Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 15 of 41
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.
“Mind where yer going! Damn kid…” The carter shoved Josh out of the way, and continued across the busy street. Stumbling onto the sidewalk, Josh shook his head. He’d been a million miles away, thoughts caught up in the night before. “I’ve got to pay attention, stop living in my head this way.” He continued on his way, dodging high class matrons, and low class shopgirls, his thoughts running on, replaying his babyish behavior. It had been humiliating, waking up, realizing that he had cried on Ma. “Just like Ellie, I was. Sobbing like an infant, and over what? Whatever possessed me to do that? Nothing to cry over.” He shook his head, terribly annoyed with himself. ” It was the beer, it had to have been.” Conveniently bypassing the fact that he’d not had that much to drink, he blamed his thoughts and actions on the ale. Still, things had changed, there was no getting around that. A lot of what had gone through his mind had validity… didn’t it? Maybe not. He’d had so much on his mind. “Have I changed? Is it the music? It can’t be. But things have been different since… Bah, that’s just nonsense, that is. I haven’t changed, in any way that isn’t normal. And it’s not me who has the problem anyway, they do…” A twinge of guilt made him wince, as a soft voice spoke in the back of his mind. “Is that right, Josh? Is it them with the problem?” He quickly shunted it aside. “No, it’s them, not me, it can’t be me… am I being selfish? NO.” He sped up, wishing the Dakota wasn’t so far uptown. The long walk was giving him too much time to think, too much time to thrash this all over, it was all just too much. He wished now he’d hitched a ride on the ice wagon. Shouldering people out of his way, he tried, to no avail, to stop his runaway brain. He’d thought hard about his family, about Taylor, about how odd it was that Taylor seemed to have the relationship with his siblings that he’d thrown away. And he had thrown it away, hadn’t he? “Am I too mean to the little ones? Should I be more patient?” He thought about it. He’d talked to Ma this morning, just the two of them, and it had been good, being able to sit with her in the sunlit kitchen, and just talk to her, tell her… and she’d listened. There had been no scolding, no criticism… not that is, until Lou interrupted. Her hair needed to be brushed, he, Josh, was in the way, he, Josh, was useless, he Josh was a slugabed, he Josh was the cause of all that was wrong with the world. No, no misunderstanding that, he’d done nothing to deserve it. Still, weren’t all kid sisters that way…?” Maybe so, but the fact is, they’ve just gotten more annoying as they’ve grown older, it’s not me at all. I’ve not changed, and the music hasn’t corrupted me either. If anything, it’s given me some direction, given me a dream, made me better.” Confused, his thoughts racing, chasing each other around in his head, he stopped. “Have I changed? Have they changed? I don’t know… does it matter?” He walked on, kicking clods of dirt and loose debris from his path. “What was it Taylor said last night, about the boys? Do I think they’d fail without me? Do I think I’m the boss?” Jostled by the ever growing crowd on the sidewalk, he started walking again, lost in his thoughts, confused by the cross currents in his mind, trying to sort it all out. “Taylor was drunk, and sick, he didn’t know what he was saying. The boys agreed that it’s better for me to handle the business part. They’re good, but without me, they’d not go anywhere in this town.” Feeling like he was getting it settled, getting it right, he quickened his pace, thinking about the crowds, the audiences, the girls.
“It’s not my fault that the girls like me. It’s not my fault that the boys can’t handle the business end. They can see that I’m the natural one to do that job, since it’s me the crowd is paying to see.” Taylor’s words whispered in his head again, and the confusion mounted. Paying to see him? Had he really thought that? Well it was true, wasn’t it? Suddenly, the other boys on his mind he realized that he had not told them that he had cancelled this morning’s practice. Feeling partly like he had abandoned his friends, and partly smug, he shrugged it off. “Ah well, they could use the extra work, iron out that harmony problem. They’ll just have to do without me today.” He thought about it, as the midmorning heat crept in, heating up the back of his neck, making him sweat. He’d never skipped a practice. Well, he needed to see how Taylor was. He couldn’t get over the unsettling feeling that he shouldn’t have left him. “I hope he’s feeling better… I wonder if he’ll come home with me tonight. I’ll need someone on my side, that’s for sure, with Grace coming over.” Grace, the final bomb dropped just as he was leaving the house. Coming to dinner. Wonderful. His betrothed. “Grace. Buttoned up, prim, warm as ice. My wife to be.” If not for Grace, he rationalized, he’d not have had to get that job. His Da would not have been on him so hard, if he hadn’t been betrothed. “I’ll never leave this town now. My dreams are gone, I’ll never do anything but work at that paper, father children, and go to church. All because of Grace.” The more he thought about Grace, and his future, lack thereof, with her, the madder he got, and the faster he walked. The faster he walked, the more he thought, and the anger continued to build.
He was willing, somewhat, to agree that MAYBE he could be a little autocratic with his friends. A little bossy with his family. A little hard to get along with. But he was Joshua Gage, a well known singer. A little bit of ego was needed in a famous person. “Not that I’ll be famous after Monday…” He shook his head, growling a little to himself. Damn it, she was ruining everything. Everything! There had to be a way out. It just wasn’t fair! “That’s it. Taylor will come home for supper with me, and he will meet this ice block I have to marry. At least with him there, they won’t nag at me about ‘making something of myself'” Grace’s unsmiling features flashed in his mind, he wondered if she had ever smiled at him. “Oh God, I’ll have to give up the shop girls…” Josh bounced from anger, to despair, to guilt, to confusion…
Looking up at the Dakota, leaning, slightly winded from the hike, against the carriage house, he realized he had no idea how to get in. The guard would never let him in without Taylor. This was a “private apartment”, “exclusive” to it’s rich “residents.” It crossed his mind to wonder exactly who Taylor’s friends were, to warrant chambers in the opulent building. “Nobody who’s anybody will live this far uptown, but you have to really be somebody to get in that front door, don’t you… well too bad.” He stomped over to the front of the drive, set for battle. “I’m going in there, and I’m going to get Taylor, I don’t care about the guard!” He froze for a moment, seeing the same old man who had frightened him the night before. “Does he never sleep?!” Still, there was little to be frightened of in the broad light of day, and he nodded in satisfaction. Simply more proof that it had all been the spirits. He stepped boldly to the gatehouse, and rapped on the door. “Listen…” George clamped his hand on Josh’s shoulder, giving him a gentle shove towards the stairs. “Go lad, it’s time you got up there. You know which number, right?” Eyes wide, suddenly braked temper rendering him speechless, Josh nodded. “What do you mean, it’s time?” The man smiled, shaking his head. “I’m an old man, my mouth runs away on me, you just never mind. Go on with you. Stop dallying here.” Turning his back on the boy, George returned to his duties, and Josh, watching the guardhouse each step of the way, entered the Dakota, feeling the cool air of the lobby washing over him. Brightly sunlit, the beauty of his surroundings did little to ease the sudden anxiety that flooded him. “I still get the creeps here…” Josh entered the elevator, hoping that Benjamin wouldn’t be in the apartment. Something about the man just made his hair stand on end.
Walking down the hall, Josh checked the brass numbers on each door. “Here it is… I don’t want to go in there” he suddenly thought, as he heard raised voices behind the door. Was that Taylor??? Swearing like that? What in the name of God…
As he raised his hand to knock, the door suddenly swung wide.
“Kathryn?” Taylor hung onto the wall, heading into the living room on legs threatening to give out on him at any moment. “Man… I gotta lie down.” He heard his voice shaking, and looked up gratefully as he felt her arm grasp his elbow. “I feel like jello…” “I’m sure you do…” She helped him to the sofa, watching beads of sweat breaking out on his face. “Why are you up?” “I didn’t want to be in there alone anymore. Kathryn…” He sank down onto the couch with an audible sigh, curling up on his side. God, he felt miserable. “Kathryn, what’s wrong with me? I know this isn’t just a hangover…” “No, it’s not. Though that’s part of it.” “Your eyes are silver again. Does that happen when you go in there?” “Yes it does.” “Did my eyes look like that after I went in there?” “Yes, they did.” “Is that why I’m sick? Because I went in there?” She shook her head in wonder, at the astuteness of the question. Most people wouldn’t have thought of it. “Perhaps partly. We can talk about this later. You need to rest…” “Later. I want to know what happened. I… I remember all kinds of weird things…” His eyes went dark, and she saw the beginnings of a scowl, joining the confusion on his face. Of course he remembered strange things. And he would remember more as time wore on. His perception of the situation was already enough to make him angry. Sighing deeply, she took a seat across the room. The moment she had been dreading, had finally, unavoidably, arrived. “Alright, Taylor. Listen very carefully, and I shall try to explain it…
He watched the tip of his finger turn bulbous, then purple, digging the nail of a free finger into the bright white strip of flesh just under the purple. “I wonder how long I have to leave that there for it to rot off?” He unwound the thread he’d wrapped around it, felt the tingle as the circulation returned, rewound it, repeated. A few minutes later he had quite a pattern of angry red stripes crisscrossing the fingertip, making him think for a moment with relish, of similar lines crisscrossing the throat of the woman sitting across from him. How could they have done it? He wound the thread again, viciously, bending his finger against it, enjoying the pain. How could they have played with him that way? He looked up for a moment, staring at her until she looked over, hurriedly dropping his gaze. He didn’t want to talk to her until he’d calmed down. Problem was, he didn’t feel like he was calming down. The more he thought about it, the madder he got. How could they have done it to him? Brought him here, against his will, and then not even told him that it was dangerous? “Minding my own business, and they just… just kidnap me, throw me back a hundred years… and then its up to ME to keep myself here? I don’t know how to do that, how could I know how to do that?!” He snapped the string in half and turned over, agitated. “It’s not fair, I said I’d help them, how could they… I could have died!” He felt heat wash over him suddenly, as his temper stepped up a notch. “What if I would have died? And it’s their fault…” Her voice rang in his head, her voice… telling him. It was the threads that had done it. By exposing him to their power they’d overcharged him. “Like an old battery, just pump the juice in, and who cares if it explodes? Heck, just get another one…” That overcharge hadn’t allowed him to simply drift back to his own time, when he’d become too tired to hold himself in place, no, it had catapulted him out into nothingness. “And what did they do? Nothing. NOTHING! Just let me lay there. I could have ceased to exist and they would have done nothing…” Kathryn’s explanation, that the beer he’d drunk had caused his isolation, didn’t wash with Taylor. If these people had the ability to bring him back a hundred years, and control all of destiny, fate, and time, they certainly could grab hold of him and hold him there. “They could have done something. They just wouldn’t.” He understood what she’d told him, that interfering in what was happening could have impacted worlds. “Impact this… they’d have let me die. They interfered before, didn’t they? Brought me here, right? Because they needed my help? Ha, and when I need theirs, what do I get? Nothing. NOTHING!” He swallowed, burning starting in his throat. “Great… figures. I bet they don’t have Tums here, either…” He staggered to his feet, his intention to get a drink, only to be stopped by Kathryn’s hand on his arm. “Taylor, you need to stay quiet…” “Don’t touch me!” Her hand on him repulsed him, and he felt his skin crawling, his tenuous hold on his temper thinning to gossamer. “You just keep your hands off me. You’re not even HUMAN are you?! You and that sick FREAK you live with…” “Taylor…” “No! No, fuck you! You two would have let me die! You would have KILLED me, do you understand that?! ” The fragile hold on his control snapped, and he shoved her away, taking furious pleasure in her collision with the couch. “What did I ever do to you?! You asked me to come here, you needed me, and I came! You took me away from everyone I know, everyone I love, my family! They don’t even know I’m alive, do they?! DO THEY?!” It came to him in a flash… his family must think him dead… or simply gone, and the horror of it overwhelmed him. “How could you do that?! To me! To them! I helped you! You said you needed me, and I did it! Your air made me dizzy, your food made me sick, and all I wanted was…” He stopped, swallowing again, afraid if he didn’t get some water soon, he’d be sick. “You don’t care what happens to me, you don’t care that I agreed to help you, you don’t fucking care about anything!” He started to the kitchen again, warning her away as she stepped toward him. Fuck them, he was going home. That was it. Who did they think they were? He ran the water, filled the glass, drank it down, hearing the glass rattle against his teeth as his hand shook. God damn them all to hell, he LIKED the people he’d met! He wanted to help Josh, he wanted to be part of them. “And they’re all dead already!!! You made me love people who are already dead!!” He shouted into the living room, far beyond rational now. “You took me away, you trapped me here, you never explained to me how ANY of it worked, you didn’t even tell me the RULES!!! Get OUT of my FACE!!” She had appeared in the doorway, and he flung the glass at her, laughing bitterly as it crashed onto the wall next to her face. “If it had cut you you wouldn’t even bleed, would you?! I wish it had hit you…” He shoved past her, wanting to leave, wanting to be anywhere she was not, knowing he couldn’t. “I don’t even know how to go home! I don’t even know how! I’m trapped here, with you, and… and… that thing you live with!!” She sighed, knowing it was useless to speak until his rage had spent itself. He was certainly justified, there was no denying that. She followed him back into the living room, wishing she could give him the privacy he so desperately needed, but his condition was just too unstable. The last thing he needed was to keel over and crack his skull. “Taylor, please… sit down…” “Oh bite me! You know what I’m going to do?? Do you???” “No, Taylor, what…” “I’m going to get out of these clothes… get my OWN shit… and go sit in that FUCKING park until I wish my way back to my OWN time! And you can KISS MY ASS!!!!” He started for the bedroom, her sharp voice stopping him. “Taylor!” “What.” “You won’t be able to go back.” He turned, eyes stormy, voice dangerously quiet. “What… exactly what do you mean by that?” He took a step toward her, and she saw genuine violence in his eyes. “You won’t be able to go back on your own. We didn’t want to take a chance on losing you again, so we took over. You can’t leave. Not until we let you go.” Disbelief filled those eyes, and his mouth fell open. “Are you telling me I’m… are you telling me you won’t let me go?” She met his gaze levelly. “I’m telling you that when you calm down, we’ll talk about this…” “Oh no… I’ll tell YOU!. You let me go… I swear to you Kathryn, I’ll kill you where you stand!” “Taylor…” A tentative knock came to the door, and he flung it open, unthinking, not even bothering to look at who stood there.
“Don’t you Taylor me! You send me back, do you hear me? You send me back to my own world!” “Taylor!” Her voice, more hiss, than shout, drew his attention to the open doorway, and his breath caught in his throat. There in front of him, stood Josh.