Everywhere I look, everything reminds me of Kate. Of course, I am living in her apartment now, so it's not like that's unexpected. Still, it reminds me too much of what I've lost.
Kate never had an easy life. Her mom ran off with the next door neighbor when she was only four. She practically had to raise herself, what with Dad working all the time. Then when she was twelve, Dad married my mom and they had me ten months later.
If I was her, I would've probably been pissed and rebelled. Not Kate. She always tried to be the perfect daughter and do everything Dad wanted. At first, I'm sure that's why she was so good to me, but then our relationship grew until she was almost like a second mother to me. Even when she went off to college, she called me all the time and came back home at least two weekends out of every four.
When I graduated high school, I already had my bags packed. I didn't want to go to college, didn't want to be the perfect lawyer Dad had always hoped for. I wanted to be an actor. The only person... the *only* one... who encouraged me was Kate. She thought I'd make a great actor, and ya know what? Her opinion was the only one that mattered.
I moved into her apartment, took parts where I got them, and split the rest of my time between acting classes and waiting tables. Kate encouraged me, read lines with me when I was working on a part, and basically kept me clothed, sheltered, and fed for nine years. Then, she left.
She found, just as I had years earlier, that the corporate life would never bring her true happiness. She met a guy, fell in love, and moved out. Typical love story... unless you consider this guy was a duke from the 19th century. She followed him back through time to live a full and happy life. Or at least I hope she did.
There's a nice little section in the history books for Leopold, Duke of Albany, inventor of the elevator, but they don't really mention his wife more than to say that she was generally considered odd, but delightful. That's my Kate.
I've checked the genealogy websites and done some serious research these past few months, but I haven't been able to find out much more. I do know that they were married May 30, 1876. They had one daughter, Elizabeth Charlene Marie Louisa Anna McKay Mountbatten, November 2, 1877. I wonder how long it took the poor kid to learn to write her name. Anyway, Kate passed away in her sleep on January 23, 1919 at the age of 82. Leo didn't last a month without her. He died in mid-February 1919.
Still, even with these few facts, I didn't have any details. Was she happy that she left? Did she have a good life? Did she miss me as much as I did her? It was only a matter of time before I turned to Stuart for my answers.
He said it'd take five years before I could get really close to the time Kate arrived in 1876, but I wanted to see her after she'd been there a few years anyway. I needed to know if she was really happy with her choice. I couldn't just abandon her to fate, not when she'd spent so many years looking out for me.
Ever since his success with Leo, Stu's been taking quick trips to map out the time portal. It didn't take him three hours before he had my little trip planned out. I can jump off the bridge in two weeks and get to New York, 1885. I'll have two days there, and then I return to New York, 2002. Sounds good to me.
Whoa. That's a wicked trip. One second, I'm falling faster and faster towards the choppy surface of the East River, and the next, I'm lying completely still in the middle of a cobblestone street. It's not even like I landed here. I just sorta appeared. Stuart said it'd be like that. All the times he's jumped, he always ends up somewhere in New York, kinda like the portal moves you a little bit through space at the same instant it moves you through time.
For a moment, I just lie there, trying to get adjusted to what's just happened to me. Then, the sound of hooves on stone, a man's shout, women screaming, horses whinnying, and I'm rolling so quickly that one heartbeat... two... and I'm out of the way. My pants are stained with old horse dung, I'm panting so hard that I'm sure I'll never catch my breath, but I'm still alive. It came out of nowhere. What was a horse-drawn carriage doing there... in the middle of the street? Heh. Stuart didn't warn me about that. Guess I'd better be really careful when I get back to 2002, or I'll be taxi fodder.
I follow Stuart's directions then ask a few kind-hearted people for better directions before I'm finally in front of Kate's home. It's the same building that she was in the night Stuart and I found her and convinced her to go back to the past. Go figure.
The servant that answered the door isn't too keen on letting me in. I understand. My clothes probably look weird to him, and besides that, I stink from rolling around on the road. Still, I try my hardest to convince him that I really am Kate's brother and not some burglar or serial killer or something. It doesn't do me any good. That is, until Kate walks past the front hall.
It actually takes me a second to recognize her, dressed in a flattering gown, her hair pulled back in a bun, walking with the posture and grace of a lady. This is not the sister I knew, the one who slouched around in jeans on the weekends, the one who avoided wearing dresses except on the most formal of occasions. This is a duchess.
"Kate!" I call to her. "Hey, sis. Tell him to let me in."
She turns, looks at me, her mouth drops open in shock, and her eyes roll back in her head as she faints dead away.
"Where is she? What happened? Has the doctor been here?"
Leo's voice fills the house an hour later as he races through the doorway and towards the stairs, not bothering to wait for the answers to his questions... until he sees me in the sitting room off the hall.
He stops mid-stride, almost tripping over his feet. The worry and fear shown by his squared jaw and expressive eyes disappear as all the blood drains from his face.
"Ch... Charles?" Leo sways on his feet before the servant I'd met at the door grasps onto his arms and steadies him.
"Leo, are you ok?"
He swallows and blinks a few times, like he can't quite believe what he's seeing, and answers, "Charles, you're dead."
I'm dead. Well, obviously I'm not dead now. I wouldn't be here if I was dead now, but I will be dead. Dead in the past... but also in the future. I will be was dead. I shall be have been dying. Sometime in my future, I'll travel to Kate and Leo's past and die.
"How?" I ask.
Leo's sitting on the couch across from me as we talk in the sitting room, trying to figure out what the hell's going on.
"It was on your return," Leo says, his voice hesitating. "From what I can gather, your physician friend made the transition, but you... There was a storm Charles. I don't know exactly what happened, but the constables came to us the next day. They'd found one of Kate's handkerchiefs on a body, and... it was you, Charles. You were at the foot of the East River bridge. It appeared that you'd fallen to your death."
It's so weird to be told exactly how I'll die. I feel regret and grief like I've been told about the loss of a best friend. It hasn't even really happened yet. But it will happen. It has to, doesn't it? I wish Stuart was here. He could explain all this time travel stuff a whole lot better than I can figure it out.
"Why was I here?"
"You came back for Kate. She was... Lizzy was a difficult birth for your sister."
"Your niece, Charles. Seven years old, and quite a wonderful little girl. She and your sister, they are the light of my world." Leo's smiling now, his eyes glowing. "I don't know what I would do if I lost them. Lizzy's delivery took almost two days. Kate was exhausted and Lizzy was... caught. Our physician determined that she could not be delivered naturally and that a Caesarian was required. Kate refused."
"She insisted that the medical instruments and the physician himself were not properly sterilized. Your sister has always been quite adamant about personal hygiene."
"Kate?" She was never all that phobic about germs.
"Yes. She has taught me a great deal about how disease spreads. In fact, she was quite ill upon first arriving here. She called her illness... Montezuma's revenge? In order to recover, she insisted that everyone in the household wash their hands with soap after using the," Leo cleared his throat, "privy, as well as before preparing meals."
Well, if people in this time aren't usually doing that, I can understand her point. If the doctor was dirty, I wouldn't want him to operate on me either. She could get an infection and die.
"So I came back..." I prompted.
"With a physician friend of yours. Steve, I believe you called him. He had the modern medicine, instruments, and skills that put Kate's fears to ease. He performed the surgery and saved my family."
"But, Steve's just an intern. He couldn't..." Wait. He couldn't now, but he could in a few years.
"Charlie." A distant voice interrupts our discussion. Kate's voice. I can hear her stomping down the stairs. "Don't you tell me that! I know I saw him. Where is he? Charlie!"
"Kate," I call to her, and a moment later, she's in the doorway.
Her dress is rumpled, her hair is half hanging out of her bun, and her makeup is smeared, but she's there.
"Oh, Charlie," she says, and then she starts sobbing.
Both Leo and I stand at the same time and go to her. Leo holds out his hand to her, but she throws herself at me, wrapping her arms around my neck and leaning in to me to stay upright.
"They told me you were dead! I couldn't take it, Charlie. It was all my fault. But now you're here. You're alive."