Title: A Change of Grace
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.
Taylor set the bible down, sighing, turning his attention to the letter lying across his leg. The dates were so close, she’d been so right. August 15, 1963. Her last entry to her journal and her letter to him. August 17, 1963, her death, carefully logged.
She’d known it was coming, she’d said so.
Sighing again, setting the book and the letter on the bedside table, he let his gaze rest on the newspaper photo, laminated and framed next to his bed. He and Grace, laughing and happy. How could she have died a 96 year old woman, when she was only 16? Shaking his head, he picked up the letter, re-reading for the hundredth time, flinging it down again in frustration. He knew what he wanted to do.
“Zac, I need to talk to you.”
Zac’s eyes flickered briefly from his game, noting the serious face his brother wore. He’d known Tay would show up sooner or later, and he knew what it was about. The woman in his dreams had told him.
Sighing, he paused the game and turned expectantly.
“Zac, I have to ask you something. I need your help. But listen to me because I mean this. You can say no if you don’t think you can do it, or if you’re scared. Ok?”
A few months ago the phrase “if you’re scared” would have been a taunt, and Zac searched his brother’s eyes carefully for any sign that it was now. Any hint and the answer would be no. But no… in those eyes was desire, desperation, concern, fear… no scorn. No contempt. He meant what he said.
“Ok Tay, what is it?”
In the guardstand of the Dakota apartments, George hung up the phone, a curious smile on his wrinkled face. Eyeing the late fall colors in the brisk air around him, reflecting briefly on the fact that at this time of year, even NYC smelled good, he let the smile spread to his eyes. That boy was at it again, but this time…
The smile became a chuckle as the old man stretched, stepping from his stand of duty, the elegant little “Back in ten minutes” sign carefully affixed to the door. Nice time to take his morning break, and a little walk in the park was just what the doctor ordered.
A space beyond time, outside of worlds. The woman’s eyes held gentle reign on the shimmering silver strands in front of her. All was well, as all usually was.
Nodding in satisfaction, turning to leave, a brilliant crimson flare caught her eye, bringing her back. Flashing to meet it, an equally vibrant blue, a blue that had once been silver-white. Eye’s narrowed, she lifted the strands softly, amazement taking her over. Taylor and Zac. What were they doing?
At her side the man appeared, eyes warm in a satisfied face.
“Ah, and so finally he has dared? Of his own will?”
The woman nodded, the bright blue of Taylor’s thread telling her that no coercion had been used, nor even thought of. Pure request, denial acceptable, an open heart had asked for help with no hint of manipulation. And Zac had agreed.
“Of his own will.”
“And the guard is watching?”
The woman let the strands drop, widening her focus. There, amid the silver, billions and billions of red and blue flashes, as the timekeepers manipulated, and the travelers set upon their tasks. Business as usual.
Taylor stepped through the doors, braced for the electric chill of air conditioning, faintly surprised to meet the hot whisper of fans in open windows. His heart hammered painfully in his chest, anxiety almost overwhelming him. Would she really be here?
The old woman sighed gratefully at the sun on her face. So warm, the breeze so fresh in the early morning light. Her last morning, she knew. No foreboding backed this knowledge, just a simple understanding that her time here was done. Existence would not blink out, she knew this, and there was no fear, no regret. Still, she would miss the sun on her face.
Sighing, she opened her eyes, taking in the late August green outside her window, thoughts wandering as they so often did these days, into the past. Her Josh, so long departed, her babies, children she’d barely gotten to know, friends come and gone. Ah, it had been a full life, not without sadness, but a good life. Extraordinary.
“Now why…” her voice spoke to the sun, the birds, the world, “…was someone as ordinary as I, chosen for something so extraordinary? How, as they say, did I rate?”
“Maybe because there was never anything ordinary about you.”
The voice from the doorway should have startled her, she knew that, yet for some reason it felt expected, and a solid relief suddenly slid home in her, as her eyes, filmed and hazy, moved to the sound.
“Why don’t you come all the way in, so I can see you?”
The figure moved closer, and her heart leapt in her, taking him in, exactly as she remembered him.
“Ah, but tell me if you’re real! Are you a vision?”
He pulled the footstool close to her chair, reaching for the old hands, hands that he had last touched when they were the smooth plump hands of a girl, now parchment soft, bones showing clearly.
“I’m not a vision.”
“Oh, you are…”
Her eyes couldn’t move from him. Still so young, still so beautiful, he hadn’t changed. No time, for him, had passed. She’d known it hadn’t, something in her grasping it as completely and accurately as time itself. And now, her one and only wish granted, to see him once more. If only Josh were here.
Taylor stared back, a disconcerting double image refusing to leave his sights. This old, old woman, the skin of her face so thin, so wrinkled, the shape of her face that of her skull, hair sparse and snow white, eyes filmed. The hand he held so gently was all bone, discolored and bruised, and he could see, even through the shapeless old lady dress she wore, that there was little left of her but skeleton.
So old… she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, the image of Grace, the Grace he knew somehow superimposed, integrated, indelibly part of this woman. There was no mistaking her, or the look in those eyes. His hand reached up, touched her cheek, and she patted that hand, smiling.
“I know, I’ve deteriorated a bit.”
He shook his head, thinking she hadn’t deteriorated at all, standing up now to hug her, smiling a little. She smelled the same as he remembered, and she felt the same. His voice whispered into her ear, “I’ve missed you so much…”, and she pushed him away, the old familiar gleam in her eye.
“Do you think so? And how long has it been for you? Don’t you dare cry…”
He grinned, swiping at his eyes, climbing foot first back onto the footstool.
“I’m not going to…”
“I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye.”
“Just make sure you say it before you leave today…” Her voice trailed away, amazement stealing her words for a moment. Now, when there was no risk, she knew they could finally be honest with each other.
“So tell me, Taylor. Tell me what happened… and tell me, whatever did it benefit you?”
Nodding, settling himself comfortably, he began the story.