“Mollie WHO?!” you ask.
I deserve that. I’m going to spare you all the reasons why I have not been able to write. I will tell you, however, it is maddening how life keeps interrupting my efforts to tell Mollie’s story…
Quo waved a little wave, then blew her a kiss, and was gone. No fanfare, lightning or puffs of smoke. He simply wasn’t there anymore.
This was turning out to be a really crappy day.
As she stared at the photo, she desperately wanted to dismiss this evidence, and she began holding on to herself and rocking. Then her mind grasped on to the idea that probably Travis was the great-grandson who looked amazingly like the guy in great-grandma’s album. Yes! That had to be it, she decided.
The alternate explanation could not be possible.
When Travis came in for lunch he found Mollie sitting at the table, staring into space.
She had not heard him stomp or come inside, and when he put his hand on her shoulder, she startled.
“Did you fall?” he asked her. There was a touch of panic in his voice.
“Are you hurt?”
Mollie studied his face. She had to know. She didn’t want to know. It was making her crazy. Tears welled up and rolled down her face. I don’t, but I have to know. Damn!
Then she bluntly asked, “What year is this?”
His forehead furrowed with worry lines, she knew he was thinking she forgot.
“Eighteen and Ninety Five,”
She took in a long breath, then sighed, burying her head on the tabletop under folded arms.
There was no sense in trying to explain to Travis that she was his great-great-cousin, from the future. She could not even believe it.
Where was Doc Brown when she needed him?
Mollie was a 21st century girl.
Because history was her least favorite subject, she crammed before tests, then forgot most of it. She knew next to nothing about the 19th century. 1895 was after the Civil War and the Gold Rush was petering out. That was the extent of her knowledge. Her Great-Grandpa Richardson was born in 1896. She remembered his birthday because he was her favorite grandpa. 1896 was only one year away, she realized.
After finding out when she was, she figured out where she was. In Calaveras County, between Big Trees and Hathaway Pines. The very same place she lived in 2013. The town was not called Arnold yet. She had not been transported anywhere. It was a matter of when.
This explained Travis’s shock when she wanted him to sleep with her. She grinned whenever she thought about that. The look on his face was one of surprise and fear, and she wondered if he was a virgin.
Mollie re-played that fateful Monday morning, second by second, over and over again. Looking for something unusual or forgotten. When she found nothing out of her ordinary routine, she started over. She was fascinated. She was intrigued. She could not let it go.
There has to be an explanation! Is this temporary? Am I stuck here in 1895 the rest of my life? She hated not being in the loop about this. It felt like being a little kid again. Having no say in her own life.
Her appetite vanished. Her nightie (a worn t-shirt of Travis’s) began falling off her shoulders. That figures, she thought sarcastically. She was losing weight without even trying. The time-travel diet. It works, but you can’t show off your new figure to your friends because they haven’t been born yet.
Her thoughts would often vector off on a tangent, her brain taking a vacation from trying to figure out the mystery. She might just write a book about this – as soon as MS Office was invented. She would have to use Word because she could not write without spellcheck. She had the vocabulary, and most of the grammar down, but her spelling sucked. Her mom blamed it on phonics. Here, phonics had not been introduced to public schools yet – maybe she could learn now. If she felt like it.
She didn’t feel like doing anything. She was miserably homesick and nothing about 1895 was going to interest her.
She tried to convince Travis that she was fine, but knew he didn’t believe her. The quieter she was, the more he checked her forehead for fever. Physically she felt well. Better than well, even her leg was cooperating with the plan.
[This needs to move to later on – after her figuring out what Quo meant by NOT here for a “vacation”] After days of moping about, she decided that, like it or not, she was here and being a baby about it wasn’t changing anything. Mollie thought maybe she was sent back in time to learn something or do something important. But what about the butterfly effect, and all that? Time-travel in the movies always had consequences. The whole space-time-continuum thing confused the crap out of her, and she usually stayed away from movies or books about it. Now look at her.
She hobbled out of the loft, and into the kitchen. Travis had come in, and set out her lunch on the table, and went back out. Jeez. I must have really been zoned out not to hear him.
Lunch was beef jerky and an apple. What she wouldn’t do for a peanut-butter and banana sandwich right now. And an ice-cold Cherry 7-Up. The jerky was surprisingly yummy, and she wondered if Travis made it himself. The apple was a bit bruised and bird pecked, but oh!, such a sweet and tart crispness it had. It was the best freaking apple she’d ever tasted.
“Man, I hope your tree is near here,” she said to the apple.
“It’s out back.” Travis said behind her. He was leaning against the door frame. Spying on her.
She whirled around in the chair to look him in the eye. Her arms were folded tightly across her chest and her jaw tightened. Her enough of this crap, look.
“Would you please stop sneaking up on me?” “I almost dropped my apple.”
She actually did drop her apple when his booming voice surprised her, but had caught it between her knees before it hit the floor.
“Nice catch,” he smiled, completely ignoring her look. “I’m happy to see you out of bed and eating something.”
Damn that dimple! It made her all gushy. She wanted to talk (flirt) with him and ask a million questions, but now her brain was rapidly going to mush.
The sound of hooves galloping towards the house, saved her from an awkward moment. Thank God it was Doc! She was so excited to get some real clothes. Travis’s shirts were long enough to cover her halfway to her knees, but she was not presentable to anyone but Travis, who had seen pretty much all of her by now. She couldn’t go out of the house dressed in a man’s shirt. Not in 1895.
Mollie had to sit on her hands and force herself to be patient, for what felt like an hour, while the guys exchanged pleasantries. Then, Doc wanted to check her wound, and that meant more waiting. It was agony.
He had her sit on the table top to examine her leg. Once again she felt like a little kid.
“Well, my dear,” Doc said. “Your leg looks wonderfully healthy. How does it feel?”
“Ugly!” she complained. “And the stitches itch like crazy.”
Doc gave her a bottle of yucky (but better than the other crap) smelling stuff.
“This won’t help the ‘ugly’ any, but the itching should go away.”
Doc applied some around the stiches and Mollie felt immediate relief.
“Would you please bring me a bucket of that stuff next time?”
Doc shook his head. He had a ‘trying not to laugh’ look on his face.
“You won’t need it very long,” he told her. “You can put a bit of weight on the leg now – just a tiny bit. But keep using the cane.”
“I’ll make sure she does,” Travis assured Doc, giving Mollie a sideways look. He reminded her of dad just then.
“Oh Heavens!” “I almost forgot!” Doc pointed at Mollie. “I’ll be right back.”
Strapped to Henry, Doc’s palomino, were two bulging satchels. Doc unlashed them and carried them into the house.
“I swear, the woman gave you everything in her closet! Mark my words – she will be asking for money to go shopping tomorrow.”
Mollie took a peek in the bag closest to her. Wow, Mrs. Doc knew how to pack things in. On the top layer were skirts, blouses, and an apron.
“I need a bath,” she announced. Her right arm extended and her index finger punctuated her sudden statement. “Then I will get dressed.” Mollie felt a little silly after she spoke. No one made me the Queen around here, she told herself. Yet, her ‘command’ was being carried out.
Travis put a huge pot full of water on the stove, and lit the wood under it. He and Doc carried in a wooden tub and set it close to the fire. Then they hauled buckets of water from a well (she guessed, she didn’t get out much, har-har), and dumped them into the tub.
“Sorry to be such a pain.” Mollie apologized.
“It’s a pleasure.” Travis said.
She wondered if going without a bath for 9 days was making it a pleasure for everyone.
While her bath was getting prepared, Mollie hobbled to the loft to get a closer look at her new wardrobe. Dresses (2 for around the house and 1 fancy enough for church)
She absolutely adored Mrs. Doc! Not only did she send girl clothes, but girl stuff! Things she knew Travis wouldn’t have around. A comb and brush, hair ribbon ,scented soap. A mirror.
“O. M. G.”
Mollie was so miserable with pain, itching and emotions that she did not even think about her appearance. With no mirrors in the house, she had no idea how she looked. Now her face was staring back at her and it was hideous! Her hair, pulled back into a ponytail when she left 2013, was now a rat’s nest of greasy, tangled hair. “A real dirty blonde,” she told herself. When she combed out her hair, the comb felt greasy and dirty. “Another item to go into the bath with me,” she decided.
She chose a cute light-blue gingham dress, with lace. Her shoe choice was Mary-Jane like slippers made with leather. She didn’t have to guess if it was faux or genuine leather, did she? And then there was underwear. In fact there was more underwear than she could imagine. A corset, beautifully hand stitched with a silk lining for comfort, she guessed, otherwise the bones would chafe. Her BFF was always complaining about her big boobs and having to wear under wires. Wait till I tell her about this! Among the granny panties and crinolines, there was no bra to be found.
The corset must be the bra as well as a torturous waist slimmer. Yuk.
When she was nice and clean she would try it. I hope the dress fits without it. When she came into the kitchen, the men were setting up a curtain (a rope strung across two beams and a quilt hanging on it) to give her privacy. Travis went outside and sat on the porch. Doc turned to her before closing the front door,
“Don’t get those stitches wet,” He warned her, sternly.
How the Hell was she going to take a bath and not get her leg wet? I’ll figure it out. I can’t stand feeling so gross. Her well-worn granny-panties were going into the tub with her too.
The bath water was the perfect temperature. Steam rose off the water’s surface. The tub was tall, small and thinner than what she was used to, but it worked to her advantage. To get in, she grasped the left side of the tub with her left hand, shifting her weight enough to allow her to grasp the right edge, and lower herself into the water. There was a tiny moment where she had all her weight on her bad leg, and the pain took her breath from her. Perched over the tub, before lowering herself into it, she had a flashback to gymnastics, specifically the parallel bars. A sideways smile crossed her face. She really sucked on the parallel bars.
The tub was the right height to hook her right leg over the side and use her knee to support it. Now she could lie back and immerse her head and torso in the warm water.
Mollie hummed while taking the girly soap and scrubbing her hair, then dunking her head under water to rinse. She even hummed underwater. Next up were her face, neck and ears. The bathwater was turning a shade of reddish-brown that grossed her out. After sudsing up and rinsing her torso, she managed to reach her right leg and wash it without getting her stitches wet. She was transforming into a girl again.
Next, she quickly, because the water was getting cold and muddy, scrubbed her undies and Travis’s shirt, hanging them from the sides of the tub to dry.
Getting out was easier than getting in. She could step out using her non-injured left leg and swing her right one up and out. The towel he left for her to dry with was clean, but torn and rough. “Like getting exfoliated at the spa,” she told Zeus. His ears perked up and he tipped his head to the side, giving her a confused doggie expression. He had lain by the side of the tub all through her bath, like a body guard.
“Okay,” she patted his head. “It’s your turn.” Zeus turned and fled outside, like he understood what she meant.
Once her hair was combed and she was dressed, she looked into the mirror again. Was it her imagination or was her complexion better? It was most likely that the old mirror, combined with the shadowy light, made her skin look less flawed. Probably wishful thinking that made her pores look smaller. The best news was that she didn’t look like she needed more sleep. The dark circles under her eyes were barely noticeable. In bed by dark and up at dawn was the routine around here. No staying up late to watch movies or read novels.
She smiled at the 19th century Mollie. Her hair, already starting to dry, was blonde again. The corset (a fancy word for a bra and girdle combo), acted like a wonder bra. This has to be why women put up with the damn uncomfortable things, she decided. She had to admit that she liked looking this way. Vah-vah-vah-voom, stuffed into a demure gingham dress. At least that was what she saw in the small hand-held glass.
The finishing touch – a dab of perfume from a sampler sized bottle. Courtesy of Mrs. Doc. The label had worn off the glass, so the name of the scent was unrecognizable. The perfume was nothing like any other scents she used. It was both delicate and powerful. It didn’t matter if it wore off in 5-minutes, she loved the scent and would enjoy it as long as it lingered about. Because this was the 1890’s, she assumed that Channel No. 5, and perfumes of its quality, had not arrived on the scene yet. Not that she wanted those hoity-toity ones. This unknown perfume was perfect for her. [research what was available back then]
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *** ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Travis and Doc were deeply involved in a discussion about the various mines in the area. Mollie managed to slip out the door, cane and all, without disturbing them. Now it’s my turn to be sneaky. She listened a few minutes to their unknown terminology, then cleared her throat.
Both men were startled. Now y’all know how it feels, she thought.
“Hi!” she said sweetly.
Travis awkwardly stood up and removed his hat. His smooth, self-confident manner had deserted him. He stared at her, mute.
“Wow!” Doc exclaimed. “You, my dear, are a vision of loveliness.” He took her hand and bowed down to kiss her knuckles. She nodded to him because she could not curtsy on cane. Pulling his chair closer to Travis, Doc told her to sit and went inside to get a chair from the table for himself. When he returned and settled in, the three of them sat silently.
Mollie felt Travis’ eyes on her when she was turned away from him. I am so loving this! For the first time since she arrived here, she relaxed and enjoyed the moment.
The two men were discussing local politics. She listened, curiously interested.
When relaxed turned into sleepy, Mollie excused herself, telling them she needed to lie down. Instead of assisting her, Travis scooped her up and carried her to the loft. He tucked her in and propped up her leg. He lingered around the loft as if gathering up courage. Every time she caught his eye, his mouth would open slightly, as if to say something.
Oh please! Just spit it out! Mollie thought loudly at him, hoping he would pick up on her thoughts telepathically. Sometimes she was successful passing along her thoughts. Not with Travis, however. He must be more thick headed than she thought.
“Sleep well,” he said, before returning to the porch.
Crap! He chickened out…
Still, Mollie pleasantly drifted away, on the bed of clouds. Perfume still lingering softly around her.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *** ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
She didn’t know what woke her – the loud explosion or Zeus’ yelping. Both sounds were ear splitting. Travis had already jumped into his jeans, loaded his shot-gun and slapped his hat on. He put his index finger to his lips in a shushing motion and she nodded, replying by buttoning her invisible lip. He motioned “stay” with the gesture he used with Zeus, and slipped out of the house before she could silently protest.
The next sound she heard was Sam galloping down the dirt road towards Avery. Whatever it was, it was not close by.
The early morning air chilled her. Dawn was fast approaching and although she wanted to crawl back under the covers, she made herself get up and start a fire in the stove. She was already dressed – in the gingham dress she lay down in yesterday. It was as rumpled and droopy as she was. After changing into a plain skirt and blouse, she paced (more liked hopped) around the house, peering out windows when she passed by. What in the Hell was going on? Zeus had gone with Travis and she was completely alone for the first time since she ‘crossed over’.
Mollie knew, from experience, that the heebie-jeebies were right around the corner. So, when a stranger suddenly appeared at the kitchen table, she was not as freaked out as she normally would have been. That said, she was freaking out.
“Quo?” she asked warily.
“Yes.” the guy said.
He looked so different, and she would swear there was a faint halo hovering over his head. It was there, then it wasn’t. Dressed in worn Levi’s, a white sleeveless (and offensive) T-shirt and unlaced hiking boots, he could have played a James Dean type character in a movie. Except he was too short and thin- more wimpy than old James was.
He sat with his hands folded in front of him. Not speaking, just looking at her, and grinning.
“Are you the one who put me here?” Since his name was the Latin word for “time”, it was too much of a coincidence.
“Yes. And no.”
“That’s not an answer!” Mollie punctuated her statement by stomping her foot. Her left and uninjured foot.
“I needed to get your attention. That meant getting you away from all your electronic distractions for longer than five minutes.”
“I’ve been here longer than five minutes, bub. Go ahead, you have my attention.”
“What? Are you expecting a lecture?” Quo laughed. “Like telling you anything would sink in – Ha!”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re a smart kid. I have every confidence that you will learn many life lessons during your stay here.”
“Oh No! You can’t just leave me here,” Mollie blubbered. “My leg will probably get infected and need to be amputated.”
“Is that what you fear the most?” Quo puzzled over this.
“Please!! Just tell me what I am here for!”
When Quo held up his palm to quiet her, Mollie realized she would not be able to cry or beg her way out of this one.
“What I can tell you is what you are NOT here for.”
“OK, I’ll play the game. What am I NOT here for?”
“You are NOT here for a vacation.”
She opened her mouth to ask another question, but he already vanished. A wispy trace of glow lingered for half a second, then it too was gone.
“What the Hell?” she exclaimed, waking herself and Travis.
“What -?” he mumbled.
“Sorry, I had a nightmare,” she mumbled back. “Go back to sleep.”
“Awl-right,” he mumbled. He rolled from his back to the side facing away from her, still asleep.
She was still in her gingham dress and it was pitch black outside. She knew she had a dream. But it didn’t feel like a dream. Although their short encounter happened while she was sleeping, she knew Quo was real. Mollie could not explain to someone how she knew. It was more of a deep feeling.
It took a couple days for Mollie to catch on.
After Travis carried her to and from the outhouse, fixed her lunch and tucked her in for her afternoon nap, it hit her. OMG!
Travis was waiting on her like some kind of princess. He did everything for her except wipe her butt in the outhouse – thank God she could handle that herself. She began to notice the effort required to do anything in this technology deprived world. There were no microwaves. The oven’s temperature had to be regulated by fire and not a digital read out. A simple stew took hours to cook, even hanging over a hot fire.
No cans of soup or chili in the pantry. Just raw potatoes, carrots, onions. When Travis had luck hunting, they had meat in the stew. She knew better than to ask what kind of animal it was. She doubted there were cows or chickens living in the forest for his hunting pleasure. Unfortunately. Her pallet was too refined for gamey meat, and she only ate small portions, just enough to have protein in her diet. She craved a cheeseburger with French fries in the worst way.
“It’s time to suck it up and pull my weight around here.” she told herself. “I don’t know why I’m here, but I know it’s NOT for a vacation.”
Before dawn, Mollie crept quietly down from the loft, into the kitchen. She was going to surprise Travis with fresh coffee to wake up to. Just having a plan to help out, raised her spirits.
She did not have to get water herself, which would have taken 30 minutes. Travis had gone to the well and filled the large metal pitcher for the kitchen last night before dark. She knew where the already ground coffee beans were kept. All she had to do was get the stove fire going.
Mollie carefully stacked wood inside the cast iron stove. Sticks and pinecones were in a bucket next to the stove to use as kindling. Where were the matches? She found them on a shelf by the fireplace. Now she was getting somewhere.
The kindling caught fire quickly and began licking at the larger pieces of wood. Her pride quickly plummeted as the kitchen began filling up with smoke.
“Oh Crap!” Mollie cursed herself for not paying more attention when Travis did this. She forgot about the flu thing.
As soon as smoke drifted towards the loft, Travis bolted awake.
“What the Hell?” he demanded. Not waiting for an answer, he jumped down from the loft and pulled out a knob on the stove-pipe and shut the stove door. Then he looked at her.
Expecting a tirade, Mollie backed away from him. She was totally unprepared for his reaction.
He smiled at her like you would at a child that messed up the kitchen trying to make you breakfast in bed. Then, he laughed. After explaining how the damper worked, Travis opened the stove door and looked at the fire. He told her she did a perfect job building it. He examined the grounds in the coffee pot and added another spoonful to what she had measured out.
“I like it strong,” he said smiling. She wondered if he was aware of how his dimple attracted her. When the coffee boiled enough he poured them each a tin cup full. They sat at the table, sipping their coffee and smiling at each other. Neither of them could think of anything to talk about except for the weather and how her leg was feeling, that took up a whole 30 seconds.
“I have to go to town and take care of some things.” Travis said.
“Can I come with you?”
“Of course,” he told her. “It will be nice to have some company.”
Mollie changed out of her pretty but well rumpled dress into a plain skirt and blouse. Travis also cleaned up. Without a 5-day growth, the man was stunning. The women in town must have already noticed him too. How could they not? Therefore, she wanted to go with him to keep them at bay. To protect him. She wasn’t jealous or anything. No way.
She could imagine Quo telling her she was “NOT here for romance either.”