Current Reading Mood: Urban Fantasy
Quote of the day: “I’d have been dead a long time ago if not for my friends, one of whom had just jumped off the cliff after me.
I’d have been a lot more appreciative if he hadn’t pushed me first." Cassandra Palmer ― Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance
Every week or two, Terry wakes up in a different time. She’s been ‘switching’ — that’s her word for time traveling — for the past eight months, and she has no recollection of her life before then. She doesn’t know who she is, why she’s time traveling, how to get home, or even when home is.
Then Terry meets some fellow travelers and finds out she’s not alone… and that there might be a way to get home. But the others have their own agendas, and Terry needs to be careful where she places her trust. She finds herself falling for one traveler, but a terrible secret bars his way home. Another traveler is growing desperate, and he doesn’t care who he uses in his attempt to get home… even if it puts them all in danger. Can Terry find a way home before he tries something dangerous? Or will he prevent her from getting home at all?
I kept my eyes closed as I drifted awake, letting my other senses feel out my surroundings first. I was someplace clean, which was wonderful, and it had a nice homey smell, like a house or an apartment. And the silence was equally wonderful: no people coughing, muttering, or worse, tripping over me.
The smart thing to do would have been to open my eyes right away, but waking up with a nice, safe, warm feeling was something that happened rarely, and I wanted to make it last. I luxuriated in those few moments of peacefulness, trying to ignore the fact that as soon as I opened my eyes, I’d have to figure out where I was. I lay still, shoring up my strength to face reality. Or whatever it was you could call my life, which was probably as far from reality as a person could get.
I wished I could draw out my enjoyment of the moment, but there was a little thing called survival demanding my attention. Tentatively, I opened my eyes. I was lying on a sofa in someone’s living room, with gentle sunlight streaming through the window. A crocheted blanket covered me. It was an ugly blanket, at odds with the modern décor of the rest of the apartment. There were lots of wooden surfaces and plants, and light gleamed off the polished, pale wood floor. I pushed myself up on one elbow to look around.
The lack of ornamentation told me it was a guy’s apartment. There were shelves with books and CDs (CDs, okay, first clue as to what decade I was in), a desk with a computer that looked like an old 486 — already, I was picking up on the rest of the clues.
And then, on the coffee table in front of me, was the best clue of all: a newspaper. Happily, I reached for it. Saturday, September 20, 1992.
The early 1990s — an okay place to be, I supposed, although in a way it didn’t make much difference. The plus side was that clothing-wise, I wouldn’t look like I’d stepped out of the wrong decade; pretty much anything went in the nineties. The downside was that my money wouldn’t go as far as it did in my last switch. I only had a few dollars in my purse, which would get me coffee and maybe a donut if I went someplace cheap.
Then again, I was in an apartment, which meant there would be food! Was I alone; could I go rooting through the kitchen?
I heard footsteps, and before I had time to prepare myself, a door opened.
The guy gave a shout of surprise when he saw me. I almost did too; he was naked.
The door closed again. I sat up, making sure I was fully clothed. I was, of course; I never let myself fall asleep any other way. The strap of my backpack was hooked around my ankle, as it should be. My heart always skipped a beat when I checked to make sure it was there.
Quick, think up a story, I told myself.
The door reopened and the guy stepped out, this time wearing jeans and a rumpled, gray T-shirt. He hadn’t bothered to put on socks.
“Who are you?” he asked. He had dark, floppy hair, about cheekbone-length, still messy from sleeping. His eyes were a nice, warm brown color, but a little bloodshot. Hopefully that meant he was hung over. “I mean… sorry…” He put his hands to his head and rubbed his temples. “I don’t remember…”
Hangover, perfect. I exhaled a sigh of relief. “I’m Terry,” I introduced myself. “You said I could crash here. You don’t remember?”
“No…” he said, looking confused. “I mean, I remember being at the bar, but I don’t even remember meeting you. Was I that drunk?”
“Um,” I said, wondering what would make the most believable story. “You didn’t seemthat drunk…”
“Oh, man,” he groaned, running his fingers through his hair. “I guess I must have been, because I don’t even remember leaving. I mean, wait, I do… but I thought I left alone…” He looked more confused.
“Why don’t I make us some coffee?” I offered, hoping I could forestall any more recollections of the previous night. Like the fact that he probably had left the bar alone, and not only that, had walked through his front door alone. It was best to move the conversation along, even though he was unlikely to guess that a stranger had appeared on his sofa in the middle of the night without coming through the door.
I got up and walked into the kitchen, which was small but clean. He followed me in. Seeing him in the daylight, I noticed he had a bit of a rough-night kind of look. Thank goodness for hangovers. On other people, that was; I’d never had one myself. Besides the fact that I had no ID, getting even a little bit drunk would be a massive risk. Waking up in random times and places was difficult enough without throwing in even more disorientation, not to mention potentially bad decision-making.
I located the coffee maker and went about putting in a paper filter and a scoop of coffee. “So, um…” Drat, I didn’t know his name. “Do you want me to… make some breakfast?” Please say yes. My stomach was already growling.
He groaned. “I don’t think I can face food right now.” He sat down at the small table and put his elbows on the table, head in his hands. “Maybe just an aspirin.”
“Well, uh, would you mind if I had some? Breakfast, I mean. Not aspirin.”
“Oh, right! Sorry. I… guess I should offer to cook you something. But I honestly don’t know if I can handle that right now.” He raised his head and blinked widely a couple of times, as if that might clear his hangover. “How does cereal grab you?”
“Um, no, I’ve only got the sugar-free kind.”
I stared at him for a second before understanding the mistranslation. That was yet another thing about jumping decades – words changed. “Oh, that’s okay, I didn’t mean… what I meant was, cereal would be great.”
I poured him a mug of coffee, which he accepted gratefully. Then I set about finding cereal, milk, a bowl, and a spoon.
I brought them to the table and sat down. While he sipped his coffee, I devoured three bowls of cereal. He squinted at me through his floppy hair. “Hungry?” he asked.
No, I’m inhaling three bowls of cereal because it’s Sunday and this is my religion. But answering would have meant pausing, so while continuing to eat, I merely nodded.
He put his head down again and ground the heels of his hands against his eyes. When he looked up, he said, “I’m going to take a shower. Unless you want to go first?”
I considered this quickly. The guy was really nice, and I hated ripping people off, but I was pretty desperate for money. And I could hardly steal bills from his wallet and thentake a leisurely shower. “I’ll go first if that’s okay,” I said. Unable to think up a reason why, I left the table before he could answer.
Thankfully, the bathroom door had a lock on it. I hated ones that didn’t. After stripping off, I ran the water and stepped into the shower. The hot water was so wonderful; I wanted to stay there forever. Showers were something that didn’t happen enough in my life. Someday, I told myself. Someday, when all this craziness stops, I will get myself a place with a huge bathtub and take hour-long baths. With candles and bubbles and everything.
I’d forgotten to ask him for a clean towel, so I used the ones that were there. For me, clean towels or not, this was the equivalent of the Ritz. With a big brown towel wrapped around my body and my hair wound up in a dark green one, I wiped a circle in the steam on the mirror and surveyed myself. My black eyeliner had gone all raccoon-like, so I scrubbed it away with the corner of the green towel. I always wore eye makeup. Without it, I looked about sixteen or seventeen. With it, I looked maybe eighteen or nineteen, which was a lot safer in general, and definitely better in this kind of situation. I didn’t want to panic guys by making them think they’d invited an under-ager into their apartment.
Not that I did this often; it was too risky. And not that anything ever happened with the guys. Besides the fact I didn’t even know how old I was, that would be a gross amount of sleeping around just to have a roof over my head.
No, I only did this when I couldn’t face going to another homeless shelter. And when I needed a cash refill. I knew this was about as morally wrong as I could get, but your morals get a huge shakedown when your sole focus becomes survival.
There was the personal safety issue of crashing at a stranger’s apartment, too. I had a pretty good radar for trustworthy people — in fact, a highly developed one — but it was not knowing whose place I’d wake up in that was the bigger danger. So far, so good: I tended to wake up in the same sort of situation I fell asleep in. Fall asleep in a homeless shelter, wake up in a homeless shelter. Go home with a nice guy who’s letting me crash on his sofa out of kindness or pity, that was the kind of person whose apartment I’d wake up in. Fall asleep in a jail cell… I sighed. That had been the toughest one yet.
I toweled myself dry and began to brush out my long, chocolate-brown hair. Now I’d have to plan my escape. It shouldn’t be too hard: grab some cash while he was in the shower, then slip out the front door, not forgetting my backpack. That had been my worst mistake to date. It wasn’t the embarrassment of having to go back for it after I’d left without saying goodbye or even thanks that was so bad, it was the heart-stopping panic of knowing that everything I owned was in that pack.
Which only consisted of a spare pair of jeans, two T-shirts, several pairs of socks and underwear, a brand-new, never-worn pair of pajamas (I longed to wear them, but waking up fully clothed was safer), a change purse with whatever money I had left, and my diary. The diary was the most important thing in my life. In it, I kept a record of every time and place I’d been. Every chance I got, I’d pore over the dates, looking for a pattern, looking for some clue as to where I was from, when I was from…
A knock sounded at the door, making me jump. Slowly, I unlocked the door and opened it a crack, ready to slam it shut if need be.
“Um, listen Terry, I’m so hung over I’ve got to go back to bed. I hope you don’t mind…?”
“No, that’s okay, I’ll… let myself out.” I assumed that was what he was asking.
He looked so sweet, like such a nice guy, I was tempted to ask, Please let me stay another night. Please. You have no idea how much I want to stay for more than one night in this nice apartment, where there’s food and a shower. Where I can pretend, just for a few days, that I have a home…
I opened my mouth to ask, but sadness and guilt clamped my throat shut. In his bleary state, he didn’t see the tears that sprang to my eyes.
“Okay,” he said. “…see you.” He stumbled off towards the bedroom.
“Sure,” I whispered. I exhaled hard, willing the tears to stop. No staying in the nice apartment. It was time to move on. Again. Want more? Check out her preview page. Also, you can find Jody @ the following places: