Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 9 of 41
Excerpt: Taylor padded down the hall to the sitting room, his state of pleasant sleepiness enhancing the pleasure he felt, being here. The Dakota. Too afraid to appreciate it last night, too confused this morning, tonight it held wonder. “I’m really here… for now at least this is where I live…”
“Why didn’t you tell me you had a tub?” Taylor was stripping off clothes at lightspeed, frantic to get rid of the crawly feeling he had, lacking an all over shower the night before.
Benjamin, surprised and amused, reached into a cupboard, pulling out soap and a washcloth. “Here… I would have thought you’d wait for me to leave the room…” “Huh? What for?” Taylor stuck a toe in, hissing a little at the heat, suddenly flushing red as he realized he was stark naked in front of a stranger. “Oh… well if you see anything weird, shoot it. Why didn’t you tell me this last night?” He sank into the water, the all over warmth making him tingle blissfully. Ben shrugged. “I don’t know. Didn’t think of it.” Taylor scowled at him and submerged, resurfacing almost immediately, yelping at the sting of the hot water in the cut on his head. “God that hurts!” Ben nodded. “Yes. Wash it out.” “With what? Do you have any shampoo?” Ben pointed to the soap. “Well Ben that’s soap?” “It’s soap. It’s shampoo. It will wash your skin, your hair, the cut. Towels are in there. Kathryn wants to look at that cut when you get out.” He turned on his heel then and left without another word, leaving Taylor to stare after him. “God he’s weird…” He submerged again and rubbed the soap into his hair, scrubbing at it. The hat had been miserable, he was itching all over from the clothes… how did people stand this? “Hey Ben!” He had little hope that his voice would carry all the way to the other end of the apartment, but a few moments later Benjamin appeared, wordless. “What about a toothbrush? Do I have to use a rag again? My teeth are gonna rot out…” “Use the salt and a little soda and your teeth will be fine.” He left again, as quickly as before, leaving Taylor to grumble about the lack of civilization. He ducked under again, rinsing the soap from his hair, and stayed for a minute, splashing a little, enjoying the distorted sound. Surfacing again, he settled back, marveling that there could be such a thing as soap that didn’t lather. His hands spun it gently as he replayed the events of the day. Slowly, as the heat worked its magic, his tense muscles relaxed. There was no dividing line. One minute he was awake and drowsily splashing water over his chest, the next he was asleep, diminishing bar of soap still cradled in one loosely fisted hand.
“Taylor…” The voice, soft, musical, brushed his dreams. “Taylor… dear, wake up.” He stirred a little, suddenly chilled, and his eyes fluttered open. “You fell asleep dear, why don’t you get out now?” He frowned, still more asleep than awake. “Get out?” “Out of the tub Taylor.” He blinked, looked around, shoving wet hair out of his face. “Oh…” He looked down at himself, up at her, and blushed deep red. She smiled gently. “I’m leaving now. Your towels are over there, and there are pajamas on the hook on the door. Come out to the sitting room when you’re finished please.” He watched her go, and ran a little more hot water, sticking his head under it to rinse the congealed soap out. He still felt foggy, caught in a dream.
Taylor padded down the hall to the sitting room, his state of pleasant sleepiness enhancing the pleasure he felt, being here. The Dakota. Too afraid to appreciate it last night, too confused this morning, tonight it held wonder. “I’m really here… for now at least this is where I live…” Smiling, trailing his fingers along wallpaper that appeared to be silk, fixtures that appeared to be brass, he felt a sudden warmth. Homesick? Surely. Out of place and off kilter? Without a doubt. Happy? Most emphatically. Smiling, he stepped into the sitting room, and curled up in the softest looking chair he could find, eyes taking in Kathryn. She smiled back, and reached beside her for a small bag. “Come over here, dear, where there’s light.” He crossed the room obediently, taking the spot next to her. “Where did Ben go?” She gestured toward the door. “He’s a busy man, Taylor. Here, this may sting a bit.” She tamped a bit of powder onto the corner of a clean rag, and dabbed it to the cut on his head. He winced, biting his lip. “Wow! What is that?!” She laughed softly. “Benzoin. It will keep it from getting infected. Do you feel up to talking for a little?” He nodded, and she gestured back to his chair. “If you want the one you’ve chosen, that’s fine. Or you can stay. Would you like something to eat?” Suddenly aware that all he’d had was two peaches, he nodded eagerly… then frowned, thoughtful. “I don’t know… the food this morning made me sick…” She nodded. “I know, Benjamin told me. What I have for you won’t make you sick. You just get yourself settled.” She left without another word, and he giggled. “People come and go so quickly here, toto…” Smiling still, he curled back into the big chair, the hunger somehow enhancing the good feeling. He wasn’t sure what it was… He remembered feeling like this as a very little boy, at the end of a summers evening, after a bath, curled in front of the TV, clean and warm and safe… Sighing, not really understanding the nostalgia, he turned his gaze out the window. It was amazing the way it quieted down here at night. The CPW of his time just went, and went, and went, all night long. “Go, go, go…” he whispered, feeling silly, turning when he heard her step in the doorway. “Here Taylor…” She handed him a small tray, laden with a truly amazing amount of food for it’s size. “Nothing heavy, nothing you have to get used to. Bread, fruit, cheese. It’s not much, but it’s best for tonight. How do you feel?” He nodded thanks, thinking she needn’t sound so apologetic. The food was great. “I feel fine. Tired.” “Just tired? Not ill…” “No…” He shook his head, and swallowed quickly. “No, I feel fine. This morning was rough, but I guess I’m over that…” She nodded, and reached for his hand. “I have to apologize, Taylor. Had we known you’d wake so early, we’d have been here.” He grinned around a bit of orange. “I know, I wake up early from habit. It’s okay.” He patter her hand, and turned back out the window, at the clip clop of a horse. “Horseshoes are very LOUD aren’t they? They ring, Kathryn…” Her laughter, like bells, again. “Yes they do ring, and in a full fledged traffic jam they can rival your time.” She watched him, as he ate and observed the life out the window. “No need for television for this one…” she thought, approving. He was every bit as adaptable as she’d expected. “Taylor… I wonder if you would tell me about your day?” He nodded, sniffing at the glass on the tray. “What is this?” “It’s orange juice, Taylor. It’s safe.” “Okay…” He drank deeply, sorry to keep her waiting, but unable to help it. “My day… it was okay. For a while I thought it was a washout, I hung around all day and ended up following some kids.” She frowned, as he continued. “Turned out one of them was Josh. I think he’s the right Josh.” He grinned. “He looks like me and Ike combined. Are we related to this kid?” She smiled then, and sat back, relieved. “Yes dear, that’s the right Josh. Although Benjamin knew when you’d contacted him. You are related, if you were to trace your mother’s history back, you’d discover he is a cousin, I do believe. That was quite incidental.” “It’s not important?” “Not really… what is important, is what you thought of him. What did you think of him, Taylor?” He shrugged, shifting the tray, standing up to take it back to the kitchen. “He seemed pretty nice, Kathryn, really. Not so bad at all. I’m not sure what it is that you want fixed.” He took the tray to the sink, locating the garbage container for the scraps, rinsing the glass out, stopping to drink two more full glasses of water. God, he was thirsty. “Hey, I didn’t know you guys had ice water fountains in the park! That was pretty cool to find out!” She laughed as he settled back into his chair. “There is a lot here that would surprise you. Taylor… did you like him?” “Yeah, oh yeah, I did. He seemed really cool, Kathryn” She smiled, but her face was thoughtful. “Is something wrong? Am I not supposed to like him?” “Oh, no, no, I’m very pleased you do. But you must be careful Taylor. I know our city seems backward, and very safe, to you. But it’s still a city, and it still requires caution. If you were to be injured, you would have to be sent back. If you were to become ill, you would have to be sent back. And we can’t afford to do that.” “I’ll be careful…” “Also Taylor, you must be careful what you say, and how you behave. You MUST try to fit in. You can’t afford to stand out. And you mustn’t tell Josh where you’re from, or why you’re here. Even if you form it as a fiction, you must not. Even if he figures it out on his own, as unlikely as that is.” Taylor watched the intensity in her face, avidly. Normally he would have asked why a million times already. Now… there was no questioning it. “Think carefully before you speak Taylor, and weigh your words well. They can do more harm than you’d think.” “Are there rules, Kathryn?” His voice was soft, serious. She shook her head. “No dear, no rules. Only that you must keep who you are and where you are from, a secret. It is for the safety and integrity of this time that we say this. This time must be left to develop on it’s own, you cannot change it with additions from your own world. The people must not be contaminated. Other than that, you must do as you see fit. It is up to you, WE…” she sighed, and shook her head. “We have no control over events. It’s why we needed you to help us. Do you understand?” He nodded, and stood up. “I do understand. I’ll do my absolute best, I promise. But I don’t… I still don’t… understand what I am trying to do.” She smiled fondly at him, and stood with him. “You will, dear. As you get to know him, you’ll see.” He nodded, yawning hugely behind one hand. “Okay… sorry… how long do I have?” “As long as you need.” Eyes closing where he stood, now, he reached out impulsively and hugged her, leaning his head into her shoulder for a moment. She hugged him back briefly, and stepped away, looking pleased. “You go ahead to bed now, Taylor. I’ll be here in the morning.” He smiled, and staggered happily down the hall to his room. “My room… my room in the Dakota…” His whisper was a singsong, as he climbed into bed. There were no tears this night, he was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, and no bad dreams disturbed his rest.