Chapter 6 - Everything New is Old Again
A knot grew in Linda's stomach as the limousine wound its oversized bulk toward the top of the hill. When the family manor finally came into view, it was something of a disappointment. It seemed smaller than she remembered and somewhat lack luster. An edifice, which had once generated feelings ranging from excitement and joy to fear and dread, now left her feeling neutral.
Dee raised her head off Linda's shoulder, the change in pitch as the car slowed in front of the main door disturbing her slumber. Laura had suggested Dee spend a few extras days at the Timeless Inc. facility, but Linda was anxious to go and Dee didn't want to be left behind.
"Why are we here?" Dee asked.
"Sweetie, don't you remember? We were going home." Linda spoke like a mother instructing her slow child. Dee still suffered from the occasional bout a time distortion.
"I thought we were going to OUR house," Dee replied.
"This is our house now. We could go to the old place, but Maria had our things moved up here."
The chauffeur opened the door and offered his hand. Dee looked at it and then at Linda.
"It's up to you," Linda stated with a shrug of her shoulders.
Dee shunned the hand, tried to step out on her own. Her head spun. The chauffeur steadied her while Linda came around.
"Laura said that you need to take it easy a few more days."
"Laura, Laura, LauraÖ" Dee repeated, then grumbled, "I'm fine." Still, she made no effort to free herself from Linda's support. As they approached the door, Dee wondered if Linda had a key or was going to knock as they had in the past. The dilemma was solved as the door opened and a familiar figure stepped out to greet them. There were a few more gray hairs and the shoulders were slightly more stooped, but the body language was unmistakable.
"Rosario!" both women exclaimed simultaneously, but with decidedly different inflections.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Linda bellowed.
"I live here. The Señora wanted me to stay. She told me to take care of the house if anything should happen. Descansar en paz." Rosario's voice cracked and she looked as if she might cry, but then she straightened gave Linda a cold glare. "If you wish for me to leave, I will be gone by the end of the day."
Not trusting Linda's compassion, Dee said, "You can stay here as long as you like. Isn't that right, Linda?"
"Oh crap! Stay. Go. Makes no difference to me."
"You understand, I live here. I don't work here anymore."
"Whatever. Can you at least tell us which room is ours? Dee needs to lay down before she falls down."
"Perdón, Señorita," Rosario gushed, finally noting how heavily Dee was leaning on Linda. "Let me help."
"We'll be fine," Linda snarled. "Just tell me which room."
"The Señora's old room."
With once last withering glance, Linda steered Dee toward her grandmother's private sanctuary, grateful that it was on the ground floor. Linda had never seen the inside of Mrs. Cahalo's room. As far as she knew, no one had. She sometimes wondered if even Mr. Cahalo had seen it before his untimely departure at the hands of an errant golf ball. A bubble of expectation rose in her chest only to be burst by disappointment. The gothic furnishings her grandmother favored had been removed and replaced by their own belongings. Their furniture seemed very meager in the cavernous space.
Dee fell asleep as soon as Linda deposited her on the bed, leaving the new lady of the manor free to explore. She found a flat object on their old computer desk. She tripped the latch on one edge and the top separated from the bottom and opened along the hinged back to reveal a keyboard, touch pad and several buttons.
Linda pushed the largest of the buttons. LEDs flashed and the object emitted a gentle whirring sound. It trilled a little tune and the opening logo declared the continuing success of Bill Gates.
"Some things just don't change," Linda thought to herself. She double clicked the Internet Explorer icon and was startled by the speed with which a web page appeared. "Well, I guess some things change," she muttered to herself. "The question is, is faster better?" She'd never been one to "surf the net" for the pure pleasure of discovering unexpected gems. She accessed the Internet with a purpose and since she had no particular purpose, Linda soon became bored with the glitz of java applications and the nuisance of pop-up ads.
She abandoned the notebook computer and strolled through the house, still not quite comfortable in her new position of mistress of the household. She seemed to be wandering aimlessly, but in the back of her mind there was a purpose. Something was missing and she would not be content until she found it.
She thought she heard a familiar noise as she passed the closed parlor door. She pressed her ear against the door. She was greeted by a sound that wrapped itself around her like a soft blanket. She twisted the knob and pushed. The tick-tock of her old friends rushed to great her. Her eyes closed, allowing her mind to drink in the delicate harmony. Linda opened her eyes and tears fell from them as she walked through the room stroking the timepieces.
À À À À À
Dee awoke to the gentle rumble of her sweetheart's snore. "How I've missed that sound," she thought and then realized that she couldn't really have missed it since she could not have been conscious of its absence. She told herself this, but she didn't quite believe it. It had been three weeks, though it sometimes felt like months, since they returned home and the dizzying disorientation still plagued her, although it was now only for a brief period after she woke. She tried to ignore it and focus on the sleeping form beside her. The maelstrom in her mind subsided, but she still found it hard to accept that years had passed without Linda next to her in their bed. She mourned those wasted years.
Emotions threatened to overwhelm Dee. She to snuggled closer to Linda, who emitted and little grunt of protest before she awoke just enough to realize who had intruded on her dreams. Linda rolled onto her back and lifted her arm, inviting her mate to use her shoulder as a pillow. Without hesitation, Dee accepted.
Linda's mind lingered in the void between fully wakening and returning slumber, wrestling with the alternatives until a single thought surfaced. She opened her eyes, plucked a lock of Dee's hair from the mass before her and twirled it between her fingers. "Are you still having trouble with that time sickness?"
"No, not really," Dee lied. She didn't want Linda to worry about her.
"Good. That's good. So, what do you think of the 21st century?"
They're conversations of late consisted of little else but the changes they had encountered, mostly technological changes that Dee had gleefully discovered, so the question seemed a little odd. "I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of unearthing all the things I've missed over the last few years." Dee's eyes gleamed with the enthusiasm of a archeologist uncovering her first artifact. Linda's expression dampened her joy.
A sick feeling gripped Dee. Blood rushed to her face. A hint of guilt flittered across Linda's eyes.
"YOU PROMISED," Dee erupted and then to punctuate the words, she jumped across the bed and with her face scant millimeters from Linda's she screamed, "YOU PROMISED!!!"
"Honey, I know what I promised." She stroked Dee's crimson cheek.
Dee rebuffed the gesture with a shake of her head. "You are not going to charm your way through this one. You made a promise to me. There's no 'first time' thrill to be gained. It was a damn lame excuse anyway, but I love you and that make it very hard for me to say, 'No.'"
A wicked smile pulled at the corners of Linda's mouth.
"No," Dee shouted, giving Linda a shove that left her sprawled across the pillow with the irate woman hovering over her. "You made a promise and I'm holding you to it."
"Donít you see," said Linda, her face screwing into a pout like some child denied her dessert. "It just wasn't long enough. Nothing has really changed. If we'd been gone for 20 or 30 years, imagine the world we would have found."
"Do you have any idea what I went through, what I am still going through? Have you forgotten what it did to you? You could have died."
"Laura says that doesn't happen anymore. They can compensate for it."
"You've been talking to Laura about this? And just what have they compensated for? No, wait, it doesn't matter. You made a promise to me. End of discussion."
Linda scowled. "You're making me choose."
Dee stopped in the doorway and turned. "You would actually do this without me?"
For the first time there was doubt in Lindaís eyes.
"Fine," Dee responded as she picked herself up off the bed and wrapped herself in a robe. She sorted through a heap of clothes, loading her arm with a makeshift wardrobe. "You obviously need some time to a reconsider your position. If you have something to say to me, you'll find me at Emma's. I donít want to hear about this anymore. When youíre ready to get on with the rest of our lives you let me know."