Home > Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(11)

Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(11)
Rysa Walker

Ten long, torturous minutes later, the cut on my head is clean and Amelia has bandaged it, along with one I didn't even realize I had on my knee, where the pants were torn. I'm dressed in some of Jess's old clothes—a bit too loose at the waist, but a pair of suspenders takes care of that. I'm still barefoot, because my feet won't fit into any shoes Jess owns. And even though I lied and said I'd already eaten, I've been fed a thick sandwich of leftover bacon and cheese, along with a glass of milk and an oatmeal cookie. Amelia tried to talk me into staying overnight in the storeroom, but finally threw her hands up and huffed off to bed when I insisted that I needed to get home.

"Are you sure you can walk back, son?" Jess asks in a low voice after she's closed the bedroom door behind her.

Truthfully, I'm not entirely sure, even though I'm feeling much better. I plan on taking the same shortcut Kate did, however, now that I'm clear-headed enough to use the CHRONOS key without the risk of landing God knows where.

"I'm okay," I say, glancing at the clock on the mantel. "And I need to get going. Kate will be worried."

I slide the wooden chair back from the table and take two steps toward the door. A wave of dizziness and nausea passes through me, nearly driving me to my knees.

"Whoa there, boy." Jess reaches out and grabs me, holding me steady, his gnarled hands surprisingly firm on my shoulders. "I don't think you're going any further than the couch."

It's not the head injury. At least, I don't think it is. I've felt this sensation several times before, but never this strong.

I stagger backward and Jess eases me onto the sofa as the room shifts. The changes are tiny, almost imperceptible. A doily on the table near the door seems to evaporate. The clock in the middle of the mantel is the same and the hands still say it's nine twenty-seven. One of the photographs to the right of the clock, however—a picture of a girl maybe seven or eight years old—disappears. All of the other pictures slide an inch or so to the right. Some of the photos have small changes, too—a girl who wears braids instead of curls, a boy who's lost his coat.

Someone is mucking about with the timeline. And this doesn't feel like a minor adjustment.

Jess sucks in his breath and now it's my turn to grab him.

"What's wrong? Are you okay? Jess?"

He doesn't answer, just sinks down into a chair, his face pale.

"Jess?" He still doesn't respond. My voice rises, panic seeping in. "Jess!" He looks like he's having a stroke or something. I'm about to call for Amelia when he grabs my arm.

"That curtain. I saw it change right in front of my eyes." He jerks his head toward the wall behind him. "And how many samplers are over there?"

I glance at the framed embroidery pieces on the parlor wall, each with a different picture or quotation, and count them. They do look different, although I'd be hard pressed to say how they've changed.

"Five," I say.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see the bedroom door open. Amelia is looking at Jess, her face filled with worry.

"There were six a minute ago. Two rows of three." His voice is stronger now. "One from each of my granddaughters. They made them as a Christmas gift two years back. Remember, Amelia?"

She crosses over to where he's seated and crouches down next to him, peering into his eyes. "Jess. You're scaring me. You know we have ten grandchildren. A matched set—five boys and five girls."

"Name 'em," he demands. "The girls. Name the girls for me."

She gives me a worried glance and then does as he asks. "Gladys, Mildred, Florence, and Ruth. And Amelia, named after me."

He shakes his head. "And Irene. Mary's oldest girl is Irene. She helped out in the shop until they moved to Springfield. They had Irene and then Henry, Jr. and then Elmer."

"Jess, what is wrong with you? Mary has two boys. She had Henry, Jr. the year after she married in…let me see, 1889. Maybe you're thinking of Arnold Shelly's girl. Her name is Irene. Or maybe it's Eileen, I can't remember."

"No." Despite the fear in his eyes, there's a stubborn set to his jaw. "Irene. You met her in the store once, Kiernan, when Mary's family was here last Christmas. She's about a year younger than Kate. Blonde hair, pretty girl. She was fluttering her eyes at you until I told her you were spoken for." He looks back at Amelia, and his voice is shaking as he speaks. "Irene, not Eileen. Mary's girl. Dear God, woman, what kind of grandmother forgets her own granddaughter?"

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