noticed him, and the young woman beside him, as he took the stage. Josh raised his eyebrows, smiled, waved back, wondering where Taylor had met this lovely girl. “I’ll get this information out of him, come first break. Funny, I’d swear I knew her…” Shadows from the gaslight dimmed her features, and with her head lowered, all he could really see was glimmering hair, and a lovely figure in a pretty dress.

Smiling at the crowd, welcoming them, he nodded to the boys and they launched, tight as a misers purse, into the first song.

As they reached the end , he glanced at Taylor again, wondering if they sounded as good to the crowd as they did to him, knowing Taylor’s face would reflect it. In his opinion, they were hitting it clean.
The girl sitting with Taylor raised her head then, and recognition took his breath away… “Oh my God, it’s Grace!” Shock almost wiped the song from his mind, and it was all he could do to finish on key. In the brief moment between songs, he looked at Taylor searchingly. “Damn him, and that grin. How the hell did he get her here? Where did she get that dress? Why is she here with HIM???”

Taylor watched Grace’s face, smiling to himself. “My job is done…” he though, satisfied. Grace wore an expression of unadulterated adoration. “She’s completely sucked in. That’s it, she’s all done.” He nodded to himself as he took another swallow from the pint in front of him. Josh and the boys were ON tonight, no doubt about that. Even if he’d dragged Grace in kicking and screaming, she’d have been won over. He laughed to himself, watching her face. “She’s havin’ fun, I knew she would.”
He leaned toward her, touching her arm. “He’s as good as I said, isn’t he?”
She laughed delightedly, nodding. “He’s even better than you said! Taylor they are astounding!” “Yeah, I know…” He sat back again, watching her face as she watched the boys, as she sipped her beer. “Josh must be going nuts, watching Grace actually drinking. He probably won’t come near her for fear she’s possessed.” He giggled again, and turned his attention back to the stage. Impossibly, he thought, Josh looked… mad? “What’s he scowling about? Ah, that won’t last…” He dismissed Josh, and turned back to his beer, eyes beginning to rove the pub.

Josh felt his adrenaline pumping as Taylor leaned in close, whispering to Grace. That it as impossible to whisper with the cacophony of the bar, conveniently slipped his mind. He was sitting too close, he was smiling too much. Look at her giggle, what was that all about? Grace was usually about as giggly as a corpse. And she was drinking! And that dress! Oh she looked lovely, but that neckline! If she leaned over any farther toward Taylor she’d fall OUT of it! What in the world had Taylor done to get her to come out like that? HIS Grace would have been buttoned up to her eyebrows. What was this?! Frustration, confusion, anxiety… Josh’s emotions were a giant, roiling ball of chaos, and only his innate professionalism kept him from leaping headlong from the stage, smack to the middle of their table, to find out what the hell was going on.

The noise was beginning to get to him. Too many voices, all at once, too much music…
Taylor sighed, resting his head on one hand, watching Josh and Grace. Once he’d managed to convince Josh that he had brought Grace there to see him sing, and not as a date, things had leveled off, but boy for a few minutes he’d thought Josh was going to knock his head of. To question such jealousy over someone he claimed not to even LIKE, occurred to him, but the look on Josh’s face had convinced him, quickly, otherwise. Instead he’d taken his cue from the boys, and relocated to their table, leaving Josh and Grace alone. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it looked as if it were going well.
Glancing down at the beer in front of him, he wished it were going as well for him. The boys were here only in five minute increments between sets, he didn’t really want to go sit with Grace, even though her company would have been welcome. He wanted to make it clear that he wasn’t competition. Besides, she was so caught up in watching Josh she wouldn’t have even noticed he was there. Top it off, he knew he was drinking too much. The room had acquired a noticeable pitch and yaw, and moving around had begun to require constant handholds.
Sighing, he shrugged, tipping back half the beer in front of him. Already drunk, what did it matter? Drunk, and bored.
The voices around him receded as the boys left the table for the final set, leaving him to his own devices, surrounded by empty glasses. He turned his attention back to Grace, smiling a little as he noticed her starting on a second full beer. “For someone who doesn’t drink, she’s doing a respectable job…”
So was Josh, he noticed, putting back at least two per break. “It’s a wonder he can sing… wonder any of them can…” He laughed a little at the profusion of mugs on his own table. “At least I don’t have to do anything, I can just sit here in a coma…” He let his gaze wander the periphery of the bar again, mildly interested in the activities of the tavern girls. Some of them were so pretty…. he bet he could find some company there… but what is it Josh had said? Most of them would infect him with something.
“Doesn’t that figure…” He drained the last of his beer and felt his head swim alarmingly. “Whoa…” He gripped the table tightly, trying to focus, as his stomach did a slow roll. “Oh good… Taylor you’re a moron… God there’s no air in here.” He shook his head, hauled himself up, hoping he could make it outside to clear air without falling on his face. It would be quiet out there too. Thinking he had a good working plan, he stepped away from the table, holding the backs of chairs as he made his way to the door.

Grace clapped enthusiastically as the boys left the stage for a final time, this time not jumping off to break at their tables, but vanishing to some undisclosed backstage area. Wondering when they’d be back, she turned to ask Taylor, eyes widening as she took in his empty chair. “Well…”
Alone, she glanced around the bar, seeing nobody she knew. No familiar mane of blond caught her eye, and she scowled, annoyed. “Just why don’t all of you leave me here, to be accosted by God knows who…” She looked back up at the stage, wondering where Josh was, and when he would be joining her. Her mind spun at the thought of their conversations between sets. The things he’d said to her, the way he’d looked at her, the way he used to, before… before… “Oh face it Grace, before you became a pious, boring old simp, at sixteen… it’s no wonder he wanted nothing to do with you…” But that hadn’t been true, had it? He had taken her in tonight, and his eyes had shown how much he still cared. She’d seen it clearly. She thought about it, about his singing, realizing that she’d been wrong. Josh’s harping that he wanted to sing had been more than that. It had been a statement of fact. He was good, he had talent, and people were paying to see him! Coming out in droves it looked like! This WAS a living, an unconventional living, but a living and he loved it. Was there any law that said he HAD to work at the paper, to be a proper husband? Was there any law that said it was against the rules to have fun with your intended? “And while we’re being honest, do you really WANT somebody who will sit at home and read the bible whilst you sew? I think not…” She nodded to herself. There would be a lot to talk about after tonight.
Her eye caught a flash of red, and she jumped to her feet, gripping the edge of the table as her head swam. “Mickey!”
The boy froze, grinned, and trotted over, smiling brightly. “Hello miss, you’re wondering where Josh is?” She smiled back, nodding. “Yes, they’ve all gone and left me…” Mick nodded amiably. “He’s out back talking with the manager. He’ll be along shortly. I think Taylor went outside during the last set, if you want to find him. The rest of us will be along as soon as we finish putting things away. You’re alright here, aren’t you?”
‘Oh, yes I’m fine, thank you. I just couldn’t fathom where everyone had gone…”
“Oh, we’ll all be along. I’ve got to run…” He grinned and jumped back onto the stage, hooking two stools and a guitar as he went, running backstage.

“Outside…” Grace gathered her spinning head as best she could, and moved tentatively toward the door. Some air would be a good idea, and she could find Taylor. As much fun as she was having, being alone here made her distinctly uncomfortable.
“Are you alright?” Taylor looked up blearily, the motion of his head causing him to hold more tightly to the wall he was leaning on. Rather than clear his head, the air outside had seemed to intensify the effects of the alcohol, and he was holding onto consciousness by the thinnest of threads. His blurred eyes struggled to focus on the source of the voice, finding a shadowy female shaped figure floating in front of him. “You’re not, are you? I’m Eliza, I’m Pete’s sister… Why don’t you sit down?” He shook his head, the voice bringing him around a little. “No, I’m ok.” “You’re Taylor, aren’t you?” He nodded, wanting to ask her how she knew, unable to untangle his tongue. Knowing what he was thinking, the girl giggled. “The hair, we’ve all heard a great deal about the hair…” She stepped closer and he could feel her breath on his face. “Pete say’s you’re quite interesting… why don’t you show me how interesting?” He looked down on her as she stepped in again, now in full body contact. Was this girl really doing what she seemed to be doing? Yes, she did seem to be. He followed her lead, letting her pull him down a little, feeling her lips on his, kissing back more from reflex than desire, too anesthetized to feel much. He was vaguely aware that her free hand had wandered someplace he would have found unbearably exciting at another time, but now only found faintly interesting. Unreality washed over him as his benumbed body tried to respond. This was just too weird. He twisted his face away, trying to take a breath, as another pair of hands suddenly appeared in his face, roughly grabbing Eliza’s shoulders, pulling her off him. He wouldn’t have particularly minded had she not been holding him up.

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This fictional story is hosted at The Gifted Ones,
with permission from the author, Sheryl.

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