A soft knock on the door broke Loretta from her reverie, followed by the sound of the doorknob turning. She sniffled, and then relief hit her as the door shook in the frame. She had forgotten she had locked it.
“Loretta?” It was the woman, the one with all the lies. ‘Traveled through time,’ indeed. This was her home, and her time, and the woman was just stark raving mad as evidenced by her clothes.
Except Loretta couldn’t believe it anymore, no matter how much she tried. The room she was sitting in was the same shape as her room, and that’s where the similarities ended. Her bed with the canopy and the curtains were gone, replaced with something much more modest. This was not her bedding either, the blankets that had cradled her to sleep on the hardest nights replaced with something far too blue. A chest of drawers she had never seen before sat against one wall, filled with the kind of clothes the woman had been wearing. Loretta couldn’t find a single dress, or skirt, or bloomer. Nothing in this room was hers.
And then, there were the bits of magic.
She didn’t know how else to describe them. There was the clock on the little table next to the bed. She only recognized it for a clock as the numbers ticked steadily forward. But the clock itself was a little black box, and the numbers on the front of it were blue. And they glowed. Listening to it, Loretta could hear no mechanism turning inside. Next to the magical clock was a magical lamp – it turned on and off with a click, and Loretta could find no oil or candle. The thin glass ball had the tiniest piece of wire in the middle, and somehow that tiny piece of wire gave off light.
Then there was the black mirror sitting on the chest of drawers. Loretta could see herself reflected in it, but not very well. She didn’t think it was a mirror, then, but she couldn’t find another explanation. Next to the magical lamp and clock she had found what could be a magic wand, and written on the top of the wand was the same word on the bottom of the mirror: Panascope. They must be related, but if anyone thought Loretta was going to touch some magic she didn’t understand they were crazier than Ramona.
Of course, if Ramona was right, and she had been thrust into the future, then she wasn’t surrounded by magic. Only things that hadn’t been invented yet.
Another knock. “Loretta? Are you in there?”
Loretta cleared her throat. “Yes. I’m…I will be staying in my room today. I asked your housemaid to bring me my breakfast.”
“That wasn’t my housemaid, that was my daughter,” Ramona called through the door. “And we don’t eat in our rooms in this house. If you want breakfast you have to come down. You must be hungry.”
Loretta’s stomach rumbled and she put a hand over it, as though she could muffle the sound.
“I’m sorry, this is a lot for me. You understand. Please, when your housemaid arrives, have her-”
“Okay, I’m not doing this.”
There was some scuffling from the other side of the door, then the doorknob made a single pop. Ramona turned the knob and entered the room. She was holding a small, thin piece of metal in one hand.
“These locks are really just for show,” Ramona said. She reached up and put the metal back on top of the doorframe. “And the key is up there, you know, if you ever need it.”
The two women stared at each other. Ramona looked younger than she had the night before, but still older than Loretta by ten years at least.
“I don’t like yelling through doors.”
“There was an actual lock on that door, once,” Loretta said. “What year is it?”
“Oh,” Loretta said, putting a hand to her mouth. “Not even the same century, then. I am…I am in a whole new time. One hundred and sixty years in the future. Everyone I know, and everyone who knows me, is dead. I am surrounded by things I do not understand. And you want me to come down for breakfast?”
“Well…yes. You can be sad and overwhelmed in the kitchen just as well as you can up here. Believe me, I know from experience.”
Loretta needled and pulled at the front of her nightgown. Something her mother had scolded her for over and over as a child. But her mother was dead. Long dead. So what did it matter?
“I suppose I would have to agree,” she said with a voice as light as mud. “I have mourned all over this house. Here, in this room. Above, on the walk. The kitchen. Even down in the cellar, on the occasions I didn’t want to be discovered by the servants. Oh, your house maid. What will we tell her?”
Ramona huffed. “Okay, so, first of all, that isn’t my ‘house maid’. That’s my oldest daughter, Angie.”
“I am terribly sorry, and I beg your forgiveness!”
Ramona shrugged. “She thought it was funny.”
“My point still stands. What will you tell your children?”
“Oh. See. That. I, uh, already told them the truth.”
Loretta could feel the blood running out of her face, and was sure her cheeks were of the palest alabaster.
“You told them? The truth?”
“Sweetie, you are too weird for any of my lies to make any kind of sense. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because I have a plan.”
“Right. To get you back to 18-whatever.”
“Yes. First, you come downstairs and have breakfast because I know you’re hungry, I can hear your stomach from here. Second, we go to the historical society down on Main Street and talk to the woman who runs it. She might know something about your disappearance. Finally, we visit the town witch.”
“There is a witch in town?” Loretta asked.
“She runs a new age shop, so I figure she’s our best bet.”
“I see. I don’t very much like the idea of speaking with an agent of the devil, but if she is my only option then I will have to take a chance and pray God stays with me.”
Loretta stood up and put her hands on her hips. With a plan of action in front of her, the self-pity and wallowing of the morning seemed particularly foolish.
“My dear Ramona, you have inspired me. We are two capable women, and if we just put our minds together we can find a way to get me back to 1868 by nightfall.”
“That’s the spirit!”
“Now, let us have some breakfast, for you are right, my dear, I am very hungry. And then I shall need to borrow one of your gowns.”