Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 41 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.
Nerveless fingers let the letter drop, shock too total for immediate reaction. His mind ran endlessly, replaying his week with the two of them, ruthlessly taking him on, showing him over and over, imagination running wild superimposing events from her journals onto his memories.
All real, it had all been real, any shadows of doubts erased completely. He’d never said goodbye, how could he have left without saying goodbye?
Old, old woman, how could she be old? The trunk, why was it here? Questions unceasing, faster, too fast to focus on, mind scrambling blur in his head, he never heard the steps behind him, jumping with a sharp gasp as a hand fell on his shoulder.
“Take it easy, are you okay?”
His mother’s voice, soft and concerned. Wide eyed he looked up at her, mutely shaking his head. Still too much, too muddled to even begin to explain, he shrugged helplessly, eyes falling again on the old trunk.
“Tay, hon, what’re you doing up here? Are you alright?” The glassy look in his eyes bothered her, as did the tight distress on his face.
“Where’d you get that?”
His voice was hoarse and she wondered if he’d been crying, peering through the fading light of the lamp, unable to see him clearly enough to tell.
“The trunk?” She glanced absently over her shoulder at the steps on the stairs. “It belonged to my Aunt Grace… Taylor what is it?”
Shaking his head, he handed her the letter, eyes falling again to the open trunk on the floor, hands pulling the journal in closer.
Diana’s eyes darkened as she read the letter, disbelief, amazement, fear, a rich mix of emotion she found herself drowning in. Where had this come from? She’d never even opened the trunk from old Aunt Grace. Could this really have been written by her? But no, it was impossible. Grace had never known Taylor. She’d died long before he’d been born. Had he written it? It wasn’t his writing, certainly, and the paper was old, but he could have found it up here and simply… was he so delusional that he could have concocted this elaborate fantasy? She reached for the book he held, paging through it, noting the similarities in handwriting. Had he read those journals? How long had he been coming up here?
“Taylor…” She knelt next to the chair, taking one of the limp hands. “Honey you know this is impossible.”
His eyes flitted to hers, empty, almost blank. “No it isn’t…” His tone, as empty as his eyes, sent a chill through her, and she looked up gratefully as Isaac stepped near and took the letter from her.
“Sweetie you know Grace didn’t write that… she never knew you honey, she died when I was ten years old…”
The blankness in his eyes faded, replaced suddenly by an old familiar contemptuous scorn she remembered heartbreakingly well. “You think I wrote it?” His voice was sharp, hateful. “You think I’m so crazy I just made it up?” He barked a laugh, glancing at his brother, who’s eyes were fastened on the paper. “I didn’t write it. You want to think I’m crazy go ahead…”
“I don’t think you’re crazy, Taylor, but you…”
“What’s wrong with Zac?” He interrupted suddenly, throwing her off, her words flicking off as if with a switch.
“My brother? You remember Zac… What’s wrong with you?” He directed his comment to his brother, who shrugged, wiping the sweat from his pale face.
“I fell asleep in the sun again…”
“Yeah… I’m a little toasted but I’m ok…” His eyes searched Taylor’s, the ghost of memory tugging at him. His mom was wrong, he knew it. Tay hadn’t made anything up. He wasn’t sure how he knew, but he knew… His eyes turned back to the letter, searching. Something he’d seen… THERE!
“MOM!” He snatched the letter from Isaac’s fingers, flinging it into his mother’s face. “Look! Look, it says there are things BETWEEN the bottoms… if you find them you’ll know he didn’t make it up, because how would he know that?!”
“Zac, it’s impos…”
“NOTHING is impossible!” He reached to the trunk, stopping suddenly as Taylor’s hand flashed out non too gently.
“You don’t touch anything! Just leave her things alone!”
“Taylor…” Diana’s soothing hand only annoyed him further and he shrugged her off. “Just don’t!” He slid to the floor, carefully, almost reverently pulling items from the old box, setting them gently to the floor, as Zac looked on avidly. A glance at Isaac showed him still engrossed in the letter, and the last few pages of the journal he’d picked up.
Sighing, she struggled to reign in her unruly thoughts, unwittingly subject to memories that frighteningly verified the letter.
Grace had always been odd, eccentric. She and Uncle Josh had been family characters, singing and playing music for a living in a day when such a career was unthinkably scandalous. Family stories portrayed the old woman as hopelessly delusional, believing she could predict the future… but wait…
She sank back onto her heels, only absently watching now as Isaac wordlessly handed Taylor his pocket knife, Taylor sliding it gently into the crack between the bottom of the trunk and the side, only faintly hearing the screech of wood on wood as the boys pried a section out.
Hadn’t Grace had a friend named Taylor? Her conversations with Diana, whom she’d doted on, had often focused on the friend, whom Diana had always assumed to be a girlfriend. Someone who’d impacted her life so strongly that she’d never forgotten them, though if Diana remembered correctly, they’d permanently lost touch as teens. Could it have been… She shook her head, bitter knowledge filling her head, the screech of wood a moment ago telling her without her realizing that that wood hadn’t been touched in years… whatever was in there had been there for a very long time.
Taylor’s hands shook as he reached into the small space hidden at the bottom of the trunk, his sigh almost a moan. “Oh, Grace…”
“Tay?” Zac’s voice was quiet, and Taylor moved a little to let him look, watching as Zac carefully pulled out a folder of oiled paper, opening it gently. There, between the protective sheets, a newsprint photo.
Taylor felt the aching in his throat and chest swell, grimly struggling to keep himself together as his eyes captured the picture. He and Grace, laughing, in a line outside a waterside tavern, Grace’s hand floppily holding the long braid of his hair. His eyes drank her in, even in old brownish tones so lovely in that dress it took his breath away, and himself… had he really looked like that? So much fun, that whole day had been so much fun… God he missed her.
He looked up at his mother, who’s face mirrored her war of indecision.
“Honey, it’s just someone who looks like you, look at the date!” He nodded, and set the picture aside, reaching in to take out a locket, the locket, the one he had almost died to make, its stones dulled by time, the brilliant ruby almost black. In his hand it throbbed dully, pulsating with the rhythm of his heart. He dropped it into his mother’s hand, hearing her small sigh. She knew this locket, knew it well. Aunt Grace had always been so mysterious about it, refusing to take it off, refusing to open it. “Must never, never, never be opened Diana, never…”
She handed it back, wordlessly, as he pulled out another oiled folder, this time with an audible gasp from Isaac as it was opened. There inside, in Taylor’s very familiar handwriting, somewhat sloppy from the use of the unfamiliar fountain pen, were the words and music to More Than Anything. Paper brittle, ink faded, the song written down nearly a hundred years earlier.
“He sang it to her when they got married, Ike. I didn’t think you’d mind…” His voice was choked, broken, and Isaac set a hand gently on his head, smiling a little.
“No, Tay, I don’t mind at all…”
Nodding, Taylor handed the transcript to his brother, revealing beneath it a series of charcoal sketches, meticulously rendered, New York City, Josh’s New York, hindshadowed with nightmarish images of the New York of the future, “The present…”. He paged through, cityscapes giving way to sketches of monstrosities that seemed to be futuristic images of a tortured mind, looming creatures the people of an age, seen through nightmares, dreamscapes of alien horror… “My God, what I did to him…”
Taylor’s whispered comments floated in the silence, Diana still shaking her head, knowing it was impossible, yet seeing it there before her. These pages were so obviously ancient, there as no way Taylor had come up here and done it himself. But how?
A strangled sob brought her attention back to her son, and the trunk. What was that he held? Her breath caught in her throat as she recognized it, eyes immediately straying to the length of hair that fell down his back, shorter, she now saw, than it had been.
In Taylor’s hand lay a carefully preserved four inch length of braid, tied at the top with string, decorated at the end with a bead of indeterminate color that may once have been blue.
“She cut it… Louise. She came in while I was asleep and cut part of my tail off…” He bit his lip, tipping the hair back into the trunk, quickly gathering the rest of the objects, replacing them. Suddenly, more than anything in the world, he wanted to shut it and be away from it. It was bringing back too much. Isaac, behind him, pulled his arm gently, bringing him to his feet.
“I think you might want to see this…” He reached into the pocket of his jeans, pulling out a folded slip of paper, nodding to his mother that she should look at it too. “We found it in the basement of the Dakota. Look at the date…”
Diana, disbelief completely suspended, gazed into her son’s eyes, seeing the truth, the answers to the mystery he had become suddenly clear to her. He handed her the ice receipt, nodding a little, trying to smile.
“I think I have some stuff to tell you, about that week I was gone…” He trailed off, the pain in him suddenly overwhelming, the hours of suppressing it over. It was all real now, and he finally felt entitled to his grief. Blue eyes shining with tears, he looked at her, seeing in her face the faces of the people he longed for, felt the rush of longing, of mourning, and leaned into the arms that suddenly drew him close, letting them go then, the tears for his lost world.