MacKlenna Farm, May 15, 2012
KIT GRIPPED THE leashes with white knuckled fingers in a death defying backward spin. Gravity pulled her up into interweaving turns and twists toward flickering amber light.
The inbound trip turned out to be identical to the outbound. As soon as the spinning stopped, she leaned over and threw up in the flowerbed in front of MacKlenna Mansion’s west portico. Her memory was fuzzy. She rubbed her arms feeling as if she’d just walked through a nightmare.
Tate barked, Tabor meowed, and both pulled against their leashes. She untied them and they ran off looking like an animal version of Butch and Sundance. Elliott would be furious at how ragged they were.
She untied Stormy’s shank. “Go on. Get to the barn.” He was dirty and thinner, but he was back in his bluegrass looking magnificent, a rippling mass of muscle, sinew, and bone glistening in the afternoon sun. He swerved his massive head toward her and whinnied softly through flaring nostrils.
“Go on.” Kit waved.
He reared, climbing the air with his front legs, something he rarely did.
You’re glad to be home, aren’t you? What about her? Was she glad to be home? Before pondering the question deeper, her belly cramped, reminding her exactly why she had returned. She couldn’t begin to understand the power and purpose of the blood-red stone, but it no longer mattered. Her time-traveling days were over.
The brooch had deposited her near the large oak door. She opened it and crossed the threshold. The scent of lemon polish rolled over her, and she inhaled deeply. The smell of time embedded in the furniture, the walls, and in the cherry and beech parquet floor grounded her.
She went in search of her cell phone and found it on her father’s desk plugged into the charger. Elliott, you’re the best.
The phone listed a hundred unread emails and fifty missed calls. The numbers didn’t surprise her. The date did. She’d only been gone six weeks. How could so much happen in such a short time?
She scrolled through the contact list and punched in Dr. Olson’s number. Following a brief explanation of her symptoms, the nurse scheduled an immediate appointment.
Not the way I smell.
Ten minutes later, the steam from her shower dissipated, and Kit caught her reflection in the mirror. She grabbed the towel bar for support. Purple bruises covered her right cheek, neck, and both arms. Her face had burned and peeled and stress had worn fine lines around her mouth. Callused hands and chipped nails needed a major overhaul. She clipped wet hair to the top of her head. The dull strands could air dry in the car.
For sixteen weeks, she had covered herself from bonnet to boots. Now, slipping into a black cotton sundress she seemed almost naked. Pain and grief joined forces and grabbed her in a choke hold, pushing her down into an ocean of memories where silence screamed the loudest and the pressure was unbearable.
Her body ached for him. His face would light with joy if he could see her now, fresh from the shower, wearing next to nothing. His desire would be demanding her attention.
The covers on the cherry four-poster bed held a freshly laundered lavender smell. He always kicked the covers off their cot and languidly stretched out wearing only a sated smile. The blood drained from her legs, and she grabbed the end post for support, envisioning him asleep in her bed, linens piled on the floor.
Get out of the house now. If I start crying, I’ll never make it to the doctor.
Her hair dried during the convertible ride, but she pretty much looked like crap. The office staff smiled sympathetically and escorted her to the examining room. A few minutes later, Dr. Olson, her father’s dear friend, walked in with his nose buried in her chart.
“Well, Kit, what brings you in this afternoon?” He closed the folder and glanced up. The usually unflappable OB/GYN swallowed noisily. He dropped the chart on the exam table and wrapped her in a hug. “What happened, child?”
“Everything.” The word came out in a sob. She took a moment to gather her composure and at his quiet urging, told her first twenty-first century lie. “I went on an Oregon Trail re-enactment, fell in love, and ended up pregnant. My baby’s father was killed five days ago.”
Dr. O gasped.
Kit bit her quivering lip, but the pain didn’t stop her tears. “I’ve been cramping and spotting for over an hour.”
He lifted her chin and turned her head to the side “These are handprints on you. Now, why don’t you tell me what really happened?”
The years slipped away, and she was once again the brutally attacked college student. She pushed aside the violent memory. “It’s different this time. I loved this man, and I want his baby. They killed him. Don’t let them kill his child too.”
Dr. O handed her a tissue. “Let’s do an ultrasound, take a look, and run a few tests. See what’s going on. I’ll do everything I can to help you.”
In the middle of the ultrasound he said, “There’re two embryos but only one’s viable. It’s too early to tell if the other will survive—”
“I want you to go home,” he continued, “limit your activity, and rest. There aren’t any twins in the family that I can remember.”
“Did I cause this to happen?” She didn’t want to know, but she had to know.
“It’s not your fault.”
She wasn’t quite sure she believed that. All she knew was that people who loved her died, and she couldn’t let that happen to her baby.
Armed with vitamins, instructions, and a return appointment, Kit drove home in a daze.
She called Elliott.
“What took you so long?” he asked.
“I had to go to the doctor.”
She scrunched her face. “Yep. I have a lot to tell you, but can we wait until breakfast. I’m exhausted.”
There was silence on the other end of the phone. Finally, he said, “I’ll meet you in the kitchen at seven. If you wake in the middle of the night and want to talk, call me.”
She went straight to bed and except for waking twice to go the bathroom, slept until six the next morning. Nightmares invaded her sleep and she wrestled with faceless demons. In one nightmare, someone ripped off her arms and legs. She was fitted with prosthetics, but no matter how hard she tried to use them, they wouldn’t work.
Elliott was pouring coffee when she walked into the kitchen. “I saw the sketches you left on the desk. Did you kill those men?”
He handed her a cup. “I cleared my calendar for the day.”
She rested her forearms on the table and intertwined her calloused fingers. “I’ll skip the long story and go straight to the short version.” She took a deep breath. “I fell in love, got married, fought the men in those pictures, watched my husband die, and I’m pregnant.”
“Damn.” Elliott pulled her into his arms.
“I love him so much.” Deep wrenching sobs poured out as grief rolled off her in tsunami size waves. Elliott said nothing. He just hugged her until the shivering stopped, and her tears turned to sniffles.
He reached for a nearby box of tissues. “Here, blow your nose, then start at the beginning—the day you went off and left me behind.”
It was well on noon when Kit finished her story. Her throat was raw, and the tissue box was empty. Elliott’s gray hair spiked from raking his fingers through it repeatedly. They sat in silence just as they had done at the funeral home.
He finally broke the silence. “Want a sandwich? I picked up some egg salad from Whole Foods yesterday.”
She gave him a hungry smile. “It’s the best in town.”
He fixed sandwiches then poured himself a cup of coffee and Kit a glass of milk. He settled back into his chair at the table. “What do you suppose happened to the Murray’s baby?”
“She must have died shortly after birth and her parents never wrote the date of her death in their Bible. Now that I have their full names, I might be able to find something through the BYU Family History Archives. If she’d been alive when her family was murdered, those men would’ve killed her, too. They were evil.”
“You don’t know if your baby will survive or what happened to your husband. And you’ll never learn the identity of the man in the portrait. Can you live with that?”
“Dr. Olson asked if there were twins in the family. I couldn’t answer, and I realize I’ll never be able to.” She blew her nose, then collected the handful of tissues and threw them into the trash.
“The first Sean MacKlenna and his sister were twins. Her picture’s hanging in the hallway,” Elliott said.
Kit gave a so-what shrug.
Several moments of silence passed between them while she picked at her ragged nails. “Cullen was an incredible man. If anyone could have survived the shot, the fall, and the rapids, he could, but there were no signs he came ashore. Can I live with that? I don’t have any other choice. I can’t go back.”
“In my heart, I believe I went back in time to be with him. The brooch was the vehicle to meet him, love him, and have his child. Maybe this child, if he survives, will go back one day and finish the search.”
“So what do you do now? Are you going to sell your condo in town and live here permanently? ”
“I’m not ready to sell, but I don’t want to live there right now. There’s a gaping hole in my heart and if it’s ever going to heal, it’ll happen here.”
“MacKlenna Farm is your child’s legacy, too. And you both deserve to be happy,” Elliott said.
“Sarah Barrett was a remarkable woman. One of the many things she taught me was that life isn’t just about being happy. It’s about being joyful in spite of your circumstances. Cullen’s child deserves a joy-filled life.”
“If someone hadn’t left me behind, I would have met your friend.” Elliott’s tongue pushed against his cheek.
“I’ve apologized a half dozen times already.”
“At least if I had gone, the animals wouldn’t have come back in such rough shape.”
Kit looked down at the empty food bowls in the corner. “Where are they? I haven’t seen either of them since we got back.”
“Tate and Tabor are at the vet’s. They’ll stay a few days to get checked out and prettied up.” Elliott put on his cap and walked to the door. “You know what you should do?”
“Besides put my feet up and wait?”
“Go to that fancy spa in California. Get your skin and hair looking pretty, then go see your psychiatrist. You have a few issues to work on before your baby arrives.”
“Well, tell me how you really feel.” She looked around for something to throw at him that wouldn’t break and settled on the empty tissue box.
He caught it and tossed it in the trash. “Call your travel agent. The pampering will do you good.”
“Take the corporate jet.” He grabbed an apple off the counter and left her sitting at the table thinking of ten reasons why she shouldn’t leave town again. None of them seemed that important. She scrolled through her phone’s contact list and called her travel agent who booked a reservation at the Meadowood in Napa Valley, and then she called the farm’s pilot.