Extraordinary Season - John, England 1912 | Penana

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Extraordinary Season
Writer Frances
  • G: General Audiences
  • PG: Parental Guidance Suggested
  • PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • R: Restricted
352 Reads

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Extraordinary Season
A - A - A
Intro 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
John, England 1912
Jun 10, 2018
15 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!T5SFuiPuGkNlJsUdTD6Xposted on PENANA

"You’ve been acting strangely, brother,” Bird hissed, slumping over the back of the ottoman where John lounged with an issue of Punch magazine.copyright protection27PENANA56xVENcV46

“Strange?” He snorted. “What are you talking about?”copyright protection27PENANA4XcXDGfsaV

“You’ve been staring at that same page for the last ten minutes. I’ve been watching you from across the room. Ever since you returned from a walk in the woods a week ago, you’ve been wandering around like you’re in a dream.”copyright protection27PENANANXhxpcKjPQ

“Now you sound ridiculous. I’ve been much too preoccupied with my mathematics review to be wasting time dreaming.”copyright protection27PENANAhUXOPBB2xF

He gave a weak laugh and flipped the page to the next article. He knew he’d been acting odd though, no matter how he tried to deny it. He couldn’t help it. All he could think about was the year 2002, telephones that slipped into pockets, wars with Afghanistan and Maria. Especially Maria.copyright protection27PENANA9BClzf1OIc

“Even your governess has complained to mother about your attention span. I heard them whispering this afternoon. Your mind has clearly been elsewhere.” Bird peeked over her shoulder towards the door to make sure their parents were nowhere close. She shoved his shoulder. “Tell me. Something happened out there.”copyright protection27PENANAKv912zdNT3

“I don’t know what you’re talking about-”copyright protection27PENANADaYAYNcAQJ

“You saw her, didn’t you?” Bird gave him a persistent pat. “Maria. She was out there.”copyright protection27PENANAfZlSkU8mJQ

“And if she was? I thought you’d written the whole matter off as coincidence.”copyright protection27PENANAytmIvpiIcb

Bird straightened her posture, perching her fists on her slim hips and lifting her proud chin. “Ha! I knew it! She came back, our mystery girl in trousers. Well? How is she?”copyright protection27PENANAMQmKrlyDVo

John shifted uncomfortably and sat up, closing the magazine. “Maybe I did.”copyright protection27PENANAnanI3IDb5m

“And?”copyright protection27PENANA2DPomkOE30

“She wasn’t doing very well, sis.” He rolled up the issue and hit the palm of his hand with it. “It’s her brother.”copyright protection27PENANAQPQdAhy8Vt

“Which one?” Bird’s tone went sober at the change in his voice.copyright protection27PENANAxiEU1HDESI

“The older one, Devon. He… well, he died.”copyright protection27PENANA0UmQjIb7ne

Bird tapped her fingers on the back of the ottoman behind his head. “I’m terribly sorry to hear that.”copyright protection27PENANA8e4YrFgZNb

“I was too.”copyright protection27PENANAtkt7fvOT9H

She moved around the corner into his line of sight, her dark eyebrows drawn low over her eyes. “Are you going to see her again?”copyright protection27PENANABaCY1WHc34

John shrugged and rose to his feet, moving towards the hearth in front of him and staring into the flames. “I’m not sure. It’s… complicated.”copyright protection27PENANArciwbJbrJY

Bird came to stand next to him. He adjusted his spectacles and glanced up at her. Her somber expression shifted to a playful smirk. “Complicated? John, is there something romantic-“copyright protection27PENANADcj7jyC8sL

“What?” He demanded, cutting her off. “What are you talking about? She’s my friend and that’s all.”copyright protection27PENANAP3Ws2XoJ9s

Her smirk melted into a knowing smile that she knew got under his skin. John growled under his breath and moved away, patting his leg with the magazine.copyright protection27PENANAOAE66PQihz

“So. Friends?”copyright protection27PENANAgUMA168EeA

“Yes, Bird. Friends.”copyright protection27PENANAp4EmxHjVqt

“Well. Friendship is a slippery slope, dear brother.”copyright protection27PENANAne42lbSbt9

“Stop.”copyright protection27PENANALK3yk5EtJT

“Stop what? I’m merely observing. And do you know what I see?”copyright protection27PENANA49XJvuqPqR

“What do you see?” He snarled. The moment he looked at her, he regretted playing into her hands. Bird primly tossed her curls over her shoulder with an impish glance.copyright protection27PENANAjO5nQrzID2

“You start to blush like a school girl when you talk about her.” She shrieked as he grabbed a pillow from the couch and winged it at her smug face. “But no, stop. I really am sorry to hear about her brother.”copyright protection27PENANASpMWX71BAL

John stalked towards the door. “I don’t want to talk about it.”copyright protection27PENANAuEUsnqXOgo

“Can I see her the next time you go?”copyright protection27PENANAFzcLX3cwMQ

“See who?” Their mother asked sweeping into the room. Both Kipling children gaped at her before regaining their composure. John wet his lips as his mother’s direct and questioning gaze fell on him. “Who have you been seeing, John?”copyright protection27PENANAzEfmActCO3

“It’s about those dance instructors you’ve employed in the past, mother. We both would like to take some more lessons if possible,” Bird coolly interjected, her expression placid.copyright protection27PENANAnjIiL6JJUZ

Mum’s eyes darted between them before she sighed, her hands gripping her sewing. “We’ll have to see. Perhaps if I am feeling well enough in the next couple days, I’ll make arrangements.”copyright protection27PENANA7zzjkwnx39

A muted heaviness fell over the three of them as a maid brought in an after-dinner pot of chocolate and biscuits. The tray tinkled as she set it down on a nearby table, Mum thanking her graciously as she left the room.copyright protection27PENANAnCNCYoPs0D

Their mother’s health had never been perfect but seemed to be worse in the years following their sister’s sudden death. She was often bed ridden. Carrie Kipling could shift from invalid to commander in chief of their home in two shakes of a lamb’s tail but winter was hardest for her. Especially as they drew closer to the anniversary of Josephine’s death in early March.copyright protection27PENANAwnWeGIkpsf

“Your father has been working very hard as well since we returned from Switzerland. If you both could be on your best behavior, show extra kindness to him these days, I would appreciate it.” Mum poured herself a tea cup and sipped it, inhaling the rich, sweetness of the steam.copyright protection27PENANApzOZT9wgHz

“Of course, mother.” John laid a hand on her shoulder.copyright protection27PENANAp4cdHbBxDB

His mother patted his fingers and gave a weary smile. “Would you like some, John?”copyright protection27PENANAb9Z8oGRJ5j

“No, thank you. I think I’ll go up early,” he said, trying to ignore the dull ache at the back of his skull.copyright protection27PENANAZvSNuMX12E

“Of course, dear. Sleep well,” she said, kissing his forehead.copyright protection27PENANAAsJNFrYhZC

“Good night, John,” Bird murmured, her tone subdued as she went to pour herself a cup.copyright protection27PENANASaMSiayaUE

Even though she could drive him to distraction, his older sister was a good egg. He had to admire how coolly she handled their mother. Only God knew how Carrie Kipling would react to his secret meetings with an odd American girl wearing men’s trousers in the wood. As Maria would say, she would freak out.copyright protection27PENANAtTalHF7FGa

As he laid in bed that night, gazing at the gramophone he had received as a Christmas present, he thought about Maria’s family. The loss of a child was an event that could destroy a world, his own parents were evidence of this truth. Even his father’s greatest work The Jungle Book, which would stand the test if time according to Maria, was dedicated to Josephine. Father said there were no such things as ghosts but the little girl with the blonde curls, who would always be both older and younger than John, haunted his parents’ eyes even when they were at their happiest.copyright protection27PENANAkhC34iv3zv

John shivered and hoped he wasn’t coming down with something. Turning over in his bed, he pulled the covers tight about his ears and forced himself to think about something else as he drifted to sleep. His last thoughts were about the pocket telephone and what the word ‘Nokia’ could possibly mean.copyright protection27PENANAFsFrlYCT8w

As luck would have it, John came down with a minor case of the flu the next day. Running a low temperature with aches and sneezing, he lay on the ottoman in the sitting room the next few days reading magazines and half heartedly flipping through his mathematics review. He dreaded the thought of returning to school but it helped that in a few days’ time, he would see Maria again. Hopefully.copyright protection27PENANAyBqIX7n5N4

Friday dawned chilled and foggy. It had been two weeks exactly since he had seen her. He was no longer feverish, but his mother still fussed over him that morning when he insisted he was well enough for a walk that afternoon.copyright protection27PENANAf7lSbqbGtL

“Mum, I leave this weekend. Would you please make an exception this once? I won’t see Bateman’s again for months,” he begged over their breakfast table.copyright protection27PENANAc8dRAyQcsZ

Mother peered up from her marmalade toast, her eyes narrowing as she wiped the corner of her mouth with her napkin. “On a day like today? You’ll make yourself sick again, John. I can’t allow it.”copyright protection27PENANAJ1BaJzi7E5

“But mother!”copyright protection27PENANAcUcyNnYY4s

“Carrie, come now. Let the boy wander the grounds for an hour or so this afternoon,” father murmured behind his newspaper, peering up at his wife. She shot him a glare. Rudyard Kipling cleared his throat and offered his son a sympathetic grin before returning to his page.copyright protection27PENANAJgAX8bwZoZ

“You’re returning to Wellington in a matter of days. You can’t get worse and miss the first of the term. You have your studies to consider, darling,” Carrie continued, pouring a cup of tea. “You know you do.”copyright protection27PENANAY80AiKaASO

John clenched his fists in his lap, crumpling his napkin. He had never hated school more than at that moment. It was almost enough to make him reconsider a career in the army if it meant he could escape into the woods to see Maria as he had promised.copyright protection27PENANAF4JRCwfBvj

“Mother,” Bird spoke, demurely spreading butter on a slice of toast. “What if I went with him? We haven’t spent much time together this holiday, other than in Switzerland while we were skiing. It might be pleasant to take a turn about the gardens, just us. I’ll keep an eye on him, I promise.”copyright protection27PENANA3fzEcIPJHe

Mother pursed her lips in the silence, father’s newspaper crinkling as he turned a page. Bird blinked at their mother, her strong eyebrows arched as she patiently waited a reply.copyright protection27PENANAIGmJhEtrem

Mother sighed. “Very well but wait until after noontime. Hopefully it will have warmed up a little by then.”copyright protection27PENANAfUqZM3w1E1

Rudyard tossed his daughter a clandestine wink as he sipped his tea. Bird smirked at her brother once their parents’ attention was turned to an article that father read aloud to the table. John shook his head. Even though he had wanted to see Maria this last time alone, he had to give his sister credit for her tactful intervention.copyright protection27PENANAkIhUmtCcdk

“Please. Let me go in there alone,” he pleaded with Bird as they crossed the pasture. “I don’t know how she’ll take it.”copyright protection27PENANAqW0MFhq8IF

“She’s my friend too.” Bird tucked her fingers inside her gloves. “Besides, I gave mother my solemn word that I would not let you out of my sight. Do you want a make a liar out of your sister?”copyright protection27PENANAvYzVYlZumE

“No,” he grumbled, sticking his hands in his pockets. “I’d rather make mincemeat out of her.”copyright protection27PENANAwHmNCIhfUu

Bird laughed brightly at his comment, irritating John even more. “Oh stop your grousing. Without me, you wouldn’t be out here at all.”copyright protection27PENANAzkqz65Rwez

John shrugged, walking a few paces ahead of her. “I guess.”copyright protection27PENANAcJyLFw7E0u

“A little gratitude would be appropriate.”copyright protection27PENANAiwcEjOnB3h

“Fine. Thank you, Elsie Kipling.”copyright protection27PENANA5CCwcIC3fR

“That didn’t sound very sincere.”copyright protection27PENANACsBadhGkWH

John chose to ignore her as he plunged into the spiny depths of the winter forest. As that day earlier in January, the only sound was the faraway trickle of the Dudwell. He wished they could meet in the summer sometime when it was lovely outside and he could walk Maria down to the little river and show her the water mill, listen to the crickets in the grass as the sun set. She would like that, and he would just like to be with her.copyright protection27PENANAPed1TxPh9T

The frozen glen around the old oak tree was empty. He lifted his chin and squashed the fear that she would never come back. If she didn't, he would have to explain it to his snickering sister.copyright protection27PENANAzfvbLHUoKa

“Where is she?”copyright protection27PENANAfnCRxP8ea4

“I don’t know,” John snapped, coughing into his fist.copyright protection27PENANAV0j91dHRuQ

Bird’s brow furrowed as she came alongside him and pressed the back of her hand to his forehead. He brushed her away irritably. “You feel a little warm.”copyright protection27PENANAK35ffRX9fH

“I’m fine.”copyright protection27PENANAjv4VmCLuQW

“What if she doesn’t come and you catch another chill out here? Mother will never forgive me.”copyright protection27PENANAyMWSWX5DPA

“I won’t catch a chill.”copyright protection27PENANAtzDzOTqL2G

“Very well.” Bird sighed, settling herself against the tree as the wind whistled through the branches. “A little while longer then.”copyright protection27PENANAtmbxixa320

The clouds never cleared, and a damp cold fell on the forest as the fog thickened. Bird pointedly took out the little watch pinned to her blouse beneath her coat. She lifted it for him to see.copyright protection27PENANA0BNXtJUymK

“Mother is going to have a fit if we stay out any longer. It’s nearly five.”copyright protection27PENANA8QjMq7FQTI

“I know. I have a watch too.” John paced, rubbing his hands together and trying to pretend the heat in his limbs was from the exercise.copyright protection27PENANAxm4IUnf4ri

“You’re flushed, John.” Bird rose to her feet and brushed off her skirts. “And it’s getting dark. Come. Let’s get you home.”copyright protection27PENANA5rTSomCjVZ

“Please, just one more minute,” John breathed, standing at the edge of the clearing and staring into the space where Maria had vanished two weeks earlier.copyright protection27PENANA34QmRgux7n

“John…” Bird’s voice trailed off at the steady thud of light footsteps rushing towards them through the gloom.copyright protection27PENANAfEKkmEHCJ8

John’s heart leaped to his throat as Maria appeared in the mist. Her usually smooth hair was tangled around her shoulders like dark strands of seaweed, damp from the fog. She wore a black sweater and patent leather boots that went mid shin.copyright protection27PENANAUOAOHYakh6

As she tore frantically into the clearing, John wasn’t sure where to look. She wore the most scandalously short dress he’d ever seen on a girl her age. The flared hem reached just above her knees, her legs covered in thick black stockings.copyright protection27PENANAjla9I1qcyx

“John!” she cried, throwing herself against him and wrapping her arms around his torso.copyright protection27PENANAAOck8zZQbI

John froze, his arms extended out from his sides, any response dried up at her untoward arrival. He tried to remind himself that she was from ninety years in the future, a different time and set of social mores. But he had never been this physically close to a girl who wasn’t related to him.copyright protection27PENANAY6xyVfx5zP

Bird watched from the tree, her expression gleeful with shocked amusement. “Maria!”copyright protection27PENANAbSam2Sos5W

Maria untangled herself from him, he had never embraced her back, and wiped her damp eyes with the back of her hand. She raced forward and gave his sister the same treatment, leaving John inexplicably miffed. He wasn’t sure how he felt about Maria hugging his sister the same way.copyright protection27PENANA0FLc0TLZKX

“Bird,” she cried. “I hoped I would see you again.”copyright protection27PENANAIJ3fiZvP44

“I did too. I had to fight my way here, John seemed determined to keep you all to himself,” Bird said, squeezing Maria’s hand as they parted.copyright protection27PENANAFgXPDZI1sO

John sniffed, annoyed by Bird’s confession. “We were worried we had missed you.”copyright protection27PENANAYstJEtDqtn

“John was especially concerned,” Bird added.copyright protection27PENANAnb6rroqXev

“Only because I promised you and I didn’t want you to think me inconstant.”copyright protection27PENANA1TLZJpYrqr

Maria heaved a breath. “I can’t stay long. I sneaked away after a memorial service being held at the University today. There have been so many services for Devon…”copyright protection27PENANAfoTJ8ydLYG

“John told me about your brother,” Bird said. “My sympathies for you and your family.”copyright protection27PENANA8mSfNkDdhR

“Thank you.” Maria nodded, peering down at her half-exposed legs that John was still trying to ignore. “I think I may have been followed into the lab by a TA working late so I don’t have much time. But I needed to see you again, the both of you. I couldn’t leave without a word like I did last year.”copyright protection27PENANAIjLuiuUhWk

“Where have you been?” Bird asked, blinking at her clothes. “And what on earth are you wearing?”copyright protection27PENANAIcJCVRb9Da

Maria passed a knowing look to John. He squared his shoulders, wiping beads of sweat from his hairline. He was starting to feel feverish again but wasn’t about to go home. “I’ll tell you later, Bird. It’s quite a story.”copyright protection27PENANAPLwI0k3Exl

“Did you go back to America?”copyright protection27PENANAwgEhLXMFeI

“Something like that, you see…” Maria stopped talking at the sound of voices mumbling in the distant pasture.copyright protection27PENANA0XUJzQBK0e

It was his father and the family chauffeur, Moore. “John! Bird! Your mother is worried sick!”copyright protection27PENANAVP0ry1LBFj

Maria gaped at the Kipling siblings. “Who is that?”copyright protection27PENANAWbABtlyf1M

John’s eyes widened in horror. “Our father.”copyright protection27PENANAY1JTLjKn4K

With a rabbit quick step, Maria retreated past the tree. “He can’t see me. That’s too much. I don’t know if I’ll mess something up considering who he is in history.”copyright protection27PENANACZACr8DdKj

“What are you talking about?” Bird demanded as the footsteps drew closer. “What is she saying, John?”copyright protection27PENANAxHv7iYtRev

John wet his lips, shivering under his coat. “It’s difficult to explain.”copyright protection27PENANADdwn6iHQGL

Maria’s breath hissed through her teeth. “Oh no.”copyright protection27PENANABiLbVckzq4

And then she was gone.copyright protection27PENANASXMn44myWB

She hadn’t run into the woods or hidden behind the oak. Maria Flores-Hart was there and then suddenly gone, her disheveled figure vanishing much like John always imagined happened to fleeing ghosts. Bird let out a wild laugh of disbelief. He was only thankful she had been there to witness it as well otherwise he would have seriously started to question his sanity.copyright protection27PENANA3AOAXUSFLz

“Bird, John! Answer me now!” A shrill note entered their father’s voice.copyright protection27PENANAqmRbxNoRmO

“John,” Bird whispered in the haunted stillness. “What just happened?”copyright protection27PENANAWeLICQNYoJ

“Maria had to go home.”copyright protection27PENANAzrjn1hiUW4

“Home is where?”copyright protection27PENANAtnqlzY8YQv

John turned towards her as father came into view holding a lantern in the darkening twilight, Moore close on his heels. “It’s a long story.”copyright protection27PENANAMMJyvmpikN

“Our father is Rudyard Kipling. I’m used to long stories.”copyright protection27PENANA2UfmihEBbA

Father huffed as he stomped into the glen. “And where have you two been? Why didn’t you answer me?”copyright protection27PENANAFFY61x4avU

Bird’s expression swiftly changed to innocent surprise. “I thought you could hear us! We answered you. Honest, father.”copyright protection27PENANAFiHpRcLgv6

“Where have you been?” Father squinted at them and approached his son, pressing his hand to his forehead. “You’re running fever again.”copyright protection27PENANA3y1jUkAyVM

“Really?” Bird sighed. “I told you, John. We didn’t have time to look for that fox’s den again this year.”copyright protection27PENANA9Bs7HtFLEb

Father’s critical glance behind his thick glasses shifted between them. While Bird’s face was as docile as ever, John was sure he would give them away. He swayed on his feet.copyright protection27PENANAGjunJlAvB6

“I have to admit, I am feeling a little unwell,” he said and meant it.copyright protection27PENANABFFDZAXz9S

Father shook his head with a heavy sigh. “Come. Let’s get you to bed. And you, Elsie.” His sister winced at the uncommon use of her given name. “You can explain this whole thing to your mother. I wash my hands of it.”copyright protection27PENANAlitNqbh6WV

Bird nodded solemnly. He could tell by her mild acceptance that this was a reasonable punishment for the chance to witness what had just occurred with Maria. She fell into step behind their father alongside John and nudged his shoulder.copyright protection27PENANAhCfL0Z7BuJ

“I’ll explain later,” he said under his breath as they crossed into the gardens. “I’ll write you a letter. It’ll be the safest way.”copyright protection27PENANAI6pnJoXGX6

Bird jutted out her jaw. “Safe? What is she? A fugitive spirit that broke out of purgatory?”copyright protection27PENANAzjp37QepWa

John grinned, blinking bleary eyed. “Come now, sis. Purgatory? We’re not even catholic.”copyright protection27PENANAkeNA0Oz7q4

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