Windows of Time

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Chapter 2 (Pages 24-32)

Emma reached out to touch the window. It wasn’t a dream. It was real. Olive was already tugging at it, struggling to pull it open.

“No, wait!” Emma yelled, putting up her hand. “I can’t change the past.”

“Yes, you can!” Mystery scooted next to her sister and helped Olive open the heavy window and together they jumped out. “We’ll help you,” Olive said, turning and holding out her tiny hand toward Emma.

“No!” Emma yelled. “Come back.” She grabbed Olive by the forearm and reeled her back up, but Mystery took hold of her legs and pulled her down.

Mystery looked up at Emma, eyes pleading. “Please.”

“I-I can’t.” Emma lifted herself out of the window, hands pressing against the wooden frame. She thought about Victoria, she’d be angry no doubt. She’d be up all night worried sick, would probably bundle up the kids, and ride up to her house. And Tulip! She had left the old mare by the tree.

Her head told her to stay put, but her heart pounded with eager excitement. Her spirit pleaded for her to go. After all, Aunt Victoria’s house was the last place Emma wanted to be and Tulip knew her way back to the house. Emma stared at the girls, leaning through the open window, holding on to the jambs.

What would her mother have done? Abigail would have jumped without a second thought. She had been more of a risk taker than Emma was, an adventurer at heart. Emma wanted to be the same. She could feel a strong wind, something like a hurricane pulling her in, sucking her into another realm. It hadn’t been there before.  She leapt, thinking only of her mother.

The three girls landed in an atrium, inside a large white stone house. It was like walking through a door, nothing spectacular, except for the shifting wind that carried them through.

Emma heard the sound of metal against metal. She turned, a young man no older than herself held a sword over his head. Two young men fought inside a large room.

Emma waved from the ground, but the young men kept fighting, using the entire space to lunge and dance away from each other’s swords.

All around them were huge murals depicting Roman life and ethereal entities, mosaic floors and marble statues. Just like she had read about in books. Emma had learned from her parents that mosaics in atriums were not common. They were a symbol of wealth and high status. These young men had to be wealthy, Emma thought. They must be important.

The clashing of swords stopped.

“Salve. Quis vocaris?” The men faced them now. Very aware of the girl’s presence.

“What did you say?” Emma looked up at the young man who was dressed in a white linen robe.

“Markus, vocor.”  He extended a hand to help her from the ground.

“Oh, yes, how rude of me, I’m Emma. Emma Franklin.” She smiled, and curtsied, already forgetting why she was here in the first place.

“Who are you?” Markus asked, they understood each other. Either he was speaking English or Emma was speaking Latin, she couldn’t tell.

“We’re girls.” Olive giggled, covering her mouth. It sounded like English to Emma. But to Markus it must have sounded like Latin. How strange. Emma smiled. She liked Markus. His dreamy blue eyes, golden curls that spiraled down his forehead to the nape of his neck, and his smile that made a dimple on his left cheek every time he looked at her.

“Where did you get that unusual robe?” The other young man asked.

Olive looked down at her gown. She liked her green dress with little white flowers embroidered on it. “From there.” Olive turned to point at the window, but it had vanished.

“That’s Julius, he’s my younger brother.” Markus shoved Julius aside and picked up the little girl. “Why are you on the floor?” Markus frowned.

Olive shrugged.

“We were just, uh …visiting and …” Emma tried to think of a way to explain.

“We?” Julius’ brows shot up. “Where are the rest?”

“Beautiful! Look at the birds.” Mystery interrupted and pointed at the mosaic floor, blushing, her voice small and timid. Every square had a blue bird in the center.

Markus smiled but returned his gaze to Emma. “Are you the daughters of a dignitary? Soldier?”

“No. My Father is an archeologist,” Emma said. “My mother was too.” She lowered her eyes.

“Who else are you taking too?” Julius looked puzzled.

“Them.” Markus pointed at the two younger girls.

“Has she bewitched you bother?” Julius asked, his hand tightening around the hilt of his sword. “There is no one there. Are you a soothsayer?” Emma saw his knuckles turn white.  She knew this meant a sort of witch, or someone with supernatural knowledge, and /or abilities.

“No.” Emma shook her head. “Archeologists study history and learn about other cultures that existed in the past.”

“Arkologist?” Julius stared wide-eyed.

“Your father, is a magister?” Markus looked interested.

“Well, yes and no.” Emma said, not quite sure how to explain the difference between a tutor and an archeologist to someone who had no understanding of the concept of archeology.

“You are very confusing.” Markus said, but smiled. “Where do you live?”

“Philadelphia.”

“I’ve never heard of this kingdom.”

“It is far away. Like I said, we are just visiting.” Emma frowned. “In fact, we should go.”

Markus took her hand. “You still haven’t told me how you got here.”

“It’s complicated.” Emma looked up at the young man. “But we meant no harm.”

“Then you are friends.”

Emma nodded. “I suppose.”

“Then you must stay for the night,” Markus said. “I’ll make provisions, my mother will not mind. We have servants, cooks.”

“What do you have in your bag?” Julius asked, still not certain the girls could be trusted.

Emma looked at her sisters and opened her traveling bag. She had a photograph, berries she had picked in the forest, bread, a canister of water and some garments to wear.

Julius gasped at the photograph. “What is that?”

“It looks like a drawing.” Markus gawked at it as well. It was sepia tone, like every other photograph, there was nothing special about it, except the people in it.

“It’s something like that.” Emma said, returning the contents of her belongs into her aged leather bag.

“Who are they?” Markus pointed at the people in the photo.

“My parents. Our parents.” Emma corrected.

“They wear strange garments.” Markus said, then continued to rummage through the garments remaining in the traveling bag. “Just like these, he pulled out a stocking swinging it from side to side. But no weapons. Good.” Markus smiled again. “Well, Emma, welcome to Pompeii,” he said, taking a deep bow.

Emma felt a catch in her throat but forced herself to stay calm. “Thank you.” Emma stumbled, she looked at rich the green landscape behind the young man. There were grape vines and olive trees growing on either side of the cobblestone road. She could see them from the atrium. Behind the house loomed Mount Vesuvius. It’s shadow thickened over the city as the sun rose to its zenith. Emma’s heart skipped a beat, all this would be gone someday, the young men too.

“My uncle is the magistrate of this ward.” Markus rose. “We live on Via di Nola. Close to the central baths. So, will you stay?”

Emma frowned, what if they couldn’t return to their own time? She took a long, deep breath. Mother would not have gone crawling back, she would have met the situation with a sense of adventure.  “Of course,” Emma said, “but just for one night.”  She grasped Olive’s arm so that Markus could not see her hand shaking.  Mystery stood behind them, peeking around Emma’s skirt.

“Come then.” Markus lead the way.  They walked in silence for several minutes, each one unsure of what to say. Even Olive was quiet. The house was so large. Ahead of them loomed the Atlantic it surrounded the villa on three sides. The younger girls had never seen the ocean, both had perished before they were old enough to travel. Emma looked out into the sea, deep blue water spread like a quilt in front of them. On either side were large stone houses, like small castles. Emma thought, each one as beautiful as the other. The scenery was breathtaking. Just like Markus. Emma blushed. He was tall and muscular, maybe this was where she was supposed to be.  Or perhaps there was something here that could tip them off Emma tried to reason, turning her head in both directions. But how would they stop Mount Vesuvius from erupting? How would they save the city? She had no idea.

Julius followed his brother, he was smaller but with similar features. Years younger but he seemed the better soldier. Less compassionate, more of a fighter.

The girls followed Markus down a long entrance corridor leading into a central courtyard. All around the courtyard were rooms some of them closed off, others open. The atrium itself was roofed. In the back was a garden. The girls huddled in one corner, gawking at the elaborately decorated walls.  This villa had a second floor and numerous rooms.

Emma could smell bread baking, fire burning, smoke. Her eyes stung. “Mother!” Markus shouted. A woman dressed in fine silks emerged from one of the cubicles.  She gasped at the sight of Emma.

“Who is she? Where did she come from? Why is she dressed so strangely?” The woman asked, as if the three weren’t even present. “Markus, you can’t bring strangers here.”

“This is Emma and her sisters,” Markus said. “They are visiting from the Philly Delta.”

“Sisters? What sisters?” The boy’s mother stared at Markus in dismay.

“I told him she was a witch, mother.” Julius squinted, his lips tight. “Soothsayer.”

“They are the daughters of a magister.” Markus tried to make them sound important. “They are not witches.” Markus glared at his brother.

“Mother, I told them they could stay. I checked their belongings, they are harmless.”

“There is only one girl.” Julius squinted, pointing at Emma. “What is happening to you Markus?” Emma swallowed realizing the others could not see Olive and Mystery, just as it had been in her world, but why could Markus?”

“I am Atia,” the elegant woman bowed. “You may remain for the evening meal and for the night, but on the morrow, I will see you gone, is that clear?”

Emma nodded. Olive and Mystery clung to her skirts. Atia’s voice was curt, almost rude. Emma didn’t like the way she lifted her chin and looked at her as if she were some street rat. She was Emma Franklin, daughter of world-renowned archeologists, Benjamin Franklin’s great granddaughter.

“Where is this Philly Delta? I have never heard of such a place.” Atia eyed Emma suspiciously.

“It is across the sea,” Emma said, trying not to be too specific. Worried that she could be labeled and hung if the wrong words were spoken.

“Well, Emma of the Philly Delta, welcome to Pompeii. The meal begins at four, and there will be a poetry recital afterwards.” Atia sneered at Emma, then snapped her fingers and a servant woman appeared. “Take this girl and prepare her for the evening meal. I will not have her sit with us, looking like that.” Atia scrunched her face, as if there was a foul odor in the room.

“Yes mistress.” The servant woman bowed low, afraid to lift her gaze. She had a kind face and dark brown hair pulled back into a wispy bun. Her robe was plain, but clean. Atia seemed generous, but somehow unkind, flaunting what she had, rather than giving from the heart. Every time she spoke the servant woman cowered, and it made Emma anxious.

What if something upset the mistress? What then? Julius had already accused them of witchcraft. Emma swallowed, afraid to think of what their fate would be.