General Fiction posted March 22, 2018 Chapters:  ...36 37 -38- 39... 


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The plan is put to Joe.

A chapter in the book This Time - That Time 2

One Step Forward-Two steps Back

by sandramitchell

Book of the Month Contest Winner 

 There is a link to a synopsis in my author's notes for those just leaping in.
 

Part 38

     “You look a mess, Joe! What’s been going on?”

     Joe eased himself up from his hiding place in the corner of the attic, groaning as he stretched. I studied him closely as he took his cap off and fingered it, betraying his frayed nerves—he looked as if he’d aged ten years in the short time I’d been gone.

     “Glad t’ see yeh, too  .” He gave a feeble grin which matched his weak attempt of humour. “I’s been told t’ be at the Manor tomorrow mornin’ an’ I ain’t goin’. If ‘e thinks I’m mad enough t’ offer meself up as a punchbag, an’ whatever else ‘e wants t’ do with me, ‘e’s in fer a shock.”

     I moved over to one of the crates in the middle of the floor and sat on it. “You can’t stay hidden for the rest of your life, Joe. For one thing, Rosie and your children will be evicted, and you’ll end up on the run. There’s also the money to think of. If there is none coming in, what will they do then?”

     “Do yeh think I ‘aven’t thought of all that?” he snapped. “Hell an’ damnation, Veronica, that’s all I’ve bin thinkin’ of. But if I give meself up, I’m a dead man, an’ if I don’t I’m a dead man. I ain’t gotta ‘ope in ‘ell whichever way I turn.”

     I continued to watch him as he struggled to get control of his rage. “I’m sorry, ‘tisn’t yer doin’. I just don’t know what t’ do any more.” He came over and sat on one of the other crates.

     “I might have a solution … it would solve everyone’s problems. Not only yours and Sir John’s, but Francis’ as well. You might not like it, though.”

     Hope flared in Joe’s eyes. “If I gets t’ keep me life and me family safe, I’ll do anything … what is it?”

     “This idea would get you some money to move away from here, and you might even be able to start making your chocolate—"

     “I’ll do it! Whatever it is, I’ll do it!”

     “I’m afraid it’s not only you who’d have to agree, it’s Rosie, as well.”

     I watched his face cloud over, his eagerness now a look of puzzlement. I took a deep breath. It sounded so easy when Mildred suggested it and the three of us had talked it through. “Would you and Rosie consider helping Francis by bringing him up as your own?”

     All trace of colour fled from Joe’s face. His eyes never left mine, but they glazed over as he tried to digest what I’d said. I continued before he had a chance to say anything. “Think about it. You could go to Sir John in the morning armed with a proposition to bargain with. It would solve his problem of ridding himself of Gwendolyn's embarrassing child."

     “I … I.” Joe looked at the ground. “Yer right, I’d ‘ave t’ talk it over with Rosie, an’ that won’t be a chat I’ll look forward t'.”

     “Hear me out, Joe. I think my plan will suit Rosie, too. You go to Sir John tomorrow as instructed, and I’ll go with you, of course. Then all you have to do is tell him you’re prepared to take Francis and move away from this area immediately. When you have his attention, you can lay down your conditions. He must provide adequate funds to support the child for as long as needed, and enough money to move you and your family to Bristol … yes, Bristol, where Rosie’s mother lives," I emphasised as interest began to flicker in his eyes.

     "We’ve also discovered you can buy eye glasses with coloured lenses. Sir John would have to buy those, as well. They would hide Francis’ red eyes until they turn blue—which they will do in time, just like his father's did. Once you’ve moved there, you would then be able to buy the ingredients you need to make your chocolate and support your family.”

     Joe remained quiet, but his expression revealed he might be persuaded. “I dunno what Rosie’ll say about it. If she did say yes, I can just see ‘er face when she sees the lad’s eyes. Be like mine, it were a shock an’ ‘twill be for ‘er an all.”

     “It would be different for Rosie because you can prepare her. I’ll be beside you while you talk to her, and when you talk to Sir John.”

     “I don’t know. It’d be cheaper for Sir John t' bump me an’ Francis off.”

     “I think you’re wrong there, Joe.” I was remembering the moment before Gwendolyn died, how tender his voice was until Meg brought Francis in. “I think the prospect of a solution to his problems, without him having to murder anyone, would be very attractive. He’s not poor by any means.”

     “I knows that. ‘E be good t' us workers, an’ always ‘ad a nice word t’ say as he passed by … it might work. Yer sure yeh can get coloured glasses?”'

     “Absolutely. Once you have Rosie on board, and you’ve persuaded Sir John, then you can mention the glasses and ask him to buy a pair. In the meantime, stay here and think through how you will approach Rosie. I want to talk to Gwendolyn before we go to the Manor tomorrow. If we have her on our side, you can let Sir John know that, as well. I’m sure he’d be delighted to know his sister could then pass-over and not haunt him anymore because her son will be well cared for. When I get back, we’ll go and talk to Rosie.”

*****
I had a good idea Gwendolyn would be with her son in the attic. I went there to find her sitting on the floor beside Francis as he played with his wooden bricks. Meg, his nanny, was keeping an eye on him, unaware of his mother's ghostly presence. I wondered what she thought of all this--it couldn't be fun stuck up in this room every day and night. 

     “Hi Gwendolyn,” I said as I went over and crouched down by her side. “Francis looks as if he’s enjoying himself.” I smiled as I watched Francis try to put one brick on top of the other. “Can your tear yourself away from this cute little chap for a while? I need to talk to you.”

     “I thought you’d gone back to your own time because you haven’t been around for a while.” Gwendolyn turned her attention back to her son and gave a soft smile before standing up with the grace only a ghost could accomplish. “He appears to grow more every day,” she said wistfully. “What did you want to talk about, Veronica?”

     “While I’ve been away, I’ve been busy trying to sort some sense into all this. We need to get Francis away from here, and I think I’ve got the answer.”

     “Oh, that sounds promising. Let’s go down to my room, it’s less stuffy than up here.” Gwendolyn moved off and passed through the closed door, and I followed.

     The sun threw its rays into this room, casting a warm glow, unlike poor Francis’ room where the darkness and filtered sunlight did nothing but offer an eerie channel for the dust particles to dance in. Gwendolyn moved over towards the window. “Let’s sit there.” She waved her hand towards the window seat. “It’s my favourite view.” She smiled, taking a moment to stare out the window before she sat down. “Tell me what you’ve been doing.”

     I told her everything we’d found out including how Jacob had moved to Egypt to work at the leper colony, and from what we had learned, he wouldn’t be back for ten years. When she heard that, Gwendolyn gasped, and her hand flew to her mouth. I rushed on and told her the plan. “I know he’ll be back because there’s a record of it, so he’ll be alright. Also, this way,” I told her, “when Jacob is back, Joe will start looking for him and tell him about Francis. He’ll be twelve years old by then and would probably have been asking questions about his parents anyway.”

     “Wouldn’t he think Joe and Rosie are his parents?” Gwendolyn asked with a doubtful look on her face.

     “No, Francis will always know who his mother was, and who is father is. Joe knows this. Is there a photo of you anywhere?”

     “Yes, I’m sure there is. It might be a good idea for Joe to ask John. He can’t refuse to give it to him. I’ll be there when Joe comes, and you can let him know what my feelings are on the matter.” Gwendolyn looked at me for a moment, then turned her head to look out the window. “I don’t know how to thank you, Veronica. Had you not been sent here, I don’t know what would have happened to my son.”

     “You don’t have to thank me. Let’s get this sorted now. Joe has to see your brother in the morning. Watch out for us as I don’t know where the ‘meeting’ will take place.”

     After a few more minutes, I left and went back to talk to Joe. I was feeling very optimistic now. Soon this will all be sorted, and I’ll be back home and hopefully finished with all this time travelling.

      Raised voices announced an argument like blaring trumpets as I went through the door to Joe’s cottage. My heart was banging away when I realised Joe was with Rosie. What have you said, Joe? Oh, for heaven’s sake, couldn’t you wait! I went into their kitchen just in time to hear Rosie shrieking at him, her face was a livid shade of red.

     “Yeh must be outta yer bleedin’ mind!” The look on Rosie’s face was incredulous, and she stared at Joe as if he was a stranger. “Take on another kid when we ain’t got enough money t' feed our own! What the hell’s the matter with yeh? No! Not while I’s got breath in my body will I take on a stranger’s child!”
    
Continued....    

Characters 

Veronica Russell – time traveller.
Dr James Russell – married to Veronica.
Ann Russell –  Veronica and James’s five-year-old daughter with paranormal gifts.
Michael Russell – Veronica and James’s three-year-old son.
Mildred – Veronica’s closest friend and adopted grandmother to the children.
Daveth Hammett – ten-year-old boy from 1846.
Elowen Hammett – five-year-old sister of Daveth
Joe Hammett –  Daveth’s father who disappeared through a time portal
Rosie Hammett – Joe’s wife.
Sir John – Lord of the manor.
Gwendolyn – Sir John’s sister, now deceased.
Francis – Albino child of Gwendolyne.
Jacob Argall – Albino.
Meg – Francis’ nanny and carer.
 


 


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Synopsis of Book 2

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Thank you once more for reading my story. It is written in UK English. If you find any errors, please know I am always happy to have them pointed out. :)
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