I have to find out if I can take Nat with me. Although winter air stings my nose, I can remember the scent of him. When warned of the gruesome consequences of taking passengers, I’d shivered with the other recruits. Still, I didn’t know anybody who’d actually tried.
I start to walk so fast, snow flies up and sticks to my skirts, making me look like I’ve been dipped in powdered sugar. A man in a top hat passes me with a cocked eyebrow. I flush. If Nat could be here, he’d tease me until I pelted him with snowballs.
Lovers are always hard to leave behind, but Nat is different. Reassignment is a bitch.
I ease a finger along the bottom edge of my corset. I’ll be grateful when I can leave the year 1886 and strip down to the flapper dress underneath.
I face a line of coal dust blackened grand residences lining the side of the park. In forty years the house at the very center of the block will be a flophouse and Nat will rent a quarter room in the attic.
When she first laid eyes on me, his mother sniffed, “Na-tha-an-i-el (she always shoehorned two extra syllables into his name), I didn’t raise you to bring home a painted, jazz-dancing Jezebel.”
Nat fled their upperside bungalow soon after. When I last passed through 1926, I’d laughed at how he could only stand straight in one corner of his apartment. His smile was slow, like a rising sun. “I’ll crawl under greater weights than this roof to be with you.” He knelt and nuzzled my stomach. I bent down myself to kiss him, and afterwards, well, we hadn’t needed to stand anymore.
That will be a hot summer night. Today, snowflakes gather on my lashes. I blink them away like frozen tears. In two more jumps, I will pass Nat by forever.
I have to find out if I can take him with me to my next assignment. Nat won’t be alive in 2014 and I’ll never be able to come back again.
The man in the top hat stops at the roadside. If I can take him to 1926, Nat should survive a jump too.
As the man raises an arm to hail a hansom cab, a stretch of bare skin shows between his topcoat’s sleeve and glove. It’s all I need.
I jog as fast as my skirts will let me, then I am inches from taking the man to 1926. He could die. I snatch my hand back, then sprawl onto the road. All I can see are waving hooves. The cabbie’s curses finally reach me. “Half a bubble off plumb, you are…”
I rise to my feet. The horse snorts, but already lowers his head placidly. He doesn’t object as I put my arms around his neck. I jump.
It is 1926 and I hold a horse’s skeleton in my arms. Oh, Nat.
Heather Hawke is an Ecologist who finds chasing butterflies and slogging through marshes useful for writing young adult science fiction since nature’s truth really is stranger than fiction. She remembers life is short so flies as a sport pilot, zips around on a little yellow motorcycle or electric skateboard and fends off accusations of insanity. heatherhawke.com