Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 34 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.
Banging. What was that banging?
“Grace! Grace wake up!”
Josh? Was that Josh making all that racket?
Half afraid something was wrong, she hurried out of bed, wrapping the blanket around her. What could be going on?
Her fingers barely left the lock as the door burst open, revealing Josh’s excited, laughing face.
“Good morning! You’re up!”
Raising an eyebrow, wisely withholding comment, she turned back into the room, wondering mildly if things with Josh were always going to be like this.
“Grace, put on a pretty dress, hurry! We have something we must do right away!” She’d rushed to get ready, and hanging her lace shawl over her
“Joshua Gage what are you about? You’ve up to some mischief I can see it in your eyes…”
She disappeared into her room, Josh’s voice muffled now by the door.
“No, Grace, no mischief I promise you! But hurry!”
Zac yawned noisily as he stumbled back from the bathroom. “Weird… weird
dreams AGAIN… this has gotta stop.” He stretched the kinks out of his back, and looked at his bed.
“Huh. To sleep in or not to sleep in, that is the question. Actually… the question would be… is there anything else to DO?”
He sat on the edge of the window, gazing down at the street.
“Only 9 in the morning and it’s busy as heck out there…”
His attention hooked onto an old man, ragged coat to his ankles out of place in August. Grimy, unshaven…
Vague sadness came over him, as he watched the man walk out of view. People who had no place…
Shaking off the melancholy that was settling on him, he wandered away from the window, shifting his gaze to t his oldest sibling in the other bed, smiling a little as he watched him. “Ike’s sleeping good. He’s so out of it, he’s about flat.” He giggled at the road kill analogy that flashed through his mind, wondering once again if he should just curl up next to his brother, and sleep the day away.
“Nothin’ else to do, not till Tay gets home later on…”
He froze, the thought suddenly huge in his head. “Tay’s coming home today! How do I know that?!” He searched frantically for an answer, unaccountable fear suddenly free floating through his body.
“How could I know that? HOW?!”
His dreams came back to him, faint and misty, frustrating. Glowing, warm threads, George, some woman… Taylor. He could almost hear his brother’s voice, telling him he’d be home tomorrow.
“Tomorrow is today… did I dream that?!” Something ate at him, tugging at his nerves, and he knew it was more than a dream. His eyes narrowed suddenly, and his head turned, eyes staring beyond the doorway.
“George. He knows. I know he knows…”
Nodding, he shucked off the shorts he’d slept in, absently pulling on jeans from a pile on the floor.
“I’ve gotta talk to him again, and this time… this time I’m going to get answers.”
No playfulness left in him, somehow deadly sure, he looked back to his brother. Should he wake him? Tell him? He watched him sleep for a moment, finally deciding and shaking his head. “No… you sleep bud, this I’m doing alone…”
Iron on stone, leather on iron, shouts, whips… it never changed.
Taylor’s gaze lit with vague disinterest on the jam of carriages, horses and pedestrians below him on 8th avenue. Traffic jams were traffic jams, in both times, though he doubted his own time could rival the sheer noise of all those iron wrapped wagon wheels and iron shod hooves.
He sighed, leaning his forehead against the raised window. Sick of this time, he was sick of it. Just sick period. The longing for his own family and time was a biting ache that wouldn’t ease. He’d slept hard, thoughts too muddled to let him rest. Josh, Grace, home… so torn.
“I want to take them with me…”
He laughed a little at the impossibility of it.
“Take them with me… as if…”
He turned away from the window, shoving his tangled hair from his face. The room seemed to cry accusations at him. “I did it wrong, or I wouldn’t still be here…”
He thought about it, sighing again, remembering his last look at the threads. Josh was okay. Grace too. His own strand though, still that sparking, mottled horrid green.
“What is it I’m doing wrong? What is it I’m not doing right?”
His frustration mounted as he looked around, feeling trapped. The once beloved Dakota was taking on the flavor of a nightmarish prison, one he seemed powerless to escape .
“I don’t know what to do…”
Josh had made him promise not to leave before he returned, telling him he had something important to show him in the morning. He’d agreed, somewhat resignedly, knowing he wasn’t leaving anyway. His resolve of the night before had faded under the onslaught of relentless thinking that had plagued him until first light. How could he leave if he wasn’t done? How would he know what to do? Would he ever see anyone he loved again?
Stress and apprehension churning his stomach, he started down the hall, avoiding the parlor in favor of the kitchen, the golden sunlight streaming in onto blond wood somehow soothing.
Kathryn’s voice sent chills down his spine, and he shuddered, unable to help it. Anxiety flared in him as he pulled out a chair, sitting across from her with the wary look of a caged animal.
“I want to go home, Kathryn. I can’t stay here anymore, I just can’t stand it…”
He didn’t want to talk to this woman, didn’t want to let her see how much he hurt, but his control, thinned to transparency, broke at the sight of her face.
“I can’t be away from them anymore, I have to go back… you have to let me go back…”
He rested his head in his hands, half expecting tears, surprised to find they weren’t there. He was just too tired.
“Yes dear… we know.”
His head shot up at the understanding tone. Had she actually agreed with him?
Nodding, amused at his reaction, the woman continued. “Taylor, dear, we understand. You’ve done all here that you can. Perhaps what you need to do for yourself can only be accomplished in your own time… there is certainly nothing more you can do here. If you wish to leave… and you will allow yourself to leave… then you certainly may. We shall send you as soon as you desire.”
Wide eyed, he could do no more than stare. He could go? Had she said he could go?
“Oh, yes!” The words came out in a rush. “Oh yes, please!”
Laughing, she nodded. “Make sure you have everything in order here, say whatever good-byes you will… and when you are ready… you will go home.”
He sat back, thinking. He had promised Josh he’d stay until he came back. He had to say goodbye to Grace…
Nodding, he reached for the juice pitcher, the roiling in his stomach calming now. He could wait to say goodbye. He was going home.
Grace breathed in the morning sunlight, smiling softly.
“Josh, have you ever noticed that sunlight has a scent?”
His eyebrows went up as he glanced at her, amused.
“Yes… just breathe in…”
She demonstrated. “And you will see…”
She giggled at the perplexed look on his face, and shoved him playfully down a step with her foot. “I suppose you think me mad, but tell me what else I’m to do whilst we sit here on these ridiculous steps?”
“Now Grace, there is nothing ridiculous about these steps, they are perfectly normal steps.”
“I see that, Joshua, but the question remains, why are we, in fact, sitting on them?” “Well, did you want to stand?” He laughed, moving to sit close to her.
“Josh, you are utterly infuriating, do you understand that?”
He nodded, smile suddenly fading as he looked into her eyes.
“Do you really want to know why we’re here, Grace?”
His serious tone brought her up short, and she nodded, unsure now what was coming.
Now that the moment was rnigh, Josh was tongue-tied with anxiety. What if she said no? What if she wanted to wait? He gazed heavenward, realizing insanely that he actually could smell the sunlight, and aimed a prayer. “Please let her say yes. Please… please let her say yes.”
He took her hands in his, looking into her eyes, suddenly more terrified than he had ever been. His whole life seemed to have narrowed to this one moment, and his entire future hinged on her one word.
“Grace, will you marry me? Right now, I mean?”
His forehead creased and he felt a trickle of sweat run down his cheek as the girl stared into his eyes, and he swiped at it with his sleeve. Why wasn’t she saying anything?
Grace, completely taken aback, could only stare. Of all the things she’d imagined he’d say, this had not been one of them. Shock had stolen her words, and while she knew on some level that her silence was killing Josh, there was not a single thing she could do about it.
Zac sat on the steps of the building, elbows resting on his knees, watching the pretty lady talking to George. He’d heard her call the old man “Grampa”, and had smiled to himself. “She’s the one who ruined my bribe…” He watched them laughing together, smiling as George continually moved his coffee cup out of range of her hands.
“Cool, they’re like… friends, that’s cool. Wish she’d hurry up though.”
He gazed at the people passing on the sidewalk, no one paying him the slightest bit of attention.
“THIS is cool, no girls shoutin’, and grabbin’ at me. I can just SIT… and wait for her to leave! C’mon, I gotta talk to him too!”
Patience was not one Zac’s strong points this morning, and he fidgeted restlessly, the morning sun sinking it’s heat through his black t shirt. He wiped sweat from his forehead and scowled down at the sidewalk. Didn’t George understand? Didn’t he feel it? He could see his granddaughter any old day, this was important!
He looked up in time to see the young woman kiss her granddad’s cheek.
“Finally!” He smiled at the woman, as she passed him, holding himself back until she was around the corner. Dusting off his jeans, he bolted from the steps to the guardhouse, stopping just before he ran into the older man.
“Hey! George! Buddy!” He smiled winningly at George, deciding to forget his anger of yesterday, and hoping George was going to do the same.
Obligingly, George smiled back, laughing to himself. “This kid is a pistol, he is, indeed. What tricks will he try today?” His mood was easy. They were sending the other boy back today, and life could go back to normal for this poor family. Much like Ben, he disliked the manipulations that went on, and was grateful it was nearly over for now. Still, he had to be careful with Zac. Very careful.
“And what is on your mind this fine day, young sir?”
He offered Zac the pastry his Kathy had just left for him, noting with amusement the absent way the boy accepted it, munching happily as if being handed food at random were part and parcel of his world.
“Well, George, I’m just not sure…”
Zac hesitated for a moment, not sure how to approach it. He was sure that if he came right out and asked, George would deny knowing anything. How could he get around it?
Sighing, he shook his head. Didn’t look to him like there WAS much way around it.
“George. I just don’t know what’s going on. Please…” He paused again, hand tugging at his hair. “Please be straight with me. I’m having these dreams… and… and ideas. And I know that they’re more than that. And I know…”
He stopped, words suddenly failing him. George had been so mad yesterday, when he’d accused him of knowing where Taylor was. He didn’t want to make him mad now.
“I need some answers, George.”
“And you think I have those answers, do you, Zac?”
Zac slumped to the ground, resting his back on the sunwarmed guardhouse, looking up at George with honest confusion in his eyes.
“George, I’m worried… about Tay, and these dreams I’m havin’. I know what happened, and I know where he is, you know that. And I know there’s something about me… George what if he needs help? What if something was to go wrong?”
“Like what, Zac?”
The boy shook his head, absolutely lacking a single word to describe what he felt.
George looked at Zac searchingly. The kid was right, no question. It wasn’t his fault he’d been activated years before his time, wasn’t his fault he was picking up shadows of events in another time. It wouldn’t do any of them any good if he fell apart now, either. Nodding to himself, knowing there would be disapproval, he stepped from the guardstand, beckoning Zac into the courtyard, finding a shady spot to sit. There were times you had to follow the rules, and times you had to follow your gut, and George, at this moment, knew that the time for rules was past