Extraordinary Season - John, England 1912 | Penana
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Romance
Extraordinary Season
Writer Frances
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  • G: General Audiences
  • PG: Parental Guidance Suggested
  • PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • R: Restricted
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John, England 1912
Frances
Jun 10, 2018
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16 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!F8rmCXiPSRXTXal5DcnQposted on PENANA

Mum was discussing business about their small family farm with an overseer as John passed her in the parlor. It was a bright winter’s day. Snow had filled the air the evening before but had disappeared in the noon sunlight. Tucking his gray woolen scarf under the collar of his coat, he pulled on his gloves. His watch, a present from his father, was tucked safely in the breast pocket of his shirt next to the St. Christopher’s medal.copyright protection26PENANAkI4LfJnXsP

“John.”copyright protection26PENANAH7X9tA7Mp0

His mother appeared in the doorway, her brow furrowed with the pressures of running a household. It had always been that way in their home. Father wrote and made appearances as merited his literary reputation while Carrie Kipling held the purse strings and made sure everything was in order. Her heartfelt devotion to her family was shown in the efficient care she gave their needs. Though occasionally, her controlling tendencies could feel a little stifling to her children.copyright protection26PENANADmUBwfGar4

Mother cracked a grin on her usually somber countenance. “Is that a book?”copyright protection26PENANA0MM5y2PVZh

John slipped it behind his back, unwilling to answer too many questions. “Just a novel by H.G. Wells that father suggested I read while on holiday.”copyright protection26PENANAKGpIQTjXFI

“Did you finish reviewing your studies that you brought home from Wellington?”copyright protection26PENANAXj5RUC7BMy

John nodded, relieved that she didn’t ask further about the book. “Of course. I’m doing the best I can, mummy.”copyright protection26PENANAFNlsSTuIPu

Mother approached him, smoothing out the collar of his coat and hooking the top button. “I know you are. You’ve been making us very proud, though I know it hasn’t been an easy transition for you from St. Aubyns.”copyright protection26PENANA0Aapj1jCZZ

The fact that his best friends, Oscar and Oliver, were currently attending the prestigious Eton college hadn’t helped. John was smart, he knew he wasn’t a dullard. But not smart in the way an unwavering teacher with a strict curriculum expected. He had barely made it into Wellington, there was no way he could have passed the entrance exams for Eton. Not that it mattered as long as his education got him where he wanted; a military career. No matter what the specialist in Switzerland had said about his rapidly failing vision, he knew he could succeed in the army if he set his mind to it.copyright protection26PENANAlXiqPd2WPP

“Thank you,” he sighed, patting her hand. “I won’t be out long, I promise. I just need some fresh air.”copyright protection26PENANAvvCRXvKsdA

“Of course, but remember your glands. You don’t want to be bed ridden again during your holidays,” she called after him as he closed the front door.copyright protection26PENANAWea7Eu9X68

The woods were quiet with early January. It was hard to believe it had been a whole year since he’d ventured there to wait for Maria by the old oak. He’d even returned a couple times that summer when the greenery of August had changed the landscape into a maze of rich flora. But she wasn’t there at that time either. If not for Bird’s shared experience, he would have wondered if she had existed at all.copyright protection26PENANAWr5fSVtURi

As he approached the oak tree, the wind moaning through the creaking branches, he paused. With no longer the loud crunch of his footsteps in the dead leaves, another sound reached his ears. It was the soft gulps of hard weeping.copyright protection26PENANAJmNmdLRYe5

His breath hitched in his throat as he peeked around the side of the craggy trunk. A small figure was crumpled up between the roots, fist crammed to her mouth. Her dark hair was longer, a little past her shoulders. Her back was to him, but he knew who it was without seeing her face.copyright protection26PENANAzbjKiXesUl

“Maria?”copyright protection26PENANAARNG6FBzzt

She leaped to her feet with a gasp, rubbing her flushed cheeks with crimson mittens. Her large, dark brown eyes were wide and red rimmed, thin lips a shocked ‘O’ at the sight of him.copyright protection26PENANASjPFF3rx2F

“John.” Her voice was steady despite her tears, hands dropping to their sides as they studied each other in the weak winter light.copyright protection26PENANACBRVlaTzCO

“I thought I’d never see you again.”copyright protection26PENANAVdFITMnvmX

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to disappear like that without saying anything.”copyright protection26PENANAYehOUWSluU

“I thought…” he laughed softly to himself, relaxing his stance and shaking his head at the ground. “I thought perhaps I had imagined you. If not for Bird, of course.”copyright protection26PENANA16wT2R3VrF

“How is she? Bird?”copyright protection26PENANAJmSp5Mbsiy

“She’s well, thank you.” It was an oddly polite conversation. John’s Victorian inspired upbringing felt comfortable with such cordiality despite the questions humming like irritated bees in his brain. “And you? How have you been? Is your family well?”copyright protection26PENANAqhMH5HEY38

Panic gripped him as her face collapsed. She dropped to the forest floor, her shoulders trembling. John shifted on his feet, his mind spinning with confusion. His parents had reared him with the classic stiff upper lip of his class. Explosions of raw emotion were alien to his fourteen years of experience.copyright protection26PENANAS5eoYhg1dH

“I-I’m sorry, Maria. I didn’t mean to upset you.” He sank to his knees, hands hovering over her upper arms but not touching. “Please don’t cry. I can’t bear it. I don’t know what to do…”copyright protection26PENANAGX4zmamyCE

His voice faded as she leaned forward into his chest, gripping the lapel of his coat. John swallowed as his stiff arms draped over her shoulders. He awkwardly patted the upper part of her back till she let out a soggy chuckle at his reaction.copyright protection26PENANA62WTK1AoZD

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do this, cry like this to you. I came here to get away.”copyright protection26PENANAwSILhG3xIg

“What happened? Is everything alright?”copyright protection26PENANAfpdkYAul87

She let out another squeak of a sob. “No.”copyright protection26PENANA0faW8UYJiY

He filed through his memory of their conversations, trying to think of what might be distressing her so. “Is it your parents? Or your brothers?”copyright protection26PENANAnPR5B8MEGu

“My brother. Devon.” She pulled away from him, leaving tear stains on his coat. “We got the news a couple days ago.”copyright protection26PENANAUVT7gSHKeQ

“What news?” He asked gently, fighting the urge to brush a strand of hair from her forehead.copyright protection26PENANASe52beW9Ye

“He was killed in action.”copyright protection26PENANA8l4ZqF7djN

“In action? As in a battle?”copyright protection26PENANAIdJBlZu3KI

“Yes. There is a war going on where I’m from and there are rumors there may be more in the coming years. At least according to my history teacher.” She met his eyes, her own still awash with tears. “This all began last fall after the country was attacked in September. Since then, it’s like our whole family has been expecting this, especially after we invaded Afghanistan. Devon is special forces, so we knew he’d be in danger but now that it has really happened, I just- I don’t know how -”copyright protection26PENANAUCX0E8fBid

John’s brow furrowed. There were rumors of unrest on the continent, but nothing substantial yet. He certainly hadn’t heard of any war being fought by America much less about it being attacked. Especially by a country as far away as Afghanistan. His father was well versed in politics and kept him abreast on current events. Unless Maria was the greatest liar he’d ever had the misfortune of meeting, his suspicion that she was from somewhere else was confirmed by this confession.copyright protection26PENANAQqyUpZzxcT

“You probably think I’m crazy,” she said, sitting back on her heels with her shoulders slumped. “I wouldn’t blame you if you did.”copyright protection26PENANAlU75wt41xP

“I didn’t expect such an answer, but it’s not crazy. At least not to me.” He leaned forward to catch her eye. “If you could tell me how you came to be here. The real story. I should really like to know.”copyright protection26PENANAKrsHs7QHI9

Maria’s gaze strayed towards the discarded novel by his knee. She lightly touched the title with a fingertip, a faint grin playing at her pale lips. “I’m scared you’ll leave and never want to see me again. You’ll probably think I’m making it up.”copyright protection26PENANAUyzstZr3xE

John tipped her chin upwards with his knuckle, the gray light gleaming on her cheeks. “I might surprise you.”copyright protection26PENANAWSy3X5w263

Sitting between the roots of the oak tree, Maria spun a tale that had John spellbound all afternoon, more so than the novel his father recommended he read. Her parents were physicists, a branch of science that studied matter, time and energy. He’d heard of the study, of course, but admittedly knew little of it. Maria confessed neither did she even though both her mother and father had devoted their lives to their work. Almost to the point where their three children fell by the wayside. Regardless, she loved her mum and dad. She knew they did their best but were preoccupied with greater things.copyright protection26PENANASRvlyXspEb

“Their greatest project was a secret for most of my life. I visited their offices and labs at the University but didn’t really know what they were working on. All I knew was that they were receiving lots of grants for their research.” Maria thoughtfully smoothed out her pant leg. “I failed geometry class last semester, so all those papers filled with numbers around our house meant nothing to me growing up.”copyright protection26PENANAyyK81d8tgG

John snorted. He knew well what it was like to fail at something a parent excelled in. “Remind me to tell you about Wellington College later.”copyright protection26PENANA7dzGgxLMAS

Maria smiled shyly. “Alright.”copyright protection26PENANAQsJlNiigIX

He returned the grin till they both looked away in the stilted silence. “As you were saying. What was their project?”copyright protection26PENANArhvbpxpy0G

Maria heaved a breath. “As crazy as it sounds, they managed to pin point a wormhole in the universe and expand it with a formula that harnesses negative energy. That’s how my brother Jake explained it anyway. No one believed it was possible to go back in time, quantum computation with a negative delay is what Jake calls it. But my parents have proved them wrong.”copyright protection26PENANAe7TON9lzWV

John blinked at her, his mind absorbing the details in awestruck wonder. “You are telling me that you’ve come from where? The future?”copyright protection26PENANArNoa8csrsb

She nodded, pressing her lips together.copyright protection26PENANAoTsU5Sruqr

“But how?”copyright protection26PENANAaFy3tmdPV9

“I’m not sure.”copyright protection26PENANALmW9x5l0xN

“Is it a machine?”copyright protection26PENANAbVHDQMvhhW

“Something like that,” she replied.copyright protection26PENANAJrBhv5EIVz

John rose to his feet and paced the small glen in front of the tree, rolling the St. Christopher between his knuckles. “I apologize but this might take me a moment.”copyright protection26PENANASGWPPtUbtr

“Certainly.”copyright protection26PENANAYEnGidtNvK

Gazing up at the sky, he recalled the conversation with his father the previous evening. If Rudyard Kipling believed such extraordinary things could be possible in the far future, maybe they were. His father was the smartest person he knew. John could believe Maria because his father would probably believe her, or at least want to believe her.copyright protection26PENANAJeclwIrarm

“Very well.” He plopped down next to her. “Go on.”copyright protection26PENANAKj2G8S933D

The girl let out a relieved breath. “So my brother Jake, who is a year younger than me, he is something of a genius. Devon and I were always mediocre, but Jake truly got all the good genes.”copyright protection26PENANAv2iTIA6boC

“Genes?”copyright protection26PENANAW8Q9tmRUxi

“Never mind. The point is he is the one that learned about the machine. We sneaked into our parent’s office at home and found that they had converted their home lab into the test lab for their project.” Maria smirked. “They would have freaked out if they knew we had broken in.”copyright protection26PENANAghCjXLb7Oe

“I wager they would have freaked out,” John repeated, trying the strange phrase for himself. He reddened when she laughed softly at his attempt. At least she had the good grace not to comment.copyright protection26PENANALkg3dYEka3

“Jake had been secretly reading their notes for months. He’s been called a prodigy by so many people. He even goes to a special school for super advanced kids. We were both really bummed about Devon joining the army right out of high school and leaving us behind and then our parents were really worried about him because things weren’t looking good around the world, what with terrorist cells and suicide bombers.”copyright protection26PENANAW7bMgE98zH

“So how was it you ended up here then?”copyright protection26PENANArPY38WOk4D

“Jake isn’t sure. He merely punched in the numbers to make it work. It’s this stainless-steel room without any furniture and a padlocked door. We thought there would be more to it, but suddenly the computer turned on and then I was standing here in this wood. It all happens in the blink of an eye, first you’re in one place then another.” Maria tossed a rock at the tree. “We think maybe they had come to this place before in a test run, just a different time. Maybe the Middle Ages or something.”copyright protection26PENANAyQYOUbNywY

John hissed through his nose, his breath turning to clouds. “Fortunate you did not travel quite that far back. The people might not have been so accommodating.”copyright protection26PENANABs6Nfmrpv0

“Yeah seriously. I probably would have been burned at the stake.” They both laughed, relaxing as she neared the end of her tale. “After that first time, I wanted to come back here after I met you.”copyright protection26PENANA6WQ50Z1Pj6

John suppressed a smile of relief. He had been concerned the fascination was entirely one sided on his part.copyright protection26PENANAsSWrHQCvp8

“Jake agreed to help me that next time but refused afterwards. He was worried we’d break something or worse, that he wouldn’t be able to get me home. But I had been watching him when he ran the monitors. He also kept his own notes. I might have borrowed those a time or two. My parents never knew because I only went when they were at the University, which was a lot. I think they were so worried about Devon, it was how they coped together.”copyright protection26PENANAt1BzOQWfgr

“Why did you stop coming? Did they find out?”copyright protection26PENANAgmo7ro6tdq

She sighed. “No, thankfully. The machine was working so well they had it moved to the lab at the university.”copyright protection26PENANAzGiv70mKvL

“And you couldn’t get to it there.”copyright protection26PENANATYMuyBlvQB

“No.”copyright protection26PENANAW7XkepJlSW

“Then how are you here now?”copyright protection26PENANALrC4XJ4ktz

Maria rose to her feet, crossing her arms over her chest. She wore the same kind of rough blue pants from the previous year and her odd shoes made of canvas and rubber. “We got the visit yesterday from Devon’s superiors telling us my brother was killed by an IED.”copyright protection26PENANA5nySR7tdCk

“A what?”copyright protection26PENANAOzsMUHbD24

“A bomb.” Maria swallowed hard and kicked the leaves with the toe of her foot. “I went to my parent’s office to get some work for them and deliver a few things. Everyone knows what’s going on, all their colleagues. It was too much for me. So many apologies, most from people I’ve never seen before. I know they were just trying to be nice, but it made me feel worse. I had to get away. When I saw someone leave the lab for the evening as I was about to go home, I sneaked in. So here I am.”copyright protection26PENANAzOvbTtVXNp

A heavy silence descended between them interrupted only by doves heralding the coming twilight. Jack cleared his throat. “That’s quite a tale. And I should know. My father is Rudyard Kipling. Not that I’ve ever actually read any of his works for myself.”copyright protection26PENANAxTM6MEdfRQ

Jungle Book, right?”copyright protection26PENANAAGp2tkJFXM

He smirked ruefully and shook his head. “They still read it in your time?”copyright protection26PENANAJwBfIuIEsw

“Well. It was made into a movie.” She sat down next to him once more. “A children’s movie that I used to watch when I was little. We used to sing the songs from it.”copyright protection26PENANA40qQ6cvksm

“Songs?”copyright protection26PENANAb33B5wVPbS

She laughed. “Yes. There are songs sung by the different animals. Look for the bear necessities-copyright protection26PENANACUpd98HSNa

“Enough!” John guffawed, cutting off her toneless attempt. “I believed this story of yours up until that part. Besides, how can the animals sing if they are in a moving picture? Do people mimic the voices for them behind the screen while the piano accompanies? It sounds very silly. Though my father would be pleased to know his stories are still being told in one hundred years’ time.”copyright protection26PENANApRaPHg2dBu

“Well, technically it’s not one hundred years yet.”copyright protection26PENANAAMxDnDajtm

“What year did you come from?”copyright protection26PENANAb6gBjqJ1jw

“January of 2002.”copyright protection26PENANAbInly5CAie

John rubbed his hands over his face, his mind reeling. “I apologize again. Just give me a moment.”copyright protection26PENANA5S1DwphGIL

“Of course,” Maria answered quietly.copyright protection26PENANA2URjvbKed4

Maria Flores-Hart wasn’t otherworldly as he had first thought. She was from this world but not from this century. Not even this millennium. It was a mighty good thing she hadn’t jumped back further in time because this was hard enough for him to grasp in the year 1912. Only God knew what could have happened to her in 1812. That was if she was telling the truth.copyright protection26PENANALpM9LleoWx

“I’m sorry, Maria. This is all so extraordinary, and I don’t wish to insult you but if you could give me something. Some kind of…”copyright protection26PENANAC2qEFX3XDM

“Proof?”copyright protection26PENANAJGGA0bMLq0

“Yes. Please. That would help immensely.”copyright protection26PENANAPbpCkaXzyT

Maria nodded and dug into the pocket of her green coat, the same one she had worn a couple times the previous year. The sleeves were beginning to look a little short against her slim wrists. She pulled out an odd rectangular object with a circular dip in the top half perforated with a couple holes. A glass square was embedded beneath with the word Nokia printed over it. He wasn’t familiar with the phrase. Beneath the glass square were a series of raised numbers and arrows pointing up and down.copyright protection26PENANA6bVxPBuTz8

“It’s my father’s cellphone. My parents have me use it if I leave the house in the evening.”copyright protection26PENANAFiPlSPxFAX

Gingerly, he took the object from her. He had never seen anything like it in his life. “Cellphone? As in a telephone?”copyright protection26PENANAFp951tfZ3N

“Yes, so I can call them for a ride when I need one. Or if I’m somewhere I don’t want to be or with a friend who is making bad choices,” she explained with a grin. “It’s my first year of high school so they want to make sure I’m prepared.”copyright protection26PENANATaYPHOqcHZ

He dared press one of the buttons. The glass square and the numbers lit up as though an electric light bulb was embedded in the machine. It made a high-pitched beep and John dropped it in surprise. Maria laughed as she retrieved it and returned the object to her pocket.copyright protection26PENANAkmh9IaZfQz

“Does that help my case?”copyright protection26PENANAcwZmB1QQ0T

“I should say so,” John breathed, rubbing the back of his neck. “The year 2002. That’s ninety years in the future.”copyright protection26PENANAET3DILr9X9

“Not quite a full century.”copyright protection26PENANA9ivqseBrtr

“But have you seen the kind of telephones we use? My parents don’t have one in our house, they are determined to only write letters for the rest of their lives. But they are heavy boxes that hang on walls and you must crank a lever on the side and yell into the receiver to be heard. They certainly wouldn’t fit in a coat pocket.” His voice was lost in laughter. “Maybe you’re not crazy. Maybe I’m the one going crazy.”copyright protection26PENANA1GY02z1Sq2

“No, you’re not going crazy, John Kipling. I promise you that.” Maria rose to her feet, wrapping her arms around her torso. “I need to get back before they lock up the building and I’m stuck.”copyright protection26PENANAM5WQIFBaOz

John snorted. “You could always telephone your father with that thing and have him free you.”copyright protection26PENANAkXSPok40Lx

“Yes, but I’d rather avoid having to explain why I was lurking around his office at odd hours.” She curled a strand of hair behind her ear and studied her feet. “Besides, I don’t want to bother my parents right now. They have enough going on.”copyright protection26PENANAsMdqNg0P8q

John bit his lip, recalling the reason for her return. “I am terribly sorry about your brother.”copyright protection26PENANARVvOLetmph

Maria met his eyes. Her lower lip trembled before she took a deep breath and steadied herself. “Thank you. That means a lot more coming from a friend.”copyright protection26PENANAWJfOzD9DDV

His heart sped up at her use of the word friend. “Will I ever see you again?”copyright protection26PENANAa5IowvEwkN

“I’m not sure. I’d like that but it’s hard for me to get access to the machine now.”copyright protection26PENANAWcIs0tGtQ6

“Maybe we can plan a date,” he offered, grasping at hope.copyright protection26PENANALNP0CoEL1i

“A date? Are you asking me out, John?”copyright protection26PENANAGcnoBUUfqf

He swore that her weak grin had turned flirtatious for a second, her tone teasing. It caught him off guard. He coughed into his fist. “Asking you for what?”copyright protection26PENANA3nrMPsgwW6

“Never mind.” She waved a hand. “Yes. That would be the best way to do it. Things are going to be very busy for a while with everything but perhaps in two weeks, I may be able to get back here.”copyright protection26PENANADHUsHwRmiT

“Just in time before I have to return for the new term at Wellington.” He stuck out his hand. “Very well. I’ll see you then.”copyright protection26PENANAEZ52oGWiWm

She grasped his hand in return and he held it for a little longer than necessary, if only to remind himself that she was flesh and blood. However strange, she was very real. But that didn’t frighten him.copyright protection26PENANAx0KZMAs26o

She let go first and retreated. Maria kept her onyx brown eyes on him until she turned and vanished into the mist, leaving him to wonder if the encounter had only been a dream.copyright protection26PENANA9J53cNA39S

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