A Change of Grace: Chapter 21

Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 21 of 41
Author: Sheryl
Rating: PG-13
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 21

Taylor followed Grace out of the building, flashing a quick grin at George, who waved mildly from his stand.
Brows drawn down in confusion, Taylor stepped up alongside the girl. “Hey, how’d you get in?” “I beg your pardon?” “How did you manage to get into the building? George usually stops everyone who doesn’t live there…” She shook her head, frowning. “I saw nobody. I simply walked up the steps…” “Doesn’t that figure. I almost die of heatstroke, and I live there, because nobody will let me in, and you AND Josh in one morning just stroll in… there is no justice…”
Grace giggled as they crossed to the park. “It’s not much is it?” Taylor shook his head. “No… it’s real nice further up though. I thought I heard music the other night, from over here, but I was too tired to go see what it was.” “Oh, well I can tell you. They have boats that go out onto the lake, carrying full brass bands! They play out there most fine summer evenings. Have you seen the carriage races?” “The what?” “Obviously not. Every afternoon at four, there are carriage races through the park.” “Have you been to them?” “No… I’ve never been here, but it’s all the rage… My mother and I have talked about coming to hear the bands, of an evening, but it simply hasn’t worked out.” “Well you should…” He drifted off, looking her over. She was so pretty, with that gorgeous hair, and those eyes… but she worked so hard to make herself… plain. What would make someone so obviously beautiful work so darned hard to be dowdy? Shaking his head, he sighed, not wanting to try to figure out a girl of the 19th century. They were confusing enough in his own time.

Slowly they wandered through the park, commenting idly on half grown trees, and children running past them. Several time’s he’d seen Grace smile fondly at the children playing, always wiping the grin away when she caught him looking. “She loves kids, I can see it. Why’s she so against anyone seeing her smile? No wonder Josh doesn’t want to be with her… she’s so sour faced all the time.” He watched her stab a loose strand of hair back into the bun, desperately trying to bite back the teasing that came to his mind. No good, he couldn’t help it. It had to be said. Taylor grinned to himself, bracing for the indignant scowl he knew he was going to receive. “Grace, does your head hurt?” “What?” “I figured it out.” “What are you talking about, Taylor? Figured what out?” “Why you can’t smile, or talk, or have any fun.” He stopped, and flung himself onto the grass, pulling at it absently as he watched her slowly lower herself to the ground, arranging her skirts around her, fussing to ensure nothing was exposed to his view. “Like ankles would turn me into some slobbering beast” Taylor snorted to himself. “Well, what are you talking about?” Grace, confused, unsure, not knowing what to say, wasn’t quite sure what Taylor meant, but then, he was always saying such odd things. God knew what this would be. “Well…” Taylor drew out the moment. “It’s your hair, Grace.” “My hair? Taylor…” Who was he to talk about hair? And what was wrong with hers? It was a perfectly acceptable hair style. Taylor, recognizing the signs of perfect timing, started to giggle. “You have your hair pulled back SO tight, it’s cutting off circulation to your brain cells. It’s pulling your eyes WAY out of shape. I’m surprised you can blink, much less think. I mean, it has to hurt, which is why I asked if you had a headache. It has to be hard to be happy about anything, with your hair cutting your head in half…” He laughed helplessly, as Grace sputtered with indignation. “Why… you… what do you know… it’s NOT too tight! I can think, AND blink, thank you very much! What do you mean it’s pulling my eyes funny? Are you saying I look strange? Well, I never…” Tears came to her eyes, and she looked away, her feelings hurt. That this absurd BOY should say such a thing to her. “I’ve half a mind to punch you in the nose!” “Awww, Grace, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you upset, I was just joking! But seriously, I’ve never seen a girl with her hair pulled back so tight! It’s honest to God pulling your eyes all slanty like this…” He tugged the corners of his eyes out. “And every time a little piece comes loose you tuck it back in like crazy, like you’re afraid that if a strand gets loose, it’ll make YOU loose or something.” “That’s ridiculous”, her snort of derision was halfhearted. He was right, it DID hurt her scalp. But she was a lady and she had to look like one. “Grace… why do you do that to yourself? Soft hair is pretty Grace, and so are you, really.” He scooted over, closer to Grace, and put his hand on her arm. “Grace, if you loosened up a bit, even just a little, you’d have alot more fun, you know. Ladies ARE allowed to have fun, aren’t they?” Grace sniffed delicately, looking at Taylor. “Yes, we are, but I just never have any.” “Well why not?” He saw the discontent on her face, and determined to break through while he had the chance. “I don’t know. There just never seems to be any fun to be had. There are so many responsibilities. I feel so discontented today. I don’t want to embroider, I don’t want to teach Bible verses, I don’t want to… don’t want to… be proper!” Her eyes downcast, Grace sighed heavily, having made an admission she was completely appalled to have made. Taylor had that effect on her, she didn’t know why, but her life felt upside down since she had met him. Taylor grinned, seeing an ideal opportunity open up. “Grace, listen. You’re absolutely great, do you realize that? You’re smart, and funny, and beautiful, and talented. You have so much… and you go around like… like… like a church lady! You need to relax and have some fun. Grace how old are you?” She scowled, distracted by the shooting pains in her head he had called her attention to. “I’m sixteen, Taylor.” “Sixteen. Then BE sixteen and take the day off and play.” “Play? What in the world are you talking about?” “Throw ‘proper’ away Grace, and just have fun today. Be improper.” Gasping, Grace looked at Taylor wide-eyed. “Improper how, Taylor? I AM a good girl, I’ll have you know!” She slid away from him as his hand reached up to touch her hair. He snorted, and rolled his eyes. “I know you are, and you are also my friend’s intended. I’m not putting the moves on you, Grace.” “Pardon me? Putting what…?” “Forget it. Now, don’t get all bent out of shape, listen to me, and have an open mind, ok?” “Ok, I think…” Grace settled back, willing to give Taylor the chance to say his piece. “First, take that hat off.” “But…” “Just take it off. There are lots of girls here without hats on. And lose the gloves too.” Hesitant, unsure, but somehow under his spell, she did as he asked. “Ok, now what?” “Now, your hair.” He slid behind her, shushing her protests, and unpinned the complicated bun, running his fingers through her hair gently. “There, now if you have to have it up, put it up nice and loose, so some of it falls around your face. You’re so pretty Grace… why do you want to hide?” Sighing, she took the hairpins from him, and pinned it back a great deal more loosely, unwilling, to admit, but unable to deny, the enormous relief it gave her. She could honestly almost feel her eyes falling back into their natural lines. “Ok, you’ve undone my hair. Are you happy now?” “No…” He glanced at his wrist again, his eyes drawing hers. Why did he keep doing that? There was an oddly shaped white mark, as if something he’d worn had blocked the sun. What could it have been? Ah, never mind. One more oddity among many. “Now Grace, we are going to go ride that merry go round.” “That what?” “The carousel. Come on…” “No! Taylor! No! We’re both much too old for that!” “Oh, says who. Will the world come to an end if we take a ride on the carousel?” “Well no, but how will it look?” “Like we’re having fun. Now come on…”

Hours later found them sunburned, exhausted, and happy, both stretched out in the shade of a grove of somewhat taller trees. To Grace’s amusement, Taylor appeared to be on the verge of falling asleep. Right here in the park! “Taylor! Wake up.” He cracked an eye and grinned at her. “I’m awake. You having fun?” “Yes, I am… thank you.” Her eyes gleamed and he was happy to note not a trace of the church lady. “So… how come you never came and did this with Josh?” “With Josh?” “Yes, Josh, you remember him. The man you’re supposed to marry?” “Don’t be a dolt, Taylor. How could I ever do anything like this with him, when he doesn’t even like me?” “Ah, but you’re so wrong, lady, so wrong. He likes you. He loves you. He’s crazy about you. Just like you are him. He just thinks you’ll turn him down. And you know he’s right. I practically had to kill you to get you to let your hair down, and he’s not half as pushy as I am.” “Well that’s the truth, he’s not.” “Grace…” He leaned up on one elbow. “Do you really like him?” Her initial reaction was to tell him he was being impertinent, but a glance at his guileless face stopped it in its tracks. This boy was as sweet as the sun was bright, and he really did care. Smiling a little, she nodded. “I like him. I love him. I’ve always loved him.” “He loves you too.” “No… he hates me, Taylor. He hates even the thought of me.” “No… but I know what he hates.” “If not me, then, what?” “He hates the idea of losing his dream. Grace…” He sat up, looking into her eyes. “He wants to sing. More than anything in the world he wants to sing. It’s the only thing he lives for, believe me, I know exactly what he’s feeling. He loves you, he misses you! He told me you used to be best friends, and used to just hang out like this all the time. That you were going to be famous together.” “Yes, but I grew up, Taylor! He hasn’t!” “Grace, growing up doesn’t mean giving up your dreams, and settling into a life you hate, just because you think you’re supposed to! Josh doesn’t hate you, he doesn’t KNOW you! You’re not the same Grace he grew up with, or the same Grace he fell in love with! He’s scared. He’s scared you’ll force him to give up his dream… Grace… sometimes… sometimes there are things you feel so strongly about, that to give them up is worse than death. Sometimes you have to put aside what other people think, and what other people say is right, and do what you know, what you know in here…” He tapped his chest… “is right for you. Josh wants to, NEEDS to follow that dream, he needs to make it happen. And what he’s afraid of is you taking that away from him. Because he knows you need him to be responsible. He knows you need him to take care of you. And he knows he can’t do it on your terms. He loves you! But he wants you beside him, on his side, not over there trying to pull him away. He can’t leave it Grace. If he leaves it, he may as well kill himself.” “So he loves me, but he doesn’t want to do right by me?” “He does! Grace he does! But he wants… Grace, Josh wants someone alive! Someone who would be willing to say ‘the heck with propriety’ and take a chance! Someone who dares to be alive, and out there, with him! Oh, you don’t understand…” He flung himself down, frustrated. How could he show her? How could he make her see that Josh wasn’t what she thought he was? “Grace!” “What…” “Did you ever hear him sing? I mean, since you were little?” “Well… no Taylor, he sings in taverns!” “I know… so… you don’t even know how good he is! Grace, come see him! Come with me tonight to see him!” “Taylor, I can’t go to those places!” “Yes you can, lots of people do. Grace…” He sat up again, face animated, hands flying. “You come with me… and just watch him. See what he’s doing, see how good he is, see why… who! See who he is! You don’t even know him, and he doesn’t know you! He doesn’t know how much fun you can be, because every time you go near him you turn into the church lady! You gotta show him, Grace. Please?! Come with me!” “I…” “You can! Yes you can! Grace, come on. You got me out of bed and dragged me out of the house, it’s the least you can do. Come on, get up.” “What…” ” We have to find you something to wear. You can’t go like that.” “What’s wrong with this?” He rolled his eyes, visions of gray haired grandmas dancing in his head. “Grace, tonight you are gonna live it up. And the first step is showing ’em what you got. You’re a beautiful woman! And tonight you go first class. Now come on, lets go see what you’ve got.” “Taylor, I can’t take you back to my house!” “Sure you can, you’ll think of something. Now lets go. You have no choice in the matter whatsoever.” Eyes wide, feeling a little as though reality had taken a sudden leap to the left, Grace let herself be pulled to her feet, and set off along the walk to her house. Inside, under the shell-shocked feeling that was numbing her, a tiny seed of excitement had sprung into life. Life, suddenly, was no longer boring.

“God, Grace!” Taylor voice emerged, frustrated, from the depths of her closet. “Don’t you have anything that isn’t black, blue or brown? No colors? Nothing fancy? Nothing that doesn’t look like you’re going to be buried in it?” The girl shook her head, amazed that this boy had simply walked right into her room, right into her closet, and begun rifling around in her garments. And all to complain! All she could hear were vague mutters of unhappiness, interspersed with exclamations of hopelessness, as he pushed dress after dress aside. “No good. Nope, not that. That is *ugly*. Good Lord… church dress, yep. Funeral dress. Definitely. God my grandmother wouldn’t wear this and she’s been dead five years…”
She giggled, listening to his fashion commentary, even though he appeared to hate all her clothing. What could this boy know of women’s fashions? “Well, he does know about hair… and he seems to know about clothing… is he fey, I wonder?” Blushing, Grace wiped that thought from her mind. That was entirely TOO improper for her to think, much less ask. Shaking off the thought, she stood up, moving to lean against the doorjamb. “Taylor, what exactly are you looking for? What do you think I should wear to a tavern?” Emerging from the closet, Taylor looked disgusted. “Something bright, colorful, happy, something FUN, Grace. Not these church clothes. Something that shows how pretty you are, not how pious you are.” “Taylor, I am not one of those tavern girls. I don’t have clothing like that! Where would I wear such things?” “Where?! ANYWHERE Grace! You’re a beautiful woman, what do you want to dress like a corpse for?” He didn’t want to tell her he’d seen better dressed corpses. She had no idea how to play up her looks, how to show herself off. He sat on her bed, beside her, ignoring her gasp of astonishment. “Ok, you don’t have anything any good to wear OUT. You want to make an impression, and well… we’re going shopping. You and me. Now. You need something nice. Something pretty.” “Taylor, there’s no time for that, not if you want me to go out tonight!” “Why is there no time? What time do the stores close?” “Stores? Taylor, I can’t just go to a store and buy a dress ready made! It’s much too expensive!” “Well where do you get your clothes then?” “We buy the material and have the dresses made by a seamstress, of course! Ready made dresses are very costly, and they still need to be altered when you buy them… I daresay even if I had the means, we would still not have the time. Surely there’s something here I can use!” He shook his head, unwilling even to think about it. “I have money, Grace, and plenty of it. I can buy you a dress, and the stuff to go with it. I’ll help you find something right…” His eyes glittered as he thought about how pretty she could be, envisioning Josh’s jaw hitting the floor. “He has no idea, none at all…” “Absolutely NOT!” He looked up, startled, dismayed to see the closed, pinched expression back on her face. “What is it this time, Grace, geez…”
Grace was violently shaking her head. “No. You cannot, simply cannot, buy me clothing! That is completely improper. Completely wrong. And how would I ever explain this to my mother??? It’s going to be difficult enough to explain if she arrives home before you leave. No. You cannot buy me a dress, Taylor. No.” Her eyes filled with tears of dismay and confusion, as the situation asserted itself. She’d actually been excited at the thought of getting dressed up and going out, doing something daring and wild. She WANTED Josh to see her in a fine dress, with beads in her hair, and that desire scared her. Since this boy had arrived her life had turned completely topsy turvey, and the feeling that it was all out of her control was overwhelming. “You are too bossy, Taylor, and you are just taking over my life!” “Yeah, I am.” Her tears, much to his amazement, didn’t move him much. This had to be done and it wasn’t going to be half as bad as she was trying to convince herself it was. “I have my reasons. You have no choice in this, Grace. None at all. You two love each other, and I’m going to get my life back, even if it means buying your freakin’ underwear! Now, haul ass off that bed, and let’s get going!” “Taylor, I…” “Come on, Grace! I’m buying you a dress, not asking you to marry me. I’m serious here.” Her eyes fastened on his, taking in the look of utter seriousness, and the shadowing of desperation. Why did this mean so much to him? And what had he meant by those words, “I’m going to get my life back…?” “If it means that much to you…” “It does, Grace. More than you’ll ever understand. Now come on, it’ll be fun! Trust me…” He grinned brightly, the smile wiping some of the shade from his eyes, and she found herself grinning back. There was something so infectiously enthusiastic about him. “Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. I’ve already been to your apartment, had you alone in my room, I guess I’m making plans to visit a tavern, I really haven’t much else to lose, have I?” “Not a thing, now come on. We’re going to get you something pretty…” Sighing in resignation, the feeling she would soon regret this strong in her, she got up off the bed, following this headstrong boy who had somehow railroaded her into total impropriety.

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

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