Home > Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(2)

Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(2)
Rysa Walker

I put a second set of keys on the nightstand. Then I watch Kate sleep for a moment, glad she's found a place where guilt and anger aren’t making her crazy, at least for a while. Even though she has a bigger and much more comfortable bed back at Katherine's, she's happier here, and I've grown accustomed to having her next to me. In the four months since I moved out of Jess’s storeroom, she's spent every night here and most days as well. I travelled to her time a few months back to watch some movie she wanted me to see, but mostly, we stay here. Long-distance jumps drain me.

Not Kate. She pops back to Katherine’s house in Chicago for a few days, tracks down a CHRONOS key in Texas or London or wherever, attends classes at the University, and anything else she has to do in that life. And then she pulls up this room on her key and is back in my arms five minutes after she left. For me, it's like she only stepped out to the bathroom. I’m twenty-one, two years Kate’s senior, but another year of this double life for her and I could easily be the younger one.

I push the dark curls aside and kiss her shoulder, running my hand under her pale pink camisole and tracing the curve of her spine with my thumb. After a moment, she turns toward me and pulls me down next to her.

“Come back to bed,” she mumbles. “Lonely without you.”

“Can’t. I'll miss the trolley.”

She sniffs in protest and drapes her leg over mine. I give in, for now, and pull her closer, resting my head next to hers on the pillow.

In the dim light of the oil lamp, I can just make out the edges of the dozens of glow-in-the-dark stars she pasted on the ceiling a few months back. Even turned up to full flame, the lantern would never make them glow, so I didn’t see the point in the stars until Kate reached into her pocket and produced this tiny device that shines with an odd, purplish light.

I can still see her standing tiptoe on the bed, holding that light to the ceiling and, one by one, lighting the stars in our own private sky.

Later, after the glow stars faded, I stashed the flashlight in the hole under the bed, along with the shaver, her diary filled with rants about Katherine, and other odds and ends that don’t belong in 1905. Only Kate’s stars remain in the open. I know I should pull them down. It wouldn't be hard. Every day or two the humidity takes its toll on the cheap adhesive and another star falls onto the bed or the floor. But I leave them up. The odds of anyone seeing them are slim, and I think maybe this is the only place Kate feels free. This room, tiny as it is, has become her home as much as mine.

“What time is the audition?” she asks, tucking her head downward as she speaks. I fight back a chuckle, knowing she’s trying to shield me from the “baby dragon breath” she says she has in the mornings. I’ve told her more than once that I’d kiss her even if she hadn’t brushed her teeth in a week, but she doesn’t believe me.

“I go on at four-thirty, but it takes a while to get out there and I need time to set up.  The manager said there are some stage props from the guy who left, and I need to check it all out. Make sure there’s something I can use for the finale.”

She laughs. “You don’t need a trick cabinet. You have the medallion.”

“True," I admit, "but it might draw some unwanted attention if I'm too obvious with it. And I have to make it credible, right? There needs to be some hint of stage trickery if I'm going to sell it to the manager and my assistants.”

I feel her body stiffen and then she leans up on one elbow, giving me the evil eye.

"Assistants? The kind in skimpy costumes?"

“Norumbega is a family park. No drinking and nothing even slightly risqué. I’m guessing these assistants will be covered from head to toe. Or at least head to knee. They’ll certainly be wearing more than you are right now.” I pull the elastic strap of her camisole a tiny bit away from her shoulder and let it snap back against her skin.

“Hmph. I'll be popping in to check out these assistants. Just so you know.”

“Any time, love. Except maybe not during the audition. And don’t 'pop in' suddenly, right in the middle of an audience, else you’ll steal my thunder.”

“No worries. I only want to see what goes on backstage.”

“You don’t trust me?”

“Oh, I trust you,” she says, snuggling closer. “I just don’t trust assistants in skimpy costumes.”

This is a side of her I seldom see. The only time I’ve ever known Kate to act jealous is when I mention Prudence. Her aunt. My former lover. The enemy, in more ways than one, so I can't really fault her on that account. Even if I’m not consorting with Pru now, I have in the past and if the shoe were on the other foot, I'm sure I'd feel the same.

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