It is better to have loved and lost
than never to have loved at all.
a bunch of crock!
the old adage was certainly no comfort to me as I curled up in the middle of
some random farmer’s field, bawling my eyes out. I snotted up my sleeve wanting
to curse every silly love song and romantic soliloquy I’d ever heard. The
people who wrote those words were liars.
Heartbreak was explosive, wrenching, and annihilating. It battered and whipped
and taunted the one afflicted by it. It crushed me like an avalanche of ragged
stones without the decency to actually kill me. The pain was so deep and
thorough I felt like someone was peeling off my skin.
hated, hated, hated that I had known
love. It was so much better for me when love was a fairy tale. I wished with
all my bruised and bleeding heart that I’d never stopped hating Nate back in my sophomore year.
present agony was all his fault! If he hadn’t accepted a dare to dance with me
at that stupid Fall Dance (I took back the forgiveness I’d extended to Lucinda
for tricking me into going), and hadn’t tripped with me back to the nineteenth
century, and hadn’t let my infatuation turn into love—
worse, if he hadn’t loved me back—I’d be happily unaware of this torment and
probably half-heartedly dating Austin King. I’d be graduating in a few weeks
with my body, soul, and spirit in one piece and in complete and wonderful
was totally underrated.
What you don’t know won’t hurt you—how true! I wanted to start a campaign to warn
other high school girls: study, get good grades and for God’s sake, leave the
let out another low moan. I could have blamed Nate, but really, the mess I was
in was totally all my fault. I had known it would be hard to have a boyfriend
in college while I was still in high school. I had known there would be
“college girls,” vipers who were more aggressive and experienced with boys than
me. I had thought I was up to the challenge, but Fiona “the Floozy” Friaz, Latin
beauty and head cheerleader to Nate’s basketball team, had proven to be my
match. She hadn’t even tried to pretend that she wasn’t after my boyfriend.
Even though Nate reassured me over and over again that she was not a threat, I
let her get under my skin.
my defense, she had made it personal, tweeting her intentions straight to me!
Nate announced that his basketball team was going to Spain for a tournament,
and that Floozy would be going, my insecurities hit high gear. To make things
worse, I couldn’t tag along. With my condition, I can’t fly long distances,
had promised me all my firsts, but international travel was something he could
never give me. No one could.
had killed me that Fiona would have this experience with Nate instead of me.
And I had no doubt she would be with
what did I do? I signed up for a class trip to Hollywood. Even though we were
flying from Boston to LA, I had been certain—fairly—that I would be fine so
long as I slept. I never tripped (my word for time travel) while sleeping. It
wasn’t that long of a flight (unlike going to Spain), and it would give me
something to focus on other than Nate and
I hadn’t counted on was Austin King. For some unfathomable reason, Austin, a
good-looking guy in my creative writing class and part of the group going to
Hollywood, decided that he was interested in me. Austin was the kind of guy who
went after what he wanted, and any hurdle in the way was just a challenge that
heightened his competitiveness. (Just like Fiona!)
the time I got to Hollywood, Nate’s lack of attentiveness and Austin’s
abundance of attention left me feeling angry and confused. When Floozy posted a
picture of her with her arms draped over my boyfriend, I died inside.
pulled me into a hug to comfort me, and that led to my biggest mistake of all.
I let him kiss me—and I kissed him back.
was messed up! I ran away from Austin and straight into Adeline Savoy, another
time traveller from Hollywood, and we both tripped together. Only, we didn’t go
to either one of our usual time travel loops (which was 1863 for me, 1957 for
her), but reset to a brand new loop: 1929.
gone back to the present and I returned to Cambridge, but then I had tripped
again, by myself.
was how I got to where I was now.
been so tangled up in my ball of woe, I hadn’t heard anyone approach. I quickly
wiped my face with the bottom of my shirt, dabbed at my eyes and drew my
fingers through my run-away curls. I turned to the girl’s voice and gawked at
had picked me up when I was hitch-hiking on a previous trip to 1929 and had
become a friend of sorts. I’d only ever seen her dressed fashionably in flashy,
flapper-style dresses. At this moment she wore oversized field trousers held up
with suspenders and a blue button-down blouse. Two scruffy mid-sized dogs
sniffed the ground around her. A tractor was parked in the distance.
is that you?” she asked. “Are you all right?”
jumped to my feet and brushed the dirt off my jeans, keeping my bloodshot eyes
averted. “Yeah. I’m okay.” A hiccup betrayed me.
shook her messy brunette bob and popped a hand on her hip. “Those are the
strangest work clothes I’ve ever seen.”
wore a striped red and navy blue T-shirt, skinny jeans, and canvas running
shoes. My backpack lay at my feet. Unfortunately, it only contained my homework,
not any costumes for this period.
yeah. These are… my brother’s. They don’t really fit.” The excuse sounded lame,
even to me, but I couldn’t come up with anything better in my current, weakened
stared at my empty hands and gasped. Nate’s pocket watch was missing. I must’ve
dropped it. I fell back to my knees and examined the ground around me, turning
over stones and pushing aside carrot tops. The earth clung to my nails as I
leaned back on my heels and let out a long sigh as I absorbed yet another blow.
I must’ve dropped it on Nate’s front step.
are you looking for?” Lolly asked.
thought I’d dropped something, but…” I brushed soil off my knees as I stood up.
“Is this your farm?” I asked. I was used to coincidence and chance in my way of
life, so the fact that Lolly stood in front of me just now almost didn’t
How’d you find it? Were you looking for me?”
sniffled and turned away to take in the open pastures and farmland that would
one day be the neighborhood Nate Mackenzie lived in.
kind of lost.”
me, but you do look it. Why don’t you come back to the house with me and you
can tell me what’s wrong. And please don’t insult my intelligence by saying
that there’s nothing wrong. You look a mess, darlin’.”
whistled for the dogs and started toward the tractor. I picked up my modern
backpack and followed.
a one-seater,” she said, hopping onto the wide seat, “but it’s big enough for
you to slip in behind me.”
placed my foot on a runner and heaved myself up behind Lolly. The tractor
stuttered and popped as Lolly turned the engine over, stepped on the clutch and
put it into gear. We puttered toward a farmhouse in the distance and I was glad
the motor was too loud to talk over. I had approximately five minutes to get my
story straight before Lolly began her interrogation in earnest. Though I’d only
known her for a short time, I knew she would be relentless in her quest for
approached a small farmhouse painted canary yellow. Large trees in a sea of
leafy green surrounded it like a big protective hug. Several
out-buildings—sheds, barns… and outhouse?—sat just beyond. Lolly pulled the
tractor into a shady spot behind one of them and killed the engine.
have to sneak you upstairs and get you out of those rags,” she said. “Ma’s very
conservative and won’t appreciate that you’re wearing dungarees that are much,
much too small for you. Though,” she added with a sympathetic glance at my
clothing choice, “you can’t be to blame if you’ve outgrown your work clothes
and your family can’t afford to buy you new ones that fit properly. Did you say
you were the eldest?”
didn’t remember what I’d told her about my family. I’d learned it was best to
stick with the truth whenever possible.
you’ve been crying. Once we’re settled, you’re going to tell me all about it.”
line of laundry hung in the back yard with large white sheets floating in the
breeze like sails. Lolly ducked low as we followed along and motioned for me to
do the same. “In case Ma’s looking out the window,” she explained.
carefully opened a screen door, nodded with her head that I should enter first,
and then she slowly let the door close without a sound. I had the feeling Lolly
was skilled and experienced at sneaking in and out of her house.
paused at the base of a narrow flight of stairs.
my steps exactly,” Lolly whispered. She strategically placed her foot on one
side of a step and then the other—sometimes in the middle, a pattern that got
us to the second floor without a squeak.
stepped inside a small bedroom with ceilings that sloped sharply to the windows.
There was only a narrow section where I could stand up straight and not bump my
head. Lolly chuckled. “It’s helps that I’m short. At least when it comes to
getting dressed in this room.
its diminutive size, the room was cozy, with floral wallpaper that ran from the
wood floor to the cream-colored ceiling. White sheers floated lazily around the
open windows. Lolly opened a darkly stained wooden wardrobe that rested against
the longest portion of an interior wall and removed a couple of dresses. She
held a flowing rosy-pink one out to me.
hope it fits,” she said. “It drops to my ankles on me, so it should easily fall
to your shins.”
unabashedly stripped out of her farm trousers revealing a conservative set of
undergarments that would blush at the sight of my comparatively skimpy underthings.
There wasn’t much I could do about that and Lolly was busy in front of her
vanity mirror, fixing her hair, so I didn’t think she’d notice. I slipped out
of my jeans and T-shirt, pushed them under Lolly’s bed with my toe and wiggled
into her dress. We were both of slender build and the loose style made way for
any differences in body shape. And, as Lolly predicted, the dress landed at my
I borrow a brush and a few pins?” I asked. I ducked to get a glimpse of myself
in the mirror and stared at my blotchy face and red-rimmed eyes. No matter how
badly I felt right now I had to stop crying, at least until I was home again
and in the privacy of my own room.
pointed to all her hair accessories. “Sure thing.”
remembered how Adeline had made a faux bob out of my long hair the first time
we’d tripped back to 1929 in Hollywood. My version wasn’t nearly as neat, but
it would do. My real problem wasn’t my hair, but my feet. There was no way my hoofs
would fit into any of Lolly’s petite shoes.
pointed a toe. “I’m going to have to go barefoot.” Unless I wore my sneakers.
eyes widened in shock at my pronouncement. I gathered a lady without stockings
or footwear was a little too much for this “modern” girl.
mother has large feet, too. I take after my father’s side of the family,” she
added quickly. Before saying more she disappeared out of the room. I took the
opportunity to dig into her cosmetics, knowing from my previous encounter that
Lolly wouldn’t mind. In fact, I knew she’d insist, and for the first time I
wondered where we were getting ready to go out to. I packed it on to even out
my skin tone and hoped that plenty of eye makeup would detract from the
returned with a really unattractive pair of brown tie-up shoes—very sensible.
She smiled apologetically. “Sorry, this is the best I can do.”
fine,” I said. It wasn’t like I was trying to impress anyone, anyway. “I assume
we’re going somewhere?”
throwing a party. I promised her I’d come. Won’t she be surprised to see you
she!” I said it with a touch of sarcasm. Marlene Charter was the first person
I’d met in 1929 Boston. Nate was with me on that trip (and very angry with me
that I’d caused a reset). We ended up at a speakeasy in hopes of finding a way
to make money when Marlene offered me a job dancing.
would’ve been fine, except I had been spotted by Sheldon Vance, a mob thug
who’d duped me and Adeline on our reset loop to 1929 Hollywood into helping him
film a movie, which turned out to be a front for an actual bank robbery!
Marlene had taken us in after Nate was injured in the subsequent scuffle. I
didn’t like how she blatantly flirted with Nate, and she hadn’t liked how we
left without saying good-bye or thank-you after accepting her hospitality. Time
travel doesn’t always allow for social niceties.
then Marlene had begrudgingly helped me by getting me a job in the speakeasy
kitchen. However, she was probably less than impressed that I had taken off (again)
before finishing my last shift. Not only had the poor young helper, Paul Junior,
been left alone to do all the clean up, he was probably freaked out at seeing
me disappear into thin air like that.
handed me a strand of long beads, and I slipped them over my head. She looked
at me like I was a project she wasn’t quite finished with but didn’t know what
else to do with. “Let’s go.”
followed her exact pattern down the steps to the back door. She opened it and
motioned me to go outside. “I’ll be right there,” she whispered. “Stay out of
she called. “I’m going into town.”
You hold on now!” Her mother’s voice filtered outside. “You’re not going into
town dressed like that!”
we’ve been through this a hundred times. This is how kids dress nowadays.”
just makes you look so… cheap. Did you forget that Thomas Burgess is coming for
dinner tonight? I need your help to prepare things.”
don’t you lip me!”
Pa promised I could have the car to go into town today.”
go if you must, but be home by five o’clock, do you hear? I mean it young
door slammed and Lolly scurried past me in a huff. I hurried after her. “Is
everything all right?”
We’re not going to be able to stay for Marlene’s party. She’s going be so
came to a narrow garage and I recognized the jalopy inside from the first time
Lolly had picked me up. I climbed into the passenger seat. “Your dad lets you
take the car out a lot.”
He’s scared to drive in the city. Figures someone should drive it. Ma’s still
mad at him for buying it in the first place, but I simply adore him for it.”
Lolly had backed us out safely, I asked, “Who’s Thomas?”
the farmer’s son next door. Our parents want to join our farms because they
think it’s the only way to make the most of the booming economy. The truth is,
we bought a flashy new tractor and other machinery with easy money from the
bank. They’re more expensive to run and though we can do everything faster, we
still can’t produce enough to make the loan payments.”
do you mean by join the farms? They want you to marry him?”
I’m an only child and a girl. My parents wanted a lot of kids, but…well, they
only got me, unfortunately. We have to hire help, but cash flow isn’t there for
that. Thomas is the eldest of ten kids, and eligible to marry. He could run our
farm.” She let out a long, sad sigh. “He’s a nice enough fellow, but I don’t
love him.” She pressed her shoulders back and said boldly, “I’m not going to
marry him. I’m a modern girl!”
geared down as she came to the intersection at the main road into Boston. “Now,
enough about me,” she said with an arched brow. “I want to know why you were
crying your eyes out in the middle of my field. And don’t skip a thing!”
So what if he was going to
Europe with his college basketball team without me? So what if the cheerleading
squad and head cheerleader, Fiona Frias the Floozy, was going too? So what???
I stared hard at the text
message from Nate Mackenzie, my hot boyfriend of one year, nine months and five
days. My college-all-star-athlete-first-string-forward-for-the-Boston-University-Terriers-basketball-team
Nate: It’s official! We’re going to Spain!! It was a close call
with some passport issues, but just got word we’re all clear to go!
All those exclamation marks
were like stakes in my heart. Spikes to my feet. I felt frozen on the spot in
the middle of a busy hallway in Cambridge High. Bodies brushed by wafting stale
air and teen sweat, but it wasn’t enough to propel me. My heart weighed heavy
like an anchor and a scratchy lump formed in my throat.
Nate had promised me all my
firsts, but the one first he could never give me was international travel. I
couldn’t fly. There was always the possibility that I could trip—swirl back in
time—and it was best if my feet were firmly planted on the ground when that
So he was going to Europe
without me. Big deal. If I wanted Nate in my life (and I did!), I had to make
some concessions. I couldn’t tie him down, guilt him into not doing things just
because I couldn’t.
I forced myself to text him
Casey: That’s great. The Terriers are great. You’ll do great.
Nate: I’m glad you think it’s GREAT.
Casey: Are the cheerleaders going too?
I winced as I pressed send,
immediately wishing I could take it back. This was the crux of my issue with
Nate going to Spain and we both knew it. Fiona Frias, college girl,
long-legged, green-eyed, Latin beauty was in love with my boyfriend and she
didn’t try to keep it a secret. At all.
Despite Nate’s reassurances, I
felt completely insecure. Here I was, still in high school, while Nate was halfway
through his degree. Of course other girls would notice him. Of course other
girls would chase him. Girls who were more mature and experienced than I was.
Girl. It wasn’t fair to group
all girls together. Just one girl. Just one unscrupulous girl.
It only took one.
Nate didn’t text back right
away and I knew I upset him with the question. For him it was an issue of
trust, and all my overt and obvious inquiries about Fiona made him believe I
didn’t trust him.
I did trust him. It was her I didn’t trust.
My phone finally pinged with
Only one word. Only one word!
Gah! That was all he had to say? Nothing to comfort me and calm my worries?
Casey: That’s Great!
The bell rang and snapped me
back to reality. Lucinda, my best friend who seriously deserved a medal for
willingly wearing that moniker, poked my arm. “You’re going to be late.” Then,
seeing my face, she asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Nate’s going to Spain. With her.”
We started walking down the
hall toward my creative writing class. Lucinda’s history class was across the
hall. She knew all about my worries over Fiona Frias and the impending team
trip to Spain. She shot me a look of concern—or maybe it was pity—before
saying, “I think you’re boiling things down a little too low.”
“Am I? Nate will need the
self-control of a saint to resist her over there,” I said. “For one thing, the
drinking age is lower and well, a guy’s power of resistance goes down with each
drink, and it’s a million miles and several time zones away. Fiona…”
“Casey!” Lucinda grabbed my arm
and forced me to look down into her dark, worried gaze. “Nate loves you. He’s
not going to do anything with Fiona. You have to trust him.”
“I know. You’re right.” I felt
like an idiot. When did I turn into this crazy, jealous maniac?
I made it to my seat in Mr.
Ryerson’s creative writing class just as the bell rang. I folded my long limbs
under the desk, brushed dark runaway curls off my face and took a deep breath.
Lucinda was right. I was overreacting. I hid my phone under the desk and texted
quickly before Mr. R confiscated my phone.
Casey: I really am happy for you. Promise to send me lots of pics.
Nate: Of course. I don’t leave until next week. I’ll see you
Tomorrow was Friday, and Nate
had promised to come to Cambridge until he had to leave for practice on
Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t a lot of time but it was better than nothing.
Casey: love you
I let out a breath of relief.
We were okay.
Nate would be gone for two
weeks. It wasn’t like we saw a lot of each other now anyway. We both had school
and homework and jobs. With texting and Facebook, it would be like he wasn’t
Mr. Ryerson petted his thick
graying mustache as he called the class to order. I loved this class. Writing
was something I could do as a time traveler without too much worry. For the
most part it was a job of solitude. I didn’t have to worry about touching
someone, skin-to-skin, and accidentally taking them back in time. Only four
people knew about my “gift.” Lucinda, who was the first unlucky person to go
back with me and also how I learned about the skin to skin thing; Nate, who wasn’t
my boyfriend at the time and my brother Timothy, both of whom were also
accidental traveling guests; and Samuel, a fellow traveler. The only other one
No, that wasn’t true. There was
that blond girl I met in the convenience store one time. Adeline? I wondered
what happened to her and if she had a good-looking boyfriend who was being
chased by another older, prettier girl.
I wasn’t sure what kind of
living I could make as a writer, but this class offered unit studies in several
fields: journalism, poetry, short stories, novels, memoirs (mine would sound
like fiction!) and scriptwriting.
“The deadline for your deposit
on the Hollywood trip is today,” Mr. Ryerson said, eyeing me specifically. I’d
signed up back in November with no intention of actually following through. I
only wanted to avoid the inevitable questions as to why I didn’t want to go. I did want to go, but the class was flying. What if I tripped while in midair?
It would be disastrous.
I broke eye contact with Mr.
Ryerson and stared resolutely at my desk. Mr. Ryerson continued, “We’re joining
a script-writing class with students from Hollywood High and we’ll visit all
the tourist traps. Bring your laptops. Leave your winter coats.”
A cheer went up in the room. I
slunk lower into my seat, once again awash with discouragement.
“Casey?” Mr. Ryerson called my
name and I snapped to attention. He stood at my shoulder and I looked up, past
his bushy mustache and into his squinty, concerned eyes. He leaned in and
lowered his voice. “Are you having trouble coming up with the deposit?”
It was like I suddenly had
bionic hearing and caught the sounds of the other twenty-eight students
quieting and cocking their heads toward me. “Yeah,” I whispered back. “I don’t
think I can go.”
“It’s possible the school could
come up with a subsidy.”
It was so quiet in the
classroom, Mr. Ryerson’s words echoed off the wall. My cheeks flushed with
embarrassment. Now everyone thought my family had money problems. I squeaked
out, “No, that’s fine.”
“You’re a good writer, Casey.”
He dropped a paper on my desk with a big red A+ on the top. “I’d hate to see
you miss out.”
I spent the class period working
on a short film script about a stupid contemporary boy who gets stuck in the
civil war era and joins the Union Army (write what you know!). I couldn’t
resist checking my phone when the lunch bell rang. I got a new Instagram pic
from FabulousFiona! It was a selfie. Her abundant bosom peeked out of her
cheerleader uniform (some things just aren’t handed out fairly!) A couple
basketball players chatted in the background. I recognized one of the guys as
Her comment: “Too bad you can’t
I gasped. Fiona Frias just made
this personal! My thumbs went into high speed and I immediately forwarded the
image to Nate.
He didn’t text back. Of course,
he was busy playing basketball while Fiona jumped up and down on the sidelines
in a short skirt and there was nothing, NOTHING, I could do about it.
The thought of her traveling to
Spain with Nate (I know, it was with the basketball team, but SHE thought it
was with Nate) made my blood boil. I had to be careful or I was going to stress
myself back to 1863 and I really didn’t feel like dealing with that right now.
I stopped at the fountain and sipped cool water, long and hard.
Once my heartbeat was under
control I leaned against the wall and wiped my face with my sleeve.
Maybe I couldn’t go to Spain
with Nate and maybe I couldn’t stop Fiona from going with him, but I could
control some things in my life. I walked resolutely back to my creative writing
class. I had a checking account and an unused crumpled check in my purse. I’d
written only a couple checks in my life, but I remembered how. I gripped my pen
tightly as I wrote the date, the amount required for the deposit and then
scribbled my signature at the bottom with a flourish. I swallowed hard. I was
going to Hollywood.